White Sox

Three All Stars is a big deal for the White Sox, but should they have more?

Three All Stars is a big deal for the White Sox, but should they have more?

The White Sox are sending three players to the All-Star Game in Cleveland, a number of representatives the franchise hasn’t seen since 2014. Lucas Giolito, James McCann and Jose Abreu all getting All-Star nods is a nice recognition of the team’s rebuilding progress in a 2019 season that’s been filled with bright spots.

But South Side baseball fans wanted more.

Yes, the consensus seems to be that three White Sox in the Midsummer Classic is too few. Where is Tim Anderson? Where is Yoan Moncada? Where is Alex Colome? For a fan base that watched its team lose a combined 195 games during the 2017 and 2018 seasons, that might sound greedy. The only AL team with more initial All Stars than the White Sox was the Houston Astros, with six. The New York Yankees and Cleveland Indians saw their totals grow to five and four representatives, respectively, once the injury replacements were announced. The Yankees now have five, and the Indians have four.

But certainly cases could be made that Anderson, Moncada and Colome all deserved All-Star recognition. And if you’re bummed that those three won’t be joining the other three in Cleveland, you’re not alone.

“I absolutely think Tim should have gone. I think Moncada should have gone. I think Colome had an argument to go,” general manager Rick Hahn said Wednesday. “At the same time, I’m guessing all 30 GMs feel there’s a few more guys on their team that could have conceivably made it.

“And when I looked at the player voting for shortstop and saw where TA came in, initially I was like, ‘Well, wait, that’s too low.’ And then I saw the four guys that came in ahead of him and was like, ‘You know those guys are pretty good players. I guess that’s why he’s in that group where he is.’ There’s a lot of excellent young players in the league right now.”

Indeed there are. The shortstops who will be suiting up for the AL are Jorge Polanco of the Minnesota Twins, Francisco Lindor of the hosting Indians and Xander Bogaerts of the Boston Red Sox. Even Bogaerts didn’t make the team at first, added later as an injury replacement. Polanco’s got a whopping 41 extra-base hits, enough to earn him election to the starting spot. Bogaerts leads all AL shortstops with a .920 OPS. Lindor’s numbers are closer to Anderson’s, but he’s got more doubles, more homers and a heck of a lot more walks.

But Anderson truly broke out during the first half. He still ranks high in the AL with a .317 batting average, and his 15 stolen bases rank third among AL shortstops. Anderson, too, carved out a name for himself on the national stage with his bat-flipping after home runs and a stated goal to help make the game more fun. Having him on the All-Star team would have been good for baseball, no doubt. But a high ankle sprain that will likely keep him on the injured list a few more weeks made everything rather moot.

Moncada, meanwhile, is in the midst of a great season. After striking out 217 times in 2018, his first full season in the bigs, he’s currently the owner of a .308/.363/.546 slash line, plus 16 home runs and 48 RBIs. Among AL third basemen, only Boston’s Rafael Devers (not on the All-Star team) has a higher average and a higher slugging percentage.

The power numbers of Houston’s Alex Bregman, the AL starter at third base, and Oakland's Matt Chapman, a reserve, deservedly got them into the game. But there’s a good argument to make that Moncada should be there, too, as he continues to show how vastly improved he is from a season ago.

“I put my best effort in the first half. I worked hard,” Moncada said Sunday through team interpreter Billy Russo. “I was able to carry over all the work that I put in during the offseason. I worked a lot then to have a better season overall, not just the first half. And I’m very confident I’ll be able to carry this to the second half too.”

“I think it goes without saying, if anybody looks at the numbers and the way he's performed. He's an All-Star quality player,” manager Rick Renteria said before Sunday’s game. “I pull for these guys every day, but I think he's shown everybody. If you compare his numbers to many, they're quite comparable. He's on pace to have a pretty good season.”

Moncada wasn’t disappointed he missed out on the All-Star experience in 2019, saying it was out of his hands whether he was named to the team or not. But he knows what the next step is for him.

“Being an All Star,” he said. “We couldn’t do it this year. Maybe next year.”

And then there’s Colome, who has spent the first half of his first season on the South Side as a mostly dominant closer. The only three AL closers with more saves — New York’s Aroldis Chapman, Cleveland’s Brad Hand and Detroit’s Shane Greene — are all on the All-Star team. Chapman and Greene have both blown more saves than Colome, and Hand has a higher ERA. That’s not to knock those three, who have all been excellent for their respective clubs, but it shows that Colome is in their same class.

Certainly the White Sox aren’t voicing any displeasure other than their opinion that Anderson, Moncada and Colome are among the best at their positions in the Junior Circuit. And certainly they’re thrilled to send the redemption stories of Giolito and McCann, along with Abreu, who they love so much, to Cleveland.

But this might be just the beginning. If the White Sox rebuilding plans bear the fruit the team expects they will, multiple South Siders in the All-Star Game won’t be accompanied by digging through the history books. And snubs might be a regularity — because you can only send so many guys to the Midsummer Classic each year.

“I think over the coming years, our guys are going to continue to solidify their name and their space on those lists,” Hahn said, “and hopefully we’ll see more and more appearances here in the coming years.

“Frankly, it’s great to have a midseason honor. We’re looking forward to having some postseason honors for these kids. That’s really more what the focus is for the long term.”

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: The rotation starred, but the bullpen was championship caliber, too

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: The rotation starred, but the bullpen was championship caliber, too

Even in the handful of games we’ve shown from the early portion of the 2005 season, one thing is abundantly clear: This starting rotation was very, very good.

But while the game has evolved to place greater emphasis on relief pitching, no team, not even 15 years ago, could win the World Series without a strong bullpen. And certainly the White Sox had a strong bullpen, their 3.23 relief ERA one of the three best in baseball in 2005.

April 13 against the Indians, the White Sox got the kind of performance from their relief corps that signaled the pitching staff as a whole, not just the rotation, was championship caliber.

Jose Contreras wasn’t really that bad in this one, despite issuing five walks. He gave up just four runs in 6.2 innings, hardly something to overly bemoan. But once he surrendered a hammered home run to Grady Sizemore that tied the score at 4 in the seventh inning, he got the hook. It was the bullpen’s job to keep an Indians lineup that to that point had put 10 men on base, five hits and five walks against Contreras, from doing anything else.

And that’s exactly what happened. Three different pitchers — Damaso Marte, Luis Vizcaino and Dustin Hermanson — retired 10 of the 11 hitters they faced.

An early season blow up stood out as an outlier, perhaps clouding judgments at the effectiveness of the ‘pen. As Adam Hoge wrote about Saturday, closer Shingo Takatsu gave up three homers in one appearance against these Indians in the third game of the season, the kind of performance that haunts fans’ memories forever. The bullpen, in general, was hideous in that game, with Neal Cotts tagged for a run and Vizcaino roughed up for a whopping six tallies in the 11th inning.

But that game was truly an outlier. After the 4.1 shutout frames April 13 and excluding the April 7 disaster, the White Sox bullpen had a miniscule 1.76 ERA, allowing just three runs in their 15.1 innings of work.

Contreras was shaky in this game, but kept the Indians from running up a huge run total. The bullpen locked the Indians down and allowed the White Sox hitters to pull ahead for good on a Juan Uribe sacrifice fly in the 10th.

And providing a bit of foreshadowing, Hermanson got his first save of the season. Takatsu was jettisoned from the role not long into the campaign, and Hermanson bridged the gap between Takatsu and Bobby Jenks. Hermanson racked up saves into September and had 34 of them on the season.

This rotation was excellent, no doubt about it, and it’s probably the No. 1 reason why the White Sox won the World Series in 2005. But even the best rotations can be limited by a bad bullpen. Fortunately for the South Siders, they had a good one.

What else?

— Five walks is a lot of walks. While Contreras had himself a good season, he walked 75 batters in 2005, the fourth highest total in the American League. It’s perfectly obvious why pitchers should limit their walks, but certainly this game could serve as Exhibit A. Contreras walked the leadoff man in each of the first two innings, with both runners coming around to score. That helped put the White Sox in a 3-0 hole after two. Contreras had more days like this as the season went on, with three more games in which he walked at least five opposing hitters, including a start on July 1 where he walked seven. The White Sox went 2-2 in those four games, though they lost the seven-walk start against the Oakland Athletics.

— “It’s his job to keep them right there, let the team get back into it. He’s perfectly capable of going six innings and at least giving the hitters an opportunity to get back into it.” Darrin Jackson looked prescient, because despite the walks, Contreras did keep the Indians at bay enough for his offense to engineer a comeback, pull ahead and later pull out a win in extra innings.

— “It’s really amazing that a little thing like a leadoff bunt can shake things up for an offense.” Perfect analysis right there from DJ. Just as I discussed Scott Podsednik making things happen and starting a White Sox rally with a bunt single in the April 11 game against this same Indians team, Pablo Ozuna did the exact same thing to leadoff the fourth inning, starting a three-run frame. That disrupted Cliff Lee enough after retiring the first nine hitters he faced that he gave up three straight hits, the third from Carl Everett (an infield single that featured a ridiculously airmailed throw by Lee) driving in the White Sox first run. Maybe that game-tying rally doesn’t happen without Ozuna’s small-ball start.

— Bob Wickman got his revenge, this time. In the second game of the season, Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye dramatically hit back-to-back homers off the Indians closer to erase a three-run deficit and set up a thrilling comeback win on the South Side. This time, not so much. Facing Konerko and Dye again to lead off the ninth inning, he retired them both, as well as Aaron Rowand, for a 1-2-3 innings that briefly preserved a 4-all tie. Wickman had a huge 2005 season, making the All-Star team and leading the AL with 45 saves.

— Another arm brought on from the Cleveland ‘pen wasn’t so lucky. It was familiar face Bob Howry, who pitched for the White Sox from 1998 to 2001. He took the loss in this one, the leadoff double he gave up to A.J. Pierzynski to start the 10th the critical blow. Pierzynski moved to third on a Joe Crede bunt and scored on Uribe’s sacrifice fly. And that was the ballgame.

— In the top of the 10th, famous Indians fan Drew Carey caught a foul ball! Cleveland rocks, baby.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Monday, when you can catch the April 19, 2005, game against the Twins, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. El Duque on the mound for the South Siders.

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White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

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AP

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Scott Podsednik and the art of making things happen

An awful lot of energy is spent these days discussing the leadoff spot.

Offense struggling? Maybe there needs to be a new leadoff hitter. Offense doing fine but the leadoff man isn’t of the stereotypical variety? Better think about making a change.

While teams certainly don’t need a stereotypical leadoff hitter who specializes in speed and small ball to be successful — the school of thought that your best player should get the most plate appearances possible is not a bad one — Scott Podsednik showed how guys at the top of the order can simply make things happen and win you ballgames because of it.

On April 11, 2005, the White Sox were once again having trouble figuring out Kevin Millwood, who was throwing his second gem against the White Sox in as many starts to begin his season. But after five scoreless innings, Podsednik made something happen.

He popped up a bunt that went so awry that it went over Millwood and behind the pitcher’s mound. It was a bad bunt, maybe, but it worked. He reached first with a single. Not long after, he used that blazing speed of his to swipe second base and put himself in scoring position with nobody out.

In a one-run game, the White Sox down 1-0 at the time, Podsednik changed everything. He scored the tying run two batters later, when Carl Everett drove him in with a single. It’s a run that doesn’t happen without Podsednik’s skill set. Call it the best argument in favor of the stereotypical leadoff man. Or just call it making things happen.

Podsednik did it again two innings later, driving in the winning run to cap a two-out rally against Millwood. After two quick outs, Chris Widger and Joe Crede delivered back-to-back singles. Podsednik made it three in a row, driving in Widger — who went from first to third on Crede’s hit up the middle — to put the White Sox in front.

Podsednik’s work 15 years ago isn’t likely to do much to sway any ongoing arguments over who should lead off for the 2020 White Sox or any of the 29 other teams. But it sure paid big dividends for the 2005 White Sox.

He made it happen.

What else?

— Millwood pitched extraordinarily well against the White Sox for the second time in 2005. After throwing six shutout innings on April 6, he allowed just two runs over seven innings in this one. Millwood ended up making five starts against the White Sox in 2005, logging a 1.32 ERA in 34 innings, but went just 0-2 in those five games. He had himself an excellent season overall, with a 2.86 ERA that led the American League and was the second lowest single-season ERA of his 16-year big league career. He finished sixth in the AL Cy Young vote that season, tying with White Sox pitcher Jon Garland and finishing behind Mark Buehrle.

— Freddy Garcia was pretty darn good in this one, too, throwing eight innings of one-run ball. He retired the final 13 batters he faced. Garcia allowed just three runs in 14 innings in his first two starts of the season. This one was the first of a whopping nine outings he made that season of at least eight innings.

— Garcia threw a pair of wild pitches with Grady Sizemore at the dish in the second inning, two of the 20 he ended up throwing in 2005. That total led the major leagues. In the following season, his second full campaign with the White Sox, he only threw four in the same number of starts, 33.

— Podsednik threw Ronnie Belliard out at third base in the third inning, preventing what might’ve been another run in the inning the Indians scored their lone tally. Podsednik had three outfield assists in 2005.

— “Aaron’s going to get hit a lot in his career.” Hawk Harrelson chalked up Aaron Rowand getting hit by a pitch in the fifth inning to the center fielder’s approach at the plate. Well, Rowand did get hit by a lot of pitches in 2005, 21 of them, to be exact. Only Shea Hillenbrand of the Blue Jays got hit by more that season. This one that caught Rowand in the hand looked like it hurt like hell.

— Remember when the Indians played at The Jake? Good times.

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?

April 10, 2005: The White Sox got shut down by the reigning AL Cy Young winner, Johan Santana, who allowed just two runs in his seven innings, striking out 11. The Twins tagged Buehrle for five runs, including four in the third inning alone. Torii Hunter’s three-run homer was the big blow in that frame. White Sox lose, 5-2, drop to 4-2.

Next up

#SoxRewind rolls on Sunday, when you can catch the April 13, 2005, game against the Indians, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. It’s an extra-inning affair with some heroics from Juan Uribe.

Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.