Leonard “Not Al” Gore, 35 year old Black White Sox fan/husband/father. 2006 University of Illinois-Champaign graduate, shared a class with the starting 5 of the Finals squad. Told my girlfriend in February 2005 we’d get married when the White Sox won the World Series. Improbably had to do the deed 3 years later. Capricorn. Christmas Eve baby (don’t get me started). I love baseball, Stephen King and Douglas Adams novels, and the entire filmography of the greatest living actor Nicolas Cage. Best job: Working for the Cubs (sorry) in 2007-2008 as an original operator of the first electronic ribbon boards at Wrigley, met Uecker, Santo, Ernie, and celebs like Keith Olbermann and I peed next to Tim Robbins. First time blogging in any official capacity and long time reader of SSS. Tim Anderson has blocked me on Twitter but you can still follow me @Leonard42 and l.j.gore_83 on Insta.
Funky fresh delivery: Cishek’s unorthodox pitching motion will help provide a contrast to the straight overhand fire spewed by much of the White Sox bullpen. (@MarinersPR)
The recent run on relievers signing around MLB was starting to look like the few remaining options in a heated game of musical chairs, but Rick Hahn was able to grab one with time to spare, and it’s a pretty decent option to boot, as former Cub Steve Cishek has signed a one year, $6 million contract to pitch for the White Sox in 2020. This contract has an option for 2021 for another $6 million, with the conditions surrounding that option still to be announced.
Reliever Steve Cishek and the Chicago White Sox are in agreement on a one-year, $6 million deal, sources familiar with the agreement tell ESPN. The contract includes an option that could take the deal to a second year at $12 million total.
Considering that relievers like Will Harris and Daniel Hudson both signed for significantly higher amounts and yearly commitments, Cishek looks to be a perfect middle ground solution that will not hamper the Sox budget to potentially improve and add talent midseason.
Entering his 11th season, Cishek has lived the nomadic life of a hired reliever for whichever employer is willing to take on his services. A 6´6´´, 215-pound right-handed sidewinder, Cishek pitched the previous two seasons for the Chicago Cubs, providing a consistent option out of their bullpen. In 2019, his numbers dipped slightly (though not outright terribly) to a 2.95 ERA and a 1.20 WHIP. He does have peripherals that are very pleasing to the analytical eye, with an average exit velocity of 84.5 mph and a hard-hit rate of 25.9% per Baseball Savant. And the wOBA on Cishek’s fastball was a miniscule .138, so even when he throws it straight, his funky delivery clearly has a significant effect on the batter’s ability to square it up.
I would expect to see Cishek serve as one of the veteran bridges to Alex Colomé, but if the man with the tilted hat falters, Cishek has closing in his background, notching seven saves last season and 132 in his career.
Let’s welcome Steve to the South Side, and breathe a little easier that the bullpen heading into 2020 is just a bit more secure!
There’s plenty of analytical reasons that laid out the case for the White Sox to have no qualms offering top dollar to Zack Wheeler. Now that Zack (and to-be Mrs. Wheeler) has decided Philadelphia was he and his family’s preferred destination to be multi-millionaires, I need to speak to the contingent on Sox Twitter that is unhappy about another failed FA pursuit.
Zack Wheeler: HE’S JUST NOT THAT INTO YOU.
If the reports leaking out are true and the White Sox really did offer more money than the Phillies, then tell me: How far were you willing to go? Because, and be honest, you were going to be royally pissed if it took $150 million (call it the Mrs. Wheeler Tax) to get Zack to sign here. But again, not diving into hypotheticals, how can we blame the organization for actually doing what they should have done with Manny Machado — this time, offer the most money?!
The only person to “blame” is Zack Wheeler and whatever forces of chance/fate led to his fiancé’s family settling in the Garden State which evidently meant more to the Wheelers than any of us had an inkling of. But $118 million, a lower state income tax, and a literal Uber ride’s distance from home seems to be enough for Zack. And, once more for those in the back, THAT’S OK.
Jesus Montero Christ, there are multiple pitchers still available (Hi Madison! Hi Hyun-Jin! Hi Dallas!), a Goose Island-sized hole in right field to fill, and a whole metric ton of time to figure it out.
If Grandal is the only signing (other than Bennett Karrol’s premonitions coming true and Felix Hernandez gets fitted for a Sox uniform) and Dylan Covey is getting thousand-word think pieces on his final chance at the fifth starter spot in March, then I’m all for pitchforks and toilet papering Rick Hahn’s house. But for now, grow … the … hell … up … and move on.
Anyway, thanks for letting me rant a bit. Keep an eye out for South Side Hit Pen’s brand-new podcast dropping soon! Clinton Cole and Brett Ballantini are hosting and here to calm your troubled souls, Sox fans! (Don’t worry, they only talk about Zack Wheeler as the No. 1 White Sox FA target for, like, 33% of the podcast!)
This kicks off a mini-burst of bests and blursts this week at South Side Hit Pen. Today, Lenny G gets things going with his highly-entertaining look at his most and least favorite games of 2019.
Tomorrow, the rest of us take a stab at the best games of the year, and Wednesday presents the saddest chapter of this trilogy, the blurst of the year.
So, before the Hot Stove heats up and spring training looms, let’s join LG as he spins a little yarn about the best and worst blurst of the season!
“He’s your hero tonight … thanks Cubs!”
Oftentimes in sports, whenever a player returns to face an organization that traded him or her, it’s now referred as “[Insert Player’s Name] Revenge Game!”
And it makes sense right? One team, drafting you into their organization, grooming you, pouring millions of dollars into developing you so that one day you’ll bring glory and championships to their city … and then poof, you find out from your agent you’ve been shipped to Pittsburgh or Kansas City or … the South Side of Chicago. I mean, it’s literally a rejection of that player in the purest sense. Despite all that time and effort, they still think someone else is worth more to them than you. So yes, revenge must be a part of it. (To be fair, anybody and everyone seems to get a revenge game moniker nowadays … I mean, Bobby Freaking Portis got one for leading the bum-ass Knicks in a comeback against the Bulls …)
But if there ever was a textbook example of a Revenge Game, June 18, 2019, White Sox at Cubs in Wrigley Field is hands-down the best one I’ve seen in my 35 years on Earth.
But let’s set the scene. I’m not going to recap the trade and all the drama behind his non call-up the year before. All that you need to know was this was the first game that Eloy Jiménez played at Wrigley Field as a professional ballplayer. Now, had he played a few years as a Cub (shudder), then later showed on the White Sox, it probably would not have been as impactful, even if the results were exactly the same.
The game couldn’t have started more ominously for Eloy and the Sox. With the bases loaded and one out, Eloy came to the plate in his first ever at-bat at Wrigley. A grand slam would likely have caused mass suicides in the Cubs front office and the bleachers. But it wasn’t Eloy’s time yet, as the rook hit into an inning-ending double play.
Naturally, Iván Nova, a pitcher who never met a bat he didn’t want to make contact with, grooved the first pitch to Cubs leadoff hitter Kyle Schwarbabyer and gave up a leadoff home run. Ugh.
Fast forward to the ninth inning … you didn’t miss much. The White Sox had tied it in the sixth thanks to 2020 The Show cover boy Javier Baez, with Little Bam Bam’s Homer still the only run for the North Siders.
James McCann led off with a single, and up comes dat boi Eloy. Pedro Strop, the reason Theo decided to throw $45M at the dumpster fire that was Craig Kimbrel, threw a 1-0 fastball in on the hands of Eloy. Hands pulled in, the bat connected with the ball, the sound of the crack of the bat was clear even through the speakers of my television, and … well, let’s run that shit:
Nothing. And I mean nothing, more important happened for the White Sox in 2019 than this moment. Right here. We had instant, indisputable proof that Eloy was and is THE GUY. In a big time moment, in the stadium of the team he originally signed with because he liked their fucking uniform colors, Eloy hit a ball 400-plus feet on a pitch that shattered his bat. Oh, man. I’d have to imagine that’s what sex feels like … (uh … wait … I mean, I know … um …)
Anyway, in the immortal words of Jason Benetti, “Thanks, Cubs!”
“Colomé? More like Colom-F!”
OK, I may not be clever enough to come up with a better punchline, but with plenty of losses to pick from, I’m going with one that, fortunately, occurred at such a late hour most Sox fans would be asleep (I was not one of those fans … I need help). And that game was Sept. 14, 2019, White Sox at Mariners.(Author’s note: I completely forgot I actually did the game recap for this one, as Frasier-themed fan fiction!)
Why this game, you ask? Admittedly, there were worse games, like say. .. the game literally the next day. (But that was claimed by someone else, and you’ll read about it on Wednesday; luckily I didn’t have far to go to find this gem.)
Dylan Cease, for one of the rare occasions in his rookie season, did not immediately put the Sox in a multi-run hole early. Sure, he had his customary wildness, but five innings and one run given up is practically all one could ask of a Sox starter and be satisfied.
On the hill for Seattle was the used husk of Felix Hernandez. In his eventual swan song of a career in Seattle, King Felix had been routinely demolished in many of his starts in 2019. In the start prior against the Astros, he gave up 11 runs in two innings.So, even with the good chance Cease might’ve given up a few runs, surely the Sox would be able to beat up on this paper tiger right?
Noooooooope. Felix squeezed the last remaining drops of the emaciated Cy Young version of himself floating in a vat of green goo underneath Safeco Field T-Mobile Park and dominated the Sox, getting outs like the Felix of old. By game’s end, we were stuck at 1-1 and headed to the bottom of the 10th.
Sox closer Alex Colomé used his Cupid Shuffle of a delivery to rack up an amazingly improbable number of first half saves despite having the same strikeout ability as a one-armed blind man with vertigo. As the BABIP gods finally woke from their slumber, second half Colomé started to get hit a bit more than normal and his effectiveness ultimately faded down the stretch.
Two outs into the 10th, and up came Alex’s trade counterpart, the Narv Dog, Omar Narváez. A decent hitter with the Sox on a team-friendly contract, he found that life on the West Coast does wonders to your skill set (hello, Marcus Semien) and was somehow hitting bombs all over Puget Sound. So what would happen in this rare event involving a pitcher and catcher, traded for the other? Game on the line … (ummm) … facing the team that gave up on him … (oh no) … and one run wins the …
ITS THE SUPER-SECRET OMAR NARVÁEZ REVENGE GAME!!!!
Narvy laid into an 0-1 pitch from Colomé and sent it deep into right field. Daniel Palka (God bless that sweet boy, he just tries so hard …) went back to the wall but realized he’s not getting this one as it approaches the fence. The ball, well it had eyes for the seats in hopes of sending the home crowd happy, but … the ball hits on top of the wall and lands back on the warning track. In real time, it looked like it may have cleared the fence and ricocheted off a small barrier just behind the wall, which must be why the umpire twirled his little finger (I bet they love doing that) and signaled that the “home run” had ended the game.
BUT WAIT! Esteemed ceviche lover and part-time Sox manager Ricky Renteria went out to the umps and, with nothing to lose, asked for a review to make sure that ball went out. And, dear reader, I can say with no impartiality, that ball didn’t clear the wall! So, great! Slow-mo that tape down in New York, call the ground-rule double and let’s get the band off the field … we got more free baseba-
The umps took off their headsets. The finger twirled in the air. It is twirled for a second time. I was more sad and confused by a meaningless September Sox loss to a terrible Mariners team than I was a few minutes prior on the first home run call. And, until today, I always wondered why they stuck with that decision. Well … funny you should ask … while I was looking for a link to the walk-off, I found this from WGN that ran the following day: https://wgntv.com/2019/09/15/mlb-says-miscommunication-led-to-no-review-of-walk-off-in-white-sox-loss/
Here’s the supremely depressiing explanation which is just so, so Ricky (emphasis mine):
White Sox manager Rick Renteria said he immediately asked umpires to review the homer, and they then went to the headset used to communicate with replay officials.
When Renteria and the umpires reconvened, they asked if Renteria wanted to challenge whether Narváez had touched home plate amid his celebrating teammates. Renteria mistakenly thought this meant officials had ruled the ball cleared the fence and declined to challenge whether Narváez touched home, because he had already seen on replays that he had.
Anywho, did this loss matter in the long run? Of course not. Teams with 89 losses are 0-for-forever in making the playoffs, so this one was not one to cry over. But … for the constraints given by this exercise, I’m marking this down as the Yonder Alonso of White Sox losses in 2019.
Thanks for reading! Oh and congrats to the Washington Nationals for winning the franchise’s first World Series! If they didn’t have someone from the Expos days at the parade give a speech in French, the win should be null and void….
For the second time in three weeks, the White Sox are facing the Cleveland Fightin’ Stereotypes, this time within the comforts of the GRate as the Sox start their 2019 swan song of a homestand. Of course, the Pale Hose are performing their obligated duties by fielding a 25-man roster of players to face the opponents set before them as they begin clearing their lockers and tipping their attendants/ball boys/tithing to Papa Reinsdorf. But this article isn’t about Tim Anderson’s approaching the goal line of winning a batting title or Eloy Jiménez using this month to feast on tired/spent pitching arms and clobbering milestone homers like this one in Detroit:
NO SIR. This is Know Your Enemy. And we need to discuss the current present and rapidly approaching unknown future for the Tribe from Cleveland. So let’s do this as I started with the KYE: Angels Edition, and give you the Who, What, Where, When, Why, and How? about the Lindians!
These are the Indians (OK, I really can’t keep up with the witty clever ways to avoid mentioning their unfortunate moniker) who started September 4.5 games behind the first-place Twins and in a tie for the A’s for the top wild card spot. Last we saw them, Cleveland failed to take advantage of a four-game series with the Sox, splitting it. One of those losses was the last time Reynaldo López looked like a competent pitcher in 2019:
And while Cleveland was able to go on a bit of a run, winning two of three in Minnesota, any gains were given back per the laws of alchemy by losing two of three against the Twins in Cleveland a week later. And as of Saturday night, the entire month of hard work and effort trying to retake control the AL Central resulted in a whole half-game net gain in the standings. Starting Sunday, the Indians were four games back with seven to play. Their up-and-down play has dropped them completely out of both wild card spots, however they remain one game back of the second WC spot (Rays) and three back of the first WC (Oakland)
The Indians … whoo boy. Well, I guess they were trying to honor the Native Americans … in their own, early ass hell 20th Century kind of reasoning according to Wikipedia:
The name “Indians” originated from a request by club owner Charles Somers to baseball writers to choose a new name to replace “Cleveland Naps” following the departure of Nap Lajoie after the 1914 season. The name referenced the nickname “Indians” that was applied to the Cleveland Spiders baseball club during the time when Louis Sockalexis, a Native American, played in Cleveland.
I, for one, would 100% fully support the renaming to the Cleveland Naps. #MakeClevelandNapAgain
Well, Larry, the deal is that the Indians clearly cannot afford to lose this series against the White Sox. Cleveland has only six games remaining, and barring every Twins slugger contracting Hand, Foot, and Mouth Disease, a division title is extremely unlikely. The Cleveland Show (I actually liked that Family Guy spinoff) ends their regular season with three more games against an extremely-motivated-to-host-the-NL-Wild-Card-Game Washington Nationals where, thanks to the random joys of season-long interleague play, they will lose their DH in an NL park. Cleveland will also need Oakland (two vs LAA; four @ SEA) and Tampa Bay (one vs BOS; two vs NYY; three @ TOR) to falter just enough for them to sneak in to the playoffs. Again, all scenarios are still open for varying levels of playoff participation, but their destiny is out of their hands.
Well Mark Walhberg from M. Night Shamaylan’s The Happening, the White Sox truly have their work cut out for them in the series, with Nova and Big Boss Ross starting the first two games and Dylan Cease, who’s about as reliable as most of Shamaylan’s film career since The Sixth Sense. Hopefully the Sox will find a way to at least even out their home/road home run deficiencies as they have only hit 81 homers at the GRate vs 92 yabos in the various hovels other teams call ballparks. Or maybe the Sox can find the spoiler within and will themselves to be the second Chicago team to crush Cleveland’s playoff spirits in four seasons (ok, on a much smaller and meaningless scale, to be fair).
So there you have it. For those of you hoping for the White Sox to finish strong and send those Cleveland fans into the unreliable arms of Baker Mayfield for the remainder of 2019, just know the folks at Tankathon.com have the Sox with the ninth pick in the 2020 draft, 1.5 games “behind” Colorado and 1.5 games “ahead” of San Diego. And damn it to hell, if the Sox find a way to let the Padres “win” again … (I mean they went ahead and fired their manager Andy Green with a week left in the season … our team extends losing managers with secret extensions and free ceviche lessons after every game.)
And just for laughs … here’s Jack Parkman with the shimmy that makes all the women in Cleveland want to puke:
Truism: That’s why they play the games. (@whitesox)
Well, for five and a third innings, we damn near had our own Minneapolis Miracle, ladies and gents. It was thanks to that damned Josh Ostrich hanging a slider to Jorge Polanco that I wasn’t able to have an incredibly improbable result to recap.
But like a down-on-his-luck craps player who suddenly hits six points in a row, the Probability Gods decided enough was enough. But the collective flotsam that is Ivan Nova, Carson Fulmer, Josh Osich, Aaron Bummer, Jimmy Cordero, Evan Marshall, Jace Fry, and Alex Colomé amazingly held down the Mighty Minny Offense long enough to let a double-double from Yoán, a two-hitter from Eloy, and a ZACKBOMB in the ninth get the Sox over the hump and finally beat the Twins, 3-1.
Lets go to the tape!
With scheduled starter Dylan Covey scratched with a shoulder issue, the incredibly-hittable Iván Nova stepped in to try out one of them newfangled Opener Starts, as he was scheduled to only pitch the first. He rode the razor’s edge with walks to Nelson Cruz and Jorge Polanco, and a wild pitch … but a K to Miguel Sanó put out a potentially devastating fire!
As is often the case after surviving a near disaster, the Sox offense got to Jake Odorizzi as sneaky-dark-horse batting title candidate Yoán Moncada led off the second inning with a double to left, who was then knocked in as the 71st RBI by Mr. Big Baby himself:
Jace Fry would take over as the next pitcher up on So You Think The Sox Can Pitch?, immediately walking his first batter. But two strikeouts and a 5-3 putout ended the second inning without incident. He’d then get two outs in the third before being pulled for Mr. Herky-Jerky (aka Carson Fulmer) to face Nelson “HAW-HAW” Cruz. But a grounder to Matt Skole at first got the White Sox through three with out giving up a base knock.
Fulmer got through a quiet fourth with no blemishes to the hit column for the Twins, and though Eloy and Yolmer got singles in the fifth inning, Skole said “Tanks for the memories” and struck out to end the half-frame. Fulmer, having a manic episode or being taken over by them machines from Avatar, continues his and the bullpen’s streak of good luck by retiring another three batters to get through the fifth with nary a single to the Twins batting line.
In the sixth, Leury Legend led off with a single, swapped places with Tim Anderson ( force out). Then with two outs, YoYo acts like he’s on Lauren’s favorite game show Jeopardy! (shoutout to Trebek, hoping for a full recovery for you!) and picks up Daily Double #2:
The Minny sixth would prove to be the end of the road for the Sox dreams of pulling off the stunner of 2019, as Osich came on in relief of Fulmer. (just think if Fulmer was an actual starter, and could have polished off the last six innings?!) Osich got one out, but Polanco ripped a single to center and that, as they say, was that:
Unable to handle the shame Osich performed ritual Seppeku on the pitcher’s mound, Osich was replaced by Jimmy Biceps, who decided to use his flamethrower of a sleeveless arm to pour gasoline on this fire by walking Cruz and allowing a ground ball to sneak under the glove of a diving Yolmer Sánchez, cutting the lead down to 2-1, White Sox.
A series of unfortunate events, punctuated by a passed ball and a walk, loaded the bases for the Twins, who looked to break this game wide open. However, the Bicep held strong, and this time Yolmer handled a grounder his way to get the third out, preserving the lead.
With the no-hitter done, lets get to the remaining highlights:
Anderson slapped a single to right in the eigth inning, upping his average to .335, now with a comfortable lead in the race for the AL batting title (and now the owner of the highest BA in all of MLB!)
Earlier in the game, Leury Legend got tapped in the No-No Zone, and Benetti (with the Call of the Season) refers to the incident as “He got nipped by the turtle!”
Eddie Rosario, looking to atone for getting Twins fans hopes up earlier, commits the worst kind of TOOTBLAN of them all, getting tossed out a third base for the last out of the eighth inning, all thanks to stylin and profilin … a long blast to the wall and getting relayed to death:
We have another #ZACKBOMB to give the Sox an insurance run in the top of the ninth!
And finally Colomé, who has been pitching like Alex Colom-D+ lately, gets a K, and two line outs to end the game and, per MLB rules, by virtue of scoring three runs to the opponents’ one run in nine completed innings, the White Sox finish out the 2019 season series against the Roided Up Piranhas with a 3-1 victory.
The Sox couldn’t help themselves too much, racking up 14 strikeouts vs. one measly walk, Palka and Skole tag-teamed the Tank effort, but it was for naught. The Sox head into an off-day before a trip to Detroit to continue ruining their draft position against an inferior opponent.
So that was my last recap of the season, barring unforeseen illnesses or jail time for my colleagues here (looking at you, Darren). Thanks for giving me a bit of your attention covering this team, but that’s not all from me. I’ll still be hanging around, contributing to South Side Hit Pen with more dumb musings and poorly-connected sitcommy pieces!
First, about last night. I got my little guy to sleep and decided to finish watching the end of the White Sox game. Watched a couple of fruitless extra innings, and after Minny failed to win it in the 11th, I made the responsible decision not to stay up for three-plus hours waiting for the Twins to just win already, so I went up to bed.
Because I hate myself and I clearly have a problem, I said oh, I’ll just put on my MLB AtBat Radio feed of Ed and DJ on and I’ll just fall asleep anyways. So, Ryan Cordell did this:
Which, as we all learned from that one episode of Futurama, the White Sox Media Account people were “… technically correct. The best kind of correct.” Anyway, I went to bed seemingly assured the Sox couldn’t possibly biff this one up.
SEVERAL HOURS LATER
Jesus Christo on a cracker … the Tank is officially on.
This sums it up, I think:
I guess I should finally discuss this upcoming game. So [Professor Farnsworth voice] GOOD NEWS EVERYONE!
Iván Nova will get the unheard of (for these parts) One-Inning Opener start! My how time flies when you are crashing and burning!
The Sox Lineup:
For the Twins:
Ah who cares, these fictional Twins could probably Run Around SueRicky just as easily:
Gametime is at the very odd 6:40 p.m. CST. It’ll be on NBC Sports Chicago, which evidently might be leaving ATT U-Verse thanks to a helpful blurb that crawled across the screen last night. Unless I decide to cut the cord finally, WGN 720 AM is likely where I will be listening to next season. I’ll be back with a non sitcom-themed recap tonight, because frankly this squad don’t recognize or deserve genius.
Daphne Moon, housekeeper and physical therapist to Fraiser Crane’s father, Martin, is in the kitchen when she hears loud, exuberant noises at the front door. She approaches as the door opens and Martin Crane and his son Niles enter with big smiles on their faces. They are both covered in Mariners hats and jerseys. Niles is casually tossing a baseball and then strikes a less than imposing pitcher’s windup pose as Martin pretends to snap a picture.
Daphne: Oh, look at you two, now! Have a swell time at the ball field? See any touchdowns did ye?
Martin: Daph, it’s home runs! Not touchdowns! Anyway, Niles! Tell Daph all about the game! Niles here won a contest and was the Fan of the Game! He even got to throw out the first pitch after they let that Asian fella talk forever before the game!
M: Gesundheit! [canned laughter]
NIles [laughs]: Aw… shucks Dad. You know, I don’t like to brag… but I’d like to say the fact the Mariners were able to perform and find the strength within to outlast those ruffians from Chicago named after…[shudders] common feet coverings, likely purchased at the local Gas ‘n Go… Anyway, evidently, in baseball, if a score remains tied after each team has batted nine times… well, it’s quite wonderful really…I believe they are called…
Frasier Crane bursts into the room, fuming: EXTRA… INNINGS!? You get more of the most insufferable, detestable, horribly dull way to spend a splendid September evening! And even when we were mercifully about to be spared another infernal two hours of this nonsense when [snaps his fingers] ah yes, the young player Omar swatted the ball over the fence, ending the game… the Colonel Sanders aficionado in the Chicago dugout asked the men in charge to review the play?! How is that even allowed! I have a right mind to write a sternly worded letter to the commissioner….[Frasier pours himself a glass of sherry, downs it in one gulp, then pours another. He’s about to continue his diatribe when Daphne interjects]
D: Oh come now Mr. Crane… don’t be a spoilsport… [to Niles] Alright then! Tell me all about your wonderful night at the Field Pitch!
N: Right then! [Grabs the unfinished Sherry from Frasier’s hand, takes a sip as Frasier rolls his eyes and huffs away to the balcony] So, evidently, The Mariners hurler is called “The King,” and my goodness you should have seen him throw that ol’ pill around! Those Chicago batsmen had nary a chance to make Sir Felix sweat!
F: Oh yes, that was certainly one of the more pleasurable memories I shall take away from this travesty of an evening, at least both pitchers were courteous enough to quickly dispatch the other team’s batters with ruthless efficiency! Even the young man from Chicago, Dylan Cease, he was able to keep up with Felix, getting 5 strike-ins…
M: [rolls eyes] Strike-outs Fraise…
F: Oh will you be quiet! It was enough having to watch you hoot and holler with all these yokels in the 4th inning…Yes, yes, they had the bases loaded and certainly wanted to score plenty of points… but you didn’t have to throw popcorn at me like the others when I cheered for Mr. Cease when he moved the game along by striking…[pause] out the last batter!
N: This is my story Frasier! Maybe if you could have gotten the least bit excited when that Long fellow sent that ball deep into the night, a night as dark as Henry Longfellow [chuckles to himself] described in Paul Revere’s Ride!
M: But can you believe that dummy Dee Gordon?! He had that double play ball in the 7th! And he flipped it slowly to second, not giving enough time to complete the back half of the play and let the Sox tie it up! What was up with that?!
[Frasier and Niles look back at Martin, unsure on how to proceed]
M: Never mind…. ok, Niles. Wrap it up will ya?? I wanna take you down to the policeman’s bar and get you to use that baseball signed by Ichiro to buy us rounds all night long!
N: [beaming with pride] Ok… Pop! Well, Daphne, the game was tied… my attention started to wane a bit, I must admit… evidently, one of the nefarious White Stockings is allowed to expose his entire muscular right arm as he pitches to our team! I believe I heard a young woman shout “I LOVE YOU JIMMY BICEPS!”… most likely a deeply inebriated Chicagoan female…
F: This is dragging on longer than the fifth encore at the local performance of Titus Andronicus we watched at the symphony last week!
[Eddie, smelling a wayward uneaten piece of hot dog in Frasier’s coat pocket, grabs the jacket and runs off to the bedroom]
F: EDDIE! NO! THAT JACKET IS A CUSTOM MADE RUBINACCI! BAD DOG! [Frasier chases the dog into the bedroom]
N: [softly chuckles] I found that piece of “meat” on the ground as we walked out of the stadium! I snuck it into his pocket, that’s what he deserves after sullying my good night… Fortunately, the aforementioned Omar Narváez, who quite ironically, was facing the pitcher the very same Chicagoans had exchanged for him. He took a mighty swing and sent a floating curvey, spinny ball over the fence…although yes, for a split second they were required by rule to take a further review, to ensure against any potential malfeasance, and they ruled in the Mariners favor!
Twas the Mariners with 2 scores and the White Hosierys with but 1! Oh, Daphne, we must go! [To Martin] Ok, Dads! Lets go live it up!
[Frasier exits the bedroom, his jacket in tatters]
F: I should have stayed at Cheers…
[Hey Baby I hear the blues a callin…. Tossed salads and scrambled eggs….that’s right!]
IS THIS YOUR KING?!?! Its an age old battle of the New Guard taking on the Old Dying Kingdom as Dylan Cease takes on the “Bad King” Felix Hernandez. (Credit: CColePhotography)
We’ve got another late night in front of us fellow Midwesterners, but if last night’s (and this morning’s) effort from the White Sox offense is any indication, there might be enough fireworks to justify another Red-Bull fueled live-watch as the Sox go for two in a row against the Emerald City Mariners.
Thanks to the barnacle that is Dylan Covey’s death rattle of a start, it took four (!) of the teams more reliable bullpen arms to bleed a five-run lead down to a one-run sliver of a cushion. Thank goodness the Red-handed Bandit (Hey Wilzy! Got another shirt idea for ya!) came in to add some much needed space for Colome in the 9th:
Tonight, Dylan Cease (#84, 23, RHP, 3-7, 6.53) hopes to get some of that sweet run support that he so very much needs as he faces the Mariners for the first time in his career (here’s hoping we repeat that sentence for as many years as it takes to get to the other 29!). Our Ace-in-Training has sandwiched a meaty and savory 11-K performance in Cleveland between the moldy, green-speckled bread of two not so delicious outings against the Twins and Angels. Let’s hope he can find a way past his first-inning woes as he’s facing a Seattle team that is 2-8 in their last 10 games, so if there was any time for Dylan to get a chance to take it to the West Coast version of the 2016 White Sox, tonight could be a very special night!
His opponent is…. woof… apparently it is the hulled-out husk that once was the most dominant pitcher in the Pacific Northwest, Felix Hernandez (#34, 33, RHP, 1-6, 6.96). Let’s check on how he fared against the Astros… Um.. er…
Yikes… the Bad King has been practically unwatchable for the past 2 seasons, and 2019 hasn’t been much better. His last two starts lasted a combined five innings, including a line against Houston that is rather Covey-esque (2 IP, 7 H, 11 R, 7 ER, 2 BB, 1 K). Now no one will confuse the Sox offense as a comparable one to the Astros…. but we took the season series against those chumps so I guess Felix will give up 20 to the Sox tonight… (Fingers crossed!)
I would be remiss if I didn’t also mention that prior to the game tonight, the Mariners will be honoring perhaps one of the greatest foreign-born MLB player in the modern era (or even any era really), Ichiro Suzuki. The one and true hit king officially retired after the Mariners first two games of the 2019 season were played in Japan back in Spring Training. As proof of his Baseball Sainthood, here’s a clip of him doing something that would lead to a broken face to 99.7% of the rest of Earth’s population:
Lineups! Get your Lineups!
The Mariners were so considerate, they gave me this lovely tweet that saves me the trouble of posting two separate lineups. I should send y’all a Hi Mom shirt…
Game time is 8:10 PM CST (oh boy! A whole hour sooner than yesterday!) and with Jason Benetti off doing one of his 36 other gigs for other four-lettered networks, the completely capable and easy to listen to Andy Masur will step into the booth again, this time on NBC Sports Chicago. As always, WGN 720 AM is your spot for your radio listening pleasure. I have a special treat for the recap, so all I’ll say about that is: “Go ahead caller, I’m listening.”
Seriously, drink a Red Bull or two… it’ll be worth it.
Relishing a new start: One season removed from his release by the White Sox, Keon found record-breaking success with the American Association’s Chicago Dogs. (Chicago Dogs)
What does a person do when things don’t go according to plan? Like Lenny and George, the protagonists in John Steinbeck’s novella Of Mice and Men, every one of us has had a dream or a plan to achieve a desired goal. Some are small, like setting the garbage out on the curb the night before pickup. Some are huge, like hoping to play major league baseball. Some succeed. Some get close. And some don’t even get off the ground. Almost all of them do not travel in straight lines, ending up in wildly different places than intended.
In the category of different places, consider Chicago White Sox 2012 first round pick Keon Barnum. Fans may remember him as the second of the team’s two first-round picks from that year’s draft class (high school outfielder Courtney Hawkins was drafted No. 13). Keon was drafted at pick #48 as compensation for the free agent departure of a little-known, soft tossing southpaw named Mark Buehrle.
A 19-year old, 6´5´´, 225-pound power-hitting first baseman, Keon was selected right out of C. Leon King H.S. in Tampa, He could have conceivably been considered an heir apparent to former World Series champion and future White Sox retired number Paul Konerko.
But, like most plans and journeys that have been launched since our ancestors left their caves many millennia ago, Keon’s dream of playing baseball in Chicago didn’t quite end the way he hoped.
After seven seasons, four minor league levels, promotions and demotions, highlights and injuries, Barnum was released from the White Sox organization after the 2018 season.
But life sometimes throws us a curve, and we end up achieving our intended goals … just not how we envisioned them. Which is why cosmic forces seemingly intervened, and Keon’s 2019 season was played in Chicago. Not at Guaranteed Rate, however, but at Impact Field, home of the American Association’s Independent League team, the Chicago Dogs. Normally, this story wouldn’t really move the needle in this sports mecca we call home, but Keon took his new opportunity and ran with it, to record-setting heights. The result? This season, Keon set the AAs single-season home run record with 31 longballs.
Speaking from his hometown of Tampa, Barnum talked about his drafting and career with the White Sox, transition to life with the Dogs, the pursuit of the home run record, and whether or not a hot dog is a sandwich.
How are you feeling, now that your first season with the Chicago Dogs is over?
2019 was actually a pretty good season for me — actually, it was the best season I’ve ever had. Like all seasons, it’s always a grind, with some aches and pains, and a mental grind coming out to the field every day trying to play to the best of my abilities. There’s never a time to slack off and stop. But the best thing of all is just having fun every day. And it was such a fun time being with this team and my coaches.
The Dogs finished third in their [North] division, missing out on the playoffs, but with a record better than every team in the other [South] division.
Yeah, most teams did not want to play us! Our last opponents, St. Paul [Saints] told us they were glad to not see us in the playoffs. [The top two teams in each division advanced to a five-game series to determine who advances to the championship series] St. Paul had just swept Fargo [-Moohead Redhawks] in the series before, so we were already eliminated. And one or two series before that, we needed to take at least two games in a four-game series with St. Paul, and we only got one win, unfortunately. So that pushed us to the brink, and basically this last series didn’t matter for us making the playoffs.
Despite falling short of the playoffs, the Dogs had a successful season. What was the chemistry like on this team, and how did you and your teammates come together to play as well as you did?
Everybody on the team was just so mature and focused. There were no players who were only thinking about themselves. Honestly, everybody was there for each other and focused on being a team player. It really started to feel like a family. Always picking each other up and having our backs. But with this being my first year in Independent League ball, I really didn’t know what to expect coming in. But once I started to play every day, everything started to get better and better. I said to myself, “Wow, I kinda like this, this is not what I thought [Indy Ball] would be like.” A couple days into the season, I realized I was already knew I felt cool with this group of guys. So that helped me a lot.
Let’s talk about the new single-season record 31 homers, breaking the American Association’s previous record of 30 set in 2013. When did you find out you had a real chance of meeting and possibly claiming the top spot?
Sam [Brief], the commentator and postgame interviewer for the Dogs, told me when I was at 26 or 28 home runs that I had a chance. But I had no clue what the record was at that time. Honestly, I didn’t want to hear that, because I didn’t want to start pressing and thinking I had to break this record. I just kept playing my game, and if I broke the record that’d be amazing. When I hit the 30th home run I was really excited about that, puffing my chest a bit when I was running around the bases, [especially] since it put us up by one run [in the 10th inning].
Tying the record with a tie-breaking, 10th-inning homer should definitely put a bit of air in your chest! But it ended up taking until September 2 (14 days later) for you to hit the record 31st homer, in the penultimate game of the season. How did you handle the pressure of trying to set an individual record while your team was pursuing a playoff spot?
Of course I wouldn’t mind hitting a home run! But over the last couple of weeks, I kinda didn’t get pitched to as much, so it was tough. I didn’t get as many at-bats, getting walked a lot. I had to be super patient with pitchers nibbling at me, so I sort of had to change my game, because I love hitting first pitches. And now that I became more patient, I would start taking those first-pitch strikes! And that might have been the only pitch I’d get all game. It kinda got me out of my rhythm. Then with everyone saying “Oh, you only need one more [home run],” it just started leaking into my brain, but I tried not to think about it since we were trying to get into the playoffs.
What did it feel like to finally hit your 31st home run? What is it like to just hit a home run in general? Are you in sort of a “zen-like” state?
Hitting a home run is the best thing in baseball, and it’s just a different kind of feeling that you can’t really describe. It’s like a relief, and kind of excitement at the same time. I feel like it’s kind of being in a daze. You don’t even feel it coming off the bat. It’s definitely a fun thing to do!
With the 31st home run, when I hit it, I watched it thinking “Wow, this really is the [record] 31st home run!” I was trying to embrace it while running the bases and it happened so quick. Then my teammates came out and congratulated me, and they made the announcement in the stadium about breaking the record. I really just focused on embracing the moment, and it was truly overwhelming and happy experience for me.
How would you compare the level of competition between Indy Ball and the leagues you played in for the White Sox?
To be honest, playing Indy Ball was a lot less pressure for me. It helped being by myself, I didn’t have to worry about so many people watching, even though I understand that’s part of the game. It was a good time to help me find myself again, and just play again and have fun. The competition is similar, it’s not a huge difference. People who have played in the big leagues are here, so the velocity and experience is similar to affiliated [minor league baseball]. But there’s pitchers and hitters in this league, most of them played in affiliated ball, so it’s not just kids off the street.
Former Cubs pitcher Carlos Zambrano was one of your teammates this season. What was it like playing with him?
Carlos was a really good dude and leader. I loved having him in the clubhouse, and his presence kinda gave me a bit of a spark to motivate me to keep going.
What was it like to play at Impact Field? Did it match or exceed the quality of some of the parks you played on in the minors?
It’s actually better than a lot of the parks I played in the minors. It’s been open two years now, and I loved that stadium. I didn’t expect it to be that nice going in.
Was it a good hitters park for you?
Oh yes, it was definitely a great hitters park for me. Way better than playing at Birmingham’s stadium, the ball is just dead there!
So now that your season’s over, what are your immediate plans for your future?
Of course, I want to get back into affiliate ball, that’s the goal. I’m probably going to look into playing winter ball as well, maybe in Mexico. Hopefully Ill end up somewhere in [MLB] spring training, but if not I’ll most likely be back with the Dogs.
And when your time with the Sox ended, was the fact that the Dogs played in Chicago a factor in you ultimately signing there? It seems almost karmic to end up in Chicago eventually.
Actually, it was kind of weird I ended up in Chicago. It was more coincidence, though, since my agent looked around for me and reached out to [Chicago Dogs manager] Butch Hobson and talked to him about me playing there, and it just worked out. I had no clue I was going to end up playing there.
How did you first get into baseball as a kid?
I really wasn’t into baseball as much growing up at first. I played basketball in grade school, then I got into baseball later with some travel ball leagues. I didn’t really watch any baseball teams in particular, I just like playing the game. I loved watching football and basketball, but never really watched baseball to be honest. I did follow some players like Barry Bonds and Ken Griffey Jr, left-handed players like me, who were really, really good! I didn’t have any die-hard teams that I watched, and to this day I really have a hard time watching baseball, like a die-hard fan. But my mom really loves watching the [Tampa Bay] Rays!
You were a 19-year-old Tampa kid drafted in the first Round. What did you know about the White Sox before the draft? Did they heavily scout you?
There was a local scout that was always watching me, and my agent set me up for a workout in front of the Sox scouts. I took some ground balls and made some throws from the outfield. They must have liked what they saw since they ended up drafting me!
What was it like on draft day? What were your expectations on where you got drafted?
Well, my friends and family had a get-together to watch the draft at a local restaurant. I had no clue when I’d get picked, but I had a feeling it might happen in the third or fourth round. So we were sitting there waiting, watching the picks come in, and some of my friends and family started leaving! I started wondering and overthinking if I was even going to be picked today! But about an hour later, the White Sox came up and with the 48th pick said my name and I couldn’t even stand up. That was one of the greatest moments of my life. It felt exciting, overwhelming, like the air was taken right out of me. I mean I just played baseball, I wasn’t into watching drafts and that stuff, so when they called my name it didn’t even feel real. Everyone there went crazy, I was so glad I got to experience that moment with them.
Did you meet Kenny Williams during or after the draft? What was your relationship with him like?
Yeah, I was definitely excited to meet [Kenny], he was a cool guy.
Do you feel the expectations of being a first round pick put any extra pressure on you?
Because I was young, I didn’t really think about being a first-rounder. I was always a humble person. I considered myself just another player, like anyone else. I actually don’t like that attention that comes with it. I’m just like you. But the older I got, I did start to think “OK, I am a first rounder,” and I started thinking about others’ expectations the older I got. Along with injuries and trying to bounce back with those was a lot to deal with, which would put me out of rhythm. Not to use them as excuses, just how things went, really. It’s life. Going through all that ultimately made me a better person, though. I don’t have any regrets on what I’ve gone through in my life. All I can do is keep moving forward.
What was that day or moment like when you found out your time with the White Sox had come to an end?
I actually didn’t find out until after the season. My last year in Birmingham, I just kind of figured that after I started off slowly, they weren’t playing me at all. Soon I started playing better, I was doing really good, and showing them something. One day I would hit two home runs in a game, but I’d be sitting the next day. So I thought ‘OK.’ That was when I realized they were probably going to release me.
After the season, my agent reached out to [the White Sox] and they said they were moving forward without me and letting me take my talents somewhere else. I actually felt I was playing really good, my teammates were saying, “Man, you need to be playing,” which gave me some encouragement and made me know that I did have the talent to play with someone. Especially after this season [with the Dogs], even though it’s Independent Ball, it’s still a good league. I compare it to playing in High-A or Double-A.
So what kind of advice would Keon Barnum of today give to 19-year old Keon to better prepare him for his journey with the White Sox?
What I would tell him is to just always be yourself, always do what’s comfortable for you, while still being coachable. It’s OK to tell someone, “You know, that’s not for me,” because it’s really about a feeling within you personally. Never let anyone change you. You are a first-rounder for a reason.
I kind of lost who I was, my natural self.
That’s what I tell my little brother now. Its not about acting like you know better than someone coaching you. Nobody can feel what you feel when you are in the [batter’s] box or on the field or running the bases. Also, I would tell Keon to pay more attention to the game, and learn more about the pitchers. It only became more obvious as time passed, so learning that lesson early matters.
What is your opinion on Tim Anderson’s success and swag, and are you on Team Bat Flip?
Yeah, me and Tim are cool, he’s my Boy. We have the same agent, and I talk to him from time to time.
With the bat flips, yeah, they are kind of crazy, but I kind of like that. It’s not like he’s trying to fight somebody, he’s just showing his emotions. Pitchers yell and go crazy all the time, too! I just think it brings excitement to baseball, which can be boring at times.
No showing emotions, just everything straightforward. But you look at football and basketball, they get to show off their excitement, and that’s what makes the sports more fun. And that’s just Tim being himself. He’s having a heck of a season, with his batting average as high as it is.
What are your thoughts on African-American participation levels in baseball today?
I definitely think as African Americans, we have to do a little more than the average player. We definitely have to bring a lot more to the table. But I do think there should be more blacks in the game, and I would love to push for that.
You just played for the Chicago Dogs, whose logo is a Hot Dog. So what do you like to put on your hot dogs?
I usually put like ketchup and barbecue sauce on it, but when I want to be all fancy about it I’ll add pickles, onions, relish, mayo … I’ll put it all on there.
I’m going to be honest, Keon, the ketchup part is going to turn off a lot of your Chicago fans. But you grew up in Tampa, so I’m going to give you a pass! But a true Chicago Style Hot Dog has mustard, relish, onions, pickle, sport peppers, tomatoes, and celery salt on a poppyseed bun. It’s basically a salad on a bun with meat inside!
So, is a hot dog a sandwich?
I think it can be considered as a sandwich, yes.
Do you have a dog in your life?
I never really have many memories with dogs that I can think of, I mean, they are another responsibility! But I’m all for ’em in general.
Deja vu all over again! Eloy hits another first-inning moonshot but the Royals hit bunch more and hold on for the W. (@whitesox)
Author’s Note: WordPress crashed on my laptop not once, but TWICE as I tried to do this recap. The first time I had about 75% done before it wiped out. The second it crashed just as I was typing literally this same Author’s Note bit! So I’m pretty pissed. Anyway, I’m tired and it’s time for the Inaugural Bulletpointed Sox Recap Speed Round!
Reynaldo strikes out Whit on three pitches. Two batters later, Jorge Soler has hit home run #42:
Eloy does the thing with the stick and the Sox lead 3-2!
The Law Offices of Mondesi, Starling, and O’Hearn all deposit homers courtesy of first-half Reynaldo López making a surprise comeback. It‘s 6-3 Royals and López doesn’t make it out of the fifth.
Eloy collects another RBI but with a ground out so … it‘s a two-run deficit. Just gotta keep it close …
Carson Fulmer does not keep it close. Jorge hits No. 43, 8-4, KC.
José Abreu, playing like he doesn’t already have a two-year extension in his back pocket, hits his 32nd homer. It‘s 8-6 and I wish Fulmer the best of luck with whatever new organization employs him in 2020.
Three White Sox batters face closer Ian Kennedy. Three White Sox batters make three outs. Game over.
Giolito pitches tomorrow. He is good. Tim Anderson is hitting .333. That is also good. I’m switching to typewriters. Good nigh….Z-Z-Z-Z-Z-Z….