Showing posts with label Sammy Sosa. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Sammy Sosa. Show all posts

Friday, May 12, 2017

The White Sox's alleged 'refusal' to make trades with the Cubs

Jon Garland -- drafted by the Cubs, won a title with the Sox
It's going to be a long summer for White Sox fans. Our team is not good. We've acknowledged it on this blog countless times. The losing has started, as the Sox have dropped five straight after Thursday's 7-6 loss to the Minnesota Twins.

But it's going to be a long summer in other ways, too. For instance, it's only May 12, and I'm already sick of reading articles and hearing radio talk criticizing the Sox for their alleged "refusal" to make trades with the crosstown Cubs.

I'm not going to link to any articles, because this topic doesn't merit more web hits than it's already getting. But if you've been paying attention, you've no doubt heard the discussion.

Let's clear up one thing: Geographical rivals in Major League Baseball rarely trade with each other. The Yankees don't make a lot of deals with the Mets. The Dodgers don't trade much with the Angels. The Orioles and Nationals don't have each other on speed dial. You think the Rangers are going to be talking trade with the Astros anytime soon?

Me neither.

So, it's true the Sox are unlikely to make any deals with the Cubs this year, or any other year, but this is not a unique situation in the game of baseball. So why is the local media making it out as if Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf invented the concept of not making major trades with a close geographic rival?

Your guess is as good as mine. We can only speculate. There are many legitimate criticisms of Reinsdorf and the Sox. We've made some of those criticisms here on this blog, but not making more trades with the Cubs is not a legitimate gripe.

Let's clear up another misconception: At this time, the Sox and Cubs are not a good match as trading partners.

That's right, I said it.

It is true the Sox are interested in dealing starting pitcher Jose Quintana. It is true the Cubs are off to a slow start this season relative to expectation, and lackluster starting pitching has been the main reason for their struggles.

However, many media types are operating under the myth that the Cubs have a "deep farm system." This is false. Of the two Chicago teams, the Sox actually have the higher-ranked farm system -- they are in the top 10, and in some cases the top 5, in a lot of rankings.

The Cubs, in contrast, are ranked in the middle of the pack, because most of their top prospects have now graduated to the big leagues. The North Siders also paid a high price to acquire relief pitcher Aroldis Chapman at last year's trade deadline. The Cubs sent shortstop Gleyber Torres to the Yankees in that deal. Torres is now the top prospect in the New York system, and many believe the Yankees have the best farm system in baseball.

You look at the Cubs, and they have two really good positional prospects -- outfielder Eloy Jimenez and second baseman Ian Happ. But after that, it thins out significantly. To acquire Quintana, the Cubs would have to part with at least one of those two players, and potentially both. Do you think that's a price they want to pay, given that their system is significantly thinner than it was at this same time last year? I doubt it, especially since their tremendous depth was among the reasons they won the 2016 World Series.

You know who else needs a starting pitcher? The Yankees, and as I mentioned, their farm system is regarded by many as the deepest in the game. Don't be surprised if Quintana ends up there midseason. Even though it's lost on the Chicago media, the Sox and Yankees match up much better as trade partners than the Sox and the Cubs. There is no question New York has more trading chips to entice the Sox than any team in baseball, including the Cubs.

I know, I'm destroying the narrative with logic and facts.

You see, there's tremendous risk for both sides when you trade with a close geographic rival. If you make a bad move, or a lopsided move, it can haunt you for years. We still hear talk of how the Sox traded Sammy Sosa to the Cubs -- that trade has been cited this week, in fact. And it was cited to claim the Sox are reluctant to make a move with the Cubs because they were burned on that one, way back in 1992. There's no arguing the Cubs "won" that Sosa deal, steroids stuff aside.

But, let me fill you in on a little secret: Jon Garland was once a first-round draft choice of the Cubs. He also is the proud owner of a White Sox World Series ring. Garland pitched 13 years in the bigs, and he was a two-time 18-game winner with the Sox, including during the 2005 championship season.

The Sox would not have won that championship without Garland, and they would not have had Garland had the Cubs not foolishly traded him to the South Side.

That logic works both ways, but we rarely hear a levelheaded analysis of it. It's much more convenient to accuse Reinsdorf and the Sox of being petty and refusing to deal with the Cubs. That narrative is fiction, and with this blog entry, I've already given it way more discussion than it's worth. So I'll stop right now. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

White Sox to retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56

White Sox players celebrate Mark Buehrle's perfect game in 2009.
The White Sox on Thursday announced that they will retire Mark Buehrle's No. 56 jersey in a ceremony June 24 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Buehrle spent 12 seasons with the Sox and collected 161 of his 214 career victories with the South Siders.

The former 38th-round draft pick made four All-Star teams, won three Gold Gloves, tossed two no-hitters -- including a perfect game -- and was a key member of the Sox's World Series-winning rotation in 2005.

"Mark Buehrle is one of the most accomplished pitchers in franchise history," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in a statement. "Mark carried himself with class and professionalism throughout his career, and his popularity with staff, teammates and Sox fans is very well deserved. Although a very humble person, he certainly showed a flair for the dramatic on the mound, from a no-hitter to an unforgettable perfect game to a World Series title. A standout on the field and a standup teammate in the clubhouse, it is our honor to retire Mark Buehrle’s No. 56 and to welcome him into the legendary class of all-time White Sox greats."

Buehrle is one of my all-time favorite Sox players. His jersey hangs in my closet. There are so many good memories of his career that it's hard to pick a favorite, but I'll do it anyway.

I've been to hundreds of Sox games in my 40 years on the planet, but I've only seen one no-hitter in person. It was Buehrle's, on April 18, 2007, against the Texas Rangers. He faced the minimum 27 batters in the 6-0 win. He walked only one -- Sammy Sosa -- and he promptly picked Sosa off first base.

I saved my ticket stub from that game and all the clippings from the newspaper the following morning. Those materials are now framed and hung on a wall in my living room. It's a game I'll never forget the rest of my life.

Buehrle provided so many other great moments for the Sox and their fans -- getting the save in Game 3 of the 2005 World Series after pitching seven innings as the starter in Game 2; the 12-strikeout performance against the Seattle Mariners in a game that lasted only 1 hour, 39 minutes; the one-hitter against Tampa Bay in his first full season as a starter; the famous flip-between-the-legs play on Opening Day 2010 -- I could go on like this for hours.

But instead, let's just celebrate Buehrle's career by watching all the outs from his 27-up, 27-down masterpiece against Tampa Bay on July 23, 2009. This is a clinic in how to pitch. Only six of the 27 outs were strikeouts, but just notice the weak contact on most of the other 21 outs. Aside from the spectacular catch by Dewayne Wise in the top of the ninth inning, it's just routine play after routine play for Sox fielders. Enjoy:



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.

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.


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.