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

December 2010 Archives

jesse_crain1.jpgFurther evidence that Ken Williams doesn't mess around when it comes to adding to the on-the-field product was offered up by newly-signed White Sox reliever Jesse Crain on Monday.
Crain, who was officially introduced as the newest South Side resident after signing a three-year, $13-million deal, said he had been negotiating with Boston and Colorado the last few weeks, before Williams swooped in with a phone call last Tuesday and had the deal done by Wednesday.
"It wasn't something I was expecting, but it's something I'm really excited about,'' Crain said. "[By giving a third year] they showed they were really serious and that they really wanted me.''
And if that means leaving the Minnesota Twins to go sleeping with the enemy, so be it. Then again, Crain said the team he came up with was never in the running to keep the free agent in the Twin Cities.
"As for the Twins, I'm not exactly sure what direction they're going,'' Crain said. "They like to build from within, but with that said, I don't know what they will do. There are a couple of prospects coming up, but they don't have a lot of experience. It will definitely be interesting to see how it will play out. Losing me and [reliever Matt Guerrier to the Dodgers] will hurt them.
"The Twins were never really in the running - surprisingly or unsurprisingly. They weren't looking to sign a guy for more than $3.5 million a year. They were out from the beginning and we didn't even negotiate with them. They have been smart with the way they do things, but we'll see.''
Under the terms of the deal, Crain will make $4 million in 2011 and then $4.5 million in 2012 and '13. The 29-year-old righty went 1-1 with a 3.04 ERA and 62 strikeouts in 71 appearances with Minnesota in 2010. He compiled a 0.28 ERA in 35 games from June 10-August 31, including a streak of 21 consecutive scoreless appearances (20.0 IP) from June 12-August 4.
As far as what he will now do for the Sox, Crain said he spoke to Williams and he will see a lot of action in the late innings, even getting an opportunity to close.
"From what Kenny Williams said, they have [Chris] Sale and they have [Matt] Thornton - two big lefties that throw hard at the end of the game,'' Crain said. "Then they have me and [Sergio] Santos from the right side. They said I would have opportunities to close, but we'll see how it all works.''
The Sox are banking on it to work out real well, as they look to finally exorcise the demon that is the Minnesota Twins. Crain might want to circle May 3-4 on his calendar - the first meeting between the division rivals in 2011.
"It's going to be weird,'' Crain added. "I came up with the Twins. I'm very good friends with a lot of guys there. They have an idea of what I do, I have an idea what they can do. It's going to be fun, weird, all those things.''

t1_kon_si.jpgLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - On the beach in Mexico last week, looking out on the ocean, there was very little that could go wrong in Paul Konerko's world at that moment.
Until a "Big Donkey'' kick knocked the wind out of him in the form of a text.
"Someone sends me a text and says they just signed Adam Dunn [nicknamed Big Donkey] to the deal that he signed to, and my first thought was, 'OK, that was a fun 12 years,' '' Konerko explained on Wednesday. "That's it. It was an either him or me situation.' ''
Then Konerko recalled a conversation he and White Sox general manager Ken Williams had.
"I remembered Kenny telling me at the end of the year, 'Listen, if we go after this next year, we want to win it, I don't want you or Adam, I want both of you,' '' Konerko said.
And both they got.
The club announced that they agreed to terms with their team captain, keeping Konerko on the South Side for three years, $37.5 million. Under the terms of the deal the 34-year-old first baseman will earn $12 million in 2011 and '12, and $13.5 million in 2013. Of the $13.5 million due in that final year, he will receive $6.5 million that season, and then $1 million annually from 2014-2020.
"It was my goal at the end of the last contract [after the 2005 season] to come back when my last contract expired, that would give me 10 years-plus with one team and I thought that was really cool--not to mention a chance to win while you're doing it,'' Konerko explained. "Now to sit there and say it's going to be 15, that's a nice round number, that's intriguing as well. I was prepared, and had options to do other things. You've got to take all the steps necessary if it goes to the free agent process, and I think I did a pretty good job of that.''
As did the Sox.
In signing Dunn and then A.J. Pierzynski last week, they came into the Winter Meetings with one more big-ticket item on the agenda - the player nicknamed "The King.''
As of Tuesday afternoon, things looked bad when Williams declared an impasse and the fact that the Sox were moving on, but the Sun-Times reported late Tuesday night that board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf wanted it done, and what Jerry wants, Jerry gets.
It got done.
"We were very, very close to going a different direction,'' Williams said. "And I'm sure they were, as well.
So for it to come together at the end, which a lot of times this is how things get done, is a bit of good fortune on both parts I think, because I think he would have looked awfully funny in another uniform at this point.''
No one will have to worry about that for the time being.
It didn't hurt that both Dunn and Pierzynski deferred money to get Konerko back in the mix, as well as Konerko's relationship with Reinsdorf.
"As far as me coming back and playing for the team he runs, that affects it greatly because I respect the man and he's treated me nothing but good the whole way through,'' Konerko said of the chairman. "Jerry is a very loyal guy and honestly over the years there would be 20 guys he would keep if it all worked out right. I know it kills him when he has to let someone go that he likes because it's the right move, and I just didn't know ... it could have been one of these situations where it's just the end of the road, it could have been the end of the road. I was prepared for that, and I was fine with that. I said it during the season at the end, 12 years in one place, not many people get that, so if it all comes to an end I was OK with that. So I didn't put as much pressure on coming back as maybe I did the last time [2006] because I felt pretty good about what I accomplished there. It was one big package over the years and if I moved on it would have been fine. I would have felt emptier if I would have left after the last contract. But now that I get to come back I look at the positives of that - now 15 years and on a pretty good team by the way.''
So what is left for the Sox? Well, salary-wise they are all but tapped out. Williams acknowledged that. But the bullpen needs some help, so Williams will have to reach up the sleeve.
"Well, next on the agenda is figuring out a way to pay for all of this,'' Williams said with a chuckle. "We certainly ramped it up here recently and have been very aggressive. And I think at this point, I've stated before, I feel comfortable, confident in the every day lineup and the defense that we are going to put out there, as well as the starting rotation, and the back four guys in the bullpen. But I think we've got to augment that, just a bit to make ourselves as strong as possible and contend for the division.
"So we've got some work cut out for us and we certainly I think are at a point where we have got to get a little creative, because we are about tapped out right now. So we need to either get creative or we need to get a flood at the ticket counter pretty quickly.''

paul_konerko.jpgLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - It wasn't the news Ken Williams thought he would have to deliver on Tuesday.
"I was very hopeful coming down here,'' the White Sox general manager explained, when asked about the latest on the Paul Konerko free-agent front. "I'm less hopeful now. I was hoping it wouldn't necessarily come down to us really getting serious with our other options but we have no choice at this point.''
Leave it to board chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, however, to try and play governor and stop the execution of "The King'' leaving the South Side from happening.
The Sun-Times was told late Tuesday night by a Sox source that Reinsdorf "still wants this to happen and will try everything he can to make it happen'' with the hope that the club can have it resolved by Wednesday afternoon.
That was a far cry from the mood Williams was painting when he not only talked about the impasse with Konerko, but said "we can't stop the train,'' indicating that the Sox would now move on.
Asked what the sticking point was with Konerko, Williams would not elaborate.
"The one thing I think is necessary, it's appropriate, particularly when we're talking about a guy that has been so respectful and so first class that this doesn't need to be any more public than it is,'' Williams said. "So we'll keep those issues private.''
The Sun-Times reported earlier in the day that Konerko - nicknamed "The King'' - and his camp were adamant that there would be no pay cut from the $12 million he made last season, and if anything, hitting 39 homers and 111 RBI in 2010 made him a $15-million a year player.
With the Sox adding Adam Dunn and paying the left-handed slugger $15 million a year in his final two years, there was a respect factor that Konerko was looking for. A source reiterated that Tuesday evening, insisting, "I talked to Paulie [Monday] night and he said the Sox were his priority unless they made an offer that disrespected him.''
The source said that Konerko had multiple teams interested in him, and Williams confirmed that.
But the GM seemed ready to move on, still looking to add a first baseman, as well as bring in another weapon for the backend of the bullpen.
"I don't much care what the perception of how we have to do business because we're going to just try and put the best team on the field,'' Williams said. "We're going to be measured ultimately with how good the team performs and that's the measuring stick we should go by. But I will do everything in my power to make people understand that Paul makes his own decisions and for his own reasons, and that needs to be respected. He's given Chicago everything that we have a right to expect. There will be no hard feelings on this end. It's just the business of baseball.''
A business that might move quickly.
"All I can say is that we have meetings with other guys' representatives [Tuesday night] and it's with the mindset to try and get a deal done,'' Williams said. "I know that we did reach out one more time to see if we can have one more round of dialogue [with Konerko's agent Craig Landis] and if it works it works. If it doesn't, we can't stop the train.''
Earlier in the day, there were reports that the Sox had former Cubs hurler Kerry Wood on the radar for a bullpen spot. A source said Wood was "too expensive,'' however, but that was said with most in the organization feeling Konerko was all but a done deal and would return for a 13th season.
Now, everyone with "free agent'' next to their name was back in play for not only the bullpen, but first base. That included Derrek Lee, which was reported on Monday.
"Moving forward this may afford us the ability to do a couple of other things along with filling the position,'' Williams said. "So the assumption that we will end this or will ultimately be worse for it is incorrect. I think we still have a chance to put a real good player in the position and do some other things.''

mark-buehrle-paul-konerko.jpgLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - According to several White Sox players, the talk circulating throughout the team on Monday is that they will have their "Captain'' back.
If, and when, that's true, general manager Ken Williams wasn't saying.
All he would confirm was he met with Paul Konerko's representation in agent Craig Landis, and Konerko remained priority number one. The statute of limitations on that, however, has an expiration date.
"There's a fine line,'' Williams said of the waiting game. "And that fine line is when do you risk losing your Plan B and C in favor of trying to be as patient as you can with your Plan A? We will wait as long as we can because pretty much said on the record that he's the guy we want.
"Other people call me impatient, I think I'm patient, just to a point. This is the way we've done it for a long time and I recognize that this is a special case and I need to be even more patient than I think I usually am.''
Williams was hoping Day 1 of the talks would lead to a Day 2.
"I think everybody knows in Chicago and White Sox fans that they're talking, they're trying,'' manager Ozzie Guillen said. "Like I say, it's the type of thing that you do to look great, if you don't, you're going to face people talking and making comments and why not.''
Guillen did say that if Konerko does not return there will be no team captain named to replace him.
As far as what Plan B and C would be? According to one source, former Cubs and Marlins first baseman Derrek Lee is on the Sox radar.

whitesoxx-large.jpgLAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. - General manager Ken Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen have ended the cold war - for now.
Williams was asked several times about where the relationship currently was with Guillen, and after first joking about it on Monday, well, it was Kenny being Kenny.
"I'm going to say this without cursing ... I am tired about talking about what was last year and what is old news,'' Williams said. "We are above and beyond that and it just ... come on. You know what, I'm not going to answer any questions on that. I'm not. It's a waste of my time.''
Maybe it is, but the hope from Guillen is the two have now taken steps to repair what was broken after having dinner last week.
"I said, 'Listen, we going to get divorced, then just get divorced. But we got to put everything clear up and move on,' '' Guillen said. "We decided to do it and we are doing it. I promise [board chairman] Jerry [Reinsdorf] and him, on behalf of my part, I will do the best I can to make this thing work.
"Kenny can't live like that. I can't live like that. I'm pretty sure, and I'm not going to say I'm 100 percent, but I think things will move on and be better. The way we talk right now, back to normal, I need that. I want to clear my mind to say what I want to say and do what I want to do, to do what we do in the past. ... we have to grow up and move on and make sure all the ashes stay down and don't burn the thing. I think it's not healthy, it's not good for the ballclub. It's not good for anyone.''
As far as Guillen's future beyond 2011, well the eighth-year manager said that's no longer a concern of his. The way Guillen's contract works out now, he is signed through '11 with an option for 2012 that is automatically vested if he wins the division. Otherwise, he is free to walk anywhere he wants, along with most of his coaching staff.
"As a contract thing, it's up to Kenny,'' Guillen said. "I'm not going to talk about contract. If Kenny wants to talk about contract, I talk to him. If he doesn't want to talk to me, I respect that.
"I feel good about the situation. If at the end of the season they want me back, everyone out there knows I want to be back. If they don't want me back, we have to move on. Right now, I'm very excited about this ballclub. I am. I think people in Chicago should be.''

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