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.

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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.

Road Ahead: How many wins will Jose Quintana end up with this season?

Road Ahead: How many wins will Jose Quintana end up with this season?

CSN's Chuck Garfien and Bill Melton break down the upcoming schedule in this week's Honda Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & NW Indiana Honda Dealers.

After a 6-2 homestand, the White Sox got swept by the Detroit Tigers.

The White Sox will head to Minnesota for a four-game series and then head back to Chicago for another three-game series against the Tigers.

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Jose Quintana — who's searching for win No. 12 — and Carlos Rodon — who's 3-0 in his last five outings with a 1.47 ERA — are scheduled to get the first two games of the series.

With 30 games left, how many wins will Quintana finish the season with?

Chuck Garfien and Bill Melton share their thoughts.

See what they had to say in the video above.

Chris Sale pitches well but Tigers top White Sox late again

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USA Today Sports Images

Chris Sale pitches well but Tigers top White Sox late again

DETROIT — The Detroit Tigers did it to the White Sox yet again.

For a third straight day, the White Sox grabbed an early lead. For a third straight day, the Tigers rallied back to win.

Tyler Collins’ pinch-hit sac fly in the bottom of the ninth inning off David Robertson sent the White Sox to a 3-2 defeat in front of 32,465 at Comerica Park. The victory completed a series sweep for the Tigers, who won eight of the teams’ nine meetings in Detroit this season. Chris Sale earned a no decision despite limiting the Tigers to two runs in eight innings.

“I don’t come here for the experience, I come here to win games and it didn’t happen,” Sale said. “It’s tough. It’s unfortunate. Ran into a little bit of bad luck there. That’s a good team. That’s what good teams do, they find ways to win. Certainly did that.”

Even in their two previous losses, the White Sox looked similar to the team that on Sunday completed a 6-3 homestand by taking three of four from the Seattle Mariners.

Sale had the White Sox in the thick of things again on Wednesday as he outdueled Justin Verlander for seven innings. But shortly after Sale struck out Victor Martinez for a second straight time, J.D. Martinez managed to get enough of a 1-1 changeup to dump it into left field for a two-out, game-tying single in the bottom of the eighth.

Rookie JaCoby Jones led off the ninth inning with a double off Robertson and advanced to third on a fly out to the wall by Jarrod Saltalamacchia. Collins’ fly ball to left was deep enough for Jones easily to score the winning run when Avisail Garcia bounced his throw home.

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“It’s tough,” White Sox manager Robin Ventura said. “We were playing pretty good baseball, but these guys have been sniffing us (out) at the end. We played fairly well early on, but with the lineup they have, it’s a pretty deep lineup that’s hard to contain.”

Sale used the double play as an effective tool early to get out of some potential trouble spots. One in the first inning erased a leadoff single by Ian Kinsler and Sale ended the second inning with a 6-4-3 off Saltalamacchia’s bat with two aboard. Sale also induced a double play to end the fourth inning after he walked Justin Upton.

Later in the game, Sale turned to his slider with great impact. After he didn’t strike out any of the first 20 hitters he faced, Sale struck out five of the next seven, including Victor Martinez to end the fifth inning with two on.

With the White Sox up 2-1, Sale nearly got out of a difficult eighth-inning jam.

Kinsler led off with a double to center and moved to third on a sac bunt. Sale struck out Victor Martinez but J.D. Martinez came through.

“With two outs already, you’re trying to make him hit your pitch and (Sale) did that,” catcher Alex Avila said. “He threw a really nice changeup off the plate away. Eighth of an inch and it’s a weak ground ball to short. Got to give them credit, he hit a good pitch as well. That was definitely tough. We’ve had two tough losses.”

Verlander was equally tough aside from a pair of fourth-inning mistakes.

Verlander continued a strong season with seven sharp innings as he limited the White Sox to three hits, walked none and struck out nine.

The White Sox jumped ahead of Verlander in the fourth inning when Jose Abreu and Avila belted back-to-back solo homers. But Verlander retired the last 10 hitters he faced and the White Sox were on their way to a third straight difficult defeat.

“I love winning, but it’s hard to hang your head when you play your ass off and so did they,” Avila said. “They happened to come out on top. We’ve had a few tough losses this year, but guys are playing hard. Just unfortunate they were able to get one extra one across.”

As he nears White Sox record, Todd Frazier is focused on improvement

As he nears White Sox record, Todd Frazier is focused on improvement

DETROIT -- Todd Frazier is close to a franchise record for home runs hit by a third baseman and he’s pleased with that aspect of his game. But the White Sox third baseman said Wednesday morning that his focus over the final month of the season is on ways he can improve for next season.

Frazier temporarily gave the White Sox the lead on Tuesday when he homered for the 33rd time, 32 of which have come with him at the hot corner (he also hit one as a first baseman).

With 31 games to go, Frazier is sure to pass both Robin Ventura, who hit 32 of 34 homers in 1996 while playing third base, and Bill Melton, who belted 33 at the hot corner in 1971.

But Frazier’s attention will mostly be tuned to adapting to the American League, which he has found trying at times.

“It has been different,” Frazier said. “I think (Justin) Morneau said it best the other day — National League there’s a lot more hitters, so they’re going to try and tinker a lot more with spots. For me I guess it was a little tough to adjust to that and finally figure out that they’re not always going to throw me strikes with a count that’s in my favor. Bottom line is you’ve got to look for your pitch and stay with it the whole time and eventually, once it comes, you can’t miss it.”

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There was an expectation the batting average of Frazier — a career .257 hitter before 2016 — would suffer some as he transitioned to the AL.

ZIPS projected Frazier’s average would drop to .239 this season.

Through 536 plate appearances, Frazier is hitting .214/.295/.452 this season with 33 homers and 83 RBIs. But he has struggled even more within the AL Central. Frazier entered Wednesday hitting .158/.229/.372 with 11 homers and 92 strikeouts in 201 plate appearances against AL Central foes.

“He’s seen a lot of these guys in our division,” Ventura said. “But there is a lot of good pitching in the American League, especially in the Central that you have to figure out.”

Frazier intends to do that and he’d like to find some success over the last month of games off which to build. Acquired in a three-team trade from Cincinnati last December, Frazier is under team control through 2017. Even though he has been strong with his glove and his home run production is on par with what the White Sox hoped for, Frazier knows there’s work to be done.

“A lot of times this year I did miss a lot of those pitches, but it’s something to learn from and something, look at some video and figure out some things I need to work on for next year,” Frazier said. “There’s always room for change.”