The Tribune's White Sox beat writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, shuffling the rotation and/or the lineup, a "White Flag" redux and who in the farm system is worth a shot.
OK, this may be extreme, but we gotta save this year and plan for the future at the same time. So move Masset into the rotation and move Buehrle to closer, with Thornton as the seventh-inning man and Jenks as the eighth man. Worked for the Braves with Smoltz, so think it will be good. Buehrle is competitive enough to not let anyone beat him for 1 inning. There, Sox will be back in the Series this year and next with these moves! --Litz, Carrolton, Texas
Presto! Sorry, not so fast. Buehrle has been a starter his entire career and remains one of the best. He doesn't have a trick or dominant pitch that is needed to close.
Mark, since you , here's the opinion of one life-long-but-Minnesota-based Sox fan on Bremer and Blyleven: I find them to be competent but blandwhich makes them fairly easy to take for those of us who aren't diehard Twins fans. While they can be appropriately enthusiastic when the home team does something notable and rarely criticize Twins players or management, they are far from the obnoxious homers who see genius in every Twins success and conspiracy in every failure. All in all, I'd give them a C+. --Mike M., Plymouth, Minn.
For Jeremy, Twins Fan. Bert and buddy are the worst I have ever heard. I cringe when I know I have to listen to them on the dish. In fact, I have started to put hard rock on the radio rather then listen to them. What is worse, they do not even know how to pronounce Chicago correctly. --George Sullivan, Tucson, Ariz.
As for the Twins announcers, I have the Extra Innings package and the only guys worse than Hawk and DJ are the Twins. I feel like I'm watching the G-rated version of Fargo with a lot of Sox errors. --Michael Johnson, Greensboro, N.C.
Ok, people have had their say. Bring back Ted Robinson to the Twins.
What is with all this negativity that you are putting in this mailbag? Baseball is a game of averages and when they start hitting and pitching, we're going to win a lot more ballgames. --Tim K., Schaumburg
Tim, I try to let everyone ask questions pertaining to the Sox, and there's a lot of understandable frustration out there.
I don't know why everyone is down on this White Sox team. They are only 9½ games back of Cleveland. Look how our team has performed this year and we are still in contention. If they start hitting they can come back and win this division. Do you like their chances to come back and make the playoffs? --Adam, Chicago
I can see a comeback but the playoffs are unlikely. The wild card presents an interesting opportunity, but the AL is very deep.
How good would Willie Harris look in the leadoff spot now? The kid was a team player and had a great attitude, playing or on the bench. He deserved better from the White Sox. --Lenny Ostrowski, Ottawa, Ill.
Willie would look great in a Sox uniform now, especially with Ozuna out and Willie's ability to play the outfield and infield and provide sorely needed speed. Unfortunately, he didn't hit well enough to stay with the Sox but he has a lot of former teammates who are happy for him.
Mark: I have no suggestions to fix the 2007 White Sox, but I do for the 2008 model using this 5 step method: 1) Sox need to turn down Uribe's option and sign free agent-to-be David Eckstein to replace him; 2) Sox need to let Jermaine Dye walk, but bring back free agent-to-be Aaron Rowand to replace him; 3) Josh Fields is ready and needs to play everyday, and trade Crede for prospects; 4) Match whatever offer Mark Buerhle gets, then trade Jon Garland for prospects to offset the financial hit; and 5) No more ex-Cubs for the bullpen! Leave the Billy Goat on the north side where he belongs. --Jack J. Lucas, Mission Viejo, Calif.
I'm living in the heart of "Twins Territory" and am going crazy watching my Sox fail so badly this year. Do you think that our downfall has anything to do with the Thome-for-Rowand trade? I feel that that trade changed the climate of the team back to a home run hitting club instead of a grinding team. --Brett, Plymouth, Minn.
I read that the Sox almost pulled the trigger over the winter on a deal sending Mike McDougal to the Phillies for Aaron Rowand. Would they still do this trade? Can we please pull the trigger on it really fast? I still can't believe we have McDougal for another 2.5 years at $2 million a year. --Andrew Hartnett, St. Louis
The Sox definitely need a leadoff hitter with a track record of health and success. The Thome trade was fine for both sides. Aaron did hit into a lot of double plays in 2006 but he provided a spark that was missing at times in the second half.
I don't think the Phillies would trade Rowand at this point unless they received quality relief help. Philadelphia GM Pat Gillick is no dummy.
Mark, hopefully Joe Crede knows that in the hearts of White Sox fans, he is an immortal after his part in the 2005 season. Can you let him know we want him to heal up, return and remain a White Sox for the balance of his career? You just don't get that many stellar, World Series champion third basemen in one lifetime of Sox watching. --John Browning, Flemington, N.J.
I have a suggestion for White Sox management. First, it is a psychological problem when an entire team of good hitters goes on a record-breaking slump. I know this suggestion works because I have seen it work in a friend. The Sox need a sports hypnotist to individually adjust each hitter's confidence. There is little if any hope that they will find their own way out of this funk by themselves. Your thoughts? Garey, Urbana, Va.
Maybe a parent-teacher conference.
Seriously, some teams have hired sports psychologists to help their players. I think it's up to the individual. There's plenty of frustration but the confidence hasn't wavered to the degree where professional help is needed.
Hi Mark. For the first time, I can honestly say I wouldn't want your job. I was born and bred on the South Side and despite living 800 miles away since 2000, have managed to make at least one trip to Comiskey/The Cell a year since 1983 and watching almost every game on satellite. But after watching the debacle against the Yankees, you couldn't pay me to watch this team anymore. For the first time I can remember, they are just excruciating to watch. Don't get me wrong, there have been plenty of bad White Sox teams over the years, but this team was supposed to be a World Series contender. In your career have you ever seen a team with so much talent COLLECTIVELY underachieve for so long? --Joe Dennis, Athens, Ga.
At least you have the Georgia Bulldogs to look forward to. Yes, the lack of hitting has been baffling, and it's to the point of overanalyzing. I've never seen a group of proven hitters struggle for this long.
You have got to question Ozzie's judgment for his first major league appearance against A-Rod with the bases loaded. What was he thinking? --Brian McDonald, Albuquerque
Why is it that the top Minneapolis sportscasters say Ozzie is on his way out, that Kenny Williams wants him gone, that only Reinsdorf wants to keep Ozzie? Is this true? Thanks. --Duane Smith, Long Prairie, Minn.
Mark, is it just me or are you an unabashed Ozzie-backer? Or is it that you agree with his statement that there is no such thing as a great manager? As far as I'm concerned a manager can right the ship from the bench by pulling the right strings and yes, it falls on the players but the manager has to accept the blame as well. Fire Ozzie Now! Thanks. --Denis, Chicago
A: Sorry Denis. I'm really a Pete Carroll-backer.
Bukvich pitched in the majors with Kansas City and Texas before joining the Sox.
Kenny has repeatedly lent his support and confidence in Ozzie, echoing what the chairman told Ozzie in a telephone conversation on June 2.
I believe that there are great managers. Bobby Cox manages as if he has one extra player than the opposing manager, and it usually shows in the late innings. There's usually one inning of decision that a manager has to make involving a starting pitcher, and Tony La Russa is as good as anyone in making the right decision in that department.
But a manager can only do so much with personnel.
Mark, the on-field performance of the Sox is tiresome. They peaked in 2005 and appear to be backsliding into oblivion. Isn't it time for Kenny to "blow up" this team and build for the future? --JL, Santa Rosa, Calif.
How did this team get so boring? I think Williams had an opportunity to get rid of several aging players who had over-productive seasons in 2005. This isn't hindsightthe history of baseball is littered with teams like the Sox. --Steve, Burlington, Vt.
I'd like to ask for an assessment of the Kenny Williams era so far. The benchmarks would be: 1) Sox success in getting into playoffs; 2) trades affecting on-field roster; 3) state of the farm system; 4) competency/impact, if any, of manager; and 5) Outlook for future of team. --Terry Tyrpin, Schaumburg
Do you think the White Sox will "go young" at the end of July, cede the season and essentially plan on fourth place for the rest of the decade? I know the GM has said that the White Sox will be competitive "every year". However, he's also made it well known that this club cannot afford to contract premium free agents at market price and also that the club is getting "too old". --John Fitch, Cary
Hey Mark, do you think that Kenny is going to be able to pull the trigger before the deadline to get some young talent for our expiring contracts or do you think he won't be able to admit that the Sox are out of the race? --John, Darien
Given the prolonged slump of the White Sox offense, bullpen and top-notch competition in the division from younger teams that are better, what do you think the likelihood is that the White Sox will trade 2008 free agents Mark Buehrle and Jermaine Dye for prospects? --Jon Block, New York
Mark, I was in the stands at Citizens Bank Park last night to enjoy a rare visit from my Sox. We all know how disappointing the evening turned out. There were a couple of opportunities where timely hitting could have made it interesting. But the team looked listless. While waiting for those recently-minor-league relief pitchers to show something, what else do you think can put the "go" back in our Sox? --Hank, Moorestown, N.J.
Hey Mark. I think the White Sox should just scrap the season and start from scratch. If I were the Sox, I'd only keep Dye, Buerhle, A.J., Danks, Jenks and Paulie and build around those guys. We need more excitment, bring up the kids! --Brad, Palos Hills
Even if Thome, Konerko and Dye start to hit, it's going to be tough to get back into this race with gimpy leadoff men, no Crede, and a fragile young bullpen. When do you think KW will pull the trigger and start rebuilding? --Jeff, Monroe, Mich.
Mark, I feel you are the closest person to knowing what Kenny Williams is thinking so I ask you this: Will Kenny Williams keep his word and continue to put on the field a team that can potentially win year after year, or will he trade the free agents to be for prospects and White Sox fans will need brace for a 2-3 year rebuilding phase of this team? --Clifton, Chicago
I said earlier that some re-arranging of the furniture has to be made. But with Crede out for a while, Josh Fields will receive an extended look. If the slide continues, Kenny will be a seller and not a buyer. And it looks like it's coming soon.
I keep in mind about what Kenny said last winter about fearing that he would have a team that got old quickly. But it would take some heavy lifting to make specific changes. Thome and Konerko have multi-year deals, and Konerko can reject any trade with 10-and-5 rights sometime in 2008. There aren't many catchers as durable as A.J. Pierzynski, who can become a free agent after 2008.
What's probably just as alarming as the bullpen and hitting woes is that none of the prospects have succeeded for an extended period. At least with the minor league pitching depth, there are possibilities for trades to acquire some established position players.
The toughest challenge for a GM is to win on the major league level and develop prospects at the same time. It looks like Kenny's challenge has been become even greater in the past month.
Aaron Rowand visited the Sox's clubhouse for 45 minutes before Tuesday's game and lightened the mood. His spirit is missed, but the Sox need more than just Aaron's character. I still believe that more high draft picks would help the situation. You see teams like Milwaukee (Ryan Braun) and Washington (Ryan Zimmerman) aided by fast-track draft picks, and you can't help but think that type of pick would help the Sox.
There's a lot of work ahead. I think we agree on that.
I can't be the only one tired of seeing Alex Cintron in the lineup. His defense is sloppy and he has no arm, but mostly he can't hit. He either swings at the first pitch and pops it up or strikes out on three pitches, the third pitch usually being over head high. Wouldnt you like to see Andy Gonzalez get a chance? Also, what are the chances we see a Craig Wilson call up anytime soon? --Patrick, Darien
We're not seeing the real Alex Ciintron because of his elbow surgery this off-season. I'm not suggesting he should replace Uribe, but he did a dependable job for the Sox last season when he was healthy.
I think Andy Gonzalez's best role is as a utility player. He looked a little rough at short during spring training.
Craig Wilson has some catching up to do at Triple-A Charlotte after getting a late start.
Mark, a few comments: 1) The Sox don't have a "situational" lefty in their bullpen. Their left-handers are power pitchers without a nasty out pitch or deceptive motion so there is no reason to think they have a better chance against a lefty than any other pitcher on the staff; 2) Ozzie has to realize that some nights he has to use Jenks in the eighth or ninth to give the offense a chance to comeback in a tie or close game; 3) the Sox have to bring MacDougal back beacuse their other right-handers (other than Masset) don't have Major-League stuff. --I. Sloan, Manalapan, N.J.
Boone Logan is the closest pitcher the Sox have to a situational lefty, based on the way he's handled Justin Morneau.
MacDougal has to regain a semblance of control in order for a promotion. He has to earn it.
Using Jenks in a non-save situation failed, but I think Ozzie wouldn't hesitate to use him in that role again.
Jermaine Dye says he's seen people come back from a day's rest and hit two home runs. During radio broadcasts, Farmer is always stating a player during batting practice predicted a home run. What's it going to take for these guys to start thinking about hitting the ball the other way and into gaps? Do the coaches pick up on these non-stop home run comments? The mindset of home run, home run, home run no wonder this team stinks. Your thoughts? --Mike, Oak Forest
I look back to the final workout before the exhibition games started, when players were performing situational drills in Tucson. They were concentrating but getting a good laugh. They all seemed relaxed and were relishing the challenge.
Why don't the Sox install one of those lights in the outfield that tell the batter what the next pitch will be? The Tigers and the Indians do it. Have you noticed their records in home games? Maybe it wouldn't do any good with the Sox. They probably couldn't hit it even when they know what the pitch will be. --Tom Gregory, Sylvania, Ohio
Maybe they need new light bulbs.
What is your opinion on calling up a starting pitcher from the minors to take a bullpen spot? I have always thought that maybe it could have a negative effect on a young pitcher's development. The positive is obviously that they have a chance to adjust to major league level pitching, but do you think that comes at a cost? By the way, are you tired of answering "are they going to fire Ozzie" questions yet? Because I sure am tired of seeing them. --Tyson Shroyer, Peoria
I prefer that a pitcher stay in a particular role, with few exceptions. The Los Angeles Dodgers were pretty good in the 1970s and 1980s about breaking in minor league starting pitchers by using them in the bullpen. I wouldn't be surprised if the Sox gave Adam Russell a look as a reliever in the second half.
I don't want to limit the questions, but I think we'll curb comments on announcers.
Mark, I am getting a little frustrated with the recent reliever situation. Looking at the problem, why doesn't Ozzie have the relievers pitch the first three innings and then have the "starters" come in for the rest? It will allow for the starters to finish if they are pitching well or to bring in Jenks to save the game. Let me know what you think and then pass it on to Ozzie. --Kevin Boardman, Ft. Leavenworth, Kan.
Maybe we need to see more of Nick Masset to stretch him out.
Why do the White Sox put such a low priority on the catcher position? I've been a fan for almost 50 years, I can name no more than 2 or 3 decent catchers who came up through the farm system. On an unrelated note, it looks like the Sox made the right decision in cutting ties with Joe Borchard. --Rich Nowak, Cumming, Ga.
Rich, great to hear from a northern suburb of Atlanta.
Catching is a very difficult position to draft and develop. The Braves have two solid young catchers, and the Twins place an emphasis on catching with several former catchers as minor and major league coaches.
I wonder if we'll see Joe when Florida comes to U.S. Cellular Field next week. He's a class guy who is one of Mark Marquess' favorite players to come through Stanford.
With the increased possibility of Joe Crede having back surgery and being out for the season, have we seen him for the last time in a White Sox uniform? --Fernando Rohwer, Rock Island, Ill.
I think Joe has to return at some point to prove he's healthy until the Sox can trade him, unless some team is convinced that he'll rebound without having to see him play post-surgery.
But I do think his time with the Sox is very finite.
Starting to get worried! On Monday night's ESPN broadcast of the , Rick Sutcliffe made great note of the idea that Vasquez is tipping the location of his pitches. --Ronald Reichmann, Los Angeles
Mark, last night while watching the Sox/Phillies game on ESPN I heard announcer Rick Sutcliffe constantly saying how Javier Vasquez was giving his pitches away by the way he was leaning when letting go of the ball. He leaned left when pitching inside and stood up straight when releasing the ball when he wanted to throw toward the outside of the plate. --Rich Augulis, Las Vegas
On Monday, ESPN commentator Rick Sutcliffe repeatedly pointed out how he thought Javy Vasquez was tipping his pitches. It seemed that the Phil's hitters noticed it, too and were trying to take advantage of it. Did the Sox notice? If so (and I'm sure they did), how and when did they try to remedy the situation? By the way, your answers always give us a great behind-the-scenes look at what the Sox coaches are thinking; such insight would be helpful here. Thanks. --Dave Stoika, Athens, Tenn.
I really don't like to have to listen Rick Sutcliffe. He's very annoying. Then he starts in about Javy tipping his pitches by supposedly leaning one way or another on certain pitches. I'd like to know, if Sutcliffe is so good at picking up on these things, how come he's not in uniform anywhere as a pitching coach? --Drew, Greensburg, Ky.
I have great respect for Rick Sutcliffe. I've known him well since 2000 and appreciate his insights. He said something over dinner a few years ago that applies to the Sox's problems. He mentioned about how pitchers must learn to get batters out with their brains as much as their arms, whether its starters changing their patterns or relievers noticing a batter cheating on certain pitches (such as anticipating a fastball or diving out on an outside pitch).
Rick was a minor league/spring training pitching instructor for San Diego earlier this decade.
But in this case, I think those were just poor pitches that Javy gave up for homers.
How do the White Sox justify having giving up on Brian Anderson when he is a far superior fielder than and nearly as good of a hitter as both Mackowiak and Erstad? --Dan Farrell, Oak Lawn
The Sox haven't given up on Brian Anderson, but Brian needs to improve his average at Charlotte.
I was wondering, outside of Joe Crede and Mark Buerhle, is there anyone the Sox have drafted in the past 8-9 years that has developed into a solid player? It seems like our drafts have been nothing but busts and we hear about how great these guys are in the minors but I never see anything that special out of any of them when they get to the big leagues. --Tom, Elk Grove Village
Chris Young looks like the real deal. Oh wait, he's playing for Arizona.
Thome, Fields and Dye are prefect 7th, 8th and 9th hitters. Please advise Ozzie. --Dewayne Richardson, San Jose, Costa Rica
You got it.
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