The Tribune's White Sox reporter answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, whether Orlando Cabrera will be on the Sox in 2009, getting Toby Hall more at-bats and Thome and Konerko's hitting.
Seeing as how Juan Uribe is almost ready to play and Orlando Cabrera will likely finish the year at short before becoming a free agent, wouldn't be better for the White Sox to send Alexei Ramirez to the minors to play with Danny Richar every day so that we have our shortstop/second base combo ready to go next training camp and be set for years to come or do you think they will keep Ramirez with the team because he can play a few different positions? -- Scott Miller, Brea, Calif.
Scott, I know you sent this e-mail early last week, so I'll try to expand the landscape here. The hot player stays at second, and that's Ramirez. It looks like the upside is pretty good for him, with the expectation that he'll shift to shortstop next year.
However, a special assignment scout I talked to last weekend during the Devil Rays' series thought the Sox should consider keeping Ramirez at secondconsidering how far he's come along at that position in a short amount of timeand move Uribe back to short and bat him ninth.
The ascent of Ramirez is the best development the Sox have received among their middle infielders in a long time. Remember it was only a few years ago when we were hearing the likes of Pedro Lopez, Robert Valido and Andy Gonzalez?
With second base being absent of consistent play, when are we going to see John Shelby Jr.? I can't stand watching Uribe, and Ramirez needs to add some muscle. He's Soriano-light. --D. Papaeliou, Las Vegas
I think John Shelby Jr. has some power potential, but I'm curious to see where he ends up playing. It could be second base or the outfield. With Ramirez playing very well, there's no need to rush Shelby. And don't forget Chris Getz at Triple-A Charlotte. He's continued to open eyes in the organization.
Why did Kenny Williams so quickly sour on Tadahito Iguchi? Iguchi's stats right now are much better than anyone who's played second base for the Sox this year. --Blogger Bill, Elmhurst
I've answered this question many times, and this will be the last time. Kenny didn't sour on Iguchi. There was no guarantee of him coming back, and he was eligible to become a free agent if the Sox didn't re-sign him by mid-November. The Sox also needed to take a look at Danny Richar. They used the $1 million they saved by trading Iguchi to apply to other areas of need in free agency.
It seems like everyone is obsessed with the sox getting more speed at the top of the lineup (and inevitably mentioning Jerry Owens). It seems to me the problem isn't the lack of aggressive base runningit's the lack of players hitting for average. Run agressively all you want, you still need to hit the ball to get the run over. Other than Ozzie Guillen's usual "let him hit out of his funk" strategy, what moves do you think the Sox could make to increase their odds of stringing hits together? Ozzie in the past has played Jim Thome at first during interleague play to keep his bat in the line upthink we'll see that this year if both Paul Konerko and Thome continue to stay in a funk? --Joe J, Chicago
As of now, it looks like they're staying the course. But we'll see what happens when they face a string of left-handers, perhaps in next week's Detroit series.
The White Sox have always seemed to have good team harmony in the past. With Orlando Cabrera and Ozzie Guillen as well as Octavio Dotel and Director of Conditioning Allen Thomas going at it, is there a problem in the clubhouse with chemistry? --Mike Kamper, Oak Forest
It's a problem if players are going directly to the GM about their issues regarding certain players, rather than hashing out their concerns with that player in a face-to-face meeting or telling the manager if they fail to reach any common ground with that player.
In regards to this clubhouse, this might be the year where having a little edge doesn't hurt.
Why is it nobody is calling out the Sox new third-base coach for such a lack of improvement this year in baserunning and bunting? And what happened to Ozzie Guillen's NL managing skills? The Sox refuse to bunt guys over no matter who is at the plate. I also see the Sox making just as many bad running decisions as last year. That third base coach hasn't improved a thing! At some point, it makes you wonder what value a coach actually has. To me, I don't see any improvement at all so why not let a fan coach there. He could do just as good with this team as the jokers they run out there now. --Mike, Manteno
Mike, you'll be surprised to learn that Jeff Cox, the third base coach, reads this forum. He took exception to being referred to as "conservative" about two weeks after I wrote this instead of bringing this up sooner.
The Sox 2008 media guide provides comprehensive biographies on all upper level staff members, coaches and players. However, I knew about Jeff Cox's background from his playing days in Oakland well before the media guide was printed and well before he pointed out his exception to being described as "conservative."
I've seen Ozzie call for the bunt, only to see the batter fail to execute twice before the bunt sign is taken off.
As for the third base coach's teaching of base running skills, I'll say that I was impressed with his base running lectures at first, second and third base in spring training. He's not the worst third base coach I've covered, and he's not blessed with Olympic sprinters. So I guess we'll have to live with his "methodical" style.
Hi Mark, I am a big Paul Konerko fan. With Paulie being hurt why couldn't they put him on the DL so he could get better in the second half and bring up Brad Eldred. He has 18 home runs 49 RBIs and hitting .263 . Don't you think this kid could help the team? --Ginni, Chicago
Ginni, Brad Eldred is a good kid and deserves a shot somewhere in the majors. But I don't think it's going to be with the Sox, since he has struck out 66 times in 210 at-bats.
I think Paul can work through this with an occasional rest, with the All-Star break serving as a perfect time to get healed.
What is going on with Orlando Cabrera? Were there other problems besides the disputed error calls? Do you think he will be in a White Sox uniform by the end of the season? --Matt, Downers Grove
Orlando Cabrera seems clearly to be putting his personal statistics above the concept of "team". The calls to the official scorer and stealing bases in a 2-0 game in Tampa with Jim Thome and Carlos Quentin at the plate are examples of this. What are his chances of making it to the end of the year wearing the black and white? --John Browning, Flemington, N.J.
Orlando has his own way of getting ready for games, but I've never seen him late for pre-game stretching, and I've seen him playing cards with selected teammates before games.
Like I wrote earlier, if players have a problem with his preparation, they should talk to him directly.
I can't speak for him stealing third, but if the opponent is going to give you the base, I don't blame him for taking it. Stealing second base keeps the Sox out of a double play with Thome at the plate.
I don't think he'll be returning for various reasons. He'll have plenty of options, and so will the Sox. But it's in everyone's best interests in the Sox's organization to support each other unless there's an alternative as a shortstop/leadoff man.
With Jim Thome and Paul Konerko struggling, and Nick Swisher seemingly not the answer, what about bringing in Mike Piazza and giving him a shot at designated hitter or first base? --Randy Johnson, Rancho Cordova, Calif.
Mike Piazza just announced his retirement, and I don't see Barry Bonds coming here as long as Ozzie Guillen has some say in this.
, Ozzie Guillen sat some of his regulars. I'm all for guys getting rest and days off. But why does Ozzie take three everyday starters out at the same time? Brian Anderson in center, Pablo Ozuna at third, Jermaine Dye changed to DH and Nick Swisher to right. He took two guys out but changed up a lot of people. Why not one starter at a time and not shift up the whole order and take guys out of their comfort zones? That seemed to hurt the flow for the hitters. --Brad, Dyer, Ind.
First, they were facing a left-handed pitcher in Aaron Laffey. Second, they were playing a night game followed by a day game, so this was a good time to rest some of the starters and get Anderson and Ozuna some at-bats to stay sharp in the event of injury.
The bigger issue in this game was Mark Buehrle getting knocked out by the sixth inning.
Why not consider Toby Hall with his .375 average as the designated hitter. From this position he can still function as a back-up catcher if A.J. gets hurt. --Richardson, Santa Ana, Costa Rica
This works well only if the Sox have a utility player who can play catcher adequately. You lose the designated hitter if Toby has to switch from DH to catcher if A.J. gets hurt.
If the White Sox draft a third baseman in this draft, what are the chances that Joe Crede or Josh Fields gets moved this season? I heard the Angels have interest in Crede, and the White Sox could use Chone Figgins if he's healthy. What are the chances of that trade happening? --Vik, Chicago
I don't think there's a third baseman in the draft who could necessitate a trade of those two players before the end of the season.
In a story in the Los Angeles Times, Angels GM Tony Reagins said, "There's no interest in moving Figgins at this point." I think the Angels see the value of Figgins, especially when he was hurt last month and their offense suffered. With a team with legitimate World Series aspirations, the Angels would be crazy to trade Figgins anywhere right now.
I hope I'm wrong, Mark, but I'm starting to wonder about Greg Walker's ability to get slumping hitters out of their funk. Last year "most" of the lineup was well below expectations. It took a good part of the season to start recovery, by then the season was lost. This year too many good hitters are struggling again, being carried by a few who are hitting and great pitching. Can you imagine what their record would be if they were hitting? It also bothers me that several ex-White Sox are swinging the bat better than ever, having career seasons. It seems like I read somewhere that Rowand would drop off after leaving the Phillies' "hitter friendly park." Last I looked he was hitting .337 in a "not so great hitting park" .Was Walker's input part of this decision? I don't want to see him go, but a hitting coach has to get guys out of slumps in a timely fashion, not months! What do you think? --T Zeke, Wantagh, N.Y.
Where were the complaints about Greg Walker in 2006, when Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome and Paul Konerko produced one of the best seasons among a Sox's threesome? I don't think this is entirely a Greg Walker problem.
Does it make sense to you to call up Dewayne Wise, hitting .338 at Charlotte, and sit him on the bench while playing Nick Swisher, hitting .203 and not looking good at all at the plate? --Kurt Livingston, Marion, Iowa
Wise provided a perfect limited role in pinch-running and playing late-inning defense. The Sox hope he clears waivers and can return to the organization at some point, with a likely promotion later this season.
I need you to answer two questions for me. Why is Nick Swisher playing ahead of Brian Anderson? Why would Ozzie put in Dewayne Wise rather than Brian Anderson in the ? Swisher is simply not hitting and is not the outfielder Anderson is. Did Ozzie really say that it's harder on him than on the pitchers when the hitters don't hit? I mean, Javy gets a loss after a two-run, 10-strikeout gem and Contreras gets a no decision Friday, and Guillen thinks it's harder on him? Is he just an egomaniac? --Jeff Hartnett, St. Louis
Jeff, I might have to add you to Brian's growing list of unpaid advisers. Seriously, it's time for Nick to start producing as he showed Tuesday night. He has a more successful track record than Brian, who does deserve more playing time as he showed Sunday against Tampa Bay.
Wise was in the game as a pinch-runner, and it makes little sense to burn another reserve player by putting in Anderson to replace Wise. Now if you say Anderson should have pinch-ran, that's a different story.
And yes, Ozzie did say it was harder on him than his pitchers when the offense isn't providing enough run support.
Starting next week, there's a new rule. One question per e-mailer.
The team isn't hitting and yet Ozzie still rarely calls for the bunt. They get two on and no outs with Swisher up and he strikes out or pops up. What's the deal? When a team's hot, you might buck the odds, but when the team is cold, as the White Sox have been all year (except Quentin) don't you try to get runners along however you can? Ozzie is one of the worst field managers in the game today, bar none. --Rick Schwartz, Los Angeles
So your question is ??? I think it's time for the bunt and not waiting for cold hitters to come out of slumps unless the score dictates swinging away. Maybe Tuesday was a sign of a turnaround, but I'm sure a few of you have seen this roller coaster effect before.
Hi Mark, Thanks so much for providing us with an insider's perspective on our White Sox. All things considered, I'd rather be a Sox fan this year than a Tigers fan or a Indians fan but urgent changes do need to be made to the Sox's lineup. The series against Tampa was just torture to watch. Aside from some surprise block buster deals, what if anything do you see happening to get the club hitting again? --Eric, Germany
Eric, thanks for your interest across the Atlantic Ocean. Ozzie's tirade Sunday was a sign that everyone was on notice, and probably himself for mentioning the GM. I can't see a blockbuster deal unless there's something out there too good for Kenny to pass up. This team just needs to start hitting as some of the players' histories have indicated.
Why in the world would a manger take his hottest hitter, an outfielder, out of the lineup to give him a day of rest? Is this written into the kid's contract? Ozzie, needs to look in the mirror when looking for a fall guy to blame for the latest collapse. --Ray Cosyn, Saratoga, Calif.
Ray, Carlos Quentin hadn't had a day off since April 2, and the Sox don't have another day off until June 16, which I believe is the same day as their charity golf tournament. You'd hate to see this guy run into the ground before August.
I know the Sox only have two catchers, but can't Ozzie Guillen find more at-bats for Toby Hall (.372 in only 42 ABs)? When he's hot, he's a better option facing a lefty than Paul Konerko or Jim Thome. I'd say Ozzie is too afraid A.J. Pierzynski could get hurt, Toby could get hurt or play bad defense at 1st. His injury in spring training was a fluke. --Jim, Ft. Collins, Colo.
As I wrote earlier, this option would be easier if the Sox carried three catchers. And A.J. is hitting better against left-handers this season.
Hey Mark: Love your work. Many thoughts about the first two months, but one of them is this: Doesn't Danks know there is such a thing as baseball karma? When he talked about sweeping the Rays, I knew that they would beat the White Sox the last three of the series. Also, do you think the Sox can scour the NL for some losing teams' offensive heroes? --Dan Cronin, Franklin, Tenn.
Thanks for the kind words. Young John is ambitious, and he was the only starter to actually beat the Rays.
This is the time of year when the Sox's pro scouts intensify their evaluations of potential trade candidates. The problem I see is that some of the struggling teams in the NL (with the exception of Cincinnati and Ken Griffey Jr.) all have their share of offensive woes. So I concur with the GM's assessment that right now there's no one out there who's available and better than what they have at this time.
What do the coaches and insiders say about Jim Thome? Is he washed up? Will he ever be able to get on track this year? Two meaningless hits in the four-game series in Tampa and 0-for-ever with runners on base. What did Leo the Lip say about nice guys? Finally, Ozzie and Kenny are doing a great job this year. Please do not print anymore comments about Danny Richar coming to save the year. Second base is the least of Ozzie's worries. --Paul Rat, Calabasas, Calif.
Paul, sorry. If anyone asks me about Danny Richar, they deserve the right to hear an answer or explanation. As this point, Danny is batting .191. With Ramirez hitting well, this is not an issue.
As for Jim Thome, a reader reminded me that I wrote that he was capable of a Dave Kingman-like year. And the home runs, strikeouts and batting average reflect that. And the hustle he showed in the ninth inning is a sign to everyone in the organization that he's trying to help in some way.
The White Sox had basically no designated hitter in 2005. Can't count Frank's 30 games. I still get disappointed (especially this year) when I remember that Aaron Rowand was traded for Jim Thome. Now the Sox still have no centerfielder (Nick Swisher hitting .205) and no DH (Jim Thome hitting .210). Stop protecting these guys. --Chuck, Albuquerque, N.M.
Sorry, Chuck. But Kenny believes in these guys, as does Ozzie (to some degree).
Hey Mark, first of all, thanks for taking time to answer fan's questions about the White Sox. I've been hearing that Ozzie's rants are starting to wear on the players and they may not want him there anymore. Do you agree or disagree? I tend to think behind closed doors that the players like him because last year, Mark Buehrle left money on the table to stay and Jermaine Dye wanted an extension. I would doubt they'd want to stay if he was hard to be around. --Jeff McNutt, Peoria
Jeff, if the players have an issue, they can go straight to Ozzie instead of expressing their concerns elsewhere.
The magnitude of his eruption was surprising, but it's a long season and the newer players will get used to those occasional fireworks if they haven't already.
Do you see the White Sox getting younger, faster and more fundamentally sound next year? Without much speed and a below average defense it's a wonder this roster full of designated hitters is still in first! Thank goodness for the pitching. I like Kenny Williams' ability to pull the trigger on trades but I don't understand the Nick Swisher trade and think they gave up too much and too soon on Ryan Sweeney. What do you think? --Marc C., Las Vegas
Marc, keep in mind that Kenny inquired about the likes of Coco Crisp and Torii Hunter, as well as Aaron Rowand, before trading for Swisher. Fautino de Los Santos and Gio Gonzalez may turn out to be good pitchers, but neither one was going to help the Sox this season. The Sox want to win now, so they were willing to give up a strong part of their future.
Ryan Sweeney needed a change of scenery for his own good, and the addition of Quentin helped dictate his exit.
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