December 2011

A John Danks Christmas

The news this morning that the White Sox have signed John Danks to a five-year, $65 million contract took me–and I’m sure many Sox fans–by surprise.

All we’ve been hearing during this offseason is that Danks, Carlos Quentin, Gavin Floyd and Matt Thornton were likely to be dealt to lower the payroll. So, Danks’ return to the South Side, as pleasant a surprise as it was, came out of nowhere.

The Danks signing signals a positive step in a hot stove period that has been confusing to Sox fans. Let’s face it, none of the three main Sox moves made–this one, the naming of Robin Ventura as manager and the trade of Sergio Santos to the Blue Jays for hot pitching prospect Nestor Molina–were expected. Now, at least, with Mark Buehrle gone, Danks will anchor a rotation that  currently includes Floyd, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale and Philip Humber/Zach Stewart. Certainly talented enough to compete in the A.L. Central.

There’s undoubtedly more on Kenny Williams‘ “To Do” list. Floyd, Quentin and Thornton still could be moved. And based on what we’ve seen so far, key trades and signings could continue to come out of nowhere.

So, fellow Sox rooters, when you least expect it, expect it.

Mark Buehrle: A Player for the Ages

Mark Buehrle, one of the great White Sox of all-time, leaves us with a treasure trove of memories gathered over his 12 seasons on the South Side. There’s the perfect game, the no-hitter, the Gold Gloves, the World Series save, the All-Star Game nods, the record Opening Day starts, his outstanding winning percentage and all those innings pitched. And I haven’t even mentioned the unbelievable between the legs throw on Opening Day 2010 (see below).

There are also the things that were more under the radar: his sense of humor, his leadership, the humility that was evidenced by him catching ceremonial first pitches (except on the days he pitched) through his Sox career and, of course, how beautifully he represented the franchise. Simply a class act.

It’s no surprise that Mark opted to play for Ozzie in Miami. He couldn’t resist the four-year, $58 million deal and the lure of playing in the National League, which he has dominated in interleague play. And the Sox apparently felt that at this stage of his career and the fact that they are in a rebuilding phase, it wasn’t feasible to match the offer as much as they wanted to keep him.

This week certainly hasn’t been a great one for the Sox. On Monday, Minnie Minoso was once again denied his rightful place in the Baseball Hall of Fame and yesterday another one of the club’s most popular players chose to take his talents to South Beach.

It won’t be the same on the South Side without No. 56, who very well might be the last Sox player to wear that number. But we’ll surivive, just as we did when the likes of Minoso, Nellie Fox, Luis Aparicio, Billy Pierce, Frank Thomas and Robin Ventura changed uniforms.

And remember, you can go home again. Just ask Minnie, Billy, Frank, Robin and the others.

Minnie Transcends Cooperstown

As a youngster, I was mesmerized by the electrifying talent of Minnie Minoso. So, when I was asked to be part of the White Sox team to make the case for Minnie’s Hall of Fame candidacy, it was one of the joys of my professional life.

As word came today that Minoso was three votes shy of the 75 percent needed for election, it hurt.  It hurts because it would have meant so much to Minnie, who has said, “My last dream is to be in Cooperstown–to be with those guys. I want to be there. This is my life’s dream.”

Minoso’s candidacy doesn’t come up again for another three years and who knows what will happen then.  As disappointed as we are right now, the truth is that while the Hall of Fame is the ultimate for a ballplayer it’s not the only thing that measures a major leaguer. If the love and respect from fellow Latino players, teammates and the city of Chicago mean anything, Minnie is in a shrine all of his own.