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.

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.