By The Numbers – 39

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 #39.  77 different players have donned #39 while playing in Chicago, 31 for the White Sox and 46 for the Cubs.

First acquired in 1989, Roberto Hernandez, donning #39, made his major league debut on September 2, 1991, getting the start and going 7 innings for the victory in the White Sox win over the Royals.  He appeared in 9 games in the final month of the season, making the only 3 starts of his career, and finished the year with a 7.80 ERA.  In 1992, Hernandez split the year between Triple A and Chicago, eventually supplanting Bobby Thigpen as the team’s primary closer.  He finished the year with 12 saves and a sparkling 1.65 ERA.  Hernandez had another great year in 1993, saving 38 games in 70 appearances with a 2.29 ERA as the White Sox won their final AL West title.  During the ALCS against the Blue Jays, Hernandez threw 4 scoreless innings in 4 appearances, earning 1 save.

In the strike-shortened 1994 season, Hernandez struggled.  His ERA jumped to 4.91 and he saved only 14 games before the season ended on August 12, despite leading the league in games finished.  When baseball returned in 1995, Hernandez bounced back somewhat, once again leading the league in games finished and lowering his ERA by nearly a full run to 3.92.  1996 was a true return to form for Hernandez.  He led the league in games finished for the third straight year and lowered his ERA by 2 full runs to 1.91.  He earned his first All Star selection and, with 38 saves, finished 6th in Cy Young Award voting.  Hernandez was well on his way to another strong season in 1997, with 27 saves and a 2.44 ERA, when he was included in the infamous White Flag trade on July 31, joining Wilson Alzarez and Danny Darwin in going to the Giants for the collection of Brian Manning, Lorenzo Barcelo, Mike Caruso, Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, and Ken Vining.

On the other side of town, Andrew Chafin wore #39 for the 11 months he was a member of the Cubs.  Acquired on August 31, the trade deadline of the shortened 2020 season, Chafin pitched in 4 games over the final month, posting a 3.00 ERA and retired the only batter he faced in the Wild Card series against the Marlins.  In February, Chafin re-upped with the Cubs and became sort of a cult hero.  On June 24, he was part of a combined no-hitter against the Dodgers.  In 43 appearances for the Cubs in 2021, Chafin recorded a 2.06 ERA with 37 strikeouts in 39.1 innings of work before being traded to the A’s on July 27th.

By The Numbers – 40

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 #40.  55 different players have donned #40 while playing in Chicago, 25 for the White Sox and 30 for the Cubs.

Acquired in mid-June, along with George Frazier and Ron Hassey, from the Indians in exchange for Mel Hall, Joe Carter, Don Schulze, and Darryl Banks, Rick Sutcliffe, wearing #40, quickly became the ace of the Cubs staff, going 16-1 with a 2.69 ERA in leading the Cubs to their first division title and his first Cy Young Award.  He then homered in and won Game 1 of the NLCS, the first post-season game at Wrigley Field since the 1945 World Series, before dropping the deciding Game 5 in San Diego.  A free agent after the season, Sutcliffe signed a long term deal with the Cubs.

A hamstring injury limited him to 20 starts in 1985, while arm injuries in 1986 led him to a 5-14 record with a 4.64 ERA in 28 appearances.  He bounced back in 1987, leading the league with 18 wins in 34 starts for the last place Cubs, finishing second in the Cy Young Award voting.  He went 13-14 in 1988, but did somehow manage a steal of home plate on July 29th in a victory against the Phillies.  A resurgence in 1989 helped lead the Cubs to their second divisional title, and he made one start against the Giants in the NLCS.  Recurring arm injuries caused Sutcliffe to miss most of the 1990 and 1991 seasons, with only 24 appearances between the two years, and the Cubs let him leave as a free agent following the 1991 season.

On the other side of town, Wilson Alvarez was acquired by the White Sox, along with Scott Fletcher and Sammy Sosa, for Harold Baines and Fred Manrique on July 29, 1989, making his White Sox debut on August 11, 1991 by throwing an unlikely no hitter against the Orioles at Memorial Stadium.  He made 8 additional starts for the White Sox down the stretch, finishing the year with a 3-2 record and a respectable 3.51 ERA.  1992 saw Alvarez work mostly out of the bullpen, getting only 9 starts out of his 34 appearances.  He posted a career high 1.674 WHIP, giving up 65 walks in just over 100 innings.  This led to an unfortunate 5.20 ERA, despite a 5-3 record.  In 1993, Alvarez managed to break in to the rotation full time.  Despite leading the league with 122 walks, he finished second in the AL with an ERA of 2.95 and ended up with a 15-8 record as the White Sox won the AL West title for the first time in a decade.  He was the winning pitcher in Game 3 of the ALCS, holding the Blue Jays to a single run while throwing a complete game.

Alvarez improved in 1994, earning his first (and only) All Star nod and cutting his walk total nearly in half, helped by the player strike that ended the season in August, and he finished the year with a 12-8 record and a 3.45 ERA.  When baseball returned in 1995, Alvarez struggled to regain his groove, finishing with a losing record for the first time and an ERA of 4.32.  1996 saw a nice bounce back for Alvarez.  While his ERA was still an elevated 4.22, he tied his career high with 15 wins and set career highs for innings pitched and strikeouts.  He continued to impress in 1997, putting up a 9-8 record with a 3.03 ERA by the end of July, when, with the White Sox a mere 3 games back in the standings, he, along with Danny Darwin and Roberto Hernandez, was sent to the Giants for Brian Manning, Lorenzo Barceló, Mike Caruso, Keith Foulke, Bob Howry, and Ken Vining in what would become known as the White Flag Trade.

Two Sides Of The Same Town

cws-chiFollowing last week’s trade deadline deals, Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel became the 36th and 37th people I’ve seen play in person for both the Cubs and the White Sox.  With the first round of crosstown kicking off this afternoon at Wrigley, here’s a look at those players, in alphabetical order.

David Aardsma

After posting a decent season with the Cubs in 2006, Aardsma was traded to the White Sox for Neal Cotts.  Aardsma lasted one season with the Sox, where he was unable to duplicate his success from the year before.

Jason Bere

Drafted by the White Sox in the 36th round in 1990, Bere debuted with the big league club in 1993, finishing 2nd in Rookie of the Year voting.  After an All Star selection in 1994, injuries marred the remainder of his tenure on the South Side, which ended in 1998.  He resurfaced with the Cubs in 2001 and had a decent season, but he went 1-10 in 2002 before being let go.

Emilio Bonifacio

Bonifacio spent back-to-back partial seasons in Chicago, first for the Cubs in 2014 after signing as a free agent, where he played decently enough to be flipped at the trade deadline, along with James Russell, to the Braves for a young catching prospect by the name of Victor Caratini.  He returned to Chicago in 2015, signing with the White Sox, where he he did not do well at all, hitting .167 in 47 games before being released in August.

Welington Castillo

Debuting with the Cubs in 2010, Castillo spent time behind the plate for the Cubs until May of 2015, when, having been replaced in the starting lineup by Miguel Montero, he was flipped to the Mariners.  He returned to Chicago in 2018 after signing with the White Sox as a free agent.  On May 24th of that season, he was suspended 80 games for a violation of the PED policy.  The White Sox then cut bait following the 2019 season, shipping him off to the Rangers.

Neal Cotts

Acquired by the White Sox in the Billy Koch trade, he debuted with the team in 2003.  He was a key contributor in the bullpen during the 2005 championship season, and was the only relief pitcher to appear in all 3 rounds of the playoffs that season.  Following the 2006 season, he was traded to the Cubs for David Aardsma, and he spent the next 3 injury filled seasons on the North Side.

Scott Eyre

Joining the White Sox organization in a 1994 trade with the Rangers, he debuted with the big league team in 1997.  He split the next 4 seasons between the rotation and the bullpen, not to mention between Chicago and Charlotte, before being moved to the Blue Jays following the 2000 ALDS loss to the Mariners.  He joined the Cubs as a free agent for the 2006 season and enjoyed 2 seasons of relative success, before falling apart in 2008, when he was traded to the Phillies.

Kosuke Fukudome Continue reading →

Keeping Our Eyes On Next Year’s Prize

With a little more than 8 weeks remaining in the 2020 season, Major League Baseball released their tentative 2021 schedule yesterday.  For the first time in quite a while, the White Sox will be looking to compete for a title while the Cubs will be “retooling” after trading off all of their stars last week.  Assuming, of course, that the 2022 season goes off as planned and the end of the collective bargaining agreement doesn’t lead to a long work stoppage.  So, for one day, at least, let’s turn our attention to next summer for both teams.

The White Sox open their season at home against the Twins on March 31 for a three game tilt before heading on the road.  Nothing like a potential snowstorm to get the season off to a good start.  They face the Guardians for the first time on April 18 in Cleveland.

The interleague schedule pits the White Sox against the NL West, with trips to San Francisco, Colorado, and San Diego and home series against the Dodgers, Diamondbacks, and Rockies. The rivalry with their north side foes continues with a 2-game series at Wrigley at the beginning of May and a follow-up at Guaranteed Rate Field Memorial Day weekend.

The season ends with a 6 game road trip to Minnesota and San Diego.

On the north side, the Cubs open their season up on the road in Cincinnati, also on March 31.  They come home the following Monday to open their home slate against the Cardinals.

The interleague schedule pits the Cubs against the AL East, with trips to Baltimore, New York, and Toronto and home series against the Rays, Red Sox, and Orioles.

Of their 28 games in September/October, only 7 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 6 game homestand, facing the Phillies and the Reds.

End Of An Era

When Theo Epstein and Jed Hoyer took over baseball operations for the Cubs following the 2011 season, they started a rebuild effort that combined high draft picks with savvy trades in an effort to end the longest title drought in US professional sports.  They key to that rebuild, four prospects ranked in the Top 50 by nearly every publication prior to the 2014 season, became known as the Core Four.  Javier Baez, the 9th overall pick in the 2011 draft, Albert Almora, the 6th selection in 2012, Jorge Soler, a Cuban defector who signed a 9 year, $30 million contract in June of 2012, and Kris Bryant, the second overall pick in the 2013 draft were expected to lead the Cubs to the promised land and, in 2016, they did, each contributing to the team’s first World Series title in 108 years.

Bryant and Baez were the only two left heading into the 2021 season.  Both were traded today.

Kris Bryant is heading to the Giants, with OF Alexander Canario and RHP Caleb Killian coming back to the Cubs.  Bryant, the 2015 NL Rookie of the Year and the 2016 NL MVP, has seemingly been on the trading block for years now, ever since the Cubs won his service time grievance.  Ironically, he was the last one out the door, following yesterday’s trade of Anthony Rizzo and this afternoon’s moves with Craig Kimbrel and Javier Baez.

Canario, a top 15 prospect in the Giants’ system, showed flashes as a teenager prior to the pandemic, but has seen his strikeout rate increase as he’s gone up to higher levels of competition.  Killian, likely rated in the top 40 of the Giants system, was an 8th round pick in 2019 and has seem some success this year coming back from the pandemic.

After winning the World Series in 2016, the Cubs, with their young talent, looked to be on the verge of a dynasty.  5 years later, that dynasty is over without ever really starting, having dropped their last 4 consecutive post-season games dating back to the 2017 NLCS.  Now, 10 years after the start of the last rebuild, Jed Hoyer has to start again.

Bryant’s and Baez’s numbers in a Cubs uniform, both for games I attended and overall, were:

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By The Numbers – 50

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 #50.  63 different players have donned #50 while playing in Chicago, 25 for the White Sox and 38 for the Cubs.

John Danks was acquired by the White Sox from the Rangers for Brandon McCarthy following the 2006 season.  He broke camp with the Sox in 2007, making his major league debut on April 8 against the Twins at US Cellular Field, and finished the year with a 6-13 record and a 5.50 ERA.  2008 was a different story, as he posted quite possibly the best outing of his career in game 163, throwing 8 scoreless innings of 2 hit ball against the Twins to secure the Central Division title.  He finished the year with a career-best 3.32 ERA, a 12-9 record, and the lone White Sox victory in the ALDS against the Rays.

Danks had continued success in both 2009 and 2010, combining for a 28-22 record over the two years, with an ERA in the 3.70s both years.  2011 wasn’t quite as good, as his ERA jumped to 4.33, but the White Sox signaled their faith in Danks, signing him to a 5 year extension worth $65 million.  It turned out to be ill-advised.  Danks struggled through 9 starts in 2012 before hitting the disabled list with a mysterious shoulder injury.  When he finally underwent surgery, doctors found a torn shoulder capsule.  Very few pitchers have undergone this surgery, and even fewer have successfully returned to the same level they were before the injury.

Sadly, Danks’ recovery did not happen as anyone would have wanted, though not for a lack of effort.  He returned in 2013, making 22 starts and going 4-14 with a 4.75 ERA.  2014 was more of the same, as his ERA was 4.74, though his record improved to 11-11.  And 2015, again, saw Danks put up an ERA of 4.71 in 30 starts.  In 2016, Danks, in the final season of his contract and due $14.25 million, went 0-4 with a 7.25 ERA in April.  With the surprising White Sox in first place after 1 month and with Danks accounting for half of the team’s losses, being an innings eater was no longer good enough.  He was designated for assignment on May 3, ending his White Sox career.

On the north side of town, Les Lancaster donned #50 for 5 seasons with the Cubs, making his debut on April 7, 1987 against the Cardinals.  His best season came in 1989, when he went 4-2 with a 1.36 ERA in 42 games as the surprising Cubs took home their second NL East title.  He threw 6 innings in the NLCS against the Giants, winning game 2 and losing game 3.  He was released by the Cubs at the end of spring training in 1992.

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 – 52

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 #52.  40 players have donned #52 while playing in Chicago, 20 each for the White Sox and the Cubs.

Acquired at the trade deadline in 2004 from the Yankees, Jose Contreras joined the White Sox rotation for the remainder of the season, pitching inconsistently and finishing with a 5-4 record and a 5.30 ERA in 13 starts.  He got off to a slow start in 2005, entering the All Star break with a 4-3 record, but an improved arm angle allowed Contreras to catch fire in the second half, becoming one of the most dominating pitchers in the league.  He finished the year with a 15-7 record with a 3.61 ERA, as the White Sox won their first AL Central title in 5 years, and earned the nod in Game 1 of the ALDS, the ALCS, and the World Series.

He started 2006 9-0, breaking the team record for consecutive regular season victories previously held by LaMarr Hoyt and Wilson Alvarez.  After the All Star break, Contreras started to come back down to Earth, due in part to the extra workload from the previous post-season.  The rest of his White Sox career was as inconsistent as it began, until his 2009 trade to the Rockies.

On the north side of town, Jim Bullinger wore #52 with pride from 1992-1996.  Drafted as a shortstop in 1986, he was converted to a pitcher full time in 1990.  2 years later, he made his debut with the Cubs in a forgettable appearance against the Giants.  His best season was the strike-shortened 1994, when he went 6-2 with a 3.60 ERA as he split time between the rotation and the bullpen.  He left as a free agent following the 1996 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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Locked Out Of The 10,000 Step Club

Things were a lot different a year ago, as I was finishing up my fifth year using a Fitbit.  I had just added 45 new 10,000 step days, my 3rd best year to date, and, with upcoming trips to Boston and California already on the docket, things were looking good to add a good number more and add some new tales to this list of my top 25 step days.  Then, the corona virus happened and the world basically shut down.  I worked from home for the remainder of the year, which gave me a lot more free time, but also significantly cut down on my daily step totals.  All told, I managed only 3 10,000 step days for the just completed sixth year of Fitbit usage, which came to an end last week.  Just for giggles, here’s a duplication of last year’s top 25 step days, since nothing has changed over the past year.

1: 4/14/2018 – 27,470 steps

My best single day total is from my April 2017 trip to New York to see Angelina.  The day’s excursions included trips to the 9/11 Memorial & Museum, the Museum of the City of New York, Central Park, the Guggenheim museum, and the Empire State Building.

2: 7/21/2018 – 27,278 steps

My July 2017 trip to Virginia, to hike up Catawba Mountain to McAfee Knob with Jeff and Val, fell just short of the top spot.

3: 6/6/2013 – 24,988 steps

2013’s trip to Disney World, which spent 5 years as my single day best, included excursions to both Epcot Center and the Magic Kingdom, and yes, falling 12 steps short of 25,000 still irks me.

4: 6/3/2019 – 24,665 steps

The first full day of 2019’s summer trip to Washington DC spent most of the day at the Smithsonian Zoo.

5: 8/8/2019 – 23,866 steps

Late in the summer of 2019, I spent two weeks in San Francisco for a work trip.   On my last full day, I went out after work, walking to Pier 39 and then back the other direction to Oracle Park to see the Giants take on the Phillies.  My totals would have been even higher, but I was dead tired and took an Uber back to the hotel after the game.

6: 3/18/2018 – 23,780 steps

My first day in Las Vegas for the 2017 IBM Think conference, the day’s totals include gallivanting around town, including a late night trip up to Caesar’s Palace from the MGM Grand to see Absinthe.

7: 10/24/2018 – 23,362 steps

My October 2018 trip to Boston to see Angelina for our birthday gives us our next entry.  While she was in class, I took tours of Fenway Park and Harvard, before meeting up with her for a late lunch and then heading to the airport for the trip home.

8: 3/22/2016 – 22,493 steps

My one-time second highest day took place during the ill-fated trip to Disney World in March of 2016.  The day’s excursion started at Hollywood Studios before heading over to Epcot Center with Jeff and Val.

9: 7/27/2013 – 20,592 steps

Still my highest total at home in the state of Illinois, the next entry comes thanks to the 2013 BTN 5K and a, for lack of a better word, misunderstanding about where I should be picked up after the race.

10: 12/29/2018 – 20,374 steps

We wrap up the top 10 with 2018’s trip to California and the trip to Disneyland to see Danny perform with the Lincoln-Way Marching Band.

11: 8/5/2017 – 20,218 steps

The next entry came in August of 2017 on the first day of my trip to Boston with Danny and Michael.  After landing in town, we traipsed to the Science Museum, a breakfast joint, our hotel, and, finally, Fenway Park.

12: 7/14/2017 – 20,208 steps

Down to #12 is my 2017 trip to Disney World, a one day journey with Angelina to celebrate her high school graduation. Continue reading →