Results tagged ‘ Harold Baines ’

Word from SoxFest…

As SoxFest is being celebrated this weekend at the Palmer House Hilton, bits of news are filtering out. Here are some of the things that caught my attention:

* Adam Dunn, who last year endured what was arguably the worst season ever for a major league position player, was in the house. A slimmed down Dunn (that’s not him above, but you get my point) said that all the Sox need is for last season’s two biggest disappointments–himself and Alex Rios–to rebound and that would prove to be, in essence, two major offseason moves. He also said he can’t wait for opening day and is putting the past behind him.

* Don Cooper, who Steve Stone called one of the Top 5 pitching coaches in the game, said he sees three openings in the bullpen with Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain, Will Ohman and rookie Addison Reed as the staples going into spring training.

* Jeff Manto, who has replaced Greg Walker as the Pale Hose hitting coach, said  (and I’m paraphrasing) he would be nuts not to look to new skipper Robin Ventura and coach Harold Baines for help in dealing with the hitters.

* Speaking of the new manager, Ventura kiddingly said that Cooper is now his BFF as he approaches his rookie year at the helm of the ballclub.

* Kenny Williams put his cards on the table: If the Sox hit, they’ll contend. See Dunn, Rios and Gordon Beckham for details.

* Williams also said we should expect righthanded hurler Nestor Molina, acquired in the trade for Sergio Santos, to be in the majors as early as mid-season this year.

* Joe Crede got the biggest applause when members of the 2005 World Champs were announced. Among the others were Pablo Ozuna and Cliff Politte.

* Ventura said he wants Beckham to have as much confidence at the plate that he does at second base.

SoxFest runs through tomorrow…

New Faces, New Places

The manager and bench coach are in Miami, the hitting coach is in Atlanta, at last look the third base coach is looking for his next opportunity while the pitching coach, first base coach bullpen coach and bullpen catcher are back in Chicago with a whole new set of personalities.

The further transformation of the White Sox on-field braintrust became official yesterday, which began with Robin Ventura replacing Ozzie Guillen who has moved on to South Beach:

* Mark Parent, a long-time major league backup catcher and, most recently, a minor league manager replaces Joey Cora as the Sox bench coach. Cora has joined Ozzie in the same role with the Marlins.

* Joe McEwing (pictured above), known as “Super Joe” during his major league career for his hustle and enthusiastic brand of play, replaces Jeff Cox as the third base coach. McEwing, a Tony LaRussa favorite when the former played for the latter in St. Louis, managed the Sox AAA club in Charlotte last summer. Cox has not yet landed his next gig.

* Jeff Manto, a former major league journeyman infielder, replaces Greg Walker as hitting coach. Manto has most recently served as the Sox’s minor league hitting instructor and at one time was the hitting coach for the Pittsburgh Pirates. Walker was just hired as the Braves hitting coach.

* First base coach Harold Baines, pitching coach Don Cooper, bullpen coach Juan Nieves and bullpen catcher Mark Salas are the holdovers from last year’s coaching staff.

An Inspired Choice

It doesn’t escape me that the day the world was mourning Apple visionary Steve Jobs, the personification of thinking out of the box, that Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams named Robin Ventura manager of the White Sox.

All we’ve heard since Ozzie left for South Beach is that the top candidates were Sandy Alomar, Jr., Dave Martinez and Terry Francona. Then, yesterday, the Sox fooled us all and chose one of their own who has absolutely no professional coaching or managing experience.

I think it’s a terrific, inspired choice on multiple levels. Ventura is a proven leader, he is familiar with the White Sox, he’ll have credibility with the veterans, will nurture youngsters like Brent Morel, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo and will somewhat offset the loss of Guillen in the eyes of the fans. He will also be great with media in a non-Ozzie sort of way. He will be thoughtful with a touch of wry humor as opposed to his predecessor’s 24/7 stream of consciousness. And, as far as I know, he doesn’t have a twitter account.

As you would expect, many in the baseball community have come out of the woodwork very skeptical of the move. Everybody from Tigers’ coach Gene Lamont, a former Sox manager, to a legion of baseball writers. With experienced men out there for the taking, they’re saying, how can the White Sox pick someone with absolutely no experience?

My answer to them is that managing a baseball team is not rocket science. It’s about leadership. Everything else can be learned. What Ventura doesn’t know about pitching, he’s got Don Cooper. What he needs to understand about other facets of the game he’ll have an experienced bench coach and another quiet professional in Harold Baines. And in time, Robin, who was a smart player and a consummate pro as well as being enormously popular, will know all he needs to know.

Nobody, including Ventura, knows how this will play out. But with high risk there’s high reward. And although Mr. Jobs most likely didn’t know the White Sox from the Red Sox or Stan Williams from “No Neck” Williams, I think he would have approved of this decision.

Sox-Wise and Otherwise: Ohman, Alomar, Vizquel, Soriano, Baines and McEwing


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

* SoxWorld has been quiet since Oneygate II, but now we hear that lefty middle reliever Will Ohman is about to join the South Siders. An eight-year veteran, Ohman spent five years with the Cubs, had stints with the Braves and Dodgers and posted a 3.21 in 68 games with the Orioles and Marlins in 2010. He is a specialist against lefthanded hitters, who hit only .229 against him last season. While the Pale Hose has lefties Matt Thornton and Chris Sale at the back end of the pen, they were in need of a situational lefty. Ohman will fill that role.

* Despite his less-than-stellar performance in parts of two seasons (2003-04) with the White Sox, there is no doubt that Roberto Alomar is a Hall of Famer. And if he ever retires, his double-play partner and current White Sox infielder Omar Vizquel will join him in Cooperstown. Along with the combination of Nellie Fox and Luis Aparicio, both Hall of Famers, the Alomar-Vizquel combo was the best double-play duo I ever saw. All of them are pictured above.
* Speaking of the Hall of Fame, it comes as no surprise to me that Harold Baines is now off the ballot, failing to get the necessary five percent of the writers’ vote. It’s not that Baines doesn’t deserve more support, it’s just that it’s a burden the Sox and their fans have carried for a long time dating back to Billy Pierce and Minnie Minoso. We simply don’t get the love from the voters. That said, things will surely change in a few years when the Big Hurt is on the ballot.
* Although rumors have spread that the Sox have been on the trail of ace reliever Rafael Soriano, the latest is that their interest has waned. It’s likely that the fact Soriano’s agent is Scott Boras and the subsequent asking price are the reasons why. The Sox are pretty close to their salary limit with all the spending this offseason and they still have to deal with the arbitration eligible John Danks, Carlos Quentin and Tony Pena.
* It didn’t get much notice at all, but Joe McEwing‘s appointment as manager of the top Sox farm club in Charlotte may be more significant than it seems. Ozzie‘s contract is up at the end of this season. Who knows?, if the Sox don’t live up to expectations and McEwing distinguishes himself…
For those of you not familiar with McEwing (pictured below), he was a hard-nosed utility player who played nine years in the majors with the Cardinals, Mets, Royals and Astros. A fan favorite, he sported a lifetime batting average of .251, but his hustle and versatility made him a valuable commodity. His promotion is a result of impressing the Sox brass the past two seasons at Class A Winston-Salem.
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