The All-Chicago Team: 1980-1989

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The All-Chicago Team: 1980-1989

By Tony Andracki and JJ Stankevitz
CSNChicago.com

This spring, we at Cubs Talk and White Sox Talk have decided to unify Chicago's two baseball teams into one in an effort to pick out the best players to grace each side of the city over the last 50 years. Each Wednesday during spring training, we'll roll out a different All-Chicago team, beginning today with the best Cubs and White Sox players from 1980-1989. If you didn't catch our first two installments, check out our 1990-1999 and 2000-2011 teams.

Tony: In some areas, this 1980s list was easy. Carlton Fisk as catcher? Done. Ryne Sandberg as second baseman? No question. Leon Durham at first and Ron Cey at third even went largely unchallenged. In other ways, this was a tough list. Center field, for example, was incredibly difficult. There was no clear-cut favorite and CF was largely a crapshoot in Chicago in the '80s.

JJ: Yeah, as you'll see below, we were chided for not having Rudy Law in center. He had two good years, then two bad years with the Sox. Chet Lemon had two good years, too, and while those were his only two with the Sox in the decade, they were better than Law's, so he got the spot.

Tony: I wanted to put Shawon Dunston here at SS over Ozzie, but it just couldn't be done. Ozzie wasn't head and shoulders better, but he was still the logical choice.

JJ: Guillen's defensive ability earned him this spot. Offensively, there's no question Dunston was better.

Tony: Jody Davis was an iconic Cubs player in the '80s, but I was a bit iffy at first in handing him a bench spot. As JJ found, he was the Cubs' second-most valuable position player of the decade by WAR. This is the first time we've actually had a clear-cut favorite as a catcher and then another catcher crack the bench.

JJ: Finally, a week without a catcher debate!

Tony: The rotation was also extremely difficult. There were plenty of solid options, but nobody great. Names like Dennis Eckersley, Tom Seaver and Steve Carlton toed the rubber in Chicago, but the latter two were in the twilight of their careers and Eck was pitching before he truly became a star. There were a plethora of pitchers who were good one year, but not the next, or had lofty win totals. Richard Dotson won 22 games in '83, but never topped 14 in any other season and also led the league in losses with 17 in '86. He made 228 starts for the Sox in the '80s, but his record was only 92-88 in that span and he boasted a 4.04 ERA and a surprisingly-bad 1.38 WHIP. Also, his KBB ratio was just 1.36. Not exactly All-Decade worth numbers.

JJ: Honestly, I didn't even look at Dotson's win totals. I just don't think that's a worthwhile stat. We could've built a good case based on his 1982-1984 (3.53 ERA, 25 complete games), and in retrospect, maybe we should've. But Eck did have some good years with the Cubs, including an MLB-best KBB ratio in 1985. This was one we agonized over. Fire away.

Tony: Rick Sutcliffe was an easy choice as the "ace" of the decade and if anybody questions that, I'd love to hear the argument there. The guy won the NL Cy Young in only 20 starts in '84, for Pete's sake!

JJ: Yeah, but LaMarr Hoyt was fantastic in 1983, leading baseball in WHIP, walk rate and KBB. And he won the Cy Young that year, too.

C: Carlton Fisk
1B: Leon Durham
2B: Ryne Sandberg
3B: Ron Cey
SS: Ozzie Guillen
LF: Ron Kittle
CF: Chet Lemon
RF: Andre Dawson
DH: Harold Baines
Bench: Greg Luzinski
Bench: Jody Davis

SP: Rick Sutcliffe
SP: Britt Burns
SP: LaMarr Hoyt
SP: Greg Maddux
SP: Dennis Eckersley

Closer: Lee Smith
RH reliever: Bobby Thigpen
LH reliever: Willie Hernandez

The final word
David Kaplan: Wow, I am stunned by some of the selections on this team. Chet Lemon as the CF? He left the White Sox in 1981! In addition, he only played in 94 games during the 1981 season. No chance he should be on this team. A better choice? White Sox CF Rudy Law, who stole 77 bases in 1983 and played four seasons on the South Side.

Dennis Eckersley? That's ridiculous! His numbers as a starter for the Cubs were lousy. How can you guys not have Richard Dotson on your team! His numbers crush Eckersley's.

Some of the other choices are easy like Sandberg and Fisk but I debated long and hard whether Shawon Dunston would be a better choice over Ozzie Guillen at shortstop. Greg Luzinski? He was okay, but with the Cubs not having a decade full of great teams he probably gets a spot, but that is more a testament to the lack of competition than his numbers.

Chuck Garfien: I dont have a problem with Carlton Fisk as catcher. Slam dunk there. Same with the infield of Durham, Sandberg, Cey, and Guillen.

As much as I loved Chet Lemon as a child, he only played a season and a half with the White Sox in the 80s and didnt make that big of an impact in the decade. He was an All-Star with the White Sox in 1978 and 1979. Id give the CF nod to Rudy Law, who stole 77 bases for the 1983 White Sox, and played a huge role at the top of the lineup in the Sox winning the division.

Dennis Eckersley never won more than 11 games with the Cubs as a starter. Thats the best you can come up with as a 5th starter? How about Richard Dotson? He went 22-and-7 for the White Sox in 1983. He won 14 games the year after that.

Check back next week for our Chicago all-decade team of the 1970s!

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

Jose Abreu ready for 2017 after season full of 'different challenges'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — A torrid two months at the plate helped Jose Abreu end what he found to be an extremely trying 2016 season with numbers close to his career norms.

But even though he finished with an .820 OPS and 100 RBIs for a third straight season, Abreu admits that 2016 was a season unlike any other he'd faced.

While he didn't disclose any theories for the cause of his lengthy struggles, the White Sox first baseman said Sunday he's pleased to have finished on a positive note and thinks that rebounding from those difficulties will only make him stronger. Abreu — who hit .293/.353/.468 with 25 home runs and 100 RBIs in 695 plate appearances — is also a fan of new White Sox manager Rick Renteria and is equally impressed with the prospects the club acquired this winter.

"Yes, those were different challenges, especially in my mind," Abreu said through an interpreter. "I never in my life experienced some of the kind of struggles like I did last year. But that put me in a better position as a player, as a person too. I'm in a better position now for this season because I learned from the experience."

In spite of his struggles, Abreu was still a league average player through the first four months of the season. But the 2014 All-Star hardly resembled the player who produced a 153 OPS-plus over his first two seasons. His timing was off and Abreu — hitting .269/.325/.413 with 11 homers and 56 RBIs through July 30 — wasn't driving the ball as he typically had in his first two seasons, when he smacked 66 homers.

Abreu was lost at the plate and nobody could figure out why.

But after the arrival of his son, Dariel, who visited him for the first time since he moved to the United States, Abreu took off. He hit .338/.402/.568 the rest of the season with 14 homers and 44 RBIs in 249 trips to the plate.

"Right after last season ended, I had my meeting at my house with my family, just to explain to them how the season was because they know about baseball," Abreu said. "But sometimes they can't register how the process is in a season as long as the major league season is. We talked about it. I explained to them all of the challenges, the problems I had during that season. Once we ended with that meeting, last season was in the past. We moved on and we were trying just to figure out things and how can I do better for this season."

Now in his fourth season in the majors, Abreu has a firm grasp on how the White Sox operate and likes some of the team's modifications. He likes how Renteria thoroughly communicates what he has in mind for the club. Abreu also enjoys being seen as one of the team's leaders and wouldn't mind being a mentor to prized prospect Yoan Moncada.

Now he hopes to carry over his strong finish to the start of the 2017 campaign.

"I'm working on it," Abreu said. "That's one of my goals. Everybody knows that at the beginning of last season, I wasn't performing good. It was kind of a surprise for me, too. But I'm in good shape right now and I believe I will be able to succeed."

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

White Sox rookie Charlie Tilson out at least 10 days with foot injury

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- The leading candidate to be the team’s starting center fielder, Charlie Tilson has been temporarily shut down after suffering a stress reaction in his right foot.

The White Sox rookie said Sunday that he noticed the injury gradually building up before he decided to stop his workout on Friday and headed for the training room. An MRI performed Saturday on Tilson -- who is rehabbing from a torn left hamstring that ended his 2016 season early -- revealed the reaction, which isn’t severe as a stress fracture. Given Tilson previously had a stress fracture in his right foot, the White Sox said he'll be sidelined from impact work for 10 days, at which point he’d be re-evaluated.

“It started very minimal, and I tried to work through it a little bit, and by the time I addressed Herm, thankfully I caught it before it was anything that would keep me out for too long,” Tilson said. “It’s a minor thing, and it will give my other leg a chance to get stronger in the meantime, and hopefully we’ll turn this negative into a positive.”

Tilson wouldn’t be surprised if his injury is related to overcompensating for his left leg, which he has worked tirelessly to rehab since he suffered the injury on Aug. 2 and then had season-ending surgery. Manager Rick Renteria described it as an “irritation” in the area where Tilson suffered a stress fracture in 2013. In the interim, the White Sox will test some of their other options in camp, including veteran Peter Bourjos and minor leaguers Adam Engel and Jacob May, among others.

“But we don’t foresee it to be a long-term issue,” Renteria said. “By being able to shut him down now, it’ll be something he’ll be able to recover from. We’ll just readjust his timetable.”

Minor as Tilson and the White Sox say it is, the outfielder admitted he’s down about having to deal with it after the progress he’d made in his rehab.

The White Sox acquired the New Trier High School product from the St. Louis Cardinals last July in exchange for left-hander Zach Duke. Tilson was immediately called up as the White Sox intended to try him out in center field the rest of the season. But he suffered a season-ending injury in his major league debut while tracking down a fly ball and had surgery several days later.

Tilson made enough progress to be a full participant in a hitter’s camp at Camelback Ranch last month. Earlier this week, White Sox general manager Rick Hahn said Tilson was a top candidate to take over as the club’s starting center fielder if he was healthy.

“I guess you could say I’m disappointed,” Tilson said. “But it’s a very minor setback and it’s part of the process. I had a major repair, and these things come up and hopefully we can minimize them as much as we can and hopefully this is the last one. But I’m just going to deal with it and do whatever I can to move forward.”