What Went Wrong

After winning a Wild Card slot in 2020 and running away with the Central Division title in 2021, the White Sox looked like an easy lock to make a third straight post-season appearance this October.  Unfortunately, something (or somethings) went wrong along the way and after a long season where nothing ever seemed to click, the team was officially eliminated on Sunday after dropping six straight against the Guardians and the Tigers.  So where did things fall apart?  Let’s take a deeper look.

Injuries

After injuries rocked the White Sox in 2021, they revamped their strength and conditioning staff, hoping a new program would help stem the tide.  Unfortunately, the lockout prevented the new staff from working with the players, leaving them to their own devices.  GM Rick Hahn said in June that, between the lockout and the shortened spring training, the new program “got stymied a little bit this offseason” and that it would “be difficult in-season to perhaps change the results over the next few weeks and months in terms of health.”  Boy, was he not kidding.

Things started at the end of spring training, when lefty reliever Garrett Crochet went down for the year with an elbow injury requiring Tommy John surgery.  Two days later, starter Lance Lynn left his final spring tune-up with a bum knee, putting him on the shelf until the middle of June.  Finally, before the White Sox arrived in Detroit for their season opener, Yoan Moncada suffered an oblique strain that knocked him out for a month and may have sunk his entire season.  Relief pitcher Joe Kelly, signed during the offseason, also started the season on the IL rehabbing an injury from the year before and wasn’t activated until May.

Outfielder AJ Pollock left the second game of the year with a hamstring injury, missing over three weeks.  The same day, Lucas Giolito was placed on the IL with an abdominal strain, keeping him out for nearly two weeks.  The day he was activated, Eloy Jimenez was placed on the IL with a strained hamstring suffered that day against the Twins.  It would be two and a half months before he returned.  This was all before the calendar turned to May!

Things never let up.  Andrew Vaughn missed time in May after getting hit in the hand by a pitch.  Aaron Bummer suffered a right knee strain that kept him out for two weeks.  Lucas Giolito and Luis Robert both missed time in May thanks to bouts with COVID.  Joe Kelly went back on the IL with a hamstring strain.  Tim Anderson missed three weeks with a groin strain, the same injury that kept Vince Velasquez for two weeks.

Aaron Bummer suffered another injury in mid-June which kept him out until September.  Yasmani Grandal was felled with lower back spasms for six weeks.  A right forearm strain put Liam Hendriks on the shelf for nearly three weeks.  A strained hamstring took down Yoan Moncada for nearly three weeks.  Adam Engel fell victim to the same injury for two weeks.  On July 6th, Jake Burger went down with a bruised hand following a hit by pitch, Vince Velasquez was felled by a blister on his right index finger, and Danny Mendick was lost for the year with a torn ACL.  We just now are getting to the All-Star break.  Shall I keep going?

Luis Robert was shut down with blurred vision.  A lower back strain put Reynaldo Lopez on the shelf.  A torn finger ligament knocked out Tim Anderson for the remainder of the year on August 9th.  Another lower back strain took down Leury Garcia.  A bum knee sent Michael Kopech to the IL, while another hamstring strain stopped Yoan Moncada for the third time this year.  Kopech was felled again with a shoulder strain on September 7th.  Finally, after suffering with a wrist injury for nearly a month and a half, Luis Robert was shut down and placed on the IL on Saturday with the 2022 title all but wrapped up for the Guardians.

Aside from the sheer number of injuries, this meant that the White Sox were very rarely at anything approaching full strength.  Some piece of the puzzle was always missing, and usually two or three pieces.  The bullpen injuries led to some early overwork for guys like Kendall Graveman, which impacted his performance in the second half.  Because of this, the White Sox never seemed to gel or to be able to string wins together to pull ahead.

Lack of Power

Continue reading →

Looking Ahead To 2023

With about six weeks remaining in the 2022 season, Major League Baseball released their tentative 2023 schedule on Wednesday.  For the first time in years, MLB is moving to a balanced schedule, playing 52 games against division opponents, 64 games against non-division opponents in the same league, and, for the first time, 46 interleague games, with series against every team in the opposite league.  With the White Sox looking to bounce back after what has been a disappointing 2022 campaign to date and the Cubs looking to take the next step forward in their rebuild, the 2023 season looks to be an exciting time in the city of Chicago.  So, for one day, at least, let’s turn our attention to next summer for both teams.

The White Sox open their season on the road in Houston on March 30 for a four-game series against the Astros before returning home to face the Giants in their home opener on April 3.

Aside from the Giants, the new interleague schedule sees the Phillies, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers, Diamondbacks, and Padres travelling to Chicago, while the White Sox will go on the road to face the Pirates, Reds, Dodgers, Braves, Mets, Rockies, and Nationals. The rivalry with their north side foes continues with a two-game series at Guaranteed Rate Field in late July followed by a mid-August tilt at Wrigley.

After facing AL Central foes only for the first half of September, the season ends with a six-game homestand against the Diamondbacks and the Padres.

On the north side, the Cubs also open their season on March 30, facing the Brewers at home.  After a 3-game series, they head out on the road.

The interleague schedule pits the Cubs against the Rangers, Mariners, Orioles, Guardians, Red Sox, and Royals at Wrigley, while they go on the road to face the A’s, Twins, Angels, Yankees, Blue Jays, and Tigers.

Of their 28 games in September/October, only nine are against their NL Central rivals, though, with the Cubs not likely to contend, that shouldn’t make much of a difference.  They end the year with a six-game road trip against the Braves and Brewers.

If You Build It, They Won’t Come

One day before the Cubs and the Reds are set to battle in the second Field of Dreams game in Dyersville, Iowa, word broke that MLB will not be returning to the site in 2023.  Frank Thomas, the former White Sox star who is part of the new ownership group that owns and operates the site, said that construction plans at the movie site will prevent MLB from returning next year.

Thomas and his partners, who bought the site after the inaugural game last year, plan to put in a youth baseball and softball complex that they hope will begin construction later this year.  The construction work will impact the site’s accessibility.

Will a game return there in 2024?  Too soon to tell, though breaking the inertia of making this an annual tradition will be a hurdle that will need to be jumped.

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 →

Throwback Thursday – Team Records Of The 1990s

Last week, we took a trip in the wayback machine to see all of the games that I attended during the 1980s.  This week, we turn our attention to the 1990s to see what my view of the baseball world looked like.

I’ve been able to identify 32 games I attended during the 90s, starting with a late April outing during the final season at Comiskey Park in 1990 through a September 2000 game at Wrigley Field, including my first visits to stadiums outside of Chicago starting with a July 1993 visit to County Stadium in Milwaukee.  All told, I saw games at eight different ballparks throughout the decade.

1990s Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Houston Astros 1 0 1.000
California Angels 1 0 1.000
Cincinnati Reds 1 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 1 0 1.000
Florida Marlins 1 0 1.000
New York Yankees 1 0 1.000
San Francisco Giants 1 0 1.000
Detroit Tigers 3 1 0.750
Oakland Athletics 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 12 10 0.545
Chicago Cubs 6 5 0.545
Kansas City Royals Continue reading →

The Time Of Your Life

After a disastrous 2021 that saw his reunion with the Cubs end with his August release followed by an even worse stint with the Padres, Jake Arrieta called it a career earlier this week.  Arrieta, 36, debuted with the Orioles in 2010.  He was acquired by the Cubs in July of 2013, in what turned out to be one of the best trades in team history, in a trade for Scott Feldman and Steve Clevenger.  He left the Cubs as a free agent after the 2017 season and signed with the Phillies on a 4-year deal.

After being acquired by the Cubs, Arrieta was sent to Triple A, where he made seven starts for Iowa before being recalled to the rebuilding big league club, showing vast improvement over the pitcher he was with the Orioles.  He turned into an ace for the Cubs in 2015, winning the NL Cy Young Award, and was a key contributor to their World Series championship in 2016.  He threw two no-hitters for the team, one in 2015 against the Dodgers and the second in 2016 against the Reds.  Injuries after the 2017 season left him a shell of his former self, but the Cubs rolled the dice for 2021, hoping for a miracle.  Instead, they got a rude awakening, as Arrieta set the team record for highest ERA for a pitcher in a season with at least 20 starts.  He followed up his last game, where he gave up 8 hits and 7 runs in the first inning, with a post-game tirade where he berated a reporter for wearing a mask, which he was required to do by city regulation, during a Zoom press conference.

For a brief period of time during the 2015 and 2016 seasons, Jake Arrieta was the best pitcher in baseball.  He was a key contributor to the 2016 World Series championship, earning him a place in Cubs lore for years to come.  His horrid performance in 2021, both on the field and as a functioning member of society, did little to hurt that standing.  I’m sure later this year or next year, there will be a Jake Arrieta Day at Wrigley Field, where he will rightly be feted as he throws out a first pitch and sings during the 7th inning stretch.

All Time Team Records

After a long lockout and an abbreviated spring training, the 2022 baseball season finally gets underway today, so, to celebrate, it is time once again to look at the all-time team records for games that I have identified as having attended dating back to 1984.  Last year, I tied 2004 for my 5th highest game total of all time and managed to see 25 out of the 30 teams, so there should be some nice changes.  Thanks to a name change, the all-time record of the Cleveland Indians become static moving forward, forever stuck at 4 games over .500.

The White Sox look to once again lead an improving AL Central and move past the ALDS in the post-season, while the Cubs are neither contending nor rebuilding.  The 2022 season should be an interesting one on both sides of town, even more interesting if we are able to see it in person.

All-Time Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
California Angels 2 0 1.000
Arizona Diamondbacks 14 2 0.875
Florida Marlins 15 8 0.652
Colorado Rockies 10 6 0.625
New York Yankees 17 11 0.607
Boston Red Sox 19 13 0.594
Los Angeles Angels 20 14 0.588
Toronto Blue Jays 15 11 0.577
Philadelphia Phillies 11 9 0.550
Washington Nationals 7 6 0.538
Cleveland Indians 31 27 0.534
Chicago White Sox 335 307 0.522
Chicago Cubs 224 206 0.521
Houston Astros 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.

Against The Reds All Time Leaders – Through 2021

redsIn 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 Cincinnati Reds.

The Reds began life in 1882 as a charter member of the American Association, joining the National League in 1890.  I’ve seen them play 40 times against 5 different teams at 4 separate stadiums.

Home Runs

Name Total
Derrek Lee 6
Sammy Sosa 3
Aramis Ramirez 3

Hits

Name Total
Aramis Ramirez 26
Derrek Lee 25
Ryan Theriot 17

Runs

Name Total
Derrek Lee 20
Aramis Ramirez 15
Sammy Sosa 10

RBI

Name Total
Derrek Lee 20
Aramis Ramirez 16
Todd Walker 11

Doubles

Name Total
Todd Walker 5
Derrek Lee 4
Aramis Ramirez 4
Sammy Sosa 4
Geovany Soto 4
Michael Barrett 4
Alfonso Soriano 4

Triples Continue reading →

A Disastrous Outcome

For the first time since 1995, a work stoppage will wipe the scheduled Opening Day off the schedule for Major League Baseball.  Weeks after saying that missed regular season games would be “a disastrous outcome.” Commissioner Rob Manfred, with a telling smile on his face, announced he was cancelling the first two series of the regular season after the MLBPA (rightfully) turned down the so-called final offer from the owners yesterday afternoon.  With talks breaking down, the earliest the two sides will get back together is tomorrow.

Locally, both teams would lose two series against Central division foes.  The White Sox would miss out on the opening series against the Twins at Guaranteed Rate Field and a trip to Kansas City to face the Royals.  The Cubs would avoid opening the season at Great American Ballpark against the Reds and their home opening series versus the Cardinals at Wrigley Field.  Of course, there has been no mention yet of refunds for fans who bought tickets to those cancelled games.

Who knows what will happen at this point.  The owners won’t see any real financial pressure to start the season until late April, when they will have to start returning money to their television partners for missed games.  As we saw in 2020, when the pandemic shut down the sport for months on end, there are plenty of owners who would prefer to play the fewest number of games they can get away with and still make all of their money.  Of course, they could just lift the lockout and continue negotiating while the season played out, but that is only something mature adults might do.