By Mark Gonzales
Tribune staff reporter
9:08 PM PDT, May 25, 2010
Before I get to your questions, I'd like to dedicate this week's Ask the White Sox writer segment to David Beck, a loyal White Sox fan who unfortunately passed away on May 17. I worked with David about 20 years ago but didn't know he was a Sox fan until I started covering the team in 2005.
David would ask me questions in this forum, sometimes questioning my answers but doing so in a professional way. We would discuss the Sox, baseball and the differences in politics and culture in California, Chicago and Florida over lunch a few times in St. Petersburg, Fla., where he lived until his passing. I'll definitely miss him, and the White Sox lost a great fan.
I like Gordon Beckham's professionalism and athletic talent, but don't like his swing. He has a giant hitch, and his swing is too long. Does he have two strikes against him every time he steps up to the plate until he modifies his mechanics? -- Mitch Tobin, Park Ridge
Mitch, I agree with your observation in regards to his swing. One scout who has followed Beckham since the Arizona Fall League in 2008 pointed this out and remained unconvinced of Beckham's long-term success during his ascent last summer.
I'm not sure he'll modify his mechanics too much, but pitch selection was a bigger issue that he's improved on recently.
Who was the last free agent the White Sox signed that wasn't at a bargain price? The Sox seem to sign only the free agents who are at the end of their career, coming off a serious injury, or have had several bad seasons in a row. In other words, a free agent that isn't wanted by another team. -- Ron, Palos Heights
I would say that Scott Linebrink (four years, $19 million) and Octavio Dotel (two years, $11 million) weren't bargains. Dayan Viciedo technically was a free agent, and he didn't come cheaply (four years, $10 million). As far as marquee free agents, you might have to go back as far as Albert Belle.
Has Gordon Beckham's stance been widened (a la Dave Kingman, shudder!) or not? Not that this by itself is his main problem, but it raises the obvious question of WHY? -- Southside Cliffy, Chicago
Welcome back, Cliffy. Beckham's stance was widened to eliminate the unnecessary movement in other areas. By spreading out, it reduced his movements to merely swinging at the ball.
On paper the Sox were and are 75 percent gambles and question marks -- players coming off injuries, playing poorly and rejected by other teams, inexperienced, past their prime, or never great. Of these, only a few, Rios and Jones, have paid off so far, with Peavy and Pierre starting to show signs. I think the Sox are about where they should be on paper, maybe able to get up to .500 with some luck. That's the team we have. The rest was and is just hype. Sorry to say. -- Luther S.; Decorah, Iowa
In the words of Billy Joel, you may be right. It goes to show the margin for error wasn't as thick as some, including myself, thought. But this is a team-wide malaise, with few exceptions. The track records of these players don't suggest that all these players were going to hit under .250 for so long, nor was Peavy going to struggle for as long as he did.
I'd love to see Tony Gwynn become the White Sox hitting coach. Anyone agree? -- Sharyn, Chicago
I don't think Tony Gwynn would leave his current position as head baseball coach at San Diego State. He is an alum coaching at a fairly modern ballpark with the luxury of playing in great weather that can attract the top high school and junior college talent.
The bigger question is why Tony doesn't do better at SDSU. Rich Hill has done a better job at the University of San Diego and would be a great choice should USC fire former Sox catcher Chad Kreuter in a couple weeks.
Your Q&A columns have always been insightful and interesting to read throughout the years. In 2007, I wrote to you about how difficult it must be to write "Sox lose" stories every day. Hopefully that season prepared you for this season. I'm offered free tickets to Sox games at work nearly every homestand and I've declined every time. Watching the games in spring training this year was enough for me to have my doubts about this terrible team. My advice to other fans who don't want to waste their summer watching Tony Pena, Mark Kotsay, and Omar Vizquel -- watch the Oakland A's, San Diego Padres or Arizona Diamondbacks. Those teams are loaded with former Sox prospects, all of whom Kenny traded away for the likes of Tony Pena, Nick Swisher, and Javier Vasquez. -- Todd Ganz, Chicago
Todd, thanks for the kind words. The Padres have been a very fun team to watch, and I think nearly everyone is an agreement that Clayton Richard would develop into a solid starting pitcher. They've also emphasized using more speed in their spacious ballpark, and that's worked well.
The A's have little hitting, although Gio Gonzalez pitched one of the best game of the season last Saturday against San Francisco. The Diamondbacks' bullpen is about as bad as the Sox's 2007 cast.
So far, there have been quite a few Billy Preston trades. "Nothing from Nothing."
What do you think of the left side of our team? Errors of commission and omission. Why not put Jayson Nix on third, Andruw Jones in left and Juan Pierre as DH, or sit him. We have played more than 30 games and we continue to make the same mental mistakes by these three. Not to just jump on the whole team but Carlos Quentin is hitting less than 200 -- give Kotsay 20 to 30 games. You can blame KW all you want but it is Ozzie who pulls the trigger for the line ups and game decisions. Either make a change in the lineup or get someone who will. -- Clark Colvard; Chickamauga, Ga.
Defense at third has been a disappointment. Shortstop hasn't been worse than last year, but I haven't seen any improvement that I'd thought I'd see. I'm baffled, as I'm sure all of you are, by the error in the ninth inning of Monday's game at Cleveland. We all know about Juan's lack of arm strength, but he's played pretty well in regards to making leaping and diving catches that have prevented big innings.
Kotsay dug himself a hole early, and it was compounded by hitting into some very tough luck. I have no problem with working him back in the lineup against right-handers. I don't understand how Nix went from a super utility player to being employed like the 26th player on a 25-man roster.
But I wouldn't blame it all on the manager since no one, with few exceptions, is producing.
I love Mark Buerhle but if he has trade value, why don't we look to trade him? He is a good third starter and has value, but this guy hasn't been an ace except for one or two years. Also, I am wondering about the White Sox's farm system. While Flowers may be useful, there was a lot of talk about John Danks and Dayan Viciedo. However, those guys strike out at an incredible rate. I cannot see either of them contributing for a long time as Danks strikes at that rate with little power, and Viciedo is the kind of guy that will have to hit .280 or .290 to have any value as he has zero plate discipline. What are your thoughts on our prospects? It appears that are farm system has little to be excited about as a fan. -- Chris Sarcletti, Chicago
I think it would be tough to move Buehrle because of his contract and that Oswalt is on the market. St. Louis spent a lot to keep Holiday and Lohse.
I like Jordan Danks but didn't drink the Kool-Aid last fall that he was ready because scouts told me he was rarely pitched inside in the Arizona Fall League, and that observation was validated by his high strikeout total this spring. He still can rebound, and I expect him to do so.
As for Viciedo, I know he's only 21. But that's a big contract. If he makes the 2011 opening day roster, then I look at it as two years and $10 million for a 22-year-old slugger. So I'm wondering if he'll show better plate discipline and give the Sox their money's worth. But keep in mind that the New York Yankees wanted him badly.
ESPN recently polled 100 MLB players about various topics. Among them: the last manager they would choose to play for. I was a little surprised to see that Ozzie Guillen was rated worst, getting 30% of the votes! What's your take on how the Sox players feel about Ozzie and could he be a factor in free agents going elsewhere? -- John M.; Vienna, Austria
I would look to the annual Sports Illustrated survey, which samples more major league players.
In the past few years, I had three agents grumble to me about the way their clients were treated by Ozzie. I asked them to go on the record with their thoughts. All three declined. One agent still represented a few players in the organization and feared retribution.
As the roster gradually changes, it will be interesting to see which free agents elect to sign here or go elsewhere after being courted by the Sox. But free agents usually make their decisions based on money and opportunity. Torii Hunter made his decision based largely on money, and I don't blame him for that.
I believe Ozzie took a gamble on this style of baseball and everyone on the team having a "typical" year, and it backfired. When things go bad and you can't fire the players, the manager has to go. If Kenny decides to back up the truck and Ozzie disagrees because he thinks it is too soon, could Ozzie resign? -- Irv Kaage, Park Ridge
Ozzie won't resign unless he has a Brink's truck carrying all the money from the final 2 1/2 years left on his contract.
What about all of these scenarios: Sox would get Texas' Jarred Saltalamacchia (switch-hitter) for A.J. Pierzynski. He can play first base, have Tyler Flowers in minors. Will offer Buehrle to Cardinals for Bryan Anderson (great catching prospect) and a pitcher. Paul Konerko will be offered to Halos and M's as need of more offense and would be a good DH at Anaheim and Seattle. Kotsay, a disappointment after last year and spring training looked good, so release him. Trade or release Nix. If not he or C.J. Retherford or Brent Lillibridge (improved his hitting) to second, Beckham back to third and after Konerko traded. Mark Teahen to first base (along with Viciedo). Vizquel to coaching and off the roster. Bring up DeAza, who is a speedy outfielder. He hit well in spring. Major moves needed. Daniel Hudson to rotation when Buehrle is traded. And Aquino and Leesman up for Tony Pena and Randy Williams. -- Don Merkle; Eldon, Mo.
Don, if only the Sox showed the same sense of urgency that you possess.
First, Saltalamacchia has a hitch in his throwing. I wouldn't pursue him at least until he corrects that. I don't think the Cardinals can afford Buehrle after retaining Holiday, Lohse and Wainwright on long-term deals. I look for Matsui to produce more in the DH spot for the Angels but wouldn't rule them out as possibility taking a flier on Paul. Retherford and Lillibridge aren't hitting well enough to deserve a promotion. If you move Teahen to first, you need to get power at another position. I believe Vizquel will manage in the majors some day.
I'm not sure DeAza is more than a backup outfielder. Aquino hasn't impressed at Triple-A Charlotte, and Leesman isn't ready. I can see Hudson getting some starts no later than September.
At this point, we are all frustrated by the lack of performance by the Sox, and there are very few involved with the team who can escape blame (Rios, Jones, Konerko, Danks, Peavy). Although I have agreed with the company line that Greg Walker is putting in the hours, and it's not his fault our hitters are failing so miserably. Whether it's the preparation, or any other reason, Walker is not helping these guys, and it's time for him to go - can't do much worse, and it's worth noting that the guys performing well, (except for Konerko) are those that come from outside the system and Walker's tutelage (Rios and Jones). Don't see much in the minors to give us hope -- the current Sox have a very short window to start performing before we see pieces that have value are traded: (Pierzynski (would hate to see him go), Konerko (even with his no trade clause), & Buehrle (he's still a warrior). -- Ron Reichman; Los Angeles
Ron, maybe you can send some of those UCLA baseball players this way.
If you want to get rid of Greg Walker, who is the answer? No one has asked about how poorly the prospects are failing at Triple-A Charlotte under Gary Ward, whom Walker replaced. Does this mean that Ward is the problem? Maybe, maybe not. There were concerns about Jordan Danks and his ability to handle inside pitches before this season under Ward at Charlotte.
In my opinion, that short window you referred to has virtually closed.
Is there any real chance that A.J. will be sent to the Rangers, and if so, what would the Sox have to get in return for a guy who personifies the scrappy, beat you any way possible mentality that opponents hate and teammates hate and teammates hate little less, but the blue-collar base of White Sox fans love and appreciate? -- Al B; Montgomery, AL
I think there's a reasonable chance that A.J. gets traded before June 14. But the general manager won't give him away. He'll look to get two major league-ready players.
It's kind of ironic that the Sox play at Wrigley Field the evening of June 13. Can you imagine the scene if A.J. gets traded that night on national television?
I remember during the 2003 trading deadline that San Francisco made a trade for Sidney Ponson during a game at Wrigley Field, and two players were outside the ballpark trying to flag down a taxi while the game was being played.
I think A.J. will get quite a sendoff if he's dealt under these circumstances.
As I know baseball, your best or hottest hitter has always batted third in the lineup, which would be Rios. Beckham should be sent to the minors until he gets his stroke back. Bring up Lillibridge or Retherford. I fear that Quentin will turn out to be a one-year wonder; I hope I am wrong. Try to get Juan Uribe back to put some spark in the team. Teahen doesn't seem to be a good fielder. Don't trade Pierzynski. -- Le Roy Poellot; Rockford
Why not let Nix play second -- his best defensive position -- while Beckham gets his stroke back at Charlotte for two or three weeks?
I'm glad you mentioned Uribe. Although there are some fans who still hate him, there are many Sox players who miss him. More important, Uribe has turned out to be a solid super utility player with San Francisco, and past and present Giants players tell me how much they like and appreciate him on the field and in the clubhouse.
I wish that you would have injected into your latest "Ask Mark" column how Kenny Williams foolishly threw away Aaron Cunningham (no doubt because he lacks the power the Kenny craves in outfielders, just as he also threw away Ryan Sweeney who was of course part of the trade for useless goofball Swisher), for useless Danny Richar, then compounded that mistake by inexplicably trading potential stud first baseman Brandon Allen for equally useless Tony Pena. That's what's killing the White Sox farm system... i.e., reckless ill advised trades, not just trades for guys like Jake Peavy. Sending John Ely to the Dodgers in the Pierre deal instead of sending Josh Fields instead is just another example. Just because Ely doesn't throw 94+ mph, Kenny has no apparent use for him. Forget about the fact that the kids clearly learned to pitch with average stuff ... sort of sounds like a Mark Buehrle scouting report back in the day, doesn't it? I love Kenny's fire to win and propensity to make deals, but there are times when he seems to simply make really one-sided dumb deals just for the sake of making a deal too. Perhaps some Adderal (ADHD medication), could help him to focus more? -- Jack Lucas; Orange County, CA
Cunningham hasn't exactly torched major league pitching. He's currently batting .231 at Triple-A Portland. But Sweeney has developed into a steady right fielder for Oakland. I think Brandon Allen still has a chance to be a big-time run producer with Arizona, but he needed another year of seasoning at Triple-A Reno.
At one time, Pena was considered one of the top pitching prospects in the Diamondbacks' organization. But I think he could be no more than a seventh-inning reliever.
Fields already was dealt before the Pierre trade, but you make a good observation about Ely. He does have a very good feel for pitching.
If this team keeps going south, the general manager might need something stronger than Adderal in a liquid form.
It was a thrill to hear "Wimpy" on the radio. He makes the game as fun as Harry did. Is there any chance of him returning for good? -- Bob Pistilli; Chicago
Tom Paciorek showed great enthusiasm getting the chance to fill in. And he got quite the chuckle when a media member in Detroit told him that her mother grew up with Paciorek.
I think Tom would love to fill in on an occasional basis. He enjoys spending time with his grandkids in the Atlanta area.
Which of the Sox's leaders have the necessary credentials to teach young players? It appears they were all mediocre players with little communication skills, and I never see then correcting a player's mistake. If these are the criteria, I am ready. -- Florida Jim; Viera, Florida
If you don't mind the long hours, I'd send your resume to Kenny Williams, in care of the White Sox.
How is C.J. Retherford doing in the minors? We seem to always here great things about him in spring training but never gets mentioned as a possible call up? -- Steve, Chicago
Retherford is batting .213 with only seven walks while playing second base for Charlotte. I think Lillibridge would get the first call-up if the Sox need a backup infielder.
If the White Sox continue to have problems regarding a closer, do you think they would make a deal with the Mets for K-Rod and give up a starting pitcher? And if the Mets threw in two more players, could they get another starter from the White Sox like John Maine. -- Rick Holman; Albany, NY
I doubt if the Sox make a deal for Rodriguez. They have a few late-inning relievers (Jenks, J.J. Putz and now Sergio Santos), and I could see them moving either Jenks or Putz for two young players. I don't see the Mets moving Maine, who is currently hurt.
Is A.J. playing for the White Sox before the All-Star Break? If the White Sox keep playing the way they are, is Konerko gone before the season ends? -- Andy Lam; Wibau, MT
I think A.J.'s status will be cleared up by June 13. It would have to be a very attractive scenario for him to approve a trade after June 13.
If the Sox elect to trade Paul, I think they would try to make it comfortable and attractive to him since he has full no-trade rights.
Why doesn't Kenny Williams bring back Joe Crede? Even with Joe's back history, he would be better at third base than journeyman Mark Teahen. The whole infield is a mess. With the exception of Alexei Ramirez, it seems no one plays the same position two games in a row. I know Ozzie states this is not an instructional league, but if he insists on playing this brand of baseball, it would behoove him to add some extra drills on bunting and moving the runners along. Finally, Ozzie needs to set the top of the order with more speed: Pierre, Ramirez, Rios then Konerko, Jones, Beckham, Quentin, Pierzynski and Teahen. At least the pitching rotation has some stability, if it works for them it should work for the position players, too. -- Mike Mucker; Wichita Falls , Texas
The MLB page lists Joe Crede as a free agent. Is his back preventing him from playing, or just no major league teams interested? -- Kurt Livingston; Marion, IA
Joe hasn't been signed by anyone, so I wonder how healthy he is. He was in great spirits when I talked to him after the Twins were eliminated by the New York Yankees last October. I don't think the Sox would sign Joe unless they have assurances he's healthy. Brent Morel is playing better at Double-A Birmingham and could push the issue at third later this season.
The Sox do perform early bunting drills before selected home games. As for Ramirez at the top of the order, he's more of a free swinger. He could bat second and possibly see more fastballs provided Pierre gets on base.
The lineup hasn't remained constant because so many players are struggling.
I don't believe a word Kenny says. Never have. He can't believe this team can win with this roster, especially with 21 RBIs and 46 strikeouts from the left side of his infield. A bench of Kotsay, Nix, Vizquel and Ramon Castro -- wow. I can live with rebuilding as long as the farm system produces. Beckham is the only regular on the team, and he was only there six weeks. -- Bob
This should make for a fun question-and-answer session at SoxFest next January.
Most of us life longtime Sox fans place the blame for the poor play in four people. 1. Ozzie, though he won a World Series in 2005, has already accomplished everything he can and will in Chicago. Ozzie is done here. He knows it, Williams knows it and Jerry knows it. Jerry is just too cheap to pay him to go away right now. I suspect his attempt to buy a hockey franchise and the money involved is holding this up, as is the Bulls management meltdown. See a pattern here? 2. The pitching coach. He, as with Ozzie has been here quite a few years and there has been limited progress in the major league development of a number of pitchers. He also has to take the heat, as Ozzie does in the game management of the staff. He does not have the final say, but his voice should be louder. 3. The hitting coach. With that said, when the manager is switching positions and the batting order day to day, there is no consistent approach. 4. GM Williams. Bringing in Pierre, not Damon -- a several-time World Series guy; letting Thome go, a left-handed power hitter who could have been a huge asset if Konerko goes early this year in a trade and letting Dye. Lastly, keeping Ozzie until we all die of old age. -- Bill Hoffman
Players are usually informed if they're playing or sitting the night before the next game.
At the rate Teahen is making errors, it might be best to have him and Beckham switch positions, although it would seem crazy to move Beckham again and mess with his mind. The game seems very fast to Teahen right now.
Jerry Reinsdorf's hatchet man, senior level advisor and personal friend has been/is/will always be Jerry Krause. You have to be a fool to think Krause is back to get paid to sit on lovely Caribbean islands and search for cheap baseball talent who do not know Krause's reputation and can't understand what he's saying since they don't speak English. The big question is where will the two Jerrys begin: White Sox or Bulls? Historically they will go after the coach and then the GM, who they will tell to put together a new management team and coaching staff. Neither team is capable of attracting quality players or coaches in their present situations. Ownership is papering the games to artificially increase attendance. The real issue is should Jerry Reinsdorf get out of sports? -- Scott L. Mitzner
I don't see Jerry Reinsdorf getting out of sports. He lost some close friends last year, and I think he wants to stay involved in sports as long as he can.
One of the primary reasons for their failure to score runs is that the Sox are, as of this writing, second to last in the majors in batting average with runners in scoring position. I know things have gotten better recently, but this is something we have been absolutely terrible at for a long time. So my question is simple: can a good hitting coach turn that stat around or is it unfair to blame the hitting coach when these numbers are poor. -- Phil K; Aviano, Italy
The 2006 White Sox batted .307 with runners in scoring position. The hitting coach was Greg Walker.
Put Beckham back to his comfortable college position at shortstop, where he had high confidence and his best overall game going; Ramirez back to second base, where he had his best offensive and defensive season as a rookie -- and leave them there. Thoughts? -- Bob Roodhouse; Olympia, WA
Bob, it's very rare for a shortstop who has changed positions to move back to short on a full-time basis. Usually you'll see shortstops move to third or second and stay there. I don't think Gordon has lost any range, and I think he's played very well at second in his first season. I don't think he'll say it because he's been a great soldier, but I think he'd do flips if they told him to move to shortstop. But they've thrown a lot at him in a short span. I just wonder if they'd overload his mind if they moved him to short.
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