Chicago White Sox: 2014 Regular season

Year in review: Sox make some strides

December, 30, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Jose AbreuJonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJose Abreu gave the White Sox offense a big boost in 2014.
CHICAGO -- While the 2014 season was better than the miserable year that preceded it, the Chicago White Sox still finished under .500 with a 73-89 record.

That’s 10 games better than 2013, while another 10-game improvement in 2015 would get them above the break-even mark.

The front office clearly is aiming higher than just a 10-game jump, though, as evidenced by their player-acquisition spree in the three months since the most recent season has ended.

New additions like Zach Duke, Adam LaRoche, Jeff Samardzija, David Robertson and Melky Cabrera all have big-time experience. Not only that, the club filled key needs with some of the top options available, giving hope for an even brighter summer in 2015.


5. Top o’ the order: Being named a Gold Glove finalist in center field would have been a welcome sight alone for the White Sox, but Adam Eaton took it even further. He batted .300 in his first season on the South Side, and not only tied for first in the AL with 10 triples, his .355 batting average with runners in scoring position was third best. His .347 batting average in the second half was third best in the AL behind only teammate Jose Abreu (.350) and AL batting champion Jose Altuve (.349) of the Houston Astros.
[+] EnlargeAlexei Ramirez
Mike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsAlexei Ramirez's All-Star nod in 2014 was the first for a White Sox shortstop since Ozzie Guillen.
4. Alexei’s excellent season:
By any measure, one of the top defensive and offensive seasons from any American League shortstop in 2014 would signal an impressive year. Alexei Ramirez not only won the AL Silver Slugger Award for shortstops, he was also among the three finalists for a Gold Glove Award. Ramirez was also the first White Sox shortstop to be named an All-Star since Ozzie Guillen in 1991.

3. Bats on the offensive: First-year hitting coach Todd Steverson proved to be just what the White Sox needed, although, Abreu’s arrival might have been the biggest key for an offense that had been down in recent years. The White Sox were tied for fourth in the AL in home runs (144), were fifth in slugging percentage (.392) and fifth in OPS (.700). They had 61 games with 10 hits or more, fifth most in the AL, and their 39 multi-homer games were sixth.

2. No ordinary Sale:
Left-hander Chris Sale continued his meticulous ascent up the Cy Young Award voter totals, finishing third this past season after a fifth-place finish in 2013 and a sixth-place finish one year prior. His 2.17 ERA was second in the AL to Felix Hernandez’s 2.14 mark, and he led the AL in strikeouts-per-nine-innings (10.76), while finishing second in WHIP (0.97) and opponents OBP (.262). His 208 strikeouts gave him back-to-back 200 seasons for just the fourth time in franchise history.

1. Abreu arrives: In can be argued that nobody has made a bigger splash in his first MLB season than Abreu, who was not only an All-Star, but the AL Rookie of the Year. No player in baseball history had finished in the top five of each triple-crown category before Abreu did it in 2014. He led baseball with a .581 slugging percentage and his 36 home runs were a franchise rookie record, and the sixth most from a first-year player in baseball history.


5. Not Hall-worthy: Despite having five former White Sox players among the 10 eligible candidates under consideration by the Golden Era Committee, none were elected into Cooperstown. Dick Allen fell one vote short, while Ken Boyer, Jim Kaat, Minnie Minoso and Billy Pierce also were denied entry. It wasn’t all bad on the Hall of Fame front in 2014 as Frank Thomas was inducted in July, giving a shout out to 138 former teammates in his acceptance speech.

[+] EnlargeAvisail Garcia
AP Photo/Charles Rex ArbogastAvisail Garcia missed most of the 2014 season with a shoulder injury.
4. Garcia shreds his shoulder: So much for that 1-2 punch the White Sox expected to see in the heart of the order as Avisail Garcia injured his shoulder in the ninth game of the season. Abreu had to go it alone as a run producer and did extraordinarily well under the circumstances, but how many runs could the White Sox have scored with a healthy Garcia? To his credit, Garcia was able to return from torn labrum and an avulsion fracture to play in 38 of the final 40 games of the season.

3. Injury concern: For the third consecutive season, Sale dealt with an early-season arm/shoulder issues, and this past season his strained flexor muscle put him on the disabled list for the first time in his career. Sale worked his way through his issue, just like he did in 2012 and 2013, but the 2014 injury was his most serious and it seems likely that Sale’s preparation for the 2015 season will be altered in some way.

2. Whiffle ball: While the offense was better in 2014, it wasn’t without its issues as White Sox hitters struck out a whopping 1,362 times, a franchise record. It put a drain on both on-base percentage and situational hitting. The previous franchise record was in 2013 when they struck out 1,207 times. Only the Houston Astros struck out more in 2014, while Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers each struck out 159 times, leaving them tied for the fourth most in the AL.

1. No relief in sight: Nate Jones and Matt Lindstrom went down with significant injuries, Ronald Belisario was no answer for the late innings, and everybody else asked to enter a game from the White Sox’s bullpen was rarely pitching in their proper role. How bad was it in relief in 2014? The White Sox lost 43 games after holding a lead, second most in baseball behind the Texas Rangers (44), and six of those defeats came with a lead of three or more runs in the seventh inning or later.

Jose Abreu's next goal: Winning

November, 10, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO – With news of his unanimous American League Rookie of the Year Award barely a half-hour old Monday, Chicago White Sox slugger Jose Abreu was already talking about an encore.

To the surprise of nobody who held court with Abreu during that stellar season, his goals moving forward have nothing to do with winning more individual awards.

“What I want to do is win with the White Sox,” Abreu said through an interpreter when asked how he could still improve. “It’s something that has been in my mind through the season and the offseason. I’m looking forward to next season for the White Sox.”

All season long, Abreu preferred to talk about team before self, even when he was crushing home runs at a torrid pace and leading the American League in long balls for a large chunk of the year.

[+] EnlargeJose Abreu
Jon Durr/USA TODAY Sports"I don't take losing very good," White Sox first baseman Jose Abreu said after winning Rookie of the Year honors.
He finished first in the AL in slugging percentage (.581), second in total bases (323) and OPS (.964), third in at-bats per RBI (5.20) and fourth in home runs (36). His 21-game hitting streak, which started the day after a 19-game streak ended, was the longest in the league this year.

Yet despite Abreu's providing some of the best run production in baseball, the White Sox were unable to get on the winning track. The club finished 73-89 -- a 10-game improvement on 2013 -- but wound up only above the Minnesota Twins in the American League Central and were better than just four AL teams.

That 10-game improvement might show the White Sox are now headed in the right direction, but Abreu was still in Cuba in 2013, so all this past season means to him is he was on a team that finished nine games under .500.

He remains confident the White Sox can turn things around and knows he has been through this process before.

“I don’t take losing very good,” Abreu said. “That happened to me in Cuba. I belonged to a team that had five losing seasons when I got there. Everybody started working and hitting together, and we became one of the best. I think we can do that with the White Sox, and I’m happy I’m here at the right moment.”

The fact that his team in Cuba, Cienfuegos, got better right when Abreu arrived doesn’t seem to be a coincidence. He now gives the White Sox a core run-producer to build around, essentially how Chris Sale is the core building block for the pitching staff.

That Abreu had so much success in a new league while living in a new country, all while his family’s status remained in limbo, showed the 27-year-old can overcome adversity. It makes many observers believe he has a solid chance to deliver even better numbers moving forward -- a tall task indeed.

“I want to be better every day,” Abreu said. “Being better next season to help the White Sox make the playoffs and please the fans. That’s my goal.”

Abreu definitely knows how to say the right things. But that comes easily when your priorities are in the proper place.

“It was difficult to get adjusted to a new country, especially if you don’t have your family with you,” Abreu said Monday. “A lot of people really helped me make the adjustment coming to this country. Thanks to my wife, my mother, my father, the adjustment has been pretty good. I like it here.”

Steverson: Adjustments key for Abreu

November, 7, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Offensive recognition for both Jose Abreu and Alexei Ramirez as Silver Sluggers was not a surprise to hitting coach Todd Steverson, who actually thought at least one player would be more decorated this week.

“I wasn't surprised,” Steverson said via conference call Friday. “At the end of the season, after the last day, honesty I looked at it and thought that Alexei was going to win potentially the Silver Slugger and the Gold Glove.

“With the season that Jose had, going up against a guy like Miguel Cabrera and the other good first basemen in the American League, he put together a solid season. It's nice to see everybody recognized him for that.”

The Silver Slugger Awards for the White Sox’s duo were announced Thursday. On Tuesday, Ramirez and Adam Eaton fell just short of earning Gold Glove Awards, although both finished in the top three of the voting.

As the awards season heads into next week, Abreu is expected to land the biggest honor of all when he is favored to win the American League rookie of the year award.

At 27-years old, Abreu had the advantage of more experience having played 10 seasons in Cuba. But he still needed to make the necessary adjustments while facing the best collection of pitching talent he had ever seen on a day-to-day basis.

(Read full post)

Abreu, Ramirez named Silver Sluggers

November, 6, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Wherever Jose Abreu decides to buy a home, he would be smart to make sure it includes a rather large trophy room.

Abreu and Chicago White Sox teammate Alexei Ramirez both earned American League Silver Slugger Awards on Thursday, with the honor the latest on Abreu’s ever-growing postseason list.

The first baseman's Silver Slugger Award can go alongside his Sporting News Rookie of the Year Award and his Players Choice Outstanding Rookie honor. He also is the favorite to land the Baseball Writers Association of America Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award, to be announced Monday.

The Silver Slugger is given to the top hitter in each league at every position after voting by major league managers and coaches.

In hitting 36 home runs with 107 RBIs and a major league-leading .581 slugging percentage, Abreu bettered the likes of Miguel Cabrera, Albert Pujols, Joe Mauer, Eric Hosmer and Edwin Encarnacion for the first-base award.

The 27-year-old had 10 years of experience in his native Cuba and definitely did not play like a rookie this past season. His home run total set a White Sox rookie record, and he became the first rookie in major league history to finish in the top five in all three Triple Crown categories.

He is the first rookie to win a Silver Slugger Award since Mike Trout in 2012.

Ramirez’s rebound season earned him his second career Silver Slugger Award; the shortstop also won the honor in 2010. The only other White Sox players to win multiple Silver Slugger Awards are Frank Thomas (four), Carlton Fisk (three) and Magglio Ordonez (two).

The 33-year-old Ramirez led all regular American League shortstops with 15 home runs, 74 RBIs and a .408 slugging percentage. His .713 OPS was second to the Toronto Blue Jays' Jose Reyes. He also posted career bests in total bases (254) and extra-base hits (52).

Ramirez, whose hot start this season led to his first All-Star Game appearance, is the only White Sox shortstop ever to win the Silver Slugger Award.

It is the fourth time a pair of White Sox teammates won Silver Slugger Awards in the same season. Joe Crede and Jermaine Dye did it in 2006, Ordonez and Thomas accomplished the feat in 2000, and Julio Franco and Thomas did it in 1994.

Ramirez, Eaton miss out on Gold Glove

November, 4, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- While the Chicago White Sox’s defense was somewhat improved in 2014, it wasn’t quite good enough to land an American League Gold Glove Award.

Shortstop Alexei Ramirez and center fielder Adam Eaton each were finalists for the defensive award, but neither landed hardware during Tuesday's announcement. Ramirez and Eaton both were bested by Baltimore Orioles players, as J.J. Hardy won the AL shortstop honor and Adam Jones won in center field.

The takeaway for the White Sox, though, is that Ramirez and Eaton both play up the middle and provide a solid base for the White Sox to build an improved defense around.

Ramirez’s play in the field fell flat in 2013, but it was much improved this past season. His range was impressive and his .978 fielding percentage was tied with Hardy, while getting over 100 more chances in the field.

Eaton gave the White Sox a huge boost in his first season in the American League. Taking over in center field for a shaky Alejandro De Aza, Eaton also showed impressive range with the fifth-best fielding percentage at his position.

The complete list of American League Gold Glove winners: Dallas Keuchel (Astros) pitcher, Salvador Perez (Royals) catcher; Eric Hosmer (Royals) first base; Dustin Pedroia (Red Sox) second base; Hardy (Orioles) shortstop; Kyle Saeger (Mariners) third base; Alex Gordon (Royals) left field; Jones (Orioles) center field; Nick Markakis (Orioles) right field.

Abreu, Sale named AL award finalists

November, 4, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu and Chris Sale were named finalists for Baseball Writers Association of America postseason awards, with the winners scheduled to be revealed next week.

Abreu was nominated for the American League’s Rookie of the Year Award, as expected, while Sale was named one of three finalists for the AL Cy Young Award.

After a season when he led the AL with a .581 slugging percentage and hit 36 home runs to go along with 107 RBIs, Abreu is expected to be a runaway winner of the rookie honor. He could become the sixth White Sox player to win the rookie of the year and first since Ozzie Guillen in 1985.

New York Yankees reliever Dellin Betances and Los Angeles Angels starter Matt Shoemaker are the other AL rookie award finalists. Abreu was not named an MVP finalist, with the candidates in that category reduced to the Cleveland Indians’ Michael Brantley, the Detroit Tigers’ Victor Martinez and the Los Angeles Angels’ Mike Trout.

Win or lose, Sale’s top-three finish means he has moved up the Cy Young Award ranks in each of the three seasons he has been a starter. In 2012, when he first moved into the rotation, sale was sixth in Cy Young balloting. Last season he was fifth and now this year he is at least third.

Sale is a finalist for AL Cy Young Award along with the Cleveland Indians’ Corey Kluber and the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez.

The BBWAA award season kicks off Monday with the American League and National League rookie of the year awards. The manager of the year winners will be revealed Nov. 11, followed by the two Cy Young Award winners on Nov. 12. The awards conclude Nov. 13 when the MVP is presented in each league.

Abreu wins Players Choice rookie honor

November, 3, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Jose Abreu added even more hardware to the pile Monday, as the Chicago White Sox first baseman/designated hitter was named Players Choice American League Outstanding Rookie in a vote of his peers.

White Sox ace Chris Sale was a finalist for American League Outstanding Pitcher, with the honor ultimately going to the Seattle Mariners' Felix Hernandez.

The Players Choice Awards are a product of the Major League Baseball Players Association.

It is yet another honor for Abreu en route to what is expected to be the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award, which will be handed out Nov. 10. The Baseball Writers' Association of America is expected to announce its award finalists Tuesday.

Abreu was also honored with Sporting News’ top rookie award after an inaugural season in which he batted .317 with a .383 on-base percentage and a major league-leading .581 slugging percentage. The 27-year-old, who had 10 years of experience in his native Cuba, added a White Sox rookie-record 36 home runs, along with 107 RBIs.

Abreu also became just the fifth White Sox rookie to be named an American League All-Star and was named AL player of the month in both April and July. He was AL rookie of the month in April, June and July.

Sale went 12-4 this past season with a 2.17 ERA, missing out on the ERA title to Hernandez, who finished with a 2.14 mark. The White Sox left-hander had 208 strikeouts in 26 starts and led the AL in strikeouts per nine innings with 10.8.

Abreu starts collection of rookie honors

October, 20, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
Jose AbreuMike DiNovo/USA TODAY SportsJose Abreu remains humble about his accomplishments as a rookie.

CHICAGO -- In a prelude to what is expected to be the result of the official American League Rookie of the Year award, the Chicago White Sox's Jose Abreu was honored Monday for his outstanding debut season.

The 27-year-old Abreu was named the Sporting News Rookie of the Year, a honor not related to the Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year Award that is voted on by members of the Baseball Writers Association of America.

Abreu earned 149 of a possible 160 votes to win the honor in balloting conducted among major league players. The Los Angeles Angels' Matt Shoemaker earned four votes, while New York Yankees teammates Dellin Betances and Masahiro Tanaka each earned three votes. The final vote went to Abreu’s White Sox teammate Marcus Semien.

“For me, it means a lot that the players who play against me recognize my efforts and my numbers,” Abreu said through an interpreter Monday via conference call. “I am thankful for all of them to give me support. I don’t have words to describe what I’m feeling right now.”

Abreu finished the season with a major league-leading .581 slugging percentage, while also posting a .383 on-base percentage in 145 games. He was second in the American League with a .964 OPS and second in total bases with 323.

Abreu’s 36 home runs not only were a White Sox rookie record, they were also third most in the AL. He was also fourth in RBIs with 107 and fourth in extra-base hits with 73.

“When spring training started, I just [wanted] to be 100 percent for the season and be able to help the team win games,” Abreu said. “When the season was finished and I had the opportunity to check my numbers, I feel very comfortable. Now, I prepare for whatever is in the future. The next award for me is OK. I’m very humble for all the accomplishments I had this year.”

Abreu was uncomfortable talking about personal accomplishments all season long, constantly saying he was more in tune with the team aspect of the game.

“All the numbers all the stuff during the season was for me, my family, the White Sox,” he said. “I don’t have words to describe how I feel about this year. I am humble for all that stuff.”

Abreu’s power did wane during the final two months of the season as he participated in a 162-game season for the first time in his career. In his native Cuba, Abreu never had more than 312 at-bats in a season for his Cienfuegos club. He had 556 at-bats for the White Sox this past season.

His performance suggests even better numbers moving forward if he can pace himself for the long schedule.

“I really am not a person that follows the numbers from the past; I don’t like to talk about it,” Abreu said. “I will prepare every year to get the numbers I got this year and make them better.”

Abreu became the first rookie in major league history to rank among the top five in his league in each Triple Crown category. He also joined Hal Trosky (1934), Ted Williams (1939) and Albert Pujols (2001) to hit at least 30 doubles, 30 home runs and collect 100 RBIs in a rookie season.

The last White Sox player to win the Sporting News rookie honor was Gordon Beckham in 2009. Abreu is also the 11th White Sox player to be honored with the rookie award from the publication.

The official American League and National League Rookie of the Year awards will be announced Nov. 10.

Paul Konerko enjoys rousing send-off, even without hits

September, 28, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko has played in six All-Star Games and a World Series and was an MVP of an American League Championship Series. Yet the three games he played this weekend against the Kansas City Royals may have been the toughest of his career.

The longtime team captain went 0-for-10 in his farewell weekend, grounding out to third base in the fifth inning on Sunday in his final major league at-bat.

With a sore hand after breaking a bone earlier this month and a tight back that stiffened up on him over the weekend, Konerko also had to deal with the emotions of his final start that included a statue presentation and other gifts, an on-field speech in front of a sold-out stadium and one standing ovation after another.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
Jerry Lai/USA TODAY Sports

"It hasn't hit me yet," Paul Konerko said Sunday of the impact of no longer playing baseball. He said that might be different by the time spring training rolls around. "Maybe I'll find out then."

“Everything I did this weekend was something I really hadn’t done the whole year as far as back-to-back games, [hitting against] righties, the whole nine yards,” Konerko said. “It was kind of, I was beat mentally and physically. But I knew it and I tried to get ready as best I could, absorb all of it. I hung in there on Friday night, took a couple good swings, didn’t get [a hit] and then the last two days it was just kind of, I was there but I wasn’t kind of thing.”

This weekend was never about what kind of production Konerko could give. It was a celebration of all the things he had done in the past. He leaves the game with the Chicago White Sox record for total bases (4,010) and is second in franchise history with 432 home runs and 1,383 RBIs.

That he was humble and so self-aware while doing it, all while being a determined leader in the clubhouse, only heightened his appeal with White Sox fans and baseball fans, in general. Konerko did it the right way all the way to the end and only in the final weekend of his career did he let outside factors get the best of him.

“That’s such the beauty of this game, there is no switch,” Konerko said. “You gotta be good. You gotta have your act together. And it’s almost in a way for me, just a nice, gentle reminder on the way out you don’t get what you want all the time when it comes to on the field stuff. But everything else couldn’t have been [better]. This whole thing blew me away.

“I know I’ve been here awhile, and I knew there’d be something at the end that would be commemorating me being here for a while. But this whole thing, the fans and all that [celebrating Paul Konerko Day on Saturday] night, I never thought that I was one of those guys that gets that. I just didn’t think I was, but I guess I was.”

Konerko walked off the field the last time before the start of the sixth inning when he was replaced at first base by Andy Wilkins. He had one last curtain call before the sixth inning started, then watched his final game unfold from the bench. The White Sox fell 6-4 to the Royals.

“The thing is, I didn’t feel it was such a dramatic thing to stop playing baseball,” Konerko said. “And maybe it hasn’t hit me yet; maybe it won’t hit me until spring training rolls around and I’m not getting ready again, I’m not going with the team and all that. Maybe I’ll find out then.”

To show his appreciation, Konerko finished a postgame television interview and ran around the field to thank the fans, shaking hands for at least 20 minutes after the last out was made.

“You have the support as you’re going through, you know the fans are there, you know it but you don’t,” Konerko said. “What just happened out there on the field like at the end there going around, you see other people doing that. You don’t ever think that’s you. I don’t know. It’s going to take me a while to digest all of this stuff. It’s pretty crazy to me.”

Perhaps Konerko’s biggest show of thanks came early in the game, when he scratched the names of his family members in the infield dirt near first base. There was Nick and Owen for his two sons, J for his wife Jen and A for his daughter Amelia. Then he finished it off by drawing a heart.

“I thought about it probably 20 minutes before the game,” Konerko said. “I don’t know why, I just did. It was as a thank you, because your family is always in the back seat. Your mom, your dad, your wife, your kids. You do the best you can, but if you’re a big league baseball player you have to be selfish. You have to leave the house early. You’re traveling. You come home late. You just miss a lot.

“It’s not a normal thing, so it was kind of a) a thank you and b) to remind me that when this all ends today, that’s what really matters. That’s what’s waiting for me all the time on the other side, and that’s pretty good.”

White Sox set to undergo more rebuilding

September, 28, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Headed in a positive direction now, the Chicago White Sox still finished with a losing record in 2014, and the bar is set extremely high for general manager Rick Hahn as the offseason begins.

The additions of Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton last winter have the offense in better shape than it was a year ago. But those additions also are a tough act to follow for Hahn, as the fan base yearns for more improvement and a better 2015.

Is Hahn challenging himself to match and possibly exceed last year’s roster maneuvering?

[+] EnlargeJose Abreu
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhThe addition of Jose Abreu was huge for the offense this season, but what do the White Sox have in store for next season?
“Absolutely, and there’s sort of, I suppose, two categories of moves: Some that are sort of more short-term fixes that are going to improve the club and slightly move the chains, and then there’s sort of the longer-term fits, such as Abreu or (Avisail Garcia) or Eaton or some of the other guys that we feel we have coming,” Hahn said.

“The addition of (left-handed pitcher) Carlos Rodon in the last draft is another example, and we’re never going to move our eye from those long-term targets being a priority. At the same time, we may be in a position where some shorter-term deals with some veteran-type players might make some sense in order to get this team closer to where we want to be.”

While making some long-term roster additions in order to get better for the long run, the White Sox also have been creating financial flexibility. Payroll was down some $30 million from last year, and with big-money players like Jake Peavy, Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Paul Konerko all gone now, Hahn said he expects to have some freedom to spend a little more to shore up roster spots.

“The flexibility helps a lot,” Hahn said. “Having some important players signed long term, you have that cost certainty about what your obligations are going to be going forward, and we’re in a position now where we’ve managed to create some economic flexibility going into the offseason. We can deploy that via free agency or via trade and really not be precluded from any opportunities right now due to economic reasons.”

The White Sox still might not be ready to push past the $110 million mark in player salaries, but overall talent still could be younger and better than it has been the past two seasons. Just don’t expect the White Sox to spend like the deep-pocket Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox.

“Our intent is to convert on the No.1 target at every spot and address every need with the ideal fit,” Hahn said. “Realistically there are 29 other clubs, some of which have similar needs to ours and similar resources, whether it be from a player to trade standpoint or an economic standpoint. So, we’re realistic and know that we’re not going to be able to necessarily convert on every top guy.

“At the same time, our scouts and our analytics people are fairly well versed and skilled at being able to target, perhaps, I don’t want to say second-tier, but perhaps less notable targets who have been able to develop into integral parts of championship clubs here. So, the list is long. It continues to be vetted. It’ll continue to be vetted over the next few weeks.”

Yet for all the positives, there is no getting around the fact that the White Sox finished with just 73 victories this season, a mark that was 15 games under .500. That is not a positive no matter how many long-term impact players have been added since the July 2013 trade deadline.

“If you're asking me for a pass-fail grade on the 2014 season, it's a failure,” Hahn said. “The goal is to win a championship. The goal is always to win a championship, and we're not going to do that.”

That’s the black-and-white summary of the season. The gray area offers intrigue.

“'From the standpoint of putting ourselves in position to win multiple championships, there are some successes that we can feel happy about,” Hahn said. “Obviously, last offseason we were able to acquire the rookie of the year (Abreu). It would be nice to do that again this offseason and continue that process.

“Adam Eaton is going to be the mainstay at the top of our order for a long time. Obviously, Chris Sale took another step forward, as did Jose Quintana. Avi Garcia has shown flashes. It would have been nice if he had been healthy the whole year to continue that development, but at the same time, he continues to be a very integral part of our plan going forward.”

As for there the fixes that need to be made, a right-handed starter is a priority and a decision on a left fielder will be key. But one other area will have much of the emphasis.

“When you look at our bullpen, you wish that was better,” manager Robin Ventura said. “You don’t know if it’s going to be guys that are improving or different people. That’s just the way the game goes. You look at what you’re weak at and try to figure out a way to improve it. There are quite a few things.

“When you end up 15 games back in your division, you look back at a lot of games you lost; see how you lost them, why you lost them. I think defensively for us, there’s ways to improve. Offensively there’s ways to improve. There are a lot of different things to it. We’ll definitely go over that. We’ve been going over that as we move along and kind of start focusing on what we want to see this offseason.”

While questions have been raised this season about Ventura’s job stability, Hahn said he has no issues with his manager moving through the current roster rebuild.

“Robin continues to do an excellent job at the helm of the club,” Hahn said. “Obviously, when you evaluate managers, you have to take into account the personnel that they're given. I don't think it's fair to expect them to have every player on the roster consistently overachieve or achieve at perhaps a level beyond the player's capabilities.

“So we judge it from the prism of what was he given and what did he get out of them. His communication continues to be outstanding, his ability to keep all the players involved, and keeps them on point to prioritize the things that we feel are important and respond to inevitable challenges.”

Rapid Reaction: Royals 6, White Sox 4

September, 28, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- Paul Konerko's career came to a close Sunday in the Chicago White Sox's 6-4 defeat to the Kansas City Royals.

How it happened: Konerko ended his 18-year career Sunday with an 0-for-3 performance. He played 16 of those seasons in a White Sox uniform. With standing ovations in his honor all day long, Konerko struck out twice and grounded out to third base during his final at-bat in the fifth inning. Konerko took his position at first base before the sixth inning started, but he was replaced by Andy Wilkins before a pitch was thrown, getting a standing ovation as he left the field one last time.

What it means: Although Jose Abreu played the majority of games at first base, Konerko’s departure officially passes the torch to the new slugging first baseman. Abreu’s numbers this season (.317 batting average, 36 home runs, 107 RBIs) are on par with what Konerko produced in his prime. Abreu already has one All-Star Game appearance to his credit. Konerko played in the All-Star Game six times.

Outside the box:
Konerko finished his career as the White Sox’s all-time leader in total bases at 4,010. He ranks second in home runs (432), RBIs (1,383), games (2,268) and extra-base hits (846). He is third in team history in hits (2,292) and doubles (406). Konerko is the White Sox’s leader in 20-homer seasons with 12, 30-homer seasons with seven and 100-RBI seasons with six. Konerko’s 10 grand slams are tied with Robin Ventura for the club record.

Off beat:
Konerko had a touching tribute of his own to deliver as he recognized his family in the dirt. During the first inning, Konerko scratched the names of his sons Nick and Owen on the skin part of the infield near first base. As the game proceeded he added a letter “J” for his wife Jen and a letter “A” for his daughter Amelia. He finished it off with a heart. The names easily could be read from the Konerko family suite above first base.

Final record: The White Sox finished 73-89 on the 2014 season, a 10-game improvement on last year’s 63-99 mark. The White Sox had consecutive losing seasons for the first time since they finished under. 500 for three consecutive years from 1997-99.

Abreu sits with record in hand

September, 28, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla
CHICAGO -- With the Chicago White Sox rookie record for home runs already his, Jose Abreu was not in the starting lineup for Sunday’s season finale.

Abreu broke a tie with Ron Kittle for the rookie mark when he launched his 36th home run in the first inning of Saturday’s game against the Kansas City Royals.

Where it once looked like Abreu would be a lock to own the record, a significant power outage took the matter down to the final weekend of the season before the slam-dunk rookie of the year found the strength for one more long ball.

“I think we see great things,” manager Robin Ventura said. “Any time a guy gets into his first year and has the impact that he had, you’re very excited to see what comes of it. Just his mechanics, who he is and everything. You can sit here and say next year might be not as good, but with his work ethic and everything that he brings to the table on a daily basis, I see him staying consistent. I feel very fortunate that he’s in the middle of our lineup.”

Abreu headed into the final day with a .317 batting average, 107 RBIs, a .383 on-base percentage and 176 hits to go along with his 36 homers. All of those led the White Sox. In addition, Abreu’s .581 slugging percentage was tops in baseball.

Those numbers have provided a smooth transition from Paul Konerko at his heyday, to the next generation of White Sox first basemen. Taking over first base from somebody like Konerko has not been lost on Abreu this season.

“It’s very tough to replace a captain,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “Everyone knows him and loves him here and all I can do is to go out there and do my best every day and hopefully the fans will grow to love me as well.”

Outside of run production if there is a trait that runs deep in both Konerko and Abreu, it is modesty. Is there a leadership gene in both of them as well?

“I feel that if the team feels like I should be the captain of the leader of the team, I’ll take that with great strides and with much respect that comes with that,” Abreu said. “All I want to do is win as many ballgames [as possible] so we can have a championship here.”

Spoken like a true leader.

Paul Konerko spent after emotional day

September, 28, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- There was a moment early in the first game of the 2005 World Series when a Houston Astros player reached first base and remarked to Paul Konerko about the excitement of the pregame ceremonies.

At that point, Konerko has said, he knew the Chicago White Sox were better prepared mentally to win the championship.

Well, on Saturday at U.S. Cellular Field, Konerko was that Astros player, who he always has declined to name, except the stakes weren’t nearly as high.

[+] EnlargePaul Konerko
Brian Kersey/Getty ImagesFrom a farewell speech and his bronze being unveiled early to receiving a remarkable package of gifts and actually playing in a game, Paul Konerko had a night full of excitement at U.S. Cellular Field.
A 30-minute pregame ceremony designed to celebrate Konerko’s storied career was filled with love, emotion and appreciation, and it left Konerko drained before the contest even started. That he went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts wasn’t a surprise. In typical Konerko, self-aware fashion, he apologized for his performance.

“The place felt really small,” said Konerko, who gave a nearly nine-minute speech of his own and received gifts that included the ball from his Game 2 grand slam in the 2005 World Series, while the club unveiled a statue of his likeness on the concourse.

“It felt like everybody was right on top of you. You know, for me, here, playing for the team and just everything that’s gone on since I’ve been a player here, it’s not like I needed anything. I have it right in my head and the fans, we have it in our heads. It has been good. That was kind of icing on the cake -- beyond icing on the cake. I have to apologize for the game. To go out and try to play a game after that, I mean, I’m pretty good about distractions, but no way. I was a mess out there.”

By mess, Konerko did not mean sad or teary eyed, just a bundle of emotions all at once that he had a problem containing. Excitement, pride and embarrassment were probably just a few of those feelings.

“That was probably the toughest circumstances to go play against a good team, against good pitching and still trying to win a game,” he said. “Hopefully, they will cut me some slack on that one. I apologize. It was just very odd. As many games as I’ve played, none of them ever felt like that going into it. It was awesome.”

Because Konerko also has an ability to recognize things around him, he was hyper-aware of Saturday’s opponent, the Kansas City Royals. Whether it was the ceremony or Friday night’s celebration of their first playoff berth in 29 years, the Royals were unable to match the early energy of the White Sox, who used that advantage to ride to a 5-4 victory.

“Yeah, I mean, I expected maybe a couple of [Royals] guys to maybe be out there; their whole team was out there,” Konerko said. “It was kind of an odd time. It threw things off. We’re creatures of habit. It was kind of odd that there really was no start time. It was like, whenever it’s done, we’re going to play.”

In front of Saturday’s sold-out crowd, Konerko said the Royals look very similar to the 2005 White Sox team that stormed through the playoffs. After the game, he reiterated that thought.

“In some weird way, I’ve seen those guys grow up, too,” Konerko said. “I’ve been around to see the [Eric] Hosmers and the [Mike] Moustakases and the [Alex] Gordons, and you play so many games against these guys. Of course, you’re always trying to win, but you see their careers kind of happening, too, and now you see them going to the playoffs.

“What I told them was true. That team right there looks a lot like the team that won the World Series here, as far as how they’re built. Good luck to them. I hope they do it. I hope they get the same feeling I had. It was great. But just for all of them to be out there, really cool. It was nice.”

Along with the surprise of the World Series ball, the White Sox also unveiled a bronze Konerko statue on the left field concourse. He received an oil painting of his greatest moments, a framed collection of baseballs signed by every player on the 2005 team and two guitars -- a 1976 Gibson and a 1963 Fender Stratocaster.

During the game, the White Sox played video clips of current and former teammates congratulating him on a successful career. There were clips from opponents, opposing managers and even players in other sports, such as Blackhawks Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp and Bulls Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah.

Metallica’s James Hetfield even offered his congratulations during the pregame ceremonies.

“I’ve done a really good job of keeping my head down and playing and not thinking I was anything while this whole career went on,” Konerko said. “Now you look up, and you have all these people going out of their way for you and all that, it’s just, I don’t know.

“I feel uncomfortable about it sometimes, but to see Derek Jeter up there or Terry Francona. I mean James Hetfield from Metallica said my name. It’s crazy. Just because you can hit a ball with a bat. It’s pretty cool. I don’t know how else to say. I’m blown away by it.”

Konerko eventually left the game in the seventh inning and walked off the field after being replaced by Andy Wilkins at first base. The fans roared and Konerko took a curtain call, then was left with just one game to play before his career ends.

“I feel less anxiety about going into [Sunday] than I did today because of the ceremony and all that and having to talk and speak and all that stuff,” Konerko said. “What am I going to do? Strikeout twice? I did that tonight. At this point, you’re just going to go out there and try to go a couple at-bats, two, three at-bats, see how it goes.

“What I want to do is go out there and hit a couple of balls hard, [and] hopefully they’ll get down. With this outfield, these guys that play for Kansas City, they seem to be everywhere, so hopefully if I hit a couple, they’ll get down. But if they don’t, that’s fine. I think we all know at this point, it’s kind of irrelevant the result, but I just want to go out there and attack for a couple more at-bats, a few more innings, and then I’ll be seeing you guys.”

Rapid Reaction: White Sox 5, Royals 4

September, 27, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- In front of a sellout crowd that came to celebrate Paul Konerko’s career, the Chicago White Sox powered their way to a 5-4 victory over the Kansas City Royals in the second to last game of the season.

How it happened: Konerko went 0-for-3 with two strikeouts as the man of the hour, but others got into the swing of things for him. Josh Phegley hit two home runs and Jose Abreu added another in the victory. White Sox starter John Danks was solid in his final outing of the year, giving up two runs on five hits over seven innings. The bullpen bent but didn't break as Javy Guerra recorded the save.

What it means: A 30-minute pregame ceremony for Konerko seemed to put a charge into the White Sox. And a night after clinching a spot in the playoffs as at least a wild-card team, the Royals’ division chances took a blow. The Royals remained a game behind the Detroit Tigers for the American League Central top spot with one game to play.

Outside the box: Abreu’s power has diminished considerably over the last two months, but the rookie was able to deliver a dinger Saturday. His 36th home run of the season gave him the club rookie record all to himself. He entered the game tied with Ron Kittle for most home runs by a White Sox player in his rookie season.

Offbeat: The Royals had plenty at stake Saturday with the division lead still in question, but could not have been classier with the Konerko celebration. The Royals' dugout was packed for the pregame salute, something Konerko acknowledged in his farewell speech. And when Konerko was taken off the field in the seventh inning, the Royals’ Alex Gordon stayed far away from the batter’s box, leaving the stage all to Konerko as he walked off the field, then took his curtain call.

Up next: The White Sox will send right-hander Chris Bassitt (1-1, 3.65 ERA) to the mound Sunday in the final game of the season. The Royals will counter with right-hander Yordano Ventura (14-10, 3.07) in the 1:10 p.m. CT start from U.S. Cellular Field.

2005 World Series ball is one grand gift for Paul Konerko

September, 27, 2014
Padilla By Doug Padilla

CHICAGO -- The ball Paul Konerko launched into the seats for a grand slam in Game 2 of the 2005 World Series got a new home Saturday.

The souvenir's owner, Chicago White Sox fan Chris Claeys, presented the ball, which had been displayed at Harry Caray’s Italian Steakhouse for the better part of the past nine years, to Konerko as part of Saturday’s pregame ceremony to celebrate the first baseman's career.

It was part of a package of gifts that included a bench of bases, bats and balls made by former White Sox player Ron Kittle, an original Konerko-themed oil painting and a display of baseballs signed by each of his 2005 teammates.

In addition, the music-centric Konerko received two guitars: a 1976 Gibson and a 1963 Fender Stratocaster.

On Friday, the team said a statue of Konerko was in the works. But the White Sox pulled ofF a surprise Saturday by unveiling a bronze of Konerko on the concourse, and they gave his family trophy-size replicas of the statue.

Claeys said it was a no-brainer to present the ball to the retiring team captain. The White Sox first approached him with the idea three weeks ago.

“I just totally agreed with the concept of Paul getting this ball,” Claeys said. “I think Paul is a class guy. There was no money passed. The Sox just gave me perks: a suite tonight for 20 friends and family. I said I just really want a photograph of me and Paul, and Paul to write, 'Chris, thanks for my 2005 World Series grand slam ball. PK.' Whatever. That's really all I wanted was that.”

Claeys said he was sitting in the left-field stands for Game 2 of the 2005 World Series just three days after shoulder surgery. The ball bounced off a fan, who was sitting where the now-popular blue seat is in Section 159, and rebounded right to Claeys, who was standing in the aisle.

The White Sox tried to make a deal with Claeys to get the ball before the game even ended. But when the Houston Astros tied the game, everybody in the room trying to make a deal with him scattered. He was with his friends on the field-level concourse when Scott Podsednik hit his eventual game-ending home run (also remembered with a blue seat in right-center field), and he left the ballpark with his buddies.

The ball had been his ever since, until Saturday. Claeys walked out to home plate during the Konerko ceremony, and in front of a sold-out crowd he turned over his cherished memento.

“I was nervous as heck out there,” Claeys said. “I walked up to him, I gave him the ball, and I said, ‘Paul, this has been my prized possession for nine years, and tonight it becomes yours. Thank you for 16 years of great memories.’

“He gave me a hug and said, ‘You know, I think we’re the two most nervous guys out here on the field.’ And I said, ‘I think you’re right.’”



Jose Abreu
.317 36 107 80
HRJ. Abreu 36
RBIJ. Abreu 107
RA. Ramirez 82
OPSJ. Abreu .964
WC. Sale 12
ERAC. Sale 2.17
SOC. Sale 208