White Sox

Why Dallas Keuchel signed with the White Sox and what his expectations are for 2020

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USA TODAY

Why Dallas Keuchel signed with the White Sox and what his expectations are for 2020

White Sox fans are going to love Dallas Keuchel for a number of reasons.

Let’s start with No. 56.

If Keuchel had a Mount Rushmore of his all-time favorite pitchers, he’d probably put White Sox legend Mark Buehrle up there front and center. Like a Buehrle clone, Keuchel is a trademark soft-tossing left-hander with a World Series ring and a trophy case filled with Gold Glove Awards.

Keuchel’s admiration for Buehrle is pure gold.

“He’s somebody who at the end of my career, hopefully I’m still compared to him years from now," Keuchel said about Buehrle in an interview on the White Sox Talk Podcast. "It’s an honor."

No one can ever replace Buehrle. Keuchel is just hoping he can have a White Sox career that comes close to it.

“(Buehrle) is synonomous with the White Sox. Obviously, he’s got a perfect game and a no-hitter, multiple Gold Gloves, a World Series champion. That’s stuff that gives me motivation," Keuchel said. "That gives me chills thinking about how big of a career he had. I hope he comes around Chicago a few times because I would love to talk to him just about anything and everything.”

This has to happen, right?

How Keuchel came to the White Sox started early in the offseason. In fact, as early as legally possible. Rick Hahn sent a text to Keuchel’s agent, Scott Boras, the morning after the World Series. The White Sox were the first team to reach out.

But what Hahn didn’t know at the time was that Keuchel had already scouted the White Sox. He was all-in dating back to August. That’s when the White Sox came to town to face Keuchel’s Braves. The former Cy Young Award winner was impressed, to say the least.

“I saw a three game set, and it really opened my eyes to the progress that they had made,” Keuchel said. “I saw a big leap, and not just the Abreu’s of the world. Giolito made a big step last year, Moncada, Anderson.  Jimenez, I got to see that power potential, thankfully not against me.”

Keuchel faced the White Sox in one of those three games. Jimenez got three singles against him, Anderson went 2-for-5 and Moncada had an RBI single. Keuchel gave up two runs on nine hits in six innings en route to a win.

Keuchel decided to jump at the chance to play for the White Sox because he believes they’re on the verge of something big.

“Honestly, the only next step is just getting to the playoffs and getting a taste of that,” he said. “Ultimately, when the offseason started, that’s really what drove me. (The White Sox) were one team that initially peaked my interest.  When I heard word there was early interest, it really excited me.”

Going through the rebuild, the White Sox were on the receiving end of way too many losses. After a while, that much losing can damage your baseball soul.

Keuchel knows from experience.  

He lived it during the Houston Astros rebuild when they lost over 105 games for three consecutive seasons. He was aboard for the final two 100-loss drubbings before they finally broke through and eventually won the World Series in 2017.

“Once the doors started to get kicked down and opened for the Astros when I was establishing myself and we had a chance to win every night, that is really the only feeling I’ve wanted to have since,” Keuchel said. “For (the White Sox) to be in this position, and add a couple guys in free agency, really says we’re trying to win now, and that’s the feeling that I want to push towards these guys. Once you get that winning feeling, it’s addicting.”

Keuchel says communication is really important to winning, even if that means communicating to the general manager how much he wants to win — and expects to.

“I told (Rick Hahn), four out of the last five years I’ve made the playoffs. To me, there’s no better feeling,” Keuchel said of his recent conversation with the GM.  “I said, ‘I don’t plan on stopping my string of appearances in the playoffs.’ I just wanted to reiterate, that’s where I’m coming from. That’s what I expect.”

Those are certainly encouraging words to hear considering the White Sox haven’t made the playoffs since 2008.  But most everyone in baseball believes that the times they are a changin’ on the South Side. The days of the painful rebuild and a half-empty ballpark appear to be in the past.

Keuchel is hoping for more wins and more fans coming out to Guaranteed Rate Field.

“The thing that I was saying in Houston for a number of years was, if I was a fan, I wouldn’t like the product either if it was subpar,” he said. “If you’re going to pay money to watch sub-par talent, you should just go to the casino and throw out your money and just walk away. I don’t blame fans at all for any sort of support or no support during lean times.

"But it’s going to be a whole lot different this year, and I think the AL Central is up for grabs. Division titles are very nice because you’re guaranteed a five-game set [in the postseason]. I’m hoping that the fans come out and we see a lot of numbers in the 20 (thousands), 25, 30. That would mean a lot to us. We’re going to continue to play ball. It’s going to be exciting.”

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Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

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USA Today

Trust in White Sox closer Shingo Takatsu dwindled early in 2005 season

Early in the 2005 season, there was one White Sox player that fans thought was on thin ice and another who actually was on thin ice.

Despite playing great defense at third base, Joe Crede hadn’t exactly won over the fan base yet. He hit just .239 in 2004 with a .717 OPS in his second full major league season. He was already 27 and the White Sox had used their first round draft pick in 2004 to select hot shot third baseman Josh Fields, who was already considered an MLB Top 100 prospect.

So when Crede got off to a 3-for-21 start in the team’s first six games in ’05, there were already calls for his benching.

It wasn't going to happen. Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen were prepared to be patient with Crede. They seemed more concerned with closer Shingo Takatsu.

Takatsu had taken the South Side by storm in 2004, entering games in the ninth inning to standing ovations and the sound of a gong playing over the speakers at U.S. Cellular Field. After taking over the closing duties in June, Takatsu converted 19-of-20 save opportunities in his first year with the White Sox.

Still, there were concerns that his unique frisbee style of pitching wouldn't last once teams saw Takatsu more than once. Those concerns were heightened when the Indians tagged him for three solo home runs on April 7, 2005, leading to the White Sox’s first loss of the season. Takatsu’s only blown save in 2004 also came to the Indians and Guillen was already voicing his concerns.

“I might not use him against (the Indians),” Guillen told the Chicago Tribune. “They have a good left-handed lineup. Right now, he’s going to be there no matter what. We’re going to see the next couple days.”

It wasn’t exactly a vote of confidence, especially considering the White Sox had already played three straight close games against the Indians, including two one-run victories.

But that was the situation as the White Sox went to Cleveland with a 4-2 record for the Indians’ home opener. Freddy Garcia took the mound for his second start of the season, while Kevin Millwood countered for the 3-3 Indians.

Here was Guillen’s lineup:

LF Scott Podsednik
2B Tadahito Iguchi
DH Carl Everett
1B Paul Konerko
RF Jermaine Dye
CF Aaron Rowand
SS Pablo Ozuna
C Chris Widger
3B Joe Crede

The White Sox-Indians game from Apr. 11, 2005 will air Saturday at 4 p.m. CT on NBC Sports Chicago. For the full White Sox Rewind schedule from the 2005 season, click here.

Remember That Guy: White Sox infielder Geoff Blum

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USA TODAY

Remember That Guy: White Sox infielder Geoff Blum

Say “Game 3” to any White Sox fan and there’s one name that will immediately come to mind.

Geoff Blum.

Blum was born April 26, 1973 in Redwood City, Calif. He was a star shortstop for Chino High School in Chino, Calif and attended UC Berkeley, where he was All-Pac 10 in 1994. The Montreal Expos selected him in the seventh round of the 1994 MLB Draft. After the 1995 minor league season at high-A West Palm Beach, he spent his winter playing for the Hunter Eagles of the Australian League. In 1996, Blum played at Harrisburg (AA) of the Eastern League, then moved up to Triple-A Ottawa for 1997.

He had his best minor league season in 1998 when he hit .277 with six home runs across four levels, though he missed some time with an elbow injury. Blum started 1999 in Ottawa and finally, on Aug. 9, made his MLB debut for Les Expos de Montréal, going 2-for-4 with a run, double and two RBIs in an 8-0 win over the Padres at Stade Olympique.

Blum is the only player in Expos history (1969-2004) to collect multiple hits AND multiple RBIs in a major league debut. On Aug. 13 in Game 1 of a doubleheader at Coors Field, Blum hit his first big league home run off Mike DeJean. As it turns out, all eight of his home runs in 1999 came on the road, including one off Randy Johnson on Aug. 31 in Arizona.

2000 was Blum’s first full MLB season and he hit a respectable .283/.335/.449 with 11 home runs. He played all four infield positions, something he’d end up doing every year from 2000-08. Add in Blum’s ability to switch hit and that’s a pretty valuable guy to have on a team. Blum’s teammates with the 1999-2000 Expos included future 2005 White Sox teammates Dustin Hermanson and Chris Widger.

In 2001, Blum took a step back, hitting .236/.313/.351, though on July 5, he became the fifth player in Expos history to homer from both sides of the plate in a game. The Expos dealt him to the Astros in March 2002 for third baseman Chris Truby.

Blum responded with his finest season, hitting .283/.367/.440 with 10 home runs and 52 RBIs. He logged his lone career five-hit game on April 19, 2003, a 14-inning loss in Milwaukee. It seems as if there was something about 14-inning games that brought out the best in Blum, as would be illustrated again later. Another 2003 highlight was Blum’s career-long 16-game hitting streak from June 25 to July 17.

In 2004, Blum repeated his 10 home runs and 52 RBI from the previous season. After his rate stats took a dip and at the end of the season, the Astros dealt him to Tampa Bay for pitcher Brandon Backe.

Blum had a down year for Lou Piniella’s 70-91 Rays, posting a career-low .215 batting average with 8 home runs in 112 games. Two of those home runs were on May 4 –– one from each side of the plate –– and Blum became the first player in Rays history to pull that off. He signed with the Padres for 2005, playing all over the infield with a respectable .241/.321/.375 slash line in 78 games. San Diego dealt him at the trade deadline.

At the time, the White Sox were reportedly interested in A.J. Burnett of the Marlins, Jason Schmidt of the Giants and Billy Wagner of the Phillies. Instead, they brought in insurance for Joe Crede and his ailing back, acquiring  Blum for pitcher Ryan Meaux. To make room for Blum on the roster, as well as pitcher Jon Adkins (who was recalled from the minors at the time) both Ross Gload and Willie Harris were optioned to Charlotte.

Blum ended up playing 31 games down the stretch, hitting .200 with a home run – Aug. 29 at Texas. But the move paid dividends. Blum popped out in a pinch hit appearance for Paul Konerko in Game 1 of the ALDS and wouldn’t appear in another game until Game 3 of the World Series. He entered in the 13th inning when he came out to play second base, replacing Bobby Jenks in the fifth spot of the batting order.

After a Jermaine Dye single and a Paul Konerko double play, it seemed as if Astros reliever Ezequiel Astacio was going to escape the top of the 14th inning with the score tied at five. Not so fast.

Blum poked a 2-0 pitch down the right field line and into the stands to give the White Sox a 6-5 lead. The Sox tacked on another run to make it 7-5, which held, and then won Game 4 to sweep the series.

Blum is one of four players in MLB history to homer in their lone career World Series at-bat, along with Jim Mason in 1976, Bobby Kielty in 2007 and Michael A. Taylor in 2019. Blum is also one of only two players in World Series history to hit a go-ahead/game winning home run in his only World Series at-bat, joining Kirk Gibson in 1988.

It was Blum’s last appearance in a White Sox uniform. He signed a one-year deal with the Padres in 2006 and performed admirably, hitting 12-for-31 (.387) as a pinch hitter and starting at shortstop in the NLDS against the Cardinals. He signed for another year in 2007 before spending 2008-10 with the Astros.

Blum hit a career-high 14 home runs in 2008, and in 2009 he recorded three walk-off hits – the only three of his career - including consecutive games against the Cubs on June 10-11. In 2010, Blum suffered one of the more unusual injuries in baseball history when he hurt his elbow while putting on a shirt.

Blum appeared in 40 games for the Diamondbacks over 2011-12 and called it a career. He debuted as Astros TV color commentator in 2013 and has been in that role ever since.

On March 3, Chino High School retired Blum’s No. 11. He is the first athlete in the school’s 123-year history to have a number retired. He also wore No. 11 for the Expos as well as with the Rays. He wore that number in honor of former All-Star third baseman Doug DeCinces.

Blum’s MLB career included 1,389 games, a .250 batting average, 990 hits and 99 home runs, with five career multi-HR games. Oh yeah, and one huge World Series home run.

Geoff Blum. We remember that guy!

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