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.

Chris Sale ties career-high 17 wins as White Sox power past Rays

Chris Sale ties career-high 17 wins as White Sox power past Rays

Chris Sale had no trouble earning his 17th win of the season, tying his career-high set in 2012, in what may have been his final start of the season.

Sale pitched seven innings and recorded seven strikeouts as the White Sox offense powered past the Tampa Bay Rays 13-6 on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field.

Sale also allowed three earned runs on eight hits and no walks. It was Sale’s 16th career game with at least seven strikeouts and no walks — a franchise record by a wide margin —according to CSN’s stat guru Chris Kamka.

"I feel as good now as I ever have on a baseball field, physically," Sale said. "I think this year was the best overall in terms of feeling strong at the end and still having more in the tank."

"I’ve said it a lot of times before and I can’t stress to you enough, how awesome the people I have in my corner helping me get back out there every fifth day. That starts in the offseason. It trickles into spring training. I thought we had a really good spring training mindset in getting just enough to where you feel good and this is what we wanted.

"We wanted me to feel good at the end of the year. I think we accomplished that goal. Unfortunately it’s for nothing, but it still is what it is."

Sale said his goal this season was to eat up innings and go deeper into games to help out his bullpen. He's done just that, having worked 221.2 innings this season, extending his career high.

"We went into this year knowing what we were going to get ourselves into," Sale said. "Just trying to do something better for the long haul and looking back, I got burned a couple of times. Just like anybody, though. It’s not to say I wouldn’t have done the same thing in previous years. So, you just make some adjustments and go forward."

With five games left, Ventura hasn’t decided if Sale will make one more start before the 2016 campaign ends — or even in a White Sox uniform. 

Sale reiterated that he'd like to be back in Chicago next season, but it's not up to him.

"I can’t say this from experience, but I don’t think there’s probably a better feeling than winning with the team that drafted you and staying with the team that drafted you," Sale said. "Talking with Paulie (Konerko) a little bit in his final year, he definitely had some very good things to say about staying with one team and being here from start to finish. All of that going into it, yeah. But this is baseball, this is sports. You can’t always choose and pick what you want to do or where you want to be."

The White Sox extended their winning streak to four games. The last time they won four consecutive games was July 23-26 against the Cleveland Indians and Cubs. The White Sox had winning streaks of at least four games three times in their first 33 games of the season.

Eaton went 2-for-5 with two runs, an RBI and a double in his return to the lineup after missing three games with an injury.

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Tim Anderson got things started with an RBI single in the first and RBI double in the second. Anderson also added a solo homer in the eighth inning.

Melky Cabrera hit his 14th homer of the season in the first, bumping his RBI total to 82 on the year, five shy from his career-high.

In the third, Leury Garcia smacked his first homer of the year, a three-run shot to left-center field to extend the White Sox lead to 8-2. Two more runs were scored in the fifth on a fielder’s choice and an error. Jason Coats, pinch-hitting for Justin Morneau, and Todd Frazier each had an RBI single in the eighth.

Sale issued a two-run double to former White Sox infielder Alexei Ramirez in the second and a homer to Curt Casali in the fourth.

If roster stays the same, Adam Eaton believes White Sox can compete in 2017

If roster stays the same, Adam Eaton believes White Sox can compete in 2017

This season hasn’t exactly turned out the way the White Sox had hoped.

The White Sox took Major League Baseball by storm after beginning the season at 23-10, which led the American League Central by six games at the time.

But since then, the White Sox have been climbing an uphill battle. They lost 20 of their next 26 games and found themselves fighting to stay above .500.

The White Sox brought in reinforcements in an effort to get their season back on track, adding designated hitter Justin Morneau (via free agency), veteran pitcher James Shields (via trade from San Diego Padres) and 23-year-old shortstop Tim Anderson (Triple-A Charlotte). 

But the White Sox still couldn’t make things click.

“I think you learn how guys struggle and how they try and get out of it,” said manager Robin Ventura. “You see guys that continue to grind through it and try to find it. Some guys find it quicker than other guys. I think the biggest thing is their ability to grind through it.”

The White Sox were officially eliminated from the postseason last Friday and will finish with their fourth straight losing season.

What happens over the offseason remains a mystery. It’s uncertain how their opening roster will look like next season.

If little changes are made, Adam Eaton believes the White Sox can still be contenders in 2017.

“There is a lot of talent here,” Eaton said. “There are a lot of good baseball players in here. It’s not the year we thought. And I think with that exact quote, ‘It’s not the year that we thought,’ if we brought the guys back I think we might have the year we thought we would have.

“The camaraderie is great in here. It’s tough to say whether people will be leaving or whether additions will be added. I’m sure moves will be made. In the game of baseball, there’s never an offseason that’s quiet, I feel like. Whatever Rick (Hahn) and the organization sees would be more functional for this team to be better and more consistent on a day-to-day basis, then that’s what they see in the team.

“If I’m in those plans, great. If not, then it kind of stinks. But if they want me in this uniform next year, I’ll be proud to wear it and I’ll put everything I have on the field again like I did this year.”

Time will tell which direction the White Sox decide to go in. Will they continue to add immediate impact players and build around the same group? Make a few tweaks? Or perhaps even tear it all down and start from scratch?

One thing is for sure, it will be a busy offseason for the White Sox one way or another.

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If the White Sox decide to make any drastic changes like trade Chris Sale — who was a hot topic of discussion around the trade deadline — Eaton knows exactly what he'd do if they faced one another.

“Take the day off,” Eaton said. “No, I don’t want to give away too much because I hope I’m never on that side. Just see ball, hit ball. Be simple. Have a simple approach off him because he can make you look foolish at times. Just have a good competitive at-bat.

“But like I said, easier said than done. He’s made a lot of people look foolish. I hope I’ll never have to do that, to be honest with you. I’d love to be on his team for the rest of my life.”