Surging Sox Exchange

soxmanbooth

By  Paul M. Banks and Soxman

Holy Above.500 record Soxman! Before the Southsiders recent winning streak was snapped, the Sox won seven in a row. When last we tuned into this Sox Channel at the same Sox time last week, I was wondering whether the Sox had a legitimate reason to consider themselves buyers at trading deadline. Now they’re just two little games out of first place, the starting pitching has been clicking and the hitting has been coming around. The White Sox runs scored to runs against differential is finally now in the black, 365-362. So what got into this team? Did it just take awhile for the lineup shakeups to take effect or is something else at work here?

(SM) Pitching!  The White Sox now have the second best team ERA in the American League (3.97), second only to Seattle.  Run production is starting to come around as well.  All-Star snub Jermaine Dye has hit .417 with 5 HR over the last 14 games and Scott Podsednik just continues to amaze leading the sox with a .417 batting average.  I think the true “x” factor though offensively has been Gordon Beckham, whose .341 BA in the same game stretch has brought production to the bottom of the Sox batting order.  Sometimes it only takes one guy to heat it up and it takes pressure off of everyone else. soxlogo

(PMB) As far into the season as late May, we had a lot of everyday regulars and subs with ABHORRENT batting averages, but check out how those previously unsightly batting averages shot up north in a hurry. Current BAs Alexei Ramirez (.273), Gordon Beckham (.263,) Chris Getz is actually flirting with the .250 mark and DeWayne Wise has even crossed the Mendoza line. To quote Pedro Cerrano in “Major League” “Must wake up bats!” well mission accomplished, but why? Perhaps hitting coach Greg Walker was feeling his seat getting very hot and he made some changes that are now paying off?

(SM) Remember, to a large extent, a hitting coach is really a non-factor at the major league level unless here is an obvious flaw an established hitter’s swing, or poor discipline the player has developed.  Walker has nothing to do with a player’s tendency to swing at bad pitches or even make contact.  In his short stint in the majors, Alexei has proven to be a streaky hitter.  Beckham and Getz are likely just making the adjustments needed to hit major league pitching.

There is a lot to the aphorism “hitting is contagious.”  As more players hit well, opposing pitchers tend to go at struggling hitters.  Translation: they see better pitches giving hem a greater opportunity to break out of their slump.  While Dye has been consistent all season, the surge by Scotty Pods was followed by Alexei’s breakout.  As Getz started to heat it up, Beckham followed.

(PMB) I’ve said since March this season will go as far Gavin Floyd and John Danks will take it. Last week we discussed Gavin finding himself, but how about John Danks? In his last 5 starts he’s surrendured just 6 ER, lowering his ERA from 5.10 on June 5th to 3.76 now. Your thoughts?

(SM) There may be nothing fancy in this analysis but Danks simply has had better control in this stretch.  When you reduce the number of walks through better control, you reduce the number of “get me over pitches” for hitters to drive.  He has a 0.81 WHIP in his last four starts vs. a 1.23 WHIP on the season.  I have not seen any statement from him indicating he has found a mechanical flaw in his delivery.  Sometimes, you hear pitchers say they just get a better feel for their pitches.  This is likely the case with Danks. danny

(PMB) In such a sports-crazy city like this and with such a team now in contention, why is attendance so poor this season? Kenny Williams stated that as attendance is down this season,, his hands are tied with trades in terms of taking on additional payroll.  I really begin to wonder if the PR and marketing departments have any clue what they’re doing. One story that was overlooked during inter-league was the visit by the Los Angeles Dodgers, the best team in MLB at the time, playing at the Cell, and it was HALF-EMPTY!

How can this be? What will it mean as the trade deadline draws near?

(SM) As a diehard Sox fan I can say this: we can be fickle.  We will not spend our hard earned dollars on a poor product when we can support them from the comfort of our own home with free parking and concessions 1/25 the cost at the Cell.  We still love our team, but pinch our pennies doing it.

I think there could have been greater promotional work done for the Dodgers series in terms of promoting the 50th anniversary of the Go Go White Sox. That said, the team’s excellent play as of late, makes it hard to determine exactly what Kenny Williams will do as the trade deadline approaches.

The Sox are obviously counting on the return of a healthy Carlos Quentin to the line-up.  They will then move Scott Podsednik to CF, where he will stay providing he remains consistent and healthy.  Brian Anderson will likely be kept around as a fourth outfielder defensive replacement type.  This is the role he’s best suited for.

Remember, Pods can be no worse defensively than Ken Griffey Jr. was in 2008. After the past two weeks, this really only leaves 2B as our questionable position where a platoon of Chris Getz and Jayson Nix appears to be serviceable. The Sox acquired right-handed pitcher Tony Pena from the Arizona Diamondbacks in exchange for minor-league infielder Brandon Allen yesterday as well which could have several implications.  You can read those here.soxman_w_hof


Let’s close with Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly?  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball…

Roy Halladay will be in a Sox uniform by the trade deadline.

(SM) Mirage.  Kenny would not mortgage the future for now.

(PMB) Maybe. But dealing Becks and more is too high a price tag. How ’bout getting a bat instead?

Dewayne Wise is the odd man out when Carlos Quentin returns

(SM) Maybe.  Anderson is the better defender despite having options remaining.

(PMB) Maybe. BA’s BA is also right back where it usually is, despite the “hot” start

Bartolo Colon will pitch again for the White Sox in 2009.

(SM) Mirage.  He’s MIA.  Check the Old Country Buffet in Glendale.

(PMB) Mirage. How can we not find a guy who’s so easy to see? He looks pregnant- probably on maternity leave!

Scott Podsednik will end up a bust.

(SM) Mirage.  He’s making the major league minimum.  He’s paid for himself already.

(PMB) Mirage. If he gets hurt or finishes hitting

Mark Buehrle will one day pitch in St. Louis

(SM) Maybe.  Actually definitely.  The 2009 All-star game is in St. Louis and he’s on the AL team.

(PMB) Mirage. I know what you mean, Buerhle took the hometown discount last time, he will again next time

White Sox Exchange

By Paul M. Banks and Soxman

(PMB) About a month into the season, the AL Central is exactly like we said it would be: anybody’s for the taking. With all of the teams except last place Cleveland (ironically, my pick to win the division) all bunched up together.

And the Indians aren’t that far out, so this horserace is exceedingly difficult to handicap.

(SM)  While I did say “look out for KC” in many preseason interviews, it is interesting to see them on top of the pack right now.  Even with injuries to Alex Gordon, they are popping out enough offense to win.  Zack Greinke and Gil Meche are pitching like a legitimate 1-2 punch, and Joakim Soria is one of the most underrated closers in the game.

Still, all teams in the AL Central have at least 1-2 HUGE holes, leaving this division winnable for any team at his point.

(PMB) Let’s talk injuries, De Wayne Wise was already hurt, and then his replacement Brian Anderson goes down.  At least Dye was ok. Jerry Owens was still as awful at the plate now as he was in spring training, and last year and ’07 for that matter- opening the door for Scott Podsednik, who I think is washed up, and has been for a season or two. (His defense was terrible Monday night) Of course, he’s a sentimental favorite with Sox Nation, with World Series hero status, and there isn’t much else out there, so I totally understand the decision. Can you think of any better scenarios here?   Can the Lilliputian Brent Lillibridge roam the OF?

(SM) If this were a 60’s Batman episode, I would type, BIFF, ZAP, ZOW!!! In response to your rant there.  I think we’ve had some fairly freak injuries occur thus far.  Thome injured his heal running, Anderson hurt his ribcage swinging, and Jermaine Dye was hit by a pitch.  While I don’t think Scotty Pods is completely washed up, his days as an everyday player are behind him, and he was always just an average corner outfielder and never much of a centerfielder.  He’s a fourth or fifth outfielder at this point in his career.

Jerry Owens elected to become a free agent rather than return to the minors for the Sox and signed a minor league contract with the Seattle Mariners on May 4th.

Lillibridge is capable of playing CF, but is only hitting .167 on the season.

Brian Anderson was playing the best baseball of the bunch before his injury, essentially abandoning his homerun swing in favor of contact, and was truly beginning to earn my respect as a player.  His on-base percentage was also excellent at .383.

As the Sox have no plans to call on Jordan Danks or Gordon Beckham this season, this is really all we have to work with at this point.  My guess is the Sox will try to float until Anderson or Wise return.  Just beware, shoulder and ribcage injuries are the two worst injuries for a hitter, so the Sox will try to ensure they are fully recovered before rushing them back.

You know how I HATED the trade of Nick Swisher.  The answer?  Swisher could have played the same CF defense as Scotty Pods and is currently hitting: .300, 7 HR, 19 RBI, with a 1.122 OPS!  No use crying over soiled socks I guess.

(PMB)  Is Jose Contreras Contrarian to our cause? He’s been AWFUL!!!! In every start except one in this young season, and he was far from overwhelmingly impressive in that start. I guess we knew that between him and Bartolo Colon, we would only really get one decent pitcher at the back of the rotation, not two. Of course, no one will mistake Colon for Carlston Charles Sabathia, but he has looked like a Cy Young winner compared to Contreras, who’s likely washed up right?

(SM) Colon has made the adjustment from what I call pitching with his arm, to pitching with his head.  For the first part of his career, Colon had overpowering stuff where he could even get hitters out when he threw mistakes.  As weight, injuries, and miles accumulated on his body, he learned to pitch with his head.

Jose Contreras was lit up for seven earned runs on seven hits over a mere 3.1 innings of work on Saturday.  With an 8.31 ERA on the season, is he done?  Maybe, but it is too early in the season to make that judgment for sure.  Contreras is one of the tougher pitchers to coach because he has at least three different deliveries on his pitches, which means his mechanics are that much more difficult to correct.  With the injury he suffered last season, I believe it will be at least another month before the Sox truly know whether he’s done or not.  The question is, can they afford to wait that long?  At 12-12, and only 1.5 games out of first, I think they still have a little time.

(PMB)  Let’s talk about possible replacements.


What about Lance “Jazz Hands” Broadway? Let’s say it again with loud, musical accentuation…Lance….Broadway!!! I don’t think Cooper is legitimately going to consider him an option because his velocity is….impressive, if you’re pitching for the Schaumburg Flyers. I know you’ve spoken highly of Clayton Richard, the former University of Michigan quarterback with significant starting experience from last season. Any other ideas or free agents out there?

(SM) I don’t believe the neon lights are bright on Broadway from a starting pitching perspective, although he does have a 4.15 ERA since his call-up, which is respectable.  Clayton Richard would be a candidate as well, but my gut says he’ll stay in the bullpen because Ozzie likes having two lefties out there.

Freddy Garcia’s name has been thrown around after he was cut by the Mets last week, however, he’s been horrible in the minor leagues and might retire.

Pedro Martinez and Paul Byrd are trying to pull a Roger Clemens “rent a pitcher” deal with a contender, but Pedro’s asking price is far too high.  Byrd is intriguing but far from a sure thing as well.  That’s really all that’s out there now unless you wanted to take a chance on another pitcher released by another team for being just as bad as anybody on our current roster.

(PMB)  All these issues of depth make me think about the Sox farm system. We know the Sox minor league affiliates are collectively rated amongst the worst by baseball talent evaluators, but there has to be some diamonds in the rough somewhere.

Easter weekend, my girlfriend and I traveled to Charlotte. The “Knight” before the holiday we took in a game at Knights Stadium, home of the Sox AAA affiliate. It’s kind of like what happens when you combine a Medieval Times outing with MILB. It was a lot of fun, even though they’re not located in the Queen City, or even in North Carolina for that matter. They’re actually across the border in South Carolina, past the outskirts of the Charlotte suburbs. I saw by far, the most lopsided baseball game I’ve ever been at. Our Knights lost 19-3; and this was no fluke as the Knights were outscored 61-17 in their first ten. Currently, they’re 9-14 on the season and in last place.

Jeff Marquez (remember when he was considered to be a front-runner for the 5th starter position?) got bombed so badly that he didn’t survive the second inning. This was no aberration either as he’s currently 0-4 with a 14.15 ERA in AAA ball. You understand why I didn’t bring up his name as an option for replacing Contreras. What about Wes Whisler? He led the team in most pitching statistical categories last season and has a sub 2 ERA. Any prospects you have your eye on at this level? Or within the system at all. Scouts are high on Justin Cassell (brother of NFL QB Matt Cassell) and Jon Link. Are they MLB ready soon?

(SM)  Again I shutter at the Nick Swisher trade when I look at the numbers Marquez has put up thus far.

Justin Cassell has an ERA over 6 at AAA.  That does not earn him a roster spot in my opinion.  Whisler is looking good for sure and could earn a call if the Sox want to make a move from within.  Despite not being a top ranked prospect he’s held an ERA in the three’s for most of his career.

Link, who was acquired from the San Diego Padres for Rob Mackowiak, is a relief pitcher and would not be a candidate for the rotation.

Aaron Poreda could draw strong consideration also.  The Sox top pitching prospect has a 1.65 ERA in five starts for AA Birmingham this season. He pitched on Monday and threw a no hitter—sort of!  It was called after the top half of the fifth inning due to rain but it is still a no hitter in the record books!

We can’t forget about our 2009 tradition Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly?  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball…
We cursed Scotty Pods and Danks featuring them in Maybe or Mirage.

(SM)  Maybe. Pods is playing CF, and Danks is 0-2 with a 9.64 ERA since I said he arrived here last week.


Jayson Nix will supplant Josh Fields at 3B.

(SM) Mirage.  Fields is doing a serviceable job and Nix is more of a natural second baseman.

(PMB) Mirage. Not even a mirage, if Nix is truly healthy then he’s just not ready for prime time yet, Charlotte calls.

Chris Getz will Hold the Lead-off Spot all season

(SM) Maybe.  He needs to stay healthy.  His .358 OBP is respectable.

(PMB) Maybe, especially when you consider “what else do we have?”

Alexei Ramirez was a one year wonder.

(SM) Mirage. He’s hitting .295 in his last 44 Abs and the weather’s heating up.

(PMB) Mirage. This producto de Cuba will start lighting up like a Cohiba soon.


Wilson Betemit has earned a starting job.

(SM) Mirage.  Sure he’s hitting .310 in 27 Abs. He’s a back-up for a reason.

(PMB) Maybe. We have injuries a plenty and it’s only May. Maybe that’s not “earning it” though.

2nd Place Sox Exchange

By Soxman and Paul M. Banks

For the 2nd straight week, Soxman is once again in the driver’s seat at the Sportsbank, and plays host as Paul M. Banks pulls up a chair to talk 2nd place, 2nd thoughts on Brian Anderson, and a 2nd injury to Chris Getz.  We also move forward with the 2nd week of Maybe or Mirage, the Sportsbank’s White Sox version of ESPN’s 30-second drill.


SM: Well we are almost one month into the 2009 season and the standings say we are just an average team at 9-9.  I’m thinking of writing a book called A Tale of Two Teams to describe our Sox this season.  Want proof?  The Toronto Series.  We have seen some spectacular defense, such as the amazing diving catches by Brent Lillibridge and Jerry Owens, offensive execution and timely hitting in Saturday’s game, and then sloppy defense by Alexei Ramirez and Brian Anderson with offense that was just plain offensive in Friday’s 14-0 embarrassment.   Which performance do you think is reflective of the real team?


(PMB) Like on Sesame Street, “this week’s Sox Exchange is brought to you by the number 2.” I think this “two-faced” team is on pace for a 83 to 85 win season. I think you’re right about the roller-coaster. Expect a lot of results on this team (and in the AL Central overall) to not make a whole lot of sense. Ozzie told the media right before the season started that this team will be faster than last year’s, and that the only slow guys on this team are well, the middle-of-the-order guys we all know and love. This team should be able to move and bump and grind (with apologies to R. Kelly) out a few more runs than last season.

But I think the record will still decline from last year because I have bigger questions about our starting pitching, and as the old baseball saying goes “momentum is only as strong as tomorrow’s starting pitcher.” So that’s why we’ll see so much polarity.

SM: Speaking of Brian Anderson, it appears as though he’s making the most of his opportunity to become the everyday CF.  As you know, I have been one of his harshest critics, mostly because of the attitude he carried early in his career.   Don’t look now, but BA is leading the team in BA (pardon the pun), and has walked seven times leading all regulars with a .444 on base percentage (OBP).  Is it time for Soxman to admit that BA has finally arrived?

(PMB) Remember how down you were on Gavin Floyd at the beginning of 2008? His rapid progress shocked you (and pretty much everyone who saw him pitch in the Phillies organization) Still I just criticized BA harshly here last week.  His career batting average (.222) and on-base percentage (.282) are LAUGHABLY bad. However, Bobby Jenks was also once a prospect who seemingly loved the nightlife a bit too much and let it get in the way of augmenting his game. Ozzie helped straighten him out, if Anderson has got his ego in check…Perhaps now he’s matured and is ready to focus on developing his natural talent into making himself a true Major League hitter?

SM: Now onto the player who most resembles my exchange partner, Chris Getz, who could end up on the DL.  Can this kid catch a break (pardon the pun) or what?  He broke his wrist last season, hurt his hand early in the season, and now a broken finger.  He was handling lead-off duties well, hitting .340 with 3 SB and a .404 OBP., second best on the team.  Ozzie said Sunday that Gordon Beckham will not be called up in 2009 leaving Brent Lillibridge and Jayson Nix as the only viable alternatives.  Who do you think will man 2nd base and the lead-off spot?  Huge swallow…from a speed and statistical perspective, Brian Anderson is currently the best candidate.

(PMB) I’d love to get a Getz jersey t-shirt, but I’m hoping that he can stay off the DL long enough to get them from production to market. Ozzie raves about his potential- especially as a leadoff hitter. He’s certainly paid his dues, perhaps karma is about to bring him some well-deserved and better fortune. Nix’s injury was equally unfortunate and set him way back in the second-sacker race. Perhaps we can move Alexei back to this spot and bring back Orlando Cabrera? It took him awhile to get signed in the off-season…(J/K LOL!) Obviously, we’ll see pigs fly first.

If we could just build a Lillibridge to the portion of the season with a healthier roster and better depth, By that I mean, just tread water with Brent leading off until we have options again, I think it’s our best scenario. BA as the best plann?!?! You just scared the beJesus out of me as well as baseball fans from the South Loop to Tinley Park with that statement.



(SM) Alright lets close this week out with a piece growing in popularity Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly.  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball…


Lance Broadway will solidify the innings eater void in the bullpen.

(SM)  Mirage, “Jazz Hands” was 0-2 with a 5.63 ERA (10 ER/16.0 IP) and 15 strikeouts in three starts with Charlotte this season.  Two words:  Aaron Poreda.

(PMB) Mirage. I can’t think of any pitcher named like the lead in a cheesy elaborate big-budget musical who’s ever been good. He’s a bust like Joe Borchard.

Ken Griffey Jr. will hurt the White Sox in his return to Chicago this week.

(SM) Maybe.  Despite hitting just .192, Thomas and Crede homered in their return to the Cell.  Cue the Soul Glow music.

(PMB) Mirage. Jr. back in Seattle is like Willie Mays as a New York Met or The Babe as a Boston Brave: a way-past-their-prime legend returns to the city he started in to finish his career

Paul Konerko is back.

(SM):  Maybe.  A .537 slugging percentage and 13 RBIs in 12 games.  The Paulie wall is once again lit in the Sox Cave.

(PMB) Yes. What’s this? I’m just as optimistic if not more than SM this week! Usually I’m cynical.

Carlos Quentin is hiding an injury

(SM): Mirage.  2 hits in 11 at bats?  Bah.  He learned the damage bats can do. Now someone tell him about fastballs!

(PMB) Mirage. He had 7 HRs in like 10 days, He’s just coming down to Earth after an off-the-charts beginning.

John Danks is the Best Pitcher on the White Sox.

(SM): Maybe. 2-0, and a 0.95 ERA, second best in the AL.  I’m officially on the Danks bandwagon.

(PMB) Agreed. He’s developing into a star, which is especially great because Jack Egbert (6.43 ERA, 1.57 WHIP in AAA ball) and Jeff Marquez (0-3, 13.06 ERA for the Charlotte Knights) don’t seem to be!

White Sox CF Issues

By Paul M. Banks

White Sox centerfielders are like Bulls post-players or Bears QBs prior to the Jay Cutler signing. There’s nothing close to a blue chip stock in the portfolio, so all you can do is take the collection of junk bonds you have, and try to maximize your return.

31 year old DeWayne Wise was a career minor leaguer for a reason, there’s no reason to expect his game will significantly improve when he returns in 6-8 weeks. He earned the job coming out of spring simply because as the Dave Matthews Band once put it “we’ll make the best of what’s around.” Of course, the criticism Wise received from White Sox Nation this April was grossly unfair because he never possessed the talent and potential of the guy who’s now stepped into his place.anderson1

Brian Anderson, the Sox first round draft choice in 2003, is on perhaps his 17th or 18th chance to be the guy the Sox front office expected him to be. His reputation makes him notorious for enjoying the Chicago nightlife on a truly heroic level- like Mark Grace or Kyle Farnworth level partying. Perhaps he’s matured and ready to focus on developing his natural talent into making himself a true Major League hitter. He’s always been great defensively, but his career batting average (.222) and on-base percentage (.282) are LAUGHABLY bad. He’ll have to continue showing increased patience at the plate.

When Wise went down, Jerry Owens was recalled from AAA Charlotte. He has speed, but nothing even close to the tools necessary to be a consistent major league hitter. 2005 World Series hero Scott Podsednik was signed to a minor league contract that week, but he’s been injured numerous times since then and is now essentially washed up.

The last option is highly questionable. Can Gordon Beckham make the jump directly from AA to play the position? His towering homers in spring training make that seem plausible. Then again, it’s spring training: owning Cactus League pitchers is a far cry from tearing up Scott Baker or Cliff Lee in the middle of an August pennant race.

Inside-Out Sox Exchange

By Soxman and Paul M. Banks

In a role reversal, our South Side super hero Soxman grabs the interview reigns to lead this week’s Sox exchange, as Paul M. Banks has been completely consumed by the three P’s…Play-offs, Politics, and Pitching (for his local softball team)

In this week’s exchange, our sports media dynamic duo discuss the AL Central race this young season, the CF conundrum, and a new piece called “Maybe or Mirage.”  What is it?  Read and find out.
 
SM: Well I guess you can say two weeks into the 2009 MLB season, it’s pretty easy to see exactly why so many experts had a hard time predicting the AL Central.  Three teams are tied for first place and the Cleveland Indians are the only team that is obviously struggling.  As I said on opening day, every team in this division has question marks and thus far, as we both agreed, the Royals are much improved. 

The secret to the Sox pulling ahead of the bunch will be consistency.  While Sunday’s offensive “broiling” of the Rays was great, the Sox entered Sunday’s game in a fashion reflective of 2008.  They were hitting .218 with runners in scoring position.  With our starting pitching looking fairly solid thus far, it appears as though we must improve this number if we are going to repeat as AL Central Champs.  Your thoughts?
 

PMB: First off, I’d like to say thank you for the introduction and taking the lead in this exchange as I’ve been ridiculously busy this week. We’ve had two exceptionally positive developments early this season: the Indians getting off to a very slow start as you pointed out. Last year they had a wretched beginning and never quite recovered. If they don’t kick it into high gear soon, they could be talking about 2010 by June.

Secondly, Paul Konerko (.341, .388 OBP, 11 RBI) is off to a great start: exactly what he needed after such an off year in ’08. Perhaps you were right about Paulie taking his strong finish down the stretch of last season to then carry it into the start of 2009? Jermaine Dye (.370, .388 OBP, 9 RBI) and  Carlos Quentin (.426 OBP, 7 HR, 13 RBI) are joining him in having phenomenal Aprils too.

I have to agree with you that clutch hitting will be the key. I get sick of Sox fans complaining to me “we’re just too reliant on the home run again, like last year.” There’s nothing wrong with homers…when you’ve got guys on base. The “table setters” at the top of the order in ’07 weren’t able to put out the proverbial plates, dishes and silverware so the “big-boppers” in the heart of the order could feast. And that’s why 90 losses occurred. If we get hits and draw walks at the top of the order (so far Brent Lillibridge leading-off  is clearly not the answer) then we’ll continue to have series just like the one concluded Sunday- one pitch away from sweeping four at Tampa Bay. Seriously, where was this offense last October at the Trop?

Speaking of Soxtober, I just want to throw in a mention that the White Sox had the opportunity to visit the White House today and Barack told me he wants to see them back there soon- as World Series Champions. 
 
 

SM: Among other things, part of the reason for the offensive inconsistency was the lack of a lead-off hitter (leading to Lillibridge obtaining that opportunity) and a somewhat unsettled position in CF.  With Dewayne Wise out 6-8 weeks, it appears as though Brian Anderson has been awarded full-time starting CF duties until he proves he cannot handle them.  Jerry Owens has also been re-called from AAA but appears to be nothing more than a pinch runner at this point.  Making things interesting the Sox re-signed 2005 WS hero Scott Podsednik to a minor league deal. 

The Sun-Times also resurrected the Aaron Rowand rumors last week, and The Washington Nationals floated a rumor that the Sox may have interest in bringing back Willie Harris.  To make things even more interesting, there have been other rumblings the Sox could call up Gordon Beckham and move Alexei to CF.  What do you see as the most likely scenario?

PMB: DeWayne Wise (up until 08) was a career minor leaguer for a reason, I don’t expect him to really augment his game when he returns. He earned the job simply because as the Dave Matthews Band once put it, “they’ll make the best of what’s around.”

I saw Owens go hitless (and remain hitless on the young season) in AAA the night before Easter, when I was in Charlotte. He has speed, but nothing close to the tools necessary to become a consistent major league hitter.

“Mr. Anderson” (cue the voice of the Matrix villain) is on what his 17th chance? 18th chance? I’d like to know when we can officially give up on him and maybe trade him while there’s still has some value. He’s a great defender, he’ll have to continue showing increased patience at the plate, because this is plan A.

Can Gordon Beckham make the jump directly from AA? Some of his towering homers in spring training make that seem plausible. Then again, it’s spring trainin, and owning Cactus League pitchers is a far cry from tearing up Scott Baker or Cliff Lee during the middle of an August pennant race.

In summation, White Sox centerfielders are starting to remind me of Bears Quarterbacks (prior to the Jay Cutler signing) or Bulls low-post players. There’s obviously no blue chip stock in the portfolio, so the best thing you can do is take your collection of junk bonds, and rotate them in a way that you could try to maximize your return.  

  
 

 

SM: Ok so as the Sportsbank is trying to keep postings shorter, we will close out with a new section on the Sox Exchange.  Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly.  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball…
 
Scott Podsednik will play CF for the White Sox in 2009.
 
SM:  Mirage.  From 2005 to 2007, Pods played only 10 of 330 games in CF for the Sox.
 
PMB: Mirage. The Sox player with the all-time hottest wife is washed up. This acquisition is 2008 Loaiza signing version 2.0


 
Alexei Ramirez will suffer the sophomore jinx.
 
SM: Maybe.  He’s getting nothing but breaking balls and swinging at everything.  Pitchers adjusted.  He needs to as well.
 
PMB: Maybe. I thought his seeing more time further down the order would relieve pressure and loosen him up, wrong on both counts.

Brian Anderson remains the everyday 2009 CF.
 
SM: Maybe.  What other choices are there?  He’s still a free swinger but is also walking (.429 OBP).  Defense is always solid. 
 
PMB: Maybe. He’s turning into our Shawon Dunston, numerous chances to fall short of years of high expectations.

Mike MacDougal will turn things around.
 
SM: Mirage.  A 12.46 ERA and a 3.23 WHIP.  He’s pitching scared and likely needs a change of scenery.
 
PMB: MIRAGE. I was genuinely angry that he was granted a roster spot coming out of Glendale

The Nick Swisher Trade was a Bust.
 
SM: Maybe.  He’s back.  Evaluate the trade by also looking what we gave up to get him in 2008.  Ugh.
 
PMB: Maybe, well actually a huge certainty. Maybe he just didn’t fit in well with Ozzie and the Sox clubhouse?

Soxman, great job with this new feature! I could see this becoming a regular staple here on the Sox Exchange.

2009 White Sox Significantly Overhauled from Last Year

By Paul M. Banks

When the White Sox defend their 2008 AL Central title this season, they will do so after overhauling a third of their lineup. Opening Day brings new starters at the center field, second and third base positions. Additionally, last year’s 2B, Alexei Ramirez. moves over to shortstop.

For this season to have the same thrilling conclusion as 2008, when the Sox finally won the division race over the Twins in game No. 163, it’ll be because of the new guys.

CF and hitting leadoff, DeWayne Wise:
Was it a smart move to start Wise in the leadoff spot, given his awful on-base percentage? He’s simply the least of three evils for manager Ozzie Guillen, as Jerry Owens can’t hit at the major league level and backup Brian Anderson continues falling way short of the expectations he came into the league with. Reserve infielder Brent Lillibridge can play the center field position when called upon as well.

3B Josh Fields: His name may be Fields, but fielding is not Josh’s strong suit. Joe Crede’s replacement does have plenty of power though, slugging 23 homers with 67 RBIs in just 373 at bats in 2007.

“I think he had a tremendous spring training, both offensively and defensively. Unfortunately, the rough day he had was against the Cubs with everybody in Chicago watching the game, when we don’t play the Cubs, people don’t watch (preseason) baseball, but I don’t worry about Josh. I expect him to have a great year,” manager Ozzie Guillen said with his usual Borat-like candor.

2B Chris Getz: What do you get with Getz? A possible Rookie of the Year candidate with a history of getting on base consistently at every level and solid range on defense. As he gains more experience, he may find himself hitting leadoff — should Wise struggle in the job. Ozzie Guillen bluntly assessed the situation.

“If things don’t work the way the way we want to, I’m not afraid to change lineups. I’m not too patient either. I think what I see from Getz is pretty special. Can this kid lead off? I don’t have any doubts, but him batting second we can do a lot of things,” Guillen said.

What’s Brewing in ’09: Injury Woes & Brewers Worth Fantasizing About

By: Melissa S. Wollering

Let’s recognize the man who’s seeing the most action during Brewers Spring Training this year: Dr. William Raasch. I have resorted to channeling my anger and frustration over a left oblique, a lower back and three shoulders into something positive and achieving mental clarity. Thank you, Dalai Lama. And thank you team MD Bill Raasch.

This week in Spring Training, Braden Looper was held from the rotation for tightness in his left oblique. Lil’ TG, Tony Gwynn, wants to believe his shoulder doesn’t hurt but is a horrible liar. Might be more than an impingement – might be his rotator cuff. And Gagme’s ailing shoulder is only proving my point that he won’t make the team after all. Yesssss. Eric may need to consider exile in Montana, where he can build himself a cabin, take up goose hunting and whittle bird whistles for the rest of his life.

Bill Hall’s calf progress has slowed. Mat Gamel is still a week away from being allowed to play. C Mike Rivera says his hammy hurts while C prospect Angel Salome is having back trouble. Finally, we are going to see reliever David Riske pitch for the first time off the mound next week after rehabbing from elbow surgery. When have you ever heard of so many injuries during the second week of Spring Training?

Seth McClung is getting Looper’s starts for now, but Seth hasn’t been doing anything spectacular with them. Chris Duffy’s seeing playing time with Braun in the WBC. JJ has been going yard and is apparently smoking both on and off the field. Casey McGehee’s actually bonding with 3B and produced a grand slam already. McGehee, Duffy, Mike Rivera and Trot Nixon have all jacked homers against the Rockies. Now that’s rocky mountain refreshment.

Cain is finally ABEL to play with the big boys after coming over from the minor league side. Readers already know: future CF Lorenzo Cain is m’boy. I stopped contributing to my 401K and invested in stock in this guy a long time ago. With a shortage of healthy outfielders, he’s getting some playing time. To prove my point: he tripled into the left-field corner as a right-handed hitter this past Tuesday. Sick good, just sick.

In a new feature, “Brewers Worth Fantasizing About,” we break down some early Fantasy Baseball projections. I’ll have more on this closer to the first week of April, but here’s a taste for those of you chomping at the bit.

Ryan Braun. Expect a first-round pick, taken most likely in the 6th-8th positions. If he falls further than that, scoop him up with no regrets.

Prince Fielder. Think late second or early third-round.

Corey Hart. Next to go after Fielder, may be able to snatch at a good value after disappointing owners last season. Consider round 6 excellent, probably won’t last that long.

JJ Hardy. He’s been my shortstop because he’s great value in rounds 6-9 and his numbers do the trick depending on how you stack your lineup. It always depends on the highly volatile pool of SS each year, too.

Yovani Gallardo. If you want him, he’d be a great #3 starter for your roster and is another mid-rounder. But be aware: he only pitched 24 innings throughout the entirety of last season. Who is everyday Yovani? We have really yet to find out.

Wickie Reeks. You know for all the grief I give him, I have a secret to share with you. He’s rarely failed me at 2B and I have drafted him two years in a row. Why? Because even when he sucks, he miraculously puts up fantasy numbers. When he’s injured, well, that doesn’t work. But when he’s healthy, he’s like gold in the bank, backing a bad line of credit.

Other potential fantasy notables: Trevor Hoffman, Dave Bush, Manny Parra, Mike Cameron.

In “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” this just in: the Cubs will now win the World Series. They’ve signed Corey Koskie.

Remember Randall Simon? Of course you do. The once-a-douche-always-a-douche wiener-whacker was recently quoted, since he’s in the WBC. Who says they’re proud to be remembered for abusing sausages?

“I think it’s something that’s going to be good for me because it keeps memories of me,” joked Simon, who was a member of the Pirates when the sausage race incident occurred. “As long as people don’t take it in the wrong way, I don’t have a problem with it.”

The guys over at Miller Park Drunk, (what a website name) wrote a letter in first-person to a tavern jukebox. The writer blames Corey Hart’s scary September on his choice of batting song, “International Harvester.” They also shiver at Jason Kendall’s Mudvayne batting song.

As you know, I have lifelong respect for the FS Wisconsin Crew. Brian and Bill do a great job and B. Anderson writes his own blog. During Spring Training webcasts, they have developed a new interactive feature for questions/comments.  Send yours to askthetruck@brewers.com.  Love it.

On a not-so-great note, former FSN WI play-by-play Mattie Vasgersian flubbed up by saying the real thing on the MLB Network. Way to christen your network, Matt. I feel bad, he’s a really quality guy. He’s probably feels so bad that he’s on his 458th Hail Mary and 677th Our Father as we speak.

If you’d rather seek a steady income as a lifer in Vegas, sportsbook.com recommends you put your cash on the Brewers, who are 50:1 to win it all this season. That’s not as good as the Devil Rays, but we may never see those odds again.

This week in “Just A Bit Outside”, comedian Artie Lange spent his entire time on David Letterman reminiscing about his time with Uecker. Artie and Norm MacDonald in the same room as Ueck – no wonder Artie said it was the funniest 24-hour period of his life. Ueck shared a great Harry Caray story with Artie as well.

On a heartbreaking note, I bring you my second quote from Bob Uecker during pre-season radio:

“We wish everyone good luck to start this season…except Jim Powell.” He then proceeded to talk about Powell for the rest of the inning. Aww…he’s so lost. So alone. So sad…

Ryan Braun was also on Letterman this past week with some Team USA players to countdown the Top 10 Reasons to Watch the WBC. Too bad no one cares about the WBC, which stands for Why Bother/Care. Or We Bad at Catching.

We can’t go a week without checking in on CC. Picture this: Sabathia, Joba Chamberlain, Woody and Buzz. That’s right CC & Joba checked out the new Toy Story ride at Disney. Headline next day: “First Titanium Amusement Ride Thrills, Withstands One-Ton Loads.”

And finally, in “Chart Magnificence,” America’s favorite pie chart debuts in the What’s Brewing column. These two graphs represent the upcoming strength of the Milwaukee Brewers and St. Louis Cardinals Farm Systems. Translation = Cubs had better win now before talent moves up the pipeline.

Stay tuned for the Injury Update & 5 Things You Never Knew About Ryan Braun next week…

What’s Brewing in ’09: Milwaukee’s Bullpen & Prospects

By Melissa S. Wollering

Is it just me or are you as baffled as I to see the Brewers now have 39 players on their 40-man roster?  It sure doesn’t feel like we’ve made that much progress in the off-season.

We’ve previously discussed the starting rotation situation in length. This month, Brian Anderson weighed in on whether the Crew needs another starter in his blog. Either way, Yovani Gallardo may step into the top spot in the rotation. Meantime, here’s a preview of what the Brewers’ bullpen may look like come spring

Closer: RHP Trevor Hoffman      RHP Carlos Villanueva       RHP David Riske
RHP Jorge Julio                        RHP Todd Coffey             LHP Mitch Stetter
RHP Eduardo Morlan (Rule 5 Pick)

Don’t count out Tim Dillard, Mark DiFelice, R.J. Swindle or Luis Pena.  They’re still in the running.

If you’ve seen the latest edition of Baseball in America , then you know some of the Brewers’ prospects are getting as much attention as the American Idol bikini girl; namely their cover boy Alcides Escobar. Tom Hardricourt is behind the Top 10 Prospects list each year for BA and he’s listing SS Escobar, 3B Mat Gamel and C Brett Lawrie as his top three within the Brewers organization.

Canadian prep player Lawrie was the Crew’s first-round pick in ’08.  He insisted on converting to that position full-time. The last time the Crew nurtured a catcher that made it to the big leagues may have been Mike Matheny…AGES ago.

Personally, I’ll be on the edge of my seat for another year until RHP Jeremy Jeffress is ready (at the earliest). He’s approached the 100 mph mark, but is nowhere near ready for this season.

Someone who may not have to wait that long is OF Lorenzo Cain, 22.  “The Toastman” didn’t start playing baseball until high school, but by age 20 he had won the short-season Arizona League batting crown. The reason “Lo-Cain” has got a shot at the bigs this season: in ‘08 he combined for 11 homers, 61 RBIs and 25 steals in the minors.


In the “Arbitration Update,” RHP Seth McClung avoids it by signing for more than $1.6M. Prince Fielder is King after snagging a two-year $18M deal. It’s no surprise Agent Satan ‘figure-dropped’ Ryan Howard’s $10 million from last winter (this year Howard filed for $18M for one year).

For anyone who’s counting, $18 million buys you approximately 29,032,258 veggie burgers. All 5’11’’ and 270 pounds of Fielder would also equal out to $253,521 per inch or $66,667 per pound. Really, he’s as tall as Michelle Obama and only 270?  Which scale were you using?

Corey Hart and Rickie Weeks are still working on coming to terms with Bernie Brewer.  Speaking of, you ever notice Bernie could be anyone one of the following men: Phil Garner, Robin Yount or Doug Melvin?  Rollie Fingers says mustaches are the new black.

The Texas Rangers and New York Mets are still eying free agent Ben Sheets. Signing with either would give the Brewers another second-round pick in June. I wager this with Sheets’ future team now: the man will suffer a hangnail, sore elbow, groin pull, ear infection and come down with the stomach flu before he obtains five wins for you next season.  He’ll be on the DL by the All-Star break. But if you want him, take him.  Read NY Daily News John Harper’s case for signing him.

Meanwhile, Doug Melvin may still have a go of it with Braden Looper, according to Ken Rosenthal.
Craig Counsell is back However, word is wiener-whacker Randall Simon did not impress Melvin at last week’s open tryout. Sausages everywhere are rejoicing.

Former Brewer Eric Gagne may be able to choke on a Twinkie this season. Star Tribune’s La Velle E. Neal III says the Twins would use him in a setup role. Texas has also been mentioned in association with Gag Me.

This week in “Friendly Fire With the Cubs,” Rich Harden’s shoulder joint tear is making Ben Sheets’ bill of health look clean. The Baby Bears also traded OF Felix Pie to B-more for pitchers Garrett Olson and Henry Williamson, probably giving up too soon and, in my opinion, getting a less-than-acceptable return for him. The Cubs also inked So Taguchi to a minor-league deal.  He’s 39, over the hill and TERRIBLE at baseball.  I recommend he take up ping pong, chess or underwater basket weaving.

And finally, in “Just a Bit Outside,” farewell to Brewers’ announcer Jim Powell. Since 1996, he’s been bringing Bob Uecker back to the play-by-play at hand and providing much needed Usinger Sausage back-and-forth banter. Powell will announce for the Atlanta Braves who are also trying to bring back former Brewer Don Sutton. This is where I shamelessly plug his wonderful son Darren Sutton, whom I had the pleasure of tabulating stats for in the FSN booth for from 2000-2003.

Also, I sweat our comrades at Right Field Bleachers who outlined the history behind the trade of former Brewer Richie Sexson in flow chart magnificence.  Do not miss this one: