Playoffs?

On Friday, with the White Sox sitting in third place, the team sent out post-season invoices to their season ticket holders.  For the low, low price of $2549, I will receive two tickets to all three potential Wild Card games, three potential Division Series games, one League Championship Series game, and one World Series game, along with parking for all games.  My seats are on the opposite side of the field and 15 rows closer than my normal seats, but I’m not sure how aligned they are to my needs.

I assume only electronic tickets will be issued.  I would hope commemorative tickets will be sent out should a good run occur late into October.

By The Numbers – 3

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #3.  52 different players have donned #3 while playing in Chicago, 33 for the White Sox and 19 for the Cubs, including one who had it retired for him while he was still an active player.

Harold Baines was the first overall selection in the 1977 draft after White Sox owner Bill Veeck had seen him play little league years before.  He made his major league debut less than 3 years later, on Opening Day 1980 against the Orioles at old Comiskey Park.  Baines started to break out in 1981, but the long player’s strike limited him to only 82 games.  With a full slate of games played in 1982, Baines appeared in all but one of them, with numbers good enough to garner votes for AL MVP.

1983 was a banner year on the south side, as the White Sox captured their first ever division title.  Baines was a key contributor, hitting .280 with 20 home runs and 99 RBIs.  During the ALCS against the Orioles, Baines struggled, like most of his teammates, getting only 2 hits in the 4-game series.  At season’s end, he picked up 49 votes to finish 10th in MVP voting.

Baines continued to excel in 1984, though the rest of the team did not.  On May 8, he ended the longest game in major league history (8 hours and 6 minutes over 25 innings on successive evenings) with a walk-off home run against Chuck Porter of the Brewers.  He finished the year with a .304 average, a career high 29 home runs, and 94 RBIs, while leading the league in slugging at .541.  He once again garnered MVP consideration, finishing the vote tied for 13th place.  1985 was another strong season for Baines.  He earned his first All Star selection, singling off former teammate LaMarr Hoyt in his only at bat at the Metrodome.  He finished the year hitting .309 with 22 home runs and a career high 113 RBIs.  He earned 49 votes in placing 9th in MVP voting.

Baines saw his body start to betray him for the first time in 1986.  He appeared in his second straight All Star game, going hitless in his one at bat.  A late August knee injury caused him to miss time, and a late September collision with Neal Heaton in a loss to the Twins reinjured the knee, leading to arthroscopic surgery following the season.  He finished the season hitting .296, just missing his 3rd consecutive .300 season, with 21 home runs and 88 RBIs.  He returned for opening day in 1987, getting two hits and knocking in the winning runs on the hard artificial turf of Royals Stadium, but was unable to walk the following day.  A second arthroscopic surgery caused him to miss 23 games before he returned, moving from right field to designated hitter.  He still was named to his 3rd straight All Star team, going hitless in the 2-0 loss by the AL.  Come year end, he had hit .293 with 20 home runs and 93 RBIs.

1988 was a down year for Baines, though he managed to appear in 158 games.  His average dropped to .277, his lowest total since 1982, while hitting only 13 home runs, his lowest total since 1981.  He made only 9 appearances in the outfield while becoming accustomed to being a full-time designated hitter.  He bounced back in 1989.  He was named the starting DH in the All Star game, going 1-3 with an RBI in the AL’s victory at Angel Stadium.  On July 29, he was traded to the Rangers, along with Fred Manrique, for Wilson Alvarez, Scott Fletcher, and Sammy Sosa.  “It’s an unpopular decision as far as the fans are concerned, but sometimes unpopular means exactly that-unpopular,” GM Larry Himes said at the time.  “It doesn`t mean that it isn`t a good decision.  This is a decision we made as far as direction of the Chicago White Sox for today and for our future.”  Baines was hitting .321 with 13 home runs and 56 RBIs at the time of the trade.  Less than a month later, as the Rangers visited Chicago for the first time on August 20, the White Sox retired Baines’ #3, a somewhat awkward attempt to placate the enraged fanbase.

Baines returned to the White Sox as a free agent in 1996.  Appearing in 143 games, Baines hit .311 with 22 home runs and 95 RBIs.  He returned in 1997 and was putting together another fine season, putting up a .305 average with 12 home runs and 52 RBIs in 93 games when, on July 29 again, he was traded to the Orioles for a player to be named later.

Three years later, once again on July 29, the White Sox re-acquired Baines, along with Charles Johnson, from the Orioles for Miguel Felix, Juan Figueroa, Jason Lakman, and Brook Fordyce.  Appearing in 24 games down the stretch, Baines hit .213 with a single home run and 9 RBIs as the White Sox took the Central Division crown.  Baines went 1-4 in the ALDS as the White Sox were swept by the Mariners.  He returned to the White Sox in 2001 at the age of 42, getting extra playing time once Frank Thomas went down with an injury.  In 32 games, he hit .131, failing to homer and driving in only 6.

On July 20, 2008, the White Sox unveiled a bronze statue of Baines at U.S. Cellular Field prior to their game against the Royals.  On December 9, 2018, Baines was elected to the National Baseball Hall of Fame Class of 2019 via the Today’s Game Era ballot.

David Ross donned #3 when he joined the Cubs in 2015 on a two-year deal.  Ross announced his plans to retire following the 2016 season, after playing 15 seasons in the major leagues.  During Game 7 of the World Series, Ross hit a home run in his final at-bat, making him the oldest player to homer in World Series history.

By The Numbers – 5

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #5.  75 different players have donned #5 while playing in Chicago, 42 for the White Sox and 33 for the Cubs.

Selected in the fifth round of the 1990 draft, Ray Durham broke camp with the White Sox in 1995 and, wearing #5, made his major league debut on Opening Day, leading off and going 1-4 in the 12-3 loss to the Brewers at County Stadium.  Durham stuck in the leadoff spot and finished the year with a .257 average, 7 home runs, and 51 RBI, good enough for a 6th place finish in Rookie of the Year voting.  He saw improvement in 1996, raising his average to .275 and his OBP to .350.  His home run and RBI totals also jumped, going to 10 and 65 respectively.  1997 was another good year for Durham, as he hit .271 with 11 home runs.

In 1998, Durham earned his first All Star nod and finished the year setting career highs with a .285 average, 19 home runs, 67 RBIs, and 36 stolen bases.  Durham improved his average again in 1999, raising it to .296, his career best.  It was also his second of seven straight years with an OPS over .800.  Durham nabbed his second All Star selection in 2000.  When the season came to an end, Durham had a .280 average with 17 home runs and 75 RBIs and the White Sox were atop the AL Central for the first time.  Like the rest of his teammates, Durham struggled during the ALDS, hitting .200 in the three game sweep against the Mariners.

2001 saw Durham’s average drop to .267, his lowest total since his rookie year.  He did manage to set a new career high with 20 home runs as the White Sox failed to repeat.  Durham was hitting .299 with 9 home runs at the trade deadline in 2002 when, facing free agency, he was shipped to the A’s for Jon Adkins.  At the time of the trade, Durham was the club’s all-time leader in leadoff home runs, while placing in the top 10 in franchise history in steals (5th), doubles (7th), extra base hits (7th), and runs (8th).

Michael Barrett wore #5 for the Cubs when he was acquired for the 2004 season.  Barrett gave up his cherished # 5 in early August, handing it over to the newly acquired shortstop Nomar Garciaparra, while switching to #8, in tribute to former Hall of Fame catcher Yogi Berra.

By The Numbers – 7

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #7.  88 different players have donned #7 while playing in Chicago, 43 for the White Sox and 45 for the Cubs.

After wearing #12 when he was first called up to the big leagues, Tim Anderson switched to #7 starting with his second season in 2017.  Showing that he was still a work in progress, Anderson slashed .257/.276/.402 in 2017, with a 2.1% walk rate, the lowest in the major leagues.  Defensively, he led the major leagues in errors, with 28, as well as fielding errors (16) and throwing errors (12).  He showed slight improvements in 2018, with slight improvements in his OBP and slugging percentage, while reducing his overall errors.

2019 was Anderson’s coming out party.  He led the major leagues with a .335 average while raising his OPS to .865, setting career highs with 167 hits, 32 doubles, and 81 runs.  He still had some issues on defense, leading all major league players with 26 errors, leading to the lowest fielding percentage amongst all shortstops.  His hot bat continued into the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, notching a .322 average and an .886 OPS.  He won his first Silver Slugger award while leading the White Sox to their first post-season appearance since 2008.  He thrived in the Wild Card series against the A’s, going 9-14 in the three-game series.

Anderson continued to prove that he his offensive improvement wasn’t a fluke when baseball returned full time in 2021.  He was named to his first All Star team and, on the game’s biggest stage, he hit a walk-off home run against the Yankees in the inaugural Field of Dreams game in the cornfields of Iowa.  Overall, he hit .309 and posted an .807 OPS while hitting 17 home runs and driving in 61 RBIs.  Continuing where he left off the previous October, Anderson hit .368 in the ALDS against the Astros.

On the north side of town, Peoria-native and Northwestern graduate Joe Girardi made his Major League debut for the Cubs on April 4, 1989 wearing #7.  He batted .248 with a home run and 14 runs batted in (RBIs) in 59 games as the surprising Cubs took home a division title. Getting more consistent playing time in 1990, he hit .270 with a home run and 38 RBIs.  Limited to only 21 games in 1991, he managed just a .191 average with only 6 RBIs. In 1992, he rebounded to play in 91 games, hitting .270 with a home run and 12 RBIs.  Following the season, he was left unprotected in the expansion draft and was selected by the Rockies.

Last Run For Dallas

After nearly a seasons-worth of poor performances, the White Sox cut bait on Dallas Keuchel yesterday, designating the veteran left hander for assignment.  Keuchel, 34, had a 2-5 record with a 7.88 ERA in eight starts this season and finished his White Sox career 17-16 with a 4.79 ERA in 51 appearances, 49 of them starts.

Signed prior to the 2020 season, Keuchel looked like a steal during the pandemic shortened season.  He went 6-2 with a 1.99 ERA in 11 starts, finishing fifth in Cy Young Award voting.  He started strong in 2021, going 6-1 with a 3.78 ERA in his first 14 starts, but things went south quickly from there.  In his last 18 appearances, he put up a 3-8 record with a 6.70 ERA.  Things were bad enough that he was left off the playoff roster for the ALDS against the Astros.

Keuchel said during spring training that the end of 2021 left a “sour taste” in his mouth, so he started throwing earlier in the offseason than usual to in hopes of a rebound season.  Unfortunately, it didn’t produce the results he was hoping for.  He managed to go at least five innings in just half of his eight starts.  In his last two starts, against the Yankees and the Red Sox, he gave up a combined 12 earned runs in just 6 innings pitched.

Is this the end of the road for Keuchel?  It certainly seems possible, given not just his poor results but also how he’s been getting them.  His long-held ability to limit damage by not giving up free baserunners has left him, as he walked 20 batters in jut 32 innings this year.  But, injuries have a way of making teams desperate for pitching, so his phone may ring sometime over the next few months.

By The Numbers – 10

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #10.  65 different players have donned #16 while playing in Chicago, 26 for the White Sox and 22 for the Cubs, who retired the number in 2003.

Alexei Ramirez signed with the White Sox on December 21, 2007 after defecting from Cuba.  He made his major league debut the following March 31, wearing #10 while going 0-4 against the Indians while playing center field.  When Juan Uribe went down with an injury in May, Ramirez settled in at second base.  On September 19, Ramirez hit his 3rd grand slam of the year, tying the major league rookie record.  10 days later, he grabbed the record for himself, hitting his 4th slam against Gary Glover to push the White Sox to an 8-2 victory and the tiebreaking game 163.  He finished the regular season with .290 average and a career high 21 home runs.  During the ALDS, he hit .250 in the 4 game series against the Rays, with 2 RBI.  Once the season came to an end, Ramirez placed second in Rookie of the Year voting, behind Evan Longoria.

With Orlando Cabrera gone, Ramirez shifted over to shortstop for the 2009 season.  On July 23, he fielded the final out in Mark Buehrle’s perfect game.  He ended the year with a .277 average, 15 home runs, and 68 RBI.  2010 saw Ramirez earn his first Silver Slugger award, thanks to 18 home runs, 70 RBI, and a .282 average.  In 2011, his average dropped somewhat, but he remained consistent, hitting .269 with 15 home runs and 70 RBI.  Ramirez saw his power numbers slip in 2012, dropping to 9 home runs, but the rest of his game remained consistent with a .265 average and 73 RBIs, though he did set a new career high with 20 stolen bases.  His power fell off even further in 2013, finishing with only 6 home runs and 48 RBI, but he logged his highest average, .284, since his rookie year.  He also set a new career high with 30 stolen bases.

2014 may have been the finest season of his career.  On May 5, he notched his 1000th career hit, off Justin Grimm and the Cubs.  In July, he earned his first All Star selection and, after the season, his second Silver Slugger award.  He finished with a .273 average, 15 home runs, and 74 RBIs.  Ramirez struggled for much of the first half in 2015.  He rebounded in the second half, but still finished the year with the lowest batting average, .249, and OPS, .642, of his career.  Following the season, the White Sox declined his option for 2016, making him a free agent.

Ron Santo spent 14 of his 15 big league seasons with the Cubs, switching to #10 during his rookie season of 1960.  He earned 9 All Star game appearances and 5 Gold Gloves and followed his playing career with a long broadcasting stint with the team.   The Cubs retired number 10 in his honor in 2003 and he was posthumously elected to the Hall of Fame in 2012.

Throwback Thursday – Team Records Of The 2000s

It’s time for another trip in the wayback machine, as this week we move our focus to the start of the 21st century and see what my view of the baseball world looked like in the 2000s.  This was my first decade as a season ticket holder, starting in 2002 for the Cubs and 2005 for the White Sox.

I attended 518 contests during the 2000s, starting with my first trip to Cincinnati in April of 2000 and finishing with Daniel Hudson’s first major league victory in September of 2009.  I attended games at 13 stadiums from coast to coast and saw my first post-season action, with an ALDS in 2000, an NLCS in 2003, and a World Series game in 2005.

2021 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Arizona Diamondbacks 11 1 0.917
Philadelphia Phillies 10 4 0.714
Toronto Blue Jays 6 3 0.667
Florida Marlins 12 7 0.632
Tampa Bay Rays 3 2 0.600
Texas Rangers 8 6 0.571
Los Angeles Dodgers 8 6 0.571
Chicago White Sox 130 107 0.549
Chicago Cubs 172 147 0.539
Baltimore Orioles 9 8 0.529
Cleveland Indians 10 9 0.526
Los Angeles Angels 10 9 0.526
Boston Red Sox 9 9 0.500
Colorado Rockies 6 6 0.500
Seattle Mariners 5 5 0.500
Anaheim Angels 1 1 0.500
Houston Astros Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 12

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #12.  91 different players have donned #12 while playing in Chicago, 44 for the White Sox and 47 for the Cubs.

A.J. Pierzynski signed with the White Sox on January 6, 2005 and rewarded the organization with eight seasons of stability behind the plate that included one All-Star selection, two playoff appearances, and, of course, the 2005 World Series championship.  Over those 8 seasons, Pierzynski was involved in many key moments while wearing #12 that endeared him to the White Sox faithful, including:

  • The walk-off home run, and resulting bat flip (pictured above), against the Dodgers in 2005 while wearing 1959 throwbacks
  • The two home runs in a thrashing of the Red Sox in game one of the 2005 ALDS, the first White Sox home postseason victory since 1959
  • The controversial dropped third strike that led to a White Sox victory in game two of the 2005 ALCS against the Angels
  • The 2006 brawl against the Cubs where Michael Barrett sucker-punched him after Pierzynski enthusiastically scored a run against the crosstown rivals
  • Hanging on to the throw from Ken Griffey Jr. to preserve the shutout in the 2008 tie-breaker game that pushed the White Sox into the playoffs over the Twins
  • Being behind the plate for Mark Buehrle’s no-hitter in 2007 and Philip Humber’s perfect game in 2012

On the north side of town, a dynamic shortstop, the first player chosen in the 1982 draft, wore #12 when he made his major league debut in 1985.  Shawon Dunston quickly became a fan favorite.  In 1989, he entered the national consciousness thanks to the Shawon-O-Meter, a fan made sign that tracked Dunston’s batting average during each game.  The sign was seen in the Wrigley Field bleachers for a number of years and even made its way to San Francisco’s Candlestick Park for the 1989 NLCS.  Following the 1995 season, he left as a free agent before resigning with the team for the 1997 campaign.  He was traded to the Pirates at the end of August, ending his Cubs career for good.

Moving On

Last July, with an eye towards the postseason, the White Sox acquired Craig Kimbrel from the Cubs for second baseman Nick Madrigal and reliever Codi Heuer.  To put it mildly, it didn’t work out.  Working mostly as a setup man to Liam Hendriks, Kimbril posted a 5.09 ERA in 24 appearances with the White Sox down the stretch and then gave up 2 earned runs in 2 innings against the Astros in the ALDS.

The White Sox picked up Kimbrel’s $16M option for 2022, looking to trade him and recoup some of the capital they spent to acquire him.  Then, the lockout happened.  When spring training camps opened with Kimbrel still on the roster, things looked dire.  But, today, the White Sox announced they have traded Kimbrel to the Dodgers for outfielder A.J. Pollock.

Pollock should fill a hole in right field, though he has very little experience there.  He also brings some needed pop against RHP, with an .802 career OPS against righties.  Best of all, he saves the White Sox $3-6 million, which will likely come in handy come trade deadline.  Kimbrel, hopefully, can regain his form by moving back into the closer role with the Dodgers.

Kimbrel’s numbers in a White Sox uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 17

In 1929, uniform numbers appeared on the back of baseball jerseys for the first time, thanks to the Indians and the Yankees.  By 1937, numbers finally appeared across all uniforms, both home and away, across both major leagues.  Since that time, 81 distinct numbers have been worn by members of the White Sox, while the Cubs boast 76.

Today, we continue our look at those players, picking our favorite, if not the best, player to wear each uniform number for both Chicago teams with #17.  79 different players have donned #17 while playing in Chicago, 42 for the White Sox and 37 for the Cubs.

Mark Grace moved to his iconic #17 during his rookie campaign in 1988.  He finished second in Rookie of the Year voting while hitting .296 with 7 home runs and 57 RBIs.  In 1989, he garnered some MVP consideration as the Cubs took home a surprising NL East title.  Grace hit .314 with 13 home runs and 79 RBIs during the regular season, before hitting .647 with a 1.799 OPS during the 5 game NLCS against the Giants.

In 1990, Grace began a decade of excellence, collecting the most hits, 1,754, and doubles, 364, of any player during the decade.  He won 4 Gold Glove awards, was named to 3 All Star teams, earned down-ballot MVP support in 3 different seasons.  Following the 2000 season, he left the Cubs, finishing that portion of his career with 2201 hits, 456 doubles, 148 home runs, 1004 RBIs, and a .308 average.

As the White Sox made their run towards the World Series title in 2005, general manager Kenny Williams attempted to acquire Ken Griffey Jr. from the Reds, but was rebuked when Reds ownership decided to veto the deal.  3 years later, with the White Sox again looking to make a run at a division title, he was finally able to acquire the aging superstar at the trade deadline in exchange for pitcher Nick Masset and second baseman Danny Richar.  At the time of the trade, the White Sox held a tenuous 1.5 game lead over the Twins.  Wearing #17, Griffey, who had spent most of the previous few seasons in right field to lessen the strain on his body, moved back to center field for the White Sox, displacing the disappointing Nick Swisher.  Griffey appeared in 41 games for the White Sox, hitting a decent .260 with only 3 home runs and 18 RBI.  His most important contribution came defensively, during the tie-breaking game 163 between the White Sox and the Twins, when he gunned down Michael Cuddyer, who was trying to score on a fly out to center, preserving the shutout and helping the White Sox win the division and advance the playoffs.  In the ALDS, Griffey appeared in 3 games against the Rays, garnering only 2 hits as the White Sox fell 3 games to 1.  Following the season, the White Sox declined Griffey’s $16 million option for 2009, making him a free agent.

Special bonus shout out to outfielder Carlos May, who played with the White Sox from 1968-1976.  May, who wore #17 for his entire White Sox career, is the only player in baseball history to wear his birthday, May 17th, on his jersey.