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An Ugly, Reachable Goal

Goal-setting wasn't supposed to be part of this rebuilding season. Ricky Renteria's vague notion of playing "clean" baseball is about as close to a stated goal as anything we've heard, but judging from all of the unclean games we've witnessed, Ricky's fellows have fallen short of their skipper's objective.

Winning ugly would be a welcome respite because losing ugly is exactly that.

But with a homestand last week that saw the White Sox take three of five from the Twins before winning a three-game series against the embattled Tigers, there is one convoluted goal for this team: Not losing 100 games. And it just might be reachable.

With 33 games remaining on the schedule, the Sox would have to go 10-23 to reach the century mark. In the previous 33 games of which Sunday's 7-1 win over Detroit was the 33rd, the boys went 13-20. Nothing to gloat about, but 13 more wins would leave them at 65-97, thus averting losses in three digits for the year. For those of us who detest tanking for a higher draft choice, that would suffice.

The Sox are 30-34 at home with 17 games remaining at Sox Park. Division leader Cleveland will face off against the last-place Sox seven more times, and a three-game trip to Houston, the West Division leader, looms in mid-September. But there also are encounters with cellar-dwelling San Francisco and the Tigers, who seem to be reeling, especially after the massive brawl at Yankee Stadium last Thursday.

Starting pitching has really hurt this team, and we'll know this week whether Miguel Gonzalez will be traded to a contender rather than stay on the South Side the rest of the season. If there is such a thing as an ace on this staff, Gonzalez is it. In his last four starts, Miggy has a couple of wins and a sparkling 1.29 ERA over 28 innings. What contender wouldn't want a guy like that for the month of September? It all depends on what general manager Rick Hahn can get in return.

Then we have the emergence of Lucas Giolito, the centerpiece of the Adam Eaton trade with the Nationals last winter. Giolito made his White Sox debut last week in two games, a 4-1 loss to the Twins on Tuesday before a strong effort Sunday against Detroit for his first major league victory in which he posted seven shutout innings on a yield of three hits, three walks, and four strikeouts.

Giolito didn't pitch poorly against Minnesota, giving up four hits in six innings. Problem was that three of those wound up in the outfield seats. But the 6-foot-6, 255-pound righthander found his curveball on Sunday and displayed much better command of his hard stuff. Having him in the rotation from here on out should help to keep the season losses in double digits.

Giolito has an interesting background. He attended the Harvard-Westlake School in Los Angeles, a posh private institution analogous to Chicago's Latin School or Francis Parker. Harvard-Westlake is better known for its rigorous academic credentials and prestigious college matriculations than its athletic program. Tuition for the 2017-18 school year is $37,000, although 20 percent of the student body (grades 7-12) receive financial aid.

However, the school has had a few outstanding athletes, including the Collins twins, Jason and Jarron. The latter sits next to Steve Kerr as a Golden State Warriors assistant coach, while Jason had a 13-year NBA career and became the first openly gay athlete playing one of the four major sports.

Many H-W grads have gone on to Hollywood careers including Maggie and Jake Gyllenhaal. Breitbart editor-in-chief Alex Marlow also is an alumnus of Harvard-Westlake.

Giolito was selected by the Nationals in the first round (16th overall) of the 2012 draft, despite the fact that he missed playing his senior year of high school because of a sprained ulnar collateral ligament in his pitching elbow. The injury required surgery before Giolito ever threw a pitch for money.

What is noteworthy is that classmate Max Fried, a lefthanded pitcher, also was a first round draft choice, taken No. 7 by the Padres in 2012 but later traded to the Braves. Like Giolito, Fried also has had Tommy John surgery, and similar to his high school teammate, Fried was promoted this month to the big league level, pitching four times in relief for Atlanta before being sent back to Triple-A.

My friend Christopher Kliner, a 2002 graduate of Harvard-Westlake, pointed out the irony of two of the nation's top high school pitchers attending his alma mater at the same time.

"We had a smart kid once in a while who was really a good athlete," says Kicker, the name he goes by. "But you're not there just to play sports. That's not the Harvard-Westlake ethos. When I was there, there were no typical dumb jocks. Everyone was a driven student. Sports there weren't anything to write home about."

While Giolito was the big news for the Sox last week, pitching prospect Carson Fulmer thankfully got lost in the shuffle after lasting for just four outs on Monday in the second game of a doubleheader against the Twins. The Sox lost that one 10-2, and Fulmer returned to Charlotte after the game.

Fulmer, who had a fine college career at Vanderbilt, also is a 2012 high school graduate, and, like Giolito, he attended an independent school, All Saints Academy, an Episcopal school in Winter Haven, Fla. The mission statement on the school's website states, "Inspiring independent thinkers, principled leaders, and humble learners."

Fulmer was drafted by the Red Sox in the 15th round in 2012 but chose college instead of signing. The Sox then took him with their first choice (8th overall) in 2015.

Fulmer, like his school's mission says, no doubt is a humble learner this season at Triple-A Charlotte where he is 7-9 with a 5.79 ERA. He has six quality starts (at least six innings with three or less earned runs) in 25 outings.

Too bad the American League doesn't have an All-Academic team. Assuming Fullmer develops into major league caliber, he and Giolito would be good candidates.

Friday is September 1 when any player on a team's 40-man roster can get a taste of the major leagues. Don't expect anything spectacular from the White Sox, such as a promotion for someone like hard-throwing pitcher Michael Kopech, who's just 21 and recently joined the Charlotte ballclub. He's already pitched 130 innings this season, and that's enough for now.

Let Nicky Delmonico, Yoan Moncada, and Reynaldo Lopez get healthy to finish out the last month of the season while helping to keep those losses in the 90s, a not unreasonable goal.

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Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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