By The Numbers – 51

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 #51.  44 different players have donned #51 while playing in Chicago, 20 for the White Sox and 24 for the Cubs.

Juan Cruz, wearing #51, made his big league debut for the Cubs on August 21, 2001, against the Brewers.  He went 3–1 with a 3.22 ERA in his first 8 starts, and recorded his first two major league hits on October 2.  Cruz went 3–11 with a 3.98 ERA in 45 games in 2002, picking up his first career save.  He got off to a good start in 2003, striking out 6 consecutive Mets on Opening Day, becoming only the second Cubs reliever to achieve the feat.  Things went a bit downhill from there, finishing the year 2–7 with a 6.05 ERA while making 6 starts, despite being sent back down to Iowa in June.  He threw one scoreless inning during the NLDS against the Braves.  That would end up being his final Cub appearance, as he was traded to those same Braves the following March.

Dane Dunning was acquired by the White Sox as part of the return for Adam Eaton in 2016.  He made his major league debut in the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, going 2-0 in 7 starts with a 3.97 ERA.  He started Game 3 of the Wild Card series against the A’s, getting pulled after 2/3rds of an inning as the White Sox were eliminated.  That was his final White Sox appearance, as he was traded to the Rangers in exchange for Lance Lynn this past December.

Moving On Up

With their victory over the Tigers on Sunday, the White Sox propelled Tony LaRussa in to sole possession of second place on the all-time managerial wins list.  He had been tied with John McGraw, who managed the Giants from 1902 through 1932.  Connie Mack is still safely ensconced at the top of that list, with 3731 victories.

LaRussa earned his first victory in 1979 with the White Sox and, with stops in Oakland and St. Louis in between, he returned this year following a 10 year retirement.

By The Numbers – 55

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 #55.  30 players have donned #55 while playing in Chicago, 13 for the White Sox and 14 for the Cubs.

So maybe this is recency bias kicking in a bit, since he threw a no-hitter last month, but Carlos Rodon gets my nod as the top #55 in Chicago baseball history.  Selected with the #3 pick in the first round of the 2014 draft, Rodon made his debut in 2015 and never quite became that top of the rotation force that you would expect given his pedigree.  Then, the injuries started.  Making only 49 appearances over 4 seasons, Rodon appeared to hit his low point in 2020, when, just back off the IL, manager Rick Renteria brought him out of the bullpen for 2 high leverage situations: a last week of the season game against the Indians while battling for the division title and again in the last Wild Card game against the A’s as the White Sox fought to advance to the next round.  Neither appearance went well and after the season, Rodon was non-tendered.  However, he was brought back on a smaller deal and, on a cold Wednesday night in April, he was perfect for 8 1/3 innings, before hitting a batter and then finishing up the no-hitter.  Maybe, after 6 seasons, he’s finally ready to break through as the ace he was drafted to be?

On the north side, when one thinks of Double Nickels on the back of the uniform, one thinks of Shawn Estes.  Signed as a free agent prior to the 2003 season, Estes went 8-11 with a 5.73 ERA as the Cubs surprised pretty much everyone in winning the Central Division title.  He did not appear in the post-season and left as a free agent after the season.

All Time Team Records

In a shocking development, the 2021 baseball season got underway last night without issue or delay.  With hopefully a full 162 game schedule on the docket, 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.  Thanks to some eBaying of pocket schedules from the 80s, I was able to identify one additional game that I attended in 1988, a California Angels victory at Comiskey Park against the White Sox.

The Cubs look to contend in a weak NL Central with one final year of having the core of their World Series Championship team under contract, while the White Sox hope their offseason additions put them over the top and make them true World Series contenders.  The 2021 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 13 2 0.867
Florida Marlins 15 8 0.652
Colorado Rockies 10 6 0.625
Boston Red Sox 18 13 0.581
Toronto Blue Jays 15 11 0.577
New York Yankees 15 11 0.577
Los Angeles Angels 19 14 0.576
Cleveland Indians 28 24 0.538
Chicago Cubs 219 197 0.526
Philadelphia Phillies 10 9 0.526
Houston Astros 22 20 0.524
Chicago White Sox 306 287 0.516
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By The Numbers – 66

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 #66.  11 players have donned #66 while playing in Chicago, 9 for the White Sox and 2 for the Cubs.

Gerry Staley spent parts of 6 seasons with the White Sox, from 1956 until a June 1961 trade sent him to the A’s.  Over that time, he wore 4 different numbers, one of which was #66. His best season was 1959, as he led the league with 67 appearances and 15 saves, earning a single MVP vote as the White Sox won the pennant and went to the World Series for the first time in 40 years.

Rafael Dolis wore #66 in his one appearance for the 2011 Cubs, throwing 1 1/3 scoreless innings.  He switched to #48 for 2012 and 2013, then disappeared from the major leagues before popping back up in 2020 with the Blue Jays.

By The Numbers – 68

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 #68.  5 players have donned #71 while playing in Chicago, 6 for the White Sox and 1 for the Cubs.

Jorge Soler was originally signed by the Cubs as an amateur free agent in 2012.  Part of the so-called Core Four, the prospects meant to finally lead the Cubs to post-season glory, Soler made his major league debut on August 27, 2014, going 2 for 4 with a home run and 2 RBIs against the Reds.  He became the primary right fielder in 2015, starting 95 games and putting up a .723 OPS as the Cubs made a surprising run to the NLCS before falling to the Mets.  With Jason Heyward on board in 2016, Soler saw most of his playing time in left field, filling in for the injured Kyle Schwarber.  While he struggled during the regular season, he made the most of his World Series opportunity, hitting .400 against the Indians in his 2 appearances.  After achieving that initial goal of a World Series title, Soler was sent to the Royals for closer Wade Davis.

The pickings are slim on the south side of town for players wearing #68.  Dylan Covey wore it the most, going 6-29 over his 3 seasons with the White Sox after being acquired as a Rule 5 draft choice out of the A’s organization.  He was thankfully let go following the 2019 season.

Bringing In Reinforcements

Four years and 2 days ago, the White Sox jumpstarted their rebuild by trading Adam Eaton to the Nationals for pitchers Lucas Giolito, Dane Dunning and Reynaldo Lopez.  Yesterday, the White Sox tried to put that rebuild over the top by trading Dunning to the Rangers for Lance Lynn and signing Eaton to a one year deal to fill the hole in right field.

Lynn, who will turn 34 before Opening Day, was linked to the White Sox at the trade deadline last year and should join Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel in giving the team veteran leadership on the mound.  He has finished in the top 10 in Cy Young voting each of the last 2 seasons.  He will be a free agent following the 2021 season.  Dunning, meanwhile, made his major league debut last year, starting 7 games as he worked his way back from Tommy John surgery.  He started the decisive game 3 of the AL Wild Card series against the A’s, going only 2/3 of an inning before getting pulled as the White Sox lost in their first post-season appearance since 2008.

Eaton, 32, was a gold glove finalist in right field for the White Sox in 2015, but things went south the following year when he was a vocal critic of the front office following the Drake LaRoche debacle during spring training.  He blew out his knee in 2017 and missed most of that and the 2018 seasons.  In 2019, he was a key part in the Nationals capturing their first World Series title, putting up an OPS of .993 during the series.

Last week, the White Sox introduced their new coaching staff and the mantra coming out of that was World Series or bust.  While giving up 6 years of control for Dunning for a single year of Lynn is a steep price, he at least should push the team in the right direction.  Eaton, however, seems to be a throwback to the days of buying low and hoping for a breakout season.  With better, but more expensive, options still available, this move does not announce to the world that the White Sox are all in.

RIP MVP

Former White Sox first baseman Dick Allen, who many claim saved the franchise with his MVP performance in 1972, passed away today at the age of 78.  Allen was acquired after the 1971 season, when attendance at Comiskey Park had cratered and the team had finished 22½ games out of first place.  The addition of Allen sparked an unforeseen pennant race in 1972, with the Sox in contention for most of the season, finishing 5½ games behind the A’s in the AL West and drawing more than 1.18 million fans, more than double what they drew in 1970.

Allen only spent 3 years in Chicago, making the All Star team each time.  A broken leg cut short his 1973 campaign and, with two weeks to go in the 1974 season, Allen left the team over a feud with teammate Ron Santo.  Not knowing if Allen planned to return to baseball, the Sox sold his contract to the Braves for $5000, at which point Allen retired.  He eventually returned to the game, playing parts of 3 seasons before retiring for good in 1977, finishing his career going 2 for 5 in a double header against, of course, the White Sox.

Allen was in the news recently, as Jose Abreu joined him as one of only 4 players to win the MVP award for the White Sox.  Allen was complimentary of both Abreu and Chicago, calling his tenure with the White Sox the best time of his career.

Everything Old Is New Again

About 2 1/2 weeks ago, Rick Hahn described the ideal candidate to become the next manager of the White Sox: recent post-season experience with a championship organization.  Depending on your definition of recent, the White Sox found their man today, announcing that Tony LaRussa, who retired from the dugout after leading the Cardinals to a championship in 2011, would once again take the reins on the south side of Chicago.

LaRussa, who is third all-time with 2,728 wins, first became manager of the White Sox in 1979, under owner Bill Veeck.  After leading the team to the AL Western Division title in 1983, LaRussa was fired in June of 1986 by Ken Harrelson.  This has long been cited as the biggest sports-related regret for owner Jerry Reinsdorf.

 

LaRussa caught on with the A’s less than a month after leaving the White Sox, staying there for 10 years, winning 3 AL pennants and one World Series championship.  He then spent 16 years on the bench for the Cardinals, winning 3 NL pennants and 2 World Series championships, retiring after the final one in 2011.  Since then, he has spent time working for MLB and in the front office for the Diamondbacks, Red Sox, and Angels.

LaRussa, who will be 76 on opening day 2021, becomes the oldest manager in the major leagues and the oldest to take over a team since Jack McKeon in 2011.

The two biggest concerns, to my mind, are 1) has the move toward analytics changed the game enough in the last 9 years that he’s been left behind and 2) will the exuberant players on the White Sox roster, namely Tim Anderson, Luis Robert, and Eloy Jimenez, chafe under an older school manager who may not appreciate the bat flips and political outspokenness.  This will either end very well, with post-season success, or will bomb spectacularly.  There really will not be a middle ground.

Playoff Batting Leaders

Game 1 of the AL Wild Card Series is in the books and the White Sox look to close out the A’s this afternoon.  The NL Wild Card Series kicks off this afternoon, with the Cubs doing battle against the Marlins.  With that in mind, it’s time to take an updated look at the offensive leaders from the now 30 post-season games I have attended since 2000.  So, without further ado, we start off with:

Home Runs

Name Total
Kris Bryant 4
Javier Baez 3
Paul Konerko 3
B.J. Upton 3
Dexter Fowler 3
Enrique Hernandez 3

Hits

Name Total
Kris Bryant 11
Javier Baez 11
Dexter Fowler 10
Anthony Rizzo 10
Moises Alou 9
Jason Heyward 9

Runs

Name Total
Dexter Fowler 7
Paul Konerko 6
Daniel Murphy 6
A.J. Pierzynski 5
Kris Bryant 5
Javier Baez 5
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