White Sox

Yoan Moncada has a lot of strikeouts, and the White Sox think baseball's umpires might be partially to blame

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USA TODAY

Yoan Moncada has a lot of strikeouts, and the White Sox think baseball's umpires might be partially to blame

Yoan Moncada has done a lot of things this season — see Tuesday night’s leadoff home run — that signal his status of an expected centerpiece of the White Sox lineup of the future.

But he’s also striking out a lot.

It’s part of the growing pains during this developmental season on the South Side. But after two more strikeouts in Tuesday’s game, Moncada is on pace to strike out 243 times this year, which would be the most in a single season in major league history — by 20.

What’s the deal?

Well, Moncada’s offensive game hasn’t been where anyone has wanted it to be since his return from the disabled list on May 15. Even with Tuesday night’s long ball, he’s slashing just .202/.246/.368 in his last 28 games, and 41 of his 90 strikeouts have come during that stretch.

But Moncada’s manager doesn’t think all of those strikeouts are the 23-year-old’s fault. Rick Renteria is putting some of the blame on baseball’s umpires.

“He’s got as good an eye as anybody in the game of baseball,” Renteria said after Monday’s game, in which Moncada added three more strikeouts (two were looking) to his total. “And sometimes he gets some pitches called on him that should not be called — flat out, straight up.

“It’s a tough job that (umpires) have to do every single day, calling balls and strikes. But this poor kid, honestly, I think he gets the short end of the stick a lot of times, undeservedly. But that’s just the way it is. You’ve got to continue to understand what the zone is for particular guys behind the plate, do the best that you can without getting outside of your hitting zones and, depending on the situation, knowing how to handle those types of strike zones.

“He goes up there with a very good eye. We just want him to start getting his timing back so he can start making more contact and take advantage of the bat speed that he has.”

And Renteria’s not alone. General manager Rick Hahn made some similar comments before Monday’s game.

“It’s funny because one of my good buddies in Major League Baseball deals with the umpires, so I don’t want to go too far down this path, but Moncada had some tough ABs over the course of this (recent) road trip in terms of balls and strikes,” Hahn said. “The challenge for him, the developmental element for him just this week is making sure he remains true to his approach as opposed to overreacting to some perhaps bad Strike 3 calls over the course of the last week.”

Certainly a lot of Moncada’s strikeouts have come looking: He’s got 29 strikeouts looking compared to 61 strikeouts swinging. Going off what Renteria said, Moncada has earned a bit of a reputation among White Sox fans and observers for his selectivity at the plate, and while a selective batter waits for the perfect pitch, some backwards Ks might be a byproduct of that approach.

But this could also, in part, be a young player learning the intricacies of the game at the big league level. And that youth might be playing a factor, too. As Moncada gets more experience, it could serve him well in this department. Think about a veteran player or a superstar in basketball getting more calls than a rookie.

“I think as you gain more experience, as people see him and understand that this guy’s got a pretty good eye,” Renteria said. “Historically, you’ve got a lot of hitters or pitchers over time — I remember pitchers getting one, two, three, four baseballs off (the plate). (Tom) Glavine, (Greg) Maddux, they get all. You’ll get hitters who take a pitch, they call it a ball, and you go, ‘ooh.’ All those guys earning, over time, their respect and the understanding of what is a ball and a strike from both sides, on the hill and at the plate.

“A ball’s a ball and a strike’s a strike. But the reality is you’re going to get some, you’re not going to get some.”

Moncada isn’t too worried about placing blame on umpires, saying he just needs to keep working at improving on a daily basis. Moncada’s had success and a lot of it at points this season. Before he hit the DL in early May, he owned a .359 on-base percentage and a slugging percentage over .500. It makes you believe he’s certainly capable of turning things around.

“The only thing that I can add is that I have to keep working,” Moncada said through a translator Tuesday. “Keep working and sooner or later the results are going to be there.

“Right now I think I will have to make some adjustments because I’m getting too many calls that, for me, are not strikes. They are calling those pitches strikes, and I will have to make some adjustments in order to take advantage of the situation or put the ball in play.”

Moncada’s development is one of the biggest stories on this major league roster this season. There’s no doubt he’s in a down stretch and that the strikeouts are piling up. But it’s the positive signs, like Tuesday’s home run, that remind you why this guy is such a big part of this rebuilding process.

“Everything is part of the process,” he said. “I’ve been working hard, and I’m going step by step. I have plenty of confidence in my approach. I’m pretty sure and pretty confident that things are going to turn out and going to be in my favor now.”

Watch Hawk Harrelson's sign off from his final broadcast

Watch Hawk Harrelson's sign off from his final broadcast

Hawk Harrelson has been the voice of the White Sox for decades, but Sunday was his last broadcast as the play-by-play announcer of the team.

As the bottom of the ninth took place on the field, Hawk started to get emotional in the booth. He began to thank the fans for listening to him in the booth.

"The big thing is I want to thank the fans," Harrelson said. "I love our White Sox fans and I always will."

Later on, Hawk continued: "I want to thank Sox fans for giving me all those 35 years of their time."

After the game ended, players and staff from both teams came out on the field to tip their caps to Hawk.

Hawk sent it to break with one more "this ballgame is ova" call. After returning from break, Hawk gave a final thought.

"I love you all and I always will," he said. "I'll go to my grave with that. Thank you."

Watch the video above for all the memorable moments from his final broadcast.

Cubs' status as championship contender is the light that awaits at the end of the White Sox rebuilding tunnel

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USA TODAY

Cubs' status as championship contender is the light that awaits at the end of the White Sox rebuilding tunnel

Cubs Twitter and talk radio feature a lot of discussion of panic levels and fretting over playoff pitching scenarios. It’s hard for the North Siders to live up to the immense expectations they brought upon themselves by going from Lovable Losers to World Series champions.

But on the other side of town, that qualifies as a really good problem to have.

The White Sox dropped the second Crosstown series of the 2018 campaign, one that’s been dubbed the “toughest part of the rebuild.” The White Sox will once again have a very high draft pick. The Cubs will once again be playing in October.

But while they aren't fond of complimenting the team from the North Side, White Sox fans can look at the Cubs and see what they hope to see from their own team in a few years’ time. The team that they simply do not care for is the perfect embodiment of a rebuild gone right. It’s the light at the end of the White Sox rebuilding tunnel.

“That’s a good team, man,” Carlos Rodon said after the Cubs’ offense jumped all over him Sunday and forced him into his shortest outing of the season. “Hopefully, throughout this rebuild when we get to the end of it, all the pieces start falling together and we can be a championship club like that, because that’s a good team.”

The Cubs aren’t the only team the White Sox have seen this season that qualifies as a rebuild success story. The Houston Astros are the reigning champs. The Cleveland Indians are American League Central winners again. The Kansas City Royals are down again but had their own brief time as baseball’s phoenix.

But with the Cubs so close by — and the fan bases constantly jabbing one another — it’s noteworthy that the White Sox are following such a similar path. For the Cubs, five straight fifth-place finishes turned into three straight trips to the NLCS. The Cubs went from hodgepodges of veteran fill-ins to homegrown stars like Kris Bryant, Javy Baez, Kyle Hendricks and Kyle Schwarber.

The White Sox have their own list of future stars, one not dissimilar from the list Cubs fans followed for years. Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and Michael Kopech have already reached the South Side. The waiting game is still on for Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning and so many more.

The White Sox would obviously prefer fighting for a division title and playoff positioning to playing out the end of a losing season. They believe — and the Cubs are as good an example as any that there’s good reason for South Side optimism — that once all these youngsters finish their development and reach the major leagues, that that’s exactly what they’ll be doing on an annual basis.

“We see it not only in the Cubs,” Rick Renteria said, “we’ve seen it with the Astros, the Indians, a multitude of clubs that have gone through that process. The Braves. It took the Braves four years. It took the Astros four or five years.

“It’s a process that if you get frustrated along the way — which it can become frustrating because you want to win more games than not — if you really keep perspective of what you’re trying to do in the long term and really understand and appreciate what we have coming and the guys that are here working to try to remain with us, it’s hard for me to explain to the fans other than my own belief that what we have coming is going to be something that is going to be very fruitful in the near future.”

The Cubs have been through this process. They’ve been through these losing seasons. They’ve been through the waiting game with highly ranked prospects. They’ve been through it all — including watching those prospects turn into All Stars and waving to millions of celebrating fans during a championship parade.

The White Sox are in the thick of their own rebuilding process, and confidence about the future abounds. Perhaps because it’s a template that’s worked so well for several teams, including their Crosstown rivals.

“The similarities are simply that we’re going through a transition,” Renteria said before Sunday’s game. “We do have, not only these guys who are working here to try to show everybody what they’re capable of doing and what part they may play in us moving forward, but we certainly have a lot of young men who are coming up through the season that are hopefully going to be a part of who we are here in the near future.

“In that regard, that is very similar (to what the Cubs went through). I do think that some of the men that we have coming are going to be just as impactful of some of the guys they have on the other side.”