Before I get to your questions, I'd like to dedicate this week's Ask the
writer segment to David Beck, a loyal White Sox fan who unfortunately passed away on May 17. I worked with David about 20 years ago but didn't know he was a Sox fan until I started covering the team in 2005.
David would ask me questions in this forum, sometimes questioning my answers but doing so in a professional way. We would discuss the Sox, baseball and the differences in politics and culture in California, Chicago and Florida over lunch a few times in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he lived until his passing. I'll definitely miss him, and the White Sox lost a great fan.
I like Gordon Beckham's professionalism and athletic talent, but don't like his swing. He has a giant hitch, and his swing is too long. Does he have two strikes against him every time he steps up to the plate until he modifies his mechanics?
-- Mitch Tobin, Park Ridge
Mitch, I agree with your observation in regards to his swing. One scout who has followed Beckham since the Arizona Fall League in 2008 pointed this out and remained unconvinced of Beckham's long-term success during his ascent last summer.
I'm not sure he'll modify his mechanics too much, but pitch selection was a bigger issue that he's improved on recently.
Who was the last free agent the White Sox signed that wasn't at a bargain price? The Sox seem to sign only the free agents who are at the end of their career, coming off a serious injury, or have had several bad seasons in a row. In other words, a free agent that isn't wanted by another team.
-- Ron, Palos Heights
I would say that
(four years, $19 million) and
(two years, $11 million) weren't bargains. Dayan Viciedo technically was a free agent, and he didn't come cheaply (four years, $10 million). As far as marquee free agents, you might have to go back as far as Albert Belle.
Has Gordon Beckham's stance been widened (a la Dave Kingman, shudder!) or not? Not that this by itself is his main problem, but it raises the obvious question of WHY?
-- Southside Cliffy, Chicago
Welcome back, Cliffy. Beckham's stance was widened to eliminate the unnecessary movement in other areas. By spreading out, it reduced his movements to merely swinging at the ball.
On paper the Sox were and are 75 percent gambles and question marks -- players coming off injuries, playing poorly and rejected by other teams, inexperienced, past their prime, or never great. Of these, only a few, Rios and Jones, have paid off so far, with Peavy and Pierre starting to show signs. I think the Sox are about where they should be on paper, maybe able to get up to .500 with some luck. That's the team we have. The rest was and is just hype. Sorry to say.
-- Luther S.; Decorah, Iowa
In the words of
, you may be right. It goes to show the margin for error wasn't as thick as some, including myself, thought. But this is a team-wide malaise, with few exceptions. The track records of these players don't suggest that all these players were going to hit under .250 for so long, nor was Peavy going to struggle for as long as he did.
I'd love to see Tony Gwynn become the White Sox hitting coach. Anyone agree?
-- Sharyn, Chicago
I don't think Tony Gwynn would leave his current position as head baseball coach at San Diego State. He is an alum coaching at a fairly modern ballpark with the luxury of playing in great weather that can attract the top high school and junior college talent.
The bigger question is why Tony doesn't do better at SDSU.
has done a better job at the University of San Diego and would be a great choice should
fire former Sox catcher
in a couple weeks.
-- Todd Ganz, Chicago
Todd, thanks for the kind words. The Padres have been a very fun team to watch, and I think nearly everyone is an agreement that Clayton Richard would develop into a solid starting pitcher. They've also emphasized using more speed in their spacious ballpark, and that's worked well.
The A's have little hitting, although Gio Gonzalez pitched one of the best game of the season last Saturday against San Francisco. The Diamondbacks' bullpen is about as bad as the Sox's 2007 cast.
So far, there have been quite a few Billy Preston trades. "Nothing from Nothing."
What do you think of the left side of our team? Errors of commission and omission. Why not put Jayson Nix on third, Andruw Jones in left and Juan Pierre as DH, or sit him. We have played more than 30 games and we continue to make the same mental mistakes by these three. Not to just jump on the whole team but Carlos Quentin is hitting less than 200 -- give Kotsay 20 to 30 games. You can blame KW all you want but it is Ozzie who pulls the trigger for the line ups and game decisions. Either make a change in the lineup or get someone who will.
-- Clark Colvard; Chickamauga, Ga.
Defense at third has been a disappointment. Shortstop hasn't been worse than last year, but I haven't seen any improvement that I'd thought I'd see. I'm baffled, as I'm sure all of you are, by the error in the ninth inning of Monday's game at Cleveland. We all know about Juan's lack of arm strength, but he's played pretty well in regards to making leaping and diving catches that have prevented big innings.
Kotsay dug himself a hole early, and it was compounded by hitting into some very tough luck. I have no problem with working him back in the lineup against right-handers. I don't understand how Nix went from a super utility player to being employed like the 26th player on a 25-man roster.
But I wouldn't blame it all on the manager since no one, with few exceptions, is producing.
I love Mark Buerhle but if he has trade value, why don't we look to trade him? He is a good third starter and has value, but this guy hasn't been an ace except for one or two years. Also, I am wondering about the White Sox's farm system. While Flowers may be useful, there was a lot of talk about John Danks and Dayan Viciedo. However, those guys strike out at an incredible rate. I cannot see either of them contributing for a long time as Danks strikes at that rate with little power, and Viciedo is the kind of guy that will have to hit .280 or .290 to have any value as he has zero plate discipline. What are your thoughts on our prospects? It appears that are farm system has little to be excited about as a fan.
-- Chris Sarcletti, Chicago
I think it would be tough to move Buehrle because of his contract and that Oswalt is on the market. St. Louis spent a lot to keep Holiday and Lohse.
I like Jordan Danks but didn't drink the Kool-Aid last fall that he was ready because scouts told me he was rarely pitched inside in the Arizona Fall League, and that observation was validated by his high strikeout total this spring. He still can rebound, and I expect him to do so.
As for Viciedo, I know he's only 21. But that's a big contract. If he makes the 2011 opening day roster, then I look at it as two years and $10 million for a 22-year-old slugger. So I'm wondering if he'll show better plate discipline and give the Sox their money's worth. But keep in mind that the
wanted him badly.
-- John M.; Vienna, Austria
I would look to the annual Sports Illustrated survey, which samples more major league players.
In the past few years, I had three agents grumble to me about the way their clients were treated by Ozzie. I asked them to go on the record with their thoughts. All three declined. One agent still represented a few players in the organization and feared retribution.
As the roster gradually changes, it will be interesting to see which free agents elect to sign here or go elsewhere after being courted by the Sox. But free agents usually make their decisions based on money and opportunity.
made his decision based largely on money, and I don't blame him for that.
I believe Ozzie took a gamble on this style of baseball and everyone on the team having a "typical" year, and it backfired. When things go bad and you can't fire the players, the manager has to go. If Kenny decides to back up the truck and Ozzie disagrees because he thinks it is too soon, could Ozzie resign?
-- Irv Kaage, Park Ridge
Ozzie won't resign unless he has a Brink's truck carrying all the money from the final 2 1/2 years left on his contract.
What about all of these scenarios: Sox would get Texas' Jarred Saltalamacchia (switch-hitter) for A.J. Pierzynski. He can play first base, have Tyler Flowers in minors. Will offer Buehrle to Cardinals for Bryan Anderson (great catching prospect) and a pitcher. Paul Konerko will be offered to Halos and M's as need of more offense and would be a good DH at Anaheim and Seattle. Kotsay, a disappointment after last year and spring training looked good, so release him. Trade or release Nix. If not he or C.J. Retherford or Brent Lillibridge (improved his hitting) to second, Beckham back to third and after Konerko traded. Mark Teahen to first base (along with Viciedo). Vizquel to coaching and off the roster. Bring up DeAza, who is a speedy outfielder. He hit well in spring. Major moves needed. Daniel Hudson to rotation when Buehrle is traded. And Aquino and Leesman up for Tony Pena and Randy Williams.
-- Don Merkle; Eldon, Mo.
Don, if only the Sox showed the same sense of urgency that you possess.
First, Saltalamacchia has a hitch in his throwing. I wouldn't pursue him at least until he corrects that. I don't think the Cardinals can afford Buehrle after retaining Holiday, Lohse and Wainwright on long-term deals. I look for Matsui to produce more in the DH spot for the Angels but wouldn't rule them out as possibility taking a flier on Paul. Retherford and Lillibridge aren't hitting well enough to deserve a promotion. If you move Teahen to first, you need to get power at another position. I believe Vizquel will manage in the majors some day.
I'm not sure DeAza is more than a backup outfielder. Aquino hasn't impressed at Triple-A Charlotte, and Leesman isn't ready. I can see Hudson getting some starts no later than September.
At this point, we are all frustrated by the lack of performance by the Sox, and there are very few involved with the team who can escape blame (Rios, Jones, Konerko, Danks, Peavy). Although I have agreed with the company line that Greg Walker is putting in the hours, and it's not his fault our hitters are failing so miserably. Whether it's the preparation, or any other reason, Walker is not helping these guys, and it's time for him to go - can't do much worse, and it's worth noting that the guys performing well, (except for Konerko) are those that come from outside the system and Walker's tutelage (Rios and Jones). Don't see much in the minors to give us hope -- the current Sox have a very short window to start performing before we see pieces that have value are traded: (Pierzynski (would hate to see him go), Konerko (even with his no trade clause), & Buehrle (he's still a warrior).
-- Ron Reichman; Los Angeles
Ron, maybe you can send some of those
baseball players this way.
If you want to get rid of Greg Walker, who is the answer? No one has asked about how poorly the prospects are failing at Triple-A Charlotte under Gary Ward, whom Walker replaced. Does this mean that Ward is the problem? Maybe, maybe not. There were concerns about Jordan Danks and his ability to handle inside pitches before this season under Ward at Charlotte.
In my opinion, that short window you referred to has virtually closed.
Is there any real chance that A.J. will be sent to the Rangers, and if so, what would the Sox have to get in return for a guy who personifies the scrappy, beat you any way possible mentality that opponents hate and teammates hate and teammates hate little less, but the blue-collar base of White Sox fans love and appreciate?
-- Al B; Montgomery, AL
I think there's a reasonable chance that A.J. gets traded before June 14. But the general manager won't give him away. He'll look to get two major league-ready players.
It's kind of ironic that the Sox play at
the evening of June 13. Can you imagine the scene if A.J. gets traded that night on national television?
I remember during the 2003 trading deadline that San Francisco made a trade for
during a game at Wrigley Field, and two players were outside the ballpark trying to flag down a taxi while the game was being played.
I think A.J. will get quite a sendoff if he's dealt under these circumstances.
-- Le Roy Poellot; Rockford
Why not let Nix play second -- his best defensive position -- while Beckham gets his stroke back at Charlotte for two or three weeks?
I'm glad you mentioned Uribe. Although there are some fans who still hate him, there are many Sox players who miss him. More important, Uribe has turned out to be a solid super utility player with San Francisco, and past and present
players tell me how much they like and appreciate him on the field and in the clubhouse.
-- Jack Lucas; Orange County, CA
Cunningham hasn't exactly torched major league pitching. He's currently batting .231 at Triple-A Portland. But Sweeney has developed into a steady right fielder for Oakland. I think Brandon Allen still has a chance to be a big-time run producer with Arizona, but he needed another year of seasoning at Triple-A Reno.
At one time, Pena was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Diamondbacks' organization. But I think he could be no more than a seventh-inning reliever.
Fields already was dealt before the Pierre trade, but you make a good observation about Ely. He does have a very good feel for pitching.
If this team keeps going south, the general manager might need something stronger than Adderal in a liquid form.