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The Tribune's White Sox beat reporter answers reader questions -- about, among other things, a mulligan for this season, the bullpen woes and a possible rookie of the year in Josh Fields.
Hi Mark, I'm glad this season's nightmare is almost over. But after reading the Tribune on Sept. 7, I'm afraid we'll see the same kind of team next year, given Ozzie's and Kenny's comments about maybe they can't afford the Torii Hunter's of the world, and their intent on using the farm system. If they don't want to spend the bucks the fans have put in their pocket to improve the team, they'll be playing to empty seats. I am not renewing my weekend tickets unless I see some big spending on some stars. -- Steve Kaminski, Scherville, Ind.
You and/or Kenny seem to be pushing pretty hard to sign Torii Hunter. Not to say he is not a great player, but didn't we learn anything from the computer geeks who corectly predicted the poor season this year? The last thing we need is another high priced 32-33 year old star on his way down. Let's get some young players. -- David Landsburg, Tuscon, Ariz.
Hold on there, Dave. I'm not pushing hard to sign Torii Hunter, and Kenny cannot comment on Hunter or he could be charged with tampering. The point that's being made is that regardless of whether the Sox can sign Hunter or not, they must improve from within to have any chance to win the division in 2008. This means the top and bottom of the order reaching base with more frequency; the middle of the order hitting in the clutch and not hitting into so many double players; the bullpen reducing walks and the defense playing smarter. I'm not against the pursuit of Torii Hunter, whom I've found to be a good guy as well as a solid player based on two conversations I've had with him this season. Just don't expect him to be the savior if the Sox sign him. More young players will have to step up next season in some manner. There won't be any room for growing pains like this season if the Sox are to compete.
Why did Ozzie take rookie Don Lucy out of the game Wednesday? Dumbfounded. -- Jennifer Styles, Lee, Ma.
With Joel Zumaya on the mound in the seventh in a 1-1 game, A.J. Pierzynski gave the Sox a better chance of going ahead, especially after Danny Richar moved to second on a balk.
Mark, the Braves offered Edgar Renteria and a top pitching prospect for Jon Garland. And with Yunel Escobar coming on, the Braves are likely to trade Edgar. I don't think they would add the top pitching prospect since Garland has been bad in the second half, but still ... Renteria for Garland? I think the Braves would do it, but would Kenny? -- Danny Granger, Chicago
A source told the Boston Globe last month that the Sox were close to pulling off a deal that would have sent Mark Buehrle to Atlanta for Renteria. I'd be careful about pulling off a deal with Renteria only because he's had some ankle problems. His age (32) doesn't worry me that much, and he's having one of his best seasons. But why not aim for Escobar, as Kenny reportedly did in another Buehrle trade report?
I'm a little suprised that Gonzalez and Egbert were not brought up in September. I thought they had the best seasons in the Sox farm system? I can honestly say this is the most painful season to watch as a lifelong (50+) years fan. How did it come to this? -- Tom M, Wantagh, NY
I'm not completely surprised that neither Gonzalez nor Egbert weren't promoted because the 40-man roster already is filled up, and Gonzalez doesn't have to be on the 40-man roster until after the 2008 season. I look at the demise this way: The 2005 season took its toll on the starters in 2006, although I fully understand why Ozzie and Cooper rode the starters like they did in the playoffs. The team coming out of spring training in March looked older than its biological age. I thought Podsednik was going to rebound until he got hurt in mid-April, and there was too much ground to make up after the collective slumps by the middle of the order lasted through June.
What is the theory behind Ozzie's left/right/left/right batting order. This order to me is not conducive to scoring runs. Your thoughts please. -- Ed DeVries, Ocala, Fla.
Some times starting pitchers, like left-hander Johan Santana, get comfortable facing hitters from one side of the plate. It might sound crazy, but there are a few baseball people who subscribe to this theory. Some times you can limit an opposing bullpen's effectiveness by balancing your lineup this way.
I am distressed about all the letters to your mailbag. Yes, this year is painful, but the two that are being lambasted have brought 90 wins last year, a World Championship the year before that and an average of a plus .500 team every other year they have been involved with the Sox. I, as a fan, think that they have earned a mulligan. Maybe even two. So what do you think? -- Mark Jolly, Granger, Ind.
The Sox believed their had a division-winning caliber team coming out of spring training, so there is no mulligan. Everyone is accountable, especially the players. If you think I'm being harsh, look what happened in Houston with the GM and the manager getting fired less than two years after the Astros reached the World Series.
Iguchi's range factor during 2007 with the Sox was more than .5 greater than Richar. Range factor seems like the right way to compare people who played the same position on the same team. Is it reasonable to expect large improvements from Richar or did the Sox seriously misjudge his defensive talent? -- Derek, Orland Park
I'm more concerned with Richar's production at the plate than his defense. Sure, there were too many balls that grazed his glove last week, but I think he's going to be fine defensively.
Please help an uninformed mind understand how it was possible for Ken Williams to think the guys he signed in the off-season would produce a dominant bullpen. First, he had to do something about the pen. Cotts had a 5.17 ERA in 2006 and finished the 2007 at Triple-A Iowa. Hermanson failed to make the Cincinnati Reds' 2007 opening day roster. Riske, however, is having a productive season with Kansas City (2.24 ERA in 59 games). Sisco, Aardsma and Masset have power arms. In my mind, Sisco and Masset were projects. Simply, it might have been asking too much of pitching coach Don Cooper to get the results he out of the newcomers that he got out of Matt Thornton and Mike MacDougal in 2006. -- Ned Ryerson, Punxsutawney, Pa.
Mark, the last season and a half of White Sox baseball has been extremely painful to watch. Do you think Reinsdorf will have the audacity to raise season ticket prices again? At this point, I think the organization owes it to the loyal fans to show their appreciation where it counts and lower prices on season tickets, even just a little bit. Besides, we are pretty much watching a minor league team anyway. -- Jason, Chicago
Teams rarely lower ticket prices, but it might be a sign of goodwill if ticket prices aren't raised. Attendance at home games for the past 1 1/2 months has been impressive for a team that has struggled.
Ozzie made this comment after the Sox lost to Detroit on September 6th. Can you please explain it? "If we're going to put a team out there and we know we're not going to win, we're better off telling the fans," Guillen said. "I will say it, and I might get in trouble. I'm not going to be in the same position now I was in the summer. I'm not going to put myself in the position to lie to the fans." What EXACTLY was Ozzie implying? -- Mark Liptak, Chubbuck, Idaho
He says he's not going to lie if he sees this team isn't capable of competing for the division title. As for his reference to this summer, there was the hope in some parties that if they kept the team together and got Podsednik and Erstad back, they could actually make a run for the wild card and thought their claim was backed up when Cleveland struggled at the start of the second half. I never believed this because of the inconsistency of the offense and bullpen. Talent lies in the beholder's eyes, and Kenny believes the nucleus is there for a run in 2008. We'll see after what figures to be an eventful off-season.
Several fans have written to you regarding Josh Fields move to left field. What do you think of moving him to first base, which would require Paul Konerko becoming a full time DH and the trading of Jim Thome. Fields right now has better range and this open ups left field for a speedy top of the order type player. This move opens up more opportunities to improve team speed. -- Tom, Park Ridge
I wouldn't do it now because shopping Thome would limit the Sox to only 13 other teams. The Sox considered moving Dye to first base if Konerko hadn't re-signed with them after the 2005 season, and I wouldn't be surprised if that scenario or moving Erstad to first was raised if Konerko is shopped.
Other than the Marlins and their massive salary sell-off, has there ever been another major league franchise that has gone from the top of the heap to the dregs in so short a period of time? And, regardless of the on-the-field performance, don't the front office people usually have to pay a price for this type of dreadful drop-off? What is the point of stability/continuity in retaining Williams/Guillen? This is ludicrous. -- Terry Tyrpin, Schaumburg
You saw what happened in Houston, and you're about to see more changes around baseball with teams falling short of expectations. Of the three organizations I've covered on a daily basis, the Sox reward loyalty like no other. But a slide of this magnitude calls for some close examination. It's not all the fault of Duane Shaffer. For some reason, position players like Robert Valido, Brian Anderson and since-departed Pedro Lopez and Robert Valido have stagnated in their development. The defense at the major league level was poor even before the callups arrived. The organizational meetings should be more eventful than in past years.
I do not foresee the Sox line up changing all that much next year, so how can I feel comfortable that the heart of the Sox lineup will have a repeat performance? -- Clifton, Chicago
Can it get worse than this: Dye .210 RISP; Pierzynski .245 RISP; Konerko 20 GIDPs; Thome 116 strikeouts in 113 games?
I wonder if Ozzie's relationship with the players is strained after his recent public blasting of the team? He placed all of the blame on the players and absolved himself, Don Cooper and Greg Walker of any responsibility. I don't recall Ozzie shying away from accepting credit for the success in 2005. Personally, I'd like to see more strategy and button-pushing from Ozzie during the game. He looks more and more like Dusty Baker as a game-day strategist and perhaps his biggest strength -- motivating his players -- is eroding. -- Charlie, Danville, Calif.
Funny you mention Dusty, since you're from the Bay Area. Fans and some San Francisco front office people ripped Dusty for using the bullpen too much before the likes of Jason Schmidt and Russ Ortiz arrived on the scene and showed they could pitch deep into games. More of a manager's duties require managing people. I'll admit that some players weren't crazy about Ozzie's comments in Texas, but they were replaceable players. In the past, Ozzie has taken the blame for the team's struggles. But I think he should have let his feelings known sooner, perhaps after the Cubs swept them at U.S. Cellular Field. This is no knock on the Cubs - their talent level, especially on the mound, has improved tremendously over last year. Ozzie is still managing like every game is important, as evidenced by his use of the bullpen. I see a lot of hit-and-run plays, many of them failing, but at least he's still trying. And if the players don't execute them, don't expect them to be around next year.
I attended one of the beatings we took against Boston a few weeks back, and noticed something. It was a beautiful Saturday afternoon, with perfect weather for baseball, but if you looked around the park you saw a lot of empty seats and a huge percentage of the crowd was there to root for Boston. Did I just show up on a horribly slow day or have you noticed a serious dip in attendance at the Cell for a while? By the way, wonderful job again with the column this year and have an enjoyable off-season. -- Tyson Shroyer, Peoria
Tyson, thanks for your kind words and insight. Boston fans travel very well. I've seen them attract more fans in places like Baltimore, Tampa Bay and Oakland as well as at the Cell. Next year will be a true test as to how much damage this season's failures affect attendance.
Not to contradict the Elias Sports Bureau, but don't I remember a Sox/Yankees game in the mid-1970s at Yankee Stadium in which the Sox were down 9-1 at the end of 8, then came back to take a 10-9 lead only to give up two runs in the bottom of the 9th and lose 11-10? -- Ron, Las Vegas
The Sox were trailing 9-4 entering the ninth inning of a game at Yankee Stadium on Aug. 16, 1977. They scored six in the top of the ninth to take a 10-9 lead, only to lose it in the bottom of the ninth on two-run homer by Chris Chambliss off Randy Wiles.
Do you think Josh Fields has a realistic chance to be named rookie of the year? If not, who do you think is gonna be the guy? -- Mike, Florida
I think Josh will be named on some ballots but doesn't get the notoriety of some rookies, such as the two Boston pitchers from Japan.
Is Wassermann legit? Could he make a good setup man or is what he is doing a fluke? -- Tim, Chicago
I think Ehren has pitched fearlessly and doesn't his job with little fanfare. He doesn't try to throw harder than he's capable of, and the results show. I'm not sure if he's ready for a setup role yet but he's made a strong impression toward landing a spot in the bullpen in 2008.