This week’s edition of my weekly spin around the Chicago sports landscape is going to be a heavy dose of the 42-73, Chicago White Sox. Sorry Cubs fans, your team’s National League best record just isn’t good enough to top this Palka party.
Palk-offs and #108ing
Here I sit, at 3:00 a.m. watching a replay of Friday night’s White Sox game, in a season in which the race to the No. 1 pick is more of a reality than a whiff of a mere Wild Card berth. Why? Because earlier this week, I swore off watching the White Sox until they ended their service time hostage standoff with top-prospect Eloy Jimenez.
Let’s start with the newest love affair of White Sox fans aplenty, Daniel Palka. All this dude does is crush clutch home runs, yuck it up with the entire fan-base on social media, and sign autographs like they’re going out of style. The guy has the Southside falling in love with him more and more with each 100-plus MPH missile that leaves his bat, and lands somewhere in between the outfield fence, and Wentworth Ave.
Coincidentally, my daughter and I were at Daniel Palka’s White Sox debut on April 25 against the Seattle Mariners. Yoan Moncada tagged M’s starter Felix Hernandez for a leadoff homer that landed about 20 feet from where my daughter and I were sitting, unfortunately for her I was doing a little #108ing before it became Twitter famous, cramming down dollar hot dogs and adult beverages in section 110. So even though Palka turned in an unceremonious 0-4 on that day, I feel like this whole love connection between Palka and the boys from Section 108 was pure destiny.
18 home runs and 46 RBIs later, Palka can probably eat and drink for free anywhere on the Southside, and deservedly so. Palka has given White Sox fans a reason to celebrate a ballclub that’s 31 games under .500 on August 11.
Reach out and Palk-it-off! pic.twitter.com/nq7BcqC1Ty
— Chicago White Sox (@whitesox) August 11, 2018
It’s not just the home runs themselves that have drawn the intrigue of the fan-base, but rather when he’s hitting them is the real story. Friday night’s opposite field walk-off homer was his third game-winning home run in his last 26 at-bats. Palka hit a go-ahead two-run homer in the top of the ninth inning to beat the Rays at Tropicana Field on August 5, and helped down the Royals with a pinch-hit three-run home run just days earlier on August 2.
I’m not sure where Palka falls into the future, but this sure is a fun story to watch unfold during the dog days of summer. One more Palka related note here — If you’re looking to score a sweet pair of game-used Jordan brand spikes autographed by Daniel himself, check out his Twitter account.
While I’m inclined to believe that I’m to thank for all of this due to the aforementioned story, I will selflessly urge you to be like Daniel Palka and get on the #108ing train in style by ordering some merchandise from the real heroes here.
Carlos “Ace” Rodon
Major League Baseball rolled out this year’s versions of the Players Weekend jerseys, and Carlos Rodon will sport the nickname “Los” on the back of his Jersey when the Sox visit the Detroit Tigers from August 24 to August 26.
While “Los” is a perfectly fitting play on the latter syllable in his first name, he should most definitely be sporting “Ace” on the back of his jersey, and his performance on Friday night was just the most recent example of why.
After a issuing a pair of walks in the first inning, Rodon settled into a groove that allowed him to record eight innings of shutout baseball against the Cleveland Indians. Rodon’s final line read; 8.0 IP, 0 R, 4 H, 5 K, 2 BB, and an unfortunate no-decision.
In his last six starts Rodon owns a 1.27 ERA and a minuscule WHIP of 0.961. That 1.27 ERA over the course of his last 42.2 innings of work is the best mark in baseball since July 1 for pitchers with a minimum of 35 innings pitched.
Finally healthy, and sporting a Hefty bag of swag — evident by his Steve Stone esque chest hair display in place of an undershirt beneath his jersey — Carlos Rodon is ascending into the staff ace that he was expected to be when he was selected third overall by the White Sox in the 2014 MLB Draft.
“I feel pretty good. I might not have all my stuff, but it’s working. Just throwing it up over the dish and letting the defense do the work for me,” Rodon said after the game. “We got through some games, and I’ve been fortunate.
“The confidence is there. Just feel like you belong. And you get your shoulder fixed, and you know there’s no issue, nothing wrong. There’s no doubt in your mind when you go out and I step on the mound that I’m healthy and I’m coming to compete.”
Through 72.1 innings of work since returning from his rehab assignment, Rodon owns a 3-3 record (largely a byproduct of playing on a bad ballclub) to go along with an impressive 2.61 ERA, 58 strikeouts and a 1.05 WHIP. It seems to me — barring any more nagging injury issues — Carlos Rodon has asserted himself as the ace of the future in Chicago.