October 2010

13 Reasons Why We Need Ozzie

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With Ozzie Guillen being front and center this postseason on
FOX’s pre-game World Series coverage along with the recently published stories
about how he was coveted by the Florida Marlins, a very familiar thought comes
to mind:
The White Sox need No. 13 and we should be thrilled to have him as
our manager.


Why, you say? Here are 13 reasons why.

1.  The White Sox, one of baseball’s most anonymous teams
despite a world title five years ago and an A.L. Central crown in 2008, need a
national standard bearer and Ozzie is it. Without him the Sox would be even
more invisible on the national stage. His TV gig helps put the Sox square in
the spotlight, though we all agree it pales in comparison to the South Siders
actually being in the Fall Classic.

2.  Ozzie is one of our own and wants to be in Chicago with
the Sox. While he played briefly for the Rays, Orioles and Braves and coached
for the Expos and Marlins, he’s White Sox through and through and understands
the South Side mentality.

3.  Despite the national obsession with sensationalizing
his controversial episodes and ignoring his managerial skills, Ozzie is an
excellent skipper. From taking the heat off of his players to his in-game
strategy to keeping his players loose, he’s one of the most underrated field
managers in baseball.

4. Part of being a good manager is showing faith in your
players. Although he’s painfully straightforward and honest to a fault, Ozzie
consistently supports his troops, whether boosting the morale of a player in a
slump or letting a starting pitcher go the extra inning.

5. He’s funnier than any comedian I can think of. Win or lose,
it’s always a treat to listen to Ozzie’s pre-game and post-game 
analysis–not to mention hearing his views of the world.

6.  Ozzie has always shown reverence and appreciation for
his mentors and those who paved the way for him. For instance, he has often
extolled the virtue of recently retired Braves manager Bobby Cox and has been
respectful of the long line of Venezuelan shortstops that preceded him, such
Chico Carrasquel, Luis Aparicio and Dave Concepcion. I also saw Ozzie beam with
great pride during the ’05 Series when the great Latin American players were
honored.

7.  I’ve always
liked Ozzie’s fearlessness. Whether it’s criticizing an umpire, chiding the
self-important Buck Showalter or, in his playing days, trying to cut Frank
Thomas’s ego down to size, he fears no one.

8.  While Ozzie is
extremely loyal to his coaches and staff, he hasn’t let that get in the way of
doing what’s best for the team. For instance, he let go of coaches Tim Raines
and Razor Shines, who Guillen apparently felt weren’t up to the task.

9.  In addition to
making the tough calls on coaches, Ozzie has also helped get rid of players who
weren’t as committed as he would have liked them to be. Carlos Lee comes to
mind.

10.  Ozzie has been
known to be generous.  When he was
a player I was present when he told a few of the White Sox staff during a road
trip to go to a particular New York City tailor and order new suits–with his
compliments.

11.  Ozzie loves his family and countries, two noble qualities. He’s obviously a great Dad and while he couldn’t be prouder of his Venezuelan heritage, he was equally as proud on the day he and his family became American citizens (pictured above).

12.  Ozzie has been
very active in the community and it appears he sincerely likes giving back–from
his foundation to the substantial Sox volunteer efforts to his Easter Seals
association.

13. On a personal note, I had a nice encounter with Ozzie about
a year after I presented him with a framed picture of his family that appeared
in
Sports Illustrated.
I was in the White Sox clubhouse and Ozzie glanced at
me, trying to remember who I was. I reminded him that I was the guy from SI who
gave him the framing. He came over, hugged me and told me to go in his office
to look at it. I thought that gesture said a lot about Ozzie as a person and
another reason why we need him in a White Sox uniform.

 

 

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All Hail the 2005 White Sox: 5 Years Later

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“Here’s
the 1-2 pitch to Palmeiro. A ground ball past Jenks up the middle of the
infield. Uribe has it…he throws. Out, out, a White Sox winner and a world
championship. The White Sox have won the World Series and they’re mobbing each
other on the field.”


Sox radio announcer John Rooney made this historic call on October 26, 2005.  As we take note today of the fifth
anniversary of that monumental moment, I’d prefer to savor it than lament it’s
been half a decade with no repeat performance.

I have told friends that on this day five years ago culminated the most memorable time in my life because
of a confluence of events surrounding the first White Sox world title in 88
years.

It was sharing the moment
with my 82-year-old father, fellow White Sox fans old and new and with my
patient New York-born wife who at one time couldn’t understand what my South
Side passion was all about. And, of course, feeling that my 50-plus years of
loyalty was rewarded. Simply put, heaven can’t be any better than what I
experienced during the Sox 11-1 run against the Red Sox, Angels and Astros that
postseason.

One of the elements of the
Series title that stands out to me is all the good fortune the Sox had during
the 12 games. Why was that so special? Because, for the most part, from the
Black Sox scandal in 1919 to ’05, not too many breaks seemed to come the Pale
Hose’s way.

As we reminisce and
celebrate, here are some of those wonderful turning points that contributed to
the ’05 championship:

*    Because of the luck of
the rotation, Red Sox ace
Curt Schilling did not pitch in the American League Division Series.

*   The error by Boston’s Tony Graffanino, a former White Sox, preceded Tadahito
Iguchi’s
three-run home run which
proved to be the decisive blow in Game 2 of the ALDS.

*   There were three
controversial plays that involved
A.J. Pierzynski. The big one came on a bad call on a dropped third
strike by former Pale Hose catcher
Josh Paul in the ninth inning of Game 2 of the American League
Championship Series against the Angels. It set the stage for
Joe Crede‘s walk-off double and an important Sox triumph 

*   The Sox did not face
eventual ’05 Cy Young Award winner
Bartolo Colon of the Angels–a former and future White Sox–in the
ALCS.

*     Astros’ great Roger Clemens left Game 1 of the World Series after two innings
because of injury.

*    Jermaine
Dye
was awarded first base in the
seventh inning of Game 2 of the World Series as a result of being hit by a
pitch, even though the ball actually hit his bat. The next batter,
Paul Konerko, blasted a pivotal grand slam.

*  Commissioner Bud Selig ruled that the roof at Minute Maid Park remain open during the course of the World Series in Houston, infuriating the Astros who enjoyed a distinct “closed roof” advantage during the season. With the roof closed and the crowd noise at a much higher level it was definitely a plus for the home team.

*   While they weren’t
literally “breaks,” the stars must have certainly been aligned for us to
witness
Scott
Podsednik
, homerless throughout the regular season, hit the game-winning
blast in Game 2 of the World Series and seldom-used
Geoff Blum smash a homer to decide Game 3. Not to mention that
reserve infielder
Willie
Harris
, in his only at-bat in the
series, singled and scored the winning (and only) run in the decisive Game 4,
won by the Sox 1-0.

Ah,
the memories. Happy 5
th anniversary!


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We Have to be Happy for Juan Uribe

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All the frustrations that White Sox fans went through with Juan Uribe‘s approach to hitting were minimal compared to what he did defensively in the ninth inning of Game 4 of the 2005 World Series–which helped give the Sox their first world title in 88 years.
Last night, almost five years later to the day, Uribe played hero again as his home run in Game 6 of the NLCS put the San Francisco Giants in the Fall Classic.
Hail to Juan-derful Juan, whose Series defense is forever recognized on the monument outside of U.S. Cellular Field.
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Buck, McCarver, Fox Crew Miss the Boat

Today’s TV sports broadcasts are filled with useless and annoying stats. It seems that anytime a researcher uncovers a stat, it’s deemed suitable to air.

Because the airwaves are filled with so much nonsense, it was maddening to see an interesting–and most would say legitimate–scenario ignored during Fox’s telecast of Game 3 of the National League Championship Series between the Giants and Phillies on Tuesday.
Late in the game, Jose Contreras took the mound for Philly and faced Giants’ Juan Uribe and Aaron Rowand back to back. To White Sox fans and others who closely follow baseball it was an obvious note worth mentioning–that all three players were teammates on the 2005 World Champion Pale Hose. But not a word from announcers Joe Buck and Tim McCarver
Was it a monumental discovery? Of course not. Was it  an unforgiveable omission? Absolutely not. But I will bet that if those players had been part of world championship teams in, say, New York or Boston, it would have been mentioned with a possible visual of the three together in Sox uniforms.
Call me too sensitive, if you like, but this kind of thing happens often when it comes to my favorite team and I feel obligated to tell anybody that will stand still long enough to listen.
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Sox-Wise and Otherwise


My weekly offseason opinions and observations about the White Sox and more…


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Is it Cora’s time?

Hahn isn’t the only member of the White Sox family in interview mode. Sox bench coach Joey Cora (pictured above), who has been mentioned for previous managerial openings, is reportedly a serious candidate for both the Toronto Blue Jays and Milwaukee Brewers jobs. Cora has been passed over more than once in the past. Wonder if the powers-that-be around baseball view him as a successful coach who doesn’t have what it takes to manage. We’ll see.


Hahn on
Mets short list

Pale Hose Assistant General Manager Rick Hahn is one of the leading
candidates for the New York Mets GM job along with the likes of long-time MLB
exec
Sandy Alderson
and L.A. Dodger Assistant GM
Logan
White
. How valuable has Hahn been? Just listen to his boss, Kenny Williams: “I know I’m going to lose him
(at some
point)
and it’s going to be a heavy blow.”
An unnamed baseball exec told
the New York Post: “
His
fingerprints are on everything Kenny does.”

 

Arizona
Fall League report

While the Sox have six prospects with the AFL’s Peoria
Saguaros (a seventh, catcher
Josh
Phegley
,
was set to play but was sent home with a health issue), the
main player to keep an eye on is centerfielder
Jared
Mitchell
. The MVP of the 2009 College World Series with LSU and the
No. 1 Sox draft choice just weeks later was injured in spring training and
missed the entire 2010 season. So his performance this fall is the first step
on his road to recovery. For the record, Mitchell knocked out three hits in his
first game and in his  initial five
contests he boasted a .389 on base percentage.

 

The
magic of Herm Schneider

Year after year, the White Sox are at the top or among the
healthiest teams in the major leagues. Highly respected
Herm Schneider is the reason why. During
the course of the 2010 season, the Sox tied the Arizona Diamondbacks for fewest
trips to the disabled list and had the fewest days spent on the DL.

 

A.J.
offers his two cents

Viewers of the ESPN week-day show First Take are being treated to a pundit
better known around Chicago as the White Sox starting catcher. That’s right,
A.J. Pierzynski,
appearing from an Orlando, FL studio, is offering his analysis of the
postseason–and he’s doing a pretty good job. Any Sox sighting in October is a
welcome addition to the universe, though it’s  still up in the air whether A.J., a free agent, will be in the Sox fold come 2011.

 

Paulie
update (sort of)

Speaking of free agency, it would be a shocker if news concerning Paul Konerko‘s status would come out before the end of the World Series. But, just for
the record, he hasn’t gone anywhere yet.


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Eight Ex-White Sox on LCS Rosters

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While the current players on the White Sox roster are at home relaxing with their families and spending time on the golf course, there are eight former members of the Pale Hose who are on the AL and NL League Championship Series rosters. Four of these players were part of the 2005 World Champions.

American League

YankeesNick Swisher, Boone Logan
RangersNone
National League

Phillies – *Jose Contreras, *Ross Gload, Wilson Valdez
Giants — *Juan Uribe, *Aaron Rowand, +Javier Lopez

* Played for ’05 World Champion Sox (Gload played in just 28 games)
+Played in White Sox organization at AAA Charlotte, did not pitch for big league club
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Arizona Fall League Will Showcase Seven Sox Prospects; Play Begins This Week

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Miss the White Sox already?
Too preoccupied with what the South Siders will do in the off-season to watch
the playoffs? Well, the Arizona Fall League (AFL), which begins play on
Tuesday (October 12), may be just what you need.

The AFL features six teams,
made up of top minor league prospects from all 30 major league clubs. that play
a 32-game schedule extending through November 18. Since its inception in 1992,
the league has boasted the likes of
Derek Jeter, Mike Piazza,
Albert
Pujols
and Torii Hunter, just to mention a few, who all cut their teeth under
the sun of Arizona. Just last year, promising White Sox third baseman
Brent Morel captured the AFL batting title.

This fall, seven White Sox
players will join the
Peoria
Saguaros
along with prospects from
the Reds, Padres, Twins and Rays. The manager is former big-league star
Ted Simmons and the pitching coach is former Sox standout Richard Dotson, who is now tutoring the hurlers at AAA Charlotte.

Other teams in the circuit
are:

Mesa
Solar Sox
: Angels, Phillies, Cubs,
Mets, Pirates

Peoria
Javelinas
:
Indians, Mariners, Blue
Jays, Red Sox, Astros

Phoenix
Desert Dogs
:
Marlins, A’s, Braves,
Dodgers, Yankees

Scottsdale
Scorpions
:
Rockies, Nationals,
D-backs, Orioles, Giants 

Surprise
Rafters
:
Cardinals, Tigers, Royals,
Brewers, Rangers

For you fans of the Pale
Hose, here’s a glimpse of the Sox prospects who will be playing in the fall
league:

 

·     
Anthony
Carter
, 24, right-handed pitcher,
6-3, 180, from Decatur, Georgia
 and Georgia Perimeter CC…Selected by the Sox in
the 26
th round of the June 2005 draft…Was 1-4 with a 3.92 ERA and 22
saves for AA Birmingham in 2010.

 

·     
Charles
Leesman
, 23, left-handed pitcher,
6-4, 210, from Cincinnati, Ohio 
and Xavier University…Selected by Sox in the 11th
round of the 2008 draft…Started 28 games in 2010…Was 9-4 with a 5.10 ERA for
Class A Winston-Salem and 5-2 with a 2.69 ERA for AA Birmingham.

 

·     
Johnnie
Lowe
, 25, right-handed pitcher, 6-5,
220, from San Diego, California and Point Loma Nazarene College…Selected by Sox
in 6
th round of 2007 draft…Started 24 games in 2010 for AA
Birmingham and was 6-5 with a 3.96 ERA.

 

·     
Henry
Mabee
, 25, right-handed pitcher, 6-4,
230, from Surrey, British Columbia and Morehead State University…Selected by
Sox in 19
th round in 2007 draft…Was 4-6 with a 3.65 ERA and two
saves in 49 relief appearances for AA Birmingham in 2010.

 

·     
Josh
Phegley
, 22, catcher, 5-10, 215, bats
right, throws right, from Terre 
Haute, Indiana and Indiana University…Selected
in first round of 2009 draft…Batted .292 for both Class A Winston-Salem and AA
Birmingham in limited action this past season.

 

·     
Eduardo
Escobar
, 22, shortstop, 5-10, 150,
switch-hitter, from Aragua, 
Venezuela…Signed by White Sox in 2006…Batted a
combined .277 with 26 doubles for Class A Winston-Salem and AA Birmingham in
2010.

 

·     
Jared
Mitchell (pictured above)
, 22, centerfielder, 6-0,
205, bats left, throws left, from New 
Iberia, Louisiana and LSU…Selected by Sox
in first round of 2009 draft…Exciting player who was pegged to be a future star
after a stellar college career and impressive rookie pro season at Class A
Kannapolis, Mitchell was injured in spring training and missed all of the 2010
season.


I will be following the AFL
closely and will update you as the fall season progresses.


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White Sox End Season on High Note, Brace for Key Off-Season Decisions as Fans Pay Emotional Tributes to Paulie and A.J.

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 White Sox captain Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski acknowledge fans in what might have been the last game for both in a Sox uniform. Sox topped the Tribe, 6-5, in season finale.



The 2010 White Sox season is ovah as the Good Guys finished 88-74 with a second place
finish, six games behind the Twins in the A.L. Central.

It was the “Year of
Schizophrenia” on the South Side–a horrific start, a  fantastic middle that vaulted the Sox into first place at
the All-Star break, an impressive resilience to keep coming back from deficits
and a loud thud as they were eliminated from contention on September 21. Then
the Pale Hose finished with a flourish, winning nine of their last 11 games.

Many issues face the White
Sox as they look ahead to 2011. The Sox as we have known them could be
drastically changed. Before I take a look at some of the question marks, here
are the best and most disappointing player performances from this season as I
see it.

 

THE
BEST

 

·     
Paul
Konerko –
Career
season in walk year

·     
Alex
Rios –
A
force from start to finish

·     
Omar
Vizquel –
A marvel at any age

·     
Juan
Pierre –
MLB
stolen base leader, ironman igniter

·     
Alexei
Ramirez –
Best
MLB season, shortstop extraordinaire

·     
Sergio
Santos –
Made
easy transition from the infield to relief role

·     
Chris
Sale –
From
college to a big-league stalwart in weeks

·     
Matt
Thornton –
All-Star,
closer of future?

·     
Ramon
Castro
-
Could be best backup catcher in the game

·     
A.J.
Pierzynski –
Fast
finish, stellar signal caller

·     
Freddy
Garcia
-
Surpassed all expectations

·     
Edwin
Jackson
-
All in all, a welcome addition

 

 THE
MOST DISAPPOINTING

 

·     
Mark
Teahen –
Flop
at bat and in field

·     
Bobby
Jenks –
Blown
saves, injury demoralizing to club

·     
Mark
Kotsay –
Started
slow, never could rebound

·     
Andrew
Jones –
Quick
out of box, but fizzled

·     
Gordon
Beckham –
Slow
start, injury hurt progress

·     
Gavin
Floyd –
Hoped
for more, needs to go to the next level

·     
Jake
Peavy –
Injury
really hurt Sox

·     
Manny
Ramirez –
Worth
the try, but not the same Manny

·     
J.J.
Putz –
Injury,
meltdowns were his downfall

 

 THE QUESTIONS

The Sox brass
certainly have a lot of decisions to make in the off-season. So, it’ll be
interesting to see how the ’11 Pale Hose will be constituted as they challenge
a formidable Twins club. Some questions:


 

·     
Will the
Sox sign free agents
Konerko
and
Pierzynski? If not, how will they replace two mainstays from the 2005
World Champs?

 

·     
Will the
South Siders bring back
Vizquel,
after his amazing season?

 

·     
Will the
intense, but brittle,
Carlos
Quentin
be back?

 

·     
Will
catcher
Tyler Flowers and outfielder Jordan Danks, who both seemed to take a step back
this season, be viable candidates for the major league roster?

 

·     
What will
become of
Garcia?

 

·     
Will Sale be in the starting rotation?

 

·     
Will Peavy be ready for spring training?

 

·     
Will Beckham fully return to his Rookie of the Year
form or even take a step forward and reach an All-Star level?

 

·     
I can’t
see
Manny Ramirez, Kotsay
or
Jones
returning, so who becomes the DH?
Dayan Viciedo? Quentin? Another platoon?

 

·     
All
indications are that
Jenks
is probably a goner, so who will close?
 Thornton?
Putz
?

 

·     
Despite
the fact he has two more years to go on his three-year deal, will the
disappointing
Teahen
still be in a Sox uniform as a utilityman? It’s obvious he’ll be
next-to-impossible to deal.

 

·     
Will Brent Morel win the third base job? His manager
says he’s in the driver’s seat going into spring training.


        ·     
Kenny Williams will be looking for a LH hitter. Hmm, who will it be? 

     

And a
somewhat sobering observation
: Depending on what transpires, it’s certainly
within the realm of possibility that four of the five holdovers from the ’05
World Champs will be gone: Konerko, Pierzynski, Jenks and Garcia. That would
leave only
Buehrle to
represent what was the most special Sox team in our lifetime.
 

Speaking of which, goose bumps were the order of the
day today during the season finale at the Cell as both Paulie and A.J. received
emotional standing ovations in anticipation of the reality that they may not
return.


Art of the Pale Hose will certainly not be hibernating during the off-season. Beginning with the playoffs, look for my weekly Sox-Wise and Otherwise report plus opinions and observations as the news warrants.


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Game 162

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The winning streaks, the losing streaks, the come-from-behind wins, the thrills and the heartbreaks all have led to this–White Sox Game 162.

Tomorrow afternoon it’ll be Edwin Jackson trying to end the Sox season on a high note, Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, Freddy Garcia and Bobby Jenks–four of the five holdovers from the 2005 champions–all will be facing the possibility of suiting up for the White Sox for the last time and Konerko will attempt to hit his 40th home run in what has been a remarkable year for the All-Star.
Following the game, I will post a look back at the season and also focus on what might happen in the off-season as the Sox try to improve and be more formidable in 2011.
Note: For the record, Mark Buehrle, who tonight won his 13th game to finish .500 for the season, is the other current White Sox player to win a World Series ring in ’05. Under contract in ’11, he will definitely be back in the fold.
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White Sox Look to Viciedo and Morel as Possible Pieces to 2011 Puzzle

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Dayan Viciedo (above), Brent Morel (below), Tyler Flowers and Alejandro De Aza found themselves in the Sox starting lineup last night as the likes of Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, A.J. Pierzynski, Manny Ramirez and the injured Gordon Beckham were firmly planted on the bench in the third base dugout.

Ozzie apparently felt that giving the youngsters some playing time was more important than the Sox extending their three-game winning streak and finishing the season a game shy of 90 victories. The Good Guys wound up losing to the Tribe, 7-3, after Tony Pena surrendered three runs in the first.
With so many questions that need to be answered, it’s impossible to predict what roles, if any, the above four prospects will have with the big league club in 2011. In my view, Morel could certainly be the starting third baseman and Viciedo either a DH or maybe the first baseman if Konerko doesn’t return. With his great speed, De Aza is a possible fourth or fifth outfielder. Pun intended, the bloom could be off the Flowers rose. He no longer looks like the blue-chipper both the Braves and White Sox thought he was. I would be surprised if he’s in the picture next season.
With two games remaining, it’s uncertain who Ozzie will put on the field. But there is still something to play for. I would like to see Mark Buehrle get to the .500 mark tonight with his 13th win and it would be a nice sendoff for Edwin Jackson, who has been less than stellar lately, to shine in his last start of the season.
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