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Is there anything the Sox can do to improve enough to go to the playoffs? I am so disappointed in the pitching -- we get leads and can't keep them, the starters are mediocre at best -- and Alex Rios and Adam Dunn are terrible disappointments. I am just very depressed about this year and don't see any hope for the future as long as Kenny Williams is the GM. We would be better off with the 2005 team, all of them. -- Peggy Heilig; Arden, N.C.

The obvious solution would be for the offense to produce runs, especially early in games so the pitchers have some margin for error. Executing bunts would help, too. But it's a moot point if the batters can hit with runners in scoring position. Nevertheless, the pitchers need to do their part as well. And the defense has to play smarter than it has through the first four months.

Oh, and beat their American League Central rivals frequently and convincingly.

After watching a replay of Dunn's at-bat, it's clear his swing is more of an uppercut than level swing. It seems that this type of flaw should be correctable or at least minimized although there are many major leaguers who are described as having an "uppercut" swing. If he could make level contact a lot of these high flies would be HRs. I think about my poor golf swing and when I dip or something you get the equivalent of a pop up. I'm not capable of more than simple analysis but it seems like contact with an uppercut swing is increasingly difficult the higher the pitch. No really new thoughts here but we need to salvage this guy. -- Nils Peterson; Schaumburg

He'll have to take some batting practice in the off-season, but I don't think that's the exact solution. He's missed many pitches by a convincing margin, so I'd be curious to see if he gets his eyes examined and what those findings are.

At the outset of the season, the Sox broke camp with Lastings Milledge on the roster, only to have to send him down out of necessity. Considering the team's overall struggles, trouble in the leadoff spot, etc. why haven't we heard his name in months? It seems as though he could've been consideration for a call-up instead of Alejandro De Aza. -- Shane Seddon; Las Vegas

Compared to the rest of his teammates, Juan Pierre is doing exceptionally well at the leadoff spot. Also, De Aza was the most deserving of the healthy Triple-A Charlotte players to get promoted. Milledge has raised his batting average recently, but I believe De Aza was more deserving.

Is there any recognition at the absolute highest levels of team ownership/management of two huge sources of future problems ... 1. The Sox have simply been unable to develop an effective farm system under Ken Williams (witness recent Baseball America ratings); and 2. The apparent deficit in organizational talent evaluation that has led to all of the bad trades and free agent signings. Where is the next Al Goldis, who was key to the jackpot of talent the Sox developed in the early '90s (e.g., Thomas, Fernandez, McDowell, Ventura -- even Alvarez through the Himes trade). Now that was a farm system. -- M. Peregrine; Glencoe

The game of trading prospects to land veterans is a risky game. One of the ways to correct this is to do the opposite, as the Sox did after 2006 by trading Freddy Garcia for Gavin Floyd and later landing a much-younger John Danks in a deal involving Brandon McCarthy.

The problem now is that there are so many players with large contracts and varying degrees of no-trade rights that the flexibility is limited. That's why you see the names of Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton frequently mentioned. They're under contract with no full no-trade rights. One emailer took me to task for alleging that I wrote that the Sox could get a pitcher in return for Quentin. What the emailer failed to see was that the Sox could get at least one pitcher in return as well as another prospect, since Quentin could be a Type A free agent under the Elias rankings (although Quentin isn't eligible for free agency until after the 2012 season) and command two draft picks if he were eligible for free agency.

Doug Laumann recently completed his fourth draft, and his 2008 draft ranks as one of the Sox's best in recent years. Three of his picks have reached the majors (Gordon Beckham, Brent Morel and Daniel Hudson), and four others with a shot.

But trades have depleted the depth, which puts a lot of stress to make successful picks and for the farm system to properly teach these picks. They could use some strength in the middle infield and starting pitching at the higher minor league levels.

Open letter to Jerry Reinsdorf c/o Mark GonzalesYou are loyal to a fault. I wish you had a little George Steinbrenner in you so you could dump Kenny Williams before he screws up your entire franchise. If Kenny is unhappy with the current team and wants to blame someone, he can look no farther than the face staring back at him in the mirror. He has no patience and trades any prospect with value for an expensive veteran, and then complains every year that the payroll is too high. If he would stick to the under-the-radar moves, he actually has a decent track record -- Jenks, Quentin and Humber to name a few.But the egotist in him isn't satisfied with that because it doesn't make headlines for him. He has to make the big splash so it looks like he is doing something. The Sox didn't need a front line pitcher when he traded for Peavy. Clayton Richard showed flashes of talent but wasn't perfect every time out (which is common in young players), so he trades him for a salary buster. And check out the players he gave to San Diego for him. I'm sure (Mike) Adams would look good in the Sox bull pen right now. And he exhibited the same lack of patience with Daniel Hudson. Hudson and Gio Gonzalez would look good in the rotation right now, and Sweeney in center (The Swisher trade was another sick one). And there was a reason Toronto let Rios go for nothing. And Williams tried to give up players for him!The Sox didn't need Dunn, either, because they had a very good and productive first baseman in Konerko, with a future replacement in Viciedo. That was a dumb "want" even if he was playing better. If you analyze his trades over the last five years he basically is giving away your money and young players. I've been a Sox fan since I was 7 years old in 1959 but the Twins are the team to emulate: Home grown and nothing flashy, they just win, baby.Someone with Jerry Krause and Larry Himes' judgment of talent and Roland Hemond personality is what I'm looking for.Thanks for listening, Rosy

Has Alex Rios set a record for the most softly hit two-hoppers to shortstop this season? Is he using a Nerf Bat? -- Ron; Palos Heights

Summer of 6 to 3.

With all the firepower the Sox offense was supposed to have this year, I'm curious how many times they have scored 4 or more runs in an inning. It always seems they squander opportunities and, time and again, wind up with only a run or two. -- Irv Kaage; Park Ridge

When the Sox scored five runs in the fourth inning Wednesday, it marked the first time they achieved this since June 19. After Thursday's loss, it marked the 57th time in 110 games they scored three runs or fewer.

Consider all starting position players on both talent AND age, but not salary, I would rank their value thusly, Alexei Ramirez/Quentin or vice-versa, Konerko, Beckham, A.J. Pierzynski and everyone else either unknown or expendable. If he remains healthy, Carlos finishing with 30 homers and 100 RBIs would be no surprise and nobody but Paulie can come close to those numbers for the next few years. Also, your co-worker Phil Rogers thinks that it would be okay to trade Danks, whom I regard, based upon talent AND age, as the most valuable of the five remaining starters. What is your take on that? -- Tim Flynn; Denver

I completely agree with you with Danks, and I'd make every effort to sign him to an extension. But I wouldn't mortgage the future. I think every division title contending team needs a bonafide ace. Look at Detroit -- they're in first place and stay out of long losing streaks because of Justin Verlander. The New York Yankees and Los Angeles Angels feel the same way with CC Sabathia and Jered Weaver, respectively.

I'm not saying Danks is in that elite class, but he has a chance to be extremely dependable.

As for the position rankings, I think there's a huge drop-off between the first three players you mentioned, and the rest of the position players.

What do you think about Jordan Danks as the Sox new leadoff hitter next year, replacing Pierre? I have heard he is starting to improve at the plate, and I assume his good defense is still there. -- Doug; McDonough, Ga.

I think the Sox will need to acquire a leadoff hitter if they don't re-sign Pierre. Jordan hit near the top of the order in college and stole bases with great efficiency, but he hasn't displayed a high on-base percentage needed to for the leadoff spot.

He altered his stance and swing in the off-season, and it has paid off at times this season. But he's also been flooded with a plethora of advice. There's little doubt that he is the best defensive outfielder in the Sox's minor league system.

Why do you think we keep Rios? No one wanted him in Toronto for the same reason -- he does not care. He does not hit worth a lick, can't play center and shows up everyday ready to do nothing to help the team win. If he had any pride and love for the game, we will be in first place, Kenny, please release him. He does not deserve to put on a White Sox uniform. -- Edgardo Irizarry; Kissimmee, Fla.

What makes you think the Sox want to keep Rios? I can give you about 40 million reasons.

Given that the Sox have shown no ability during the first four months of the season to go on any kind of extended run, why did Kenny choose not to trade any of his movable parts before the deadline? Did he not like the deals offered, or was he just being stubborn? -- Skip Bartolich; Aurora

If Kenny made trades prior to the Sox beating Detroit on July 27 and Boston on July 29, it would have looked worse than the White Flag trade because Detroit and Cleveland -- unlike Cleveland in 1997 -- are extremely beatable. And Dayan Viciedo was out from July 24-Aug. 3, so he couldn't have provided an instant spark had Quentin been traded to make room for him.

Your observation about the team not going on an extended run during the first four months, however, is dead-on and a major reason why I've been skeptical about this team's chances of winning the division.

The next four weeks will be interesting once players are placed on the waiver wire and if any teams makes a claim and whether the Sox will try to work out a deal if any players are claimed, or whether they will allow a waiver claim and free themselves of any remaining salary obligations to that player -- a strong possibility with a bloated payroll and declining home attendance.

Who coaches the Sox's outfielders? Has anything been done about their glaring defensive problems including their inability to hit the cutoff man, throwing to the wrong base, dropped balls, getting poor jumps on batted balls and just general lackadaisicalness? Some of this is just lack of talent, but I suspect there is also a practice and effort problem. How do we rate in outfield assists compared to the rest of the AL? I can't even remember the last time we got one. -- Kerry Larson; Canon City, Colo.

Harold Baines works with the outfielders, but every coach has some kind of role in this.

I'd say the baseball acumen among the outfielders has been extremely low, which is alarming for a group of veteran outfielders.

They did practice this quite a bit in spring training. I witnessed the drills with a few of the writers and I wrote about it in late February.

I remember Paul Konerko had a miserable first half back in 2003, a slump reaching embarrassing career lows. He recovered nicely. Though not quite the depths of Adam Dunn, are there any parallels? -- Hdock; Columbus, Ohio

You have a terrific memory.

Konerko batted only .197 with five home runs in the first half of 2003 but recovered in the second half to bat .275 with 13 home runs and finish with a .234 batting average.

The major difference between Konerko and Dunn, however, was that Konerko struck out only 25 times in each half.

mgonzales@tribune.comTwitter @mdgonzales

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