White Sox: 12 defining moments in 2012

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White Sox: 12 defining moments in 2012

Nobody quite knew what to expect from the White Sox in 2012.

Seasoned manager Ozzie Guillen was gone, replaced by inexperienced first-year man Robin Ventura.

Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Jake Peavy all were coming off the worst years of their collective careers. And the bulk of the teams pitching staff was loaded with rookies or inexperienced players.

Sports Illustrated went as far as to predict the South Siders would lose 95 games.
But things unexpectedly materialized on 35th Street and even though the season ended with a disappointing September collapse, the White Sox had plenty of success along the way.

Here are 12 of the teams top moments of 2012:

Ventura notches first win

Many in the media felt Venturas lack of managerial experience would hurt the club.

They were wrong.

He earned the first victory of his career on April 7 when the White Sox won 4-3 at the Texas Rangers. Only two days earlier, Ventura had to deal with perhaps his most difficult situation of the season when popular pre-game instructor Kevin Hickey was found unconscious in his hotel room. Hickey never emerged from his coma and passed away in May.

On the field, Ventura didnt take long to establish himself as a players manager and earned the praise of veterans for his even-keel approach. He finished third in voting for the American League manager of the year.

Humber is perfect

On April 21, the much-traveled former first-rounder set down all 27 of the Seattle Mariners hitters he faced.

Humber hinted he had discovered how to put it all together in 2011 when he went 9-9 with a 3.75 ERA in 26 starts for the Sox, his fourth organization in eight professional seasons.

This outing, his second of the season, made it appear as if he was ready to make a bigger impact in 2012. But Humbers ERA over his next 10 starts was 7.47 and he went on the disabled list. By early August, Humber was out of the rotation and became an afterthought until he was non-tendered by the White Sox this offseason and signed with the Houston Astros.

Konerko, Sox red hot at plate

Over a four-game stretch in late May, first baseman Paul Konerko had one final hot streak in a rampant start to the season. With their fourth hitter on fire, so too were the White Sox, who scored 46 runs in a span of four games, all victories.

Konerko went 2-for-4 with a home run and four RBIs in a 12-6 win on May 27 over the Cleveland Indians to raise his season average to .399. The teams hot streak coincided with Konerkos return to the lineup on May 22, four days after he was hit in the face by Cubs pitcher Jeff Samardzija. Over six days, Konerko went 14-for-24 with 10 runs, three homers and 10 RBIs. Konerko never eclipsed .400 and couldnt keep up the torrid pace, hitting .254 the rest of the way.

Bullpen Sale reduced

With his health in mind, on May 4, the White Sox moved Chris Sale from the starting rotation into the closers role even though the left-hander had a 2.81 ERA to that point.

Sale, a reliever his first two seasons, wasnt pleased with the decision. But the club insisted Sale make the move in order to ensure his long-term health. The plan lasted seven days -- long enough for Sale to make one relief appearance and have an MRI performed. With his health intact, Sale convinced Ventura and Kenny Williams to return him to the rotation on May 11. Sale went on to record 17 victories and established himself as one of the games best young starters.

Quintana ejection fires up Hawk

What would a top moments list be without a Hawk Harrelson rant?

Plate umpire Mark Wegner gave Harrelson all the fodder he needed May 30 when he ejected starter Jose Quintana in the fourth inning at Tampa Bay for throwing behind Ben Zobrist. Harrelsons rant went viral.

RELATED: You gotta be bleepin' me -- Running down the top Hawk rants

Heres a snipet of the transcript: Oh what are you doing? He threw him out of the ball game? Youve got to be bleeping me. What in the hell are you doing? What are you doing Wegner?

Reed rocks the ninth

The White Sox had no definitive answer in the ninth inning when Addison Reed was given the opportunity on May 14. The third-round draft pick (2011) had already picked up two saves and wanted to be the teams closer but had only part of one season in the minors experience.

But Reed took the reins and didnt relent even after veteran Brett Myers arrived in a July trade from the Astros, just in case the rookie faltered. Reed had difficulty in non-save situations but thrived with the game on the line, closing out 29 of 33 tries. He highlighted impressive rookie performances out of the pen including Hector Santiago and Nate Jones. Youngster Donnie Veal was good too.

Youk comes to town

Until the June 24th trade that brought Kevin Youkilis and cash over from the Boston Red Sox, the White Sox had ice cold play at the hot corner. Despite their inadequacies at the third, the South Siders remained in contention and they got a significant boost after Youkilis was acquired for Zach Stewart and Brent Lillibridge.

Youkilis had a number of big moments in his first two weeks with the team and over the course of the season. He quickly became a fan favorite and finished with 15 homers and 46 RBIs after joining Chicago.

Sale strikes out 15

If the White Sox needed any more validation they made the correct choice when they placed Sale back in the rotation, it arrived on May 28. Thats the day Sale mowed down 15 Tampa Bay Rays batters and allowed a run, three hits and two walks in 7 13 innings in a 2-1 win at Tropicana Field.

The strikeout total was the second highest in franchise history behind Jack Harshman's 16 (July 25, 1954) and Sale improved to 6-2 with a 2.34 ERA.

The 400 club calls twice

Dunn wished so much for the 400th home run of his career to come in meaningful fashion, a hope that didnt come true as the White Sox lost 9-4 at Kansas City on Aug. 18. Dunns homer did give the South Siders life as it got them within a run in the eighth inning before the bullpen handed the runs back in the bottom half of the inning.

Konerkos 400th homer appeared to have more meaning as he tied an April 25 game at 2 in the top of the ninth inning with a solo homer off Oakland As closer Grant Balfour. But Konerkos blast also lost its luster when the As rallied with three runs in the bottom of the 14th inning for a 5-4 win over the White Sox.

Dunn and Konerko became the first two teammates to ever hit their 400th career homers in the same season.

Sale pitches in All-Star Game

Of the four White Sox to make the Midsummer Classic in Kansas City, Sale played the biggest role. Peavy and Dunn elected to not play. Konerko, in his only at-bat, was hit by an R.A. Dickey knuckleball. But Sale showcased how nasty he can be when he struck out St. Louis David Freese to end a scoreless sixth inning with two runners aboard. Sale had allowed singles to Chipper Jones and Andrew McCutchen before he pitched his way out of trouble.

Nearly in the books

The White Sox appeared in great shape in the AL Central as they grabbed a three-game lead with 16 to play after a 5-4 victory over the Detroit Tigers at home on Sept. 17. Dewayne Wise had two RBIs and Alex Rios broke up a potential inning-ending double play in the fifth with a hard slide at second base to give the White Sox a 4-3 lead. Jones pitched 2 23 shutout innings as the bullpen combined for five shutout frames. The finale of a four-game series, the game was delayed four days because of rain and earned the White Sox a split.

Bottom drops out

Only nine days after it appeared the White Sox were on their way to the postseason they were already out of first place. A 6-4 home loss to the Cleveland Indians on Sept. 26 dropped the White Sox -- who lost seven of nine before losing three of four to the Rays -- a game back of Detroit. Not only could the South Siders not hit down the stretch, they had difficulty pitching too. In this one, Santiago was the first of seven pitchers as the White Sox blew an early 3-1 lead. The Sox never again caught Detroit, which reached the World Series.

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.