White Sox

With Red Sox on the South Side — and Moncada, Kopech on the White Sox roster — a look at where the Chris Sale trade stands

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USA TODAY

With Red Sox on the South Side — and Moncada, Kopech on the White Sox roster — a look at where the Chris Sale trade stands

There’s a very good argument to be made that in the year and a half since the White Sox traded Chris Sale, he’s been the best pitcher in baseball.

There are other contenders for that title, of course (Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander immediately come to mind), but look what Sale has done since joining up with the Boston Red Sox: a 2.52 ERA with 527 strikeouts in 55 starts over the past two seasons. He’s currently the American League’s ERA leader. He leads baseball with a 0.849 WHIP. Last season he threw more innings, 214.1, and struck out more batters, 308, than any other hurler in the game.

That’s the guy the White Sox traded away.

They did it with good reason, of course, to jumpstart a rebuilding effort after several years of win-now mode yielded no winning. But with the Red Sox on the South Side this weekend — Sale won’t pitch against his old mates, he’s on the DL — it again brings that trade to mind. And now, both of the major return pieces are on the White Sox major league roster, allowing an even greater opportunity to look at where this trade stands a year and a half later.

“I’m very hopeful that time will tell,” White Sox manager Rick Renteria said when asked about the trade before Thursday’s game. “We traded a great pitcher, and we got some really good looking young players. We’re very, very hopeful that both sides ended up benefitting from the move.

“l think these guys are moving in the right direction, and we’re hopeful they’re going to be able to shine and give us something moving forward in the short term and in the long term.”

The Red Sox made the move, trading away two of baseball’s highest-rated prospects, because they are, as always, in win-now mode. And few upgrades help in a win-now scenario than one of the game’s best pitchers. Well, Sale has certainly helped with that goal of winning now in Boston.

The Red Sox won 93 games and the AL East crown in 2017 before being bumped from the postseason by the eventual-champion Houston Astros. This season, no team is a bigger favorite to win the World Series than the Red Sox, who come into this weekend’s four-game set with 92 wins and a month remaining in the regular season.

Sale, of course, has been a big part of that success. He’s a leading man in the starting rotation of the best team in baseball, and he will be next season, too. If the Red Sox get a championship in one or both of the next two postseasons, then it’s hard to argue the high prospect price they paid to get him wasn’t worth it.

The White Sox side of things is, obviously, vastly more difficult to judge. The trade wasn’t made for the 2017 or 2018 or 2019 seasons but for the seasons down the road, when rebuilding mode yields to contention mode and there’s a perennial playoff team on the South Side. That’s the plan, anyway.

But at least the two main pieces of a package that also included minor league outfielder Luis Alexander Basabe — one of the White Sox representatives at the Futures Game this summer — and minor league pitcher Victor Diaz are now big leaguers. Kopech’s promotion to the majors last week electrified Guaranteed Rate Field, and after that rain-shortened debut he picked up his first big league win in Detroit.

Kopech is eight innings into his major league career, so any judgment at this point is pointless. But the guy really showed something in the minors this season when he bounced back from a rough stretch in the middle of the year to finish his minor league career in incredible fashion, with a 1.84 ERA and a bonkers 59-to-4 strikeout-to-walk ratio. Overcoming the struggles was as impressive, if not more so, than the numbers themselves.

“The young man has worked very hard,” Renteria said. “The last seven or eight outings of his minor league season were very, very good. I think it’s transitioned to his last outing for us, which we saw in Detroit. Hopefully he continues to develop, continues to command the zone. It’s electric stuff. Hopefully he’ll just continue to trust himself, which he is doing right now, and just enjoy being here. Know that he’s capable of doing what he’s doing because of this tremendous gift he has.”

Then there’s the heretofore unmentioned Yoan Moncada, who is burdened with the same expectations as Kopech. It’s impossible to say he’s lived up to those expectations in his first full season in the majors, but it’s not fair to judge him on such a scale, either. Moncada has had his flashes of brilliance at the plate this season. But it’s also difficult to mention Moncada’s name without mentioning that he ranks first in baseball in strikeouts and third in baseball in fielding errors.

But it’s a developmental season at the major league level just as it is for all the highly ranked guys still playing in the minors, and Moncada certainly falls into the same group as Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez, Tim Anderson and others — guys who aren’t yet finished products.

“He’s going to start to improve,” Renteria said. “He’s working very, very hard. He’s 23 years old. I know there are high expectations. Those high expectations always put people in this idea that the numbers have to be really, really good at the major league level. I’m sure they’ll get there at some point. He continues to work on both sides of the game, and he’s improving.”

For those looking to declare a victor in this Sox-Sox swap, unfortunately you’ll have to wait some time. It’s far too early to judge what Kopech and Moncada will become. And we haven’t seen if the Red Sox will win the ultimate prize with Sale on the roster.

But while that might seem to be the same point we were at a year ago, it’s not. Moncada and Kopech are on the White Sox active roster now. The organization might still be in the middle of a waiting game, but there is noticeable progress embodied by those two players just being here.

The Red Sox opted to win now with this deal. The White Sox opted to put “winning now” behind them and look toward the long term, in which both Kopech and Moncada figure to play big roles. Both teams got what they wanted. But the ultimate determination of who wins this trade will be rings.

Eloy Jiménez joins Mayor Lightfoot in campaign to slow COVID-19 spread

Eloy Jiménez joins Mayor Lightfoot in campaign to slow COVID-19 spread

Eloy Jiménez has some good advice for Chicagoans as the city attempts to manage the spread of COVID-19.

Jiménez filmed a video clip that the White Sox tweeted out Monday morning as part of Mayor Lori Lightfoot's campaign to convince Chicago residents to practice social distancing and stay in their homes.

"We are not playing right now. You shouldn't be either," the White Sox left fielder said in the video. "Be a hero. Stay at home. Do your part to slow the spread of COVID-19. Stay at home and save lives.

"Go Sox."

And of course, it wouldn't be a Jiménez appearance without a exuberant "HI MOM!"

The mayor's campaign, titled "We Are Not Playing," involves many other Chicago pro athletes who are reminding folks that there's a good reason sports are shut down right now and that everyone else should follow suit.

"We all have a role to play in meeting the challenge of COVID-19, and our success is directly tied to every Chicagoan making sure they stay home and save lives," Mayor Lightfoot said in her announcement of the campaign. "I am grateful to each of our hometown teams for stepping up and doing their part by joining in this call for every neighborhood and community.

"They’re not playing, and neither are we. The more we stay home and act responsibly, the more lives we’ll save, and the sooner we’ll be able to get our city back on track and enjoying the games we love."

RELATED: Anderson wants South Side to 'stay prepared' for Sox return

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Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Donn Pall

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Remember That Guy: White Sox reliever Donn Pall

Donn Pall was in the Comiskey Park stands for Disco Demolition. Less than ten years later, the life-long White Sox fan was on the mound, pitching at Comiskey. 

Against all odds, “The Pope” lived his dream. Remember that guy?

Donn Steven Pall was born Jan. 11, 1962 in Chicago. He pitched at Evergreen Park High School, roughly 20 minutes south of Comiskey. He didn’t make the all-conference team in high school, and he was cut as a freshman walk-on at the University of Illinois (he enrolled as a math and computer science major), but didn’t give up. He made the team as a sophomore and went 5-12 over his next two seasons at U of I.

As a senior, Pall figured things out and started to draw some attention, going 13-1 (he started 13-0). He was drafted in the 23rd round of the 1985 MLB draft, by his hometown White Sox, no less. It was a dream come true.

Pall started his professional career in 1985 as a starter in rookie ball. After going 8-11 with a 4.27 ERA for Birmingham in 1987, he thrived in winter ball in Venezuela and settled into a new role as a reliever. In 1988, he used his signature pitches — a forkball and splitter — to go along with his mid-80s fastball and his slider, and blossomed into a fine reliever at Triple-A Vancouver, posting a 2.23 ERA before getting his shot in the White Sox bullpen in August.

Pall made his MLB debut on Aug. 1, 1988 at Comiskey in the ninth inning of an eventual 10-2 defeat vs. the A's. He pitched one inning, allowing one run on two hits, with a double play and one strikeout (Tony Phillips). Coming home to pitch for the team he grew up rooting for, he quickly became a fan favorite, signing an abundance of autographs for fans and earning a nickname from broadcasters Hawk Harrelson and Tom Paciorek. He was “The Pope, Donn Pall” after Pope John Paul II. In his first taste of MLB action, Pall posted a 3.45 ERA in 17 games.

Pall became a fixture in the White Sox bullpen, pitching 50+ times in each of the next three seasons, posting ERAs of 3.31, 3.32 and 2.41. In 1989, he earned a save in each of his first two games of the season, including Opening Day — the first two saves of his MLB career. Pall’s first big league win came on April 27, 1989, when he pitched the final four frames (scoreless) of a marathon 16-inning battle in Boston. He showed he could handle either long relief or setup duties and found success even without high octane gas or big strikeout totals.

“The Pope” rebounded from a shaky 1992 (4.93 ERA) to post a 3.22 ERA in 39 appearances for the Sox in 1993, but he was designated for assignment at the end of August to make room for Iván Calderón. On Sept. 1, the Sox traded him to the Phillies for a player to be named later, who turned out to be catcher Doug Lindsey (who had a grand total of one at-bat over two games in his Sox career). While Donn was saddened to leave his hometown team, he would end up on the NL East-leading Phillies. He pitched well (2.55 ERA in eight outings) but was left off the postseason roster.

Pall signed with the Yankees for 1994 and wasn’t bad, posting a 3.60 ERA in 26 appearances, but he was released at the end of July. The next month, he did the unthinkable; he signed with the Cubs, who needed a replacement on the roster for Jose Bautista, who had an ailing elbow. Pall pitched twice for the Cubs before the strike put an end to the 1994 season.

Pall tried to reunite with the White Sox in 1995, but didn’t make the team. He spent the entire season in Triple-A Nashville and then signed with the Marlins for 1996, starting out in the minors. On June 23, he made his first big league appearance since August 1994, tossing three scoreless innings. He struggled to a 5.79 ERA in 1996 and made only two major league appearances in 1997 for the world-champion Marlins (though he was given a ring anyway).

In 1998, Pall made the final 23 appearances of his MLB career for the Marlins. He was one of the few pitchers to throw to Mike Piazza during the future Hall of Famer’s five-game stint with Florida. Pall’s final MLB appearance was Sept. 27, 1998, when he allowed one run in three innings against the Phillies. The last batter he faced was Doug Glanville, who doubled in a run but was thrown out at third to end the inning.

After retiring, Pall was a financial consultant and retirement planner. He still makes it out the ballpark for White Sox games.

Like the late Ed Farmer, Pall was a Chicago guy who had the chance to come home and pitch for his hometown White Sox. We can’t help but to root a little harder for guys like that. Pall was cut as a freshman in college, but he’s currently 15th on the White Sox all-time relief appearances list with 255. Overall, he posted a 3.63 ERA in 328 career MLB games over 10 seasons.

“The Pope” Donn Pall. You remember that guy!