Sydney Cricket Ground was the scene of today’s World Tour game, as the White Sox beat the Giants, 5-4. Some 10,000 fans attended. It would be 100 years before the majors returned to Australia, when the Dodgers and Diamondbacks opened the 2014 season at the Ground.
Shortstop Luke Appling, who at age 36 led the AL in hitting (.328) and on-base (.419) in the prior season and logged the highest MVP finish (second) of his career, was inducted into the Army at Camp Lee, Va. At the time, Appling felt his playing career was over — or would be, after military service.
Appling was away from the majors for almost two full seasons. He returned to the White Sox in September 1945, at age 38, with a .368 average over 18 games. He would play four more full seasons for the White Sox, hitting better than .300 in each; Appling was a 20.8 WAR player after returning from service. (And he thought he career was over!)
Interestingly, January 3 was also the day that Appling passed away, in 1991, at age 83. At the time, he was still a hitting instructor in the Atlanta Braves system.
As part of a plan to add more depth to the rotation, the White Sox signed veteran hurler Orlando “El Duque” Hernández. Hernández started strong in 2005 and faded somewhat down the stretch, but pitched perhaps the most incredible inning in franchise history when he came in to a bases-loaded, no-out situation at Boston in Game 3 of the ALDS. With the White Sox leading by a slim, 4-3 margin, El Duque proceeded to get two pop outs and a strike out, as the White Sox held on to win, 5-3, and advance to the ALCS.
The White Sox acquired Nick Swisher from the Oakland A’s for Gio González, Ryan Sweeney and Fautino De Los Santos. Swisher was a -0.2 WAR player in his sole season on the South Side, while González put up 6.7 WAR and Sweeney 6.2 over their four seasons for the A’s. This undoubtedly was one of GM Ken Williams’ very worst trades.
The White Sox signed left fielder Andrew Benintendi to a five-year, $75 million contract. Embarrassingly for a major-market, major league franchise, this deal represented the biggest free agent contract in White Sox history. At that point, only the White Sox, Royals and A’s had not yet signed a player to a free agent deal or extension of $100 million or more.
Benintendi’s first year in Chicago indicated that even this modest contract was too big an outlay, slashing .262/.326/.356 and generating 0.2 WAR. Distressingly, the former Gold Glover produced a negative value in the field. Overall, Benintendi was paid at a rate of $43 million per WAR in his debut White Sox season.