"Everyone wants a villain," A.J. Pierzynski said. "Look at what LeBron James has gone through the past few years. My teammates get the best kick of it. When we go to Oakland, Anaheim, San Francisco, Minnesota, Cleveland, I get loud boos. Guys on my team can't wait to see that and to hear that."
Black crepe paper hangs over the column this morning. Garrett Reid, Andy Reid's oft-troubled 29-year-old son, was found dead in his Lehigh University dorm room at Eagles' training camp Sunday morning.
This weekend saw the White Sox continue their hot streak, four series played among the tightly bunched teams in the two Eastern divisions, and the ascendant Angels take two of three from the first-place Rangers, but the most compelling series was the one still going on in New York between the Mets and Cardinals. That series announced itself when Johan Santana threw the first no-hitter in Mets history on Friday night, and has become more compelling with each successive dominant Mets pitching performance. Meanwhile, with their loss on Sunday, the defending world champions saw their record fall to an even .500 and slipped a half-game behind the Pirates into third place in the National League Central.
Five Cuts from the first weekend of interleague play:
In 2011, the Tigers were the only team in the American League Central to post a winning record, they won the division by 15 games -- the largest margin by any first-place club in baseball -- boasted the league's dual MVP and Cy Young winner in Justin Verlander, and added to their division-leading payroll by making the division's most prominent offseason acquisition in free-agent slugger Prince Fielder. Perhaps that's why, when he was asked this spring if he was in favor of MLB adding a second wild-card team to each league, White Sox general manager Ken Williams said, "Hell yeah I want it."
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Robin Ventura arrived for his first day as a major league manager a couple of weeks ago to find the door to his office at the team's spring training facility locked. He jokingly imagined it to be a message from the White Sox front office that had made him the most surprising managerial hire in years, telling him, "We've decided it's over."
The White Sox send mixed messages, the Blue Jays, Red Sox and Reds fortify their bullpens, and the best available centerfielder (not counting Yoenis Cespedes) and two of the best platoon outfielders in the game all re-sign with their 2011 teams in this week's edition of Hot Stove Roundup.
Four days into their unexpected celebration of a World Series title, the St. Louis Cardinals are searching for a manager to replace the retiring Tony La Russa, a predicament they haven't had for 16 seasons.
The start of September should be the time of year that the pennant races are heating up, but with an average of just 25 games left on each team's schedule, only one playoff spot is currently being decided by less than 5 ½ games, leaving the pennant races lukewarm at best. For all intents and purposes, the Red Sox, Yankees, Phillies, Braves and Brewers have their postseason spots locked up, each exceeding a 98 percent chance of a playoff berth per Baseball Prospectus's playoff odds.
The 2011 trading deadline went from zero to sixty on Wednesday with a pair of blockbuster deals. The Giants and Cardinals loaded up for the stretch run, and the Mets and Blue Jays capitalized on the desperation of those two contenders by acquiring a pair of young players with star potential.
Now that the possibility of the great Felix Hernandez being traded has been all but expunged, thanks to Seattle's surprisingly nice start to the season, it's time to consider the pitchers with a real chance to go somewhere else via trade this summer. And without King Felix (or any other No. 1-type starter, for that matter) available, the list isn't exactly looking like the Philadelphia Phillies' rotation, or even anything even close.
As if reaching the College World Series wasn't incentive enough, there was an added element for team's competing in last year's Super Regionals: playing at historic, 63-year-old Rosenblatt Stadium in its last turn as host of the CWS. This year it's about being among the eight teams to christen new TD Ameritrade Park in downtown Omaha, Neb. There are plenty of other intriguing storylines across the country as the best-of-three Regionals begin this weekend, highlighted by South Carolina's quest to return to defend its title; the Dallas Baptist vs. Cal matchup assuring that a No. 3 seed advances; and the Texas vs. Arizona State series assuring that a program steeped in tradition makes it back once again.
In any small stretch of the season, a team's strength of schedule can lead us to over- or underrate its short-term performance. This is one of the many reasons to rein in evaluations in April, as hot starts and cold streaks are often as much about the guys in the other dugout as how well you're playing. The canonical example in recent seasons is the 2009 Blue Jays, who opened with a baby-soft slate that featured none of their AL East rivals until the middle of May. A 22-12 start included just six games against eventual postseason teams, and when the Jays began facing the Yankees, Red Sox and Rays, things turned quickly. Toronto finished the year 75-87, playing .414 ball after that strong start. The Jays were fundamentally a .500 or so team that got to beat up on inferior ones for a month.
NEW YORK -- The White Sox entered this week's four-game series at Yankee Stadium having lost 10 of 11 games and with their bullpen in tatters. They had the majors' worst save percentage (14.3), the fewest saves (one) and the most blown saves (six). What they didn't have was a certified closer.
TEMPE, Ariz. -- Jake Peavy said he felt "relieved'' and "pleased'' after two pain-free, hitless innings against the Angels. So we can only imagine how White Sox general manager Ken Williams, the one who took the $18-million-a-year gamble on Peavy, felt. Probably almost exactly the same.
GLENDALE, Ariz -- A year ago Chris Sale was living in a dorm room on the Florida Gulf Coast University campus. "If you told me then that I'd be here, in this position, now," says the White Sox's left-hander and potential difference-maker in this year's AL Central race, "I would have said ,'You're crazy.'"
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Both Chicago ballclubs filled their needs at first base with the exact opposite player -- and both got exactly what they needed.
A.J. Pierzynski is re-signing with the White Sox.
The White Sox have reached a deal with slugger Adam Dunn, SI.com has learned.
Three former Chicago White Sox employees were indicted on Wednesday on federal fraud charges for allegedly accepting kickbacks totaling roughly $400,000 from signing bonuses of Latin American prospects.
BOSTON -- It's time Manny Ramirez deserved some credit.
I come bearing bad news for fans of the Red Sox, White Sox, Cardinals, Rockies, and great September pennant races. Barring a comeback of historic proportions, the eight playoff berths are virtually locked up with the exception of the NL wild card.
Like clockwork the last few years, the American League Central has been decided on the season's final day, by a single game, in three of the last four seasons. In 2008 and '09 the division even required an extension to the regular season for a one-game playoff that determined the Central champ.
SI.com has learned that 38-year-old slugger Manny Ramirez has been sent to the Chicago White Sox in a pure waiver claim. That means the Dodgers get no players in return for Ramirez while the White Sox assume the balance -- about $4 million -- of the two-year, $45 million contract he signed before the 2009 season.
The Chicago White Sox are a sedate, orderly team, committed to playing baseball properly. To a man their best players are polite and reserved, and many of them are unusually intense. The Sox aren't grandly talented, but they get a lot out of the talent they have.
Washington Nationals phenom Stephen Strasburg has been shut down with inflammation in his throwing shoulder, and as much as the club portrayed the decision as highly conservative, nine starts into his major league career he quickly has a red flag affixed to him.
• The White Sox and Rays are among the teams talking to the Nationals about slugger Adam Dunn. The belief is the Nats are looking for prospects and could send them to Arizona for pitcher Edwin Jackson. Washington is believed to have asked Chicago for either Gordon Beckham or a tandem of Daniel Hudson and Dayan Viciedo.
It's strange but true that when a ball club is obviously playing well above its talent, everyone expects it to regress, but when a ball club is just as obviously playing well below its talent, no one expects it to improve. Whatever hard-wired neurological reasons there are for this tendency, no team this year has suffered so much from it as the Chicago White Sox, who had to reel off a 13 wins in 14 games to get anyone to notice that they've been good all along.
Every year, the All-Star team selections create debates all over the diamond, and it will be no different this season. Should the Twins' Justin Morneau or the Tigers' Miguel Cabrera get the start at first base in the American League? Should it be the Padres' Adrian Gonzalez or the Cardinals' Albert Pujols at first base for the National League -- or perhaps even the Reds' Joey Votto or the Braves' Troy Glaus?
Thanks to the Astros' longtime pitching star Roy Oswalt and his unusually early trade request, trade speculation has already begun -- though the majority of trade-deadline deals won't happen for two months.
When Steve Greenberg was trying to launch Classic Sports Network (CSN) in 1993, he and his partner, Brian Bedol, hit nothing but roadblocks. Neither had any experience running a cable network. Some people thought their idea to rebroadcast archival footage of big games was interesting, but nobody wanted to give them money. Then Greenberg went to see Herbert Allen Jr. at Allen & Co., the fabled investment-banking boutique.
Every week I will rank the top five candidates in each league for one of baseball's three major awards. Having looked at the MVP and Cy Young races the last two weeks, I turn my attention to the Rookie of the Year award this week.
Interleague play for American League teams typically is what a reachable par 5 is for PGA pros: par is a bad score. It's the perfect opportunity to pad your score. Indeed, AL playoff berths have been won by beating up National League teams. Last year the four AL playoff teams (Yankees, Red Sox, Twins, Angels) played .581 baseball against AL teams but .653 baseball against NL teams.
White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen is never afraid to speak his mind. So it came as no surprise that the White Sox skipper offered a characteristically honest assessment of the recent Hanley Ramirez controversy, in which the Marlins star shortstop was removed from a game by his manager, Fredi Gonzalez, and subsequently benched for another, for failing to hustle.
Something good happened for the Kansas City Royals the other day -- or anyway, it feels to me like something good. I've written here that the biggest reason that Trey Hillman was unsuccessful as manager (three or four times bigger than any other reason) is because he had a lousy team. There are ways, I suppose, to make a lousy team less lousy and he was unable to to do that. There are signs, I suppose, of a manager being better than the talent around him, and he did not really show those signs. But more than that, it seems to me that when you give a manager Jose Guillen and say "Here's your best hitter," and you give a manager Kyle Farnsworth and Juan Cruz and say "They will get you through the seventh and eighth innings," and you give a manager Yuni Betancourt and say, "Now you have an everyday shortstop" ... what you are really saying is, "We will be firing you at an undisclosed future date."
This past winter, the public noticed something that has been clear for a while: Clever operators think defense is the best value in the game.
Not long after his young pitcher became just the 19th man in baseball history to throw a perfect game, Oakland A's general manager Billy Beane said by phone of Dallas Braden, "He's not afraid to take on the world."
In retrospect, it's probably a good thing that Dallas Braden got into a public war of words with Alex Rodriguez two weeks ago over the proper etiquette concerning opposing players crossing the pitchers mound. If not for that incident, there would have been a lot more casual baseball fans who responded "who?" upon learning that Braden threw the 19th perfect game in major league history on Sunday.
Steve Nash and Grant Hill had no reason to speak up.
All it took was three little letters: L-O-S. With that change to the front of their jerseys during the NBA playoffs this week, the Phoenix Suns became "Los Suns" and Arizona's basketball franchise let the world know where it stands on its state's controversial immigration law.
Frauds, fakes and phonies abound in April baseball. Anyone can do anything in a month's worth of games, and as the leaderboards show, they often do. When terrifically bad Nationals pitcher Livan Hernandez is third in the majors in earned run average and his batterymate Pudge Rodriguez, a 38-year-old catcher, is hitting .400, you know it's early.
This spring, SI.com writers are filing postcards from all 30 major league spring training camps. To read all the postcards, click here.
TAMPA, Fla. -- Free-agent outfielder Johnny Damon shot down rumors that his wife Michelle so much prefers Chicago to Detroit that it could sway where he winds up playing.
Set aside the pragmatism he brought to the steroid debate; more below on how the simple act of speaking up at all set him apart. Today, upon the official announcement of his retirement, is about framing the more important place in baseball history occupied by Frank Thomas.
The Chicago White Sox are talking to veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel about a contract and a deal is expected in the coming days, sources confirm.
The White Sox exercised the option for next year on veteran right-handed pitcher Freddy Garcia.
There are two kinds of successful major league pitcher. Some treat the game like a game, and are philosophical and resigned to occasional failure. Others are like Jake Peavy, who at 28 has two ERA titles and a Cy Young Award, and designs on more and better.
Mark Buerhle joined one of baseball's most elite clubs on Thursday afternoon in Chicago -- the Zeros-Only Gang of 18 whose members have each put together 27 consecutive outs in a winning ballgame (sorry, Harvey Haddix). It's an elite club, but not limited to elite pitchers. In fact, Buerhle, a good-but-not-great hurler, slots fairly neatly into the middle ranks of the roster of perfectos.
To the delight of 28,036 fans at U.S. Cellular Field and one very famous fan in the White House, Chicago White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle became just the 18th pitcher in baseball history to throw a perfect game on Thursday when he blanked the defending American League champion Tampa Bay Rays 5-0 in Chicago.
Freddy Garcia is back with the team that he helped win the 2005 World Series, SI.com has learned.
The New York Mets avoided a tricky situation Friday night when they traded backup catcher Ramon Castro and cash to the Chicago White Sox for pitcher Lance Broadway.
Most baseball trades are ridiculous, the equivalent on one end of paying someone to take your money. The wonder is that so many teams make them.
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Like his team, White Sox general manager Ken Williams is routinely underrated. He's one of the best GMs in the game, though listings of the great current GMs usually exclude him.
CHICAGO -- The hero for the White Sox in their season-saving win late Sunday afternoon was supposed to be Roger Bossard. Bossard is the head groundskeeper at U.S. Cellular Field. In his 41 seasons, he's developed trick after trick to ensure that his club's home-field advantage is, in fact, as advantageous it can possibly get.
CHICAGO -- Tuesday night's playoff before the playoffs between two classic Cinderella stories lasted scarcely longer than an Ozzie Guillen filibuster. Two hours and twenty minutes. It was a beautiful sight for the South Side team that was once proud to "win ugly.''
Cliff Corcoran breaks down tonight's showdown for the American League Central title between the Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins at U.S. Cellular Field.
You figure that 162 games ought to be enough. I mean, that's part of the beauty of baseball, right? Over the course of a back-breaking, mind-mushing, weather-changing 162-game baseball season, the best teams always end up popping to the surface. Isn't that how it's supposed to work?
In beating the Tigers, the White Sox set up a one-game playoff with the Twins on Tuesday at 7:37 p.m. EDT to decide the AL Central champion. The winner will play the Rays in the AL Division Series beginning Wednesday in Tampa.
Getting to baseball's postseason is hard enough sometimes. Bullpens blowing up, starters going down, late losing streaks, make-up games, play-in games, just plain bad luck.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Things I learned before, during and after the Twins' 6-0 victory over the Royals on Sunday at the Metrodome, the 162nd game of their regular season that feels more like No. 161 1/3:
If the White Sox (87-74) beat the Tigers on Monday in a makeup game at 2:05 p.m. EDT, they would be tied with the Twins (88-74). If that happens, the Twins would travel to Chicago for a one-game tiebreaker on Tuesday at 7:37 p.m. EDT. If the White Sox lose to the Tigers, the Twins would win the AL Central.
One down, two to go for the White Sox as they try to hang on in the race for the AL Central title. Here's what we learned from their season-saving 5-1 victory over the Indians on Sunday afternoon:
Five things we learned from the Twins' 4-2 loss to the Royals on Saturday afternoon at the Metrodome, extending the AL Central anguish yet another day:
Another night, another blown opportunity for the White Sox. Here's what we learned from Chicago's 12-6 loss to the Indians on Saturday night:
Five thoughts from the quiet Metrodome, where the Minnesota Twins were clearly suffering from a case of the post-sweep blahs ...
CHICAGO -- Five things we learned following the White Sox's tough 11-8 loss to the Indians on Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field ...
Reality eventually found its way into the Minnesota Twins' clubhouse late Thursday night but it took awhile, hanging back respectfully until giddiness had had its way.
Probable Starters: Gavin Floyd (194 2/3 IP, 4.67 RA, 1.24 WHIP, 133 K) vs. Kevin Slowey (156 2/3, 3.91, 1.14, 120)
MINNEAPOLIS -- Ozzie Guillen was merely being the great and wondrous Oz, entertaining a larger than usual media throng at a ballpark he hadn't visited in nearly two months. Whistling past the graveyard? That would be a little too strong, unless the trend established Tuesday night in the Minnesota Twins' 9-3 victory over the first-place Chicago White Sox continues for another day or -- look out below -- two.
MINNEAPOLIS -- Neither the White Sox nor the Twins were supposed to be participating in a pennant race this season. It's an expectation to which both AL Central teams have spent the past month living down.
There is really only one thing that drives me insane about color commentators on television. It isn't when the announcers say silly things because we all say silly things, especially when forced to talk non-stop for about three hours. It isn't when they get stuff wrong because we all make mistakes. It isn't when they constantly tell us about their own careers because, frankly, that's what they know best (If Leo Mazzone ISN'T talking about Greg Maddux and Tom Glavine, then why is he talking?). It isn't when they say obvious stuff because, hey, despite what Tony La Russa might tell you the biggest part of sports is the obvious stuff.
Thousands come out in Chicago to honor the late comedian
There comes a time in every baseball season when surprises are no longer surprises. If something caught you off guard in April or in May, and what was going on way back then is still going on now ... well, you need to drop the whole wide-eyed-in-shock spiel. It's not very becoming.
Behind two big homers by Jermaine Dye and another good start by Javier Vazquez, the Chicago White Sox extended their winning streak to seven games and their lead in the AL Central to 2½ games with a 7-2 win over the Indians Tuesday night. The White Sox, largely considered a level behind the two favorites (Cleveland and Detroit) in the division, are the only AL Central team above .500, and have leads of 3½ games on the Indians, and 6½ games on the Tigers.
It's too early, way too early, really, to even be talking about how early it is. It's so early in this barely emergent baseball season that Bobby Cox hasn't even been thrown out of a game yet, Manny Ramirez hasn't asked for a trade and Jeff Kent and his teammates are still getting along.
Also in this column • A's closer Street could be available • White Sox ready to dump Uribe • Rookie enters Dodgers 3B picture
NASHVILLE, Tenn. (AP) -- The Chicago White Sox added depth to their inexperienced outfield Monday, acquiring Carlos Quentin from the Arizona Diamondbacks for minor league first baseman Chris Carter.
Both 2005 World Series participants -- the Astros and White Sox -- have gone from the Fall Classic to classic falls. The difference is in how the respective club owners are confronting disappointment and responding to their precipitous declines. One is dishing out blame, the other dishing baloney.
As Major League Baseball does its best to honor Barry Bonds this week when he finally passes Hank Aaron as the all-time home run leader -- whether we like it or not -- it's appropriate at this time to take a quick look at this year's home run leaders to see if there were any surprises. To be truthful, most of the Top 50 home run hitters as of this week were predictable, but there were a few sluggers we didn't see coming.
The All-Star break is considered the halfway point of the Major League Baseball season, but actually we passed the halfway point last weekend. Most teams will head into the break with 87-89 games played and a good idea whether they'll be competing for divisional titles during the second half or looking at youngsters with an eye towards 2008.
The White Sox are in serious talks to sign Mark Buehrle to a contract extension.
Also in this column: • First shoe drops for Sox • Smoltz and Chipper bicker • More news and notes
Also in this column: • Mariners lead in failed drug tests • Rangers not happy with new skipper • Ozzie Guillen's latest controversy • More news and notes
Also in this column: • New Braves owners won't spend • Ozzie awaits A-Rod in Chicago • An omission from my over-40 list • More news and notes
There was once a time when the elite, multisport athlete gladly chose baseball, passing up the fame and floodlights of football Saturdays on American campuses for the scruffy, two-bunk dorms of places such as Pirate City in Bradenton, Fla., and the apprenticeship that involved afternoon minor league games played in sweltering heat before about 50 fans and among players who, with few exceptions, would never realize their major league aspirations. There was a time when players, upon securing that first big contract, thanked their team and their parents for their loyalty, with not a whiff of entitlement. A time when a well-struck ball in the gap or a one-hopper to the mound obligated the same effort on the base paths: full tilt.
CHICAGO -- It came up in a roundabout way, this curious revelation from Cubs left-hander Rich Hill. He was sitting in the home dugout at Wrigley Field on Sunday, discussing what's typically in his headphones before a start -- either U2, Audioslave or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. The conversation then turned to his guitar-playing hobby, or current lack thereof, seeing that the Gibson Les Paul he bought mostly collects dust in his Chicago apartment. Asked if he plays the instrument lefty or righty, he said righty -- at which point he felt it relevant to note that he was not, originally, a lefty.
I. Geezer ballplayers: Pouring over the statistical league leaders Thursday, I found myself continually asking one question: Man, how old is that dude? After a series of birth date checks, I confirmed a budding suspicion: America's pastime is being shaped by a number of players who are far past their time. Currently many of the games top players boast birth dates in the decade of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll -- the 1960s.
Well, it's early May, and we've already had our first casualty. No surprise, it's a Yankee. No surprise again, it's the strength and conditioning man who has overseen a disastrous run of injuries to front-line Yankees pitcher, many of those injuries involving the hamstring.
Also in this column: • Russ Ortiz's quick fix • Bobby Jenks' velocity drop • More news and notes
This week's "Who's He" looks at a couple of long-term prospects who recently got called up to the big leagues, along with three middle relievers who have emerged from obscurity.
Back in the late '70s, the Orioles had a right-handed reliever named Don Stanhouse, a big ol' floppy-haired lug of a guy that Baltimore manager Earl Weaver supposedly liked to call "Full Pack." That, it was said, was the number of cigarettes that Weaver inhaled during one of Stanhouse's typically nerve-searing and painfully drawn-out appearances.
Also in this column: • Blue Jays in pain • Orioles interested in Kim • More news and notes
Sixty years after Jackie Robinson broke into the major leagues, baseball still has one white blight on its record. Forty percent of major leaguers are minorities, yet there are still only two minority general managers, the same two it's had for the past six years -- Ken Williams of the White Sox and Omar Minaya of the Mets.
The Twins may be fighting a losing battle in their efforts to extend Johan Santana's four-year, $40 million contract, which expires at the end of next season. A league source told SI that Minnesota recently offered to add two years to the deal, at around $18 million per season, plus a club option for 2011. That offer, however, falls well short of the seven-year, $126 million figure that Barry Zito received from the Giants this winter and virtually assures that Santana, the Koufax of his generation, will be the hottest free agent in the class of '08. Having set this past Opening Day as his deadline for securing a new deal, Santana has told the Twins that he won't negotiate again until he hits the open market -- when, it should be added, he will only be 29.