Hope for .500? It could take a prayer for Sox

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Hope for .500? It could take a prayer for Sox

Saturday, Sept. 17, 2011Posted: 9:00 p.m. Updated: 10:37 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik Box scoreValue survey: White Sox starters falter

KANSAS CITY Alex Rios strode to the plate to lead off the second inning and clocked a devastating blow into State Farms neighborhood at the back of the Kansas City Royals bullpen in left field.

The former five-tooler, slumping yearlong to the bane of Chicago White Sox fans everywhere, returned to the dugout to find manager Ozzie Guillen steadfastly in his fleet centerfielders corner greeting him with heart taps and sky kisses.

It could have been playful teasing, but Guillen is a man of steady and manifest faith, so more than likely the big smile masked a heartfelt prayer may we all return to the White Sox in 2012 and right this dastardly wrong we now are all enveloped All-In to.

Well, Rios would not have another hit in the game and the White Sox were again battered by the Royals burgeoning young offense, which dropped the Pale Hose 10-3 as Kauffman Stadium fireworks blared and fountains flared with little remorse.

Ozzie almost dropped his postgame meal when asked by a local reporter whether these first three K.C. romps were a product of prodigious offense.

When you score 30 runs in two games OK, 24 over three, what do you think is the reason? he queried with incredulity.

Zach Stewart, who was a near Mr. Perfecto just two starts ago, turned from hero to zero in a rough, five-inning, five-run, 11-hit effort.

They just battle, Stewart said, reporting that his pregame bullpen was excellent but on the mound, only his fastball was effective. Theyre always taking good swings, no matter what the count. They were putting pressure on me, and got to me in those last two innings.

And aside from Rios clout and another multi-hit (2-for-4) effort from Alexei Ramirez, there was little to highlight on the Chicago ledger.

The White Sox dropped to 73-78, reeling from a season high-tying, seven-game losing streak and finding themselves in need of a major rally to just to break even for the season. With four games still to play against Kansas City, its not completely out of the realm that the Royals just seven games behind Chicago in the standings passes the South Siders for third place in the Central.

Even Guillen himself realized that he would be on full clich alert with his rah-rah comments looking ahead to the series finale against Bruce Cy Chen, already 2-0 vs. Chicago this season.

Its not one thing people want to hear, but well get them tomorrow, Guillen smiled, to keep from shouting. Well be back here. Well try again tomorrow, and hopefully tomorrow works. When you give up 17, 18, 20 hits in one game like today, and you miss a few opportunities to score early in the game, I dont think we deserve to have a better outcome.

Guillen, still audibly fighting a head cold that has marred his entire K.C. stay, was quick to dress and head back to the team hotel, where he would spend a quiet evening with family, perhaps breaking away for a short stint for a couple of pops downstairs and a glance at the Floyd Mayweather-Victor Ortiz fight.

And before he retires for the night, there may indeed be a little prayer. Not for tomorrows forecasted rain to abate, or a thugworthy rally off Chen, or even for that contract extension hes hoping so hard for. No, Ozzie may well pray for a simple thing: The chance to see the team thats lain dormant since April Fools Day rear its head and exact some punishment, just for one single day, before the dust settles for good on this sad season.

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.