White Sox

How the White Sox plan to stay ready for the baseball season — whenever it starts

How the White Sox plan to stay ready for the baseball season — whenever it starts

It seems like it was a month ago when Michael Kopech electrified White Sox fans by throwing a 1-2-3 inning with a fastball hitting 101 miles per hour in his first start of the spring.

That was Tuesday.

Two days later, Major League Baseball shut down spring training games and delayed the start of the regular season by at least two weeks as the world tries to contain the spread of the COVID-19 virus. By Friday evening, after an in-person meeting with the MLBPA, the league suspended spring training camps altogether and told players they were allowed to head home, if they'd like.

Earlier Friday, the White Sox were scrambling to come up with a plan, as all 30 Major League Baseball teams face the awkward task of staying ready for the regular season without spring training games.

"Traditionally, I think we've all viewed sports, and certainly from my perspective, baseball, as an important distraction from the real world for people," general manager Rick Hahn said. "Unfortunately, at this point, it's obvious that we're not immune from this ourselves, as an industry."

Hahn said the organization is "very supportive" of the drastic measures taken by the league. Friday morning, Hahn, executive vice president Kenny Williams and manager Rick Renteria met with the players in the team's major league camp.

"We had an open dialogue about what's best for all of us. What's best for our families," Hahn said. "Everyone agreed that being here as a resource for the players over the next couple of days makes the most sense and everyone is on board with doing that."

The plan was to keep their Camelback Ranch facility open to players and staff. Activities over the weekend were deemed "optional" for players and the White Sox had full participation Friday. At the time he spoke Friday morning in Arizona, Hahn said he'd understand if that changes and "remain flexible."

"We're all human beings that have families and understandable discomfort living in an uncertain world right now," Hahn said. "Unfortunately, this is one of the rare occurrences where it's larger than baseball."

The first priority, of course, is making sure everyone stays healthy. Hahn said no players or staff in either major or minor league camp are showing any symptoms of COVID-19.

"We're doing the best we can with the information that we have to educate our players and staff about prevention and good hygiene and awareness of the current situation," Hahn said. "And at the same time, at a more, I don't know, nuanced level, we're also continuing to prepare to the best of our ability for the start of the season, when that comes."

That's the tricky part. No one really knows when the regular season will begin and there are obvious logisitcal issues for players who don't own properties in the Phoenix area. Hotel rooms need to be paid for and leases extended, including Hahn's. That played a role in MLB and MLBPA agreeing to suspend spring training camps Friday.

In the meantime, the White Sox will hit the pause button. Instead of progressing towards opening day, Hahn said the focus will be on maintaining the players' current physical condition. The planned optional activities this weekend included batting cage work, pitchers throwing off the mound and potentially some light drills on the field. Before camps were suspended, Hahn said simulating games on the backfields was a possibility.

"Until there is more direction, we're going to stay on the current plan, which is to essentially push the pause button, but at the same time, continue to provide treatment and opportunities for our players to maintain where they are in their progression towards opening day," Hahn said.

That's easier said than done for starting pitchers, who go through more of a linear process of building up their arms during the spring. 

"That's probably the trickiest part of all this," Hahn said.

For now, the White Sox will do their best to keep their starters where they are currently at in their spring progression, but that will be a challenge with some players headed home.

"Once we have a target in mind, we'll come up with a plan to build them from there," Hahn said.

Basically, as with almost everything in life right now, it's all fluid. The length of the hiatus will determine a lot. White Sox senior vice president of communications Scott Reifert said the hope is to still play 162 games this season, but he added: "Whether that ends up being the reality, we'll see down the road."

And the longer the break, the longer it will take to get the players — especially starting pitchers — ready to go for the regular season.

"If there's only a modest, couple-week delay, let's say, then certainly we've played a decent amount of (spring) games, we've got guys with their legs under them. We've got guys who have built to a certain level with a matter of sort of maintaining that and building off it," Hahn said. "It wouldn't be an extremely long period of (additional spring training) games at that point. Obviously if things change and for whatever reason people return home and we pick up again at a later date, it's really going to be a function of how long of that hiatus is."

Meanwhile, while it's certainly understandable for fans, players and everyone associated with baseball to be sad about the delay of opening day, Hahn is maintaining an impressive perspective as the most anticipated White Sox season in years gets put on hold. 

"We know we'll get through this. We know that there's another side of this at some point. We know that we'll be playing baseball games again and we know it's going to be an exciting era for White Sox baseball in the not too distant future," Hahn said. "If it makes sense for the greater good of society at whole to delay that for a period of time, we understand that. We know where we fit in and we look forward to, when the time is right, bringing a great deal of happiness to people who will certainly be missing this game and in need of something to pick them up, in all probability."

Whenever that is, the White Sox will be ready.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Controversies or not, dominant pitching won the ALCS

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Controversies or not, dominant pitching won the ALCS

“Realistically, I don't know if they could be pitching much better than they have.”

By the end of Game 4 of the ALCS, Joe Buck had a different way to summarize things.

“The dominance continues.”

Realistic or not, the White Sox starting rotation was just plain unhittable in the penultimate series of the 2005 season.

First it was Jose Contreras, setting the tone in a losing effort in Game 1 and coming two outs away from a complete game. Mark Buehrle followed with what he called — to that point, before the no-hitter and the perfect game — one of the best games of his career. Game 3 saw Jon Garland take the baton and stifle the Los Angeles Angels. And then it was Freddy Garcia, dealing as the White Sox cruised to a Game 4 win.

And so while the Fox broadcast spent an awful lot of time on supposed controversies, missed calls by the umpires and breaks for the White Sox, let’s face it: Those Angels weren’t hitting that pitching staff.

After the way Game 2 wrapped up, with A.J. Pierzynski swinging, missing and running to first base in a baffling display that for some reason worked, controversy was a storyline. And boy, did it get milked in Game 4.

Now, this isn’t to say that there weren’t missed calls or that the White Sox didn’t experience a couple breaks in this contest. There were. And they did.

After the Angels chopped the White Sox lead to 3-1 on an RBI hit in the second inning, they still had two men on with only one out. But instead of a rally, Steve Finley hit into an inning-ending double play. His bat, replay clearly showed, hit Pierzynski’s glove on the swing, meaning by rule he should have gone to first on catcher’s interference and loaded the bases. Instead, he turned around to argue while running out the ground ball, hence the double play.

He should have learned from Pierzynski and just busted it down to first base, leaving the details to be sorted out later. No call came, and Finley was out, the Angels’ rally stopped.

The White Sox lead back to three runs in the fifth inning, Scott Podsednik — who had a remarkable game, on base four times with two stolen bases and two runs scored — was seemingly picked off at first base. But the call was safe, and he scored later in the inning to extend a tight three-run game to a four-run game.

But did it really matter? Would any of it made a difference?

Garcia was on point, just like his three rotation-mates before him. He allowed just two runs on only six hits, walking one. He did that 2005 White Sox thing where he pitched fast, pitched to his defense and pitched the Angels into a whole bunch of outs.

You can point to the breaks all you want, attempt to stir up controversy. But the White Sox pitchers were so good that nothing was stopping them as they marched to a pennant.

The only thing that could, as we saw in Game 1 of the series, was an equally strong pitching performance on the other side. That’s exactly what Paul Byrd turned in against Contreras in that first game, and a White Sox lineup that slugged against the Red Sox in the ALDS was stymied. A sick Jarrod Washburn did his best in Game 2, with some help from a terrific crop of relievers, only for Pierzynski to flip the series on its head. In Games 3 and 4 in Anaheim, the Angels couldn’t match Garland and Garcia. An awakened group of White Sox bats hung a crooked number on John Lackey in Game 3 and had the same rude greeting for Ervin Santana — a future member of the South Side rotation, however briefly — in Game 4.

The old sports cliche goes that defense wins championships. In baseball, pitching wins championships. It did in 2005. And no amount of supposed controversy was going to change that.

Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 5 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Saturday on NBC Sports Chicago.

 

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: MLB season teetering on the brink

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USA Today

SportsTalk Live Podcast: MLB season teetering on the brink

Chuck Garfien, Charlie Roumeliotis and Mark Carman join Kap on a Friday edition of SportsTalk Live. 

The stalemate continues between MLB owners and players. Will the two sides come to their sense? How close are we to the drop dead date to get a season started on time?

The NHL has a plan. The Blackhawks are a part of it. Do they have enough championship experience to go on a deep playoff run?

Later, Ken Rosenthal joins Kap to talk about the differences between baseball’s owners and players as they discuss how to start the season.

Meanwhile, the NBA is targeting a late July return. Would the Bulls be better off if they were not a part of the league’s restart plans? 

0:00 - The MLB season is teetering on the brink. When will it be too late to start a season? And are the owners and players risking the death of the league if they can’t come to an agreement?
6:30 - The NHL has a restart plan and the Blackhawks will be a part of it. So can they go on a run?
9:00 - Ken Rosenthal join Kap to talk about the stalemate between the MLB owners and players. 
19:00 - The NBA is looking to restart its season. Would the Bulls be better off not taking part?

Listen here or below.

Sports Talk Live Podcast

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