Chicago White Sox

Muhammad Ali to visit White Sox camp

Muhammad Ali to visit White Sox camp

Monday, March 7, 2011
4:53 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

The Chicago White Sox are making service an early theme of their 2011 Cactus League season. On Monday, they played a game in Tucson vs. the Arizona Diamondbacks to benefit the Christina-Taylor Green Memorial Fund, while Tuesday morning will find them in the presence of The Greatest.

Former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali visits with the team tomorrow, addressing his Athletes for Hope foundation, which asks that players give their time rather than money.

Its a great inspiration for a lot of people, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said after the White Soxs 12-1 win over Arizona. I met him before, a few times. A lot of kids are in camp and they will have a chance to meet, I dont want to say one of the greatest boxers in history, but one of the greatest men ever born in this country. Those kids should be proud to meet him, and to the White Sox organization, its an honor to have him in camp.

It will be an honor to have him in our clubhouse, said Scott Reifert, White Sox vice president of communications. In a major-league clubhouse, you always have different cultures and nationalities, but when you tell players Muhammad Ali is coming, you get the same reaction from everybody: lots of respect, lots of excitement. It will be exciting for the guys to meet him tomorrow.

As a result of the extra travel to Tucson for Mondays game and the visit from Ali, the White Sox wont work out before their afternoon game hosting the Rockies. Tuesdays game vs. Colorado is what Guillen had circled as a starting point for real competition from and performance by his club.

Today is the last day of our vacation, Guillen said. Its time to start playing the game right. From tomorrow on, we are going to put more emphasis on the ballclub.

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

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Yoan Moncada predicts home run is 'first one of many that are coming'

Wednesday’s homer may only have been Yoan Moncada’s first, but he predicts plenty more are headed this way.

The White Sox second baseman and baseball’s top prospect crossed off another first when he blasted a solo home run in Wednesday’s loss to the Cubs. Moncada’s 417-foot drive to center field sent Cubs starter Jake Arrieta to the showers, but it wasn’t enough as the White Sox fell to the Cubs 8-3 at Guaranteed Rate Field. The round-tripper came in the 47th plate appearance of Moncada’s young career and 27 th this season.

Acquired from the Red Sox in December, Moncada made his White Sox debut on July 18 and picked up his first hit on Friday.

“It means a lot because it was the first one of many that are coming, and I’m happy,” Moncada said through an interpreter. “It has been a nice week for me.”

Moncada had already walked and struck out looking by the time he faced Arrieta in the seventh inning. The rookie fell behind Arrieta 0-2 in the count but didn’t panic and belted an 0-2 curveball on the outside corner for a solo shot to center. The drive left Moncada’s bat at 105 mph and bounced off the green tin roof in straightaway center.

“He really put a good charge into that ball,” manager Rick Renteria said. “Right off the bat, too. I mean the ball really jumped off his bat. I think it was a breaking ball, too. Stayed on it, really good swing. I think his at-bats in general were pretty good. I think both sides probably got squeezed a little bit, but I think most of the guys put together some pretty good at-bats.”

Moncada has managed to put together a nice little memorabilia package in his first eight days in the big leagues. He received the lineup card from Renteria after he debuted against the Los Angeles Dodgers last Wednesday. Moncada also retrieved his first home run ball and hoped to get the lineup card from Renteria, too.

Arrieta was satisfied with his pitch but not the location. Still, the Cubs pitcher sounded impressed by the swing Moncada put on it and the result.

“It was a good breaking ball, but not in an 0-2 count where a guy’s in swing mode,” Arrieta said. “And he put a good swing on it, especially to hit it to dead center. Pretty balanced swing. You can tell that that guy is going to have a lot of potential. He’s pretty balanced in the box, but the pitch wasn’t supposed to be there.”

The offensive production hasn’t been there as much as Moncada would like early in the season. But, he suspects that will change.

“The results are going to come step by step,” Moncada said. “I’m just trying to enjoy the moment and try to take advantage of the experience and the opportunity to play here. I’m just happy I’m having this opportunity here.”

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

Turning rebuild lemons into World Series lemonade, Cubs can provide hope, if not a template, for rebuilding White Sox

There’s nothing fun about losing, as the White Sox are finding out first hand.

Wednesday night featured another defeat, this one coming at the hands of the visiting Cubs, the North Siders taking Game 3 of this edition of the Crosstown series by an 8-3 final score.

But should the White Sox need commiserators — and inspiration — they need look no further than the team across the field.

See, the Cubs have been where the White Sox are right now. Last season’s curse-smashing World Series championship was the fruit yielded by a lengthy rebuild on the North Side, one with a similar level of minor league focus and future expectations as the one currently underway on the South Side.

And as the Cubs and their fans well know, major league losing is a part of the process.

The White Sox dropped to 39-59 on Wednesday night, mired in last place in the American League Central. The Cubs spent five straight seasons in fifth place in the National League Central, methodically accruing top prospects with top draft picks.

The kind of nasty outing James Shields turned in Wednesday? The Cubs have seen that before, too. Wearing blue at the time were the likes of Rodrigo Lopez and Chris Volstad and Carlos Silva, the precursors to Shields, who hasn’t made it out of the fifth inning in four of his last six starts. The stories aren’t much different for the rest of the White Sox current rotation, with veterans like Derek Holland and Mike Pelfrey struggling most times out.

The White Sox bats did a whole lot of nothing against Jake Arrieta on Wednesday, silenced offensively the same way the Cubs were repeatedly a few years back, in seasons when guys like Marlon Byrd and Darwin Barney led the North Siders in Wins Above Replacement.

Heck, they even had the same manager. Rick Renteria skippered the Cubs in 2014, the final fifth-place finish before Joe Maddon took over.

“We’re just going to have to keep going,” Renteria said Wednesday night, sounding like an echo of himself when he used to helm the Cubs. “There’s no lamenting or anything. This is the situation we’re in, and I think the guys want the ball every time I give it to them and they want to do a good job. We’re going to try to keep it respectable as much as we can, and in some cases win some ballgames.”

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Thing is, a look across the diamond Wednesday and once more Thursday in the Crosstown finale at Guaranteed Rate Field will allow the White Sox to see something else they share with those Cubs teams of the recent past: hope.

In the same way White Sox fans are currently gobbling up minor league reports on the organization’s fleet of highly ranked prospects, Cubs fans did that, too. They did it with Kris Bryant and Addison Russell. White Sox fans are doing it with Michael Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez. They’ll soon do it with Luis Robert and, a former Cubs prospect, Eloy Jimenez.

Yoan Moncada, the No. 1 prospect in baseball bringing Bryant-like hype to the South Side, gave White Sox fans plenty to smile about Wednesday night, smoking a 0-2 pitch from Arrieta over the center-field fence for his first career home run.

If you need a glimpse into the future of the White Sox, at what things should look like when the rebuild reaches its apex, go watch Moncada’s home run again. And again.

While the Cubs and their World Series rings own bragging rights that stand above all others, the White Sox can also look into the third-base dugout and know they’re going about things differently — and perhaps even better — than their North Side counterparts did.

While Theo Epstein built his farm system with much-hyped draft picks (in addition to a couple extremely meaningful trades) over the years, Rick Hahn has built his in what has seemed like one fell swoop. The lightning-fast pace of the White Sox rebuild could make the five years of fifth-place finishes the Cubs experienced a non-factor on the South Side. Hahn has built arguably baseball’s best farm system in a matter of months, trading All-Star caliber big leaguers to stockpile highly touted minor leaguers and acquiring other prospects through trades and the draft who provide depth to the system.

“It’s improved,” Hahn said of the depth of his farm system before Wednesday’s game. “It has absolutely been a goal from the start, not just a matter of getting as much potential impact talent as we can but trying to set up layer upon layer of that talent, trying to get to the point when inevitably some of these guys don’t develop the way everyone has projected them to develop or an injury occurs that we have other options, that we have guys that perhaps developed a little more quickly or improved beyond what we projected as their ceiling. And the only way you get there is by having a critical mass of prospect depth.

“I would say that while we are pleased with the strides we’ve made in the last year or nine months, however long you want to draw the line, we know we still have work to do. We know we’re going to have a really important draft in 2018 and before that, another few days before this (trade) deadline and then some offseason maneuvering to take place.”

The Cubs have forever been a symbol of hope for their fans, a team that no matter how sorry the finish would always have expectations and a new chance every spring.

Though White Sox fans are unlikely to embrace the team on the other side of town, they’d be well served to take a step back and look at what has happened there. Because the Cubs’ successful rebuild, one that ended in a World Series title, could provide hope for White Sox fans, too.