By John Ruberry

Four months ago in this space I wrote this entry: Horrible season for White Sox may portend bright future.

Okay, the situation has improved somewhat since May, when the South Siders were on pace to lose a club-record 117 games, which would be just short of the modern day record for futility, 120 losses, which was well, uh, achieved I guess, by the 1962 New York Mets.

With thirteen games left in the 2018 season, the White Sox need just four wins to avoid the landmark millstone of 100 losses. The Sox haven’t reached a triple digit “L” season since 1970.

Two weeks ago I was in attendance at Guaranteed Rate Field on Hawk Day, which honored the retirement of longtime White Sox television broadcaster Ken “Hawk” Harrelson, whose best seasons as a player were with the Boston Red Sox, the South Siders’ opponents that day. The Red Sox are enjoying a stupendous 2018, they’ve already collected 102 wins. But the team Harrelson calls, this is one of his “Hawkisms,” the Carmines, were vulnerable when they visited Chicago, as they were enduring a rash of injuries among its pitching staff, including Chris Sale, who was traded by the White Sox to Boston in 2016 for several prospects, including Michael Kopech.

Kopech jerseys, number 34–Walter Payton’s retired number with the Chicago Bears–were prominently displayed in all of the Guaranteed Rate Field gift shops.

The White Sox split the four game season with the Red Sox; the game I attended was an 8-0 winner for Chicago. It was the South Siders’ sixth straight series without losing one of those series. Not only was the future bright for the White Sox that day–so was the present.

The White Sox are obviously a better team since I wrote my spring Da Tech Guy post. But injuries have plagued the team. Nate Jones, their closer, suffered what was thought to be a season ending forearm injury. But he was back in the bullpen on Friday, picking up the save as the White Sox topped the Baltimore Orioles. The Orioles, by the way, have already lost 106 games. Wellington Castillo, a veteran catcher, was signed as a free agent last winter, so he could mentor Chicago’s young pitching staff. But around the time of the Jones injury, Castillo was suspended for 80 games for violating Major League Baseball’s performance enhancing drug policy. And in July, for the second time this season, right fielder Avisail Garcia, was placed on the disabled list. As in the came with Jones, both players recently returned to the roster.

First baseman Jose Abreu brought some surprising good news to the Pale Hose as he became the first team member to be elected to the All Star Game as a starter since Frank Thomas, who is now a member of the Baseball Hall of Fame, did so twenty-two years ago.

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But the cruelest injury came this month. The top prospect in the White Sox farm system was right-handed pitcher Michael Kopech. His first big league three starts went well for him, including one against Boston on August 31. But two of those ended up being no-decisions as Kopech was pulled after long rain delays. In his final start, Kopech was hammered by the Detroit Tigers. A few days later it was announced that Kopech will likely undergo Tommy John surgery, missing the remainder of this season and all of the 2019 campaign.

So the present isn’t looking very good now.

But Kopech should be back by 2020, which has been the season White Sox fans have been looking towards as when the team makes its return to prominence. By then outfielder Eloy Jimenez, one of the prospects traded by the Chicago Cubs for another White Sox starter, is expected to be in his second season on the South Side.

Blogger with Carlton Fisk statue at Guaranteed Rate Field this month

Jimenez batted .337 in the minors this season.

On the quirky side, the White Sox have a Hamilton and Burr in the bullpen. That’s right, Ian Hamilton and Ryan Burr.

No other MLB team can match that pitchers duel.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

By John Ruberry

“Baseball is a lot like life. It’s a day-to-day existence, full of ups and downs. You make the most of your opportunities in baseball as you do in life.”
Longtime Detroit Tigers broadcaster Ernie Harwell.

For the 2018 Chicago White Sox, so far there have been a lot of downs. The South Siders, at 12-30, have the worst record in baseball. If their current pace continues, the Sox will lose 117 games and end up just a few games ahead of the most hapless teams since MLB expanded its schedule to 162 games, the 2003 Detroit Tigers and the 1962 New York Mets.

Guaranteed Rate Field, home of the White Sox, has been anything but sweet for them. Their record is a pitiful 5-16 there so far this season.. On a cold afternoon in April, just 974 fans were in attendance as the host dropped a game against the Tampa Bay Rays. It was at home when the team’s sole 2017 all star, right fielder Avisail Garcia, suffered a hamstring industry which placed him on the disabled list. Just two nights ago left fielder Nicky Delmonico was put on the DL after his right hand was broken after getting hit by a pitch. And it was on the South Side last month when reliever Danny Farquhar collapsed in the dugout when he suffered a severe brain aneurysm, which knocked him out for the season.

On the upside, the team slogan for 2018 is “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit,” a reference to manager Ricky Renteria, a patient man–that’s the type of skipper the Sox need–Ricky Renteria. While plagued by some bad baserunning miscues, the White Sox aren’t infected by laziness. It’s just that they don’t have very many good players. First baseman and designated hitter Jose Abreu is the only South Sider batting over 300. MSN Sports listed the best player so far this season for each team, for the Sox they chose right hand starter Reynaldo López, who coincidentally starts at home this afternoon against the Texas Rangers. His ERA is a 3.50, but his record is 0-3 with 46 innings under his belt, which led its writer Greg Papke to opine that it “shows how abject the team is that he has failed to win a game despite those solid numbers.”

Team statistics betray the awful truth. The White Sox rank next to last in Major League Baseball in ERA and runs scored and they’re at the bottom in WHIP, that is, walks plus hits per inning pitched.

“Ricky’s boys don’t quit, as the Sox marketing plan insists,” the Chicago Tribune’s Paul Sullivan remarked last week, “but neither do they score nor pitch.” The White Sox were expected to perform poorly this year, but not this badly. Last season they lost 95 games, but they ended last September one game over .500.

Back to the good news:: The White Sox are only nine games out of first place, but they play in MLB’s worst division, the American League Central, which the Cleveland Indians, at 22-22, leads. And the Sox are only a half-game behind the team ahead of them in the Central standings, the Kansas City Royals, who obviously are also enduring a horrible 2018.

But help is on the way. Last summer the White Sox traded their ace, Chris Sale, to the Boston Red Sox for several prospects, including Yoan Mocada, who is their starting second baseman this season, and hard throwing starter Michael Kopech, who is currently pitching in AAA and is expected to join the Sox later this season. Also last summer the White Sox traded another starter, Jose Quintana, to the Chicago Cubs for two of that organization’s top prospects, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Crease.

Earlier this decade the Houston Astros, who the White Sox swept in the 2005 World Series, went through a similar rebuilding process. Now they are the reigning World Series champions. In 2011 the Astros lost 106 games, in 2012 they dropped 107 games, and the following season 111 games.

Then the upswing began.

UPDATE 7:20pm EDT: My post must have been good luck for the White Sox. The heretofore hard luck López pitched eight shutout innings this afternoon against the Rangers while giving up only two hits. His record is now I-3.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Blogger at the home of a Forgotten Man

By John Ruberry

Donald J. Trump’s presidential honeymoon with the media lasted sixteen minutes, which was, not coincidentally, the length of his inauguration address.

Since then, the media, with a few exceptions, has been relentlessly attacking the president, and by media, I’ll use the definition Rush Limbaugh gave this morning to Chris Wallace on Fox News Sunday, which is ABC, CBS, NBC, the New York Times, the Washington Post and USA Today.

I’ll add one more–a big one, CNN, sometimes called the Clinton News Network.

The media is striking back with an assault on the presidency not seen since the height of the Watergate scandal.

And Donald Trump is fighting them–and the media can’t ascertain why much of the public, their public, is siding with the president.

Because conservatives don’t like cheaters.

Among the damning revelations from the John Podesta emails hacked by WikiLeaks was clear evidence of collusion by some of these allegedly neutral outlets during the 2016 presidential campaign, most notoriously when CNN analyst Donna Brazile twice supplied a planned question to the Hillary Clinton campaign prior to a CNN-hosted debate with Bernie Sanders.

Viewers of those two CNN debates were cheated by CNN, which employed Brazile, as they rightly expected the Clinton-Sanders matchups to be, let’s use a popular term from the time when several Chicago White Sox players conspired to throw the 1919 World Series, “on the square.” Sure, Brazile, was fired, but only after she was caught the second time feeding a debate question to the Clinton machine. That says a lot. Oh, where did Brazile learn of these questions? Did they come from a low-level CNN staffer?

Liberals, with the possible exception of the most ardent members of the growing socialist wing of the Democratic Party, dismissed Brazile’s cheating as just the way the game is played, which is not how White Sox fans greeted news of the 1919 fix broke a year later.

Before there was fake news there was a fake World Series.

Here is my conservative-or-liberal litmus test: If you were angry–or still are angry–about media collusion with the Democratic Party during the 2016 campaign, they you are a conservative. If you are not, they you’re a liberal. It’s that easy.

Which explains why the media, again using the definition I gave earlier, is astounded that Trump not only attacks them millions of Americans are cheering him on.

After dutifully reporting on media collusion immediately after it was revealed, the media promptly ignored the scandal–their scandal–which is not the case with Russian interference, and yes, alleged hacking of the election by Russia of the presidential election, whatever that entails. It probably entails nothing. WikiLeaks’ founder, Julian Assange, repeatedly insists that Russia was not the source of the hacked Podesta emails.

Okay, you skeptics out there, you are probably thinking to yourselves that I am citing only two examples of CNN collusion, and that done by an analyst, not a reporter.

Still still for a moment. CNN’s Wolf Blitzer and Jake Tapper, both of them anchors, the latter is the network’s Washington correspondent, were caught colluding by WikiLeaks. Other colluders captured in the WikiLeaks net were the New York Times and CNBC’s John Harwood, the Washington Post’s Dana Milbank, Glenn Thrush, then of Politico and now of the New York Times, and Brent Budowsky of The Hill.

When Trump said on the stump “the system is rigged,” the colluders proved him right.

The Forgotten Man and the Forgotten Woman, that is, the people who play by the rules and try to make an honest living under increasingly daunting odds, elected Trump, despite the rigging.

John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

And the cheating media still can’t figure out why most Americans despise them.

You Democratic cynics are probably still thinking, “Everyone does it.” No they don’t. Very few media outlets are conservative ones, so the opportunity simply isn’t there for Republicans to collude. The only instance of GOP collusion in a presidential campaign I can recall is George Will’s vague self-described “inappropriate” role in the 1980 Debategate micro-scandal.

John Ruberry regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Ruberry Black Sox
Ruberry in June with man in 1919 White Sox uniform

By John Ruberry

As this decade winds down you can look for many 100th anniversary articles. They’ll be a huge uptick of them next year to mark the centennial of America’s entry into World War I, followed by more on the armistice that concluded “the war to end all wars” in 1918. The execution of the czar and his family, as well as the fall of the Houses of Hohenzollern and Habsburg also occurred that year, events all directly related to World War I.

In 2019 baseball fans will mark 100 years since the Black Sox Scandal, when eight Chicago White Sox players conspired with gamblers to throw, that is, purposely lose the 1919 World Series.

“It never occurred to me that one man could start to play with the faith of fifty million people — with the single-mindedness of a burglar blowing a safe,” F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Nick Carraway remarked about the scandal in The Great Gatsby.

That one man, although given a fictionalized name in Gatbsy, was Arnold Rothstein, the mastermind of the scandal, although one of the few things that historians agree upon is that its genesis came from Charles “Chick” Gandil, the first baseman for the 1919 South Siders.

What does the First World War have to do with Major League Baseball’s most notorious scandal. Plenty. In his book The Betrayal: The 1919 World Series and the Birth of Modern Baseball, Charles Fountain looks back at “the war to end all wars” and goes back much further.

Comiskey statue, US Cellular Field
Comiskey statue, US
Cellular Field

The most famous member of the Black Sox of course was the illiterate–but, as Fountain explains, in no way dumb, left fielder Shoeless Joe Jackson. During the Great War Jackson was one of the baseball players who avoided military service by joining a defense industry factory baseball team where he made perhaps the same, if not more money than he did playing for owner Charles Comiskey’s White Sox. In recreating the setting of early 20th-century baseball, Fountain, a Northeastern University journalism professor, shows that there was plenty of money “out there” for players, as a third circuit, the Federal League, proved in 1914 and 1915 by luring players from the established National and American leagues with more lucrative contracts.

Another way to collect extra cash was to throw games, and Fountain spends an entire chapter on the now largely forgotten Hal Chase, a talented first baseman who was the first homegrown star of the New York Yankees, whom he dubs “the Prince of Fixers.”

There was more gambling cash involved in baseball than ever during World War I, as President Woodrow Wilson’s “work or fight” labor policy inadvertently led to the closing of most horse racing tracks for the duration of the conflict. Money for wagering wasn’t just going to idly sit in gamblers’ wallets until the war ended. While some minor baseball leagues suspended play during the war, the big leagues, despite shortened seasons in 1918 and 1919, were still in business. And so were the gamblers. The war, and Wilson, upset the economic balance of the underworld.

After the Cincinnati Reds won the World Series, or after the South Siders lost it, and despite an investigation by Comiskey that seemed to suggest some White Sox players weren’t playing, as how it was said back then, on-the-square, it would take an unrelated gambling incident for the scandal to break wide open in the final week of the 1920 season, as the White Sox were in a heated pennant race that they would lose to the Cleveland Indians. The fixers almost got away with it. As the eight Black Sox players were exposed, Fountain details the playing out of a longstanding feud between Comiskey and American League president Ban Johnson, one that nearly put the junior circuit out of business with the creation of a new 12-team National League. Of course the two-league majors survived, ruled by a man seemingly removed from the Old Testament, federal Judge Kennesaw Mountain Landis.

John "Lee" Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven
John “Lee” Ruberry of the Magnificent Seven

As White Sox left the ranks of baseball’s elite in 1920, modern baseball, the post-dead ball era, began. No one knew it at the time, but the Golden Age of Sports, led by the New York Yankees’ Babe Ruth, had also arrived. Comiskey, who died in 1931, never put another contending team on the field, and the White Sox wouldn’t return to the Fall Classic until 1959–and the South Siders wouldn’t win it all until 2005. But the owner nicknamed “the Old Roman” was still able to cash in on the rollicking Roaring Twenties party; Comiskey Park was expanded in 1927, largely because of Ruth’s transformation of baseball.

Comiskey is treated somewhat sympathetically here, as someone who is more frugal than stingy.

Fountain’s effort succeeds not only as a baseball book but as an historical work. Which means you don’t have to be a fan of the national pastime to enjoy it.

John Ruberry, a lifelong White Sox fan, regularly blogs at Marathon Pundit.

Knowing the Red Sox have been having issue with offense and with so many players hurt I had a thought that they should consider trying to claim Manny Ramirez off of wavers, figuring hey how much damage in the clubhouse can he do in a month?

Ramirez, who lost his starting left-field job to Scott Podsednik, was out of the lineup for the fourth consecutive day when he came to the plate as a pinch-hitter in the sixth inning with the bases loaded. The first pitch was called a strike by home-plate umpire Gary Cederstrom. Ramirez argued that it was outside, and was ejected. Torre was furious. He got even more mad when Reed Johnson finished the at-bat by grounding into a double play.

Just so you understand the bases were loaded and the Dodgers were down 8-2, there was one out, a Manny Shot would have cut that lead to 8-6, even a walk would have put the tying run on deck, you’ve been on the bench for four days. You would think that this is the perfect stage to show everybody who belongs at the plate. Guess not.

David Pinto’s accurate stats not withstanding this is Manny being Manny, it has always been Manny being Manny and always will be Manny being Manny.

Of course it is a moot point since the White Sox had first crack at him. He will likely be a very valuable person down the stretch, might even be enough to make a difference during that month. Maybe even Ozzie Guillen can control him.

Manny is a great player when he is happy, if he is not happy then he becomes a great but selfish player.

There is no question that Manny is one of the best hitters there have ever been, his swing is sweet and has a great eye for the plate (he was right about the call btw) Watching him bat was always a pleasure. As a Red Sox fan I will never forget him in 2004 and on the parade and will always remember him fondly for it. There is no question he is a HOF player and deserves it. We owe him here, but after this weekend reminded me of the other side of the coin, I’m glad his Sox will be White rather than red in September.