White Sox

Remember That Guy: Rocky Biddle

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Remember That Guy: Rocky Biddle

The movie Rocky premiered on November 21, 1976. However, exactly six months earlier, Lee Francis Biddle was born in Las Vegas. You may remember him by his nickname, Rocky.

The 6’3” 230 lb righthander was drafted by the Padres out of Temple City (CA) High School in the 25th round in 1994, but did not sign. He did sign, however, when the White Sox took him with the 51st overall pick in 1997 out of Long Beach State. The Sox selected Jim Parque five picks before Biddle, who was one of five White Sox compensation picks at the end of the first round; his selection was awarded to the White Sox for failure to sign 12th overall pick Bobby Seay the year prior.

Rocky’s road to the Majors was detoured by Tommy John Surgery on March 2, 1999 which wiped out his entire season. When he returned to the mound in 2000 for Birmingham, he thrived, finishing up at 11-6 with a 3.08 ERA, including a pair of shutouts and a Southern League All-Star nod.

The big righthander got the call to the Majors on August 10 as Manager Jerry Manuel wanted to break up lefties Mike Sirotka & Jim Parque in the rotation. Biddle was the fourth White Sox pitcher to debut in the Majors since July 1, after Jon Garland (July 4), Mark Buehrle (July 16) & Lorenzo Barcelo (July 22), which was unusual for a team with an 8-game lead in their division, but the Sox rolled with their rookies (as well as veteran James Baldwin) all the way to an AL Central title at 95-67.

A demotion for Kip Wells & elbow injury for Cal Eldred opened up a spot for Biddle to stay. Rocky the rookie had a rough start in his debut (8 Hits, 6 Runs in 5.1 innings) but a veteran spoke up in his defense (quote from the Chicago Tribune):

"The guy has major-league stuff," Frank Thomas said. "He handled [Alex] Rodriguez, [Edgar] Martinez and [John] Olerud, three of the best hitters in the game. They were 0 for 9 against him. He looked like a veteran. So, he made some mistakes to [Mike] Cameron and [Joe] Oliver ... so what? Those are two good hitters too. Rocky doesn't deserve that kind of [criticism] after one start. Give the kid a chance. He's going to be a very good pitcher."

After all, not many pitchers can claim to have retired Alex Rodriguez AND Edgar Martinez in their first career Major League inning.

Biddle readied himself for his next start by kicking a hacky sack in front of his locker. When asked for comment, he said:

"No one else plays it here, I guess it's not kosher."

Maybe it worked. He collected his first career win in that second start, August 15 at Baltimore, as the White Sox went on to win big, 14-4.

Biddle did just fine, with six hits and four runs allowed in seven innings before being relieved by Mark Buehrle. There was a piece of White Sox history hidden in the box score of Rocky Biddle’s first big league win: future Hall of Famer Harold Baines hit his final career MLB home run (#384) – a 3-run blast off Jason Johnson in the 4th inning to give the Sox a 9-2 lead.

After the win, Rocky received a cold beer shower and when asked about it he replied ` . . . I think it froze part of my brain.'

Unfortunately, Biddle’s run of success was short-lived. He allowed 15 runs (11 earned) over his next two starts before being sent back down for the remainder of the season. He posted an ERA of 8.34 in his first taste of MLB action.

Biddle competed for the fifth spot in the rotation in spring 2001. A 9.42 ERA in eight spring appearances didn’t help his cause, though he still made the roster as a reliever. A few weeks into the season Biddle was back in the rotation due to Cal Eldred’s continued injury struggles. 2001 was a big letdown for the White Sox, falling to third in the standings, as Jim Parque & new addition David Wells went down with injuries. Even Frank Thomas suffered a season-ending arm injury while diving for a ball in May. Eventually Biddle himself needed shoulder surgery at the end of the season. He started 2002 on the DL and when he was healthy he spent most of his time in the bullpen with an occasional spot start here and there.

On September 19 he had his best start of the season – his lone quality start of 2002 with six innings of two-run ball against the Royals at Comiskey Park. Unfortunately what should have been remembered as a solid pitcher’s duel between Biddle & Paul Byrd was overshadowed by a father and son duo who attacked Royals first base coach Tom Gamboa in the 9th inning. Biddle finished his season with a win in his next start – a five-inning effort against the Red Sox. It was the last time he pitched for the White Sox.

The White Sox dreamt of a rotation with promising arms such as Rocky Biddle, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Kip Wells & Jon Rauch. While Buehrle & Garland went on to huge things, it never quite happened for the other three.

In January 2003, the White Sox sent Rocky Biddle to Montreal along with Orlando Hernández (who had been acquired from the Yankees that day), Jeff Liefer & cash for Bartolo Colón & minor leaguer Jorge Nuñez.

Biddle posted a 4.65 ERA in 73 relief appearances in his first season for the Expos – not the greatest numbers -  but he did record 34 saves. It’s the last 30+ save season in Montreal Expos history, as well as the only 30-save season by a pitcher born in Nevada, though Brandon Kintzler (29 in 2017) and Mike MacDougal (27 in 2003) both have come really close.

After one more season Biddle was released by the Expos, who not only moved on from Biddle but moved on from Montreal to become the Washington Nationals for 2005.

In five career Major League seasons, Biddle posted a 20-30 record with a 5.47 ERA and 46 saves in 198 games for the White Sox & Expos. He’s one of four Rockys in White Sox history, along with Rocky Krsnich (1949, 1952-53), Rocky Nelson (1951) & Rocky Colavito (1967).

Rocky Biddle. Remember that guy? 

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Paul Konerko ballot briefing

Paul Konerko ballot briefing

Paul Konerko debuts on the 2020 Hall of Fame ballot.

He probably won’t get in, but I’m going to lay out his case regardless.

It’s easy to pull up his baseball-reference page, cite his 27.7 career wins above replacement and immediately dismiss him. But basing everything strictly off a WAR number is lazy analysis. And he deserves better than that.

Paul Konerko was a very highly touted prospect, reaching #2 on the Baseball America top 100 prospects list (behind Ben Grieve) in 1998. His November 1998 trade to the White Sox (from the Reds) was already his second time traded since being drafted by the Dodgers (as a catcher!) in 1994. When he joined the White Sox he began to realize his prospect potential. By the time he was finished, he was synonymous with White Sox baseball.

Konerko finished his career with 439 home runs. Only 43 players in the history of Major League baseball have more. During a 14-year run (1999 to 2012), he hit at least 20 home runs 13 times; “Paulie” is one of only 34 players in MLB history with at least 13 seasons of at least 20 dingers. The six-time All-Star finished with 1,412 career RBI, and if you look right below his name on the all-time list, you’ll run into a flurry of Hall of Famers, including Robin Yount (1,406), Johnny Bench (1,376), Orlando Cepeda (1,365), Brooks Robinson (1,357), Johnny Mize (1,337), Mike Piazza (1,335), Duke Snider (1,333), Iván Rodríguez (1,332), Ron Santo (1,331) & Carlton Fisk (1,330).

When he hung up his spikes, Paul Konerko had become an icon on Chicago’s South Side. His 432 home runs with the White Sox rank second to only Frank Thomas (448). In fact, Konerko (twice) & Thomas (five times) are the only two players in White Sox history with multiple 40-home run seasons; Konerko’s were consecutive (41 in 2004, 40 in 2005). His 81 round-trippers in 2004-05 stand as the most in Sox history over a two-year span. Nobody in White Sox history can match Konerko’s 29 career multi-homer games. He ranks highly on several career White Sox lists; no small feat for a team which has been around for well over 100 years. He’s 2nd in RBI (1,383), 3rd in Hits (2,292), 4th in Runs (1,141), 3rd in Doubles (406), and 1st in Total Bases (4,010); the only player in White Sox history with 4,000 or more. With his 40 home runs in 2005 to go along with a stellar .283/.375/.534 slashline and 100 RBI, Konerko was the best offensive performer on a World Series Championship team. He was 2005 ALCS MVP with 2 home runs & 7 RBI for the White Sox in their 5-game series win over the Angels. He homered in the World Series as well. Konerko’s seven career postseason home runs remain a White Sox record.

The fact that Konerko is one of the all-time greats for a storied franchise is something that isn’t discussed enough. He’s one of only 25 players in MLB history with 400+ home runs for a franchise, and 20 of those 25 are in the Hall of Fame. The five outside of the Hall are David Ortiz & Albert Pujols (who will almost certainly get in), Sammy Sosa & Barry Bonds (well, you know…) and Konerko. There aren’t too many players in MLB history who come to the plate in a game with their statue overlooking them from the outfield concourse. But such was the case in Paul Konerko’s final two MLB games. The White Sox unveiled his statue on the left field concourse on September 27, 2014 prior to his penultimate game. The next season, the Sox retired #14 in Konerko’s honor, joining Nellie Fox (#2), Harold Baines (#3), Luke Appling (#4), Minnie Miñoso (#9), Luis Aparicio (#11), Ted Lyons (#16), Billy Pierce (#19), Frank Thomas (#35) & Carlton Fisk (#72) among White Sox greats with their numbers displayed at the ballpark (Mark Buehrle - #56 - would join them in 2017).

When you walk into one of Major League Baseball’s 30 cathedrals, you get a sense of history of the team that plays there. As you enter Guaranteed Rate Field, you see the number 14 displayed in various spots. You see the statue on the left field concourse. You see the momentos of the 2005 Championship. Even if his career doesn’t ultimately place him in Cooperstown’s hallowed halls, Paul Konerko’s legacy is one worth celebrating. 

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White Sox don’t want to move Yoan Moncada, so what does that mean for Anthony Rendon?

White Sox don’t want to move Yoan Moncada, so what does that mean for Anthony Rendon?

Would the White Sox pursue Anthony Rendon?

It’s one of the many things they’re not taking off the table as they embark on what’s expected to be a busy offseason. But it doesn’t sound like they’re itching to make the necessary corresponding move: switching Yoan Moncada’s position for the second year in a row.

Of course, Rick Hahn doesn’t talk about specific free agents, meaning he doesn’t get asked about specific free agents, meaning there’s no definitive answer on whether the White Sox are even interested in Rendon, the top position player on the free-agent market this winter. The rumor mill is already churning, though, and they’ve been connected to the All-Star third baseman, among plenty of other big names.

But the White Sox have a third baseman in Moncada, and they really don’t want to move him again. However, if the right free-agent opportunity presented itself, maybe they would.

“We're not looking to move him again because we do think he's an MVP-caliber player over at third base and don't want to upset the apple cart with that,” Hahn said during the GM meetings last week in Arizona. “That said, he's also extraordinarily athletic and has the ability to play multiple other positions, whether it's second base, like you saw, or even potentially in the outfield, something that he's raised before.

“The general plan is to not mess with that, but we're at least going to go through this process and be open minded about, 'If we did this, what effect would that have on Moncada and how do we project him going forward at a different spot?' We project him awfully good at the spot he's at right now.”

Moncada had a breakout offensive season and at least appeared to play a good defensive third base in 2019 (even if some of the defensive metrics said otherwise). After striking out 217 times in his first full season in the major leagues in 2018, he blossomed into the White Sox best all-around hitter with a .315/.367/.548 slash line to go along with 25 homers, 34 doubles and 79 RBIs in 132 games.

Rendon, meanwhile, is a perennial MVP-type producer coming off a career year featuring a .319/.412/.598 slash line, 34 homers, 44 doubles and 126 RBIs. He also plays a very good third base, a Gold Glove finalist this year.

He’s the kind of player you rearrange your defense for.

The White Sox are looking for that kind of major splash, a guy who can help vault their rebuilding project into contention mode. Rendon is the type of middle-of-the-order bat who could do just that, and the opportunity to sign him might be too good to pass up. And though we’re throttling our way down Hypothetical Avenue, the White Sox would have to figure out where to put Moncada if they were able to sign Rendon.

Moncada’s versatility, as Hahn mentioned, could help with that. Moncada spent the 2017 season at second base, where he made a whopping 21 errors. Manager Rick Renteria revealed during the season that Moncada has said he can play the outfield, and Moncada himself said he’d play wherever the White Sox wanted him to play.

We also don’t have to guess at whether the White Sox would chase one of the best players in baseball despite their playing a position the team already has filled. They did it last winter, going after Manny Machado while Tim Anderson was seemingly entrenched at shortstop.

But with three stated goals on their offseason to-do list — right field, designated hitter and starting pitching — the White Sox don’t seem to be close to putting all their chips on Rendon's number.

Hence the staunch defense of keeping Moncada at third base. But, in what is emerging as a theme for the White Sox this winter, the door remains open to anything.

“In terms of moving Yoan, that's not a goal. We're not looking to move him,” Hahn said. “We think he's a really, really good third baseman and will be that for a long time.

“When we have players with flexibility and athleticism, you at least consider different permutations. We wouldn't be doing our job if there was a way for us to get better that we just ruled out because we have set at a certain spot.

“Part of it, though, and we don't take it lightly is: Moving him again defensively, what impact does that have on his performance? It's not an exact science, but it's a consideration. And given how good he's been this last year plus and the trajectory he's on, moving him is not something we take lightly.”

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