White Sox

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball

White Sox 2005 Rewind: Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball

If you were paying really close attention during Game 2 of the ALCS, you saw it.

One fan in the stands at U.S. Cellular Field was hoisting a sign that perfectly summed up how the White Sox scored their runs during a 99-win regular season and during a march to the World Series.

“Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.”

Small ball was rebranded “Ozzie ball” by these White Sox, who reaped the rewards of Kenny Williams’ bold offseason trade. The general manager shipped away a productive slugger, Carlos Lee, for a speed demon on the base paths, Scott Podsednik. Lee was pretty darn good at swinging the stick. But the White Sox craved balance in their lineup, and with Podsednik’s base-stealing ability causing chaos at the top of the order, they got it and scored more runs in the first inning than any other during the 2005 season.

Paul ball, well that’s obvious. Paul Konerko was the team’s MVP in 2005. He smashed 40 homers for the second straight season and hit triple digits in RBIs for the third time in his career. He was particularly potent during the second half, helping to prevent a complete free fall out of first place with the Cleveland Indians charging in September.

And over-the-wall ball? Well, as balanced as the White Sox lineup was thanks to Podsednik’s arrival, the South Siders still hit a lot of home runs. Seven different hitters launched at least 15 dingers. Even Podsednik, who had zero of them during the regular season, got in on the power display in the playoffs, hitting one in the ALDS and a walk-off homer in the World Series.

Fast forward two nights from when that sign was lifted up on the South Side, and you saw the White Sox follow that script to a “T” in Southern California.

In the first 17.2 innings of the ALCS, the White Sox scored three measly runs. A tip of the cap to the Angels’ pitching staff, but this was not the same production from a lineup that mauled the Red Sox during the first round of the playoffs. Then A.J. Pierzynski swung, missed and ran to first base and the White Sox offense woke up. Over the course of the next five White Sox hitters to step to the plate — Joe Crede’s walk-off double to finish Game 2 and the first four batters of Game 3 — the White Sox scored four runs.

How’d they do it against John Lackey in Game 3? How do you think?

Podsednik did his thing at the top of the lineup and got on base with a leadoff hit. Then Tadahito Iguchi bunted him into scoring position ahead of Jermaine Dye’s RBI double. Paul Konerko followed with a solo homer slammed into the left-field seats — the beginning of a three-hit, three-RBI night for him — and the White Sox had a crooked number on the board. Just like that.

Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.

Of course, this all leaves out the most important ingredient in the White Sox success that season and in this series, in particular: starting pitching. While the offense took a while to wake up in the ALCS, the pitching was on point from “go.” Jose Contreras threw 8.1 innings in Game 1. Mark Buehrle allowed just one run in nine innings in Game 2. And Jon Garland followed with the second of what would be four straight complete-game efforts by White Sox starters in this series.

Though there was more to come, with Freddy Garcia and Contreras going the distance in Games 4 and 5, through three games, White Sox starters had already turned in an impressive string of games, allowing just six runs in 26.1 innings for a 2.05 ERA.

But as good as the pitching was — and it was out-of-this-world good — the White Sox needed to get back to their run-scoring ways following the quiet offensive performances in Games 1 and 2. They did just that, and not until Game 4 of the World Series did they score fewer than five runs.

When it came to how they scored those runs moving forward, the sign didn’t lie.

Small ball? Podsednik wrecked havoc the very next night in Game 4 of the ALCS, reaching base four times (thrice via the walk), stole a pair of bases and scored two runs.

Paul ball? Konerko had more damage to do, with at least one hit in each of the next five playoff games, including an unforgettable grand slam in Game 2 of the World Series.

Over-the-wall ball? The White Sox hit three homers in the final two games of the ALCS, then six more in the World Series, including iconic shots from Konerko, Podsednik and Geoff Blum.

So there are a few hundred words on the subject. But did I really do any better with all those words than that fan did with eight?

“Small ball, Paul ball, over-the-wall ball.”

Keep reliving the White Sox march to the 2005 World Series with #SoxRewind, which features Game 4 of the ALCS, airing at 7 p.m. Friday on NBC Sports Chicago.

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Yasmani Grandal getting younger White Sox ready for 'playoff mode' all season

Yasmani Grandal getting younger White Sox ready for 'playoff mode' all season

“It's going to be either really good, or it's going to be really bad.”

That’s not the most ringing of endorsements, and it’s probably not the assessment the White Sox want to be hearing about their pitching staff right now, preferring the first half without the possibility of the second.

But, hey, you ask Yasmani Grandal a question, you’re going to get an honest answer.

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The White Sox new catcher, the owner of the richest free-agent deal in club history, hasn’t had as much time as he wanted to work with the young pitching staff he cited as the main reason he signed up way back in November. Grandal has said repeatedly that he sees the White Sox bright future in the team’s collection of young arms. And while Michael Kopech has decided not to play in 2020, there is still a lot of pitching talent going through “Summer Camp” right now.

Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Reynaldo López, Carlos Rodón, Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert. They’re all youngsters, part of the long-term planning on the South Side. Throw in the veteran free-agent addition Dallas Keuchel, and this is a deep, talented group.

But this is 2020. And no one knows what’s going to happen next.

Baseball’s typical six-month marathon has been jettisoned thanks to the sport’s months-long layoff, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and the fruitless negotiations between the league and the players’ union shrinking the season to just 60 games. An abrupt halt to spring training back in March, months without baseball and now a brief three-week ramp-up period ahead of a two-month sprint to the postseason means it’s anyone’s guess what big league pitchers will be able to do.

Grandal’s hopeful, because he knows the kind of talent the White Sox have. He’s also realistic. And that means nothing’s guaranteed.

“There isn't going to be a gray area,” Grandal said Tuesday. “Sixty games is a very small window that we have to put everything together, so it's going to be either really good or it's going to be really bad, just because you don't have the time to kind of take them by the hand and go from there.

“In 162 games, you're able to do that. But this month that we have here (during "Summer Camp"), that's what we're focusing on is showing them things and taking them through different situations and things like that to be able to mimic something season-like before the season starts.”

RELATED: Why the White Sox are ready to take the next step: Free-agent additions

While the only known about the 2020 season seems to be that everything is unknown, one consistent talking point from the older players is a prediction that this two-month sprint could feature playoff-style baseball from Day 1. That’s partially a factor of the short schedule, with every game meaning twice or thrice as much as it normally would and carrying much more weight in the race for a postseason berth.

But it also has to do with the mysterious state of pitching. And with those two elements combined, we could see some creative pitching management from managers across the league. The kind of bullpen-heavy styles used by the Milwaukee Brewers and Tampa Bay Rays in recent seasons could become commonplace. The quick hooks for starting pitchers and heavy reliance on relief pitchers seen in the postseason could be the norm in this most abnormal of years.

“I already have an understanding how you can go through a whole pitching staff in a matter of 60 games. Look at what Milwaukee did last year,” Grandal said. “So as soon as the season starts, you’re almost in playoff mode. You’re not going to have one or two bad innings or one or two bad starts, it’s going to be one of those things where everybody needs to be ready.

“I don’t think I’m going to see too many people go seven or eight innings. Around the league guys are going to go five, and the whole bullpen is coming right after. In our case, we have the ability to throw one or two starters in a game, back to back, so they go a full game. So for us, that’s a plus. I don’t know how other teams are, but I know for us, the pitching staff, on the pitching side we’re in a good spot.”

The White Sox could certainly benefit from their deep staff, both their groups of starters and relievers. But here’s one thing about “playoff mode” that could present a challenge: Most of these players have never been to the playoffs or been in a playoff race. That’s an obvious statement in reference to the team’s general youth. But even six-year vet José Abreu has never played for a winning White Sox team.

That’s where the White Sox will surely lean on Grandal, Keuchel, Edwin Encarnación and Steve Cishek, all newcomers with winning experience, some of them a lot of it. Grandal is a veteran of the last five postseasons with the Brewers and Los Angeles Dodgers. Keuchel has a World Series ring on his resume after his Houston Astros beat Grandal’s Dodgers in 2017. Encarnación has specific experience winning in the AL Central; he spent two seasons with the division-rival Cleveland Indians.

RELATED: White Sox test drive MLB's new extra-inning rule, and it doesn't look great

So in addition to all the stuff Grandal brings on the field — power and on-base skills to the lineup, pitch-framing skills, defensive prowess and ability to work with pitchers behind the plate — he’s also bringing a rare positive to the White Sox clubhouse: He’s been there and done that. If anyone’s ready for two months’ worth of playoff-style baseball, it’s him. And he’ll know how to make it an easy transition for the uninitiated around him.

“First and foremost, they need to understand the situation and exactly why we’re doing the things we’re doing,” Grandal said. “For myself, being a young guy and not quite understanding why we were making moves at certain times, it was hard. But until someone actually explained it to me and I got to study it and understand the reason behind, and seeing examples of it, once I learned that I understood why you go a certain amount of innings, amount of pitches in order to bring your bullpen in.

“It’s going to be a process. These guys need to understand that, and understand it’s going to be for their benefit. A lot of these guys are young, they’re just getting their feet wet. I think this is a perfect opportunity for them to do it.”

So whether the pitching ends up really good or really bad, Grandal will be along for the ride. He’s confident the White Sox are in a good spot with their talent and depth. Now it’s about going out and proving it with everything on the line from Day 1.


Why it's unlikely Garrett Crochet will pitch for the White Sox in 2020

Why it's unlikely Garrett Crochet will pitch for the White Sox in 2020

The thought of Garrett Crochet taking the Chris Sale path to the major leagues was all the rage on draft night.

A month later, it doesn't sound like White Sox fans should get their hopes up.

Crochet was one of 16 players named to the White Sox "taxi squad" on Tuesday, a group of minor leaguers who will work out in Schaumburg to stay ready in case injuries or underperformance at the major league level necessitate their presence on the active roster. But with 13 of the players currently in big league camp mathematically prevented from making the Opening Day rosters, these additional 16 guys strike more as backups to the backups.

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Crochet is a different case, though, as he's been talked up as a pitcher who could arrive in the bigs in a hurry — expressing his own desire to take on that challenge on a recent edition of the White Sox Talk Podcast — with stuff so good there were people on TV on draft night speculating that he could be a weapon in a 2020 pennant race.

But though he agreed that Crochet has "present major league stuff," White Sox head of player development Chris Getz made it sound pretty unlikely that the team that's been so patient with its prospects during its rebuild would suddenly thrust someone with no pro experience into the big league spotlight.

"We feel like he has present major league stuff," Getz said Tuesday, "but really it’s about getting him here, getting him comfortable with our staff, shaking hands, getting to know you, know our philosophies and watch him develop this summer. That was the plan for Garrett.

"He doesn't have too many innings under his belt. And then you factor in a layoff like everyone else, we want to build him up appropriately. But we also just want him to get comfortable with being a White Sox. We'll certainly start with one inning and tack on two innings. There's some pitch-development things we're certainly going to work on with Garrett.

"He does have present major league stuff, without question, but our job on the development side is to get the most out of this player. ... I don't think we need to necessarily focus on a major league radar for Garrett, I think it's more just getting comfortable with the organization."

It figures to be challenging enough for major league veterans to be able to perform at the top of their game after a months-long layoff and a brief three-week ramp-up to a 60-game regular season. Crochet has never thrown an inning of pro ball, and he made just one start during his junior year at the University of Tennessee. In his collegiate career, in total, he pitched in just 36 games.

RELATED: White Sox name 16 to Schaumburg taxi squad, but their '20 impact seems minimal

White Sox fans were hopping mad when the team wouldn't promote Eloy Jiménez and Luis Robert at the ends of dominant minor league seasons, after they'd spent multiple years in the minor leagues. Crochet has nowhere near that level of experience, and the COVID-19 pandemic limited his ability to play at any level.

As good as the stuff might be, it would be one heck of a gamble to throw him into a major league season, especially one where every game is expected to be dripping with meaning in a two-month pennant chase.

Of course, front-office types don't like to make end-all, be-all declarations, and so not even Getz would say "never" to the thought of Crochet making a sprint to the bigs. But it sure sounds like the White Sox have a bunch of priorities ahead of making Crochet a part of their 2020 bullpen.

"In an environment like this, it's tough to rule anything out," he said. "Garrett's a talented player, but the focus is truly just to get his foot in the door here and get around our guys and we'll go from there."