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The Tribune's White Sox beat reporter answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, lineup proposals for next year and Mark's favorite memory of an otherwise rough season.
With the way everyone is playing defense, is there any way that we can get Ozzie in the lineup? --Leo Carlson-Tessler, Chicago
No, but I saw Ozzie giving some bunting tips before batting practice last year, and he's the best bunter in the organization.
Where did Kyle McCulloch go? I remember him being a first round pick in 2006 and have not heard anything since. --Ibid.
Kyle was 7-7 with a 3.64 ERA in 22 starts for Class-A Winston-Salem and 1-2 with a 6.41 ERA in six starts for Double-A Birmingham. I assume he'll probably start the 2008 season at Birmingham.
I'm a big Ozzie Fan. Can you somehow deliver a message to him for me? Dear Ozzie, Please read Dick Williams' book. It's a real good read. He is just like me and he is just like you. He is a champion and he is also mortal, too, 'cause like us, he fails. --Mark Kozler, Jackson, Tenn.
Since the off-season is approaching, there will be plenty of time to read. Two managers' books I enjoyed reading were Whitey Herzog's and Earl Weaver's publications. Herzog's book was particularly interesting because of the comments he made about relievers and how some managers overwork them.
Speaking of which, Tommy Lasorda turns 80 on Saturday.
Mark, make a prediction: The White Sox 2008 starting shortstop on Opening Day will be
If money were no object, Alex Rodriguez.
Mark, the extended playing time for the rookies has taught us who can play in the big leagues (Josh Fields) and who can't (Andy Gonzalez). I'm not sure what we learned about Jerry Owens and Danny Richar. What's your take? --Ira Sloan, Englishtown, N.J.
Initially I was very high on Owens and lukewarm on Richar, but that has changed. I'd like to see Jerry not hit so many foul balls over the third base dugout, but 28 stolen bases is encouraging. Once Richar picks up the speed of the major league game, I think he'll be fine and could be the starting second baseman if the Sox make upgrades elsewhere.
With the horrid numbers from the early season affecting their overall averages it's difficult to evaluate how our hitters are doing now. Is their any place to go to see what the batting averages are since the All Star break or since August first? --Ted Schenk, Austin, Texas
Here's a sampling since the All-Star break to Tuesday: Dye .300, Thome .257, Konerko .268, Pierzynski .288, Uribe .227, Fields .226, Owens .266, Erstad .229, Podsednik .246, Cintron .254, Hall .228, Gonzalez .152. Team .253.
Instead of Josh Fields playing left field, why don't the Sox try him out at shortstop? He came up as an infielder so he might be more comfortable there than in left. This would also allow the Sox to keep Crede at third, decline Uribe's $5 million option, move Owens to left field, and sign a free agent center fielder. --Brandon Barlage, Palos Heights
I've been a Sox fan for years and enjoy your column. For 2008 I think Kenny Williams needs to go back to what made the 2005 Sox a winnerpitching, defense, speed and timely hitting. The current defense is hard to watch at times, particularly in the outfield, and the bench is mediocre defensively at best. The current line up is pretty much station to station, and is much like the 2003-2004 Sox, reliant on the home run. --Howard, Columbus, Ohio
Mark, I watched a couple of games against the Tigers last week and realized that we are fielding a "B" team much like they do in spring training. The Sox had Gonzales, Richar, Owens, Fields, Lucy, Erstad, Konerko, Uribe and Floyd start the game. Unless I am missing something and based on my 55 years of watching Major League baseball, Fields was the only young player that has any potential to stick. --Jim Crestani, San Diego
Fields is a fine athlete, but I think he lacks the range at shortstop. And moving him to another position could cloud his mind. I can see a scenario where Owens moves to left, but his defense in center has been better than I thought.
I'm curious to see if others would be open to Kenny cleaning house. This off-season represents his biggest challenge since he took over as general manager.
I think we're all on board with Fields as an everyday player. Richar needs to show more production at the plate and more defensive range, but he could start next year. See above for my comments on Owens.
Lucy needs another year of seasoning at Triple-A Charlotte. Andy Gonzalez has played several positions without much previous work in the outfield. He could be a super utility player if he starts hitting and works on his defense this winter. He was rushed but took advantage of the stagnant development of Pedro Lopez, Robert Valido, etc.
So who do you think the Sox are going to draft next year? --John Fitch, Cary
With the White Sox near the bottom of the MLB standings, who are the top three or four prospects in next years draft? --Jack Taylor, Plymouth, Ind.
Jim Callis, who does a wonderful job at Baseball America, concurred with these top college players (in no particular order) - Vanderbilt 3B Pedro Alvarez, South Carolina first baseman Justin Smoak, pitchers Brian Matusz (University of San Diego), Aaron Crow (Missouri) and Tyson Ross (Cal).
An interesting name is Stanford first baseman/catcher Jason Castro. Why? He's the nephew of Sox farm director Alan Regier. Castro missed the early part of his sophomore year at Stanford but rebounded last summer by hitting .341 with four home runs for Yarmouth-Dennis of the Cape Cod League.
He likely won't be a high pick, but Jordan Danks, John's younger brother who played the outfield at the University of Texas, could be a late first-round pick with a strong junior season.
Mark, I was thinking to myself how to improve the White Sox and I thought of a good plan: (A) Trade Garland for a solid middle reliever and B-level prospect; (B) trade Contreras and eat half his contract for a middle reliever; (C) decline Uribe's, Pods', Erstad's and Myers' options. Those 3 moves dump about $20 million, and then sign David Eckstein at $5.5 million, Torii Hunter at $14 million and Ron Mahay at $3.3 million. Add a rotation of Buehrle-Vazquez-Danks-Floyd-Gio Gonzalez. Could that team contend? --Danny Granger, Chicago
I like Eckstein a lot because he can play shortstop and bat leadoff. I think Hunter could get more than $14 million annually. And the Sox would be reluctant to eat $10 million of Contreras' contract.
A 2008 rotation that includes Danks, Floyd and Gio could be a little shaky, solely because of the lack of major league experience. But I like your creativity.
How about opening a feature entitled "The Tame Card Race". That way we could track the sinking of the Orioles, Devil Rays, Royals and beloved Sox in one glance. --Don Miller, Phuket, Thailand
Or "Battle for the Bottom."
The Sox announcers, Ozzie and Kenny all seem mesmerized by the 'talents' of Juan Uribe. I think he's awful. Do you think if he continues to shine in these meaningless end of the year games and gets his average up to .240 or so, that the Sox will be smart enough to trade him and some of the bad pitching (Aardsma, Sisco, McDougal) for a real shortstop? --John Browning, Flemington, N.J.
The Sox hold a $5 million option on Uribe, and I'm not sure they can tease a team into packaging him for an upgrade at short.
Hi Mark, I enjoy reading your columns. Do you think the Sox will make a serious run at Torii Hunter this offseason? He has publicly said he wouldn't mind coming to the Sox. I don't think Jerry Owens is the answer in center field next year. --Adrian, Hobart, Ind.
I think they'll take a good shot at Hunter but I don't think the Sox will get involved in a bidding war. I wonder if fans can live with the additions of Rowand and Eckstein in 2008?
Mark, I have heard rumor that MLB is considering going back to a more balanced schedule (more games against the non-divisional opponents). Have you heard anything about that and what are your thoughts? --Dan Bowman, Marlette, Mich.
I haven't heard about it and would rather keep the unbalanced schedule so teams can go head-to-head against division opponents more often.
I feel Jerry Reinsdorf will have an influence over who the next Cubs owner is going to be. I also feel he will push to have the new owner hire his guy Rick Hahn to run the Cubs. What's your opinion of this and do you think Hendry will keep his job when new ownership comes to town? --Rod, Chicago
I agree that the chairman will have some say in who the new Cubs' owner is, but I'm not sure he would want to lose Rick to the Cubs.
Rick deserves a shot to become a general manager soon, but I think he knows he has a great set-up with the Sox. Rick has the right temperament to become a successful GM.
I think the Cubs' surge will give Jim at least another year if the new owner intends to make a change. The Cubs' over-hyped farm system may finally produce a wealth of talent under Tim Wilken.
Do Gio Gonzalez and Jack Egbert have to be added to the 40-man roster this off-season in order to be protected from the Rule V draft? Does that requirement factor into management's decision to call up a player for a September peek? Mike, Portland, Maine
I believe Egbert has to be added to the 40-man roster by mid-November because he has four years of professional experience after being drafted out of college. Gonzalez doesn't have to be added to the 40-man roster until after 2008. Call-ups translate to service time, and teams are very careful not to start a player's clock unless they're certain this player is going to contribute.
name: Tim Sweeney city: Villa Park, IL 60181 email: firstname.lastname@example.org
Hi Mark, Toby Hall recently doubled his RBI total for the year in one game. Just wondering what the record is for fewest RBI's with 100 or more at bats. --Tim Sweeney, Villa Park
I don't know the record, but here's a doozy: In 1971, San Diego shortstop Enzo Hernandez had 12 RBIs in 549 at-bats.
As always, excellent work in a most difficult season. Two questions:
While I know that Joe Crede may come back, have the Sox given up on Josh Fields at third base?
Ehren Wassermann looks like a long-term producer. Instead of hoping that the Andrew Siscos or Mike MacDougals ever get skilled, why don't the Sox realize that Wasserman and Heath Phillips keep succeeding? Given this year's flameouts of all the flamethrowers except Jenks, do you think that Guillen and Williams will revise their thinking and be more open minded about pitchers instead of throwers? --Tom, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
I don't think the Sox have given up yet on Fields at third, but putting him in left and bringing Crede back could be a good short-term solution.
Yes, I think Kenny is open to finesse pitchers.
I would like to hear your thoughts on an intangible attribute like clubhouse leadership. All season long, the team's play has lacked urgency and fire. To what extent do you think that reflects the low-key personalities of Paulie (so reluctant to be captain, he doesn't even where the "C"), Jermaine, Thome, etc. It makes me wonder if Carl Everett was right when he stated that the Sox let go of all of the clubhouse leaders after the 2005 season? --Charlie, Danville, Calif.
The major problem in 2006 was a fatigued pitching staff, not a lack of leadership. As for this year, the team looked tired and old coming out of spring training. I think Carl was partly right about some of the leaders missing. I think they miss Rowand's take-charge attitude this year.
If the White Sox miss out on any of the free agent centerfielders (all of whom I hope they don't go after), can you see the Sox maybe making a trade for a David DeJesus or someone like that? He would be a definite upgrade over what we have and would come a lot cheaper than any of the other options. --Tom K., Elk Grove Village
I think the Royals would be hesitant to move DeJesus, but it wouldn't hurt to ask. I can see Kenny taking a shot at a Carl Crawford before pursuing a free agent, but he'll have to move quick. The general managers' meetings in early November will set the foundation.
Hey Mark, great job this season
it's been a pleasure to read about the Sox, even when it hasn't been a pleasure to read about the Sox. What was your favorite memory from this season? --Joaquin Andujar, Charlotte
Probably Juan Uribe agitating A.J. Pierzynski a few weeks ago about trailing him in career home runs. It was one of those instances where you had to be there to see how funny it was, but Uribe's personality will be missed in the clubhouse if he doesn't return next year.