November 2013

Dreaming of Cooperstown

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Baseball Hall of Fame & Museum in Cooperstown, NY announced its 2014 ballot today, and one very important White Sox star is front and center – Frank Thomas.

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The Big Hurt, who won consecutive American League MVP Awards in 1993 and ’94 and placed in the top three in the voting five times overall, finished his 19-year career with 2,468 hits, including 521 home runs. He drove in 1,704 runs, scored 1,494 and had more walks (1,667) than strikeouts (1,397).  Thomas ranks as the White Sox all-time leader in home runs (448), walks (1,466), runs (1,327), RBI (1,465), SLG (.568), total bases (3,949), doubles (447), extra-base hits (906) and OBP (.427).

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The ballot is being mailed this week to more than 600 voting members of the BBWAA.

Pitchers Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Eric Gagne, Thomas and second baseman Jeff Kent join 17 holdovers from the 2013 balloting that failed to produce a winning candidate for the National Baseball Hall of Fame in Cooperstown, N.Y., for the first time since 1996.

Craig Biggio, who totaled 3,060 hits and was a seven-time All-Star while playing three positions (catcher, second base, outfield), topped the 2013 ballot with 388 votes – 39 shy of the 427 required for election. His total reflected 68.2 percent of the electorate, which consists of BBWAA members with 10 or more consecutive years of Major League Baseball coverage.

Players must be named on 75 percent of the ballots cast to earn election. Other players named on more than half the ballots were pitcher Jack Morris (67.7 percent), first baseman Jeff Bagwell (59.6), catcher Mike Piazza (57.8) and outfielder Tim Raines (52.2). Players may remain on the ballot for up to 15 years provided they receive five percent of the vote in any year. This is the 15th and final year of eligibility for Morris.

Maddux won four consecutive National League Cy Young Awards from 1992-95 and a record 18 Gold Glove Awards in a 23-season career in which he compiled a 355-227 record with a 3.16 earned run average and 3,371 strikeouts in 5,008 1/3 innings combined for the Chicago Cubs, Atlanta Braves, Los Angeles Dodgers and San Diego Padres. The righthander led the NL in ERA four times and won at least 15 games for 17 straight seasons, another record.

Glavine, a two-time NL Cy Young Award winner (1991 and ’98) and 10-time All-Star, was 305-203 with a 3.54 ERA over 22 seasons combined with the Braves and New York Mets. The lefthander was a five-time 20-game winner and won four Silver Slugger Awards. Gagne had 55 saves and a 1.20 ERA in 77 appearances with the Dodgers in his Cy Young Award season.

Jeff Kent, the NL MVP in 2000 with the San Francisco Giants, also played for the Mets, Dodgers, Toronto Blue Jays, Cleveland Indians and Houston Astros in a 17-season career during which he slammed 377 home runs, 351 of which were as a second baseman, a major league record. The five-time All-Star had at least 20 homers and 100 RBI in eight seasons, the most by any second baseman in major-league history.

Hideo Nomo, the 1995 NL Jackie Robinson Rookie of the Year winner and the owner of two no-hitters; and two World Series heroes, outfielders Moises Alou (1997 Florida Marlins) and Luis Gonzalez (2001 Arizona Diamondbacks), are also on the ballot for the first time. Joining them are righthander Mike Mussina, who had a .638 winning percentage (270-153) over 18 seasons with the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees; lefthander Kenny Rogers, whose perfect game for the Texas Rangers in 1994 was the highlight of a 20-year career; reliever Armando Benitez, the 2001 Rolaids Relief Man of the Year and first baseman J.T. Snow, a six-time Gold Glove Award winner. Other newcomers are relievers Todd Jones and Mike Timlin, first basemen Sean Casey and Richie Sexson, second baseman Ray Durham, catcher Paul Lo Duca and outfielder Jacque Jones.

Among others returning to the ballot are first basemen Don Mattingly, Fred McGriff, Mark McGwire and Rafael Palmeiro; outfielders Barry Bonds, Sammy Sosa and Larry Walker; pitchers Roger Clemens, Curt Schilling and Lee Smith; shortstop Alan Trammell and third baseman-DH Edgar Martinez.

Writers must return ballots by a Dec. 31 postmark. Votes are counted jointly by BBWAA secretary-treasurer Jack O’Connell and Ernst & Young partner Michael DiLecce. Results will be announced at 2 p.m., EST, Wednesday, January 8, 2014, on MLB Network and the web sites of the Hall of Fame and the BBWAA.

Offseason Banter

The White Sox held a conference call today with Season Ticket Holders and coaches Don Cooper and Todd Steverson.  Below are a few quotes from the call you may enjoy:

DON COOPER:

On Thanksgiving plans: “Eat some turkey. Sit back, relax and enjoy my family and friends.”

On the mentality needed to be a closer: “You have to have something, either good stuff, or an individual pitch that people swing and miss at or not center up. Like Mariano Rivera’s cutter. You have to have a thick skin and you have to be tough.”

On White Sox left-handed starters: “I feel really good about our left-handed pitchers. I feel very good about the arsenal and equipment our left-handers have and I believe they will all have good seasons.”

TODD STEVERSON:

On Thanksgiving plans: “Get the family together, watch my brother make a fried turkey and sit and watch some football games.”

On using his hitting philosophy throughout the organization: “We are in the process of speaking with our minor league staff. We will be from top to bottom, throughout the system, implementing a process [of being aggressive in the strike zone].”

On Jose Abreu: “There is a lot of positive feedback on Abreu. The fact that he can use the whole field and is not just a home run hitter is a plus. He is a strong man. He has a good idea at the plate.”

On his baseball influences: “I loved to watch Andre Dawson. Dave Winfield was one of my baseball heroes as well. I’ve been able to meet and talk baseball with both of them.”

Happy Thanksgiving

Here’s to a wonderful Thanksgiving for White Sox fans everywhere.  May you be surrounded by family and friends with many reasons to be thankful …

SoxFest: Coming Right Up

The holidays are quickly approaching and with that comes one of our favorite events: SoxFest.

SoxFest has always been and will always be about the fans. The interaction with the players is something you can’t find many other places, and is one of the many reasons that the guys love coming back year after year. 

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Check out this video showing some of the highlights of last year’s SoxFest: http://wapc.mlb.com/play/?content_id=31207221&partnerId=ed-7739263-624263993

Make sure to book by Tuesday, December 3 to receive the early-bird rate of $60 per pass on weekend passes. Weekend passes are reserved for guests that book the two-night SoxFest hotel package. More info here: http://chicago.whitesox.mlb.com/cws/community/soxfest_2014.jsp?partnerId=ed-7739263-624263993

As always, we look forward to seeing you there.

Sox Pride

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Last night we celebrated what has become a favorite tradition around our organization – college signing day for our Amateur City Elite (ACE) youth baseball team.

It is one of my favorite days of the year. Talk about organization pride!

Thirteen young athletes in our ACE program saw their hard work pay off as they signed that dotted line, and it was just as exciting for the parents who get to see their child not only commit to a baseball team, but to a college education.  Kids signed with a range of colleges and universities, including Northern Illinois, Michigan and baseball powerhouse Arizona.

ACE signing night.

As Jerry Reinsdorf has often said to me, “The baseball scholarships are great, but what really matters is the education.”

For those unfamiliar with our ACE program, it’s a White Sox initiative to offer rising stars in the inner-city baseball community the opportunity to play baseball against other highly competitive groups on a traveling team.  Baseball has become an expensive sport for youngsters.  The days of playing for your local Little League team have been largely replaced by travel teams who play other elite talent at tournaments across the country.  This requires the financial means to play on these travel teams, with most professional scouts and college recruiters spending their valuable time at these suburban tournaments and showcases.  The resource-challenged kids who often live in the inner city lose out.  That’s where our ACE program steps in by funding competitive travel teams – coached by top-flight instructors and decked out in Sox uniforms – comes in.  But it’s not just about teaching baseball and developing baseball players.  Ultimately, it’s about developing character in young men on and off the field while allotting chances to be seen by scouts and recruiters.

White Sox pitcher Hector Santiago was nice enough to fly in to congratulate the guys and general manager Rick Hahn addressed the group and their families, giving them advice along with his best wishes.

Rick reminded them of their coach’s team motto, “TNDO,” or “Take No Days Off,” which the players couldn’t help but chuckle at a little, as it’s a phrase Coach Kevin Coe has probably said more often than they care to remember.

But Rick told them to take that attitude with them in everything they do moving forward, in the classroom, in the weight room and on the field – take no days off.

“No matter how hard you work on the field,” the ACE kids were told, “Work twice as hard in the classroom.”

Including last night’s 2014 class, 85 ACE players have now been awarded scholarships through the program, while 11 have been selected in the MLB draft.  Just as important, 99% of ACE participants have graduated from high school.

As the players introduced themselves to the audience, each had their own personal message, but the same theme – the White Sox ACE program had changed their life.   It is hard to envision a program with a more rewarding result than that.

ACE signing night.

The night ended with Troy White, a former ACE player who played at Northern Illinois, addressing the group in private.  White was part of the first ACE team and is a perfect example of utilizing his skills to obtain a college education and from that, more opportunities.

Now he works as a sales intern for the White Sox and certainly followed the TNDO motto and implored his ACE successors to do the same – something they’ll never stop hearing.

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Latest Ratings

Baseball Prospectus, a website (baseballprospectus.com) devoted to the analysis of baseball and various metrics, released its White Sox Top 10 Prospects list earlier this week, with RHP Erick Johnson ranked No. 1 (he was fourth last year).

Johnson is followed by SS Tim Anderson, OF Courtney Hawkins, RHP Chris Beck, RHP Tyler Danish, SS Marcus Semien, 2B Carlos Sanchez, 2B Micah Johnson, CR Trayce Thompson and RHP Francellis Montas.

Anderson, the club’s first-round pick from the June First-Year Player Draft, Danish (second round pick) and Montas (acquired from Boston as part of the three-team Jake Peavy trade) all made the list after joining the Sox organization during the season.  Not on the list was recently signed Jose Abreu (for obvious reasons), while OF Micker Zapata and OF Jacob May were listed as prospects on the rise.

BP adds a few interesting comments …

“… their farm system is in much better shape than it was at this point one year ago,” BP writes, “and there is some talent at the big-league level that could be part of the next winning club on the South Side.”

“All told, the White Sox appear to be headed in the right direction as they try to get back on a winning track.”

And as a parting thought from BP …

“I’ve been highly critical of the White Sox in the past – both in terms of prospects and process – but I really like their 2013 drat and the international pursuits, and the system looks much better today than it did at this time last season.”

While it is a subscription-based website, I would definitely recommend baseballprospectus.com to any fan interested in sophisticated statistical analysis of baseball.

Hahn on Hot Stove

Rick Hahn got the chance to call into MLB Network’s Hot Stove this morning to talk about ACE signing day, the offseason strategy and Hawk’s Frick Award candidacy.

If you missed it, the video can be watched here: http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=31232467

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