South Side Hit Pen Podcast: Episode 2

Marcell Polo: Will Marcell Ozuna land in Chicago on Monday? If so, we have a plan to keep him from getting lost in the netting with his disorienting move from left to right field. (@CespedesBBQ)


So, with Clinton Cole off doing his divine work photographing and videographing the Big 10 Championship Game this weekend, Episode 2 features editor-in-chief Brett Ballantini and writer Leonard Gore talking will-he-won’t-he-Marcell Ozuna, Marcell Polo, Yaz Grandal, Yoshitomo Tsutsugo, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Ken Williams, Wiffleball in the house, humor in baseball, and fanfic-on-demand.

 

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Today in White Sox History: December 8

Cashing in: The only time in the 20th Century that the reigning MVP was traded or sold came in 1914, when the White Sox snagged future Hall-of-Famer Eddie Collins. (Baseball Hall of Fame)


1914
The White Sox purchased reigning MVP and future Hall of Fame second baseman Eddie Collins from Connie Mack and the Philadelphia A’s. The price was incredible based on 1914 standards: $50,000 went to Mack. $15,000 went to Collins as a signing bonus, and then Collins was tendered a five-year guaranteed deal worth $75,000! Collins would play for the White Sox for 12 seasons.


1959
The offseason purging of young players continued with the White Sox shipping future All-Star, power-hitting outfielder Johnny Callison to the Phillies for third baseman Gene Freese. Of all the offseason moves, this was probably the worst.

Freese was a slow, scattergun-armed infielder with limited range. Callison, the subject of “The Life of a Sox Rookie” documentary film in 1958, failed in a few tries to take over the left field spot but in a new environment blossomed, winning the 1964 All-Star Game for the National League with a three-run, ninth-inning home run. The AL team that year was led by (ironically) Sox skipper Al Lopez!

Freese would be sent along in 1961 to the Reds in exchange for two pitchers, one of whom was Juan Pizarro, who became a two-time All-Star. Freese would return to the Sox for parts of the 1965 and 1966 seasons.

The Sox, meanwhile, realized the mistake they had made and tried to reacquire Callison from Philadelphia before the start of the 1962 season without success. He’d play 10 seasons with the Phillies, accumulating five years in double figures for triples, eight seasons with 10 or more home runs and four years with at least 78 RBIs.


1996
Pitcher Alex Fernandez signed a free-agent deal with Florida, the culmination of misunderstandings and pettiness. Sox ownership felt Fernandez was going to remain contractually bound to them for another season, but that was torpedoed when the players union and owners agreed to give players service time during the time missed in 1994 because of the labor impasse. Fernandez became a free agent, and the Sox hastily made a late offer that was rebuffed. He won 79 games in four full and three partial seasons with the White Sox. Without him to anchor the rotation, the Sox were forced to try to fill the void. The choice to do so, Jamie Navarro, was a complete disaster.


2004
Trying to fortify his bullpen, White Sox GM Ken Williams inked free agent pitcher Dustin Hermanson to a contract. Hermanson would be spectacular in the first half of the 2005 championship season before back issues limited him in the second half. He’d still finish with 34 saves and an ERA of 2.04.

 

Today in White Sox History: December 6

Bold stroke: GM Roland Hemond stuck his neck out to make baby shortstop Ozzie Guillén the centerpiece of a winter trade — and won it, bigtime. (@RonVesely)


1959
In an effort to try to repeat as American League champs, Bill Veeck and Hank Greenberg decided to make a series of moves to bring in hitters at the expense of some of the top young players in the Sox system. Veeck originally tried to get young stars like future White Sox coach Orlando Cepeda from the Giants and Bill White from the Cardinals, but was turned down. So he went in the only direction he felt he could.

The first deal brought the Sox back outfielder Minnie Miñoso at the cost of future All-Star power hitting first baseman Norm Cash and future All-Star power hitting catcher Johnny Romano. Cleveland also got Bubba Phillips. Sox manager Al Lopez was quoted after the controversial deal as saying, “Some of us, like me, are not worried about next year because we might not be around then.”


1984
It was one of the most brilliant and gutsiest deals even completed by GM Roland Hemond, a deal that paid dividends immediately and 20 years down the line. Hemond sent former Cy Young Award winner LaMarr Hoyt to the Padres in a package deal that netted the Sox a 20-year-old shortstop named Ozzie Guillén. The Sox also got valuable utility player Luis Salazar.

Guillén immediately went on to fill a gaping hole in the infield and was named Rookie of the Year. He’d win a Gold Glove and become a three-time All-Star before coming back as manager in 2004. He’d then win the World Series in 2005 and make the playoffs again in 2008. Hoyt would be out of baseball by 1987, after battling weight and drug addiction issues.


2005
Frank Thomas, probably the best hitter in team history, became a free agent after the Sox declined to pick up his $10 million option. White Sox GM Ken Williams had no choice in the matter, as Thomas was coming off back-to-back injury-plagued seasons. At his age and weight, and with the addition of slugger Jim Thome, there was no longer a place for Thomas in the lineup. The Big Hurt would eventually sign an incentive-laden deal with the A’s in late January and continue his Hall of Fame career.


2016
One of the biggest winter meeting trades in memory saw the White Sox send Chris Sale, one of the top pitchers in the game, to the Red Sox for a number of prospects. The deal included the top minor league player in the game, Yoán Moncada.

Sale was brilliant in his six-plus years with the White Sox, winning 74 games with a 3.00 ERA. He made the All-Star team five times, pitching five innings and winning the 2013 contest. He set White Sox records for most strikeouts in a season (274) and had four consecutive years of more than 200 whiffs. After four straight losing seasons, the franchise decided it was time to rebuild and Sale was in demand, so the painful decision was made to trade him and hope for a better future.

 

Today in White Sox History: December 2

Lost opportunity: This utter gem of a photo was never used by Topps, which is a crime against cardboard. (Topps)


1971 — It was the trade that perhaps saved the franchise: White Sox player personnel director Roland Hemond sent pitcher Tommy John and infielder Steve Huntz to the Dodgers for disgruntled slugger Dick Allen. Allen, one of the most prolific talents in the game, marched to his own drummer and was deemed difficult to handle by other teams and managers. Somehow Sox skipper Chuck Tanner, who had known the Allen family for years, got the best out of him. Allen would almost singlehandedly lead the team to the 1972 playoffs, winning the American League MVP. He’d win two home run titles in his three years on the South Side and be named to three All-Star teams. His popularity kept the turnstiles spinning and the White Sox solvent.

An hour later, Hemond stole pitcher Stan Bahnsen from the Yankees for infielder Rich McKinney. Bahnsen would go on to win 21 games in 1972.


2002 — And now, a deal that didn’t work too well for the White Sox: GM Ken Williams traded closer Keith Foulke, catcher Mark Johnson and a third player to the A’s for pitchers Billy Koch, Neal Cotts and a third player. Koch never found the success he’d had in Toronto or Oakland, in part because of a rare illness. Cotts, at least, would have a spectacular season in 2005, helping the Sox win the World Series.

Foulke meanwhile, saved 44 games and made the All-Star team in 2003. In his defense, Williams may have had his hands tied by the fact that manager Jerry Manuel had lost confidence in Foulke and refused to pitch him in key situations in the back half of the 2002 season.

 

 

 

Today in White Sox History: November 25

Cheeky rookie: Guillén made quite a splash in his 1985 debut. (Fleer) 


1985Ozzie Guillén of the White Sox was named AL Rookie of the Year by the Baseball Writers Association of America. Guillén, who came to the Sox in a deal involving 1983 Cy Young winner LaMarr Hoyt, didn’t disappoint. His defense was outstanding, committing only 12 errors the entire season. Offensively, Ozzie recorded 134 hits and had a .273 batting average. He received 16 of 28 first place votes and finished with 101 points. Teddy Higuera of the Brewers was second. Ozzie would return to the Sox after his playing days ended to become the manager, winning the 2005 World Series with the club.


2005 — White Sox GM Ken Williams rolled the dice and traded popular outfielder Aaron Rowand to the Phillies for slugger Jim Thome. The Peoria native would hammer 42 home runs and garner the AL Comeback Player of the Year award in 2006, but many felt the trade changed the chemistry and philosophy of the club that won the World Series in 2005 — to say nothing of the defensive hole it created in center field. Thome would play almost four years with the Sox, with 134 home runs and three seasons of at least 90 RBIs. Thome hit his 500th career home run in 2007 at U.S. Cellular Field.

 

 

Today in White Sox History: November 4

Glory days: Guillén at his peak, winning the 2005 World Series. (@OzzieGuillen)


2003 — Former White Sox All-Star shortstop Ozzie Guillén was named the team’s manager, replacing Jerry Manuel. Ozzie immediately set about changing the fortunes of the franchise. His “Ozzie-Ball” philosophy of pitching, smart-aggressive base running, defense and doing the little things instead of just waiting for the home run would help lead to a World Series title in 2005, the season he would be named Manager of the Year. He’d return to the playoffs with the club in 2008.

Before being allowed to leave in late September 2011, Guillén appeared to be headed for a very long career on the South Side, but his relationship changed with GM Ken Williams, and a parting was best for all concerned.

Today in White Sox History: October 24

(@WhiteSox)


2000 Ken Williams was named the new White Sox GM, replacing the retiring Ron Schueler. Williams, a former Sox player, would bring passion and heart to the position. He also wasn’t afraid to take risks, no matter how many times they failed. He built a World Series champion by 2005, which remains his signature moment in the organization.


2005 — The White Sox winning the pennant for the first time in 46 years, no less on the strength of four straight complete games, drew only a small cover mention in Sports Illustrated. In the upper left corner was a photo of Paul Konerko swinging with the caption, “At Last! The White Sox Are In The World Series.”

Today in White Sox History: September 26

No joy in Mudville: Ozzie, mighty Ozzie, struck out.


Sept. 26, 1905 — In a doubleheader at Boston, Sox pitcher Ed Walsh relieved starter Doc White in the first inning of the opener and got the win, 10-5. Walsh then started and won the nightcap game over the Americans, 3-1. Because White didn’t retire a batter in the opening game, Walsh got credit for a pair of complete-game wins.


Sept. 26, 1943 — The White Sox set the franchise record for the most runs ever scored in the fourth inning when they put 13 on the board against the Senators at Washington. The South Siders would win the game, 15-3. Future Sox star pitcher Early Wynn was the victim of the Sox uprising. Also of note in the 13-run inning was a triple-steal on one play, as Thurman Tucker, Guy Curtright and Luke Appling all swiped bases, with Tucker stealing home.


Sept. 26, 1984 — Despite a disastrous season on the field, the White Sox drew the last of their 2,136,988 fans to Comiskey Park to become the first Chicago franchise to draw at least two million fans in consecutive seasons.


Sept. 26, 1998 — White Sox outfielder Brian Simmons became the third player in franchise history to hit home runs from both sides of the plate in the same game. Simmons connected off Kansas City’s Brian Barber and Allen McDill, driving home five runs in Chicago’s 13-5 win.

Sept. 26, 2011 — He was considered the face of the franchise for eight seasons, but on this night after a 4-3 win over the Toronto Blue Jays, manager Ozzie Guillén announced he was leaving after owner Jerry Reinsdorf agreed to let him out of the final year of his contract. 

Guillén, who was the 1985 AL Rookie of the Year with the White Sox, won the World Series in 2005 and also got the club into the playoffs in 2008. He had five winning seasons in eight years as manager, and was named Manager of the Year for his work in 2005.

In that magical season of 2005, “Ozzieball” resulted in the Sox getting off to the best start in their history. With a perfect blend of pitching, speed, power and the ability to execute the fundamentals, the White Sox were in first place from wire to wire. Then they blitzed through the postseason, putting together an 11-1 record that was the third-best post season record in baseball history.

Guillén’s passion and enthusiasm for the franchise was unparalleled, but at times he was his own worst enemy.

Over his final years in Chicago, he became increasingly thin-skinned and defensive when criticism was directed his way, and he lashed out at Sox fans on more than one occasion. In one of his infamous rants against fans he said they could ‘‘turn off their TVs and stop watching the game if they don’t like the [bleep]ing lineup,’’ and another in May 2011 claimed Sox fans would not remember him (“as soon as you leave the ballpark they don’t care about you. They don’t. The monuments, the statues … they pee on them when they get drunk.”) On the afternoon of the day he left the team Guillén told reporters (including South Side Hit Pen’s Brett Ballantini, who broke the news that Guillén had published a blog announcing his move to the Marlins during that night’s game) that he would not want to return to fulfill his 2012 contract unless he got an extension and more money.

Ozzie’s relationship with GM Ken Williams also deteriorated over the final few years, as the two men had different viewpoints over how the roster should be constructed and the style to which the Sox should play. Guillén’s family didn’t help the situation, with social media comments derogatory White Sox players and Williams.

Many felt when Ozzie was hired in November 2003 that he was the right man for the right team at the right time, and for a few years he was. Unfortunately, the White Sox manager with the longest tenure since Al Lopez let some personal foibles override a good situation, and it was best for all that a parting of the ways took place.