November 2009

A True Sox Fan

I spent a special Thanksgiving with my folks just outside of Chicago in Northwest Indiana. My dad Seymour Berke, 86, is in a rehab facility after a hospital stay for renal failure. Though he’s lost virtually all of his sight and undergoes dialysis three times a week, he’s shown a lot of courage and is making great progress through aggressive physical and occupational therapy. He also hasn’t lost his sense of humor and love for the White Sox.

As a joke, my 92-year-old Uncle Harry, dad’s older brother and a fellow Sox fan, came for a visit wearing a Cubs cap. Well aware of the prank, my dad threw the cap to the ground after Harry attempted to place it on his head and uttered the line of the week.
“Get that away from me, I might get an infection.”

Sox-wise and Otherwise

My weekly offseason musings about the White Sox and more…


*  I find it interesting that three of the four significant moves the Sox have made so far in the offseason have involved strengthening the bench. While most of us have been focusing on the likes of Scott Podsednik, Chone Figgins, a new DH, another lefty hitter, bullpen help, etc., Kenny Williams had his sights on bolstering the Sox bench strength with able veterans as a priority, recognizing that the group he had in ’09 was not adequate.
    First, it was re-signing Mark Kotsay, then Omar Vizquel and now Andruw Jones on Thanksgiving Eve. I can see Jones DHing and playing some outfield. He’s also played first base. While Jones gives the South Siders a potent bat (17 homers in 82 games with Texas) and a Gold Glove, Vizquel is there for his defense/mentoring and Kotsay’s overall game and grittiness will prove to be valuable in many ways.
    A leadoff hitter, a bat or two and a leadoff hitter are next on the agenda, but give Williams credit for replenishing a less obvious team weakness.
*  There have been reports in the media that Coco Crisp, a potential leadoff hitter and Sox killer, is on Williams’ radar. No one’s talking, but even with Jones on board it still seems like an option.
*  Happy Thanksgiving. Sox fan Seymour Berke will leave the rehab facility for a few hours today to spend time with the family. A month ago this was just a pipe dream so that’s what I’m thankful for this year.
 

Vizquel is Latest Venezuelan Shortstop, Ex-Tribesman to Join White Sox

It is official. Eleven-time gold glove winner Omar Vizquel has signed a one-year deal with the White Sox as a utility infielder and a mentor to the young Sox infielders.

Beyond the facts and figures of the Vizquel signing, there are a couple of relevant back stories:

* Omar joins an illustrious list of Venezuelan shortstops that have donned a Sox uniform, following in the footsteps of Chico Carrasquel, Luis Aparicio and his new manager Ozzie Guillen.

* Thanks to outstanding Louisville Courier-Journal sports columnist Rick Bozich, a true Sox loyalist, here’s another interesting twist. Vizquel joins a host of players from the great Cleveland Indians teams of the 90s who subsequently joined the Sox–Jim Thome, Roberto Alomar, Albert Belle, Kenny Lofton and Sandy Alomar, Jr.

  Nice move by Kenny Williams and, Omar, we’re glad to have you.

  Note of the day: The Arizona Fall League season proved to be a good one for Sox prospects. Jordan Danks (a leader in many offensive categories), Brent Morel (the league batting champ) and C.J. Retherford, who hit the championship game-winning two-run homer Saturday to give the Peoria Javelinas the league title, all distinguished themselves for the Javelinas.

Vizquel to South Side? It Might Finally Happen

Prior to to the 2005 season the White Sox were on the verge of signing fielding whiz Omar Vizquel, a move that would have united him with friend and fellow Venezuelan Ozzie Guillen

At the last minute, however, the 11-time Gold Glover at shortstop opted for a four-year deal with the Giants and, as fate would have it, Juan Uribe (now a Giant) was the starting shortstop on a World Series-winning team.

Well, Sox fans, Vizquel, who hit .266 in 62 games for the Rangers in 2009 playing second, short and third, could be coming to the South Side after all–four years later. FoxSports.com is reporting that the Pale Hosers are close to signing him as a backup infielder and mentor to Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham, who will be switching to second base from third to make room for newcomer Mark Teahen. Needless to say, Vizquel’s addition would have an impact on Jayson Nix and Brent Lillibridge and their hopes of both making the 25-man roster.

Sox-wise and Otherwise

My weekly offseason musings about the White Sox and more…

* If you’re a reader of the daily transactions, you came upon the news this week that two former White Sox have been named coaches under new Indians skipper Manny Acta. Sandy Alomar Jr. is the new first base coach and former Sox lefty Scott Radinsky is the new bullpen coach.

* Most of the focus for White Sox fans from the Arizona Fall League has been directed toward Peoria Javelinas outfielder Jordan Danks, who continues to impress with his .343 batting average, .458 on base percentage and league-leading 31 runs scored. But lately another name has emerged that bears close watching–third baseman Brent Morel.

  Morel, a third round 2008 draft pick out of Cal Poly, replaced the injured Dayan Viciedo on the Javelinas roster in late October. Since then, Morel has hit .435 with a couple of homers and 11 RBI in 16 games. And, remarkably, just today he won the AFL batting title–the only player in the league to hit .400.

  Last summer, his second in pro ball, Morel hit .281 with 33 doubles, 16 homers, 79 RBI and 25 stolen bases for Class A Winston-Salem. He was also named the best defensive third baseman in the Carolina League.

  He’s definitely another Sox youngster to keep an eye on.

*  Both Danks and Morel will be in the Javelinas lineup when they face the Phoenix Desert Dogs Saturday afternoon in the AFL Championship Game, to be televised on the MLB Network.

* Sox fan Seymour Berke continues to do well. It’ll be good to see him next week and he’ll undoubtedly have a lot to say about his Bears.
  

Yo, Adrian!

There’s nothing like waking up on a chilly November morning to see the Hot Stove burning with a White Sox rumor.

This one involves the Sox, Angels and Padres. As the rumor goes, Chicago would get All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, LA would get Paul Konerko (who has the right to approve any deal) and San Diego would receive top prospects from both clubs.

There’s a long way to go before this deal becomes reality, but Gonzalez, who walloped 40 homers, drove in 99 runs and posted a .407 on-base percentage in 2009, would be a great get. Not to mention he has a very affordable contract. He’s due $4.75 million in 2010 with a club option of $5.5 million in ’11.

Before we Pale Hosers get too excited, it’s pretty much a certainty that this won’t be the only deal presented to the Padres for their prized player as they look to cut payroll.

For instance, It’s well known that the Red Sox are very interested in Gonzalez and it just so happens San Diego recently hired Jed Hoyer, former Red Sox exec, as its GM. Needless to say, he has a good handle on what Boston has in its farm system. And if the Sox acquire a player of Gonzalez’s caliber, the Padres would most likely want one or more of the likes of catcher Tyler Flowers, outfielder Jordan Danks and righty Daniel Hudson. Would Kenny Williams be willing to mortgage the future to that extent?

For now, let the Hot Stove burn.

Why?

Headline: Andrew Bailey of A’s voted 2009 Baseball Writers’ Association of America AL Rookie of the Year.

Don’t get me wrong. Andrew Bailey is a very worthy choice for the honor with 26 saves and a 1.84 ERA.

What I can’t understand is how Sox rising star Gordon Beckham can win AL Rookie honors from two player polls–Sporting News and the Major League Baseball Players Association–and finish fifth with no first place votes, 11 points behind fourth place and 78 points in back of Bailey. For the record, the Top 5 were Bailey, the Rangers’ Elvis Andrus (65), Rick Porcello of the Tigers (64), the Rays’ Jeff Niemann (21) and Beckham (10).

What do the writers know that the players don’t or vice versa? It just doesn’t make sense.

Sox-wise and Otherwise…


My weekly offseason musings about the White Sox and more…

*  Not surprisingly, the GM meetings in Chicago ended without any player movement on the South Side. Kenny Williams didn’t show his hand, but we all know the Sox need another outfielder, a leadoff man, a DH, some help in the pen, a backup catcher and some more bench strength. It seems like the starting staff and the infield are all set. Williams indicated it will be a while before all of the pieces are in place and it certainly will be interesting to see what will be and if free agents Scott Podsednik, Jim Thome or Jermaine Dye will be part of the Sox future.

*  I’m looking forward to Monday’s BBWAA AL Rookie of the Year announcement. I’m eager to know if the writers will follow the two player polls and award the honor to Gordon Beckham. As I’ve mentioned before, the favorite seems to be Detroit pitcher Rick Porcello.

*  Rumors are flying in New York that the Yankees are interested in Curtis Granderson. Apparently he’s available because the Tigers are looking to cut payroll. It would be fine with me not to see him 19 times a season.

*  In last night’s panel discussion with three prominent closers at the Yogi Berra Museum & Learning Center (which will air on the YES Network in March), Goose Gossage recalled his White Sox days and gave full credit to then-Sox manager Chuck Tanner and pitching coach Johnny Sain for his maturation as a pitcher and conversion into a reliever. The great Mariano Rivera and John Franco rounded out the trio.

*   I recently changed my boring cell phone ringtone to John Rooney‘s call of the last out in the 2005 World Series. Boosts my spirits every time.

*  Yesterday was a happy day for me as the Sox released their 2010 Spring Training schedule. After reviewing it, I’m thinking I’ll be in Glendale the week of March 14. I’ll see the Sox tangle with the Royals, Rockies, Dodgers, Cubs and Padres.

*   In one of the great mysteries of the offseason, the Royals have signed Wilson Betemit to a minor league contract. Based on his 2009 performance with the Sox and AAA Charlotte, I just have one queston: Why?

*   Happy to report that Sox fan extraordinaire Seymour Berke is now in rehab after a long hospital stay. It’s been quite an ordeal with the constant dialysis, but it seems he’s out of danger.

Buehrle’s Gold Glove: Cause for Celebration

Mark Buehrle has placed another proverbial feather in his Sox cap–a Gold Glove award.

It’s a significant occasion if only because finding the name of a White Sox player on the list of annual Gold Glove winners is a rarity. In fact, before Buehrle was named the AL Gold Glove winner among pitchers today, the last South Sider to be honored for his defense was third baseman Robin Ventura in 1998. The only other Sox pitcher to claim the prize was Jim Kaat.

Buehrle, who made only one error this season, has always been an outstanding fielder. He was unable to break through prior to this year primarily because multiple winners Mike Mussina, Johan Santana and Kenny Rogers were always in his way.

For Buehrle, a consummate team guy, there’s no doubt he was as disappointed as anyone with the Sox finish this year. That said, the pain of 2009 is probably eased a bit as he thinks about both his perfect game and, now, his Gold Glove.
 

Beckham is Lone Sox Hope for 2009 BBWAA Award

A week from today, the first winners of the 2009 Baseball Writers’ Association of America postseason awards will be announced with the AL and NL Rookies of the Year.

Here is the announcement schedule along with my picks:

Monday, November 16: AL and NL Rookies of the Year
AL: Gordon Beckham, White Sox; NL: Tommy Hanson, Braves

Tuesday, November 17: AL Cy Young Award
C.C. Sabathia, Yankees

Wednesday, November 18: AL and NL Managers of the Year
AL: Ron Gardenhire, Twins; NL: Jim Tracy, Rockies

Thursday, November 19: NL Cy Young Award
Cris Carpenter, Cardinals

Monday, November 23: AL MVP Award
Joe Mauer, Twins

Tuesday, November 24: NL MVP Award
Albert Pujols, Cardinals

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