The Tribune White Sox beat writer answers questions throughout the season. This week, in the first of two entries, he discusses popping the ball up, Darin Erstad vs. Brian Anderson and a couple bits of trivia.
When will our hitters start to use a more line drive approach with men in scoring position? Watching our hitters strike out, pop up, or weakly ground out on sub 90s low and away pitches is getting to be old hat. I know they like their homers, but isn't the first rule of grinder baseball getting the runner in, instead of posing for your home run cut? Lift and pull against pitchers like Paul Byrd become shutouts. A nice line drive does more with the game on the line than our hitters taking huge cuts and striking out. --Tom, Downers Grove
With Scott Podsednik out for more than two weeks, the need for quality at-bats becomes greater. I think Scott was making great strides in working counts before his injury. I noticed several hitters taking early batting practice before Tuesday's game, but a return to situational hitting drills might be more effective, for now.
Biggest problem for the Sox to date is the lack of situational hitting, such as advancing runners with bunts and executing tactics like the Baltimore chop with a runner on third base and less than two outs. Much more playing time must be given to Ozuna and any other speedster available at Charlotte or Birmingham, even if it means sending down a relief pitcher. Speed wins and the Sox need it. --Sid, Los Angeles
Although Mark Buehrle's no-hitter overshadowed the offensive outbreak, I noticed Ozzie was managing more aggressively with the stolen bases by Mackowiak and Iguchi. Expect to see more of thatprovided they get on base.
Why didn't the Sox keep Eduardo Perez as a right handed hitter off the bench rather than keeping Brian Anderson who can't hit a lick? Also, why do you think Guillen left Jenks in the game during the second Oakland game? Everyone saw that Jenks was ineffective that night with only a high eighties fast ball, but Guillen seemed set on leaving him in even though lights-out MacDougal was available. Also, when do you think Guillen will start demanding more from his starters? If they can't hit Byrd, Sabathia, and Sanatana, why even play the game. Finally, we should give our pitching staff a raise. They collectively pitched their (tails) off with no run support from the high priced regulars. --Ed Lasak, Riverside, Calif.
Ed, there are some who believe they could still use an Eduardo Perez. There wasn't a roster spot open for Perez, and the Sox actually need a defensive outfield specialist. Some think that Anderson might be better served in the minors, but the Sox don't have a steady dependable right-handed hitting backup center fielder. A Rob Mackowiak-for-Brady Clark trade would have given the Sox some outfield stability, but Clark doesn't have the pinch-hitting capabilities that Mackowiak has.
As for Jenks, I would anticipate a change within a month if his velocity doesn't improve. But MacDougal didn't help himself by throwing an 0-2 fastball down the middle to Sosa.
The last thing a manager wants to do is panic when his veterans slump. I know fans want to see more production and deserve that. But the Sox aren't five games out of first place.
The pitching staff has jelled well, so far. But they might need some help, perhaps internally, later this season.
Why do players make such stupid statements like "it is still early" when last year had we won 5 more games we would have made the playoffs. Each game is important each play demands your best effort. --Jim, Viera, Fla.
They make those comments knowing they still have plenty of games left vs. Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit, etc. But the games you win now are the ones you don't have to worry about later. Just look at 2005.
In what year did the Chicago White Sox begin to play in the American League? --Bailee Ricci, Logansport, Ind.
The White Sox, as we know them, started play in the American League in 1901.
How was it determined who would have the opportunity to wear #42 on Jackie Robinson day? I can't imagine why any player would not be happy to honor the man. -- Kurt Livingston, Marion, Iowa
Every uniformed player, manager or coach had the option of wearing the number. I can't speak for those players who elected not to wear No. 42, but I'm sure they had their reasons.
Hey mark, first, when does the Hawaiian shirt come back? Second, rules question. With the designated hitter scheduled later this year, I was curious how it would work to bring up Floyd (or anybody) to pitch one of the games? Could we "send down" somebody with options for just that game to clear the roster spot? If Thornton throws 2 innings in the first game, can you option him for the 2nd and bring up Boone Logan? --Mark Rokos, Geneva
It's still a little cold to wear those Tommy Bahama shirts. Matt Thornton is out of options, but you can send a player down after the first game and recall another player for the second game. But a player who is optioned cannot be recalled for 10 days unless he replaces a player who plays his position due to injury.
What's the word on some of our top minor league prospects (Russell, Floyd, Sweeney, Owens and Fields)? Are they starting off well in the minors? Also, is Fields playing any left field right now, or do they still have him pretty much sticking to 3rd base? If he's not playing any LF, I have to imagine the writing is on the wall concerning Crede's future with the Sox. --Drew, Chicago
Russell and Owens are playing well. Floyd has had mixed success, same for Sweeney, and Fields is off to a slow start. Fields has played solely third base. I wouldn't say the Sox are giving up on Crede, but you would like to see some extra base hits.
Was at the Sox game Tuesday night. Froze my (tail) off in the center field stands but had a great view for seeing if the pitches were balls or strikes not to mention Thome's homer. Also had a good view of the multiple pop-ups Sox hitters have been specializing in of late. I lay the blame for this not on the hitters or Greg Walker or Ozzie but my favorite scapegoat Trader Kenny. My remedy is to have the 3,4,5 hitters among others bunt with a runner on first early and often because a hitter is more likely to shorten his stroke and go for the easy RBI with a runner on second than he is if the runner is on first in the homer friendly confines of the ballpark on 35th. --Tom Pappalardo, Chicago
I'd hate to see Jim Thome or Paul Konerko pull a hamstring while trying to leg out a drag bunt.
What is wrong with the Sox offense? Would a lineup shuffle be helpful, or is this just one of the slumps that occurs during the season, only at a very bad time? --Brian, Chicago
I think it's just a slump that is coming at the same time for several players. But these guys have too good of track records for this to be happening so long. I do see the benefits of moving Iguchi to second.
I was wondering if you can explain why the White Sox organization is so in love with Darin Erstad. He had one great year in 2000 and hasn't hit over .300, more than 10 homers or stolen more than 24 bases since. Sure, he plays hard and is a poor man's Aaron Rowand. It's time for the Sox broadcasters to portray Erstad for what he is: a washed-up veteran who's production hasn't matched his effort for quite some time now. --Brad, Naperville
Mark, why do the Sox give Darin Erstad so much leeway? If Brian Anderson was hitting .188, the media would be calling for his demotion. It seems like now should be a golden opportunity for Anderson to reestablish himself with Podsednik injured again. Do you think it is possible for Anderson to reclaim his starting job if Erstad continues his horrid hitting, hovering below the Mendoza line? -- Jacob Peklo, Elmhurst
I don't mind homerism, but the Hawk-DJ man-crushes on Erstad are too much. When Anderson hit .160 he was a disappointment, when Erstad hits .150 they are aglow. Is there any chance the Sox can find some production from LF or CF? --Michael Johnson, Greensboro, N.C.
Erstad has a longer proven track record than Anderson. The only concern is that Erstad hasn't played a full season since 2005. I think his production will pick up. The big question is whether he can sustain it over a full season. He's prepares as well as anyone and has the right mentality for this game.
What a great game by Buehrle, I hope that (Reinsdorf) re-thinks his long term contract rule. Mark can you refresh my memory of the SOX game on 9-19-86? It seems like Joe Cowley pitched a no-hitter that night, why does nobody seem to remember that one? --Bob, San Antonio
Cowley walked seven in a 9-1 win at Anaheim on that date. Seven walks would test anyone's patience.
I was disappointed to hear Pods go down but horrified to see Mackowiak in LF! I can't be only one that thinks Mackowiak loses games for the Sox when playing the field. The balls that he never gets to and throws he can't make won't show up as errors but they just kill this team. Brian Anderson should be out there at least 3 times per week subbing for Darin, Pods, and Dye. Great defense's contribution to the team's ERA and winning is underrated. --Brian, Germantown, Md.
You can expect Brian to play more while Podsednik is out, especially against left-handers like Detroit's Nate Robertson.
Mark, what does Ozzie Guillen have against Brian Anderson? He never misses an opportunity to rip Anderson in the media and seems reluctant to play him (even as Erstad unsurprisingly proves to be just as washed up as he's looked the last few years), even in late-game situations when his defense can make a difference (ie, the loss in Oakland). Now I hear he may keep Boone Logan on the roster when Pods comes back and send BA back to the minors. What gives? --Ryan Lipscomb, Chicago
The Sox are going with a 12-man staff until at least the end of the month because they don't have an off-day until April 30. As for Ozzie's perceived grudge against Anderson, he thought Brian would be better served playing every day in the minors since he's only 25 and has a great upside.
It didn't help that Brian had a lukewarm response to playing winter ball, then had his season cut short because of illness. I still think Brian has a future here. He's shown more flashes of promise than Sweeney and Owens, whom each could get their chance later.
Hey Mark great job, I am a lifelong White Sox fan and very much value your opinion. Correct me if i am wrong, but do you get that creeping feeling that this team is a little slow and old to compete in this division and on the verge of being dismantled? I do believe we have a enough talent and pitching to win this thing again, but it just seems the motivation is lacking and with the financial situation being what it is, I sense a major rebuilding process in the near future. What do you think? And how near could we really be? Is there a chance some of our guys could be traded this season if we're not in the race? --Adam F., Lisle
Adam, thanks for the kind words.
Kenny Williams' biggest fear is that this team will get too old, and he's addressed that with some pitching staff moves.
Sweeney and Fields should be ready to step in soon. Where? Who knows. There's no everyday catcher on the verge of reaching the majors, and I'll take A.J. Pierzynski's durability any day.
I think Kenny likes this team as much as he liked last year's team, if not more. But he also realizes that everyone is under the microscope. Had the Sox slumped out of the gate in 2005, I'm not sure Paul Konerko would still be here.