White Sox touched by greatness during Ali's visit

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White Sox touched by greatness during Ali's visit

Tuesday, March 8, 2011
1:30 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz. The Chicago White Sox were touched by greatness before their game against the Colorado Rockies on Tuesday, as Muhammad Ali visited with the team in a closed-door workshop intended to educate and inspire.

Alis wife, Lonnie, began the session telling the players she was a lifelong baseball fan. I live and breathe the game, she said. I know what it takes for you to get here.

Lonnie Ali connected the six core values her husband has lived byrespect, confidence, conviction, dedication, giving, spiritualityvalues that guide the work of the Muhammad Ali Center in Louisville and Alis Athletes for Hope foundation.

Main speaker Ivan Blumberg, CEO of Athletes for Hope, handled the heavy lifting of the session, with Ali sitting, flanked by Lonnie, sister-in-law Marilyn, and family friend and White Sox GM Ken Williams.

READ: White Sox report card for Week 1

The meat of the session was marked by a large amount of player participation, but was led off in shocking fashion, as chatterbug third-base coach Jeff Cox was rendered speechless by a question about hope. Later, manager Ozzie Guillen dogged Omar Vizquel for his admission that coaches are one of the types of people who give him hope (Ozzie to Omar: You dont have to lie just because Im here!).

Among the White Sox players and staff engaged in the lively debate during a session primarily focused on an athletes obligation toward service were Kevin Hickey, Will Ohman, Edwin Jackson, Lastings Milledge, Guillen, Paul Konerko, Jake Peavy, Vizquel, Sergio Santos, Brent Lillibridge, Stefan Gartrell, and Williams.

The session was indeed tailor-made for debate, whether it was Milledge and Juan Pierre trying to school Alex Rios about Alis status as The Greatest, to a number of athletes in service debates spilling out after the workshop. A.J. Pierzynski and Konerko continued debating how an athletes fame impacts service (Konerko, in support of the bigger name-bigger impact faction: Hey, Im a numbers guy, what can I say?) and later it was Pierzynski, Ohman, and Peavy discussing the topic as well.

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The whole thing was cool, Pierzynski said. Blumberg gave very valid points about a lot of things, basically getting out there and doing anything you can do to help, whether its time or money. Its the message the White Sox believe in very strongly.

I try to do everything I can to help people. Its just something everyone should try to do, no matter what you, how you live, or what your means are. You can always try to help other people.

Konerko shared Pierzynskis sentiments. The Captain also agreed that while both players had met Ali before, it was always awe-inspiring to be in the presence of The Greatest.

That was pretty cool, Konerko said. Hes one of the most recognized people on the planet. Were public figures and people know us, but Ali is a whole other ball of wax. Its like meeting a President.

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

Chris Sale ties career-high 17 wins as White Sox power past Rays

Chris Sale ties career-high 17 wins as White Sox power past Rays

Chris Sale had no trouble earning his 17th win of the season, tying his career-high set in 2012.

The White Sox offense powered past the Tampa Bay Rays 13-6 on Tuesday night at U.S. Cellular Field, improving their record to 76-81 on the season.

Sale pitched seven innings and recorded seven strikeouts. He also allowed three earned runs on eight hits. It was Sale’s 16th career game with at least seven strikeouts and no walks, according to CSN’s stat guru Chris Kamka.

“I think the whole team and organization takes him for granted, to be sure. I think he’s a heck of a competitor,” Adam Eaton said of Sale prior to Tuesday’s game. “He’s one of the best in the game of baseball and I think we should look at him as such. And when I say take for granted, it’s not a slander on anybody. You just get used to him going seven, eight innings, throwing 115 pitches and giving his best effort day in and day out. He’s definitely not the usual, for sure.”

The White Sox extended their winning streak to four games. The last time they won four consecutive games was July 23-26 against the Cleveland Indians and Cubs. The White Sox had winning streaks of at least four games three times in their first 33 games of the season.

Eaton went 2-for-5 with two runs, an RBI and a double in his return to the lineup after missing three games with an injury.

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Tim Anderson got things started with an RBI single in the first and RBI double in the second. Anderson also added a solo homer in the eighth inning.

Melky Cabrera hit his 14th homer of the season in the first, bumping his RBI total to 82 on the year, five shy from his career-high.

In the third, Leury Garcia smacked his first homer of the year, a three-run shot to left-center field to extend the White Sox lead to 8-2. Two more runs were scored in the fifth on a fielder’s choice and an error. Jason Coats, pinch-hitting for Justin Morneau, and Todd Frazier each had an RBI single in the eighth.

Sale issued a two-run double to former White Sox infielder Alexei Ramirez in the second and a homer to Curt Casali in the fourth.

With five games left, Ventura hasn’t decided if Sale will make one final start before the 2016 campaign ends.

However, Ventura believes that tying his 17 wins in a season is well-deserving.

“You're looking at a guy that's one of the elite pitchers in the game,” Ventura said. “You always want him to match or best his past performances. I think part of that is motivation at this point to be able to go out there and do it.

“His numbers, you look at them and they stack up with anybody. But you want him to continue to win games and you want him to surpass previous accomplishments. Every guy's trying to do that.”

If roster stays the same, Adam Eaton believes White Sox can compete in 2017

If roster stays the same, Adam Eaton believes White Sox can compete in 2017

This season hasn’t exactly turned out the way the White Sox had hoped.

The White Sox took Major League Baseball by storm after beginning the season at 23-10, which led the American League Central by six games at the time.

But since then, the White Sox have been climbing an uphill battle. They lost 20 of their next 26 games and found themselves fighting to stay above .500.

The White Sox brought in reinforcements in an effort to get their season back on track, adding designated hitter Justin Morneau (via free agency), veteran pitcher James Shields (via trade from San Diego Padres) and 23-year-old shortstop Tim Anderson (Triple-A Charlotte). 

But the White Sox still couldn’t make things click.

“I think you learn how guys struggle and how they try and get out of it,” said manager Robin Ventura. “You see guys that continue to grind through it and try to find it. Some guys find it quicker than other guys. I think the biggest thing is their ability to grind through it.”

The White Sox were officially eliminated from the postseason last Friday and will finish with their fourth straight losing season.

What happens over the offseason remains a mystery. It’s uncertain how their opening roster will look like next season.

If little changes are made, Adam Eaton believes the White Sox can still be contenders in 2017.

“There is a lot of talent here,” Eaton said. “There are a lot of good baseball players in here. It’s not the year we thought. And I think with that exact quote, ‘It’s not the year that we thought,’ if we brought the guys back I think we might have the year we thought we would have.

“The camaraderie is great in here. It’s tough to say whether people will be leaving or whether additions will be added. I’m sure moves will be made. In the game of baseball, there’s never an offseason that’s quiet, I feel like. Whatever Rick (Hahn) and the organization sees would be more functional for this team to be better and more consistent on a day-to-day basis, then that’s what they see in the team.

“If I’m in those plans, great. If not, then it kind of stinks. But if they want me in this uniform next year, I’ll be proud to wear it and I’ll put everything I have on the field again like I did this year.”

Time will tell which direction the White Sox decide to go in. Will they continue to add immediate impact players and build around the same group? Make a few tweaks? Or perhaps even tear it all down and start from scratch?

One thing is for sure, it will be a busy offseason for the White Sox one way or another.

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If the White Sox decide to make any drastic changes like trade Chris Sale — who was a hot topic of discussion around the trade deadline — Eaton knows exactly what he'd do if they faced one another.

“Take the day off,” Eaton said. “No, I don’t want to give away too much because I hope I’m never on that side. Just see ball, hit ball. Be simple. Have a simple approach off him because he can make you look foolish at times. Just have a good competitive at-bat.

“But like I said, easier said than done. He’s made a lot of people look foolish. I hope I’ll never have to do that, to be honest with you. I’d love to be on his team for the rest of my life.”