CHICAGO – Sometimes hand signals can say a thousand words, like with the Chicago White Sox, who are making an art form out of non-verbal gestures.
It started early in the season when players reached base and pretended to stir a drink. Gordon Beckham went as far as to churn butter when he delivered a game-ending hit on Mother’s Day.
That "stirring" signal was in reference to some Adam Eaton quotes early in the season. When discussing his struggles, Eaton referred to himself as the straw that should be stirring the White Sox’s drink. The players still haven't let him hear the end of it, and even Eaton himself uses an index-finger stir stick now.
White Sox players still stir the drink when they reach base, but more hand and arm gestures are being thrown into the mix.
Melky Cabrera stretches his arms wide like an airplane, Carlos Sanchez looks like he is rocking a baby, and Jose Abreu has been seen taking a swig from an imaginary cup from time to time, among some of the new gestures that have surfaced.
Sanchez came clean Sunday saying his baby-rocking gesture is in reference to his young son. “He’s too young right now to understand that, but it’s something I love to do,” Sanchez said through an interpreter.
Cabrera’s airplane wings are said to be in reference to third-base coach Joe McEwing, who stretches his arms out wide when signaling to players on base how many outs there are in the inning.
What seems clear, now that the White Sox are delivering offensively, is that all the hand signals show the club is finally having some fun and it all starts with Cabrera, whose offense is off the charts these days. Cabrera struggled for the first three months but started heating up in July and now has eight multi-hit games over his last 10 contests.
“Melky … he’s a great player, but he’s a better teammate,” Abreu said through an interpreter. “He’s always happy. He’s always trying to find a way to keep the atmosphere loose and to keep everybody happy. His influence has been huge for us. That kind of personality is something that you need in a team, and I hope he can continue doing that, because that’s very important for us.”
Over those last 10 games, Cabrera is batting a robust .500 (21-for-42), with eight doubles, three home runs and 12 RBIs. Over his last 35 games he is batting .380 (52-for-137) with 15 doubles, six home runs and 29 RBIs.
It’s a long way from the opening two months when he couldn’t buy an extra-base hit.
And now that Cabrera has settled in offensively with a team he joined this winter, it has helped him to be free with his personality.
“At first, it’s tough to be like that when you feel like you’re not pulling your wait at times,” manager Robin Ventura said. “And he was good with it either way. He’s been a great teammate all year. Now, it’s just easier for guys to let it go and get the same feeling from him when he’s doing well.
“They react to him the same way. It’s been a nice little run for him the same way, not only on the field and hitting, but what he does inside the clubhouse as well.”
For Cabrera to finally get his season turned around is one thing. For him to bring guys like Sanchez and Abreu out of their shells and show some personality of their own on the field has been something else entirely. He is proving to be an infectious guy in more ways than one.
“We’re enjoying every moment right now, every base hit, every homer, every strikeout from our pitchers,” Sanchez said. “Whatever we do well, we’re enjoying. The atmosphere is different because the team is finally getting better and the results are there.
“We have a bunch of guys who are excited and Melky, of course, he is always doing something to make it a loose atmosphere. He is a great player. He has experience and he has been very helpful for us this season and this last month.”