Switching Sides Revisited

Five years ago today, the White Sox continued their selloff and pulled off the trade that many said couldn’t be done, sending Jose Quintana to the Cubs in exchange for Eloy Jimenez, Dylan Cease, Matt Rose, and Bryant Flete.  At the time, the Cubs were looking for a boost to their starting rotation as one of the strengths of their championship season the year before had turned into a question mark during the first half of 2017.  For the rebuilding White Sox, Jimenez, who was the 8th ranked prospect in baseball, and Cease, who was the 63rd, gave them nine out of the top 100 prospects.

So how did it work out, five years later?  You can say the White Sox were the runaway winners of the trade, but not for the reasons you would have thought five years ago.  After a slow start in his rookie campaign in 2019, Jimenez seemed to figure things out down the stretch and followed that up with an pandemic-abbreviated 2020 campaign that earned him the Silver Slugger.  Unfortunately, he’s played less than 75 games since, with major injuries keeping him on the shelf for large portions of the 2021 and 2022 seasons.  When he has played, he hasn’t yet been able to put together the type of production he showed in previous years.

Dylan Cease, on the other hand, has turned into the ace of the White Sox staff.  After a slow start in 2019 after making his debut in early July, Cease has improved each season.  He currently leads the American League in strikeouts and is widely considered one of, if not the biggest, snub for this year’s All Star team.

Quintana, meanwhile, spent parts of four seasons with the Cubs, going 33-23 with a 4.24 ERA.  He was decent, but not great, and the Cubs never were able to replicate their 2016 success.  In the postseason, he appeared in four games in 2017, two each in the NLDS and NLCS,

By The Numbers – 8

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 #8.  82 different players have donned #8 while playing in Chicago, 40 for the White Sox and 42 for the Cubs.

Vincent Edward “Bo” Jackson joined the White Sox as a free agent on April 3, 1991 after being released by the Royals following a catastrophic hip injury suffered in January during the NFL playoffs as a member of the Raiders.  “In making the business decision,” owner Jerry Reinsdorf said at the time, “I assume he will not play this year. If he does, it will be a big bonus.”  Jackson did spend most of 1991 on the disabled list, rehabbing the injury, but did eventually manage to make his way back to the field.  He appeared in 23 games, hitting only .225 with 3 home runs.

Diagnosed with avascular necrosis of the hip joint and having lost all of the cartilage supporting his hip, Jackson decided to undergo a hip replacement surgery, keeping him on the shelf for the entire 1992 season.  While rehabbing, Jackson promised his mother he would return to the major leagues and hit a home run for her.  Unfortunately, Jackson’s mother died before he could return, but, in his first at bat of the 1993 season, and his first with an artificial hip, he hit a home run to right field against the Yankees at Comiskey Park.  On September 27, Jackson belted a three-run home run off of the Mariners to help the White Sox clinch their first AL West Division title in a decade.  Jackson ended up appearing in 85 games for the White Sox, hitting .232 and hitting 16 home runs while driving in 45.  He appeared in 3 of the 6 ALCS games against the Blue Jays, going hitless in 10 at bats.  Following the season, he became a free agent, ending his White Sox playing career.  In 2014, he returned to the organization as an ambassador, a role he continues to play today.

A free agent following the 1986 season, Andre Dawson was looking for a new home with natural grass that would be easier on his injured knees.  With MLB owners colluding against the players by agreeing not to sign free agents, Dawson found himself without takers.  When the Cubs opened their spring training camp that spring, Dawson and his agent, Dick Moss, arrived with a signed blank contract in an attempt to get a job.  GM Dallas Green derided the stunt as a “dog and pony show,” but, after reviewing the contract, Green and Moss reached an agreement on a lowball salary of $500,000, the second-lowest salary amongst the team’s starters.  The Cubs easily got their money’s worth, as Dawson became the Cubs’ starting right fielder, and hit a major league leading 49 home runs and was named NL MVP, despite the Cubs finishing in last place.

Dawson played five more seasons with the Cubs and was one of the franchise’s most popular players during that time.  His worst individual season came in 1989, when the Cubs won the NL East title.  During the NLCS, Dawson slumped terribly, hitting .105 as the Giants beat the Cubs 4 games to 1.  Dawson’s .507 career slugging percentage with the Cubs is fourth highest in team history.

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.

By The Numbers – 16

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 #16.  65 different players have donned #16 while playing in Chicago, 24 for the White Sox, who retired the number in 1987, and 41 for the Cubs.

Aramis Ramirez switched to his familiar #16 shortly after being acquired by the Cubs from the Pirates.  Ramírez finished the 2003 season strong, appearing in 63 games down the stretch and hitting 15 home runs while helping the Cubs capture their first division title since 1989.  He managed 11 hits during the post-season, including 4 home runs and 10 RBIs and hitting the first playoff grand slam in Cubs’ history during Game 4 of the NLCS.  The following year, Ramirez became the 14th player in baseball history to hit 3 home runs in 2 different games in the same season.  While his offense remained strong, posting a .951 OPS, his defense was a bit of a liability, as he posted the lowest range factor among all third basemen.

Ramirez was elected to his first All-Star Game in 2005.  He finished the season with 31 home runs and 92 RBIs despite missing the last month of the year with a strained quadriceps femoral muscle.  While his defense continued to suffer in 2006, with his third straight season with the lowest range factor, his offense continued to carry the load.  He collected his 1000th hit in July against the Mets and ended up with 38 home runs, 119 RBIs, and an OPS of .912.  A free agent at the end of the season, he re-signed with the Cubs, scoring a 5-year, $73 million contract.

In April of ’07, Ramirez launched his 200th career home run.  His continued offensive presence helped lead the Cubs back to the post-season in 2007 and 2008, winning division titles both seasons.  Unfortunately, Ramirez, like his teammates, went cold in both series as the Cubs were swept in the NLDS each season.  In 2009, Ramirez christened the season with his 250th career home run on Opening Day against Roy Oswalt.  He followed that with #300 in July of 2011 against the White Sox.  Following that season, he declined his portion of a mutual option and became a free agent.

Julio Cruz wore #16 on the southside following his June 1983 acquisition from the Mariners, when he gave the White Sox the spark they were looking for, helping the team go on a 72-31 run to finish the season and go from 6 1/2 games back to 20 games ahead.  Cruz scored the winning run on a Harold Baines sacrifice fly against, of all teams, the Mariners on September 17, clinching the first division title in White Sox history.  Cruz hit .333 during the ALCS against the Orioles, swiping 2 bases in the 4-game series.  Heading in to the 1984 season, Cruz re-signed with the White Sox with a 6-year deal, thought to be worth between $3.6 to $4.8 million.  Unfortunately, time, and injuries, were starting to take their toll.  1984 was the best year of the deal, and Cruz saw his average drop to .222 and he stole only 14 bases, a career low to date.  Following that season, Cruz changed his number from #16 to #12.

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.

Against The Mets All Time Leaders – Through 2021

21st-CENTURY-METS_01In the past, we’ve looked at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams.  This offseason, we will take our first ever look at those leaders against all 30 clubs.  We continue today with the New York Mets.

The Mets began life in 1962, joining the National League following the abandonment of the New York market by both the Dodgers and Giants in 1957.  I’ve seen them play 16 times, all against the Cubs and including Tom Glavine’s 300th career victory, their pennant clinching victory in the 2015 NLCS, and, most recently, on my first post-pandemic visit to Wrigley Field on April 22, 2021.

Name Total
Corey Patterson 4
Aramis Ramirez 2
12 tied with 1

Hits

Name Total
Corey Patterson 10
Aramis Ramirez 10
Moises Alou 8
Mark Gruzielanek 8

Runs

Name Total
Aramis Ramirez 5
Derrek Lee 5
Corey Patterson 4
Moises Alou 4
Michael Barrett 4
Sammy Sosa 4

RBI

Name Total
Corey Patterson 10
Aramis Ramirez 7
Michael Barrett 6

Doubles

Name Total
Aramis Ramirez 4
Michael Barrett 3
Moises Alou 2
Jorge Soler 2
Derrek Lee 2
Mark Grudzielanek 2
Neifi Perez 2

Triples Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 21

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 #21.  69 different players have donned #21 while playing in Chicago, 26 for the White Sox and 43 for the Cubs.

Near the end of the spring training in 1992, Sammy Sosa, along with Ken Patterson, was acquired from the White Sox for a fading George Bell.  Wearing #21, Sosa blossomed with the Cubs, going from 8 home runs and 25 RBIs in his first season to 33 home runs and 93 RBIs in his second, becoming the first 30-30 player in Cubs history.  Sosa continued to hit for power and speed in 1994, but he also upped his batting average to .300 for the first time.  Sosa was named to his first All-Star team in 1995, on his way to 36 home runs and 119 RBIs.  In 1996, Sosa continued his success, hitting .273 with 40 home runs and 100 RBIs.  1997, however, saw a decline in Sosa, who batted just .251 and posted a paltry .300 on-base percentage while leading the league with 174 strikeouts, despite hitting 36 home runs and driving in 119 runs.

A bulked-up Sammy Sosa arrived in camp in 1998, looking to turn things around, and turn them around he did.  While the surprising Cubs were in contention for the first time in nearly a decade, Sosa put on a home run barrage of historic proportions.  In the month of June, Sosa launched 20 home runs, drove in 47, and slugged .842 while pulling himself into the home run chase with Mark McGwire.  Sosa hit his 62nd home run on September 13, passing Roger Maris, and finished the season with 66, 4 behind McGwire’s then-record 70.  Sosa replicated that performance in 1999, hitting 63 home runs, again trailing McGwire, who hit 65.  Sosa finally led the league in home runs in 2000, though with “only” 50.  He managed another season for the ages in 2001, as he hit 64 home runs, becoming the first player to hit 60 or more home runs three times, and setting career highs in runs scored, RBIs, walks, OBP, slugging percentage, and batting average.  He notched his second career home run crown in 2002, adding 49 to his ledger.

Things started to turn for Sosa in 2003, despite the Cubs driving towards their first division title since 1989.  He went on the disabled list for the first time since 1996 in May and, when he returned, he was ejected, and ultimately suspended, for using a corked bat in the June 3 game against the Devil Rays.  He finished the season with 40 home runs, his lowest total since 1997, as the Cubs famously blew a 3-1 lead in the NLCS despite being 5 outs away from the pennant in Game 6.  The following May, he landed on the disabled list again following a violent sneeze at PETCO Park.  After returning from the DL, Sosa struck out 98 times the rest of the way, while hitting .238 and posting an OPS of .749.  For the entire year, Sosa hit .253, his worst average since 1997, with only 35 home runs and 80 RBIs, his lowest total since 1994.  When the Cubs fell out of contention for the NL Central title after losing 7 of their final 9 games, Sosa was given the day off for the final game of the season.  Unfortunately, he was spotted leaving Wrigley Field before the game even started while his teammates took out their frustrations with their “leader” my smashing his boombox with their bats.  That January, with the declined performance and the growing suspicion of PED use on their minds along with the end of the 2004 season, the Cubs decided to move on, trading Sosa to the Orioles for Jerry Hairston Jr. and Mike Fontenot.

On the South Side, Todd Frazier wore #21 after being acquired from the Reds in a three-team deal prior to the 2016 season.  On July 11, Frazier placed second in the Home Run Derby, losing to Giancarlo Stanton in the final round.  Frazier finished the year with career highs in home runs, runs batted in and walks despite hitting a career low .225 batting average in 158 games.  With the White Sox throwing in the towel and entering a full-fledged rebuild in 2017, Frazier was traded to the Yankees at the deadline.

Against The Marlins All Time Leaders – Through 2021

In the past, we’ve looked at the all time leaders in both offensive and defensive categories for all 30 teams. This offseason, we will take our first ever look at those leaders against all 30 clubs. We continue today with the Miami Marlins.

The Marlins began life in 1993, joining the National League along with the Rockies.  In 2012, they rebranded as the Miami Marlins in conjunction with the opening of their new, tax payer funded stadium in the city of Miami.  I’ve seen them play 25 times, including 3 victories during their unlikely triumph in the 2003 NLCS against the Cubs and once, as the home team against the Expos, at US Cellular Field in 2004, but not since 2013.

Home Runs

Name Total
Derrek Lee 5
Sammy Sosa 3
Ryan Theriot 2
Alex Gonzalez 2
Moises Alou 2
Aramis Ramirez 2

Hits

Name Total
Derrek Lee 16
Sammy Sosa 12
Aramis Ramirez 11

Runs

Name Total
Derrek Lee 9
Sammy Sosa 9
Aramis Ramirez 5

RBI

Name Total
Derrek Lee 12
Sammy Sosa 6
Aramis Ramirez 6
Alex Gonzalez 6
Jerry Hairston Jr. 6

Doubles

Name Total
Derrek Lee 5
Sammy Sosa 3
Alex Gonzalez 3
Michael Barrett 3
Jeromy Burnitz 3

Triples Continue reading →

By The Numbers – 23

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 #23, one of the most famous and successful numbers in city history across all sports.  67 different players have donned #23 while playing in Chicago, 35 for the White Sox and 31 for the Cubs, including a familiar face for both sides of town.

Robin Ventura made his major league debut donning #23 in September of 1989, appearing in 16 games down the stretch, hitting only .178 while driving in 7 runs in 45 at bats.  A good spring in 1990 led to Ventura breaking camp with the White Sox, but he struggled both on the field and at the plate, suffering through a horrendous 0-for-41 slump while committing 25 errors over the course of the season.  He finished the year with a .249 average, 5 home runs, and 54 RBIs and placed 7th in Rookie of the Year voting and was named to the Topps All Star Rookie team.

Ventura and the White Sox moved in to the new Comiskey Park in 1991, hoping to improve on the previous year’s growth.  He improved his fielding enough to earn his first Gold Glove award and, at the plate, he set a White Sox team record for RBIs by a third baseman, finishing with an even 100.  He upped his average to .284 and hit 23 home runs.  His work was enough to garner enough MVP votes to finish in 20th place.  1992 was another good year for Ventura.  He earned his first All Star nod, going 2-2 in the AL’s victory at Jack Murphy Stadium.  He finished the year with a .282 average, 16 home runs, and 93 RBIs.  He also snagged his second consecutive Gold Glove award.  Ventura continued his successful ways in 1993, collecting his 500th hit in May and, on August 4, entering the public consciousness with an event that would come to define his entire career.  While batting against the Rangers, Ventura was hit by a pitch thrown by Nolan Ryan and charged the mound.  Ryan, 20 years Ventura’s senior, placed him in a headlock and punched him several times, starting a bench-clearing brawl that was voted the best baseball brawl of all time by SportsCenter.  After the season, he was awarded his third consecutive Gold Glove award.

The strike in 1994 saw Ventura’s streak of 90 RBI seasons and Gold Gloves come to an end.  When baseball stopped in August, Ventura was hitting .282 with 18 home runs and 78 RBIs, while posting a new career high with an .832 OPS.  When play resumed in late April 1995, Ventura struggled out of the gate, committing ten errors in the first ten games.  As the White Sox started to tear down the team that had finished the previous two seasons on top of their division, trade rumors started to follow Ventura, though nothing came to fruition.  On September 4, he became the eighth player in history to hit two grand slams in one game, and the first since Frank Robinson in 1970.  He finished the year setting career highs with a .295 average, an .882 OPS, and 26 home runs while driving in 93 runs.  Ventura had the best year of his career to date in 1996, setting White Sox team records in career home runs by a third baseman, with 142, and grand slams, with 9.  He set new career highs with 34 home runs, 105 RBIs, 2 triples, an OPS of .888, and a .974 fielding percentage at the hot corner.  He hit .287, while earning his fourth Gold Glove award.

1997 turned into a dismal year for both Ventura and the White Sox.  During a spring training game, Ventura caught his foot in the mud while sliding into home plate and suffered a broken and dislocated right ankle.  Expected to miss the entire season, he returned on July 24, collecting the game-winning hit that night, and homered in his first at-bat the next night.  With the White Sox only 3.5 games behind the Indians in the standings, a healthy Ventura might have put them over the top.  A week later, the team threw in the towel in what eventually became to be known as the White Flag Trade, sending 3 pitchers to the Giants for prospects.  “We didn’t realize Aug. 1 was the end of the season,” said an upset Ventura.  He finished the year appearing in 54 games, hitting .262 with 6 home runs and 26 RBIs.  Entering the last year of his contract in 1998, the White Sox made little attempt to sign Ventura to an extension, with owner Jerry Reinsdorf claiming his skills were “deteriorating” after his injury the year before.  With more trade rumors following him throughout the season, he finished the year with a .263 average, 21 home runs, and 91 RBIs while earning his fifth Gold Glove award.  Following the season, he became a free agent, ending his White Sox playing career.

Continue reading →