P*RO*S*P*E*C*T: You tell ’em, Aretha

Hall-of-Famers: Aretha and Otis turned out all right, but dealing in prospect chatter is a dicey business. (Rhino)

[As we officially kick off our Top 100 Prospect countdown with the inimitable José Nin, as well as the Top Prospect Vote at SSS, a reminder to keep it all in perspective, courtesy of all-time top soul prospect Otis Redding.]

At the end of Richard Greenberg’s brilliant baseball play Take Me Out, the season is over and Mason, a nerdy accountant who came to love the game as the business manager of a superstar, asks plaintively, “What are we going to do until spring?”

The answer, of course, is bury ourselves in the hot stove league.

In ancient days, the vision of the hot stove league was more or less literal — a bunch of geezers sitting around the woodburner at the general store, slugging sarsaparilla, biting off some beef jerky, and tossing peanut shells on the floor while they ponder the likely fates of their favorite teams. Nowadays it’s more likely participants will be in a coffee shop, sipping soy lattes and nibbling at gluten-free, lactose-free, salt-free, sugar-free, organic free range fair trade arugula chips and communicating by keyboard, but the principle is the same — either way, it’s an enjoyable diversion from winter that doesn’t mean much.

Which brings us to the PROSPECT LIST, a sort of officialized version of shooting the bull. Now, I certainly don’t want to denigrate the people who compile prospect lists or those who evaluate the evaluators They all — or you all, in the case of SSHPers — have a great deal more baseball knowledge than I’ll ever have, and go to a tremendous amount of work to compile the lists. Still, they’re just lists of someone’s opinions, no matter how analytically based, at one point in time, a point before players hit the big leagues. They’re slightly more likely to hit paydirt than the prospectors trying to survive on hardtack in Nome 120 years ago, but not all that much. Everything can change between the minors and majors.

Want to feel happy about the White Sox future? Pick a list where we have 10 in the Top 100. Want to continue gloomy? Pick one where we have two. Wonderful thing is, neither matters — same players in the system, same chance of success.

I was going to try a little serious historical evidence for this, but my plans went awry. I randomly decided to try 2013 prospect lists, then picked Baseball Prospectus from among the first page results. That turned out a little depressing, because the White Sox were the only MLB team without a single player in BP’s Top 101 that year.

Moreover, a scan down the names did turn up two future Sox — Lucas Giolito at No. 70 and Matt Davidson at No. 89. We all know how well those have worked out so far. Giolito worked his way up to top pitching prospect in all of baseball, but worked his way right to the bottom of real MLB pitching as a rookie before his brilliant recovery last year, which gives us hope. That’s what the hot stove is for — hope in the gloom of winter. But then there was Davidson.

That glimpse back made me to take a slightly different approach. The natural choice was a song written by the late great Otis Redding. I find no evidence Redding was a baseball fan, but he nailed the hot stove league concept in his final release, the first recording ever to make No. 1 on Billboard posthumously:

I’m sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Watchin’ the tide roll away, ooh
I’m just sittin’ on the dock of the bay
Wastin’ time

You just know part of the chat out on that dock was about baseball. That’s not the song I have in mind, though — it’s the one Redding wrote that was immortalized by the also late and even greater Aretha Franklin. Feel free to Ooo. And pronounce the RO as “row.”

(Ooo) What you want
(Ooo) Baby, has he got it?
(Ooo) What you need
(Ooo) do you know if he got it?
(Ooo) All I’m askin’
(Ooo) Is for a good prospect to bring on home (can he hit a bit?)
Hey baby (or pitch a lick?) bring on home
(A defense whiz, who also knows what the strike zone is?)

Is it gonna go wrong when your list is gone?
Is it gonna go wrong (ooo) cause I don’t want that (ooo)
All I’m askin’ (ooo)
Is a good prospect to bring on home (catch just a little bit?)
Baby (frame just a little bit?) to bring on home (throw just a little bit?)
Yeah (run just a little bit?)

I’m about to give him all of my money
And all I’m askin’ in return, honey,
Is to give me a player who
Can bring it on home (just a hitter, just a pitcher, just a, just a)
Yeah baby (just good coverage of the plate or a fastball that goes 98)
Bring it on home (just a little bit of power)
Yeah (whose game won’t turn sour)

Ooo, your misses (ooo)
Haven’t been funny (ooo)
And still they cost me (ooo)
A whole lot of money (ooo)
All I want you to do (ooo) for me
Is pick me a player that can bring it on home (heavy on the RBI)
Yeah, baby (or a wicked breaking slider guy)
Whip it to me (prospect who can really swing it)
Who can bring it home now (or one who can really wing it)

Find me one who can do it all
TCB, Takin’ Care of Ball

Oh (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)
A little prospect (sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me, sock it to me)
Whoa, yeah (just a little good)

A little prospect (one who can hit)
I get tired (I mean really hit)
I keep on tryin’ (you keep blowin’ it)
You’re runnin’ out of fools (how about a real pitcher?)
And I ain’t lyin’ (one whose curveball’s a bewitcher?)
(re, re, re, re) Great prospect, you gotta bring home
(re, re, re, re) Or in a couple of years (with no prospects who can play)
You’ll find out I’m gone (it could happen one day)

Bring a great prospect to me
One who’ll be a force in MLB!

Aretha could have done it, too. The White Sox were undefeated in Civil Rights games where she got the MLB Beacon Award. Okay, 1-0, but undefeated is undefeated.


If you can’t beat ’em, out-BS ’em

The closing section of the South Side Hit Pen Podcast 3, dealing with possible White Sox slogans for 2020, indicated it’s time to grab the bull by the horns, or patties, and get that job done. No matter how good or bad a team is, no matter how big its offseason failures or successes, it needs some words to fill up its promo time, and promo time is just about here.

I looked up ideas on the web and found long lists of past baseball team slogans on sites from mlb.com to ESPN, and I have to say: They were all pretty dumb. We need to come up with something truly new. It won’t do just to save money by cutting the final word off last year’s slogan and going with “Ricky’s boys don’t,” especially that now, with the signing of Yasmani Grandal and Dallas Keuchel, it should probably be “Ricky’s boys might.”

Of course, the most common catchphrase for baseball teams, though an unintended one, is “wait ’til next year!” This could be the basis for the White Sox slogan of the decade:

In five years, we’re gonna be great.
This had the advantage that, under current ownership and management, it could be used year after year. However, with at least an attempt at improvement for next season that may no longer be applicable, so there are a few more suggestions for them to to consider.

It being the holidays, given that the Sox have an owner who, on Opening Day Eve, is visited by the ghosts of seasons past, present and future, it might be appropriate to begin with:

Scrooge wasn’t the only miser to have an epiphany.
That has a broad pop culture impact, but for a more esoteric take, there’s:

Thank goodness for Article 3, Section 1.
Most of you immediately recognized this as a reference to the part of the U.S. Constitution which, among other things, gives lifetime tenure to federal judges and White Sox owners, executives and pitching coaches. It was an act of tremendous foresight on the part of the Founding Fathers, since not only hadn’t the White Sox been invented yet, baseball hadn’t, either. This catchphrase would be particularly good as a sales pitch to Constitutional originalists.

If a tie to the team’s home is desired, there’s the proud:

Our whiffs give the Windy City its name.
This slogan not only connects to Chicago, it gives a very good description of the Sox offense. And it could be teamed with a balancing slogan:

Why walk all the way to first when you can just stroll back to the dugout?
This is especially appropriate because the White Sox made the recent trade for Nomar Mazara, who, with 28 walks and 108 Ks last year, falls just short of a 4-to-1 K/BB ratio, which is darn near his new team’s major-league-leading-by-far ratio of worse than 4-to-1. Thus, the tradition is sure to continue.

Still, while reaction to the Keuchel acquisition may be a case of irrational exuberance, it does bode well, so we may need a more hopeful saying, even for the offense, which wasn’t all that bad last year, except for that pesky K/BB thing:

When we’ve guaranteed an extra year of control over the new guys, we’ll score more runs.

Of course, you can’t just have slogans for the offense. The defense deserves its publicity as well. Since the Sox only had three regulars with positive defensive ratings last season (UZR, RDRS, dWAR, you name it) and they dumped Golden Glover Yolmer Sánchez and will be relegating Adam Engel and James McCann to part time, if that, while bringing in the stone-handed Mazara, there’s:

We may not be able to catch the ball, but we can’t throw it, either.
Of course, Luis Robert and Mick Madrigal are supposed to be defensively adept, so there’s the hopeful:

Eventually we’ll have two guys who can catch the ball. Honest.
Of course, the hideousness of the Sox defense could be cleverly turned into a sales advantage with:

We’re unwatchable in the field, so you have plenty of time to hit the concession stands.
Speaking of the concessions, how about a tribute:

We can’t play very well, but we really know how to cook.
Not that all is worse on the defensive side, given Robert and Madrigal and the fact newcomer Grandal has an excellent record at framing, the art which has become the be-all-and-end-all of the catching trade ever since being discovered at the end of the dinosaur age of maybe five years ago, up until which “framing” was what you considered doing to your youngster’s pre-school fingerpainting. That gives us:

Just peer real hard at the framing if you can, and you won’t notice the other guys.
Let us not forget to honor the starting pitching, the most improved area so far this offseason. It looked for a while as if, with only one starter who could be considered a proven major leaguer, the Sox couldn’t emulate the old Milwaukee Braves saying of “Spahn and Sain and a day of rain,” but they could come close:

Giolito to throw, then four days of snow.
Now, though, with the addition of Keuchel and Gio González, it shouldn’t be so miserable as we wait to see if Reynaldo López, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech can ever become viable starters, so there’s the lengthy, but catchy:

Now, with a Dallas and two guys named Gio,
we’ve got a well-established trio,
and hope opponents won’t all hit for the cycle
against Reylo, Dylan and Michael.         

All told, though, there’s an excellent chance the White Sox will at least achieve mediocrity, maybe even be good compared to the rest of the pathetic AL Central. That pathetic-ness, and its importance, is evident when you consider that in 2019 the Sox went 38-37 in the division, but 34-52 outside it (a 98-loss pace).

Thanks to the division, though, some success is quite possible. The last Sox ad campaign to lead to success on the field was “Win or Die Trying” in 2005, which, might be realistically adjusted to reduce the punishment for failure:

Win or risk injury trying.

Given recent history, there’s:

OK, so we broke a mirror in 2012.
That’s a very optimistic slogan, since breaking a mirror is only supposed to cause seven years of bad luck, and the curse should be over.

Alternatively, there’s:

It was just the old seven-year (gl)itch.
That one has the benefit of conjuring up images of Marilyn Monroe, but it does create some pressure to have a winning season in 2020.

Anyhow, there are no doubt many more options you can come up with to pass along to marketing veep Brooks Boyer and his staff. As a more successful operation puts it: “Just do it.”

Going back over this piece, I notice that some of the suggestions could possibly be construed as negative. Since it’s the job of flacks to put a positive spin on everything, let’s create a verbal Sandy Koufax curveball and provide one final promo line, a slogan that puts positive spin on the 2020 Sox  that they can assuredly deliver:

White Sox! We’re way better than the Tigers!







Shut up, haters: Tim Anderson wins batting title

It’s always a little sad when baseball is done for the season. (Well, not last year; it was a relief when that mess was over.) But this year’s White Sox team was just better enough (with some putrid exceptions — hello, month of July) that there is a hint of bittersweet in the autumn air.

This year, there was some actual good baseball played and several accomplishments to celebrate. Give it up for José Abreu and his AL-leading 123 RBIs, Yoán Moncada for finishing third in the AL batting race (and being the clear, all-around best player on the Sox), and Lucas Giolito for a miraculous turnaround that will garner him a few Cy Young votes.

And, most pleasantly surprising of all, Tim Anderson won the American League batting title, joining only Luke Appling (1936 and 1943) and Frank Thomas (1997) as South Siders to accomplish the feat. Anderson and Appling in 1936 are the only White Sox to lead all of baseball in batting average.

Oh, hey, Bitmoji. Good to see that you’ve recovered from your um, unfortunate Lucas Giolito incident. But why are you looking so … pissed off? You love Timmy.

Is it because all the advanced stats folks say batting average is meaningless?

Or that Tim’s OBP is disappointingly low because he doesn’t take many walks?

Or that he just makes too many gosh-darned errors and should be moved to the outfield?

I hear ya. Look, Tim is who he is — he will never take many walks. A few more would be nice, sure, so he could steal a few more bases, but that just ain’t his style. And some of the simple errors can be confounding, particularly with his ability for truly spectacular plays. But when Timmy is on, he is fun as hell to watch. And by all accounts, he loves Chicago and genuinely wants to help his community. He’s an easy guy to root for.

Some people only want to see Tim for his shortcomings. But you know what? At the end of the day, he’s a batting champion and they’re not.

That’s right, Bitmoji, let them stew. We’re going to celebrate Tim being Tim. And if other players, like Eloy Jiménez and Zack Collins, take similar steps forward, and Luis Robert is all that and a bag of chips …

That’s the hope, isn’t it? With TA and his bat flips leading the way.

José Abreu: 999 Emergency

On the verge: One may be the loneliest number, but add 999 and you’ll arrive at José Abreu’s next hit. (Clinton Cole/South Side Hit Pen)

José Abreu is about to go four figures on the lumberometer, having amassed 999 career hits, the most recent being Friday’s RBI double off of Lance Lynn in the sixth inning of a 8-3 win over the Texas Rangers.

When Abreu cracks that 1,000th hit, presumably sometime this weekend, he will become the 1,339th member of the club, joining luminaries as varied as Jamey Carroll, Dee Fondy, Birdie Tebbetts and Orator Shafer. Abreu will be just four hits from the career total of Bill Melton — although José has long since passed Beltin’s White Sox career total of 901.

At any rate, celebrating this milestone obviously calls for the following tunes, in descending order of coolness. We begin with London’s late, lamented Motörhead, with timeless, face-melting advice about what phone number to dial when things get dire: 999. From Motörhead’s 1984 “No Remorse” LP, “Emergency” is actually a cover version of a song by also-from-London metalsmiths Girlschool, who released it first as a classic of New Wave of British Heavy Metal four years earlier. (Safety note: Unlike in the UK, dialing 999 does not produce emergency services in the United States. Americans are advised to dial 911 instead, which, depending on your location, may or may not be a joke.)

ABOVE: The original by Girlschool from ’80 and a fine slab of wax in its own right.

Also from London, labelmates with true giants Buzzcocks was 999, a band with a string of minor hits to their name and a presence on seemingly every compilation documenting early UK punk rock. 1978’s “Homicide” is their best, and to the shock of nobody, has “minor hit” written all over it.

I apologize for making this nude, elderly man leer at you, but Keef recorded a pretty listenable bit of blues-sludge titled “999” in 1992. It’s got loads of those signature Richardsian no-6th-string, fluttery chord hammer-ons that pair well with Hammond organ and teflon internal organs.

MLB cancels White Sox 2020 spring training?

Yet again, we who bleed black can’t help but feel attacked.

In the latest of a string of high-profile media omissions of the Chicago White Sox, ranging from ESPN forgetting about 2005’s World Series title (more than once), to right-wing douchebag Pat Sajak’s game show famously leaving out the Pale Hose in a list of Chicago sports clubs, it’s been par for the course for a long time to see our Sox tossed into the memory hole.

So when MLB decided to email a list of 2020 Spring Training schedules to every At Bat subscriber titled “Every Team’s 2020 Spring Training Schedule,” initially we should have known better and expected what we got: no White Sox. Again.

no white sox 2020 spring rainingYes, that’s right: Yet again, the Pale Hose were tossed right into the memory hole.

Did you want outrage? Were you hoping for harrumphing? Forget it: The fact is, this treatment is exactly what we expect by now. That’s why White Sox fans have to be made of stronger stuff than your average fanbase. Our shoulders are cleared of chips. We are sisters and brothers bathed in the nose light of Andy The Clown. We don’t need constant reminders of our existence pouring at us from every quarter of society such as some baseball clubs in Chicago enjoy. No matter how many times we are told we don’t exist, we don’t change our outlook. We know what’s up. We welcome your disdain. We thrive on your inattention.

And with this farm system, 2020 Spring Training is going to field squads that look monumentally dangerous.

Unless MLB cancels it.

Salute o7 to CHK for the tip.

UPDATE: Yes, by Monday afternoon, MLB updated its list and included all the teams, as advertised. Point is, we were forgotten … again.