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Let’s play a game. Let’s play “White Sox What Ifs” 2014 version. And let’s assume that if 7 out of these 10 What Ifs come to fruition, our White Sox are going to the postseason in 2014. So let’s start….

(1.) What If Adam Eaton becomes the on-base machine it appears he could be so far in Spring Training? The White Sox haven’t had a lead-off hitter of his caliber since Scott Podsednik. Not only can Eaton get on base with regularity, he can steal bases. He can stretch singles into doubles, and doubles into triples. He’s everything a lead off hitter should be. And he can bunt. Enough said. Your mouth waters with just the above? Wait. He can play defense, unlike your beloved Scotty Pods (who also had the limp arm of an 8 year old). Eaton possesses similar daredevil-type maneuvers that Aaron Rowand possessed. Though Rowand would often mis-judge fly balls and make up for it with above average speed in CF to make a great catch, Eaton has the speed and instincts to make a great grab in front of him, to his left or right, and over the shoulder. Very excite!

(2.) What If Jose Abreu is not only the powerful monster he appeared to be in Cuba, but also has the bat skills to hit above .300 in the major leagues? While many like to compare Abreu to his fellow countrymen Yasiel Puig and Yoenis Cespedes, he’s far different from both. Puig certainly possesses a more dynamic personality and general approach to the game, but Abreu’s calm demeanor should play well in the American game. And it appears to me, that Cespedes is a rich man’s Dayan Viciedo, and who wants that besides the Seattle Mariners? All jokes aside, Abreu may not turn to be a Gold Glove candidate at 1st base, but he should be everything Rick Hahn and the White a Sox expect him to be offensively. And with Adam Eaton being an on-base machine, there should be plenty of opportunities for Abreu to knock him in.

(3.) What If Avisail Garcia becomes the 5-tool player many scouts project him to be? Acquired in a 3-way deal with Boston and Detroit last season, Garcia has become a ray of hope on the south side of Chicago. He’s hit above .300 while in a White Sox uniform, and has the try hard attitude the Sox have lacked with Alex Rios in RF. Labeled has “Little Miggy” by some, Garcia has the makeup to be a perennial All-Star for years to come. 2014 could be his break-out season.

(4.) What If Matt Davidson breaks camp with the big club and is the White Sox starting 3rd baseman on Opening Day? (Yes please.) Though some don’t believe Davidson is ready for the Opening Day starting role, why not? Jeff Keppinger is injured, and Connor Gillaspie is no more than a utility-man, so why not start Davidson? Sure he has room to grow defensively at 3B, and is a little undisciplined at the plate. He has plus-power and has the potential to be the best hitting Sox 3rd baseman since…. Joe Crede! And while I’m not often a proponent of rushing players to the major leagues, I don’t think this would be a rush. Davidson has major league experience (albeit not a lot), and should start 2014 on the big club.

(5.) What If Gordon Beckham finally becomes the quality all-around player he was projected to become? Yes, this one is funny. But seriously, take Beckham’s offensive production from 2009, and combine it with his defensive prowess from 2010-2012, and you’ve got yourself an All-Star. Seriously, if somehow he can just put both together, we may have something. Beckham knows more than any of us that this could be his make-or-break year, especially with Marcus Semien and Micah Johnson on his heels. Let’s go Gordo!

(6.) What If Erik Johnson becomes a quality 3rd (maybe even a #2) starter, following his impressive 2013 debut? Johnson is often overlooked when folks discuss the Sox starting rotation. Johnson showed last season he has the stuff to be a quality major league starter, and could be really good if he harnesses his control. While most focus their attention to John Danks (and rightfully so), Johnson’s growth and development could be a key to the Sox success going forward, especially considering he’s one of only two right handers in the Sox rotation.

(7.) What If the aforementioned John Danks regains his pre-injury/pre-surgery form from 2011? Let’s face it, Danks was AWFUL in 2013. But, that wasn’t a huge surprise. 18 months is supposed to be the full recovery time from the shoulder surgery that Danks had. And, come Opening Day, that 18 months will have been reached. Danks has looked good so far in Spring Training, but it’s only Spring Training. All I know is this, if Danks can be 80% of what he was during game 163 in 2008, he’ll be just fine. But, this may be the biggest If of them all.

(8.) What If Tyler Flowers really was injured the majority of 2013 as the team claims, and that was the reason for his poor showing during his first full season as the Sox starting catcher? Though some Sox fans will never forgive management for letting the beloved AJ Pierzynski leave during free agency, and never gave Flowers a chance, Flowers was pretty awful. A poor batting average and even poorer base-runners-thrown-out percentage (is that a thing?) led to a terrible season for Flowers, and eventual season ending surgery. Here’s hoping Flowers can hit .240 or so, and be decent behind the plate. OK, this is starting to get negative. Josh Phegley!

(9.) What If Jose Quintana can continue his uncanny ability to defy odds, and be an unpredictably awesome #2 starter? I know I’m not the only one who was surprised that Quintana was even better in 2013 than he was in his break-out season in 2012. He’s not over-powering, and he’s certainly not flashy. He just gets the job done. And he’ll probably be even better in 2014. Let’s just say this one is as close to a sure thing as possible. Until we get to #10.

(10.) What If Chris Sale is just as great, or even better than he’s been so far? Sale is undeniably one of the best pitchers in the game, and there’s no doubt he’ll be even better in 2014. The anchor of the staff, not to mention the team, Sale is on the cusp of greatness. While experts keep insisting that Sale must put on more weight, he continues to mystify some of the best hitters in the game. Guys like Joe Mauer and Miguel Cabrera find hitting Sale a near impossibility. Sale is the one sure thing on this list, and on this team.

Pick your 7 out of 10 from this list. Any way you put those 7 choices together, our Sox may be headed to the playoffs.

Brian Madsen

BrianM731Sox@yahoo.com

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There were baseball games played today. REAL live baseball games. The voices of Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson never sounded so sweet. Don’t get me wrong. I don’t particularly enjoy Farmio and DJ. I haven’t enjoyed Farmio since his days as the color guy for the Sox, while partnered with John Rooney. And DJ is, well, DJ.

But hearing their voices today meant two things. One, baseball is back. Sure it’s only Spring Training, and “the games don’t mean anything”, at least the wins and losses. But baseball is back, and here to stay for 8 glorious months. And the best part? There were SO MANY new names on the lineup card for the Sox.

Names like Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Matt Davidson, exciting young players brought in by Sox GM Rick Hahn during the offseason that have infused the team with energy and expectations. Expectations the White Sox organization hasn’t had in quite a while.

Not that anyone is expecting this team to win the pennant, but it’s nice to see new faces. And eventually, come March 31st, hear new names exquisitely announced by Sox PA announcer Gene Honda at U.S. Cellular Field. And while every Sox fan will be excited to hear Paul Konerko introduced over the PA, especially considering it’s Paulie’s last season, it’ll be nice to hear new names.

New names, that hopefully, will be cornerstones in the White Sox organization for years to come. No one knows for sure what the Sox young talent will amount to, but the fact that the team is suddenly flooded with 20-something prospects is exciting. 

I don’t know if it was just me, but Farmio and DJ’s voices seemed to give off an extra air of excitement today. And I’m not sure if it was the forgotten memories of last season’s ineptitude, or if they share my excitement for this season’s possibilities, or both.

The bottom line is, baseball is back, starting today. And the second thing hearing Farmio and DJ’s today meant? Spring is on it’s way. Eventually.

Posted from WordPress for Android Brian Madsen BMad

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Pitchers and catchers reported to Spring Training at Camelback Ranch for the White Sox yesterday. And, as usual, there are already plenty of stories to report.

John Danks is now on pace to surpass Chris Sale as the White Sox ace, and steam roll his way into the 2014 AL Cy Young conversation. After all, Danks himself said that he “feels like he’s 18 again”. So we, as Sox fans, can only assume he will perform a complete 180 from last season, and return to his pre-injury/pre-surgery game 163 magic in 2008 glory, right?

I’m obviously being silly with the previous paragraph. But, in all seriousness, what if Danks’ 1st day of Spring Training optimism actually comes to fruition? Now, we hear 1st day of Spring Training optimistic stories every season, as do fans of every MLB team. I mean, how many times have you heard that “this is the year Gordon Beckham puts everything together”? Too many times for sure.

But what if Danks can revive his pre-injury capabilities? Then all the talk of the Sox having a really good starting staff may actually be true. Chris Sale is Chris Sale, enough said. And it would be great if Jose Quintana can continue his meteoric rise up the “quality left-handed starters depth chart” he’s been climbing for a couple years now.

Erik Johnson impressed in 2013, and will need to again in 2014, especially considering he’ll be one of only two right-handed starters in the Sox rotation, a rarity for sure.

Felipe Paulino and Andre Rienzo will fight for the fifth starter’s role, and both can potentially be very good.

But what about Danks? He threw batting practice almost every time he went out to the mound in 2013. Some say while he lacked the velocity last year, he was able to learn how to really pitch, and somehow, managed to still have good command of his change up, Danks best pitch.

18 months post-surgery, Danks claims to be completely healthy, and is ready for the season to start. Will he be penciled in as the number 3 or 4 starter? More than likely 4, as Erik Johnson, a right-hander, will probably follow the 2 lefties.

And if Danks can be a 4, that performs like a 2 or a 3? All the better, setting the Sox up for a magical World Series run in 2014. Assuming, of course, that Jose Abreu, Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton, and Matt Davidson also live up to expectations.

Posted from WordPress for Android Brian Madsen BMad

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One thing is for sure, the 2014 season can not be worse than the 2013 season was for the White Sox. It’s impossible right?

While Sox GM Rick Hahn thought the 2013 team could find a way to relive a little bit of the magic they captured during the 2012 season, they couldn’t even come close. The Sox began 2013 on a fast start, going 4-2, and ending the season’s opening week home stand on a Dayan Viciedo walk off HR.

Everything seemingly went down hill from there for the 2013 Sox, including Dayan Viciedo’s hope for a repeat of his 2012 success.

What was, statistically, one of the best teams defensively in 2012, turned into one of the worst in 2013. The potentially dynamic double play combo of Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, who flourished in 2012, collectively laid an egg in 2013. Ramirez committed the most errors by any short stop in 2013, and Gordon Beckham made bone head mistake, after bone head mistake.

Sox fans frustration with Beckham hadn’t been higher than it was in 2013. What was once Beckham’s strong suit, defense, had become a liability. Couple that with less than average production at the plate, Beckham may finally be labeled a bust if things don’t change in 2014.

Add Alejandro De Aza’s poor defense in center field, and even worse base running mistakes to the mix, and you have four previously crowned “core” players for the White Sox whose potential has not come to fruition.

The good thing is, almost everyone else on the White Sox 2014 roster will be new to the mix. Sure, there’s Paul Konerko, and there’s Adam Dunn. Konerko who, understandably, was displeased with the 2013 Sox campaign as well his own. I would have rather seen Paulie ride off into the sunset and bring his career to a close. But, I understand his desire to come back for one last hurrah. I just don’t think the Sox should have saved a roster spot for an aging veteran who doesn’t have much to left give. But that’s just me.

Dunn will put up 25-30 HR’s and 85 or so RBI again in 2014, but his act has certainly worn thin on the south side of Chicago. 2014 will mercifully be the last season here for Dunn.

And yes, Tyler Flowers and Josh Phegley aren’t “new” guys either, but I’m hoping Adrian Nieto or a soon-to-be-acquired catcher (Jose Lobaton?) can provide some relief behind the plate going forward. This is one position that still really worries me.

But everywhere else you look around the diamond, all you see are new and young faces for the White Sox. And that’s exciting. Rick Hahn has somehow been able to infuse this organization with young, promising, salary-controlled players, in less than a year’s time.

I’m not sure who I’m more excited about. The young Cuban slugger Jose Abreu who has superstar potential?  Maybe Adam Eaton, acquired in a 3 way trade from the Diamondbacks, who has the potential to be an on-base machine and catalyst for the White Sox offense for years to come? Or is it Avisail Garcia, the potential 5 tool player Rick Hahn managed to acquire from their intra-division rivals, the Tigers?

And though Matt Davidson, acquired from the Diamondbacks for Addison Reed, may start off 2014 in Charlotte, he has the potential to be a offensively potent 3rd baseman for the Sox for many years.

Put all of these new faces together with a pretty solid pitching staff, and you have the potential for a very fun team to watch for quite a while. Chris Sale is a star. José Quintana is a solid 2-3 starter in almost any rotation. John Danks will be two years removed from shoulder surgery and should be much improved from last year. Erik Johnson comes highly touted and really impressed in 2013. Felipe Paulino is coming off Tommy John surgery, but could be a low-risk, high-reward signing by Hahn.

Add some new veteran relievers into the bullpen in Scott Downs, 
Ronald Belisario, and Mitchell Boggs, and combine them with the young Nate Jones and Daniel Webb, and pitching should be a strong suit again for the Sox in 2014. Potentially. 

Potential can be a scary word for a baseball team. But potential is also very exciting. I can’t remember the last time the Sox had so many “potentially” good, young players. One thing is for sure, Rick Hahn seems to have this organization going in the right direction, and quickly. Potentially.

Brian Madsen
BrianM731Sox@yahoo.com

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As the Super Bowl approaches, and football comes to an end, it means the official start of baseball for me. Less than 2 weeks from pitchers and catchers reporting, Spring Training is on its way. And I couldn’t be more excited. Though, this year, it’s a different kind of excitement.

He’s one of the first people I’d call or text when a trade went down. He’s one of the first people I’d call or text when something exciting happened during a Sox game. He’s the first person I would have called when the Sox signed Jose Abreu last year.

He’s the first person I would have seen when I walked into work the day after it was announced the Sox were reportedly interested in signing Tanaka. And he would have given me a fist bump and said “Tanaka”!!

He’s the first person I would have sent a picture to of my new Sox hat, especially considering I haven’t bought a new one in 4 years.

He’s the first person I would have asked to go to White Sox Opening Day with me in 2014. Because he asked me to go with him last year.

What was my first White Sox Opening Day game I attended in many, many years in 2013, turned out to be my friend Sam’s last game attended. Sam passed away in August.

Earlier that year, while my family and I were moving, I found an over-sized Chicago Bears Pez dispenser in my garage. I immediately thought of Sam. I brought it work the next day and gave it to him. Except,  he wouldn’t just take it. He offered a trade.

The next day, Sam brought in an authentic White Sox jersey and gave it to me as the “trade” for the Bears Pez dispenser. Obviously not a fair trade as the jersey was much more valuable, but Sam insisted I take it. So I did.

I plan on going to Opening Day in 2014 as well. I plan on wearing the Sox jersey Sam gave me. I’m not sure how I’ll feel that day. Happy because baseball is starting? Sure. But sad because I’ll remember where I was, and who I was with just a year earlier on that day.

As Super Bowl approaches, everyone keeps asking me if I bought my Super Bowl squares yet. And I tell them no. Because I always bought them from Sam. I miss ya buddy.

Posted from WordPress for Android Brian Madsen BMad

While many would already consider this winter a good (and ultimately a successful) one for the White Sox, the Chicago front office would like to make it a great one.

Having acquired Avisail Garcia, Adam Eaton, Matt Davidson, and Jose Abreu since last July, the Sox now have their sights set on Japanese pitching sensation Masahiro Tanaka. Though they are considered a long-shot to acquire Tanaka, I ask, why not the White Sox? 

Tanaka is said to be looking for a challenge, but not to necessarily be “the man”. Well here, with Chris Sale being the ace of the staff, Tanaka wouldn’t be “the man”. At least not yet.

While the idea of Jerry Reinsdorf giving out a big $ contract to a pitcher (something Reinsdorf has been reluctant to do, until the contract given to John Danks) scares the hell out of me, just imagine Sale, Tanaka, and Quintana as the team’s 1-2-3 for years to come. Sounds good to me.

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Even Us Cellular Field could be immune to Tanaka's devastating splitter.

Yes Tanaka prefers to be on the west coast to appease his movie star wife. Yes he prefers to live in a community with a large Japanese contingency,  and understandably so. But why not Chicago?

It’s hard to imagine the Dodgers not landing Tanaka if they really do want him. But they don’t need him.

The Yankees need Tanaka. With the decline of CC Sabathia, they need someone to fill his role for years to come.

The Cubs need Tanaka. Not only because they need the talent, but they need to show a disheartened fan base that they’re willing to spend the $.

We don’t “need” Tanaka, as pitching is our strength. But why not make that strength even stronger? Nothing excites me more than the idea of Don Cooper getting his hands on Tanaka. Not that I’m proud of being excited by something involving Don Cooper, but you understand….

I just finished watching a YouTube video showing 200 Tanaka strikeouts. I now want him 200x more, and it makes me think we need him.

Just as some want to compare Jose Abreu to Yasiel Puig or Yoenis Cespedes because they’re all from Cuba, some will do the same with Tanaka and Yu Darvish both being Japanese pitchers. And while the Abreu comparisons are absurd, the Tanaka-Darvish comparisons aren’t. If Tanaka can be anywhere close to what Darvish is and will become, I’ll take him. I’ll take him for 7 years and $120 million, even though that scares the hell out of me.

Hey, nobody thought we’d get Abreu, so why not Tanaka?

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So it’s been 3 whole days since Rick Hahn has done anything. What’s wrong with him? I mean, all he did before that was trade away two HUGE pieces to the White Sox championship puzzle, right? 

We all know Hector Santiago was bound to become a #2 starter in the Sox rotation for years to come, and quite possibly a #1.

And Addison Reed is well on his way to becoming the next Mariano Rivera. (Though somehow he’s going to compete with Brad Ziegler and J.J. Putz for the Arizona closing job? What’s wrong with people?!?!)

How dare Hahn acquire a leadoff man with huge on-base potential, a CF of the future, and good base runner. Wait, Adam Eaton is all 3 of those things?!?! And he gave up Hector Santiago for THAT? Tisk, tisk.

How dare all of these national baseball writers, talent evaluators, scouts, and TV people praise Hahn for the work he’s done the past 4 – 5 months. They must have no idea what they’re doing either I suppose.

But the more I think about it, isn’t Kenny Williams still the Sox GM? Who is this Rick Hahn guy anyway? I retract the previous 5 paragraphs. What I meant to say was, “Fire Kenny Williams!! He’s running this organization into the ground!!”

Though I am surprised that Kenny traded away one of his prized trade-deadline acquisitions in Jake Peavy. And who’d he get in return? Avisail Garcia?!?! He probably won’t be any good.

And how dare Kenny sign ANOTHER CUBAN PLAYER. Jose Abreu better be as good as Yoenis Cespedes or Yasiel Puig, or I’m done with my favorite baseball team signing international free agents, period.

And while I’m at it, why wasn’t Kenny in on Robinson Cano or Jacoby Elsbury? What’s wrong with him? Why doesn’t Reinsdorf ever get in on the big free agents? He did the same thing with Albert Pujols and Josh Hamilton.

And he just signed a left-handed reliever in Scott Downs? We just traded away a lefty in Santiago!!!!

I will say this: We do need a catcher, and a good one. And it better be AJ!!!!

**** I really hope you read this with an understanding of extreme sarcasm. ****