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Apologies for last week's answers, which were actually answered by my evil twin. Now that there is a temporary restraining order on him, I can answer your questions in a calm and reasonable fashion. Thanks again for your patience.
Why are you so adamant that Ken Williams will not be fired? --Jim Foster, Denver
Let's see. The team is winning. Signing Lofton for $1 million looks like the steal of the year. Todd Ritchie is off to a fine start. The rotation ranks third in AL ERA. These are usually not grounds to fire the GM. Remember, the last GM--Sox or Bulls--that Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf fired was Larry Himes, who got them from Point A to Point B but not to Point C. Williams took the Sox from Point B to Point A, but Point C doesn't seem as distant as it did only two weeks ago in Seattle.
OK, did I call Lofton a retread? If I continue to call him somewhat derogatory names, will he hit 6 for 14 with six runs scored every three-game series? I love the guy's style, and shame on me for thinking he was washed up. GO SOX! --Owen Rohde, Chicago
Owen, you and 29 major league GMs thought he was washed up, so don't get too down on yourself.
Paul, a non-hostile question for you: It's great to see those young arms stepping up as of late, but I was puzzled why Jon Rauch didn't get the win on Tuesday. He was still pitching when the Sox were up and they never lost the lead. --Scott Dolan, Boston
Pitch count, pitch count, pitch count. He knew going into the game he probably wouldn't get over 85 pitches, so Rauch wasn't disappointed when he was removed. Had he not walked the first two men in the fifth, Manuel said he probably would have left him in to finish the inning and get the win. I always enjoy the non-hostile questions, but the hostile ones are OK, too.
As soon as I hit send, they'll probably have a three-error game, but have you noticed the improvement in the White Sox's defense? I've long thought people who thought pitching was 75 or 80 percent of the game were overstating it. I'm more certain that bad defense will kill you quicker. --David Brown, Mt. Prospect, Ill.
Yes, David, the defense is considerably improved. Lee and Valentin seems much more comfortable defensively, Clayton is a vacuum again at short and Lofton is a vast improvement over Singleton in center. It may never be a great defensive team, yet it may be one of the best one of the Manuel era.
Paul, am I hallucinating or is that really the same Alan Embree getting out left-handed batters for the San Diego Padres who stunk up Comiskey Park in a White Sox uniform? Is there a Nardi Contreras factor at work here? While Marte and Porzio struggle and Wunsch hopes to mend, Embree is stinging leftys with the ease of a bee! --Steve Corman, San Diego
Sorry, Steve, I think you are indeed hallucinating. Must be Embree's doppelganger at work. (Doppelganger: n. A ghostly double of a living person, especially one that haunts its fleshy counterpart.)
Jim Parque should be out of the question for the starting rotation. Instead the White Sox should put Parque in the bullpen. He most likely will have more success going to the fastball which will throw off batters. --Anthony Bingenheimer, Orland Park, Ill.
When Parque comes back to the Sox, I think he would benefit the team more in the bullpen than the starting rotation. He can only seem to go four-plus innings before imploding. Long relief should be his niche. And with a young starting five he'll have plenty of opportunities to pitch. --Matt Bossaers, Coral Springs, Fla.
Paul, has there been any discussion of bringing Jim Parque up and place him in the bullpen? Even he can throw harder than Lorenzo Barcelo and Porzio isn't all that impressive either. --Jim Nelligan, Lemont, Ill.
Everyone seems to want Parque up in Chicago and throwing out of the pen. I asked Manuel this in spring training, and he said they wanted to keep him astarter. Now Parque has buried himself in Charlotte, complaining about alleged mistreatment despite an ERA of over 7.00 and seven homers allowed in only 16 2/3 innings. Therefore, I'm declaring a moratorium on all Parque questions until he actually gets called up, or gets traded by Williams for someone named either Berry or Barry.
It seems to me that Carlos Lee and Frank Thomas are redundant--two sluggers who aren't slugging much and can't play defense. Lee seems like a waste of space with Aaron Rowand riding the bench. Is it time to give guys like Rowand and Jeff Liefer regular playing time? --Ben Myers, Florence, Italy
Ben, isn't there anything better to do in Florence than complain about the Sox when they're off to a hot start? Go check out some of the local cafes and report back. I'm sure you'll forget all about Carlos and Frank after a little vino.
I attended the April 14 Sox game, and the only pitch I saw above 90 mph on the in-stadium radar was 99 mph on a home run coming off the bat. Either both pitchers have weenie arms or the gun is broken. Do they verify the accuracy of the radar gun? --Robert Tenczar, Plano, Texas
I always tell my friends coming out to the ballpark, bring your own peanuts and radar gun. The radar readings on the scoreboard are usually inaccurate, and the peanuts are too expensive at $3.75 per bag.
Paul, I don't understand. The Big Hurt has a life-time batting average of .319, 351 homers and .491 slugging percentage and now he wants to change his batting stance? Maybe he thinks he needs a change, but it's only April! What gives? --Chris Huntzinger, Harrisburg, Penn.
Is Frank coachable when it comes to hitting? He keeps talking about being aggressive, but he has always done his best when he uses all fields. He's been jumping out at the ball and it seems like he has popped out to first base an awful lot. --John Gibbons, Chicago
Gary Ward thinks Frank is coachable. Von Joshua didn't. Frank is feeling his way around in the beginning of the season, after missing five months with his triceps injury. He knows he's popping out and making adjustments to try and solve the problem. With the way the Sox are hitting as a team, Frank should get some latitude while he tries to get his act together. His track record suggests he'll come around.
With the way Mark Buehrle is pitching and due for a substantial raise soon, how likely do you see him departing the way Greg Maddux did for the other Chicago baseball team? --Dan Ng, Chicago
Do you think the Sox will do the right thing and get Buehrle locked up for a few years, or are we going to watch the Yankee$ or Cardinals take him away? While baseball salaries are way out of hand, $300,000 seems a bit insulting for a pitcher of his caliber. --Matt Terlap, Denver
Buehrle won't be a free agent for four more years, but it would be wise for the Sox to at least tie him up with a multi-year deal taking him through the salary arbitration years. Buehrle took a lot of verbal abuse from a few of his veteran teammates for not accepting the Sox's insulting offer and forcing them to renew him, which they did after slicing $15,000 off his salary. I thought he showed something by taking a stand. Kris Honel, last year's first-round pick, makes more money than the Sox's ace, based on his bonus money. The decision to stick it to Buehrle may haunt the organization in the long run, unless they make amends.
If a pitcher is pitching good, why is he always replaced around the sixth inning? --Michael Holm, Tinley Park, Ill.
The question should be: "If a pitcher is pitching well, why is he always replaced around the sixth inning?" The answer, as all Sox fans know by now, is "Pitch count, pitch count, pitch count."
Do you know of anywhere I can get a copy of the famous photograph of Al Smith getting doused by a beer. Thanks for your help. --Carl Fritz
I've seen them on sale at SoxFest, so if anyone knows where to purchase one, let me know and I'll pass it on to Carl.
Paul, I'm not interested in asking you a question--just making a statement. I saw in your mailbag your arrogant reaction to the fantasy baseball question. It's apparent that journalism school didn't teach you human relations skills. Try remembering that you put on a pair of pants like the rest of us, even with your exalted title. --John Abernathy, Murfreesboro, Tenn.
For your information John, the University of Missouri would not accept me into its journalism school, so I received a B.A. in English instead. If you have any questions about Shakespeare, I'm ready. I learned my human relation skills at the Tribune from my former boss, Mike Royko, and I pattern this Q&A column after Tribune auto writer Jim Mateja, one of my favorite columnists. By the way, John, I don't put my pants on like everyone else. I tend to jump into them, two legs at a time. I find it befitting of my exalted title as Sox beat writer.