White Sox

Rewatching 2005 World Series Game 1

Rewatching 2005 World Series Game 1

14 years ago today the White Sox hosted the Astros in Game 1 of the 2005 World Series.

Watching it was a surreal experience. When the game happened, there was no Baseball Reference Play Index, no Twitter and I don’t even think I had any idea who Chuck Garfien was. I was a 25-year-old figuring out what I wanted to do with my life. I was on a path to become a pharmacist, working 40-hour weeks at Walgreens while going to school for pre-pharmacy courses. But I was a lifelong White Sox fan. Maybe 20 times a year, I’d take the train to the ballpark, usually just me with a backpack. I’d take a program, media guide, a note pad to scribble down notes, and a plastic snap case full of White Sox baseball cards, in case a player popped up in the dugout before the game for an autograph opportunity.

I remember watching Game 1 with my dad, who got me hooked on this game and this team. My heart was pounding throughout the game; back when I was just a fan there was a sense of nervousness that eventually went away as watching games became a job-related task. I miss that nervousness.

But anyway, I figured I’d watch Game 1 all the way through for the first time since I was on the couch at my parents’ house that October night in 2005. Along the way, I recorded five key retrospective observations.

So here we go…

José Contreras vs Roger Clemens!

Entering the 2005 World Series, Roger Clemens had 341 career regular season wins, whereas José Contreras (35), Jon Garland (64), Mark Buehrle (85) and Freddy García (99) had a combined total of 283.

In fact, at 43 years (and 79 days) of age Clemens was the oldest starting pitcher to face the White Sox since… Nolan Ryan (46 years, 185 days) — and in the Robin Ventura Game, no less — on August 4, 1993!

As for Contreras, what a run he had! The broadcast at one point cut to Chris Myers, who told a story of Humberto, Jose’s older brother, who rode by horseback in Cuba to a friend’s shack in order to listen to the game on radio (Humberto wasn’t able to get the broadcast on his own radio). It’s easy to lose sight of the sacrifices that players make for a better life.

The big Cuban righthander was in the middle of a 24-start regular season stretch (over 2005-06) where he went 17-0 with a 2.92 ERA. That incredible streak started on August 21 – which was better known as the day the Sox hit 4 home runs in an inning off Randy Johnson – and ended after the 2006 All-Star Break. And here was José Contreras as the 2005 World Series Game 1 starter. Amazing. The movement on his forkball was NASTY!

One more thing about Clemens:

Roger Clemens faced the 2005 White Sox staff a LOT. Here are those numbers (with postseason)

GM Kenny Williams 7 1-6 .167 0
Manager Ozzie Guillen 63 15-62 .242 0
Bench Coach Harold Baines 126 33-109 .303 2
1B Coach Tim Raines 53 10-47 .213 0
3B Coach Joey Cora 48 9-38 .237 0
Hitting Coach Greg Walker 42 7-37 .189 1
Total 339 75-229 .251 3

Familiar Names

In the 2005 ALCS, the White Sox faced Vladimir Guerrero’s Angels, then in the 2005 World Series they faced Craig Biggio’s Astros. A pair of Hall of Famers whose kids, Vlad Jr. and Cavan, currently play for the Blue Jays.

One thing about this series that has always stuck out to me is this: you had Jeff Bagwell playing his final career games — a non-factor, going 1-for-8 with 2 HBP (both in Game 1) during the World Series. Then you had Frank Thomas, who didn’t get a chance to play due to injury. Both players were born on the same day – May 27, 1968 – and both won MVP in 1994. And both would never again play for these teams after the Series.

Jermaine Dye

I miss Jermaine Dye. Such a good, solid performer. His Game 1 home run was the first by a White Sox player in the World Series since Ted Kluszewski in Game 6 of the 1959 Fall Classic. My favorite nugget on Dye was the improbable fact that he was born on the exact same day – January 28, 1974 – as the player he replaced as White Sox right fielder, Magglio Ordoñez. Dye went on to win 2005 World Series MVP, then he and Paul Konerko hit their 300th career home runs back-to-back on April 13, 2009. His career, though, ended abruptly after that 2009 season.

Dye hit 27 home runs in his final MLB campaign, a total only six other players in MLB history can match. David Ortiz (38 in 2016), Dave Kingman (35 in 1986), Mike Napoli (29 in 2017), Mark McGwire (29 in 2001), Ted Williams (29 in 1960) and Barry Bonds (28 in 2007). He never got another chance after 2009, and that’s a shame.

The Smallball Myth

Often, you’ll hear about the fact that the 2005 White Sox won because they played “smallball.” Is that true? Not really. That’s one of those myths that persist because that brand of baseball is more aesthetically pleasing despite the fact that the numbers say it’s mostly inefficient. Look at this strange list:

Teams to hit 200+ home runs and lead their league in sacrifice bunts (MLB history)
Year Team HR Sac Bunts
1999 Cleveland Indians 209 54
2001 Chicago White Sox 214 63
2004 Chicago White Sox 242 58
2005 Chicago White Sox 200 53
2019 Cleveland Indians 223 40
2019 Los Angeles Dodgers 279 55

Through the 2005 World Series, the White Sox had three of the four such seasons in MLB history, which is very odd. Yes, they led the AL in sacrifice bunts, but they also hit 200 home runs. Actually, if you were to single out one reason the White Sox were winners in 2005… it’s pitching!

Year Runs/Game HR Starter ERA Reliever ERA
2004 5.34 242 5.17 4.31
2005 4.57 200 3.75 3.23
2006 5.36 236 4.65 4.53

They scored considerably more the year before and after, but that pitching was unbelievable in 2005. Three key starters – Contreras, Buehrle and Garland - had career years, as did three key relievers: Dustin Hermanson, Neal Cotts and Cliff Politte.

The White Sox took Game 1 by a 5-3 score, but the World Series was only getting warmed up. The White Sox completed a four-game sweep with a little bit of everything along the way – a grand slam, a walkoff home run, a 14th inning home run, a save by Mark Buehrle... you name it, you got it. What an amazing finish to an improbable year.

Kenny Williams kept his foot on the gas for 2006. Jim Thome (who hit 42 home runs in his White Sox debut) and workhorse starter Javier Vázquez were added to the mix, but the pitchers who had career years during the World Series run simply couldn’t duplicate their success.

And the South Side waits for its next championship parade.

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Under what circumstances would the White Sox trade for Mookie Betts?

Under what circumstances would the White Sox trade for Mookie Betts?

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — Nothing seems to be off the table for the White Sox this winter.

But certain moves might be the centerpiece, while others might be hiding behind the salt shaker.

One of the biggest questions in baseball right now is what the Boston Red Sox are going to do with Mookie Betts. With the Red Sox aiming to get under the luxury tax — made more difficult when J.D. Martinez opted to stay in Boston for $23.75 million — speculation surrounding a trade of Betts and the $27.7 million he’s projected to receive through arbitration has increased.

Betts, too, it’s important to note, has just one year of club control remaining, and he seems set on heading to free agency at this time a year from now.

The White Sox hole in right field and quest to make a huge addition to their rebuilding project lines them up as a potentially interested party. While general manager Rick Hahn is waiting until his 2020 roster takes shape to set expectations for next season, the emergence of a young core presents the possibility that next season could be the one in which contention arrives on the South Side.

Adding Betts to the mix would certainly increase those chances.

Tuesday, Hahn seemed to leave the door open to acquiring a player like Betts, that is a player with just one year of club control remaining.

“Yeah, depending on the cost. It all comes down to price,” he said. “Like everybody, you want guys who are going to fit for the long term. We want to add a guy who's got a three-, four-, five-, six-year window of control where he's going to continue to improve and he's going to grow with this young core. Those guys aren't so easy to acquire. Usually you have to give a pretty premium piece like we did to get ours, or hit on them at the top of the draft like we've hopefully done.

“Short of that, we're going to look for guys who can certainly make you better in the short term but ideally have a little back-end control. If those don't exist, if we don't come across the right fit, then we'd be open to a one-year improvement knowing that with where we've put ourselves economically, we might have the ability to retain that player when they hit free agency.”

That sounds promising if you’re a member of the Betts-to-the-White Sox camp.

But there was a decidedly different tone Wednesday. Now, Hahn was never speaking about Betts specifically, nor was he ever asked about Betts specifically. But asked about dealing from a position of prospect strength for an impact talent who has just one year of club control left, the answer was significantly different than Tuesday’s.

“We made a commitment,” Hahn said, “that once we got ourselves in a position to be on the opposite end of these trades, the trades where you were giving up talent for short-term gain, that it was going to be important to us to still try to remain committed to the long term.

“When there's a guy like Chris Sale available, who (in 2016, when the White Sox traded him) had multiple years of control and you're ready to win, making that push makes all the sense in the world. If you're talking about a guy on a one-year basis, we're not to that point yet, and if we do get to that point, that's going to be a tough trigger to pull because we're trying to build something sustainable for an extended period of time.

“Quick hits don't necessarily do that. And certainly after three years of rebuilding, we've gotten ourselves in a very good position, but not in one where we're going to do something for immediate bang in 2020, necessarily, if we feel it compromises us for the long term.

“We've paid too big of a price to compromise where we're going to be at long term.”

Now, with that question posed by a Boston-based reporter, Hahn might have been addressing a more specific scenario. More likely is that he was reacting to the idea that the White Sox top-rated prospects would make them able to swing a deal for the elite of the elite. Thing is, the highest rated of those prospects aren’t really on the block, with Michael Kopech, Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn all solidly part of the team’s long-term plans.

So, is a Betts trade off the table? No. Is a Betts trade likely? Probably not. Would the White Sox trade for Betts? Probably if they only had to give up mid-tier prospects. What would it take to pry Betts away from the Red Sox? Probably more than mid-tier prospects.

Despite the seemingly contradictory nature of Hahn’s comments on Tuesday and Wednesday, he didn’t really flip-flop. A trade for one year of Betts isn’t out of the question, it's likely only going to come if the White Sox don’t have to give up too much. Maybe the Red Sox financial situation is dire enough that the prospect cost will be unusually low. Maybe the White Sox are presented with a rare opportunity to negotiate an extension.

But “depending on the cost” remains the key phrase not just in this situation but the entire White Sox offseason. That doesn’t mean they won’t spend or trade anyone. It simply means that they will only do so if there’s a long-term benefit. They’re trying to build a perennial contender, and the lengthy tenures of Robert and Madrigal and Vaughn are more valuable than one year of Betts.

In search of that long-term benefit, then, the free-agent market or a trade for a player with greater club control certainly seems a more likely route than a trade for Betts.

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A free-agent destination? Scott Boras: 'Players look at the White Sox in a very different way than they did two years ago'

A free-agent destination? Scott Boras: 'Players look at the White Sox in a very different way than they did two years ago'

SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox certainly believe themselves to be a destination for the game’s top free agents.

What do those free agents think, though?

Anthony Rendon, Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Nicholas Castellanos will likely stay silent on that and all other matters until they’re introduced as members of their new teams.

Their agent, Scott Boras, is not exactly the staying-silent type.

Boras spoke to the typical throng of reporters Wednesday at the GM meetings, doing his job as an advocate for a game in which more teams are handing out bigger contracts and the players see a bigger share of the pie. But, as is tradition, he was peppered with questions about individual teams and their attractiveness to his clients.

And that included the White Sox, who have quite a bit on their shopping list this winter. So, Scott, are they the destination Rick Hahn claims they are?

“They have a lot of great young talent,” he said. “It’s a great city. Certainly players look at the White Sox in a very different way than they did two years ago, no question.”

It’d be hard not to. At this time two years ago, the White Sox were coming off a 95-loss season, with a 100-loss season to follow. But in 2019, despite the loss total still arriving at a nothing-to-be-proud-of 89, we learned the White Sox have an exciting young core thanks to several players breaking out with big performances. Two years ago, Tim Anderson wasn’t a batting champ, Yoan Moncada wasn’t the best all-around player on the team, Lucas Giolito wasn’t an All Star and Eloy Jimenez wasn’t a 31-homer rookie.

Everyone should look at the White Sox in a very different way than they did two years ago, free agents included.

Boras' words do little to actually indicate whether the White Sox will have a strong chance at reeling in one of the biggest fish in this winter's free-agent pond. But between the White Sox stated aggressiveness in pursuing premium talent and the idea that talent might be looking at the White Sox as a destination, that's good news for Hahn's front office and the goal of landing a top player.

There was more from Boras, though his other White Sox-related comments came off more as lobbying the South Siders to hand out deals to free agents. Still, it doesn’t make him wrong.

“Well certainly the White Sox need veteran players, because they have such great young players, and you're trying to create that mix all the time,” he said. “So I readily foresee there's a lot of fits that could go in there and really advance what they've built to date.

“I think veteran players, particularly who have won before, can come into a locker room, bring a credibility where players can go to them and say, organically, ‘How does this happen? Are we that close? How far away are we? What do we do? What do I do?’

“And when you've been around world champions, when they speak, the athletes have a high level of credibility for what they have to say because they've done it, they've been through it.”

But Boras’ biggest talking point about the White Sox is actually the same as Hahn’s. The general manager has voiced for months now that his team’s top selling point isn’t the financial flexibility that will allow them to hand out a massive contract — though certainly that will help — but the opportunity to play winning baseball with this group of talented players.

“We are a logical destination for premium talent,” Hahn said Tuesday. “Players want to come play for us, play for the White Sox, play on the South Side, play for (manager Rick Renteria) and be part of what we're building. And if last year we announced that perhaps a little too loudly, it was in part a response to the general narrative that we weren't legitimate players for such talent.

“I think the message has already been delivered that we are a true destination for such talent, and now it's incumbent upon us to convert on some along the way.”

Hahn added more on the topic Wednesday.

“It's a combination, not just while we're here but over the course of the season, hearing from some guys in our clubhouse who have heard from other players around the league about what we've been building and what the future looks like, and then having that reinforced in these early conversations with some free agents.

“The agents will certainly tell you nice things along the way, but when you hear it directly from some of the players, ‘I see what you guys have been doing, I see where the future is headed there and it's exciting,’ it's some positive reinforcement.

“Now, in the end, dollars and contract terms tend to carry a little more weight. But at the very least, it's good to hear that people are excited by the prospect of being part of what we're building.”

Hahn’s right, in the end, the money will likely do the majority of the talking, and it’s up to his front office to do away with what he calls a “false narrative” that the White Sox are unwilling or unable to spend on the highest-priced free agents.

But there’s also the old cliche that winning cures all ills. This team showing it’s ready to compete for a title with its performance on the field could play a big role in top talent picking the South Side as a landing spot.

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