The entire world of sports is on a hiatus, so it got me thinking about better times in the sports universe. More specifically: standout White Sox moments. The 2020 offseason saw the White Sox shift philosophies from rebuild to the winning phase. Therefore, I thought it would be fun to give the rebuild one last hurrah and highlight some of my standout moments across recent years.
1. Three Men for Some Babies (and a Notable Signing)
The title here may be a bit of a stretch, but you get it, right? It would be impossible to mention standout rebuild moments without mentioning the trades. Those three major trades sent shock waves through the White Sox universe and let every fan know that this rebuild was serious.
However, skepticism remained regarding the Sox commitment to the rebuild. Some fans questioned whether or not the team would go the distance to secure the services of the top talent in the 2016 international class, Luis Robert. Everyone knew Robert would require a bonus amount that would annihilate the club’s previous record. Although, showing no qualms, the White Sox won the Luis Robert sweepstakes.
The White Sox trades of Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, and José Quintana, as well as the Robert signing, had drastically improved the farm system that suddenly included multiple players with (potential) top end talent. Yoán Moncada, Michael Kopech, Lucas Giolito, Eloy Jiménez, Dylan Cease, and Luis Robert had become the new faces of the Sox franchise before they stepped foot in Chicago.
2. Joel Booker Channels Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez
Twas an early April evening and Joel Booker decided he’d had enough of the Carolina Mudcats for the night. All tied up at two in the 10th inning, the Dash outfielder was occupying third base, but only temporarily.
Pinch-running for Gavin Sheets, Booker channeled his inner Benny “The Jet” Rodriguez. Booker took off from third on an incredible jump and swiped home easily to secure the extra inning win for Advanced-A Winston-Salem. The crowd went wild, the video took the internet by storm, and Booker even got some love from SportsCenter for the impressive display of speed.
Under the supervision of Omar Vizquel, the Dash had a marvelous season. They would go on to finish the year with an 84-54 record and captured a first half South Division title, but they lost in the first round of the playoffs.
3. Luis Robert: Father of Dingers
If I’m being honest, this entire piece could’ve been about Luis Robert’s 2019 season. After a down and injury riddled 2018, the following year for the young Cuban was the exact opposite. Robert seemed to be a man among boys no matter the level in which he took the field.
Of all the home runs he hit in 2019, my personal favorite happened while he was a member of the Birmingham Barons. “Cavernous” is a good way to describe Regions Field, the home of the Barons. Despite it’s reputation, the outfield phenom made the Sox Double-A stadium look like a little league park by smashing a helpless baseball over the scoreboard.
That was pretty cool… but wait, there’s more!
Robert wasn’t in Birmingham for long, as he was promoted to the Charlotte Knights after the Futures Game. He made his presence felt right away for the Knights, scorching a grand slam as his first Triple-A hit. Thoroughly enjoying the juiced International League baseball, Robert decided that one home run wasn’t enough for his Charlotte debut. He crushed another bomb for good measure and finished the night going 3-for-5 with two homers and seven RBI. Not too shabby.
Hold on, I’m not done yet!
What may be Robert’s most famous home run of the season came at the expense of the Durham Bulls. Robert obliterated a ball over the famous Bull sign in Durham. It’s quite possible that that poor baseball is still orbiting the earth as you read this.
The sound that comes off the bat in this swing is intoxicating.
4. Eloy Takes his Talents to the Opposite Dugout
After appearing in the Futures Game in San Diego on July 9, 2017, a day or two off was surely warranted for Cubs prospect Eloy Jiménez. However, something seemed amiss when the young slugger was absent yet again from the Myrtle Beach Pelicans lineup on July 12 (after a scheduled off day). In addition, rumors began swirling that something could be in the works.
When the dust settled on the morning of July 13, 2017, White Sox fans were buzzing with excitement to have the young outfielder joining the ranks. Luckily for Jiménez, the trade made moving to his new team rather simple. His new team, the Winston-Salem Dash, already happened to be in Myrtle Beach just across the white lines.
After changing dugouts and getting acquainted with his new teammates, Jiménez made his debut for the Dash immediately. The slugger would face his former mates that night and Jimenez’s bat helped lead his new team to victory. A two RBI single propelled the Dash over his old team 3-2, thus beginning his reign of terror on all Carolina League (and soon to be Southern League) opponents.
5. Kopech’s New Groove
After being assigned to Birmingham to start the 2017 season, Michael Kopech earned a late season promotion to Charlotte which concluded his first stint in the White Sox system. Sox fans were drooling over the tools the righty had at the time of the trade, but could he put it all together? Fans were giddy when the young fireballer began to demonstrate why he was a focal point in the Chris Sale trade.
For example, Kopech finished his start on July 4 with a 4.02 ERA and a 1.39 WHIP; respectable totals for a 21 year old pitcher in their first taste of Double-A. After he found his new groove, Kopech would leave the Barons with a 2.87 ERA and a 1.15 WHIP.
In six starts from July 14 to August 12, Kopech absolutely shoved. He went at least six innings in those starts, totaled 51 strikeouts, issued 7 walks, allowed a measly three earned runs in 41 innings for a superb 0.66 ERA, 0.68 WHIP, 1.58 FIP, and an 11.9 strikeout percentage compared to an eye-popping 1.5 walk rate. That fantastic run of starts helped instill that Kopech possessed the ability to be a potential top of the rotation starter for the White Sox.
As we continue to venture into the unknown regarding the 2020 Major League season, it was fun to revisit some of the happenings that played a role in where the White Sox stand today. One of the hardest parts about waiting for Opening Day is knowing the potential this 40-man roster holds moving forward. Stay safe and stay healthy so we can all celebrate White Sox winners together.
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