Dear Sox fans,
I started writing this to you just after (Jon) Garland pitched himself out of a jam in the 6th inning of a tight (so far) 1-1 game Wednesday night against the Twins.
Theyre now in extra innings. And the fan in me is wondering about this team again, how tough theyre playing lately, even with so much "talent" traded away.
Somewhere in Minnesota, Paul Sullivan is keeping score and getting ready to write another great baseball story.
Every year, Paul lets me fill in when he takes a mid-season break, and its my pleasure and honor to do it, as a completely biased Sox fan.
But this year, there were technical difficulties.
Somehow, the e-mail address to the "Ask John" questions got screwed up. My e-mail is email@example.com. But your questions were addressed to another guy named Jack Kass.
Dont worry. I received them, anyway. Im sorry Im late with the answers, because some of the questions are stale, such as, "Will Crede ever get called up?" Yet, other questions are still valid.
And after a great baseball game -- the Sox just lost in 10, -- I can concentrate on your questions.
So here goes:
Do you think its time to fire Kenny Williams and the entire Sox coaching staff? -- Joe Prince, Chicago
No. Williams gets a lot of grief. He made the trade for David Wells a while back and it was the right trade, even though it didnt work out. Sirotka hasnt pitched since then, has he?
And this year, how many fans were upset that Kip Wells and Josh Fogg were traded for a guy who was going to give the team innings? Kenny Williams wants to win. Hes gutsy and hes going to make mistakes, and we all know people who never make mistakes. They never take chances, either.
As far as Manuel and the rest of the coaching staff goes, Im amazed at how quickly managers go from being geniuses to fools when their players dont play.
Ive criticized Manuel, too, in my column. And I called him "Gandhi", which I regret. Still, hes made his mistakes too. Not showing respect to Frank Thomas by calling Frank in to tell him he was going to bench him for a series was a mistake. Telling (Jose) Valentin he would be the shortstop for the "long-term" and then going back on his word to put (Royce) Clayton at short was a mistake, because he was giving conflicting messages to his team.
I thought he lost the team then.
And there have been stupid, stupid mistakes, like all those guys picked off third when safety-squeezes were put on and the men at the plate (Durham, Johnson etc.) couldnt handle the bat. But the players were the ones picked off.
Still, I think Manuel is a good manager. He seems to have the ability to maintain his composure, even when everything was going to hell this season and we fans were howling for his skin. I just wish hed have committed to playing Crede earlier. And I hope he stays.
Hey John. Do you think it would be a good idea to trade one or some of our outfield prospects? Whos the best of Carlos Lee, Aaron Rowand, Jeff Liefer, or Joe Borchard and which of these players should be traded, and how? -- Jeff Schaeffer, Southampton, N.Y.
Jeff, your question came in before Lofton was traded to the Giants. But the Sox need some outfield help. Rowand is a good young player with some nice offense in him, but I dont see him having the legs to play center field over the long term. Center, short and catcher are key positions and theyre problem positions now.
Liefer has had his chance. I dont see him playing anything but left field, if that. Lee has had a terrible year. Hes a butcher out there, but I still think he can hit. Borchard isnt ready to play in the big leagues, not offensively anyway. The Sox need speed in center, a good glove at short and a catcher who can throw (and hit).
The Sox still have many games to go with the Twins. I think its too early to count the Sox out. They cant possibly play this poorly for the rest of the season. In the heat of July and August, they hopefully will begin to hit again. Stay the course, Sox fan, there is still hope. -- Dan Bowman, Marlette, Mich.
Dan, your question came in on July 5. But that Jack Kass guy didnt answer it when it was fresh -- the fool. The reason I print it here is to illustrate the childish hope that we all felt back then, me especially. They played worse than poorly, which is why theyre dumping salaries now. And they broke our hearts, not only by losing, but also by losing weakly.
Being a Sox fan, if I admit to killing the ivy, can I collect a reward? The Tribunes propaganda is ridiculous to say the least. -- Jason Halm, Normal, Ill.
Are you referring to the speculation that the person who killed the holy ivy at Wrigley is a Sox fan? Well, lets end the speculation.
I was the one. Me. Im the vine killer!
I ate three cloves of raw garlic and breathed on the vine at night. It withered quickly, and it pleased me. But, to my everlasting shame, I forgot to breathe the Sox logo on it.
John. I have patiently been waiting for you to investigate and prove that the slanderous allegations by your Tribune bosses that some White Sox fans are poisoning the sacred ivy at Wrigley is totally untrue. I have been waiting for you to say something. And youve been silent. Please. Answer! -- Mary Hayes, Chicago
I am Spartacus! I am Spartacus! I am Spartacus!
As a loyal but disheartened Sox fan, I have to say the Cubs have a lot of nerve accusing Sox fans of killing the vines at Wrigley. If you ask me, those vines are committing Vinocide after being forced to watch the Cubs play ball this year! -- Stuart Senescu, attorney at law
Plants have feelings. What of our own Comiskey center field shrubbery? Is it safe?
Hey John (in place of Paul). Dont you think with all of these accounting scandals in big business today that we should look closer at the finances of baseball? I mean, it was just before the season started that the Wall Street Journal and MLB disagreed about how much money MLB teams were really worth. Dont you think that MLBs financial discrepancies foreshadowed what later happened with Enron, WorldCom, etc? Do you see any other similarities between them? -- Mike Fournier, Chicago
Well, Mike, is Arthur Andersen doing the accounting for the Twins and Expos? Why are you asking serious questions? This is sports, darn it. And the real answer is, I dont know. Ask me about whether Konerko should have shut up after about the fifth straight day of sticking it to Frank Thomas over the pouting issue, I could answer you. But economics, well, I dunno.
I need some clarification. Im not putting Kenny Williams on a pedestal, but he is being criticized like crazy for the trades he has made over the past few years. He is criticized for the Wells deal. Acquiring David Wells didnt work out as planned but considering we gave up practically nothing for him is not a bad deal. He is criticized for acquiring Clayton. It would be nice to have seen Royce hit at the beginning of the season, yet he is still the one reliable defensive infielder on the team (which is especially important given our young pitchers are groundball-type pitchers) and now hes found his second-half stroke. While the deal with the Pirates has not turned out positive, and deserves to be criticized, it did land us what seemed to be the answer to our starting pitching problems by giving the team a real Number 2 starter. All in all, while these deals werent great, they also were not as bad as they are being portrayed. So why is Williams being vilified so much? -- Harvey Schatz, Teaneck, N.J.
I cant argue with you. Williams is being vilified because the Sox arent winning, and were tired of waiting. On the North Side, losing is cute. After the Cubs lose, half their fans weep, the other half have a mocha frappacino. Losing isnt cute on the South Side. Were tired of it. Williams, who played with a broken ankle for weeks trying to make the Sox team in the late 1980s, is a tough guy. Hes tired of losing, too. If the team improves next year, all the sports pundits who are ripping him will be smooching up. Bet on it.
John. Your assumption of the "Sox Answer Man" role offers a good opportunity for this question: Why are the "regular" Sox media so reluctant to criticize Ken Williams, who is, without a doubt, the worst GM in baseball? (See, e.g., Royce Clayton, Todd Ritchie, etc.) Why is Williams considered off-limits for criticism? I would expect this out of Hawk Harrelson, who is a great announcer but a long-time incorrigible (smooch). But I even notice this in the Tribs regular coverage and in Pauls responses to fan questions. Is there a fear that the Sox will shut them out on beat coverage, thus giving the Sun-Times a leg up on scoops (such as they are, in sports), or am I being a paranoid conspiracy theorist? -- Jerry Huston, Warrenville
Jerry, how can I say this in a pleasant way? Hmm. Lets see. OK, I cant. So Jer, you are obviously troubled. And as Harry used to say to Jimmy, "Its time to take your pill, now."
Hawk is a great announcer. Hes not a ripper. So what? Hes not an independent voice. Hes a Sox announcer. And he was a lousy Sox general manager, remember? Or did you forget the guy who wanted Fisk to play left field? So perhaps hes got sympathy for Williams. I like his work in the booth very much. I like the old stories, and references to the generations of ballplayers, and the little bits of instructions for the kids.
As far as Pauls Sox coverage goes, youre sadly mistaken. Sullivan is the man. And he proved it throughout the tough months of June and July by writing the tough stories and writing and reporting them better than anybody around.
He led all the coverage during that time, from the stories on Franks troubles, to the Valentin/Clayton/Manuel stuff, and had the story about Crede coming up, even though the team thought he was too tough. Thats what I like about his coverage. Hes a reporter. He reports. If I were boss of a paper, Id have him cover baseball. He knows the game.
John. I have discovered the reason for the Sox continuing problems. Its not the team, management, or administration, but us, the bedrock Sox fans. Weve become tame. Once, it didnt matter what kind of team was on the field. Sox fans were some of the most hyper-rowdies in baseball. Remember the '70s? Maybe we need to get rowdy again, without hurting anyone, of course. -- Monty Keeling, Goshen, Ind.
Monty, Id like to remember old Comiskey in the '70s, with a packed ballpark of sweaty fans at a doubleheader in July with the Kansas City Royals, everyone screaming at Whitey. But it was the '70s. So I cant remember. If you can remember, you werent there either.
Keep an eye on these two. They should be in an All-Star Game near you soon. (Alex) Fernandez, 21, was hitting .292 (100-343) with seven home runs, 52 RBIs and 20 stolen bases at Class AA Birmingham where he ranked among the Southern League Leaders in RBIs and hits. The outfielder was selected by the Sox from Seattle in the minor-league phase of the Rule 5 draft this December. (Humberto) Quintero, a 23-year-old catcher, has played at three stops in the White Sox system this summer, combining to hit .216 (46-213) with no home runs and 20 RBIs in 71 games. -- Marvin Moss, Chicago
Marvin. I cant go through several years of "The Kids Can Play." Weve been through that. I hope the Sox dont trade any more pitchers.
Keep the starters, except for the guy from Pittsburgh. Sign Konerko. Make sure Mags is happy. And find a free agent shortstop who has a glove, and who isnt a cancer in the clubhouse. Then find a center fielder that can run.
Every year gone is another year we cant afford to lose. Sox ownership has got to realize that telling us that the Sox are a small market team is an excuse.
Hey Jerry? If you dont want to win, then sell the ballclub to someone who wants to win in Chicago.
I dont want to hear talk about another 5-year plan. Do you?
And finally, to fellow Sox fans, and to Paul Sullivan: Thanks for letting me have some fun in this space. See you next year.