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Teddy Greenstein on the Sox
Leave it to Ken Williams to muck things up even when everything seems to be going well. Correct me if I am wrong. Rick White got canned for something he said to the media. It took Manuel two-thirds of the season to misuse most of his pitchers and nothing happens to him. White spoke the truth and gets fired. Forget White's numbers as the main reason he was dumped. Williams has exposed his banana republic dictator mentality once again. If I am a player on this team, Williams is public enemy No. 1. How does the media feel about White getting dumped for talking to them? Does this mean, in Kenny's world, that the media only can be privy to and write the sugarcoated stories? --Walt Didomenico, Deerfield Beach, Fla.
I know one thing: Kenny can't fire me. I can write whatever I want. (As long as I don't try to describe where Paul Konerko got hit by that bases-loaded pitch in Toronto.) Anyway, it's hard to blame the Sox for dumping White, even though he was a delightfully honest guy. He had a 6.61 ERA and criticized his manager in the middle of a winning streak. (And his claims really don't hold up.) Sure, reporters love outspoken guys. But there's a time and a place.
I'm glad Paul Konerko is emerging from the slump, but I can't help but notice the difference in treatment he's received from the media compared to the treatment that Frank Thomas received last year. Why is it that Paulie's slump is treated so sympathetically? Paul is treated as a hard-working, deeply committed ballplayer who has been the victim of something of a mysterious tragedy. Frank, on the other hand, was derided as lazy and selfish. I can't help but think race plays a role in the different treatment. --Kerry Taylor, Chapel Hill, NC
I was covering the Cubs last year, but I was on the Sox beat for Frank's great slump of 1998-99. At the time, a lot of people (including those employed by the Sox) belittled his ankle injury. It turned out that he had to have a golf-ball sized bone spur removed. Frank also should have been cut plenty of slack last year, given that he was coming off that triceps injury.
I agree that Konerko got plenty of sympathy during his first-half struggles. But I think that's because he's a genuinely good guy who treats reporters kindly and answers questions thoroughly even in his darkest hour. I don't think it has to do with race. Frank's also been a pleasure to deal with this year. When he was hitting in the .240s-.250s in May, the only guy I saw take shots at him was the angry columnist across town. We know how hard Frank works and how badly he wants to re-emerge as the hitter he once was.
I've noticed Manuel likes to put in the rookie Miguel Olivo for defensive purposes in the late innings whenever Sandy Alomar Jr. catches. I'm perplexed by this. Yes, Olivo has a better arm to throw guys out, but he drops too many balls and a passed ball is much worse than a stolen base if the runner is at third. Wouldn't you figure given Alomar's knowledge of the hitters and game that he would be better to just stay in the game and enter in those tight, late-inning situations? --Michael LaPlaca, Orland Park, Ill.
Uh, are we watching the same team? Even before Olivo's shoulder injury, Alomar finished the last four games he started. Now that you mention it, though, I wouldn't be surprised if Olivo did replace Sandy late in one-run games. He's nailed 45.5 percent of would-be basestealers when he makes a throw. Although Alomar calls a better game, his percentage is 23.1.
Looking ahead a bit (enthusiastically), do we have any hope of keeping this lineup/pitching staff together next year? Specifically, re-signing Loaiza, Colon, and Roberto Alomar? Maybe add a closer that's not a dud like Koch (I'm still bitter about the Koch/Foulke trade)? Or is it outside the Sox's budget to accomplish all this? --Mel Schramek, Pacific Grove, Calif.
The Sox have a club option on Loaiza. It will be worth $4 million, assuming he makes three more starts this season, and the Sox would be ruled clinically insane not to pick it up. Colon and Alomar are bigger question marks. The Sox's payroll is at $51 million, ninth from the bottom. Magglio Ordonez gets a $5 million raise, Paul Konerko gets another $1.75 mil, Carlos Lee and Mark Buehrle stand to get big-time boosts through arbitration.
So here's the major question: Will the Sox significantly increase their payroll next season or will they continue to pretend that they're a small-market team? GM Ken Williams has said that it will take a deep run in the postseason to change the culture of the Sox--i.e. the season-ticket base. So the better the Sox do this season, the better the chances the Sox will try to re-sign Colon and Alomar.
I'd like to see Brian Daubach get more opportunities. As long as the Sox don't plan to start him, would it otherwise make sense to rotate him with Lee, Konerko and Thomas so that--theoretically--he'd get into roughly three games per week while the other three guys mentioned get one game rest per week? I know the Sox want to ride the "hot hand" when they can, but this would at least get Daubach some much needed plate time. --Joel Kweskin, Charlotte, NC
Little tough to justify playing Daubach over Konerko, given that the Dauber is hitless in his last 19 at-bats and Konerko is batting .375 in his last 10 games. I do agree, though, that you don't want anyone on your roster to simply rot away on the bench.
Who does Neal Cotts have to kill to get a chance at the fifth starter spot? With a 2.21 ERA, he's allowed 60 hits after facing over 400 batters and he has 124 strikeouts in 100 innings pitched. I know people say that that's minor league ball. But the fact remains he has pitched significantly better in the minors than Dan Wright, Mike Porzio, Josh Stewart, and Matt Ginter and all of those guys have been given a shot. --John Fitch, Lake in the Hills, Ill.
Can't disagree. His numbers at Birmingham are comical. I'd be surprised if Cotts isn't up with the big club before too long. They might even be considering starting him on the [current] road trip.
Whatever happened to Josh Stewart? He looked good in spring training and in his brief early-season stint in the Majors? If Dan Wright again struggles in the No. 5 spot, is there a chance we'll see Stewart in Chicago again this season? --George Bremer, Fort Walton Beach, Fla.
Stewart still hasn't fully recovered from taking a line drive off his chest in an April 24 game at Baltimore. He suffered circulation problems that resulted in some numbness in his fingers. Stewart has started just five games at Triple-A Charlotte, going 0-3 with a 6.15 ERA.
Why does Jerry Manuel refuse to use Kelly Wunsch in the middle of the game when the situation calls for a lefty in a key spot in the game? Twice recently he has left in a right-hander to get tagged by a left-handed hitter while Wunsch combs his mustache in the bullpen. --Jim Foster, Denver
And here I thought he was combing the goatee. Not sure which games you're talking about here, but Wunsch is gonna be a key guy down the stretch.
Have the Sox thought about bringing in some sort of consultant to help their hitters with bunting? I don't think it is too much to ask your catcher and nine hitter, who is also batting .217, to lay one down. I also don't think it is too much to ask your shortstop, who is batting .237, to also lay one down. This has become an absolutely embarrassing problem. -- Dom Nicolini, Corpus Christi, Texas
Agreed. Agreed. Agreed. If an uncoordinated National League pitcher can lay down a sac bunt, it's implausible to me why middle-infield guys can't get it done. The Sox have gotten better at this, but that's like saying that J. Lo is a better actor than Madonna. I'm not sure about bringing in a consultant, but perhaps the Sox should practice bunting against guys throwing 90, rather than in batting practice.
What happened to Jon Rauch? With the Sox looking for a fifth starter, has the former Minor League Player of the Year fallen off the face of the Earth? Or is he still another year away? --Mike, Boston
Rauch is still alive, but barely alive on the Sox's radar. He hasn't thrown well this season (4.73 ERA in 18 starts at Triple-A Charlotte) and missed some time with a shoulder injury. He has a ways to go to get back in the mix for a rotation job in 2004.
Teddy, will Jon Garland ever be able to consistently throw strikes? I think this is the only thing holding him back from greatness. And, will the White Sox ever realize that Dan Wright is not a major league pitcher? Even when he's healthy, he's not very good, so why do the Sox love this guy enough to keep giving him opportunities? Do they see something that everyone else doesn't? -- Rich Conboy, New York
Part 1: Wish I had a crystal ball, Rich. But I disagree with the premise. Kerry Wood needs (or needed to) throw strikes before he attained greatness. Most people see Garland as a No. 3 or No. 4 starter. Part 2: Whom would you rather see as the fifth starter?
If the Sox are unable or unwilling to sign Jose Valentin after this season, is there anyone in the system that is ready to come up and take his place? -- Dan Bowman, Marlette, Mich.
Tim Hummel could get a long look. He's a reliable defender, he's a former second-round pick, he's 24 and he's putting up nice numbers at Triple-A Charlotte (.291, .357 on-base, 4 homers, 42 RBIs in 115 games.)
Is it just me, or has Chicago forgotten that the trades for Alomar and Carl Everett have been made? Or maybe, not that they have been made, but that they are a direct correlation to their latest winning streak? Why haven't I heard anything about this? --Mike Vanassche, Schaumburg Ill.
Wait a second, this almost sounds like a compliment for Ken Williams. It's the first of its kind in an Ask Teddy question.
Been reading you for about a year. Think you're one of the best sportswriters in the country. Please stay solid with a sense of humor! --Ken Zelman, West Hills, Calif.
C'mon, Uncle Ken, let's keep that between you and me.