White Sox

Will this be Jose Abreu's final year with White Sox? 'I would like to stay with this organization forever'

Will this be Jose Abreu's final year with White Sox? 'I would like to stay with this organization forever'

Will this be Jose Abreu's final season with the White Sox?

The closest thing this team has to a face of the franchise at the moment — at least until Eloy Jimenez arrives from the minor leagues — is slated to hit free agency at the conclusion of the 2019 campaign. His advancing age could mean he doesn't quite line up with the approaching wave of prospects planned to power this team to perennial contention. It's possible that these will be the final 162 games we see of Abreu in a White Sox uniform.

But the relationship between Abreu and the White Sox says something different.

It's never been a secret that the White Sox are gaga about Abreu. They gave him the biggest contract in franchise history. They watched him become one of the best hitters to ever call the South Side home and one of three players in baseball history to hit at least 25 homers and drive in at least 100 runs in each of his first four big league seasons. Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf presented Abreu with a special ring after he hit for the cycle in 2017.

They consistently rave about his off-the-field contributions, his status as a role model for young players and a leader in the clubhouse. They've placed Yoan Moncada right next to Abreu in the home clubhouse to help influence one of the most important young players in the organization. Luis Robert's locker is right next to Abreu's in the spring training clubhouse at Camelback Ranch.

And then there's Abreu's presence at the team's free-agent meeting with Manny Machado back in December. Would you want him there helping sell a potential decade-long addition if he was only going to be around for one more year?

Abreu, meanwhile, continues to rave about the White Sox, too, as good a pitchman for the ongoing rebuilding process as you'll find and someone who wants to be a part of that transition from rebuilding to contending.

"Being on the inside of this process, you know that there are a few teams who are doing (things) the right way, and I would like to stay with this organization forever," Abreu said through a team translator earlier this month in Arizona, echoing a sentiment he's never been shy about sharing. "But that is one of the things that I can’t control right now."

With all the mutual good feelings between the two, an extension doesn't seem at all unlikely, a new contract that would prevent Abreu from hitting the open market, keep him in black pinstripes to help lead the transition to contention and make him a White Sock forever.

General manager Rick Hahn doesn't seem to expect that to happen before the end of the season, though he also pointed out that that type of thing wouldn't be without precedent.

"Never say never," he said, "but more often than not, we handle our business in the offseason. There’s been exceptions over the years. ... Back when we did (Mark) Buehrle midseason, Jermaine Dye midseason. I’m guessing in spring training we probably said something to the effect of, ‘We’ll revisit it at the end of the season.’ So there are exceptions. But generally we prefer to do business in the offseason."

And so maybe this question could linger throughout the year. And it wouldn't be a surprise if the White Sox were still in wait-and-see mode throughout the campaign. In 2018, Abreu added more achievements to his major league resume — elected an All-Star Game starter and winning a Silver Slugger — but it was statistically the worst season of his career, with downturns in production thanks to an uncharacteristic midseason slump and a pair of freak injuries that prevented a statistical rebound late in the baseball calendar.

"Those were very difficult experiences," Abreu said. "I like to be on the field. I like to help this team compete and win games. And I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t control that. But I learned and I appreciated that because that made me stronger. I appreciated more the things we do."

A better output than his .265/.325/.473 slash line, 22 homers and 78 RBIs is expected for 2019, with full health and a more consistent campaign more resembling his first four seasons. But all players have a point in their careers where their production begins to drop, and it's not uncommon for that point to come around the age Abreu is at now, 32. Depending on what kind of numbers Abreu puts up this season — or depending on what everyone else does to impact how far away the White Sox are from contention mode — the decision could be made to move on after six years, to truly put all the focus on the youngsters.

But, again, the way the White Sox feel about Abreu speaks volumes, and it might even forecast the decision they have ahead of them.

And what they've done this offseason might, too. In trading for Yonder Alonso, another first baseman who hasn't DH'd much during his nine-year major league career, Hahn talked about the benefits of playing Abreu at designated hitter and keeping him off his feet a little more regularly. While Abreu jokingly said, in English, in the early weeks of spring training that "I don’t like DH," he's OK with splitting time with Alonso at both positions. The White Sox trying to keep Abreu off his feet is a potential sign they're trying to extend his career as much they can, perhaps with an extension, or at least the idea of one, in mind.

We'll see how things play out, and we might need to wait until October before this situation is wrapped up. But like Hahn said, never say never when it comes to getting an early answer. Abreu could be one of the rare White Sox stars that breaks the mold.

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NBC Sports Chicago to air “Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown” special

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NBC Sports Chicago

NBC Sports Chicago to air “Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown” special

Chicago, IL (July 17, 2019) – As one of the greatest hitters in Chicago baseball history prepares for his induction into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this weekend, NBC Sports Chicago - THE Home of the #AuthenticFan - will provide viewers with a brand new special entitled Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown, a half-hour NBC Sports Chicago Original Production that chronicles the brilliant career of the White Sox legend who spent 14 seasons on the southside of Chicago.  Hosted by NBC Sports Chicago’s multi-platform White Sox expert Chuck Garfien, Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown premieres Friday, July 19 immediately following “White Sox Postgame Live” (9:30 PM CT time approx.).  (NOTE: Welcome to Cooperstown will also stream live on NBCSportsChicago.com/WatchLive and via the “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app; fans located anywhere in the U.S. can download MyTeams for free on iOS and Android devices in the Apple App Store and Google Play Store.)  NBC Sports Chicago will also re-air the special on Sunday, July 21 at 11:00 AM, 4:00 PM and 9:00 PM, the day of Baines’ Hall of Fame induction.

Produced and edited by NBC Sports Chicago’s Emmy-award winning Senior Producer of Original Content Ryan McGuffey, Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown celebrates the remarkable 22-year MLB career of one of the greatest players to ever don a White Sox uniform.  Baines, who finished his career with 2,866 hits, opens up to Garfien about being selected #1 overall in the 1977 MLB Draft by the White Sox, why he still hasn’t spoken with Larry Himes since the trade that sent him to Texas in 1989, having his number retired by the White Sox while still being an active player, the apology that President George W. Bush gave him when the 2005 White Sox visited the White House and why he believes baseball writers left him out of the HOF prior to being selected by the Veterans Committee last December.  A six-time All-Star, Baines ranks third in White Sox history with 221 HR, only Paul Konerko and Frank Thomas have more. 

In addition to the exclusive, candid interview with Baines, Welcome to Cooperstown also includes interviews with White Sox Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf and Baines’ former teammate, 1983 AL “Rookie of the Year” and current White Sox community relations ambassador Ron Kittle.

Please note the following quotes from the NBC Sports Chicago Original Production of Harold Baines: Welcome to Cooperstown, hosted by Chuck Garfien, debuting Friday night, July 19 immediately following “White Sox Postgame Live” (9:30 PM CT, time approx.):

BAINES on being able to play 22 seasons in the big leagues: “I didn’t have anything to fall back on. I didn’t go to college. I was a high school kid who was in the right spot at the right time…and took my father’s advice and put my head down and went to work. You need a lot of luck. I had a lot of injuries, but I was fortunate enough to do enough to keep people interested in my talents.”

BAINES on being traded to Texas in 1989: “I wasn’t happy about it. (‘Who traded you?’) Larry Himes…and I still haven’t spoken to him. We haven’t spoken to each other, not even when I got traded. Jeff Torborg told me I got traded. It hurt a lot…and then you come back a month later and they retire your number. How do you figure that?!”

BAINES on President George W. Bush saying that trading Sammy Sosa for Baines was the worst thing he had done as an adult: “He actually apologized to me at the White House when we went there after we won (the 2005 World Series), and he sent me a congratulations letter when I got put in the Hall of Fame, and I have it framed.”

REINSDORF on Baines being inducted into the Hall of Fame: “A great deal of joy. The fact is he deserved to be in the Hall of Fame and I wish he had gone in sooner. Clearly, it’s a great thing for Harold and great thing for our organization.”

REINSDORF on Baines being traded to Texas in ‘89: “I remember calling Harold after it was completed and I remember being in tears on the phone talking to him…and then of course on the next trip in, when the Rangers came in, I retired his number.”

KITTLE on Baines being just shy of 3,000 career MLB hits: “What is he, 150 or some hits shy of 3,000? I would have given him my hits to get him to 3,000 and I wouldn’t do it for another person who’s ever played baseball.”

BAINES on how his life will be different after being inducted into the Hall of Fame: “I’ll still go back to my little small town of St. Michael’s (Maryland) and live my life. It won’t change that much. I can probably make a change, but I’m 60 years old and I’m not trying to get any busier. I’m trying to go the other way.”

For a full recap of this weekend’s Hall of Fame festivities in Cooperstown and the very latest White Sox news, videos, podcasts, and more, fans are urged to visit NBCSportsChicago.com/WhiteSox and the MyTeams by NBC Sports app.

NBC Sports Chicago, a partnership between the Chicago Blackhawks (NHL), Chicago Bulls (NBA), Chicago Cubs (MLB), Chicago White Sox (MLB) and the NBC Sports Group, features over 275 live pro games in high definition each year.  In addition, NBC Sports Chicago delivers extensive pre/post-game coverage for its core pro team partners, as well as Chicago Bears postgame coverage, local sports discussion programs that includes SportsTalk Live, and massive cross-platform coverage provided by the network’s growing digital platform, NBCSportsChicago.com, the new “MyTeams by NBC Sports” app, and its variety of fan-focused social media outlets. Fans can follow the network on Twitter via @NBCSChicago.  

NBC Sports Regional Networks is NBC Sports Group’s portfolio of nine regional networks that delivers more than 2,200 live sporting events and original content to more than 35 million homes. Aligned within Eastern and Western Divisions, the NBC Sports Regional Networks are: NBC Sports Boston, NBC Sports Philadelphia, NBC Sports Philadelphia +, NBC Sports Washington, NBC Sports Washington + and SNY; and NBC Sports Bay Area, NBC Sports California, NBC Sports Chicago/NBC Sports Chicago+, and NBC Sports Northwest. For more information on NBC Sports Group properties, including press releases, photos, talent and executive bios, headshots and logos, please visit www.NBCSportsGroupPressBox.com.

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease struggles early, but finishes strong in second White Sox start

Dylan Cease picked up a win in his first start, but his second did not go as well.

Cease pitched six innings Tuesday at the Royals and gave up six runs (four earned) on eight hits and a walk. He struck out seven, but took the loss in an ugly game for the White Sox.

The game got off to an ominous start with Eloy Jimenez getting injured on the first batter Cease faced. The White Sox defense didn’t help Cease much either with three errors (Cease had one of those on an errant pickoff throw).

After giving up six runs in the first four innings, Cease settled down to retire the final eight batters he faced. He finished with seven strikeouts against just one walk and threw 67 of his 108 pitches for strikes.

Cease struck out six in his first start and is the first pitcher in White Sox history to strike out six or more in each of his first two career appearances.

A deeper look at Cease’s numbers show his swing and miss stuff hasn’t quite caught on as expected so far. Cease got 13 swinging strikes in 101 pitches in his major league debut. He got 12 whiffs on 108 pitches on Tuesday. His slider did get five swinging strikes on 25 pitches against the Royals.

Fastball command remains a key part to Cease’s success. He only threw 26 out of 54 fastballs for strikes in his debut. Cease improved upon that with 31 strikes on 50 fastballs against the Royals.

Most of the Royals’ damage came against Cease’s fastball as well. Six of the Royals’ eight hits off Cease, including all three extra base hits, were off heaters. Cease also gave up four hits with two strikes.

There has been plenty of hype surrounding Cease since he joined the White Sox, but he hasn’t hit the ground running in the majors just yet. Having 13 days between the first two starts of his career due to the all-star break and the White Sox giving him some extra rest also isn’t the ideal scenario for a young pitcher.

Cease’s ERA is now at 5.73, which isn’t going to set the world on fire. Still, there have been enough positives in his first two starts to see where reasonable improvement could lead to Cease becoming the pitcher the White Sox expect him to be.

 

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