White Sox: 12 defining moments in 2012

White Sox: 12 defining moments in 2012
December 28, 2012, 7:59 pm
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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.