Sox Drawer: White Sox got into Leyland's head

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Sox Drawer: White Sox got into Leyland's head

NASHVILLE, Tenn-- What was the difference between the White Sox losing the AL Central Division in 2012 and the Tigers winning it?
Jim Leyland knows.
I truly believe, and I dont know how this happened, the fact that we did pretty good against Kansas City and they did not was probably the decisive margin in the division, to be honest with you, said the Tigers manager on Wednesday. Its just freaky.
Yes, it was.
White Sox fans have the mental battle wounds to prove it.
Facing a team that wound up losing 90 games, the White Sox went 6-12 against the pesky Royals -- and even the victories werent easy. Five of those wins were decided by two runs or less.
Meanwhile, the Tigers pounded the Royals all season, going 13-5.
Considering the Tigers won the division over the White Sox by three games, you dont need to be amathematicianto know that Kansas City, by itself, decided who went to the playoffs and who did not.
The White Sox dont find this humorous, but apparently someone at Major League Baseball does. The White Sox open and close the 2013 season against their annoying friends from Kansas City.
Leylands Tigers were expected to run away with the division, but in the middle of the summer when the White Sox had as much as a 3.5 game lead, the Tigers, with a 133 million payroll were worried about their chances, legitimately concerned that they might not have what it took to snag the division away from the White Sox.
You read that correctly.
I can remember Gene Lamont saying during the season, Well catch them, but I dont know if well beat them, Leyland admitted. We caught them one time, then they took off on us again, and we finally caught them and passed them for good, but it was a heck of a race. They were a tough team.
When Leyland became a manager for the first time with the Pittsburgh Pirates in 1986, his team lost 98 games and finished in last place, 44 games out of first. So for him to watch Robin Ventura, who had never coached or managed a single professional game in his life, and almost win the division, Leyland was a little perturbed.
I thought he did an unbelievable job for a first-year manager, Leyland said. He kind of made it look easy to be honest with you. I didnt like that too much.
Losing 12 times to the Royals and 12 more to Leylands Tigers, Ventura didnt like too much either.
He and the White Sox are hoping to change that in 2013.

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

White Sox pitchers headed for World Baseball Classic look sharp in win over Rockies

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Jose Quintana and Miguel Gonzalez looked like a pair of pitchers who began their offseasons earlier to prep for the World Baseball Classic.

Both White Sox starting pitchers looked sharp as they made their spring debuts in a 7-3 victory over the Colorado Rockies at Camelback Ranch on Sunday afternoon. Team USA relievers David Robertson and Nate Jones also pitched a scoreless inning each in the win. Prospect Zack Burdi also pitched a scoreless ninth inning.

Gonzalez, who is on the Team Mexico roster, only allowed a single on a dropped pop up on the infield in two scoreless innings.

“I’m a little ahead of the game right now,” Gonzalez said. “I started a little earlier this year in the offseason to work out, thinking I wanted to go to the WBC and get ready for that. But I think the most important thing right now is getting ready for April 1 with the White Sox. That’s my goal, and you don’t get these opportunities every year. To represent Mexico, it’s going to be fun. It’s going to be great.”

Quintana, who will start for Colombia in their March 10 opener against the United States, allowed a run and a hit in two innings. He struck out one and hit a batter.

“I feel good,” Quintana said. “I think for the first day I feel comfortable. I hit the glove. I feel good. A couple of pitches spinning were good and I feel really good.”

[RELATED: Jim Thome on being a finalist for National Baseball Hall of Fame]

Robertson is throwing much earlier than normal in anticipation of his March 6 departure for Miami, where Team USA begins its tournament. The club’s closer normally wouldn’t appear in a game until the calendar turns to March. Robertson said he usually only needs 5-6 spring outings to get in shape for the regular season. Though he felt a little rusty, the right-hander was pleased with several changeups and fastballs he threw.

“I wouldn’t say it was smooth but I got through it,” Robertson said. “I had a few bad pitches that were just not competitive. … All in all I got through what seemed like a tough inning for a first outing.

“I’m excited. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m going to go down there and put the ‘USA’ across my chest and have a chance to win something for our country. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun and I’m excited to play with a group of guys I’ve been playing against my whole life.”

Eddie Alvarez had a three-run double for the White Sox while Tyler Saladino collected two hits in three trips. Catcher Roberto Pena went 2-for-2 with an RBI. 

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”