SweetSpot: Chicago White Sox

Derek JeterDavid Banks/USA TODAY SportsDerek Jeter got a unique bench, to enjoy in his retirement, before Sunday's game.
CHICAGO -- The Chicago White Sox gave Derek Jeter a miniature Yankees bench made out of bats, balls and bases, some U.S. Cellular Field shortstop dirt in a glass container with legendary shortstops' names on it and a $5,000 check made out to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation.

SportsNation

What's Derek Jeter's worst gift so far?

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Paul Konerko, who also is retiring, stood with Jeter during the pregame presentation behind home plate. The bench was constructed by former White Sox slugger Ron Kittle, who has a company that makes such items.

Jeter has now received six gifts. On Tuesday, the Cubs handed him a No. 2 white-and-green square that fell off the Wrigley Field scoreboard. The Mets gave Jeter a No. 2 mosaic designed with subway tiles and donated $22,222.22 to the Turn 2 Foundation. The Houston Astros gave Jeter a pair of Yankees cowboy boots, a cowboy hat and some golf lessons. The Los Angeles Angels gave Jeter a paddleboard. The Milwaukee Brewers donated $10,000 to Jeter's Turn 2 Foundation and presented him with a bronzed bat.

Over/under: Wins for White Sox

March, 15, 2012
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"I think we're going to be a lot better than some people think -- a lot better," Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said Wednesday to CBSSports' Danny Knobler.

SportsNation

Over/under prediction: 77.5 wins for White Sox

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The White Sox won 79 games a year ago, a pretty remarkable achievement considering Adam Dunn hit .159 (lowest ever for a player with 450 plate appearances), Alex Rios had a .265 OBP (one of the 10 lowest figures ever for an outfielder with 500 PAs), Gordon Beckham hit .230 with a .296 OBP, Brent Morel posted a .287 OBP and Juan Pierre played 157 games.

That, my friends, is a lot of bad hitting.

The bad news is all those guys except Pierre are back. The good news is that they can't do any worse. The White Sox lost longtime starter Mark Buehrle and outfielder Carlos Quentin (second on the team in home runs and RBIs in 2011) via free agency. In their spots will be Chris Sale, moving from the bullpen, and prospect Dayan Viciedo. The rotation will count on better seasons from John Danks (4.37 ERA) and Jake Peavy (4.92 in 18 starts) and a repeat performance from 2011 surprise Philip Humber. Gavin Floyd fills out what could be a solid rotation, although one lacking a No. 1-type ace.

The bullpen is minus closer Sergio Santos, traded to the Blue Jays, but the White Sox believe they have depth with Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, rookie Addison Reed and Will Ohman.

But it's the offense that will decide the fate of the 2012 White Sox. Do you believe in comebacks? If so, maybe you'll take the over on the betting line of 77.5 wins.

2012 predictions you couldn't predict?

February, 18, 2012
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Last year, You Can't Predict Baseball came up with bold predictions for the year. We had a lot of fun coming up with them, and then laughing at how hilariously wrong they were at the end of the year. This year, we're bringing these predictions to SweetSpot, along with explanations for some of them. Keep in mind, these predictions are supposed to be bold, but not insane -- even we know the Orioles aren't going to the playoffs in 2012.

Los Angeles Angels: Kendrys Morales stays healthy all year.

Houston Astros: Bud Norris is top five in K/9 in the NL. We figured something good had to happen to the Astros, right? Norris actually has a pretty nice career K/9.

Oakland Athletics: Yoenis Cespedes is their starting center fielder by Memorial Day.

Toronto Blue Jays: Brandon Morrow makes the jump to elite starting pitcher. He's struck out more than 10 batters per 9 innings two years running, though his ERAs have remained ugly. We think this is the year his results finally match the stuff, especially considering his declining walk rate.

Atlanta Braves: Julio Teheran has more wins than Tim Hudson.

[+] EnlargeRickie Weeks
AP Photo/David J. PhillipWith Prince Fielder gone to Detroit and Ryan Braun facing possible disciplinary action, Rickie Weeks could lead the Milwaukee Brewers in home runs in 2012.
Milwaukee Brewers: Rickie Weeks leads the team in home runs. He was fourth on the team last year, with 20. In front of him were Corey Hart with 26, Ryan Braun with 33, and Prince Fielder with 38. Fielder is gone, and for this prediction we'll assume Braun will miss a third of the year due to a suspension. It's not too bold to think Weeks could pass Hart in 2012.

St. Louis Cardinals: Carlos Beltran outproduces Albert Pujols from last year. Albert Pujols was great last year, but not quite best-player-of-his-generation Albert Pujols. If healthy, it's not absurd to think of Beltran outproducing Pujols' 5.1 WAR in 2011.

Chicago Cubs: Matt Garza isn't their best pitcher. It'll be Ryan Dempster, who had great peripherals but bad results last year.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Aaron Hill will be good again. He was great with them in limited time, and Arizona's park is quite hitter-friendly.

Los Angeles Dodgers: James Loney will be a top-three first baseman in the National League. Many thanks to Mike Scioscia's Tragic Illness for somewhat alerting us to this one. We just decided to take it semi-absurdly far.

San Francisco Giants: Madison Bumgarner is their best pitcher. In terms of ERA, he already wasn't very far behind Matt Cain and Tim Lincecum, and his K/BB ratio eclipsed theirs by quite a bit.

Cleveland Indians: They'll have the best pitching in the American League Central. We're banking on Ubaldo Jimenez, making a major comeback to something closer to what he was in 2010, and the rest of the staff displaying the good that they did in 2011. We're also counting on the Tigers' starters not being very impressive behind Justin Verlander, which is bold but not quite insane, and the pitching of the White Sox, Twins and Royals not being able to keep up with Cleveland's.

Seattle Mariners: Jesus Montero catches 100-plus games. The Mariners probably aren't going to compete, so why not try and play him where he'll accrue the most value?

Miami Marlins: Despite all their new acquisitions and the hype, they still finish fourth in the NL East. When you think about it, this one isn't so crazy. If Josh Johnson isn't healthy and maybe even if he is their pitching still trails that of Philadelphia, Washington, and Atlanta; even with Heath Bell, we don't think their bullpen is as good, either. Their offense might be better than some of those teams', but the Marlins were quite a bit below league average offensively last year and we're not sure how much Jose Reyes is going to make up for that.

New York Mets: Mike Pelfrey is the worst starter in the NL. Pelfrey's been pretty terrible two of the past three years, and now they're moving the fences in at Citi Field. He was far better in his huge home stadium, but we're guessing with the moved-in walls he'll be significantly worse at Citi. Here at YCPB, we actually don't think the Mets are going to be quite as dire as many are saying, even if they do come in last place in the NL East - but Pelfrey won't be a bright spot.

Washington Nationals: Stephen Strasburg has a 17-strikeout game.

Baltimore Orioles: Matt Wieters is the best catcher in the AL. A lot of people are so obsessed with Wieters not matching the hype that they didn't notice he became a plus offensive performer last year, to go along with very good defense. His taking the next step isn't that bold as predictions go, especially if Joe Mauer has to move off catcher.

San Diego Padres: Luke Gregerson is a top-three closer in the NL.

Philadelphia Phillies: Cole Hamels is their best starter. And this isn't meant to be a slight to Roy Halladay or Cliff Lee, but considering their ages and the fact that Hamels is pretty darn good himself, plus a possible boost from a contract year...

Pittsburgh Pirates: Charlie Morton is their All-Star.

Texas Rangers: Yu Darvish isn't their best starter -- but he's still good. And we think he'll be pretty good, we just think Derek Holland will become more consistently good, or Matt Harrison will put up numbers like his 2011.

Tampa Bay Rays: James Shields will have no complete games. Predicting someone to have no complete games might not seem bold, but it is when it's a guy who was known as "Complete Game James" last season. Shields did have 11 complete games in 2011, an almost unheard-of number these days, but he had no complete games in 2009 or 2010.

[+] EnlargeJames Shields
Kim Klement/US PresswireAfter none in either 2009 or 10, James Shields pitched 11 complete games for Tampa Bay in 2011.
Boston Red Sox: No one hits 30 home runs. This might seem crazy when you consider their great offensive numbers last year, but only one player on their team hit 30 home runs and it was Jacoby Ellsbury with 32.

Cincinnati Reds: Brandon Phillips is the best second baseman in the NL.

Colorado Rockies: Jamie Moyer will have the best HR/9 on the staff.

Kansas City Royals: They reach .500. While their pitching won't be great, their offense will take a big step forward this year. Combined with the rest of their division being the Tigers and some dumpster fires, it's not that difficult to see it happening.

Detroit Tigers: They score fewer runs than they did in 2011. Yes, that’s even with Fielder. It's not improbable that Jhonny Peralta, Alex Avila and Delmon Young regress quite a bit from their numbers with Detroit last year, and that Prince Fielder's production "only" makes up for the offensive loss of Victor Martinez in 2012. They'll still have a very good offense, though.

Minnesota Twins: Joe Mauer hits 15 home runs.

Chicago White Sox: Robin Ventura gets ejected more times than Ozzie Guillen. Look at the state of the White Sox. We'd get ejected too.

New York Yankees: Hiroki Kuroda leads the team in ERA.

You Can't Predict Baseball is an affiliate of the SweetSpot network.

Jake Peavy suffers possible setback

March, 21, 2011
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Uh-oh. Bad news for Jake Peavy, and a single tear rolls down the cheek of everyone who remembers how brilliant Peavy was a few years ago:
The positive momentum surrounding Jake Peavy's recovery from surgery hit a snag Sunday as the Chicago White Sox shut down the right-handed pitcher with what is believed to be rotator cuff tendinitis.

Not only is Peavy out for his next spring start, Thursday against the Cubs, manager Ozzie Guillen is also saying the right-hander likely will miss the start of the season, which means a stint on the 15-day disabled list could be forthcoming.
Peavy
Perhaps I'm being overly pessimistic, but this isn't good, friends and neighbors. Peavy had appeared to be making pretty good progress after having surgery last July to repair a detached latissimus dorsi muscle (gesundheit). He threw 83 pitches in his last spring outing, and though we were never going to see the old Peavy again, the ace who dominated the National League from 2004 to 2009, he was on track to be Chicago's No. 5 starter.

The only positive to emerge here -- for those of us who love when this happens -- is that Peavy's manager, Ozzie Guillen, is on a rampage again:
"Believe me as long as I am the manager of this ballclub that is the last time he convinces me," Guillen said after Sunday's 9-7 defeat to the Dodgers. "I will make the call. I will have the power to let him go out or not. I know it sounds powerful but the last two times he didn't convince me, he convinced everybody he could go out there and perform and the next day we get bad news.

"I am the manager of [this] club and I was the guy who was against [him pitching Saturday], but he said he was fine and ready to pitch. I have full responsibility of players and at end of the day it's on my shoulders how people get hurt or not."

If Ozzie Guillen didn't exist, we'd have to invent him. I love that guy.

All joking aside, however, Guillen has a point -- though he took a circuitous route to get there. Peavy admitted to reporters that the shoulder problems had been bothering since at least his first spring start. For too long, the culture within baseball has encouraged players (especially pitchers) to play through pain. I can already hear the old-timers: rotator cuff? Bob Feller would have gone out to the mound, tossed nine innings of shutout baseball, then headed over to the Little League field to throw batting practice to 11-year-olds!

In this case, with a pitcher coming off surgery (though Peavy says the current issue is unrelated to the surgical procedure), seems like caution would have been a good path to take. Wow. I just agreed with Ozzie Guillen.

Still, we can be hopeful that this is nothing more than a minor setback. For his part, Peavy didn't even want to go that far, saying "I'm not going to sit here and call it a setback because we don't know what it is yet. But certainly things have slowed down."

In the meantime, it seems likely that Philip Humber (and not Chris Sale, who would be a better option) is in line to take the No. 5 spot in the White Sox's rotation.

Chad Dotson writes Redleg Nation, a blog about the Cincinnati Reds. Follow him on Twitter.

Bullish on the White Sox

February, 25, 2011
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I had completely forgotten that the White Sox won 88 games last year until I recently looked at the standings.

Disrespect? Maybe, but the more important question to me is can they do it again in 2011?

Year after year, the American League Central may be the most winnable division in baseball. Seemingly, each season for the past seven or eight years begins with at least three teams making some type of claim to the division title (except for the Royals, and that might be changing soon). In 2011, the Indians and Royals are expected to struggle, making this a three-horse race between the White Sox, Tigers and Twins.

[+] EnlargeJake Peavy
Kyle Terada/US PresswireA healthy Jake Peavy could pay huge dividends for the White Sox.
The White Sox added a couple of pieces to the bullpen, but their main move (aside from letting Bobby Jenks walk) was adding Adam Dunn. Chicago designated hitters were among the worst in the American League in 2010. Adding Dunn at DH (or if he plays at first base and Paul Konerko is the DH) seems like an easy three to four wins added. Dunn has been freakishly consistent for the past seven years, playing nearly every game and hitting around 40 home runs. Given his new home, Dunn might exceed his own lofty standards.

The return of Jake Peavy is another reason for optimism. The rotation of Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, and Edwin Jackson is very good; with Peavy, it could be terrific. Peavy hasn't been healthy since he arrived in Chicago, but he won the NL Cy Young Award in 2007 and was excellent in 2008 for San Diego. While no one is sure how his shoulder will heal from his injury, his potential return will only fortify what is already a strength.

To be fair, the 2010 White Sox had a huge season from Konerko, very good seasons from Alexei Ramirez and Alex Rios, and did not lose too many players to injury. The offense, even with Dunn, is not a strength, and this is not exactly a young team.

While it's possible that injuries could hit the White Sox hard this season or that Konerko won't duplicate his 2010, there are reasons to be bullish.

Detroit, though talented, is lined with question marks. And while Minnesota always seems to be fine no matter the circumstances, the Justin Morneau situation is pretty scary. As of right now, the Twins are probably the favorites and deservedly so. Just don't sleep on the White Sox.

Dan Hennessey writes Baseballin' on a Budget, a blog about the Oakland Athletics. Follow him on Twitter.

Dunn down, Konerko to go

December, 2, 2010
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Kenny Williams finally gets his man, as Adam Dunn agrees on a four-year contract with the White Sox, believed to be worth around $56 million ...
    Dunn, 31, ranks second in the major leagues to Albert Pujols since 2004 with 282 home runs. He hit .260 with 38 homers and 103 RBIs for the Washington Nationals last season.

    Although Dunn has expressed an interest in staying in the National League and continuing to play first base, most scouts consider him better suited to the designated hitter role at this stage of his career.

    The designated hitter spot was a major concern for the White Sox last season. Manager Ozzie Guillen's DH contingent hit only 18 home runs and logged a .728 aggregate OPS.

Someday historians will study the 2010 White Sox, notice that Mark Kotsay started 46 games as the club's DH (and 38 games at first base!) and say, "Ah, now we understand. We don't understand what Kenny Williams was thinking. We do understand why the White Sox finished so far behind the Twins."

And Kotsay wasn't just some stopgap. He was the plan. The White Sox entered last season with a player with no power, designated to play power positions. They did the same thing with Juan Pierre in left field. They entered 2009 with no viable center fielder on the roster. None.

The White Sox have made a habit of entering seasons having essentially punted entire positions. Most contenders at least have an idea. They pick up someone who might be decent, or they're just holding on for a month or two until a prospect is ready. Not the White Sox, though. They just give up and hope for the best (or pray; I don't know which).

Maybe this is a sign. Dunn's not really a great hitter; his highest OPS+ finishes in the National League have been two eighths, a ninth, and a 10th, and of course he's practically useless when fielding or running. He's not a game-changer, and his salary probably won't look like a good value by the fourth season of his deal. But if the White Sox re-sign Paul Konerko, they're three or four games better with Adam Dunn than they were without him.

White Sox still think of Sale as starter

September, 17, 2010
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Good news for White Sox fans: Management still thinks of Chris Sale as a starting pitcher:
"Well, I'm a big believer of sticking to the plan until there's a reason not to stick to the plan," said Williams, as he sat and watched batting practice in the White Sox dugout. "The plan that was laid out for him was exactly what has happened so far. He would go to the Minors, get his relief shoes on, so to speak, come to the big leagues and play an important role down the stretch.

"He's done exactly that. The second part of that plan was for Chris to go to Spring Training [in 2011] as a starter and compete for a job in the rotation. I see no reason why we have to deviate from that plan. I understand the value of him down in the bullpen and how that sets up the bullpen. But we have the opportunity to stick with the plan in developing him as a starter in Spring Training.

"That allows us to take our time with Jake Peavy and ensure that he's 100 percent ready to go in Spring Training," Williams said. "The worst case scenario? Sale starts off and wins a rotation job in Spring Training and starts off as the fifth guy, which is probably early in the season more valuable than the first left-hander out of the bullpen."

It was easier in the olden times, when pitchers were just pitchers. Today, pitchers can quickly go from starting to relieving but not the other way around. Not quickly. There's a whole process that can take weeks if not months. In 2009, Phil Hughes started the season in the rotation, made seven starts, and spent the rest of the season in the bullpen. It wasn't until spring training this year that he was able to round back into shape as a starter.

So while Sale presumably comes to camp next season as a starter and might earn a rotation slot, if he's eventually sent back to the bullpen that's probably where he'll stay.

In 2011, anyway. Unless somebody gets hurt, the White Sox have plenty of starting pitchers but not enough good relievers. Right now, only Matt Thornton, Sergio Santos, and Scott Linebrink are locks for next season. Bobby Jenks is arbitration-eligible and should probably be non-tendered; J.J. Putz is a free agent this winter and figures to have plenty of opportunities.

Maybe somebody gets hurt. Maybe somebody gets traded. But right now, it looks as if Chris Sale will spend all or most of next season as a reliever. And if he's too good, it'll be hard to move him.

Drama fading in AL Central

September, 9, 2010
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Remember that exciting pennant race in the American League Central?

Well, maybe not so much. Gleeman:


    CoolStandings.com projects the Twins to win the division 93.9 percent of the time and Baseball Prospectus has Minnesota's odd of prevailing at 93.5 percent. In the past two seasons the AL Central has come down to a one-game playoff, but unless the Twins stumble against the Indians this weekend the 2010 drama may not even last until mid-September.


I'm actually surprised those percentages aren't higher. If the Twins manage to win 10 of their remaining 22 games -- and there's every reason to think they'll win more than 10 -- the White Sox will have to win 16 of their last 23 just to forge a tie. We generally think of such things as a long shot, but we're really talking about two long shots here: One good team must play poorly, and one less-good team must play particularly well.

And so we're reminded once again of how insignificant single players usually are. The Twins have been without their second-best player for two months, and the impact on the standings has been approximately zero. The White Sox just spent millions of dollars to add a single player, and the odds are strong that their investment will have approximately zero impact on the standings.

Every team is composed, over the course of a season, of dozens of moving parts. Most of the time, changing just one part won't change the ultimate outcome.

How unlikely is Chris Sale?

September, 7, 2010
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Aaron Gleeman on one of the season's more unlikely (or not) stories:
Three months ago Chris Sale was a starting pitcher for Florida Gulf Coast College and now he's perhaps the most-trusted reliever in the White Sox's bullpen, picking up his first career victory with 2.2 flawless innings yesterday.

Selected with the 13th overall pick in June's draft and almost immediately signed to a $1.65 million bonus, Sale made quick work of the minors and has allowed just one run in 13.2 innings since his August 6 debut.

Sale's a good story. But my guess is there are a lot of college starters who could make a fairly immediate splash in the minors. They don't because college starters drafted in the first round -- the most talented young pitchers that anyone can identify -- next become professional starters rather than professional relievers.

But if you can throw 95 miles an hour with reasonable control, you don't need a great deal else. Sale's been pitching for many years. The Dodgers have this kid, Kenley Jansen, who was a catcher until last summer. But he couldn't hit and he was 6-feet-6 and he could throw really hard, so the Dodgers made him a pitcher. This year in the minors he struck out 78 hitters in 45 innings, and he's essentially done the same thing since joining the big club six weeks ago.

The dirty little secret about relief pitching is that there are many hundreds of pitchers in professional baseball, right now, who could be excellent relievers in the major leagues right now. The great majority of them are starters.

If teams had 30-man rosters, everybody would have 15- or 16-man pitching staffs, and starting pitchers as we know them would become mostly extinct. Instead, we might see the "starter" go two innings and be followed in quick succession by four or five "relievers," with everyone throwing mid-90s fastballs and impossible breaking stuff.

Baseball's not easy. I can't throw 70 anymore. But there are scads of big boys on this earth who can throw 95 for an inning or two.

Will Manny quit on the White Sox?

September, 3, 2010
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Will Manny Ramirez quit on the White Sox? Dan Shaughnessy sure thinks so:


    On a daily basis, there's nothing evil or disruptive about having Manny on your team. He shows up most of the time, puts in the work, and produces. He keeps to himself for the most part and generally acts like your average 12-year-old kid. There's no evil force at work.

    --snip--

    But he quits. He quit on the Red Sox twice. He quit in September 2006 for no apparent reason. In 2008 he was mad because the Sox were not extending his contract, so he acted out. He slapped Kevin Youkilis in the dugout. He toppled then-64-year-old traveling secretary Jack McCormick when he couldn't get a bunch of tickets for his friends an hour before gametime. He was asked to pinch hit on his day off, and took three strikes without moving the bat off his shoulder. Then he invented hamstring injuries to get himself traded. It was blatant. When he left, he spoke of how he "suffered" in Boston.

    Manny's early days in Los Angeles were heavenly. He carried the Blue to the playoffs. He cultivated a few reporters and got great reviews. Dodgers owner Frank McCourt said it was a pleasure to et to know Manny and put a charity "Ramirez Clause" in all Dodger player contracts.

    Now Manny has quit on the Dodgers. After the early Manny Mania with "Mannywood" and Manny wigs and fawning fans and media, Manny quit again. He got himself suspended for taking female fertility drugs. In his final Dodger at bat last week, he was asked to pinch hit with the bases loaded in Colorado. After taking a called strike, he argued with the ump and got himself ejected. That was it for Manny in Los Angeles.

    --snip--

    It's harder for Manny to hit now that it's harder to juice.

    Testing is not his friend. Some of the power and skill is gone.

    But he's still Manny. And it will end badly in Chicago, just as it did in Boston and Los Angeles.


Let's dismiss (for the moment, anyway) Shaughnessy's references to the juice, the testing, the power and the skill. Because I believe that Ramirez, when healthy, remains one of the more powerful and skillful hitters in the major leagues.

The rest of this seems right to me. When trying to understand the behavior of professional athletes who seem to behave immaturely, your starting point should be that they probably are immature. Athletes with Ramirez's talents don't have to grow up to get ahead in life. They just have to keep hitting, and Ramirez has been hitting since he was just a boy. So, yeah: "average 12-year-old kid" seems about right. Average spoiled 12-year-old kid. Why should he behave any differently at this point, when men like Frank McCourt are perfectly happy (for a while, anyway) to give him $45 million?

One thing I think Shaughnessy might be wrong about: It might end badly in Chicago, but it doesn't have to. I don't know if Manny is capable of staying healthy for one month, but I think he's capable of staying motivated for as long as the White Sox are still challenging the Twins. If they catch them, I think Manny's capable of putting on a big show in October.

But if the White Sox should fall out of contention before the last week of the season? It'll still be a show, but a completely different sort.

Did Manny really quit on the Dodgers?

August, 31, 2010
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I know I'm way behind on this story, so I'll let a non-behinder take the lead today:
    Yesterday I took Ken Rosenthal to task for saying that Manny Ramirez "quit on the Dodgers." My reason: neither Rosenthal's nor anyone else's reports had any evidence that he did quit on them. I thought it was your typical shoveling of dirt on Manny because he's made himself a pretty handy dirt receptacle over the years.

    But maybe Manny did quit! Scott Miller of CBS Sports.com reports today that, according to two Dodgers sources, Manny "declined his spot in the starting lineup" on Sunday. Joe Torre won't confirm it. Guess we have to wait for his next book.

Craig's next sentence begins, "I don't recant my criticism of Rosenthal's piece yesterday ..."

I don't think that's the smartest move here.

Those of us who were weaned on Bill James and the Internets -- well, not weaned, but post-weaned -- tend to give the players the benefit of the doubt, while extending little quarter to baseball executives and longtime BBWAA members and anyone else who reeks of the Establishment.

There are good and worthy reasons for this tendency. But even before this news that MannyB self-selected out of the lineup, wasn't his one-pitch ejection Sunday night enough evidence -- considering his history -- to suggest that he'd quit on the Dodgers? Wasn't it fair for baseball writers, Establishment or not, to suggest that maybe the Dodgers deserved a little more effort for their $20 million?

Not that I've got any sympathy for Manny's employers. Seriously, how did they think this story was going to end? The only way that $45 million contract was going to work was if Ramirez was mostly healthy in both seasons and the Dodgers got into the playoffs in both seasons. Well, they went 1-for-4. Which really shouldn't have been so hard to predict.

Craig's right about one thing, though ... Joe Torre's next book should be a real doozy.

Sure Manny could help White Sox, but...

August, 25, 2010
8/25/10
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What would Manny Ramirez do for the White Sox? Potentially plenty. Kyle Koster:
    In his 63 games this year, the slugger has hit .308 with 8 home runs and 39 RBI. Taking him out of pitcher-friendly Dodger Stadium and into the band-boxy U.S. Cellular Field could only buoy his power numbers.

    The Sox have gotten little production from the designated hitter spot this year. Going into Tuesday night's game, Mark Kotsay and the others shuffling in and out of the DH slot had combined to hit .237 with a lackluster .709 OPS. Compare that to Ramirez's career mark of .999.

If you see Manny Ramirez just hanging around on a street corner with nothing to do, you grab him.

But Manny Ramirez isn't just hanging around. He's playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers and he's going to earn roughly $4 million the rest of this season. Can the White Sox reasonably justify sending a prospect to the Dodgers? Can they reasonably justify spending $4 million that wasn't previously in the budget? Can they reasonably justify doing both of those things?

The devil's in the details. If they can just have Manny Ramirez? By all means, have him. But if they can't just have him -- if to get him, they have to give up something valuable -- then the decision shouldn't be easily made. Because considering Manny's injuries and the White Sox' overall talent base and the likelihood that Justin Morneau comes back in September and the 3-1/2 games that currently separate the Twins and the White Sox in the standings ... well, there's not a player on the planet who would turn the White Sox into favorites.

And if you're not going to be the favorite, maybe you're better off keeping your powder dry.

Since 1906, White Sox have dominated Cubs

August, 24, 2010
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Cubs win! Cubs win! Cubs win!

Today the Cubs captured Game 7 -- in dramatic fashion -- in their Ultimate Rivalry series against the White Sox, which makes them Windy City champions.

For a day, anyhow.

This is far from the first time these clubs have matched up with something on the line, though. Sometimes it's been for pride. Sometimes it's been for important wins and losses during the regular season. And once, it was for the World Championship.

In 1906, the Cubs went 116-36, which to this day is the best record in modern major league history. Meanwhile, the White Sox went 93-58, which was good enough for the American League pennant. For any number of good reasons, the Cubs were massive favorites to beat the "Hitless Wonders" -- the Sox finished last in the league with a .230 batting average -- in the World Series.

This wasn't the first time the Chicago teams had faced off in October. In 1903, when the Pirates and Red Sox challenged each other in the first American League vs. National League World Series, there were other inter-league postseason series in Philadelphia, St. Louis, Ohio (Cleveland vs. Cincinnati) ... and Chicago. These "city series" would become a staple for decades, and nowhere more than in Chicago, where the teams and the fans took the games seriously. In 1912, White Sox pitcher Ed Walsh started four of the Series' seven games (and relieved in two others). The Sox won, but Walsh was never the same. According to one source, "The fans saw the city series as a genuine championship event, and the clubs responded by playing all out."

That first Chicago city series, in 1903, wound up deadlocked at seven games apiece (the 15th game wasn't played because the players' contracts expired a day too early). Two years later the Cubs would win the second city series, and in 1909 they would win the third.

But for the next few decades the White Sox would dominate the Cubs. From 1911 through 1942, they played 22 city series and the White Sox won 18 of them. Their run included a seven-series streak from 1911 through 1921, and an eight-series streak from 1931 through '42. It's possible that 1942 marked the last city series because of World War II. It's also possible that 1942 marked the last city series because the Cubs were tired of losing every year.

Which isn't to suggest the teams stopped playing one another. I don't have the research at hand, but I suspect they played occasional exhibitions in the ensuing years. I also suspect those games weren't particularly competitive. For that, Chicago's baseball fans would have to wait until regular-season interleague play.

But while the results have been closer than in the city series, the White Sox are, once more, leading the way. In 14 seasons of interleague play, the Sox have won 41 of 78 games. Their lead is bigger in terms of the season series, winning 11, tying four and losing only three.

So, it's been a long, dominant run for the White Sox over the Cubs, going on more than a century now. And one series -- even one as important as the Ultimate Rivalry -- can't change all that history.

Early returns on two 'challenge' trades

August, 19, 2010
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Tommy Rancel on the Diamondbacks' latest find:
    In terms of real-life analysis, the thought process behind the Edwin Jackson for Dan Hudson trade was to give up a year and a half of Jackson for six seasons of Hudson. Jackson is a talented pitcher, but he's on his fifth major league team before the age of 27. He's a nice piece at the back end of the rotation, but will make more than $8 million next season. Hudson may not have the raw ability that Jackson does, but he will earn around the league minimum for the next few seasons, likely for similar production.

    After spending the 2008 season at the rookie level of the minor leagues, Hudson blew through all levels of the White Sox system in 2009 - earning a call-up to he majors after starting the year in low-A ball. He began 2010 at Triple-A, where he continued to post fantastic numbers - especially in the strikeout category. In 93.1 innings, he struck out 108 batters while walking just 31.

    Hudson would make three unimpressive starts for the White Sox big club this season before the trade to Arizona. Again, while the move was made with the future in mind, Hudson has provided the Diamondbacks with favorable results in the present.

    --snip--

    After four turns through the Arizona rotation, the 23-year-old right-hander is 3-1 with a 2.12 ERA. Hudson has struck out an impressive 27 batters in 29.1 innings with the D-Backs, while handing out just four walks.

It's worth mentioning, I think, that Edwin Jackson's been fantastic with the White Sox: 1.35 ERA in three starts, with 24 strikeouts and five walks.

Unfortunately, because of the future costs associated with each pitcher, this trade works for the White Sox only if Jackson's better than Hudson in the near term and Jackson's performance gets the White Sox into the playoffs. Otherwise it's just an awful, awful deal.

That's one example of a "challenge trade": I'll trade you my [position] guy for your [same position] guy." We don't have many examples, but we've got another fine one this season: shortstop Yunel Escobar for shortstop Alex Gonzalez. When the deal was made, the point (from the Braves' perspective) was supposedly addition by subtraction, as the Braves were reportedly disenchanted by Escobar's attitude as much as his slow start this season, statistically.

Since the trade? In 27 games, Escobar's batted .297/.350/.414, right in line with his career numbers. In 31 games, Gonzalez has batted .250/.317/.411, almost exactly in line with his career numbers. They're both good defensive players. The only real difference between them -- leaving aside attitudes, I mean -- is that Gonzalez is six years older and slightly more expensive.

We'll see what happens. But I suspect that in both cases, we'll wind up figuring the teams getting the younger players did better.

White Sox by 'eras,' 1901-2010

August, 16, 2010
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In conjunction with ESPN.com's latest Ultimate Rivalry -- this one pitting the White Sox against the Cubs, via ESPN Chicago -- I'm continuing my efforts to divide every franchise's history into distinct "eras" tied to individual players.

I won't go into my guiding principles, because you probably know them already. (If not, see my introductions to Red Sox and Yankees eras.) Instead, let's jump right into the White Sox eras (with the Cubs coming soon).

1901-1908: The Fielder Jones Era
Like most (all?) of the teams in the new American League, the White Sox looked to the established National League for talent, and were happy to sign Brooklyn Superbas outfielder Jones. In 1904, Jones took over as manager (while keeping his place in center field), and in 1906 he led the "Hitless Wonders" White Sox to their first American League pennant and a shocking World Series victory over the heavily favored Cubs.

(Two years later, the White Sox lost the pennant on the last day of the season. Coming off a solid season on the field, Jones refused to continue managing the club unless owner Charles Comiskey made him a partner. Comiskey refused. Jones moved to Oregon and got into the lumber business.)

1909-1914: The Ed Walsh Era
Walsh, probably the greatest spitball pitcher in major league history, joined the White Sox in 1904, and from 1907 through 1912 he went 151-99 with a 1.69 ERA; those are the six seasons that got Walsh elected to the Hall of Fame in 1946.

(Walsh threw an immense number of innings in those years -- including an extra pile in a postseason "city series" with the Cubs after the 1912 season -- and afterward he was rarely healthy enough to pitch.)

[+] EnlargeShoeless Joe Jackson
Charles Colon/Icon SMIShoeless Joe Jackson batted .356 during his 13-year career.
1915-1922: The Joe Jackson Era
Beginning in 1911, Indians outfielder "Shoeless" Joe Jackson began to establish himself as one of the American League's greatest hitters, just a tick behind Ty Cobb. Nevertheless, in 1915 the Indians made it known that Jackson could, for the right price, be had. As the story goes, Comiskey dispatched his secretary, Harry Grabiner, to Cleveland with a simple order: "I want Jackson. Don't come back without him."

Grabiner got him, and Jackson ranked as the White Sox's star among stars -- leading the team to the World Series in 1917 and 1919 -- until he and the rest of the Black Sox were permanently suspended after the 1920 season. Future Hall of Famers Eddie Collins, Red Faber, and Ray Schalk remained, but the White Sox immediately fell from contention and the shadows of Jackson and the other Black Sox still loomed.

1923-1931: The Willie Kamm Era
Comiskey -- today, so often remembered as a skinflint -- purchased San Francisco Seals third baseman Willie Kamm for $100,000, setting a new record for a minor leaguer. With the White Sox, Kamm would show a flashy glove and a solid bat, but the White Sox's string of second-division finishes would outlast his tenure with the club.

1932-1943: The Luke Appling Era
The White Sox bought Appling from the Atlanta Crackers in 1930, and he was hardly an immediate sensation, picking up the nickname "Kid Boots" for his erratic fielding and failing to hit much. But in 1933, when Appling was 26, he started hitting and never really stopped. Most famously, he was almost impossible to strike out and gained the reputation for fouling off pitches at will. A perennial .300 hitter, in 1936 Appling outdid himself with a .388 average to win the American League batting title. Appling won another title in 1943 (when he was 36), then was drafted into the U.S. Army.

1944-1945: The Johnny Dickshot Era
When Johnny "Ugly" Dickshot joined the White Sox in 1944, he was a 34-year-old journeyman who hadn't played in the majors since 1939. But in 1945, he finished third in the American League batting race with a .302 average ... and never played in the majors again. Such was wartime baseball.

1946-1950: The Luke Appling Era (II)
Appling returned to the White Sox late in the '45 season, and in '46 was back at his accustomed shortstop ... even though he was 39 years old. But that was nothing. Appling played regularly through 1949 ... and topped .300 every season. In '49, he broke the record for games played at shortstop. As you would imagine, Appling became a newspaper columnist favorite. Famous for both his age and his tendency to complain about his age -- before going out and knocking a couple of base hits -- Appling was hung with a wealth of nicknames, most notably "Old Aches and Pains" but also "The Moaner," "Droopy Luke," "The Groaner," and "Old Moanin' Low" (among others). Appling's career finally ended in 1950, with the arrival of Venezuelan defensive wizard Chico Carrasquel.

[+] EnlargeFox
AP PhotoNellie Fox was a mainstay in the middle of the White Sox infield for 14 seasons.
1951-1962: The Nellie Fox Era
Before Alan Trammell and Lou Whitaker, there was Fox and Luis Aparicio, White Sox middle infielders who anchored the Go-Go Sox during a string of winning seasons running from 1951 through 1967. But Fox was there first, arriving in 1950 thanks to a lopsided trade with the Philadelphia Athletics. He manned second base for 14 seasons (1950-1963), while Aparicio wore the pale hose for only seven years (1956-1962). Too, when the White Sox finally broke through to win the pennant in 1959, it was Fox who took the American League's MVP honors.

1963-1968: The Joe Horlen Era
Two things not many people would guess: From 1963 through 1965, the Chicago White Sox averaged 96 wins per season. Among all American League pitchers who pitched at least 1,000 innings from '63 through '68, Joe Horlen's ERA, relative to the league, was easily the best. Why don't people know these things? Because the White Sox finished second in those three seasons, and because their hitting attack generally was so weak that Horlen won more than 13 games just once.

1969-1971: The Bill Melton Era
With the exception of knuckleballer Wilbur Wood, the White Sox didn't have many bright spots in the early '70s. Young Bill Melton was one of them, and peaked in '70 and '71 with 33 homers in each season. Also, he had a cool nickname ("Beltin' Bill").

1972-1974: The Dick Allen Era
Following one-year stints in St. Louis and Los Angeles, Allen came to the White Sox in a deal that sent Tommy John to the Dodgers. The Sox had been in the doldrums since 1968, but their fortunes improved significantly in 1972, thanks largely to their new first baseman, who captured American League MVP honors after leading the loop with 37 homers and 113 RBI. Allen would miss much of 1973 with an injury, but in '74 he again won the AL's home-run crown (despite announcing his retirement in the middle of September).

1975-1976: The Wilbur Wood Era
With Dick Allen gone and Beltin' Bill Melton fading, the knuckleballer Wood -- who'd won 20 or more games in each of the previous four seasons -- was among the best the fifth-place Sox had to offer. Unfortunately, in '75 Wood lost 20 games. More unfortunately, after getting off to a great start in '76, Wood's kneecap was shattered by a Ron LeFlore line drive. He missed the rest of the season, came back in '77, but was never again effective.

1977: The Richie Zisk Era
Somebody should write a book about the '77 White Sox. Following a last-place finish in '76, owner Bill Veeck figured he would take one shot, loading up on free-agent hitters and bludgeoning the American League West into submission. It almost worked. As late as Aug. 20, the White Sox were tied for first place. But then Kansas City went on one of the great stretch drives in major league history and the South Side Hit Men just couldn't keep up. Still, the fans had a great time, thanks to rent-a-players like Zisk, Oscar Gamble, and Eric Soderholm. Unfortunately, Veeck couldn't afford to pay those guys for more than one season. In '78, Zisk and Gamble were gone and the White Sox fell far out of contention.

1978-1980: The Mike Squires Era
Squires played more first base than anybody in these three seasons, and hit four home runs. It's not really fair to blame Squires for three straight fifth-place finishes ... but somebody has to take the fall and nobody else is volunteering.

[+] EnlargeFisk
AP Photo/John SwartCarlton Fisk played 13 seasons in Chicago.
1981-1990: The Carlton Fisk Era
Tony La Russa, who took over as manager in 1980, deserves most of the credit for restoring order to Comiskey Park. But Fisk gets some, too. And if not for an accident, he never would have moved from Red Sox to White (not in 1981, anyway).

1991-2000: The Frank Thomas Era
The Big Hurt actually debuted in 1990, and Fisk didn't play his last game until 1993 (when he was 45). But 1990 was Fisk's last good season and '91 was Thomas' first full season ... at the end of which, the near-rookie finished third in the American League's MVP balloting. Thomas would soon win two straight MVP Awards, and for most of a decade, every pitcher facing the White Sox had to figure, before anything, some way of getting Thomas out. And given his .320/.439/.581 batting line in these 10 seasons, it's clear that not many pitchers did that consistently.

2001-2010: The Paul Konerko Era
This slot came down to Konerko and Mark Buehrle, both of whom have played well for the White Sox throughout the decade. But if we use 2010 as a tiebreaker, Konerko's the easy choice. At 34, he's having the best season of his career, and now has hit 348 home runs since joining the White Sox in 1999.

My hearty thanks to Don Zminda and Sox Machine's Jim Margalus, both of whom offered great advice and weren't offended when I ignored it. (At least I hope they weren't offended.)

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