Sox Drawer: From 'worst' to first

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Sox Drawer: From 'worst' to first

Its the end of May. The White Sox have won seven in a row and 11-of-12. Paul Konerko is having an MVP season. Jake Peavy and Chris Sale are early candidates for the Cy Young Award. They have one of the best young hitters in the game in Dayan Viciedo, not to mention one of the best young closers in Addison Reed.

Now fifty games into the season, theres one team all alone in first place in the American League Central not called the Detroit Tigers. Or the Cleveland Indians.

Its the team no one believed in.

During spring training, Gordon Beckham walked around the clubhouse comparing the White Sox to the viral video about the Honey Badger. Dont care. He dont care. We dont care, Beckham would say about their critics.

Who were they?

Everyone.

Not only were the White Sox not expected to win the division this season, nobody thought theyd even sniff first place for even a second of it.

The Tigers were expected to run away with the AL Central from day one.

The White Sox? They were supposed to lose 95 games. Right, SI.com?

So much good is happening right now, the stats are coming in at a dizzying pace:

In the last 15 games, the White Sox are No. 1 in the majors in batting average, home runs, runs scored, runs per game, slugging percentage and batting average with runners in scoring position.

Theyve won seven of their last eight games on the road.

Theyve homered in 15 straight games, their longest streak since 2004.

Viciedo has more RBIs in May (23) than Joe Mauer, Dustin Pedroia, Robinson Cano and Michael Young have for the whole season.

Adam Dunn has hit more home runs this month (11) than he did all of last season.

Meanwhile:

Philip Humber has a perfect game.

Chris Sale had 15 strikeouts on Monday, one shy of the franchise record.

Paul Konerko is batting .386.

Justin Verlander lost to the Red Sox on Tuesday. The Tigers are 23-26. At the same point last year, the All-in White Sox were 22-27. Sound familiar?

And leading this group of men is someone who until this year had never managed a game in his life. The hiring of Robin Ventura was considered by most as a sign that the White Sox had either given up or lost their minds.

What they failed to recognize was Venturas mind. His knowledge of the game, plus his leadership, communication skills and laid-back personality were a perfect for this club. Considering the soap opera that occurred last season with the White Sox, he was the right manager at the right time.

Could 2012 be the White Sox time? Its way too early for that.

However, as June arrives, this team is proving its for real and doesnt plan on going away anytime soon.

The critics, the skeptics, the non-believers? The White Sox didnt care about them then, and they dont care now.

All that matters is winning. That theyre doing.

Its been fun to watch.

Robin Ventura praises ex-teammate David Ross after night of ovations

Robin Ventura praises ex-teammate David Ross after night of ovations

On June 25, 2004, Robin Ventura took the mound for the Los Angeles Dodgers in the ninth inning of a 13-0 loss to the then Anaheim Angels.

It was Ventura’s lone pitching appearance in his big league career, one that ended that season after 16 years.

And who was behind the plate? Current Cubs catcher David Ross, who’s in the final season of his own lengthy major league career and who experienced quite the moment on Sunday night. In the Cubs’ final regular-season home game, a packed Wrigley Field stood in recognition of the backup catcher and his career ahead of each of his three plate appearances — the second of which ended in a solo home run — and then again when manager Joe Maddon lifted him from the game in the seventh inning.

The roaring ovations were unusual for a backup catcher who’s batting .233 (after hitting just .176 last season on the North Side), but according to Ventura — a teammate of Ross’ in L.A. in 2003 and 2004 — they were absolutely deserved.

“It’s great. Anything he gets I think is great,” Ventura said. “Not often do you see a backup catcher with such a response. But he’s a different guy, and he’s earned that. They wouldn’t do that if he didn’t deserve it. Inside their clubhouse, that’s probably where it comes from, and then it exudes outside, spills over outside of that. I’m sure I’ll talk to him in the offseason.”

Ross hasn’t received a city-by-city sendoff the likes of which Derek Jeter, Mariano Rivera, David Ortiz and even White Sox legend Paul Konerko have received in recent years. But he sure has enjoyed his final season in the big leagues. And he might enjoy it further as the Cubs have the best record in baseball and World Series expectations.

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Ventura had his own final season in the bigs a dozen years ago, and he was the manager during Konerko’s final year in 2014.

“I know a little bit of what he’s going through. But when a guy is at the end and he knows he’s at the end, you can have a little more fun,” Ventura said. “Paulie had some of that his last year where you can exert some energy elsewhere. And it’s still fun, and you spread it around the clubhouse a little bit more than you do just as a player.”

It might be difficult for fans who haven’t closely followed the Cubs over the past two seasons to figure out why Ross has become so beloved. But as Ross’ former teammate, Ventura understands.

“Numbers-wise, he’s not going to jump out off the page to you. But the guys that play in there understand what he brings to it,” Ventura said. “It’s hard to sit there and for people to understand that, as grueling as the season is and the personalities are in that clubhouse. But when you’re talking about a guy that’s played as long as he has, been on some winning teams and continues to bring the enjoyment and really the boyish stuff that he brings. And that’s part of his charm is there’s still a kid in there, even at 40 — what is he? — he looks like 48. There’s a kid in there, and that comes out when you see him or you’re around him.”

So back to that pitching appearance. Ventura fared just fine, giving up just one hit in a scoreless ninth inning. Ross must’ve been calling a good game, right?

“He never put down a signal,” Ventura said. “I didn’t throw hard enough for him to put down a signal.”

Adam Eaton still out of White Sox lineup, recuperating from crash into wall

Adam Eaton still out of White Sox lineup, recuperating from crash into wall

Out of the White Sox lineup the last two days after he crashed into a wall in Cleveland, Adam Eaton remained sidelined Monday, with manager Robin Ventura saying the outfielder needs more time to recuperate.

Of course, Eaton being the kind of player who crashes into walls to make catches, he wants back out on the field in the season’s final week.

“Feeling good,” Eaton reported to reporters ahead of Monday’s series-opener against the Tampa Bay Rays. “I hope to be in there tomorrow. I'm going to test the body parts today. Individually, I want to play until the end and finish strong. That's kind of my outlook as of right now.”

Eaton assumed he was held out of the lineup for the first of the four-game set on the South Side due to Monday’s pitching matchup. Ventura made it pretty clear, though, that that wasn’t the case.

“Yeah, he doesn’t feel that good,” Ventura said when informed of Eaton’s self-assessment. “He’s always going to tell you he feels good. Even if he’s getting better, tomorrow’s going to be a better day for him.

“He’s not playing because he’s physically still banged-up. He will be here, but he’s not going to play today. He’s still recuperating and getting better. But in talking to (trainer Herm Schneider), it’s just best that he doesn’t play today.”

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Eaton needed to be helped off the field by Schneider and teammate Carlos Sanchez on Friday after he made a catch on a deep fly ball off the bat of Roberto Perez and then crashed into the center-field wall at Progressive Field. Getting the wind knocked out of him, Eaton took and passed concussion tests, perhaps preventing a shutdown for the remainder of the season. But he’ll sit out his third straight game Monday.

Despite the concern over a possible concussion, Eaton said the most-affected body part was his hip.

“Biggest thing was my hip, to be honest,” he said. “I think that's what hit first and then kind of a whiplash. I hate to continue referring to a car accident but just kind of a jolt. Taking inventory and making sure everything's aligned again. The doctors there in Cleveland were great. They came over and did all the concussion protocol, making sure I didn't get any dumber, which I'm sure I did. I guess realigning some things and making sure all the body parts are functioning correctly.

“Feel much better today, every day's been getting better. We're going to test some parts out today and if all goes well, my hope is to be in there tomorrow. Hopefully I didn't get Wally Pipp’d and get replaced. I hope I can squeeze back in there.”

Taking a positive out of things, Eaton said he’s happy the crash illustrated the way he hopes to play the game, full go on every play, and that kids might see the catch and want to play the same way.

“As I’ve said the last couple days, it’s how I play and I'm proud to play that way. I've been brought up since I was a little kid to play hard. I hope a little kid at home sees it, that it is cool to make a catch for your team and take a double away, and they want to do that. Of course not getting hurt by any stretch of the imagination. But I was always that kid trying to rob people and taking two extra steps to make a diving play as a 12-year-old or 13-year-old. It’s fun to do it, but you pay the price for it of course.”

The catch might’ve looked pretty cool on the highlight shows. But Eaton wanted to make one thing clear.

“One of my buddies in Michigan said it looked epic,” Eaton said. “I told him it didn't feel epic.”