Chicago Sun-Times
with sports reporters Daryl Van Schouwen and Chris De Luca

October 2009 Archives

vJ5AhInY.jpgGreg Walker knows the reality of it.
Hal McRae, Carney Lansford, Von Joshua - just the latest casualties of a career that has the life expectancy slightly better than that of an adult mayfly.
No, make no mistake about it, hitting coach and job security will rarely be found in the same sentence.
"Look, I know if I was in a normal situation I probably would have been fired after this year,'' the White Sox hitting coach admitted in a telephone interview on Wednesday. "But I also know that we have accomplished a lot. I know that if you watch this game on a daily basis there are things to point fingers at because this is a game of failure.
"I think over the years we built up a enough good will and accomplished things that people don't realize. But we have underachieved the last few years. I think [general manager] Kenny [Williams], [manager] Ozzie [Guillen] and [board chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] know the reasons, and they know I'm the right man for the job. Last year happened and it would have cost a lot of hitting coaches their jobs, but there is a lot of trust there. I don't take that lightly.
"I've done this for seven years and I think for those seven years we've underachieved two of them. Even those years we did underachieve we went about our business the right way. When they decide it's someone else's turn then it will be someone else's job.''
The decision made at the end of the 2009 season was it was still Walker's turn.
As reported by the Sun-Times in late September, Walker, as well as coaches Joey Cora, Don Cooper and Harold Baines, were each given two-year extensions to take them through the 2011 season.
Walker, a self-admitted "organizational guy because the White Sox are my family,'' once again came under fire by the fans this season, especially in the second half when Carlos Quentin came back from injury looking lost at the plate, Jermaine Dye went into a second-half rut and the Alex Rios experiment seemed to blow up in the entire club's face.
Forgotten in that mess was A.J. Pierzynski putting together a career year, rookie Gordon Beckham being rescued from an 0-for-13 big-league start, Paul Konerko back to being Paul Konerko, the rebirth of Scott Podsednik, as well as the emergence of Chris Getz.
But the contract extension means little to Walker if he feels he is somehow hindering the organization.
"I take it one year at a time,'' he continued. "Even though I have a two-year contract now, that doesn't matter to me. This year did not go like I wanted to. But again, I think they know I'm part of the answer not the problem.''
The search for more answers begins Sunday for Walker when he flies to California for a sit-down with Quentin. It will be the first of two trips he may make out West to work with the outfielder this winter. In December and then January he will be off to Puerto Rico to meet and work with Rios.
Already crossed off the to-do list is meeting with Beckham, who drove to Walker's home last week.
"You go into winter concerned about everybody,'' Walker said. "You look at everyone. You work with [head trainer] Herm [Schneider] with the medical part, A.T. [conditioning coach Allen Thomas] with the conditioning part.
"Quentin and Rios are the two guys that we wanted to work with specifically. They are young middle of the order hitters and should be with us a long time. Q is a guy that watches a lot of video and is a bright guy. We're going to look at the good, bad and the ugly the last few years and come up with a gameplan. No swinging or anything like that. Just some time spent with him, mostly on the computer, come up with a plan.
"We want [Rios] to work on some things in the offseason with no pressure. I wanted to firm up that we're all on the same page.''

'Beckham-Mania' honored by his peers

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47750427.jpgFrom Day 1 of spring training, it was obvious to White Sox veterans like A.J. Pierzynski that Gordon Beckham wasn't your typical wide-eyed rook trying to survive his first major-league camp.
So all Tuesday was for Beckham was a stamp on the 2009 season.
A panel of 338 major-league players voted the third baseman The Sporting News American League Rookie of the Year, making the 23-year-old Beckham the ninth rookie in franchise history to be honored by the magazine with manager Ozzie Guillen last receiving that honor in 1985.
Philadelphia pitcher J.A. Happ won the award for the National League.
"All these awards that come out now, they're awards for the players the last year,'' Beckham said. "That's great, but for everybody, the next year is the biggest year. There's no way I'm going to get caught up with awards from the previous seasons. Nothing is ever given to you in baseball, so now you have to prepare for the next season.''
It's that exact attitude which the Sox love about Beckham.
Not that it didn't hurt that he also batted .270 with 28 doubles, 14 home runs and 63 RBIs along the way, despite not being promoted to the Sox until June 4. But the Sox feel they have something special with Beckham because of his make-up.
He stated on several occasions this season that he wanted to be the leader of the team when the time comes, and manager Ozzie Guillen said on Tuesday that the time might come sooner than later.
"I wish that kid was a two or three-year veteran in the big leagues because he has that attitude,'' Guillen said. "He has that right frame of mind. He was a leader his whole life from when he was in high school, college. I think he wants to be the face of the franchise and we need something like that. When a player thinks like that, doesn't hide in the weeds, you don't see many players come up from the minor leagues and think that way. It's a big challenge. But I don't have a doubt in my mind that he has the right tools to be one. Obviously, it has to come from help from myself, Ken Williams and the staff to make him a great leader.''
Adding to Beckham's first-year resume was the fact that he made the switch to third base, after spending his entire life playing shortstop, including at the University of Georgia where he was picked 8th overall in the 2008 draft.
"It's a very important step for him in his career,'' Guillen said. "You look at the players mentioned in the past, it's a great group. You look how you start your career and [this award] is a very important one to have. You can only win this once.''
Beckham is also a candidate for the American League Rookie of the Year as voted on by the sports writers, but to be given that honor by his peers was admittedly a bit more special.
"It's very special either way,'' Beckham added. "Everyone has their opinion. The media has theirs and the players have theirs. When it comes down to it I would rather have the players' vote rather than the media.
"When I first heard I won, I didn't even know who voted on it. I was happy to hear that it was the players. It made it special, but it's all special.''

ST. LOUIS -- Jim Thome was one of the first players to emerge from the clubhouse and into the visiting dugout at Busch Stadium on Saturday. Thome was decked out in Dodger blue. It all looked so wrong. And it seemed all so right.

If anyone deserved a rags-to-riches story on the South Side this season, it's the future Hall of Famer named James Howard Thome from Peoria.

White Sox general manager Ken Williams presented Thome with a Get Out of Jail Free card on Aug. 31, springing the veteran slugger from a season-killing trip to Boston, New York and Minneapolis to accept a trade to the first-place Dodgers. It was Thome's chance to finally win a World Series ring after 19 seasons and 564 home runs in the majors.

Thome admits it wasn't an easy trade to approve. His teammates and coaches helped nudge him to Los Angeles, and Thome's now thankful for the move. But he can't get the Sox off his mind.

''I'll be honest, I would still love to come back,'' Thome said, tightening the blue batting gloves on each hand. ''I still care about the city. I mean, we're going to live there. Chicago's very fond in my heart. The time that I spent there, [chairman Jerry Reinsdorf] treated me great. I guess we'll deal with that when this is all over with.''

Thome, 39, will be a free agent this offseason. He hopes to have that elusive World Series ring on order once he files for free agency. But either way, he knows his days with the Dodgers are numbered.

He wants to return to the White Sox, even if they are toying with the idea of using Scott Podsednik as part of a revolving door built to accommodate speed at designated hitter.

It's likely they will at least entertain the idea now that Thome will be free from the $13 million salary he earned in the final

Wise is a free agent, and who was with Miguel?

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dewayne-wise-catch.jpgDewayne Wise stated several times this season that he never really felt truly appreciated by White Sox fans, and so on Friday, the outfielder that will forever be linked with Mark Buehrle's perfect game opted for free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Class AAA Charlotte.
The 31-year-old Wise, who actually won the leadoff job and starting center field spot out of spring training before separating his shoulder early on, hit .225 with two homers and 11 RBI in 84 games with the South Siders.
It was his leaping catch at the wall to preserve Buehrle's perfect game against Tampa Bay on July 23, however, which was Wise's most memorable moment, and maybe one of the more memorable moments in club history considering what was on the line.
Wise came on the scene in the second half of the 2008 season, getting spot starts before taking over in the outfield for a slumping Nick Swisher.
It was not the first time Wise had an opportunity to leave the organization, as he agreed to take an assignment early in 2008 after both Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen told him that they would need him again that season.
True to their word they did. But when the team acquired Alex Rios and then Mark Kotsay in '09, Wise said he was out of the doing-favors-for-the-club business if it happened again, and sure enough it did on Friday.
With the move the Sox 40-man roster stood at 36.

The usual suspects
While no one from the Sox has come forth and declared that they were out until all hours of the night with Detroit slugger Miguel Cabrera last week, it's pretty obvious who the prime suspects are.

1. Manager Ozzie Guillen - A close friend of Cabrera's from their Florida days, as well as a guy not afraid to have a few cocktails now and then.

2. Freddy Garcia - The pitcher is also close with Cabrera - through Guillen - and there's a reason "Sweaty Freddy'' is always perspiring on the mound.

3. Alex Rios - Not afraid to go out late at night ... and into the morning.

4. Octavio Dotel - Loves the road, loves the night-life.

5. Tony Pena - He's Octavio Dotel ... five years ago.

6. Ozzie Guillen Jr. - Would be the prime suspect, but he wasn't on the road trip to Detroit ... or was he?

Garcia is back ! He's bringing Thornton with him

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garcia.jpgIt was almost an afterthought on if the White Sox would pick up the $1 million 2010 option on Freddy Garcia, but that scenario was put to rest on Tuesday afternoon, as a club source confirmed that Garcia would be back on the South Side next season.
The right-hander was 3-4 with a 4.34 ERA in nine starts, after he was released by the Mets in April and out of baseball for a time.
On paper, Garcia will be the No. 5 starter, behind ace Jake Peavy, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Mark Buehrle.
What the Sox really like is the price tag, considering he comes at $1 million with $2 million in incentives.
Garcia, who was on the 2005 World Series winning staff, was traded from the South Side to Philadelphia after the 2006 season in a package that brought Floyd to the club.
He is 118-77 lifetime with a 4.07 ERA.
The club also announced that Matt Thornton and his $2.25 million option were picked up. The lefty also has a $3 million option for next season, so seems to be staying put for sometime.
Thornton was 6-3 with a 2.74 ERA, as well as saving four games. His six wins, 72 1/3 innings pitched and 87 strikeouts were all career highs.

Bobby Jenks on the block? Do they or don't they?

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05-world-series-game-4-bobby-jenks-a-j-pierzynski-celebrate-posters.jpgDETROIT - There already more answers than there will be questions, but the few questions facing the White Sox this offseason are doozies.
None bigger than the do they or don't they concerning the possibility of trading closer Bobby Jenks.
The dos are obvious. Jenks continued to battle injury problems this season, with several of those problems believed to be conditioning - or the lack of - related. He's also seen his production dip for a second consecutive season.
The don'ts would be that moving Jenks elsewhere means making Matt Thornton the closer and weakening the set-up role. Plus, the one strength Jenks has is his short-term memory. Yes, he blew six saves, but he never lets it carry over very long.
So what to do, what to do? That final decision falls on general manager Ken Williams.
"That's a hypothetical question that I'm not going to go to until something changes,'' pitching coach Don Cooper said. "Bobby is our closer. We need someone to close the games. Matt Thornton is definitely a capable guy, but then you have to fill that job. Life without a closer on any team is going to be an adventure, and right now Bobby is our closer.''
How would that change? Well, there is no question the Sox want to upgrade the offense. Doing that through free agency might be hampered by a payroll that could be reaching the ceiling already. That means through trade. And if Jenks can land that offensive piece, then so be it.
Manager Ozzie Guillen had his own opinion, however, and would rather see Jenks in shape rather than elsewhere.
"Tough call,'' Guillen said. "We don't want to trade him, but in the meanwhile, Kenny's never going to say no to any trade if he thinks it's going to help this organization. I still think Bobby's going to be our closer next year. If something happens between now and next year, then we'll make a move. Can Thornton close a game? A lot of people doubt it; I say yes he can. He's got good enough stuff and he's got experience.
"He didn't have any problems with his arm, but his back slowed him down for a couple outings. Obviously, this kid's got to show up in shape. That's his problem every winter. Hopefully, he knows about it. That's his career and that's the way he's going to make money, if he takes care of himself a little bit in the winter. Not just him, I think everybody should. And this comes from Jerry [Reinsdorf]. Jerry said if you don't prepare yourself for next year, well, let us know and we'll do something about it.''

Oz would love Figgins, but is dealing in reality

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GD9108766@Los-Angeles-Angels-th-2840.jpgDETROIT - Ozzie Guillen doesn't concern himself much with tampering rules or any of that red tape that keeps suits employed within the Major League Baseball offices.
The White Sox manager deals with reality.
So when asked on Saturday about the reality of the club going after free agent-to-be Chone Figgins this winter, Guillen spoke honestly. And honestly, he doesn't see Figgins fitting within the budget at this time.
"I don't think Figgins,'' Guillen said of the Angels speedy leadoff hitter. "To be honest with you, would we like to have players like him? [Bleep], everybody does. But this kid is going to cost you a lot of money. If we figure out this guy is going to solve our problem, then [board chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] will take a shot because Jerry wants to win.
"Jerry wants to win. [general manager] Kenny [Williams] wants to win. I want to win. Everybody wants to win. In the meanwhile, Kenny is going to go see the market and we are going to see how ... I would love to have [Scott] Podsednik back but that's my call. It's between Podsednik's agent and Kenny and the White Sox, but we just need someone. That was our problem this year, our center field problem was pretty deep.''
Alex Rios will solve the center field dilemma, while Carlos Quentin will slide from left field to right with Jermaine Dye likely playing his last game with the Sox this afternoon.
That leaves left field with Figgins and Podsednik in the Sox' sights. It will come down to how many zeros Reinsdorf allows Williams to put on that check.
"Having Rios at the start of the season will make everything easier,'' Guillen said. "With Rios, Quentin and whoever is out there, hopefully Podsednik, but I don't make that call.
"There are a lot of names out there but I'm not going to tell you we bring this guy or that guy because I don't know exactly. I know where we are going when you trade for Peavy and Rios. We are going in the right direction. We are going to win. We do things little by little and hopefully everything work out.''

Peavy might be able to pitch a little

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48412291.jpgDETROIT - Believe the hype.
Jake Peavy was dominant in eight shutout innings of work, allowing just two hits in the 8-0 win on Friday. And the rub? He said afterward he still wasn't 100 percent.
Making his third, and final, start of the year, Peavy, acquired from San Diego in a trade-deadline deal, showed no signs of the ankle injury and then the bruised elbow that kept him on the shelf until Aug. 19.
While his Sox showing has been a brief one, it has been an eye-opener, with the former Cy Young Award winner winning all three games he started, allowing three runs in 20 innings of work for a 1.35 ERA.
So much for the NL pitchers can't dominate in the AL theory.
"I think it's big for the organization and fans,'' Peavy said of his final outing. "I owed it to [GM Kenny Williams] for getting me over here and the fans, just them seeing my face, get out there and get familiar. It's nice to go into the winter with a couple wins and let's get it on next year.''
He also finished with five strikeouts and two walks, to go with a whole lot of confidence.
"I certainly would have loved to make more starts than three, but it was a battle, it was a grind to even get where we're at today,'' Peavy added. "I'm happy to be back out there, happy the fans can relate next year that we're coming in expecting big things - from myself, Johnny [Danks], Gavin [Floyd], and hopefully Mark [Buehrle] does what he's done his entire career. We're going to run some pretty good guys out there at you.''

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This page is an archive of entries from October 2009 listed from newest to oldest.

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