The Tribune's White Sox beat writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, Joe Crede's durability and whether the Sox will re-sign him, the disappearance of Ozzie Ball and a struggling Paul Konerko.
Do I have this correct: the White Sox would receive two picks as compensation if Orlando Cabrera signs elsewhere because he is a Type A free agent, but no matter how good a season Joe Crede has, we won't get compensation for him because he was injured all of last season? -- Andrew, St. Louis
Andrew, free agent rankings are based on a player's performance over a two-year period. If Cabrera comes anywhere close to repeating what he did last year, he'll be a Type A free agent, and the Sox will receive two draft picks. Crede's situation is tricky because he missed nearly four months last season, but the Sox should receive at least one pick and even two if Joe duplicates his 2006 season.
Don't you think that the White Sox gave up too soon on Ryan Sweeney? It seems that Sweeney was there for only like a year, while Brian Anderson has been with the Sox for like 3 years and no results! --Norberto, Oranjestas, Aruba
A scout told me after the Arizona Fall League that Ryan needed a change of scenery, and general manager Ken Williams has been a longtime supporter of Brian despite Brian's past wish to play elsewhere. Oakland was going to hold out for an outfielder in the Swisher trade, and I think moving Ryan was good for everyone involved. And I wouldn't rule out Brian making a significant contribution to the Sox in the future.
Mark, given how Quentin has established himself as an everyday player, it seems Brian Anderson and Alexei Ramirez are having their growth stunted with so few at-bats on the big league club. If Quentin keeps this up, couldn't (or maybe, shouldn't) the White Sox find a journeyman veteran or two to fill those bench roles and allow BA, Al-Ram, and Owens the further development they need in AAA? --Brian Pollina, Chicago
Why would we not want a healthy Jerry Owens leading off for the Sox? It would add speed at leadoff, giving Ozzie more options, sliding Swisher over to left. Although Quentin is playing well, I believe a healthy Owens makes the Sox better than a healthy Quentin and sending Anderson down since he seems to haven been relegated to just pinch running. --Heath Ober, Omaha
You make a good point about Anderson, Ramirez and Owens needing some seasoning. But I think Brian deserved to make the opening day roster based on his spring training performance. He and Ramirez should get more playing time when the Sox embark on a brutal travel schedule that starts at the end of the month and continues through mid-May.
Ozzie has made it clear that he's in the business of winning, even if it stunts the growth of Brian and Alexei. The Sox want to win now, and it can be tough finding the right veteran who will accept a reserve role.
Keeping Owens in Triple-A was the right move, for now. Jerry missed valuable time this spring. Even though he's 27, he still needs to play every day somewhere and wasn't going to get that opportunity right now with the Sox after injuring his groin.
Swisher leads the Sox with a .421 on-base percentage and was leading the American League with 17 walks despite his lack of speed from the leadoff spot. As Meatloaf once said, "two out of three ain't bad."
Mark, can you offer a guess as to when so many White Sox fans will end the annoying habit of comparing every White Sox team that wins seven out of 10 games to the 2005 White Sox? It makes those fans look silly and almost like the Cubs fans most of them undoubtedly deplore. Please tell them that 2005 was 2005. This is 2008. It's time to move on. -- Jon B., Ottawa, Ill.
It is time to move on, but 2005 still brought plenty of joy to those who waited decades for a World Championship. A division title might silence some of the comparisons, but never all of them.
Mark, if Josh Fields rebounds in Triple-A after getting off to such a horrible start, do the White Sox need to start to thinking about bringing him up to play first base or DH. Thome seems to almost be a hole in the 4th spot lately. --Ryan, Evanston
Why doesn't Thome ever try to hit to left field when the shift is on against him? He is costing us games with his seeming stubborness. --Jim, Viera, Fla.
Jim will be the first to say that it's not easy to hit. I think he'd accept a few hits to left field, but there might not be a better gift for a starting pitcher than for Jim to hit a home run in the top of the first inning.
We could see a Dave Kingman-like year from Jim, but as long as he's taking his walks and Dye and others behind him are producing, the Sox can tolerate a low batting average.
It has gotten to be painful to see Mike MacDougal enter any ball game. It has been since we got him from Kansas City. We as White Sox fans constantly hear that "he has the talent but it's all upstairs." I am sick and tired of hearing that and it is time to bring up Ehren Wasserman. --J.P. Morr, West Lafayette, Ind.
Mike has one minor league option, but he's also signed through 2009.
As we saw last year, Wasserman can pitch at the big league level. But he needs to get left-handed hitters out with more frequency. I completely understand your frustration regarding MacDougal, but the coaching staff believes he's going to contribute down the stretch and may end up being more valuable if one of the late-inning relievers gets hurt.
Through 12 games this year the White Sox have only one stolen base and have been caught stealing twice with Dye and Swisher getting picked off Monday night. They also only have one sacrifice bunt to date. This doesn't seem to be the Ozzie ball philosophy that was so successful in '05. The team's hot hitting has overcome these deficiencies but at what point will this come back to hurt them in close games as it did against Oakland on Monday? --Rob Garofolo, Chicago
Hi Mark, Is "Ozzie" ball dead or did it never exist? Through the first 14 games we have one stolen base, two caught stealing, and one sacrifice bunt. They are still a one-base-at-a-time baseball team. The reason we are winning is pitching and Guillen not trying to over-manage. --Tim Sweeney, Villa Park
Gonzo: I've now watched the White Sox butcher a simple run down play in consecutive games. I've also watched the Sox continue to miss bunting opportunities. Why is it that despite changing players over the past four years, a franchise that was known for "doing the little things" to win games over the decades, can no longer seem to steal bases, execute the hit and run, bunt or even do things Little League teams seem to have no problems pulling off. --Mark Liptak, Chubbuck, Idaho
The Sox don't have blazing speed, so on-base percentage is going to be more important than stolen bases on this club. There are times when the situation could have called for a sacrifice bunt, but the Sox have been very successful this season in playing for the big inning.
Sunday's game notes point out that they've scored five or more runs in an innning four times. Last year, they didn't score five runs or more in an inning until May 20 against the Cubs and scored five or more runs only four times in the first half of 2007. Yes, the botched rundowns were brutal. No excuses for not executing those plays. There will be numerous times when they need to execute a sacrifice bunt to win a game. I thought there would be a refresher course, but I guess that's not going to happen any time soon.
They did work on fundamentals in spring training. That work just hasn't carried over to the regular season on certain occasions.
Mark, my question is whether or not you think the White Sox's day-to-day players are as good as Cleveland and Detroit. My opinion is that the Sox have every bit as good a day-to-day lineup; with adding a solid second baseman, they would have as good a lineup as anyone in baseball. What are your comments and what should they do with Uribe? --Jerry Davia
Jerry, the sum of this team is greater than the individual parts. As of now, their pitching staff has been more dependable than the other two teams, but it's still early and I'll keep writing that for a while. The lineup stretches out pretty well.
As for Uribe, the team isn't asking him to bat .300. Sure, his offense can be a lot better but he's drawing his walks. The strikeouts (13) are alarming, but he's played dependable defense, which is important while Danny Richar recovers from his injury and Alexei Ramirez learns the nuances of second.
Mark, count me as one of the many fans who believes that the White Sox would be foolish to give up Joe Crede, who has the unique ability to play great defense and hit with power in the clutch. Yes, Josh Fields is a great prospect, but other teams recognize that also. I say try to sign Crede first. Then either find a new position for Fields or trade him for equal value back. Your thoughts on that? --Kurt Livingston, Marion, Iowa
Did the Sox just rest Crede Friday night? --J. Pryce, Ypsilanti, Mich.
The Sox will have tough personnel and financial questions through next winter involving Jim Thome (if he doesn't get enough plate appearances to qualify for his option), Orlando Cabrera and Crede. There's no question about Crede's abilities at the plate and at third. The Sox were interested in signing Joe last fall but didn't get the chance.
I can see Kenny tearing this team down if it falls way short of contending for a division title. The danger is that Joe's value as a free agent might be too much for the Sox to afford and still field a competitive team unless they can perform some financial gymnastics.
Yes, Joe received a rest on Friday.
About Saturday's loss to the Rays, I have to question, very strongly, the ability of Ozzie to manage this team. The Sox played in the evening and Ozzie should've known that Kansas City, Cleveland and Detroit all lost on Saturday. Now, this game becomes very important because if they win, KC will be 2 games behind, Cleveland 4 and Detroit 5. Then you see the lineup he had for Saturday's game, 5 players in the lineup all hitting below 200. The two hottest hitters, A.J. Pierzynski and Jermaine Dye, are out, and you still have Paul Konerko batting fourth. Ozzie has to juggle the lineup, put Konerko lower so he can take some pressure off himself. Did the Sox have any advance scouting reports on Sonnanstine? Obviously not! Like I've been saying all along, Greg Walker should've been fired before the All-Star break last year. I don't see any changes or adjustments on any hitter that is struggling right now. --Kaz, Fox Lake
I think it's a little early to scoreboard watch, and the Sox begin a stretch of 26 games in 27 days starting Tuesday. Rest is important, even this early in the season.
Like you, I wasn't crazy about their approach on Sonnanstine but there were many more factors that went into that loss.
Carlos Quentin took Jeremy Guthrie deep during Thursday's game in Baltimore. Could they have been teammates at Stanford? I noticed in Guthrie's bio at mlb.com that he played at Stanford in 2001 & '02. Quentin's bio at mlb.com says that he was born in 1982, but doesn't say much else about his personal info. Could familiarity have been a factor tonight? --Jacob Wang, San Francisco
Yes, they were teammates at Stanford from 2001-02, and the Cardinal baseball program is very proud of Carlos' achievements with the Sox. Carlos was aware of Guthrie's slider that he smacked for a seventh-inning home run.
Mark, I am continually amazed at the hypnotic hold Juan Uribe has over the press and the White Sox organization. Has he truly set some spell on everyone to stay in the lineup? On the one hand, I like the double plays, but on the other, wouldn't Alexei Ramirez be just as good or better out there? This guy is a clueless hitter. He has a productive at-bat about once a week. -- John Browning, Flemington, N.J.
I h a v e t o a n s w e r t h i s q u e s t i o n s l o w l y. S o m e o n e p l e a s e s n a p t h e i r f i n g e r s t o g e t m e o u t o f U r i b e ' s t r a n c e.
OK. Danny Richar won't be ready for at least another month, and Ramirez is very raw at second.
Uribe's experience and play at second has been very valuable. Uribe is a No. 9 hitter, not a No. 2 or No. 5 hitter. Sure, he should be hitting better but there's a reason he's a No. 9 hitter.
Why has Bobby Jenks changed the way he pitches? I keep hearing that he is becoming a pitcher and that worries me. I always thought his success was throwing two 98 mph fastballs and then having the batter chase that wicked curve of his. I can honestly say that I am concerned that this will do more harm than good. For reference, the April 17th game where he threw more off speed pitches than fastballs. --Clifton, Evergreen Park
The life of a closer is usually finite. Bobby can still throw 95 mph, but I think he's become a more complete pitcher with the latest development of a change-up. He also converted all six save chances and was more efficient until the Baltimore game. Take away the Baltimore game, and he's been automatic.
Time to move Paul Konerko and Jim Thome. Nick Swisher to first Base, Jerry Owens to center, and Josh Fields as the designated hitter. Re-sign Joe Crede. More speed, better defense, and much younger. Trade for prospects, maybe middle relief. --Frank Johnson, Watertown, N.Y.
Mark, My question is about Paul Konerko. I love the guy but he's off to another slow start, batting .172 with a .319 OBP. He's there to hit it certainly isn't to play defense or run the bases so what gives? His speed is a liability and he seems to have a very fragile psyche when he's struggling at the plate. --Jim, Peoria
Konerko's track record suggests that he'll warm up to his normal production levels. They probably would have received quite a few young talented players for him, but the Sox never shopped him.
Ken Williams views Paul as part of the solution, not part of the problem.
As always, thanks for the yeoman efforts to keep us informed. A year ago and throughout the winter, the White Sox's farm system was derided as barren, as the worst in baseball. It seems with the emergence of Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez and the comebacks of Brian Anderson and Nick Masset, there would seem to be some good players left behind in the minors (Josh Fields, Jerry Owens, Ehren Wasserman). Do you agree? And are there other bona fide up-and-comers, aside from Aaron Poreda, either starting pitchers or position players? --Tom, San Juan Capistrano, Calif.
They still need to develop more position players and get more impact players through the draft soon. Ken Williams spent last weekend evaluating amateur players, and the Sox need impact players in this year's draft to shore up holes in the system.
They're being very patient with some of their younger players, which is why Juan Silverio remained in extended spring training after players were assigned to their affiliates late last March. On the other hand, it's very discouraging to see players like shortstop Robert Valido continue to struggle.
I think it's time we give Joe Crede a nickname I like Clutch Cargo!! He is definitely a clutch performer and he looks just like the character from old animated series! I also like Swish the Switch or Nick the Switch! --Jorge, Alsip
Sorry, the "Dirty Thirty" already was taken for Swisher. Ditto for Joltin' Joe. What about "Dollar Joe," because he'll be making plenty of money after this season?
Hi Mark, Don't get to see a lot of games but think this club could be even better by tweaking the batting order a bit: Orlando Cabrera at lead-off, Jermaine Dye, who will see more fastballs, batting second. Nick Swisher third, Paul Konerko fourth, A.J. Pierzynski fifth, Jim Thome, Joe Crede, Carlos Quentin and Juan Uribe. They need to be more aggressive on the bases. I think they achieve this with this order. What do you think? --Rob, Naples, Fla.
I like the lineup the way it is, especially with having Crede in the eighth spot gives Quentin better pitches to hit. Cabrera is at his best as a No. 2 hitter.
I was wondering if you knew if any of the AL Central Guillens or Cabreras are related? (GuillenWhite Sox's Ozzie, Kansas City's Jose, Detroit's Carlos) (CabreraSox's Orlando, Detroit's Miguel, Cleveland's Asdrubal) Hopefully, our set of Guillens and Cabreras comes out on top. --Brett, Plymouth, Minn.
None of the above are related
Will Joe Crede's back be able to withstand an entire season? --Jay Grochowski, Naperville
Yes. Friday's day off will help ensure Joe's health, and the trainers and Joe have done a solid job with their daily maintenance.
Have the Sox won any games this year with Toby Hall catching? --Le Roy L. Poellot, Rockford
Through Sunday's game, the Sox are 2-2 with Toby behind the plate.