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.

Judgment Day

A strange day yesterday as Yermin Mercedes seemingly announced his retirement from baseball on Instagram, scrubbing his feed of any White Sox related content in the process.  Mercedes posted an Instagram story earlier in the day, suggesting he was mulling over retirement, and then followed that up with a post last night, after being lifted for a pinch hitter in the sixth inning of Triple A Charlotte’s game, saying “it’s over” with a caption saying that he is walking away from baseball for a while.

The White Sox followed up with a statement saying they were aware of the post but had heard nothing from Mercedes directly and that he was still a part of the active roster in Charlotte.  In his post-game interview following last night’s loss to the Twins, manager Tony LaRussa said he had just heard about the drama and planned to reach out to Mercedes, who, he believes, still has a future in the big leagues.

After starting the season with eight consecutive hits and finishing April with a .415 average and a 1.113 OPS, Mercedes fell off considerably in May and June, posting a .196 average and a .536 OPS, prompting his demotion back to Charlotte.  With the emergence of Gavin Sheets and Jake Burger and the upcoming return of Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert from the injured list, there does not appear to be a path back to the major leagues, at lest in Chicago, for Mercedes.  That frustration may have lead to this seemingly rash decision.  I expect we will hear more over the days and weeks to come.

2021 All Star Break Standings

For the first time in two years, the American League takes on the National League in the Midsummer Classic.  As the baseball world turns its sights to AtlantaColorado for tonight’s All Star Game, it’s time to take a look at the team records for the 32 games I attended in the first half of the baseball season, a pretty healthy amount after the pandemic-related strangeness that was 2020.

2021 Team Records
Team Name Won Loss Winning Pctg
Tampa Bay Rays 1 0 1.000
Philadelphia Phillies 1 0 1.000
Washington Nationals 1 0 1.000
Chicago Cubs 4 2 0.667
Seattle Mariners 2 1 0.667
Chicago White Sox 16 10 0.615
Kansas City Royals 3 3 0.500
Cleveland Indians 2 2 0.500
St. Louis Cardinals 1 1 0.500
Detroit Tigers 1 1 0.500
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By The Numbers – 47

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 #47.  73 players have donned #47 while playing in Chicago, 38 for the White Sox and 35 for the Cubs.

The somewhat unfortunately named Rusty Kuntz spent parts of 5 seasons with the White Sox, wearing #47 the entire time.  He was selected by the White Sox in the 11th round of the 1977 draft and made his major league debut 2 years later as a September call-up in 1979, starting in left field and going 0-3 in a 4-3 victory over the Tigers en route to 5 appearances and an anemic .091 average.  Kuntz split time between Triple A Iowa and Chicago in 1980, with slightly better results, before spending the entire strike-shortened 1981 season with the White Sox, appearing in 67 games and batting .255 in a mere 55 at bats.  Both 1982 and 1983 saw Kuntz back splitting time between Triple A and Chicago, until he was finally traded to the Twins for a minor leaguer.

Catcher Miguel Montero wore #47 during his 2 1/2 years on the North side.  He had a few highlights, including his Game One grand slam in the 2016 NLCS against the Dodgers to give the Cubs the win.  His tenure with the Cubs came to an abrupt end the following June when, after the Nationals stole 7 bases in one game to leave him at 0-31 at nabbing would-be base stealers for the season, he placed the blame on the pitching staff.  The next day, he was designated for assignment.

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.

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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