Five years after trade, the John Danks legacy starts anew

Back in 2005, the White Sox drafted Jordan Danks in the 19th round. His draft stock was depressed because the Danks family made it known that Jordan had every intention of attending the University of Texas, but the White Sox used a second-day pick to, at the very least, get an idea of what Jordan was all about.

Mark Gonzales covered the negotiations rather extensively for a 19th-round pick who had little chance of breaking his commitment, and some quotes from the family patriarch, John Danks Sr., have stuck in my mind.

From July 3, 2005: "We are completely appreciative of the White Sox," and later in the article, Gonzales notes Danks Sr.'s excellent relationship with scout Keith Stabb.

From Aug. 28, 2005: "It had nothing to do with the Sox. [Jordan] just wanted to play for the University of Texas before playing pro ball. My hope is that he enjoys a couple of years at UT before getting drafted by the White Sox. I love the White Sox. I hope they play in the World Series."

Sure enough, the Sox did play in the World Series, and Jordan Danks would be drafted again by the White Sox.

And in between, five years ago on this date, the White Sox traded for Jordan's older brother.

For all the talk about Mark Buehrle's personal connection to the organization and its front office, John Danks' roots run deeper in some respects. His family had a positive relationship with the White Sox more than one year before John was brought into the fold, and when Jordan Danks was drafted by the Sox for a second time, the brothers decided to ditch Scott Boras in favor of Jeff Berry, who represents Buehrle.

When the Dankses changed agents back in 2008, we immediately knew that was an important day. It just took a little longer to bear fruit. Buehrle signed his first multi-year contract before his first arbitration year, but Danks and the Sox couldn't find common ground until the last one.

That's kind of how it's gone for the lefties. At this stage in his career, Danks has a lot of the same things going for him as Buehrle, but Buehrle just has a way of making everything seem easier.

It's not a fair comparison for Danks, and he'll have the opportunity to develop his own legacy with his role model pitching in the other league. At 26 years old and entering his sixth year, he has a strong foundation to build on. Take a look at the White Sox leaderboards since 1920* for pitchers over their first five seasons:

Innings pitched, first five:

  1. Tommy Thomas, 1,268.1 (1926-1930)
  2. Ted Lyons, 1,093.0 (1923-1927)
  3. Johnny Rigney, 994 (1937-1941)
  4. Mark Buehrle, 987.1 (2000-2004)
  5. John Danks, 917.2 (2007-2011)

Games started, first five:

  1. Thomas, 158
  2. Danks, 150
  3. Buehrle, 139
  4. Jack McDowell, 132 (1987-1992)
  5. Alex Fernandez, 132 (1990-1994)

Strikeouts, first five:

  1. Danks, 714
  2. Jack McDowell, 633 (1987-1992)
  3. Alex Fernandez, 592 (1990-1994)
  4. Buehrle, 581
  5. Melido Perez, 568

Losses, first five:

  1. Thomas, 75
  2. Danks, 56
  3. Charlie Robertson, 55 (1922-1925)
  4. Lyons, 53
  5. Rigney, 53

Baseball-Reference.com WAR, first five:

  1. Thomas, 19.3
  2. Danks, 19.2
  3. Buehrle, 17.0
  4. Rigney, 16.5
  5. Lyons, 15.2

*1920 is when the White Sox started using their starting pitchers in more modern fashion. Ed Walsh's 40 wins and 464 innings in 1908 are practically incomparable.

Star-divide

While we can't assume that Danks will pitch all five years of this contract with the White Sox, or that he'll be healthy enough to throw 180-210 innings each year, we can start pondering the concept of John Danks, 10-Year White Sox Veteran. Given the Danks-Sox relationship and the organization's tendency to be (too) loyal, it's a decent bet this long-term commitment will last.

A decade in the same uniform is a big deal. The first 10 years pares down the list further, because under those circumstances, even mainstays like Billy Pierce -- or, for a non-pitching contemporary example, Paul Konerko -- don't count. No, when you get to 10 years, you're left with three big names among pitchers: Ted Lyons, Joel Horlen, and ... wait for it ... Mark Buehrle.

That Danks has a clear path to join that group catches me off guard, probably because he pitched alongside Buehrle, and yet they weren't quite peers in the bigger picture. Everything Danks has done, Buehrle has done better.

Let it be said I'm not knocking Danks, because, like, God forbid he's not quite as good as a very special and unique predecessor. It just puts him in a funny position as he gets out from underneath Buehrle's shadow. Danks has his first chance to lead a staff, but the better he pitches, the more Buehrle's name will come up.

Everybody should hope that we find more and more ways to draw parallels. This impending five-year extension is a big-time start, and apparently Danks will have plenty of time to work on the others.

Star-divide

A few observations about these lists:

*With "first [X] seasons" criteria, a lot of it comes down to timing. Danks benefits from starting his very first season in the rotation from the get-go, whereas Mark Buehrle pitched out of the bullpen for half a season in 2000, and Jack McDowell was a September call-up in 1987.

Buehrle and McDowell would probably blow the field away, as they both pitched more than 1,100 innings when you count their first five seasons. Although you could ding McDowell for it not being five consecutive seasons, since he spent all of 1989 in Triple-A.

*Despite his rookie-year advantage, Danks ranks just seventh in wins with 54, with LaMarr Hoyt (61) and Richard Dotson (56) ahead of him. Run support is key here, but it wouldn't hurt if Danks could routinely finish stronger, too.

*I knew nothing about Tommy Thomas, so let's learn about him together. From his SABR Baseball Biography Project profile:

  • Hey, today's his birthday! That's kind of awesome.
  • He established himself for a good four years in the International League as a mainstay in the Baltimore Orioles' rotation before signing with the White Sox at the end of the 1925 season.
  • He was evidently something of a Cub-killer in the post-season Inter-City series.
  • He didn't drink or use tobacco.
  • His career with the Sox was dragged down by elbow problems, ptomaine poisoning, bone bruise and throat infection ... and five different managers didn't help, either.
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