Danks shuts out Mariners, Sox division lead grows

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Danks shuts out Mariners, Sox division lead grows

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
Updated: 1:38 AM

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

SEATTLE With the competition in the division mired in quicksand and looking all-too-susceptible to dying a slow death, the Chicago White Sox are poised to use a two-week stretch of games vs. the Seattle Mariners and Oakland As to steal the 2010 AL Central flag for good.

Courtesy of a two-hit pitching by John Dankswho allowed just a dinky infield hit to Casey Kotchman in the second inning and a crisp, two-out single to center by Ichiro Suzuki in the eighthChicago cruised to a 4-0 victory ove the Ms and a 3.5-game lead on both the Detroit Tigers and Minnesota Twins.

On an odd baseball night, where 12 different teams scored seven runs or more, Danks was at his stingiest as well as his most effectively wild, with four walks and a hit Ichiro over his 7.2 innings.

He did what we expect him to do, said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. Hes a guy who goes out there to give you the best effort. Even when he doesnt have his good stuff hes going to go out there and compete.

Were just trying to live up to the hype right now, said the modest Danks. We got off to a pretty slow start as a staff, and weve turned it around.

The White Sox tapped out 10 hits and four runs. Mark Kotsay broke the ice in the fourth, tapping in Alex Rios on a groundout after he walked and was doubled to third by Paul Konerko. In the fifth, Chicago struck twice courtesy of four hits and RBI from Juan Pierre and Rios. And in the ninth, Alexei Ramirez yanked a 2-1 pitch out to left for his ninth homer of the season.

In the bottom of the ninth, Ramirez made a jaw-dropping play on a grounder from Jose Lopez, the momentum from his throw taking him practically to Safeco Fields sushi station for an early postgame Ichiroll.

Alexei has a great chance to be a Gold Glove winner, Guillen said.. Every day, hes getting better and better, a lot of work. Its paying off for him. He makes the ballclub a lot better.

But for Guillen, the true defensive star of the night was 43-year-old third baseman Omar Vizquel. The veteran made four terrific plays in the field, flashing leather just as fast as he did in winning 11 Gold Gloves as a shortstop earlier in his career.

Everything is contagious, Guillen said. Omar Vizquel put on a show today at 3rd base. If one of those balls went through it could have been a different ballgame. He made all the plays. When you see that happen, the rest of the infielders are ready.

Its something Danks saw and felt as well.

Its a little easier to hold a team to two hits when the left side of the infield is doing that for us, the starter said. Theyre turning plays that probably shouldnt be made into routine plays. Its fun to watch.

Like Guillen, Danks had particular salutations for Vizquel.

I dont think anyone else could ever do what hes doing, he said. Hes been impressive. Hes also been swinging the bat. Hes been a big key to where were at right now.

The typically low-key Vizquel deflected too much praise, offering, Some people say that defense wins ballgames, and weve been playing some pretty good defense. Every time you make some good plays to shut down the other team you feel pretty good about yourself.

J.J. Putz came on in relief of Danks and induced a fly out from Chone Figgins, which was his White Sox team record 25th straight scoreless appearance. Bobby Jenks shook off the loneliness of his last outing with a scoreless ninth.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information.

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.