Showing posts with label Frank Thomas. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Frank Thomas. Show all posts

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Todd Frazier becomes seventh player in White Sox franchise history to reach 40 home runs

Todd Frazier
The "dream" of a .500 season survives for another day. The White Sox (77-81) won their fifth consecutive game Wednesday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Rays, 1-0.

This game featured two rain delays, and cold, wet, windy weather that knocked down its share of flyballs. However, Sox third baseman Todd Frazier connected for a solo home run off Tampa Bay knuckleballer Eddie Gamboa in the bottom of the seventh inning, and that provided the margin of victory.

The home run was the 40th of the season for Frazier, extending a career high, and he became the seventh player in Sox franchise history to reach 40 home runs in a single season. Here are the others:

Sox right-hander Miguel Gonzalez (5-8) concluded a sneaky-good season with his best outing of the year Wednesday. He worked 8.1 scoreless innings, despite having to sit for 97 minutes because of a rain delay in the third inning. Gonzalez allowed just three hits, struck out five and walked nobody. He threw 71 of his 102 pitches for strikes, and that allowed him to get some quick outs in the pitcher-friendly conditions.

Gonzalez finishes his season with a 3.73 ERA. Fifteen of his 23 starts were quality. Like most of the Sox rotation, he pitched better than his record indicates, and I don't think anyone can complain about his performance this year.

His 102nd pitch Wednesday was a hanging slider that Logan Forsythe hit for a single to left with one out in the top of the ninth. At that point, closer David Robertson was summoned. He needed one pitch to record his 37th save in 44 chances, inducing Kevin Kiermaier to hit into a game-ending double play.

Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Jose Abreu, Carlos Rodon resurgent in August for White Sox

Jose Abreu
There's no sugarcoating it: Jose Abreu has not had a good season for the White Sox.

His struggles are one of the main reasons the Sox are languishing in fourth place with a 60-64 record -- and rank 14th out of 15 American League teams in runs scored.

Nobody saw it coming. After all, Abreu made history in 2015, becoming only the second player in major league history to total at least 30 home runs and at least 100 RBIs in each of his first two seasons. (Albert Pujols is the other).

However, the drop-off has been noticeable this year. Take a look at Abreu's numbers:

2014: .317/.383/.581, 36 HRs, 107 RBIs, .964 OPS
2015: .290/.347/.502, 30 HRs, 101 RBIs, .850 OPS
2016: .285/.341/.455, 17 HRs, 70 RBIs, .796 OPS

With 38 games to play, it's unlikely Abreu will hit that 30-and-100 plateau again. So, what do we make of this? Is Abreu in decline at age 29? Or is it just a bad year? Even good players have bad years. (See Frank Thomas in 2002 and Paul Konerko in 2003.)

I've heard some Sox fans say the team should unload Abreu this offseason because "he's done." I think that's an overly negative view. Quietly, while most people have stopped paying attention, Abreu has had a monster month of August.

Here are his numbers this month: .373/.427/.680, 6 HRs, 14 RBIs, 1.107 OPS in 19 games.

Pretty good, huh?

Abreu went 2 for 3 with three RBIs in Tuesday's 9-1 win over the Philadelphia Phillies. He homered in his third straight game. For me, the most important thing about that home run was the pitch and pitch location. It was a middle-in fastball from Philadelphia starter Jake Thompson, and Abreu turned on it and ripped it into the left field seats.

For most of the season, Abreu has been helpless against middle-in fastballs. He's been jamming himself, popping up or swinging and missing against that pitch. The Abreu of the last two years hits that pitch hard to left field. That was the Abreu I saw last night, and it's been that way most of August. It's encouraging to see, and it's indicative that his skills are still there.

The Sox need Abreu to finish strong. They need him to show that he still can be the centerpiece of the lineup. If he follows up a good August with a good September, maybe we can dismiss the first four months of this season as a rare slump for a very good hitter.

Speaking of needing a strong finish, pitcher Carlos Rodon also is trying to erase a poor first half. Like Abreu, he also has had a resurgent August. The left-hander fired 6.2 innings of shutout ball in Tuesday's win over Philadelphia.

For the month, Rodon is 2-0 with a 1.46 ERA with 20 strikeouts and only six walks in 24.2 innings, covering his last four starts. Philadelphia is not a good offensive team, so I can't put too much stock in Rodon shutting them down. However, he's also posted strong starts against two clubs that would be in the playoffs if the season ended today (Baltimore, Cleveland), plus another one against a team that is in the postseason hunt (Miami).

For the season, Rodon is 4-8 with a 4.02 ERA in 21 starts. The overall numbers impress nobody, but again, a strong finish from him would make the Sox feel better about their starting rotation looking forward to 2017.

Monday, April 18, 2016

April 18: the nine-year anniversary of Mark Buehrle's no-hitter vs. Texas

Mark Buehrle
I've long since lost count of how many baseball games I've attended in my lifetime. It's well up into the hundreds, I'm sure.

But the only no-hitter I've ever seen in person occurred nine years ago today, on April 18, 2007, when Mark Buehrle beat the Texas Rangers, 6-0, at U.S. Cellular Field.

I have my ticket stub and newspaper accounts from the game framed on my wall. I could live another 40 years and maybe not see another no-hitter in person, so that night in 2007 remains one of my most cherished baseball memories.

That game was a unique one in baseball history. It still is the only game ever to feature a multi-homer game, a grand slam and a no-hitter. Think of all the games that have been played over a century-plus in Major League Baseball. What I witnessed that night has happened just once -- Jim Thome hit two home runs, Jermaine Dye hit a grand slam, and Buehrle tossed a no-hitter, all in the same game.

I was very, very close to seeing a perfect gamet. Buehrle faced the minimum 27 hitters. The only blemish came with one out in the fifth inning when he walked the washed-up Sammy Sosa, then promptly picked him off.

Sosa was 38 years old at the time, in his last season in the big leagues. He was not a fast runner in the latter stages of his career. I don't know where he thought he was going. In any case, it was a funny moment because, well, Sox fans hate Sosa. He was a bum when he was with the Sox, then made his name with the Cubs (with the help of chemical enhancements), and it was always somewhat infuriating that he was wrongfully considered a better player than Frank Thomas in the city of Chicago. Time has proven that to be false, but it was great to see Buehrle embarrass the perpetually overrated Sosa with the pickoff.

The other image in my mind from that night was the final out -- a weak tapper up the third-base line by Texas catcher Gerald Laird. You heard a groan come up from the crowd as the ball left the bat; it definitely crossed my mind that the ball would die on the grass for an infield single -- it was that weakly struck. But fortunately, Sox third baseman Joe Crede still was in his pre-injury defensive prime at the time, and Laird was a slow runner.

Crede made the play easily, making it an historic and unforgettable night on the South Side of Chicago.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

Frank Thomas, Tom Paciorek, Mike Squires, Carlos May, Adam Eaton added to SoxFest 2016 lineup

Frank Thomas
There has been some grumbling about the lack of star power on the list of former White Sox players who will be in attendance at SoxFest 2016.

That complaint should be silenced now that the franchise's greatest player, Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas, is scheduled to appear Jan. 30 at the event, which runs from Jan. 29-31 at the Chicago Hilton.

According to a news release issued Wednesday by the team, former White Sox players Carlos May, Tom Paciorek and Mike Squires also are scheduled to appear. I chuckled to myself when I read the release, which referred to these three players as "greats."

Paciorek had a good career, and had two nice seasons for the Sox in the early 1980s. May was a two-time All-Star for the Sox (1969, 1972) and had a 96-RBI season on the South Side in 1973. So, I could at least make a case for calling those two guys "greats."

But Squires? That dude had a .318 career slugging percentage. That's slugging percentage, not batting average. He was a slick fielder, but he might have been the weakest hitting first baseman the Sox have ever had. For me, Squires' main claim to fame is the fact that he played some games at third base in 1984, despite being a left-handed thrower. He's still the only left-handed player I've ever seen play an infield position other than first base at the major-league level.

But was Squires a "great"? Uh, no, Frank Thomas was great.

In any case, as expected, current center fielder Adam Eaton has been added to the SoxFest lineup. Other recent additions include prospects Eddy Alvarez, Adam Engel, Jacob May and Trey Michalczewski.

A complete list of scheduled attendees can be found at whitesox.com/SoxFest.
 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

The six best recent White Sox reunions

If the theme to "Welcome Back Kotter" wasn't enough to get you stoked for the return of former first-round White Sox draft pick Brian Anderson, maybe a listing of other favorite sons returned home to U.S Cellular Field will.

Two things the Sox have been noted for over the years are loyalty and a love of all things familiar. So they haven't been shy about giving players an extra spin in their uniform, and that extends beyond former prospects like Anderson and Kip Wells, who missed both comeback lists.

Let's start with the best, going back only through the New Comiskey Park Era:

6. Scott Podsednik
First tenure: 2005-2007, .270/.333/.354 batting line, 111 stolen bases
Second stay: 2009, .304/.353/.410, 30 SB
In need of an extra outfielder as the team was still trying to make something of Anderson's first stint, and with an injury-prone Carlos Quentin in left field, the Sox turned to one of their former World Series heroes.

To me, Podsednik was a better hitter late in his career than when he was the electrifying leadoff man earlier in his career. By then he had found more balance to his hitting approach, not trying to pull the ball as much as his forgettable final season in Milwaukee, but willing to turn on balls enough to keep pitchers honest, which he didn't always do with his slappy approach when first joining the Sox.

Age and injuries took their toll, and Podsednik didn't have much career left after leaving the Sox again. But he was a pretty nice lift for a flawed Sox team that needed one.

5. Freddy Garcia 
First tenure: 2004-2006, 42-21, 4.26 ERA
Second stay: 2009-2010, 15-10, 4.56 ERA
Garcia was part of the vaunted World Series-winning rotation, and friend and family member of manager Ozzie Guillen. Injuries limited his time on the mound between Sox stays (only 73 IP between 2007-08, and 56 his first comeback season in Chicago), but Garcia capably filled a hole in the back of the rotation through 2010, even though he wasn't the workhorse he was earlier in his career.

4. Jim Abbott 
First tenure: 1995, 6-4, 3.36 ERA, 112 1/3 IP 
Second stay: 1998, 5-0, 4.55 ERA, 31 1/3 IP 
Abbott was famous for becoming a big league pitcher with only one hand. After a few down seasons with the Yankees, Abbott signed as a free agent with the Sox. He held up his end of the bargain in 1995, but with the Sox going nowhere, he was traded to the Angels, where he began his career, for a bundle of prospects that included Bill Simas, John Snyder and McKay Christensen.

The revival didn't last in Anaheim, where Abbott was OK down the stretch, but bottomed out the next year with a 7.48 ERA and a 2-18 record in which he led the league in losses. (Abbott also had two losses in AAA that year, even if the magical 20 didn't all happen in the big leagues.)

In need of another comeback, Abbott came back to the Sox in 1998, and after a brief minor-league audition, rolled through September with a perfect record thanks to some average-ish pitching and some huge run support.

Abbott's career ran out of steam for good the next year in Milwaukee, but his last run on the South Side helped make a second-half surge from the Sox a little more entertaining.

3. Carl Everett 
First tenure: 2003, .301/.377/.473, 10 HR 
Second tenure: 2004-05, .255/.314/.428, 28 HR
Everett was a midseason pickup in 2003, hitting like a monster out of center field, even if his glove left plenty to be desired. He probably would have been back with the Sox if his big salary ($9.15 million in the last year of his contract) wouldn't have made any Chicago offer look like a massive pay cut.

Instead the Expos signed him to a two-year, $7 million contract, and almost immediately regretted it. No longer able to handle center field, and also unable to hit for both average and power like he did in his prime, Everett was shipped back to the Sox in 2004 after Frank Thomas was lost for the year because of injury.

Still under contract, Everett started 2005 as the regular designated hitter while Thomas was still on the mend. When the Big Hurt's return was short-lived, Everett again took up most of the DH at-bats.

While his overall body of work during his return to the Sox was unimpressive, call this a results-oriented ranking. Everett did spend most of the year providing the team with a competent bat at a position that requires a minimum of that. He also batted .300/.333/.300 in 43 postseason plate appearances to help the Sox to a World Series title they maybe don't win if Timo Perez is the regular DH.

2. Harold Baines 
First tenure: 1980-1989, .288/.341/.462, 176 HR 
Second stay: 1996-97, .309/.394/.490, 36 HR 
The first overall pick of the 1977 draft, Baines was so beloved that his number was retired when he was traded to the Rangers during the 1989 season. After knee injuries early in his career forced him into a DH role, Baines was arguably just hitting his stride as a professional hitter, batting .321/.423/.505 for the Sox at the time of the deal.

Even adjusting for a higher offensive era, Baines was a better hitter from age 31 and onward (.290/.372/.468) than he was through the first 10 seasons of his career. When the Sox needed to add a designated hitter before the 1996 season, Baines was a natural fit.

After helping power a potent offense on a team that should have won the AL Wild Card, he was back again in 1997, out-hitting mega-free agent Albert Belle before the disappointing Sox shipped Baines out to another stay in Baltimore ahead of the infamous White Flag trade. When the team said the trade was about helping Baines get a chance to win a title, not about giving up on the season, Robin Ventura famously quipped, "Isn't that what we're supposed to be doing here?"

1. Ozzie Guillen 
First tenure: 1985-1997, .265/.287/.339, Rookie of the Year (1985), 3x All-Star (1988, 1990, 1991), Gold Glove winner (1990)
Second stay: 2004-2011, 678-617 (.524 win percentage), 2005 World Series Champion, 2005 Manager of the Year
Players rarely return to former teams as managers and find much success, but Guillen did.

As a slappy-bat shortstop, Guillen only flirted occasionally with being an OK hitter. He became a lineup stalwart because of a glove that, depending on whom you ask, was either overrated or underrated. Nobody says he wasn't a good defender.

Guillen spent a few years as a utility infielder after leaving the Sox, and went from playing for the Devil Rays in 2000 to coaching with the Expos the next season. He was part of the Florida Marlins staff that won a World Series in 2003 before replacing Jerry Manuel as White Sox manager the next season.

When the Sox won a title in 2005, Guillen basked in the glow of the first baseball championship for Chicago in 88 years, taking home a Manager of the Year award. You could argue it never got better than that for Guillen and the Sox, who won 90 games the next year but came up short, and made only one other playoff appearance together -- a 2008 first-round exit against Tampa Bay.

Guillen certainly left hard feelings behind by demanding a contract extension or a trade to the Miami Marlins during his last month with the Sox. It was an ignominious ending to a reunion that began with triumphant glory.

Time will heal all wounds though, at least until the Sox win another title. If current skipper and all-time Sox great Robin Ventura is the manager lead them to one, he should easily displace Guillen at the top of this list. If he does that, he'll have engineered a surprising near-playoff run (2012), a rebuilding project (2013-?) and then a championship.

If those dreams come true, it would be another good reason getting back together isn't always a bad idea.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

White Sox will retire Paul Konerko's No. 14 on May 23

There's a conspicuously empty space on the facade where the retired numbers hang at U.S. Cellular Field, a gap between the No. 11 once worn by Luis Aparicio and the No. 16 once worn by Ted Lyons.

You knew the space was left their intentionally, because one day No. 14 would be honored in that spot.

The White Sox will make that official May 23 when they retire the No. 14 jersey of former first baseman Paul Konerko. It's a 3:10 game on a Saturday afternoon against the Minnesota Twins. The first 20,000 fans through the gate will receive a Konerko statue replica.

Fortunately for me, this game is part of my 27-game season-ticket plan. I'll be there early to see Konerko become the 10th former White Sox player to have his number retired.

Konerko, a six-time All-Star, is the franchise leader in total bases (4,010) and ranks second in White Sox history in home runs (432), 16 behind Hall-of-Famer Frank Thomas (448). Konerko also ranks third in franchise history in hits (2,292) and doubles (406). He is best remembered for his grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series

I've said before Konerko isn't quite good enough to make baseball's Hall of Fame, but he is clearly among the best players in White Sox history. It's fitting and proper that he's being shown this kind of respect by the White Sox organization.

Consider May 23 circled on my calendar.

Wednesday, January 7, 2015

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz, Craig Biggio elected to baseball Hall of Fame

Randy Johnson, Pedro Martinez, John Smoltz and Craig Biggio were elected to baseball's Hall of Fame on Tuesday. The Hall will welcome four new players in the same year for the first time since 1955.

Johnson, Martinez and Smoltz were voted in on their first try, while Biggio was elected on his third attempt after falling just two votes shy last year.

Let's take a look at each of the four 2015 inductees:

Randy Johnson

I wasn't alive when Sandy Koufax was pitching, so Johnson is the best left-handed pitcher I've seen in my lifetime. He won 5 Cy Young Awards and finished second on three other occasions. He totaled 303 wins, 4,875 strikeouts and led his league in strikeouts on nine occasions. Johnson had six seasons of at least 300 strikeouts, and averaged 10.61 strikeouts per nine innings over the course of his career. His .646 career winning percentage is pretty darn good, too. Not too many pitchers have been more dominant.

Pedro Martinez

Here's the most remarkable thing about Martinez: He played from 1992 to 2009, an 18-year period that featured some of the most prolific offensive seasons in the history of the sport. Yet, his career ERA was a sparkling 2.93. The league average ERA during that period was 4.49. That goes to show how great Martinez was. He finished with a 219-100 career record, and he had a dominant six years in the middle of his career that saw him win three Cy Youngs and finish second on two other occasions. He went 23-4 in 1999, but I think his best year was actually 2000. He went 18-6 with a 1.74 ERA for the Boston Red Sox. A 1.74 ERA in the American League? During that steroid era? That's one of the better individual seasons I've seen from any player in my lifetime.

John Smoltz

Smoltz had an unparalleled career in my book. He won a Cy Young as a starter, went to the bullpen and led his league in saves, then returned to the starting rotation because that's what his team needed at that time. There aren't a lot of guys who have been great both as a starter and as a closer. Dennis Eckersley comes to mind, but even that isn't a parallel because once Eckersley went to the bullpen he stayed there for the rest of his career. Smoltz eventually returned to starting and continued to pitch effectively. But here's what makes Smoltz a first-ballot Hall of Famer: He went 15-4 with a 2.67 ERA in postseason play. I know the stat people don't like to talk about clutch, but you can't ignore that kind of performance on the game's biggest stages. You're not getting fat on 95-loss teams pitching in October. You're going against the best teams with the best lineups. Smoltz was a guy who was at his best when he went against the best.

Craig Biggio

Isn't it interesting that it took three years for Biggio and his 3,060 career hits to get elected to the Hall? It used to be that 3,000 hits was one of those magic numbers that made you a first-ballot lock. Not anymore. A couple other notable numbers about Biggio: He had 668 doubles, more than any other right-handed hitter in the history of the game. He also had 51 doubles and 50 stolen bases during the 1998 season, becoming the only player to have 50 doubles or more and 50 steals or more in the same year. Why did it take so long for him to get in? Well, I don't know. Some people think Jeff Bagwell, Biggio's longtime teammate in Houston, is a steroids guy, so perhaps Biggio is guilty by association in the minds of some.

This four-man class comes on the heels of last year's three-man class that included Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas.

All seven men who have been elected the last two years are worthy choices, but here's my takeaway: I find it interesting that five of the seven most recent inductees are pitchers. There are several notable hitters on the ballot, including Bagwell, Mike Piazza and Edgar Martinez, who have strong cases and are still on the outside looking in.

The steroids era didn't seem to change voter behavior in terms of pitchers. The great ones, for the most part, are still promptly getting elected to the Hall. Hitters? Not so much. Guys who would have been slam dunks in the past are having to wait now. Biggio is a prime example of that. He's not thought of as a steroids guy, but he still had to wait a couple years because the magical offensive numbers -- 3,000 hits, 500 home runs -- aren't as meaningful as they used to be.

Part of this preference for pitchers, of course, can be explained by the quality of pitchers that have come onto the ballot the past couple years. Maddux, Johnson and Martinez are the short list of the game's all-time greats. Glavine and Smoltz also are easy picks. There won't be an elite starting pitcher coming on the ballot as a first-timer next year.

We'll see if that allows for some of these hitters who are waiting their turn to finally have their day, or if the cloud of the steroid era still looms large.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Looking back on Paul Konerko's White Sox career

The end of an era is approaching.

There will be no games remaining on the 2014 White Sox schedule a week from now. That also means there will be no games left to play in the remarkable career of Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, who will retire at the end of the week after 18 seasons -- 16 of them on the South Side of Chicago.

When Opening Day 2015 rolls around, Konerko isn't going to be at U.S. Cellular Field for the first time since 1998. Isn't that going to be a weird feeling for us all? 

Konerko knows the time is right to walk away. Time, age and injuries have taken their toll. He's not an everyday player anymore. He's not the hitter he used to be, as his .216 batting average this season shows. He hasn't been able to play much the past three weeks after breaking a bone in his hand the first week of September.

Everyone associated with the White Sox would like to see a storybook ending for Konerko, but there's a very real possibility he has hit his last home run in a Chicago uniform. Heck, there's a possibility he's gotten his last base hit in a Sox uniform, too, but even if that's the case, it's OK. We should not spend too much time lamenting the struggles Konerko has had in his final season. Rather, we should celebrate the player Konerko was, and the exemplary career he has had.

Konerko's name is high on a lot of lists in White Sox franchise history. That's no small thing. The Sox are one of the charter franchises in the American League. A lot of players have come through the South Side over the past 113 years, and Konerko has been one of the best. The numbers speak for themselves, but we'll recite them anyway.

Konerko is the all-time franchise leader in total bases with 4,009. He ranks second in home runs (432), RBIs (1,383) and games played (2,264). He is third in hits (2,291), doubles (406), plate appearances (9,244) and at-bats (8,155). He ranks fourth in runs scored with 1,141.

If you look at the franchise's leaders in these categories, the names ahead of Konerko are players such as Luke Appling, Nellie Fox and Frank Thomas. Those are Hall of Famers.

If you've paid any attention to the Chicago media lately, there's been a lot of discussion of some of the great moments in Konerko's career. His grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series was his finest hour. It was arguably the biggest hit in White Sox history. Earlier that postseason, there were big home runs in Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS, a series in which Konerko earned MVP.

These are moments that are fondly remembered, and rightfully so. However, an outstanding career in baseball is about more than handful of big hits on the postseason stage. There are plenty of players who have had their 15 minutes of fame after one good game or one big moment in a championship series. Konerko is not one of those guys. That grand slam in the World Series will live forever, but his career with the Sox has been so much more than that.

I've been privileged to see Konerko play in person about 200 times over the past 16 years. I've watched most of his 9,244 plate appearances with the Sox either at the ballpark or on television. When I reflect back on all those games, there are two memories that stand out that I'd like to share. It may surprise you that neither of them involve postseason play.

April 16, 2005: White Sox 2, Mariners 1

I'll bet a lot of Sox fans remember this game, but not because of Konerko. This game is famous because it lasted only one hour, 39 minutes. It is far and away the shortest White Sox game I have ever attended. At the time, former Sox ace Mark Buehrle had not yet throw his 2007 no-hitter against the Texas Rangers, or his 2009 perfect game against the Tampa Bay Rays. This game was perhaps the signature moment of Buehrle's career to that point. He struck out 12. He only gave up three hits. He worked quick. He made the Mariners look foolish.

But guess what? Buehrle doesn't get the win without Konerko's performance that day. This was a game where the two teams combined for only seven hits. You could count the number of hard-hit balls the entire afternoon on one hand. Two of those hard-hit balls came off Konerko's bat. Both of them landed in the left-field seats. Those were the only two runs the Sox scored. That was the margin Buehrle needed.

Without those two homers, one hour and 39 minutes never happens. Maybe the game goes extra innings and ends up lasting three hours. Who knows? Buehrle got most of the headlines and most of the credit that day. He deserved it. However, you might say the final score was Konerko 2, Mariners 1.

This was an April game with 20,000-some people in the stands. The bright lights weren't shining. It wasn't considered a monumental win in the big picture, but I'll never forget Konerko's performance that day.

August 8, 2006: White Sox 6, Yankees 5 (11 innings)

In this game, the Sox trailed 5-4 in the ninth inning when Konerko stepped to the plate to face New York closer Mariano Rivera, who was the best closer of his generation and a future Hall of Famer.

Rivera is known for having just one pitch - a cutter than moves in on the hands of left-handed batters and away from right-handed batters such as Konerko. During the at-bat, I vividly remember Konerko swinging and missing badly as he attempted to pull an outside cutter from Rivera.

From my seat in the stands, I yelled at the top of my lungs, "C'mon, Paulie, you know it's going to be a cutter away! Go with the pitch and hit the damn ball to right-center field!"

Not that Konerko could hear me, but the next pitch was a cutter away, and Konerko swatted it just over the wall in right-center field for a game-tying home run. The fans seated near me looked at me like, "How did you know?"

The Sox went on to win in 11 innings on a walk-off single by Jermaine Dye, but Konerko's homer was easily the biggest hit of the game. Part of Konerko's genius was his ability to made adjustments from pitch to pitch, even against a tremendous pitcher such as Rivera. That home run that night was perhaps the best example of that I've seen.

There are probably some Sox fans out there who have little or no recollection of these two games, but I'll bet every Sox fan has a couple of Konerko performances they recall vividly like the ones I just described. There has been too many of them to mention.

Maybe your favorite Konerko moment was in the World Series, or maybe it was on a quiet April afternoon in front of a sparse crowd. A great career in baseball is made up of dozens of moments, and Konerko consistently provided them for the White Sox -- in games both big and small -- for the past 16 years. Players like that only come around every so often, and for that reason, we should celebrate Konerko's accomplishments as the book closes on his time as a player.

After Sunday's game against the Kansas City Royals ends, no Sox player is ever going to wear No. 14 again. You can count on that -- just as the Sox have counted on Paul Konerko for big hits every year since 1999.

Sunday, July 27, 2014

Frank Thomas, a true White Sox, goes into the Hall of Fame

If you're a White Sox fan like me, Sunday's baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremony was unlike any other.

Sure, we've seen our fair share of former Sox players go into the Hall during our lifetimes. If you watched Sunday's ceremony, you saw a few of them in attendance -- Carlton Fisk, Roberto Alomar and Tom Seaver. Heck, Tony La Russa, who was inducted into the Hall on Sunday as a manager, also made significant contributions to White Sox history.

But it's different with Frank Thomas. Unlike Fisk, Alomar and Seaver, all of whom have significant ties to other teams, Thomas is one of our own. He's the pride of the South Side. The first White Sox player to be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot. The best player in team history. Even though he had brief stints with Oakland and Toronto late in his career, Thomas is a White Sox -- the most well-known player associated with the organization over the last quarter century. Watching him go into the Hall on Sunday was a moment of great joy for me, as it should have been for all Sox fans.

His numbers speak for themselves, but we'll repeat them again. A lifetime career batting average of .301, to go along with a .419 on-base percentage, .555 slugging percentage and a .974 OPS. 521 career home runs. 1,704 career RBIs. Four Silver Sluggers, two MVP awards, the 1997 batting title and a 2005 World Series ring.

How's that for a career?

If there is one thing that separated Thomas for every other hitter I've seen, it would be his legendary plate discipline. He simply didn't swing at bad pitches, and that was the case from the first day he entered the big leagues. I've seen other hitters through the years develop that patience and discipline (think Barry Bonds) at the plate as their careers move along, but you just don't see that often from guys at age 22 -- which was how old Thomas was when he joined the Sox in 1990. It usually takes time for a young hitter to develop that knowledge of the strike zone. Thomas had that the day he walked in the door. That was his edge, his gift.

Thomas led the league in walks (138) and on-base percentage (.453) in 1991, his first full season in the majors. Who does that? Not too many. Later in his career, Thomas was more of a pure power hitter, but in his White Sox heyday, he was a great hitter who just happened to hit his fair share of home runs. He hit 41 home runs while striking out just 54 times during his MVP season of 1993. Again, who does that? You don't see too many guys hit that many home runs without giving up some of their ability to make contact.

Thomas was a great contact hitter, a great power hitter and a guy who would take his walks. That combination is so very rare, and I don't know if all of us realized it at the time just how good he was.

Here's the number that, for me, sums up Thomas' greatness. His on-base percentage the first eight years of his career was .452. Only two players in the history of the game can claim to have been better -- Ted Williams (.488) and Babe Ruth (.467). That's elite company.

On Sunday, Thomas also was in elite company, joining Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine, LaRussa, Bobby Cox and Joe Torre in one of the greatest Hall of Fame classes of all time.

Thomas' acceptance speech was the most emotional of the six. Plenty of tears were shed as he spoke about his parents, his brother and countless others who helped him during his early years and baseball career. Perhaps the most heartfelt moment of the day came when Thomas spoke of his late father, Frank Thomas Sr.

"Thanks for pushing me and always preaching to me, 'You could be someone special, if you really work at it.' I took that heart, pops, and look at us today," Thomas said.

The speech also featured a "verbal montage" to former teammates, during which Thomas mentioned 138 names of guys he played with during his 19-year career. During his playing days, Thomas was often portrayed as selfish and sometimes aloof. On this induction day, he proved otherwise with a speech full of humility and gratitude. White Sox fans should be proud to claim him as one of their own.

I don't agree with Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn on much, but I applaud him for proclaiming Sunday as Frank Thomas Day in Illinois. This is a day for celebration.

Bravo, Frank Thomas. Congratulations on your induction into baseball's Hall of Fame. Chicago is proud of you.

Monday, February 10, 2014

My 5 favorite White Sox teams (during my lifetime)

When I got up this morning, it was 2 degrees with a wind chill of minus 17. There is somewhere between two and three feet of snow covering the ground here in Crystal Lake. Pitchers and catchers haven't reported yet (for most teams), Opening Day is still seven weeks away, and the news cycle is slow right now for baseball.

So, I figure what better time than to fill space with a pointless list?!

With that in mind, I present to you (in reverse order) my five favorite White Sox teams of all time. Keep in mind, this list only includes teams from my lifetime (I was born in 1976). Also, these are not necessarily the best or most successful Sox teams I've watched; they are just my favorite ones:

5. 1983: I attended my first Sox game as a 5-year-old in 1981, but the first year I really have good recollections of was the 1983 season. The Sox won 99 times and took the American League West by a record 20 games. I can still recite the everyday lineup: Rudy Law, Carlton Fisk, Harold Baines, Greg Luzinski, Ron Kittle, Greg Walker (or Tom Paciorek), Vance Law, Scott Fletcher and Julio Cruz. They had a 24-game winner in LaMarr Hoyt and a 22-game winner in Richard Dotson. Unfortunately, they lost the ALCS, 3-1, to the eventual World Champion Baltimore Orioles. Game 4 was lost 3-0 on an extra-inning home run by Tito Landrum. The Sox had Hoyt lined up to pitch a decisive Game 5, so there was a good chance they would have gone to the World Series if they had just won that Game 4. Broke my 7-year-old heart.

4. 2000: This was a fun season for two reasons. First, the Sox hit the living snot out of the ball that summer. Even if they were down five or six runs, they weren't out of the game. Magglio Ordonez had 32 home runs and 126 RBIs, and he was just the second-best hitter on the team. Frank Thomas had one of his best seasons: 43 homers and 143 RBIs. He should have been MVP, but the award went to cheating Jason Giambi instead. The Sox had three others with 21 or more home runs: Carlos Lee, Jose Valentin and Paul Konerko. The other reason this season was so much fun was because 95 wins and an AL Central title were totally unexpected. The Sox were coming off three straight losing seasons and weren't expected to do much, but they made the playoffs. Unfortunately, injuries to the pitching staff and a sudden offensive slump caused them to get waxed by the Seattle Mariners in the ALDS.

3. 1994: Another season of what could have been. A strike canceled the last month and a half of the season, plus all of the playoffs and World Series. It was heartbreaking because the Sox were so good and had a great chance to win it all. They were in first place with a 67-46 record when the season abruptly halted. Thomas was having his best year. He was hitting .353 with 38 homers and 101 RBIs through 113 games. Makes you wonder how it would have turned out for Thomas had he been allowed to play those last 49 games. What a terrific middle of the order the Sox had in '94, with Thomas, a resurgent Julio Franco and Robin Ventura in his prime. They had the pitching, too, with a rotation of Jack McDowell, Alex Fernandez, Wilson Alvarez and Jason Bere, who was having his best season that summer. Still kills me that we'll never know how the '94 season would have played out.

2. 1990: The last year at old Comiskey Park. Once again, this was a memorable year because the White Sox had surprising success. In 1989, the Sox lost 92 games and finished dead last in the American League West. In 1990, they sent the old ballyard out in style with a 94-win campaign. They had the second-best record in the league. Unfortunately, they were in the same division as the 103-win Oakland A's, and this was before the days of the wild card. The Sox missed the playoffs despite having a terrific year. The lineup was almost void of stars. Fisk and Kittle were probably the two most recognizable players. Ventura and McDowell were young and not yet household names. Thomas and Fernandez were called up in August and still unproven. Bobby Thigpen did have a career year as closer, posting a then-record 57 saves. But this season was remarkable because the Sox were greater than the sum of their parts. The theme for that summer was "Doing the Lil' Things." The Sox pitched well. They played defense. They ran the bases smartly. They got timely hits. And, oh, they went 8-5 against those mighty Oakland A's. Unfortunately, nobody else in the American League could stop Oakland, which eventually won the pennant.

1: 2005: Duh. What other team would be No. 1 on this list other than the 2005 World Champions, who eased the pain of generations of failure? The Sox were wire-to-wire champions of the AL Central. They won 99 games. They ran through the playoffs and World Series with a record of 11-1, an accomplishment that is still underrated and understated, even here in the Chicago area. Guys who were castoffs from other teams (Scott Podsednik, Jermaine Dye, A.J. Pierzynski, Dustin Hermanson) came to Chicago with chips on their shoulders and played great. The team produced countless iconic moments: Podsednik's walk-off homer in the World Series. Konerko's grand slam that same night. Four consecutive complete games in the ALCS by pitchers Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras. Then, there was Joe Crede's magnificence with both the bat and the glove in the playoffs. For one season, this was a great baseball team. Not a good team, a great team. How the hell can you top 99 regular-season wins, plus 11-1 in the playoffs? Well, you'd have to win 100 in the regular season and go 11-0 in the playoffs. Good luck with that.

49 days until Opening Day. A new season is coming soon, I promise.


Thursday, January 23, 2014

'Bo knows ambassadorship'

Is "ambassadorship" even a word? I'm not sure it is, but former two-sport star Bo Jackson returned to the White Sox as a team ambassador on Wednesday.

Jackson will serve as a team representative in the community and make appearances on behalf of the organization. Other White Sox ambassadors include former players Frank Thomas, Carlton Fisk, Minnie Minoso, Ron Kittle, Bill Melton and Carlos May.

Jackson played for the Sox from 1991-93 and remains a resident of the Chicago area. His two most memorable moments came in 1993, when he hit a home run in his first at-bat after returning from hip-replacement surgery. Later that season, his three-run homer against the Seattle Mariners on Sept. 27 clinched the 1993 American League West championship for the Sox.

"Bo is an American sports legend, who always will hold a special place in hearts of White Sox fans," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "His heroic return from what seemed to be a catastrophic career-ending injury helped us win a division title in 1993, and demonstrated to the sports world an unrivaled will and determination to be the best. It is great to again welcome Bo Jackson as a member of the White Sox."

Garza to sign with Brewers

Ken Rosenthal of FOXSports.com reports the Milwaukee Brewers have agreed to a four-year, $52 million deal with former Cubs right-hander Matt Garza.

Now that Masahiro Tanaka is off the market, we can expect some of the other free-agent starting pitchers to sign. The Brewers were not a player for Tanaka, so their pursuit of Garza likely was unrelated. Nevertheless, Milwaukee might have been compelled to move now on a deal for Garza, knowing the remaining free-agent pitchers might have more suitors now that Tanaka has signed with the New York Yankees.

Other notable remaining free-agent starters include Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Bronson Arroyo.

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Single-day passes for SoxFest: I'm priced out

Single-day passes for SoxFest go on sale at 10 a.m. Wednesday morning.

The annual event runs from Jan. 24 to 26. One-day tickets cost $50 for Saturday and $40 for Sunday. Two-day passes, good for admission Saturday and Sunday, are on sale for $70.

In other words, I won't be going. I'd love to buy a one-day pass for Saturday, but that's just too much money for me -- especially in this period of post-holiday financial malaise. It isn't just the $50 for the fest either. You gotta pay to get downtown as well, either by driving into the city and paying absurd parking rates, or using Metra or the CTA. Then, you gotta buy food. It's a day that will cost over $100 before all is said and done.

The Sox lowered their ticket prices last season to make the ballpark experience more affordable and family-friendly, and you wonder why they can't do the same with SoxFest.

I wonder whether they will sell out their one- and two-day passes this year, especially coming off a 99-loss campaign that was the worst in many of our lifetimes.

What's really funny is the Sox' website promotes the event by saying the Saturday pass is "just $50." As if that is just a drop in the bucket for all of us fans.

Maybe the Sox are counting on the idea that fans will be willing to pay for the experience of congratulating newly elected Hall of Famer Frank Thomas, who is among the former players on the guest list.

I'd like to be there, but the bottom line is I can't pay $50 for that experience. $25? Yes. Maybe even $30. But not $50. We'll see how the Sox do with their sales for the fest. That's the only true way to judge whether they've set prices correctly for this event.

The only thing I know for sure is I'm priced out.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Frank Thomas, Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine elected to Hall of Fame

I'll admit it: I was nervous. I wasn't sure former White Sox slugger Frank Thomas would be elected to the Hall of Fame on the first ballot.

I was worried the Baseball Writers Association of America would hold a grudge against Thomas because he played a majority of his career games as a designated hitter.

Fortunately, common sense prevailed. Thomas was elected to the Hall of Fame on Wednesday; his name appeared on 83.7 percent of the 571 ballots cast. He was comfortably about the 75 percent threshold needed for election.

Thomas finished his career with a .301 lifetime batting average, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs, a .419 career on-base percentage and a .974 career OPS. He also won two MVP awards and finished in the top four of MVP voting on three other occasions. Nine times, he placed in the top 10 of the MVP balloting.

There's no question that is a Hall of Fame resume, and kudos to the voters for putting aside the silly anti-DH argument and giving Thomas his proper place in Cooperstown.

Thomas will be joined in the 2014 class by two other deserving honorees, pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine.

Maddux, the former Atlanta Braves and Cubs ace, earned the most votes from the electorate, appearing on over 97 percent of the ballots. He is eighth all-time on the wins list with 355. He won four consecutive Cy Young awards -- one with the Cubs and three with the Braves -- from 1992 to 1995. He also was the best fielding pitcher of his era, earning a record 18 Gold Glove awards.

Glavine, Maddux's former teammate with the Braves, totaled 305 career wins and won two Cy Young awards. The left-hander was also comfortably above the 75 percent threshold; his name appeared on just under 92 percent of the ballots.

The two former Atlanta pitchers will be joined by their former manager, Bobby Cox, at July's induction ceremony. Cox, Joe Torre and Tony LaRussa were elected to the Hall in December for their managerial successes. 

A couple of other interesting things about this vote: Craig Biggio just missed. His name was on 74.8 percent of the ballots. That means he was exactly two votes short of induction. More than likely, he'll get into the Hall in 2015, which will be his third year on the ballot. It's a little unusual for a player with 3,060 career hits to have to wait three years. I'm not sure what the reasoning was by those who did not vote for Biggio. He seems like a no-brainer to me.

It also was notable that both Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens actually lost support. Bonds went from 36.2 percent to 34.7 percent, while Clemens dropped from 37.6 to 35.4.

What's interesting is the voters seem to draw a distinction between Bonds and Clemens and some of the other steroids guys like Sammy Sosa, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro. The latter three aren't getting near as many votes. Palmeiro, in fact, will fall off the ballot after only getting 4.4 percent of the vote this year. Sosa was at 7.2 percent, while McGwire got 11 percent.

Why are Bonds and Clemens different? Well, I think those two guys could have been Hall of Famers without using steroids. You look at their performances going back into the 1980s before all the steroid scandals started, and they seemed to be on the path to the Hall. In the case of these two men, the PEDs seemed to lengthen their careers and allowed them to put up unbelievable numbers into their late 30s and early 40s.

They aren't going to get into the Hall because that drug use taints their legacies, but there are some voters who are supporting them because their greatness is only partially attributed to steroids. Both Bonds and Clemens were elite players pre-steroids. They didn't really need to take that stuff, but for whatever reason, they chose to do so.

In the cases of Sosa, McGwire and Palmeiro, more than likely they would have just been ordinary players without the juice. At minimum, there's a perception their greatness was completely the result of steroids, and that's why they are getting little support from the electorate.

Lastly, I think it's time for the BBWAA to take a look at its own membership and review whether the guys who are voting on the Hall are qualified to do so. Right now, the standard is you have to have been a BBWAA member in good standing for 10 years in order to get a vote. Personally, I think the voters have made several errors in recent years. They've inducted some guys with marginal resumes, while making some guys who should be slam-dunk choices (like Biggio) wait.

You wonder how much baseball some of these voters actually watch. Are they really "baseball writers" anymore? Or are some of them former sports editors and former columnists who are no longer really in the industry? I wish I had a little more trust that these guys are all actually qualified to vote.

At least they got Maddux, Glavine and Thomas right. But you're allowed to vote for 10 guys each year, and it's not real hard to find other deserving players on that ballot who were left out again.


Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Frank Thomas should be elected to the Hall of Fame ... this year

As we noted on Tuesday, the Baseball Writers Association of America has announced its 2014 Hall of Fame ballot.

There are three slam-dunk, no-brainer choices who were added to the ballot this year: pitchers Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine and former White Sox 1B/DH Frank Thomas.

Well, at least I think those guys are locks for enshrinement this year. They should be, but I awoke this morning to a front page story in the Chicago Tribune sports section that questioned whether voters will allow Thomas in on the first ballot. Frankly, I can't believe this is even up for debate. But since it is, let me make the case for Thomas:

1. He is 18th on the all-time list with 521 home runs. He hit over 30 home runs in a season nine times and topped the 40 mark on five occasions.

2. He finished with lifetime career batting average of .301. Only five players in the history of the game have hit more home runs and had a higher batting average. Those players are Hank Aaron, Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Manny Ramirez and Jimmie Foxx

3. He hit .300 or better in nine seasons, including seven consecutive years from 1991 through 1997.

4. His career on-base percentage is .419. He had 10 seasons where his on-base percentage was over .400, and his on-base was never lower than .426 during his seven years of dominance from '91 to '97. He led the league in walks three times.

5. He finished with 1,667 RBIs, including 11 seasons of 100 RBIs or more. He had 100 RBIs or more in eight consecutive seasons from 1991 to 1998. After a rare down season in 1999, he posted a career-high 143 RBIs in 2000.

6. He is a two-time MVP (1993, 1994) and finished in the top four of MVP voting on three other occasions. Nine times, he placed in the top 10 in the MVP balloting. 

7. His .974 career OPS ranks 14th all-time. He had seven seasons where his OPS was over 1.000, including a sick 1.217 mark in his MVP season of 1994.

8. If you're into the new-age statistical analysis, Thomas' lifetime war is 73.6. By way of comparison, the average WAR of first baseman already in the Hall of Fame is 65.7.

The evidence is overwhelming. How can anyone not vote for Frank Thomas for the Hall of Fame? If voters are willing to enshrine Tony Perez with his .279/.341/.463 career slash line, then they cannot ignore Thomas and his .301/.419/.555 career slash line.

I've heard arguments about Thomas being "one-dimensional." I've heard people pooh-pooh his candidacy because he had over 5,000 plate appearances as a DH. Well, I think the "purists" can take a leap. Designated hitter is a position in baseball now. It's been around for 40 years. It's not going anywhere. I see no reason why players like Thomas and Edgar Martinez, who defined greatness at that position, shouldn't be enshrined in the Hall.

One-dimensional? Pffftttt. The Hall is already full of one-dimensional players. They are called pitchers. Nolan Ryan couldn't hit his way out of a brown paper bag. Neither could Tom Seaver. And neither of those two men were winning a bunch of Gold Gloves for their fielding prowess either. But who cares? They were quite rightfully elected into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot because they rank among the greatest pitchers the game has ever seen.

Likewise, Thomas should be elected into the Hall of Fame on the first ballot because he ranks among the greatest hitters the game has ever seen. The numbers don't lie.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Hall of Fame voting is broken

The Baseball Writers Association of America announced it's 2014 ballot on Tuesday, so this is as good a time as any to point how derelict in its duty to elect worthy players the BWAA has been in recent years.

Among the first-time candidates are former Cubs and Braves ace, Greg Maddux, a four-time Cy Young Award winner with 355 wins to his name, and all-time White Sox great Frank Thomas, who collected two AL MVP awards and belted 521 home runs to go along with his .301 batting average and .419 on-base percentage.

With fellow first-timer, 300-game-winner Tom Glavine, it looks like there are three no-doubt Hall-of-Famers added to this year's ballot.

But what about the rest of the ballot?

Jeff Kent and Mike Mussina are two more additions who I think have pretty strong Hall cases. Kent ranks among the best-hitting second basemen of all time. Mussina didn't collect as many wins or pitch as many innings as Glavine, but you could argue they were better innings.

How much traction Kent and Mussina -- or even Maddux, Thomas and Glavine -- receive really depends on how the BWAA approaches the backlog of candidates on the ballot.

Among the holdovers are Craig Biggio, Tim Raines, Alan Trammell, Edgar Martinez, Curt Schilling, Jeff Bagwell, Mike Piazza, Barry Bonds, Roger Clemens, Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa. I mention those players by name because they are the players I would vote for if I were a BWAA member. And if you could include more than 10 players on your ballot.

That's ignoring Rafael Palmeiro, Jack Morris, Lee Smith, Larry Walker, Fred McGriff and Don Mattingly. None of whom I'd vote for, even as a Big Hall supporter, but are other guys who have a strong statistical case (Palmeiro, Walker) or support from other corners (Smith, Morris).

How is it so many obviously qualified guys are getting left out?

If it were just a matter of the BWAA voters being stingy with who gains entry, that would be a good explanation. Except the voters have enshrined guys like Jim Rice (not that good), Tony Perez (also not that good) and Kirby Puckett (not good for long enough).

Part of it might also be a reluctance to render any verdict on baseball's Steroid Era, particularly with regard to Bonds, Clemens, McGwire, Sosa, Palmeiro and others.

This is another area where the logic gets fuzzy. Some of those players are suffering the steroid stigma when the evidence of PED use is flimsy and anecdotal at best (Bagwell, Piazza). Sometimes it's downright convoluted ("I think Bagwell was a 'roider, and that Biggio guy must have been, too!").

Other writers feel like it's just a great opportunity to grandstand, so submit ballots with no selections, thus demonstrating they don't really take the vote all that seriously. At least not seriously enough that we should pay attention to their nonsense. Just abdicate the duty if you don't want it.

Perhaps it will take a Veterans Committee to sift through some of these candidacies once more time has passed, though for my part, I don't think you can whitewash any steroid era, or pretend like it never happened.

The games were played, and for the most part they were with none of those players violating any MLB rules. They can't be replayed with any retroactive standard in place.

Though baseball, by and large, hasn't tried to follow professional cycling down that rabbit hole to nowhere, stripping its former champions of hardware with the largest effect being to taint the entire sport, the Hall of Fame seems willing to let column-writing voters test the institution's relevancy.

So it goes, I guess.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Charity event in Schaumburg to feature former White Sox, former Cubs

If I didn't already have plans for the weekend, I might be tempted to attend the Inaugural Larry A. Pogofsky Chicago All-Star Softball Challenge.

The event is scheduled for 4 p.m. Saturday at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg. Former White Sox players will take on former Cubs players in an softball game to benefit Chicago White Sox Charities, Chicago Cubs Charities and the Special Kids Network.

There are some several good names on the list of scheduled attendees, former All-Stars from both teams, at least one future Hall of Famer and even an former World Series MVP (pictured). Here are the rosters:

White Sox: Frank Thomas, Jermaine Dye, Ozzie Guillen, Carlos Lee, Ray Durham, Ron Kittle, Magglio Ordonez, Cliff Politte, James Baldwin, Tony Phillips, Norberto Martin, Chad Kreuter and Brian Anderson

Cubs: Derrek Lee, Lee Smith, Jacque Jones, Cliff Floyd, Jamie Moyer, Michael Barrett, Bob Dernier, Brian McRae, Bill Madlock, Steve Trout, Scott Eyre, Willie Wilson, Gary Matthews Jr., Manny Trillo and Adam Greenberg.

I did notice they have 15 former Cubs listed and only 13 former Sox. Trout played five years on both sides of town, so maybe they should have him play for the Sox to even out the sides. 

In any case, it sounds like a good time. Tickets start at $15. They're saying this is an inaugural event, which implies they are going to do this again next year. Maybe I'll put it on my calendar for 2014.