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With pressure building on managers and GMs to win quickly do you think it would be more effective to offer players more money for less years? The emphasis being if you cannot win in 3-4 years -- time for a change. My example being Furcal's contract. -- David, Chicago
Great idea, but there are some players who seek security and more years. Ned Colletti has done a good job with the Dodgers in short-term contracts, but the Dodgers are paying a lot of money for the likes of Furcal and Jason Schmidt on a short-term basis. I think the short-term contracts work if you have enough prospects ready to be introduced to the major leagues.
Mark - I raised the question whether the Bosox could have been stealing signs during the recent 4-game massacre!!! Has Ozzie or Kenny even had any suspicions or discussions on this point??? -- Tom C., Altamonte Springs, Fla.
None. That was a thorough beating.
It looks like the Sox will end up with a very high pick in the 2008 draft. Would they lose this draft pick to the Twins if they signed Torii Hunter? -- Scott S., Elgin
No, they wouldn't lose their first pick, but the Twins would receive two draft picks if they lose Hunter.
I know I shouldn't care anymore, but I do. Watching the team is like watching a train wreck. My issue is now with the coaching staff. I have not placed any blame on them this season, but now I'm starting to wonder. How can the situational hitting be SO BAD??!! How can all of these great minor league hitters come here and fail so miserably? Does Walker tell them anything? Does the man teach anything? As for Ozzie -- why is there never any punishment for mental mistakes (i.e. Juan Uribe)? Please do not take this personally, but from listening to the post-game press conferences, it also seems like the beat reporters do not ask the tough questions (at least not on the record). I am very loyal and will continue to follow the team, but it's going to be very lonely at The Cell next season. -- John, Western Springs
John, there will be plenty of room in the press box as well if the Sox don't make changes and field a title-contending team. The coaches work endlessly with batters on situational hitting. Walker and Guillen have told players like Uribe to hit to right and let his strength provide the power. If the chairman and GM support the manager and coaches, who does the blame fall on besides the players? You can't blame equipment manager Vinny Fresso. At least the uniforms are clean.
How do you explain Iguchi hitting over .300 for the Phillies after not hitting for the Sox? Also there are at least 49 former Sox players now playing in the Majors. Can you pick out three outfielders out of this group that would be better than what we have? Rowand, Lee, Ordonez, C. Young, Cameron, Lofton, Harris, Gload. There are 19 relief pitchers and I think you could pick out five good ones to fit in with Jenks. There are also 10 infielders, two catchers, & two DHs. Starting pitching would be a little weak with K. Wells, D. Wells, Fogg, Loaiza, & injured Colon & McCarthy. Ours isn't too great either right now. What do you see as the problem here? Scouting?? You do a great job with your columns. -- name: Fargosox, Fargo, N.D.
Iguchi, like so many of the Sox's hitters, got off to a slow start and perhaps has finally found his stroke. He's also hitting in a better hitter's ballpark than U.S. Cellular Field. To blame the personnel failures entirely on the scouting department would be wrong. There are projection issues, as well as character questions in which scouting is involved when determining a player's makeup. However, it does look embarrassing when a $107 million payroll produces the majors' second-worst record.
I've just watched Mike McDougal blow another one against Cleveland. Why does Ozzie over-manage? Why hasn't McDougal simply been let go? Isn't this another reason to fire Guillen? God, this is just unbelievable. The incompetence of this manager is remarkable. I've watched my last game till Guillen is gone. -- Jeff, St. Louis
Jeff, MacDougal is signed through 2009, and Ozzie doesn't sign the checks. He is in charge of selecting which pitchers are used in a game. And it might be wise to not use MacDougal in consecutive games or for more than one inning per outing.
In the 8/31 game against the Indians, Meyers and MacDougall both imploded (shock!), with the Sox needing only one more out to get out of the 8th inning. They can't get the out and the Sox lose again blowing a three-run lead. Why not use Jenks for that out and the ninth? The next day, Joe Nathan and Mariano Rivera both pitch a four-out save. I know a while back Ozzie said he was only using Jenks in save situations, but why not use him when you need a win badly. By the way, I am dying hard down here in Louisiana, but I will never give up on the Sox. -- Bill Gallagher, Metairie, La.
There was a mid-June game against Florida in which Jenks was used in the eighth and blew a save opportunity, which reinforced Ozzie's policy of not using him before the ninth. At least you have the Saints to look forward to.
Kenny has always said pitching and defense wins championships. I know it's early but Josh Fields looks lost in LF and has said he won't play winter ball. Will KW sacrifice defense to keep Fields in the line-up when Crede returns? -- Mike Klein, Mokena
I am a little concerned about a trend I see with Josh Fields. If you check his minor league stats and his limited at-bats last fall, he always drew a large amount of walks. About 1 walk for every 2 strikeouts. This year it's about 1 walk for every 5. As a Fan, I couldn't even go to the games here in Texas. They are painful to watch. I have always loved Greg Walker, but something is out of synch. This team strikes out way too much. They will have 5 players with 100 strikeouts at year's end. -- Donald First, Plano, Texas
Does Josh Fields realize that he looks just like Jack on Will and Grace? -- Susan McMahon, Chicago
I think Josh would rather look like Joe Rudi as a left-fielder. You're going to suffer growing pains with Josh as a hitter, but the power is encouraging, as well as his ability to recover from slumps. Whether Josh stays in left could depend on other moves the Sox make in the off-season, such as landing a center fielder ... or if Joe isn't ready by next spring.
I am trying hard to ignore the Sox because they have become too painful. Williams has demonstrated, I think irrefutably, that 2005 was a fluke and that he really does not understand what makes a good, winning combination of a baseball team. He must go! Ozzie, bless his heart, must go too. His "gut feelings" for making field decisions is just a confession that he is too unsophisticated to use the statistical tools that a really knowledgeable manager, like Piniella or LaRussa, utilize. Both of these guys, Ozzie and Williams, are pretenders at their positions. To rise again, the Sox need competent leadership from the top. -- Garey
I look at the batting averages and ERAs of the players on the roster and their (lack of) experience and believe the manager had few choices. But there's little reason why those players shouldn't have performed better.
Mark, Please tell me that it's over ... OK, not yet. What do you think the chances are that Freddy Garcia might be brought back next season say on a 2-3 year incentive type deal? -- BoB in SA, San Antonio
Only one more trip after this one. I don't think Freddy will be back in a Sox uniform unless it's an old-timers game in 10 years.
With only two dependable starting pitchers, a group of middle relief pitchers that I wouldn't trust against any team competing in the Little League World Series, and a group of veterans whose offensive skills have grown much worse than they have aged, can you offer any reason(s) why I should be optimistic about next year? If possible, please avoid using the name 'Torii Hunter' in your answer. Thanks. -- Robert Rich, Ossining, N.Y.
If you finish with a terrible record, you often have to overpay for talent. This is what the Sox face this off-season with free agents. That should determine your level of optimism.
Although the White Sox have several decent players, their good players number three: Jenks, Buehrle and Vasquez. How can you build a contender starting with only three good ones? -- Dewayne Richardson, San Jose, Costa Rica
I'll take a healthy Thome as DH and injury-free Dye in right. At this point, I'd say anything is possible at the other positions.
Hello Mark ... Since it's clear we have the worst offense, will Ken realize this and go ahead and deal for Edgar Renteria and sign Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand? Putting Hunter and Edgar in the lineup would make a huge difference, IMO. What do you think? -- Danny Granger, Chicago
Danny, would you have traded Buehrle for Renteria? That is what was circulated last month before the Sox elected not to trade Buehrle and re-sign him. Hunter will command big money, and I can't see the Sox getting involved in a bidding war. Rowand would be a nice fit, but the Sox could still use a leadoff hitter if they think Owens is no more than a fourth outfielder.
Mark, I am so depressed over this year's 2007 Sox team that I don't even have a question for you this week. And I won't bother you again until 2008. Have a great holiday season! -- Allman, Tempe, Ariz.
Thanks. Time to book that off-season vacation before it's too late.
Thinking of next year -- do you get any feel for whether or not Kenny Williams will build more for power or for speed and defense? The idea of Fields in left with Crede back at third makes me worry he's leaning towards another power-laden, lead-footed team. -- Cliff Jordan, Chicago
Speed in center and at shortstop can make up for those two positions, although Fields runs OK for a third baseman moving to left. I think Kenny and Ozzie want more speed and are looking to see where they can make upgrades.
Mark: I know this will sound crazy but Ozzie has been known to try the unorthodox at times. How about to create some trade value they give MacDougal a shot at closing a game or two. I have always suspected his demotion to setup guy from closer is part of his problem. I know Sox wins are precious now but at some point this experiment might be worth a try. -- Tom Pappalardo, Chicago
I think MacDougal has trouble pitching on consecutive days, but you're right about closers having premium value.
Hi Mark, One thing I wonder about Greg Walker -- are there any White Sox hitters he can point to as success stories? Frank Thomas took Juan Uribe under his wing (whatever happened to the Hriniakian toe tap?); Walker said Joe Crede solved his own problems during a DL stint late in 2005. Jim Thome still points to Charlie Manuel (the reason behind Aaron Rowand's All-Star season?), Ozzie is credited for keeping Paul Konerko loose enough to avoid 2003 repeats. I remember Brian Anderson crediting Walker for changing the way he held his bat, which made his offensive production near passable in the second half of '06, but nobody else comes to mind. Are there any stories I'm missing? -- Jim Margalus, Albany, N.Y.
Konerko is a big supporter of Walker and realizes the criticism that Walker is receiving is painful. Walker has a strong professional relationship with his players, including A.J. Pierzynski. Walker is making sure the hitters aren't taking shortcuts.
Mark, I spent $150 on the Extra Innings package to watch the Chisox from here in Omaha. Can I get the Sox to reimburse me? P.S. -- In sickness and in health, I love the Sox! -- Mike Skomal, Omaha
There's always 2008.
Mark: Just wondering. A lot of fans are kicking around how many new players will be on the Opening Day roster next season. I've seen comments of anywhere from 10 to 13 new faces from most of the fans. I honestly hope that many new guys are on the club because clearly the old ones weren't able to get it done. Reality though says otherwise because of the size of some contracts, a limited number of quality players available (think bullpen) and the fact that it takes two to do a deal. Your guess...how many new guys on the 25 man roster come next April? -- Mark Liptak, Chubbuck, Idaho
I love Paul Konerko as a person and as a player, and he helped the Sox deliver a World Series championship. Basically, I think he would make a more productive sixth hitter rather than fourth. On the right team like Boston or the Angels, he would add more value to one of those teams primarily because he would be surrounded by more powerful and quicker lineup that would give him better pitches. For the Sox, we need more speed, fewer strikeouts, better defense, and fewer double plays. I went on record last year proposing that we keep Gload instead, a consistent .300 hitter who doesn't strike out a lot or hit into a large number of inning-ending double plays. Nothing this year changes my opinion. I'm hoping that Konerko would bring in commensurate talent to fill more immediate needs on the team. It is amazing to me that the fans are so tough on everyone else, but Konerko seems to get a free pass. Finally, I think Carl Everett said it best two years ago when he told the press that Konerko just wasn't the type of person to get into the faces of poor performers. If I remember correctly, Paul wasn't so keen on the leader role either. -- Ed Lasak, Riverside, Cal.
Back at y'all: If Konerko were shopped, could he bring back more in return than any player on the Sox's roster? It's a big issue because Paul earns 10-and-5 rights (the right to veto a trade because of his status as a 10-year veteran with the last five years with the same team) next May. I think Kenny, as always, will listen to all offers from any interested team. And the teams who sent scouts to Sox games last month indicate to me that there are several teams interested in the Sox players. It's going to be a wild off-season and it's up to Kenny and Co. to produce. I think every player on the Sox's roster has a price, even Paul.
At this point, is it worth your time to write a mailbag? -- John, Napa, Cal.
As long as you have questions, I'll keep answering them until the end of the month. But Napa sounds great this time of year.
Aside from bringing back Joe Crede, where do the Sox expect to add some offense to their lineup next year? Fields seems a must and has been pencilled in over in left. But the lineup has been punchless with or without him this year. Kenny seems satisfied that he has retained his "core" of Paulie, AJ, JD and Thome. That leaves centerfield, shortstop and second base. Owens provides the speed that Ozzie wants out in CF. TPTB love Richar's potential. Is switching out Uribe gonna solve all our problems? I don't think so. Snagging a Torii Hunter or Andruw Jones might help, but I don't see it being enough. Forget about signing A-Rod. Are there any good hitting shortstops or second basemen available as free agents or trade bait? Omar Vizquel solves nothing on offense as he can't hit a lick. Does JD's new contract mean that KW won't trade him? He and Thome could bring value. (I'd hang on to Paulie and AJ.) -- Mike, Florida
I think switching shortstops hardly solves all the problems. Richar could use another year of seasoning at Triple-A unless the other eight spots in the batting order are as formidable as the top lineups in the American League. David Eckstein solves two problems at shortstop and as a top-of-the-order hitter, but the Sox probably would have to overpay in free agency because of their last-place status. I'm told Vizquel could re-sign witih the Giants, but we'll see. Jermaine Dye has full no-trade rights in 2008. Don't be surprised if the Sox listen to trade offers for every player, including Konerko and A.J.
Do you see the Sox organization seriously stressing vast improvement on simple fundamentals - bunting, holding runners on better, and executing the hit and run etc.? In your opinion, do they work on this enough in Spring training? They just seem so inept in these crucial areas! Thanks for your work it is good therapy in the midst of a tough season and always informative. When will this column begin again for next season? Any chance by mid January? -- Dan Bowman, Marlette, Mich.
With plans to invite only players with a realistic chance of making the majors, there will be plenty of time for quality instruction. You nailed it on those three areas, with the work on hit-and-run plays becoming more necessary after what has transpired in the past two months. They do work on bunting quite a bit in spring training, so this is no fault of the coaching staff.
I expect to be barely recovering from a busy off-season in mid-January, before SoxFest and the town hall/barbecue session that awaits Kenny and Co.