White Sox

Rick Renteria defends his daily lineup construction: 'I'm going to do what I think I need to do with the guys I have'

Rick Renteria defends his daily lineup construction: 'I'm going to do what I think I need to do with the guys I have'

Rick Renteria might not be on Twitter, but apparently that hasn't stopped him from hearing the complaints and critiques about his daily lineup construction.

During another frustrating season featuring more losses than wins and heading toward the franchise's 11th straight October without playoff baseball, Renteria's lineups have been an easy target for critics. While Leury Garcia has been a reasonably productive mainstay in the leadoff spot and Jose Abreu is entrenched in the No. 3 spot, the rest of the team has bounced around up and down the batting order.

Cherry picking a few notable examples, Tim Anderson — who's boasted one of the highest batting averages in the American League throughout this breakout season — has spent nearly as much time batting seventh as he has batting second. Power-hitting rookie Eloy Jimenez has spent most of his time in the fifth and sixth spots in the lineup, with fewer at-bats in the run-producing cleanup spot than Yonder Alonso, Welington Castillo and Jon Jay, three players who have struggled swinging the bat this season and likely have no place in the team's plans past the end of the 2019 season. (Alonso, obviously, was released months ago.)

Those decisions have had many fans scratching their heads throughout the season, and Renteria seems to be aware of the complaints, enough at least to get more animated than usual when asked about the reasoning behind his lineups during his pregame media session with reporters Tuesday in Minnesota.

"A lot of it has to be trust," he told reporters, including an NBC Sports Chicago camera, at Target Field. "Most people want to go through and just (have me make) statistically based decisions. OK, I'm not that guy. I trust myself and the things I do. I think there's a balance.

"I don't discount numbers. Never have, never will. But I'm a balance guy. I'm not going to appeal to the sabermetrician on a daily basis. Never will, never want to. Not my intent. If they don't like it, I don't really give a shit.

"I do things because I think it's the right thing for me to do. I know everybody has their opinion. Maybe it puts me on the outs. That's fine. But I'm going to do what I think I need to do with the guys I have.

"I know my guys. I know what they're capable of doing. It may not always work out. I can't defend something I can't quantify because everybody wants history behind it. But you can't develop history unless you allow an opportunity for an individual to be put in a particular situation for an extended period of time."

An interesting response from the skipper, who all fans must remember can only write lineups featuring the players he has at his disposal. A year from now, when more top-ranked prospects and possible outside additions are on the White Sox roster, Renteria's lineups will surely look much different. And the White Sox playing winning baseball would figure to back up any decision he makes more than the White Sox playing losing baseball has done in recent seasons.

But it also doesn't take a sabermetrician to know that the Castillos and Alonsos and Jays of the world aren't having productive enough seasons to warrant placement in a run-producing spot in the order, either.

It's a philosophical argument, and Renteria's offering up his philosophy. It wouldn't shock if that philosophy looks a lot better once the roster looks a lot better. Until then, fans might be left with more complaints and critiques.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Being Mark Buehrle was the best way to weather a storm

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Being Mark Buehrle was the best way to weather a storm

The best way for a starting pitcher to weather the storm and limit the damage?

Be Mark Buehrle.

The White Sox ace was so effective throughout his career because he was a master of his style. He filled up the strike zone, he let hitters hit his pitches, he relied on his defense and he got a lot of outs very quickly.

On May 13, 2005, Buehrle faced the minimum through the first three innings and retired 10 of the first 11 hitters he faced. Then came some uncustomary control issues for the fill-up-the-zone left-hander. Given his pitching style and how successful he was at sticking to it, three-ball counts were a rarity. Well, in the fourth inning against the Orioles, he went to three-ball counts on three different hitters. They all reached base, on a single, a walk and a double, and the O’s scored three runs in the inning.

Buehrle putting his team in a three-run hole because he kept missing his mark? It didn’t happen often.

But even in that rarest of times, Buehrle was able to weather that storm because, well, he was Buehrle. He got back to work doing what made him great. And after the Orioles scored three in the fourth, he threw four consecutive 1-2-3 innings, retiring the final 13 hitters he faced — with not a three-ball count to be had.

That allowed his offense to do its damage in the come-from-behind 5-3 win, clawing back on a couple RBI hits before the critical stretch of base runners in the seventh led to a go-ahead single by Paul Konerko. It wouldn’t have been possible had Buehrle not locked things up after giving up that crooked number in the fourth.

Buehrle’s eight-run performance on May 13 was already his fourth outing to last at least that long in 2005. He finished the regular season with 10 such starts and added one more in the ALCS.

Not only does effective starting pitching allow the offense to lurk and do its damage late. It also saves the bullpen, making the relief corps that much more effective.

Starting pitching was the key for those 2005 White Sox, and Buehrle was the best of the bunch.

What else?

— The White Sox made a habit of capitalizing on other teams’ mistakes, and this game was no exception. After Scott Podsednik led off the bottom of the seventh with a ground-rule double, Tadahito Iguchi reached when his bouncer bounced right off Rafael Palmeiro’s chest. Baltimore reliever Todd Williams walked the next hitter, setting up Konerko for a bases-loaded, go-ahead, two-run single that ended up being the game’s defining play. Even with Konerko in a prolonged early season slump, the Orioles dug themselves into a hole by loading the bases with nobody out. And the White Sox took advantage.


— Willie Harris, not a heavy hitter by any stretch, seemed an odd choice to get the start at DH in this one. But he came through, picking up one of the eight RBIs he had in 2005 with a sixth-inning base hit that brought the White Sox within a run. Like Pablo Ozuna, Timo Perez, Chris Widger and even Pedro Lopez, he was one of the White Sox bench players that kept coming through when called upon, a hallmark of this championship squad.

— Hawk’s back! It’s been a little bit since we got to hear from the Hawkeroo on #SoxRewind, as he was away from the booth for a stretch after having corrective eye surgery. He was obviously still in recovery mode on May 13.


— “And that is why you don’t want pitchers involved in pickle plays.” Podsednik picked up one of his three hits on this night via a bunt in the third inning, but he was caught leaning by Rodrigo Lopez and nearly got picked off. Pods got himself in a rundown and escaped the out when Lopez entered the pickle, dropping a throw from an infielder and allowing Podsednik to get back to first base safely. Harrelson pointed out maybe Lopez should’ve sat that one out and allowed his teammates to cycle through the play.

Since you been gone

While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?

May 12, 2005: Jon Garland was awesome again, allowing just two runs over eight innings of work against the O’s. A.J. Pierzynski and Juan Uribe both homered off classic White Sox nemesis Bruce “Cy” Chen. White Sox win, 3-2, improve to 26-9.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Thursday, when you can catch the May 17, 2005, game against the Rangers, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Jon Garland turns in another terrific effort, and Pierzynski goes deep.

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Remember That Guy: 'scrappy' Craig Grebeck

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NBC SPORTS CHICAGO

Remember That Guy: 'scrappy' Craig Grebeck

I pulled up Craig Grebeck’s Score baseball cards from 1990 to 1993, and all four cards used the word “scrappy” to describe him. Two of the four went on to add “hard-nosed” after scrappy. You see, if an athlete is under 5-foot-10 and not bulky (that would make them a “fireplug”), they’re automatically scrappy. As for his nose, I don’t know how hard it is. It doesn’t look particularly hard. But fine, let’s go with it.

Anyway, remember Craig Grebeck?

Craig Allen Grebeck was born on December 29, 1964 in Johnstown, Pennsylvania. When Craig was young, his family moved to California. Craig attended Lakewood High School (Lakewood, California) and then California State University, Dominguez Hills in Carson. The 5-foot-7, 148-pound shortstop went undrafted, but the White Sox signed him in August 1986.

In 1987, Grebeck started his pro career with Peninsula (class A Carolina League) hitting .280/.343./474 with 15 home runs (hitting home runs is certainly NOT a very scrappy thing to do). From 1988 to 1989 at Birmingham, he settled into the type of hitter he would become, hitting .280 with a .371 OBP and 9 HR, then .287 with a .362 OBP and 5 HR. He was a line drive fastball hitter who hit around .280 with minimal power for the most part.

Grebeck made his MLB Debut on April 13, 1990, a strikeout out while pinch hitting for Scott Fletcher. Playing sparingly, he collected his first major league hit on April 28, a single off Jimmy Key. Craig came off the bench as a fielder, pinch hitter and pinch runner while getting an occasional start filling in at second base, shortstop and third base. He spent a few weeks back in the minors at the end of July and returned in August. On August 10 in Game 2 of a doubleheader against the Rangers, Grebeck participated in one of the more improbable events in baseball history. In the bottom of the second inning, Grebeck hit a three-run homer – the first long ball of his career – off Nolan Ryan. Right after, Ozzie Guillen connected with a homer of his own. It was the only time Nolan Ryan allowed back-to-back homers off 8-9 hitters in his career. What makes this even more amazing is that it was the only home run of 1990 for both Craig Grebeck AND Ozzie Guillen.

Grebeck is on the list of only six players who hit their first MLB home runs off Nolan Ryan, along with Ron Hassey, Will Clark, Tracy Woodson, Ron Gant and Kevin Koslofski.

Craig flied out against Ryan in his next at-bat. But when they met again a week later, Grebeck got plunked then struck out twice. In 14 career plate appearances against the Ryan Express, Grebeck reached base six times (3 hits, 2 walks, 1 HBP), good for a .429 OBP. Pretty decent. 

Also in 1990, Craig’s brother Brian was drafted by the Angels in the 19th round of the MLB Draft. He never reached the majors but did play professionally from 1990 to 2001.

RELATED: Remember That Guy: Greg Hibbard

1991 would be Grebeck’s best Major League season. He played a career-high 107 games and hit .281/.386/.460 with 6 home runs, splitting his time between second, shortstop and third. Despite only accumulating a half-season's worth of plate appearances (268), he was worth 3.1 wins above replacement, making solid contributions with his glove, as well.

In 1992, Grebeck did a fine job as super sub once again, posting 2.3 wins above replacement in 88 games, which calculates to 4.2 WAR per 162 games. He had a respectable .268 average and .341 OBP. Unfortunately, his season was cut short by a foot injury. He was hit by a Randy Johnson pitch on July 31 and reaggravated the injury in early August while running the bases. How much his success in 1991 to 1992 could be chalked up to “scrappiness” is hard to discern. What IS known is that by now, Grebeck earned the moniker “Little Hurt” from Hawk Harrelson because he was the perfect compliment to the 6-foot-5 “Big Hurt” Frank Thomas.

In 1993 to 1994, the two Hurts combined for 80 home runs and two MVP awards; that Frank accounted for 79 of the homers and both MVPs is irrelevant. In 1993, Grebeck slumped at the plate, but he was a valuable part of the team and was involved in a few notable moments. On August 4, 1993, Robin Ventura was hit by a Nolan Ryan pitch and charged the mound. It was Grebeck who pinch ran for Ventura after he was ejected. In 1993, Grebeck saw the only postseason action of his career. He pinch hit for Dan Pasqua in Game 2 of the ALCS against the Blue Jays and ended up a perfect 1-for-1 (single off Al Leiter) in his playoff career. Grebeck missed a chunk of 1994 with an ankle injury but hit .309 with a .391 OBP in 35 games when he was healthy. Following the 1994 season, Grebeck participated along with Jason Bere in the Cuervo World Series of Volleyball in Kauai, Hawaii.

Grebeck played his final season for the White Sox in 1995, hitting .260 with a .360 OBP in 53 games. One thing White Sox fans might be shocked to know is that he had 12 home runs during his career with the team… and only two stolen bases.

In 1996, Grebeck signed with the Marlins and then with the Angels for 1997. He spent 1998 to 2000 with the Blue Jays. In 1999, Grebeck hit a stunning .363 (41 for 113) in 34 games. On June 9, 1999, Grebeck was at the center of one of the more memorable moments in MLB history. In the 12th inning of a game at Shea Stadium, Grebeck reached first base on catcher’s interference (he was facing Pat Mahomes), as Mike Piazza stepped too far forward to make a play. Mets manager Bobby Valentine argued the call and was ejected… and later returned to the dugout wearing sunglasses and a fake mustache. But it was a Grebeck at-bat that started it all!

In 2001, Grebeck closed out his MLB career with a 23-game stint for the Red Sox filling in for Nomar Garciaparra, who was out with a wrist injury. At each stop along the way in his post-White Sox baseball journey, from Miami to Anaheim to Toronto and down to Boston, you can be sure Grebeck displayed maximum scrappiness.

In 12 MLB seasons, Grebeck played in 752 games, hitting .261/.340/.356 with 518 hits, 19 home runs and four stolen bases.

Following his MLB career, Grebeck had a few jobs within baseball, serving as hitting coach for the A’s rookie league ball team in Arizona in 2005 and then in the Angels system at Rancho Cucamonga from 2006 to 2007. Craig’s son Austin was drafted by the Mariners in the 21st round in 2016.

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