Manny Machado might not be at SoxFest in person. He’s at his home this weekend in Miami. But to fans holding out hope that the White Sox will ultimately be able to sign the supremely talented free agent so much on the minds of White Sox fans, I have some news for you.
Machado IS at SoxFest. He’s here all weekend, inside the pocket of his brother-in-law Yonder Alonso.
“We’ve been texting,” Alonso said on the White Sox Talk Podcast.
Alonso then took out his phone and saw another text coming from Machado.
“Yeah, that’s him right there.”
Earlier on Friday, just as SoxFest was beginning, Alonso brought Machado even closer to the action to give him a taste of what he’s missing.
“I FaceTimed him earlier when we got introduced (in the opening ceremonies) with me and [Yoan] Moncada and [José] Abreu,” Alonso said. “We talked, said hello.”
I asked Alonso point blank, what are the chances that Machado eventually signs with the White Sox?
“Probably as much of a chance that you feel, is the way I feel,” he said.
I feel 50-50, but when you hear Alonso talk about the importance of family, his tight bond with Machado and the funny coincidences that have occurred during this offseason with him, Machado and the White Sox, it’s difficult to ignore the intangibles that have helped the White Sox go from longshot to legitimate contender in the Machado sweepstakes.
For one, when Alonso found out he got traded from the Indians to the White Sox on Dec. 15, Alonso disclosed that he was out to dinner with Machado, of all people.
“Me, my wife, my dad and mom, my sister and Manny (who are married) were having dinner and I get a call from (Indians President) Chris Antonetti from Cleveland and he’s like, ‘You’ve just been traded,’” Alonso said. “We had a talk and he hadn’t told me the team yet. So, what team am I going to? He says, ‘Well, you’re going to the White Sox.’ I’m like, what? No way.”
Machado, who was already being heavily courted by the White Sox, watched this entire phone conversation unfold from across the table with curious interest.
What was his reaction to the White Sox essentially doubling down on their pursuit of Machado, by acquiring his brother-in-law?
“He was pumped. My sister was pumped. They were like, 'No way.' Then a week later he came here (for his visit with the White Sox). So it’s been a pretty crazy offseason,” Alonso said.
But the coincidences don’t end there. They’re just beginning.
Four weeks later, Alonso and his family were in Miami walking to a nearby park with Jon Jay’s family. Alonso, Jay and Machado are all close friends who go way back.
“We were just walking to take them all to a park and here is (Jay) having a pretty serious conversation on the phone and he’s just strolling around his kids. The next thing you know he says, ‘Let’s hug it out man. You’re going to be my teammate!’ It was pretty cool. Then obviously we called Manny and let him know. We were all super pumped,” Alonso said.
2019 might be Alonso’s first season with the White Sox, but back in 2008, Alonso thought he could be a member of the White Sox for life.
“The White Sox were on me since college. I actually thought I was going to get drafted by the White Sox. My junior in at Miami, the White Sox were deep on me. I’m like, here we go. I’m going to be on the White Sox,” Alonso said. “I told my parents. I get goose bumps everytime I tell the story.
"My dad loved Michael Jordan and he loved the Bulls. He was like, 'This is it.' He loved Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, and El Duque [Orlando Hernandez] and all these Cuban guys who came up. We’re Cuban. The White Sox were the thing. It’s the White Sox!”
Unfortunately, fate intervened. Or shall we say, the Cincinnati Reds.
“So here we are, it’s the draft. And the next thing you know, the pick before the White Sox were the Reds and they picked me. And I was like, 'What?' It made no sense at all. Who’s the manager? That was it. Just like that.
"I was a Red. I would come here to play here and I was like, ‘This could’ve been it.’”
The Reds got Alonso. The White Sox ended up with Gordon Beckham.
Now eleven years later, Alonso’s desire to play for the White Sox has become a reality. And while it’s more than a decade after he was drafted, he believes he’s coming to the South Side at a pivotal time. While playing for the AL Central champion Indians last season, he watched intently as the White Sox, despite losing 100 games, evolved as young players, to the point where they seem ready to make a big leap this season.
Alonso compares the White Sox of 2018 to the days of the week, which is a thing of beauty. One of my favorite quotes of the offseason:
“In April, I saw them and you see them throughout the year and then I saw them in September and you see a real Monday through Friday change and we’re all here waiting for the weekend and the weekend is now. Saturday and Sunday is coming and it’s coming now (for the White Sox). The fun people that are going to play in a concert are coming and they’re here and it’s going to happen,” he said.
“I want to go out on the weekend and have fun. I want to join it. Saturday and Sunday are here and these are the players that we have. I’m just like, I saw such a huge difference of play from Monday through Friday and from April to September that I’m like, this is nice. So when I got traded over here I was like, ‘Yeah, hell yeah. Why not?’
"I’m really excited about that, because I saw a huge difference of play and a lot of growth with these guys. Now I’m super excited about it.”
He then added, “I think we’re a team that can surprise a lot of people.”
The White Sox have veterans like Alonso and Jay to help lead the young guys. Now, if only they can add his brother-in-law into the mix...
“Do I want them all to play here, yeah, “ Alonso said about Machado and Jay. “Who wouldn’t?”
But if they don’t, Alonso has a message to White Sox fans about the talent that’s already here.
“Today is the day where we need to respect my teammates, and the guys and the good that we have here. I’m telling you, you (fans) will get spoiled by seeing good baseball and you should appreciate that. What’s wrong with that? Just enjoy what’s happening here,” he said. “If obviously (Machado) happens, that’s the cake because he’s such a good player.
"We have a lot of good here and we should focus our attention on so much good we have here, because our fan base is very, very good and our players are very, very good, and I think we’re going to see a change in all this, not only this year but going forward.”
With or without Machado.
Alonso can’t make Machado’s decision for him.
“It’s hard to get involved in things like that,” he said.
But as we’re seeing this weekend, Machado is only a text or FaceTime call away. And Alonso is doing whatever he can to help bring his brother-in-law to the South Side.
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