Herm Schneider’s Greatest Hits

You all may know me as the Japanese baseball guy, but my interest in the sport developed as a kid growing up in the Chicago suburbs as a die-hard White Sox fan. Because of my Chicago roots, my favorite part of the FanGraphs gathering in Arizona during spring training was our chat with White Sox assistant general manager Rick Hahn, who mentioned something that I’ve known for years: trainer Herm Schneider is a great asset to the Sox organization.

Rick specifically mentioned Jermaine Dye as an example of the success the White Sox have had limiting injury risks, but I have many fond and bittersweet memories of rehab projects the ChiSox took on in the 1990s. Here are some of my favorites:

1991 to 1993 Bo Jackson: In the late 1980s, the two-sport-playing, bat-busting Bo Jackson was possibly the most exciting professional athlete. Then he had one of his hips ripped out of its socket in an NFL game. Fortunately Bo knew comebacks, and he managed to play the outfield with an artificial hip. He no longer was the star performer he had been early in his career, but he was a respectable fourth outfielder, an inspirational figure and a great draw for fans.

1992 Ozzie Guillen: One chilly spring evening in 1992, I attended a White Sox game with my dad. I don’t remember whom the Sox were playing or what the score was, but I do remember Ozzie Guillen chasing a short fly ball into left field, crashing into Jonah Keri favorite Tim Raines, and not getting up. We learned the next day that Ozzie needed surgery on his knee, and I learned today that he tore his ACL and MCL in that collision. Ozzie missed the rest of the season, but came back in 1993 and played several more years.

1993 Ellis Burks: Burks once was an up-and-coming outfielder with Boston but he had fallen on hard times in 1991 and 1992. Signed to a budget, one-year deal with Chicago in 1993, Burks enjoyed a bounce-back year on the South Side and then went on to terrorize pitchers in Colorado for much of the decade as a member of the Blake Street Bombers.

1994 Darrin Jackson: With Burks having moved on to Colorado, general manager Ron Schueler again went to the bargain bin and found Jackson. Jackson was coming off a rough campaign split between Toronto and the New York Mets, which included DL time with a thyroid condition. Schneider helped keep him on the field for the entirety of the strike-shortened season — and Jackson responded with the best offensive rate stats of his career. Jackson followed his single season with the Sox with a couple of productive years with the Seibu Lions in Japan.

1997 Robin Ventura: In 1997, there was a bit of a renewed sense of optimism in Chicago. After a few years of rent-a-cleanup-hitters and second-place finishes to the Indians, the Sox signed the fearsome Albert Belle away from Cleveland and were prepared to mash their way to the Central Divsion title. It didn’t quite turn out that way. Ventura broke his leg on a nasty slide into home plate in a spring training game, and was initially expected to miss the season. In his absence, third base replacement Chris Snopek put up a sub-replacement-level line; Belle failed to meet early expectations and the Sox struggled with largely ineffective pitching. Ventura put in a valiant rehab effort and managed to come back before the trading deadline, just in time to see the Sox send Wilson Alvarez, Roberto Hernandez and Danny Darwin to the Giants in the now-infamous “White Flag Trade.” The self-branded White Sox Leftovers managed to stay respectable down the stretch, but ultimately finished in second place by default in a weak division. Cleveland went on to nearly win the World Series.

2000 Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin: In perhaps his greatest feat as GM, Schueler managed to turn underperforming albatross Jaime Navarro into Eldred and Valentin. At the time, the bad-contract swap was viewed as a win for Schueler by virtue of having moved Navarro, but the performance the Sox extracted from Eldred and Valentin made it a grand slam. Eldred had been a workhorse for the Brewers early in his career, but by the time the ChiSox picked him up his best days were clearly behind him. Under Schneider’s care, he rattled off an impressive 10-2 first half before breaking down again after the All-Star Game. Valentin was less of a rehab case, but he contributed five years of power and steady defense at shortstop. The White Sox finally broke through in 2000 and took the division (briefly) from Cleveland, and it probably wouldn’t have happened without that trade.



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Patrick Newman is a veteran enthusiast of Japanese baseball who happens to write about it at npbtracker.com, and on Twitter @npbtracker.


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Yinka Double Dare
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Yinka Double Dare
5 years 2 months ago

In trying to figure out why PECOTA chronically underestimates the White Sox’s win total year after year, quite regularly by 5+ wins, the number one good reason I could come up with is Schneider and his staff keeping guys healthy and productive, and therefore beating their playing time estimates, plus injury reclamation guys that they were able to rehab and get much better production than a system like PECOTA could have predicted.

The other ones I came up with were “Don Cooper” and “PECOTA can’t realize that Mark Buehrle is somehow not the same as the other junkballing lefties” but Herm and his staff are most likely the main reason the White Sox do better than the stat models predict preseason.

MikeS
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MikeS
5 years 2 months ago

Absolutely.

Would it be silly to recommend Schneider for the HOF? Has any trainer ever been inducted?

There have been articles written around here that show the chronic White Sox health. Either this is luck, they know how to scout guys who will be healthy or Hermie is a real, unrecognized force. I don’t know what the answer is but I know that if you keep a mediocre player healthy and don’t have to replace him with a bad one that is a bonus.

H
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H
5 years 2 months ago

Another amazing article about Herm bashing in Greg Walker’s teeth with scissors to save his life during a seizure: http://articles.chicagotribune.com/1988-08-01/sports/8801190882_1_comiskey-park-runny-nose-ozzie-guillen. I’ve been a White Sox fan since the mid-1980s, and it’s amazing that Herm has been there every step of the way. Thanks for the article!

JR
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JR
5 years 2 months ago

That was what was so frustrating about the White Flag trade–here Ventura had fought hard to finally come back,the Sox were,I think,only 3 1/2 back without him,and they pulled off this deal. Years from then Reinsdorf had the chutzpah to claim that they never would had the success they had in 2000 if they hadn’t made that trade. Well y’know what? All they did in 2000 was win the division title-who knows what they might have done in ’97? Know something else? They lost me and countless other fans permanently…

James
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James
5 years 2 months ago

I don’t recall the White Flag trade being that bad… they should’ve tried to win the division, but as I recall, Alvarez was becoming fat and ineffective, Hernandez wasn’t as good as he was when he first came up, and Darwin was ridiculously old and had no future on the team anyway.

Rich
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Rich
5 years 2 months ago

Great article. That tribune link is pretty amazing, too. The White Sox are lucky to have a guy like Herm Schneider. Any organization would be.

Mike B.
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Mike B.
5 years 2 months ago

And they promptly lost the 2000 ALDS to the Mariners, though five years later they had a little more success.

Nice article–had forgotten about some of the names up there. Always curious what kind of baseball career Bo would’ve had had he been a one-sport athlete. Probably 400-450 HR and 2000-2400 SO.

James
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James
5 years 2 months ago

I think he’s met his match with Peavy.

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