Jim Thome Burns Sox, Twins Lead Central By Four

Jim Thome

The Minnesota Twins have seen what this before. But this time, Minnesota welcomed it with open arms. Rewind to Game 163 for the Twins and White Sox in the 2008 season after they finished the regular season tied at the top of the AL Central.

Nick Blackburn and Tuesday’s starter, John Danks, battled to a 0-0 tie through six, proving how evenly matched the two teams were.

All it took to eliminate the Minnesota Twins from the playoffs that night was one swing in the bottom of the seventh by the man who has the most home runs against them in club history.

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Minnesota Twins Offseason Has to be Considered a Failure

Ron Gardenhire

Fresh off a series loss to the Cleveland Indians, the Minnesota Twins have to be staring into the mirror asking themselves some serious questions about the last nine months.   [Read more…]

Jim Thome Wins AL Player of the Week

Jim Thome

The man that has hit more home runs against the Minnesota Twins than any player in the history of baseball is making Twins fans forget all 57 jacks he clubbed against his current team. [Read more…]

Cliff Lee a Must for Minnesota Twins

cliff lee

In the last few weeks the Chicago White Sox have caught fire, the Detroit Tigers have continued their steady play to hang around the top of the AL Central, and one thing has become painfully clear for the team at the top of the division. [Read more…]

Mauer Signs With Twins for Eight Years, $184 Million

By Mike Gallagher

It’s been rumored for months and months and has been the talk of the offseason here in Twins territory.  But it’s finally official. [Read more…]

White Sox Ready for Fall

thomedugout

By Soxman

The Chicago White Sox are officially ready for fall after they waved a flag with a color that’s a fashion taboo to after labor day: white. The actual “fall” of the team occurred when they failed to dominate their easiest home stand of the year two weeks ago.

So,  Jim Thome is traded to the Dodgers for a player that doesn’t even rank among the Dodgers top prospects.

For all of the excitement that Mr. Incredible Jim Thome gave to the Sox in his four seasons on the southside, Kenny Williams said thanks by giving him a chance to achieve a milestone that has thus far eluded him in his Hall of Fame career: a World Series ring.

Less we never forget

-His 500th career home run, which also happened to be a walk-off winner in an otherwise miserable 2007 season

-His multitude of mammoth dingers, the largest of which made us 2008 Central Division Champions.

To a lesser extent, Jose Contreras was also given a similar gift for his 2005 play-off pitching heroics, a trade to the wild card seeking Colorado Rockies

When the flag was waved it was waved loudly.  Through a personal memo sent to contending teams, Williams announced his “everything must go” sale of aging inventory.

Among the items “for sale” were Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Scott Linebrink, Octavio Dotel and Scott Podsednik.

With the exception of Konerko and Linebrink, who are under contract for at least one more season beyond 2009, player rentals could be had to a bidder willing to pay just pennies on the dollar.

So what does this mean to the 2010 and beyond Chicago White Sox?jose-contreras-2005-studio-plus-posters

Here are four quick points:

1. The Jim Thome trade identifies a need for a left handed hitter.

As Kenny Williams often has multiple plans, and has a history of bringing players back for multiple tours:

-Jim Thome could return at a reduced price.

– A free agent option that could make sense is Nick Johnson.  He has a career on-base percentage of .400 with good contact capability.  His injury history could bring him in at a reduced price and the allure of the DH spot could save miles on his body.  The launching pad of U.S. Cellular field could also help his power numbers.   He could rotate the DH spot with Paul Konerko reducing breakdown risk to Paulie as well.

2)      Absent from the “For Sale” List was Freddy Garcia.

Is this a hint that he could be a firm part of the Sox plans in 2010?  Your rotation would be set:

Jake Peavy
Mark Buehrle
John Danks
Gavin Floyd
Freddy Garcia

Assuming all players remain healthy, this would be a better than average rotation, surely among the strongest in the AL Central.


3)      Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko might not return in 2010

See point one.  Depending on which of Kenny’s plans are activated, both could return.  Given Konerko’s contract and no trade clause, he’s the most likely of the two to be on the 2010 roster.  Along with Mark Buehrle, he’s the face of the organization, which is an intangible Kenny Williams values.

In the spirit of re-building and going with a youth movement:

Tyler Flowers, hitting a combined .297 with 15 homers between Double-A and Triple-A this season is one option, who we will see in the month of September.  While I hope they do not give up on him at catcher, an indicator could be whether or not he plays any first base in the Arizona Fall League.

Dayan Viciedo could be another.

Savings from letting Dye go could be used to add Chone Figgins, a versatile player with speed that Williams has coveted for years.  His style of play is conducive to “Ozzie Ball” as well.


4) Alexei Ramirez might not be the long-term answer at shortstop.

Sure the white flag trades have no nexus to this statement, but I had to make it anyway.  Alexei has the second lowest fielding percentage among White Sox regulars.  He could move back to second base where he was serviceable, or return to the outfield. alexeicheshirt

He’s only owed $2 million over the next two seasons and his offensive capability makes him a bargain, so he is not likely to be traded.

Gordon Beckham makes more sense at shortstop as a player to build around in the infield.

There are a host of possibilities in the off-season including bringing back Scott Podsednik, who could act as a speedy super-sub.

Here’s ONE possible line-up for 2009 if some of these moves were made.

Chone Figgins- 3B
Gordon Beckham- SS
Carlos Quentin- LF
Paul Konerko- 1B
Nick Johnson- DH
Alex Rios- RF
A.J. Pierzynski- C
Alexei Ramirez- CF
Chris Getz- 2B

Remember there are always options.

More posts as the off-season approaches.

Hold the Cheese: A Sox-Brewers Exchange

bernie-soxman

By Soxman and Melissa S. Wollering

You have to reach back to years of California’s rolling blackouts, Mad Cow disease media-hype and the release of the very first Apple’s IPod for the last time the Chicago White Sox played the Milwaukee Brewers.  2001 was remarkable.  Fast-forward to 2009, as Soxman and Melissa cheese it up about the latest meeting between the two teams, sure to be as memorable as the smell of limburger left in a vehicle at 90 degrees for 8 hours.

(SM)  Nope, I’m not going to do it.  There will be absolutely no gloating by this White Sox super fan regarding our series sweep of the Milwaukee Brewers.  Why?  Well, I have two reasons.  One: our victories actually helped the Cubs in the standings.  Two: the Brewers are my second favorite team in the National League.  Yes, for Soxman, there are other teams in baseball beyond the boys who protect the diamond at 35th and Shields.

The Brewers franchise is the little engine that could.  The small market team, built from home-grown prospects and complemented, not defined by free agents. I love their park and their fans, so you will not hear me “drop a beat down” on this team.

That said, to quote the 70’s sensation Meatloaf, “Two Out of Three Ain’t Bad.”  Any thoughts you would like to share overall on the competitive series that took place at Miller Park this weekend?

white-sox-brewers

(MW)  First off, I count a sweep as taking three of three.  Brewers won on Friday 7-2, so let’s say you ‘won the series’.  Your pitchers got it done when ours didn’t, your hardwood performance made our players appear to be using toothpicks, Pierzynski was ‘one to watch’ even though Paul M. Banks thought I was nuts for saying so last week.  To top it all off, you robbed Trevor Hoffman of a perfect ERA.  Robbing Hoffy made me feel as though the Sox had cursed death upon my future first-born child.  It left me that empty.

(SM) Okay, let’s look at each game in a little more detail.  The first game to me was not a loss by the White Sox as much as it was a loss to Ozzie Guillen.  He pulled Clayton Richard after pitching five solid innings and only giving up one earned run.  It  was also the start of a great series (and hopefully a hot streak) for Corey Hart.  A double, a triple, and 3 RBIs.  Our bullpen, which had been pretty automatic, gave up six earned runs.  For a final thought, where in the heck did former Cub, Casey McGehee come from?

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(MW) He came from Cubbie purgatory where if you vow to contribute to the Milwaukee Brewers after a life with the Cubs, then you reach heaven after your career is finished. Amen, brother! He got the leadoff spot in Sunday’s lineup and contributed to that game, too, before it took a Turnbow nosedive.

I also love pitchers that can get it done on both offense and defense. On Friday, Suppan retired the side in just 7 pitches in the 2nd inning. Then he stepped up to the plate in the 3rd and advanced Kendall to second with a nice Sac.   Richard doubled for his first major-league hit in the 5th, too. Ozzie pulled him for that error in the following inning, which I agree, wasn’t completely necessary. Still, Suppan and Richard impressed overall.

(SM) Game II.  Let’s just say your premonition regarding Manny Parra in last weeks exchange with Paul M. Banks was spot on.  Six earned runs in an inning and two-thirds pitched.  What is wrong with this guy?  With an ERA over seven, perhaps he’ll follow his opponent’s lead and figure everything out in the minors?  Did I mention that Jose Contreras appears to be back?  Eight innings of two-hit ball.  Bottom line, that was the story of this game.  Care to offer your perspective?

(MW) If you care to sweep Manny Parra’s glove and uniform under Miller Park’s bleachers, douse them with lighter fluid and start tailgating around them with a couple of Usinger’s famous bratwursts, then by all means SWEEP away. Let’s just say I awoke Sunday extremely unsurprised that he was sent down to AAA Nashville. 

What cracked me up though is that Macha is so disgusted, he currently does not give a rat’s rear-end about trying to replace him. We brought up the reliever Chris Narveson and will use Seth McClung to start if need be.  However, the next 8 games include two off days, so a 4-man rotation works until June 27th. Attanasio is probably doing some Father’s Day shopping in the starting pitching department, aisle better than a 7.52 ERA? You had to know this was coming.  It’s not IF, it’s WHEN with the Milwaukee Brewers and their pitching woes.

Contreras impressed with the number of innings pitched, copious amounts of strikeouts and no signs of returning ailments. That is a trifecta to me because those Achilles can take some time. Hey, come to think of it you know, we could use a starting pitcher…

(SM) Well, if we are going to tailgate, I’d prefer Johnsonville beer brats.  The series finale was like bizarro baseball world in my opinion.  Jim Thome attempts to bunt, Mark Buehrle homers and Trevor Hoffman gives up his first run of the season.  Corey Hart brought us back to reality by belting two homers and Casey McGehee appeared to be playing with Cubs ire as he went 3 for 4, falling a triple short of the cycle.  Thoughts ?

(MW) Hart does well in June, it’s his month.  It is the month of the harvest, when his ‘International Harvester’ as a batting song actually makes sense for 30 days.  JJ Hardy looked absolutely dismal.  He got shoved down the batting order to eighth on Monday as a direct result. He is something like 1 for 32 right now in at-bats.

hardyflow1

Buehrle surprised with his bat and I enjoyed watching White Sox fans cheer in utter shock!  I cheered with them.  Heck, who cares?  It was exciting. Looper didn’t deserve any cheering whatsoever, so…. 

Also, let’s describe how Melissa watched the 0.00 ERA on the gigantic wrap scoreboard flicker at status quo for the last time in Brewers history for Hoffman.  Let’s pause 30 seconds for silence.  Now let’s never speak of it again. I heard he was .8 innings away from making club history.  I said let’s never speak of it again! This is me, writing to myself in my alter ego.

(SM)  I actually did a Sox Exchange once with my alter ego Bruce Wayne Parker, so I know how these things go.  It will get better.  Earlier this season, I scouted the Brewers farm system, taking in Nashville Sounds game.  All the buzz surrounded super-prospect Mat Gamel and Alcides Escobar, yet most of the return on investment thus far seems to be coming from McGehee, who only hit .167 with the Cubs last year despite driving in 92 runs for AAA Iowa.  Former Brewer Scotty Podsednik has been that guy for us.  Left for dead by the Colorado Rockies, Pods was out of work until mid-April when the Sox took a chance on him.  The 2005 World Series hero has made the  most of his second chance with Sox, posting a .360 OBP, and hitting .311, 1 HR, 13 RBI, and 8 SB.  The Brewers and Sox both have a history of getting the most out of frugal signings.  Do you think its that Midwest mentality or dumb luck ?

(MW) It’s karma…we lose people like Richie Sexson and Geoff Jenkins who go on to semi-resurrect their careers with other organizations.  But we also give away people like Scott Linebrink to the White Sox and watch him implode on himself, like he did Saturday. 

You win some, you lose some.  So, somewhere smack in the middle of Midwest mentality and sheer dumb luck. That dances around your question like a circus performer on hot coals. Sorry, Soxman. But I agree, kudos to the Sox for picking up Scotty Po Po.  I cheered for him this weekend and I was in the vast majority!  You would have been proud of my Milwaukee Brethren.

(SM)  Finally, lets play Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox (and Brewers) 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… 

elvis-hart-240x320

White Sox pitching was good for Corey Hart.
 

(SM) Maybe, He was in a 2 for 23 slump on Wednesday, looks like Ryan Braun against the Sox. 

 

(MW) Mirage, it had nothing to do with the pitching. In June 2007, Hart batted .336 with nine home runs and 21 RBIs from the leadoff spot. June of ’08 was decent, too.

 Jose Contreras is back.
 

(SM) Maybe, 2 starts, 16 IP, zero ER, and three hits allowed.  Enough said. 

(MW) Maybe, watch his health, keep stretching that achilles and I don’t see why not.

The Brewers will be buyers at the trade deadline.

(SM) Maybe, they need another solid starting pitcher and perhaps a hitter hat can get on base. 

(MW)  Strong Maybe if not Definitely. For the first time in years, more MLB teams are looking to trade for bats. It may give us an advantage when seeking pitchers. Starting pitcher = happening for us.

 The Sox will be buyers at the trade deadline.

 (SM) Mirage, who are they going to give up on?  Sellers are a possibility. 

(MW:) Mirage, they’ll be selling to teams like the Brewers and salvaging the future. My sincere apologies, but…

The Brewers and the Sox will meet in the 2009 World Series.
 

(SM) Mirage.  Not unless we start scoring more runs. 

(MW)  I like your thinking!  But probably not, so mirage it is. Bless what we have in common until then–our hatred for the Cubs!

(SM) Great exchange Melissa!  Good luck to you guys down the stretch.

White Sox Can’t Buy a Run

ozzie-guillen-choke

By Randy Satovitz

The last time the White Sox had a worse scoring pace than this year was 1986 when they scored 3.98 runs per game.  The Sox are scoring 4.15 runs per game which is good for 12th in the American League.   They were shutout in three games last week (2 vs. Oak, 1 vs. Cle).  Ironically, the Sox play at one of the best hitter friendly ballparks and are doing exactly what they have been doing for years- hitting the long ball.  The power numbers have never been a problem for the Sox, but getting a large number of runs across the plate certainly has been.  Carlos Quentin should be back by the end of the week, but that will not necessarily help the Sox score runs.

Of course there will be more home runs, but if Podsednik can’t handle center field, the outfield will be jammed up.  As much as I disliked Podsednik coming back to the Sox, he has become one of the lone bright spots in the lineup.  He is getting on base and becoming the great leadoff hitter he once was back in 2005 when he finished 12th in the MVP voting.
The pitching has not been as bad as it could be with a possible six-man rotation going on.  The Sox even decided to let Ozzie’s brother-in-law Freddy Garcia come back and give pitching one last try.  It seems the Sox give a lot of players second and third chances- even when their first chance was not too spectacular.  The hitting will come around, but scoring enough runs will still be a question mark.  The Sox walked 12 times Tue night and should have scored many more runs than they did.  When Ozzie Guillen came to the White Sox, he had them play a special style Sox fans called, ‘Ozzieball.’

Ozzieball was a way to generate runs by advancing players base by base as part of the run manufacturing process.   Some of called it “smartball” because it’s built around taking advantage of little situations and mistakes made by your opponent. (Recall the Tony Grafaninno error in the ’05 ALDS? A.J.’s base-running adventure and the dropped third strike in the ’05 ALCS?)

Basically, it’s ‘smallball,’ but since Ozzie is in charge, you might as well give him credit in the name. You don’t want him to curse at you, do you? Anyways, this idea flew out the window a couple of years ago and the Sox have never been the same team. And nowhere near as successful.  ozziescorebaord
The Sox need to score runs like they used to and get some wins on the board.  Sounds easier said than done, but if Ozzieball returns, watch out.  I don’t know how many times Ozzie has to lash out at his team and tell them to play better baseball.  Things aren’t clicking until the Sox start stealing more bases and laying down more bunts.  Even if it’s Jim Thome who’s trying to lay down that bunt for a base hit; because with the Thome shift, the third baseman is practically in the outfield almost every time.  Somebody is going to have to step up their game and focus on the team instead of padding their stats.  Once one person starts it, the others will follow in line.

The question is who?

Gameday in the Life of Soxman

By Paul M. Banks

Being the Chicago White Sox #1 fan is more than a hobby- it’s hard work requiring discipline, dedication and adherence to routine. “This guy is serious about his Sox,” yelled a random White Sox fan in the U.S. Cellular Field parking lot when Soxman and I approached the gate as the home opening holiday began. He was obviously referring to Soxman, or as I call him “the Southside Dark Knight.” You may have seen our Caped Crusader on television or read his work in the Red Eye.

Because the wintry weather delayed White Sox opening day, the seat of Batboy (Soxman’s fellow season ticket holder and masked sidekick) opened up. Like Batman sending critical evidence to Commissioner Gordon, Soxman called upon me to join him for 2009 opening day. This event gave me a chance to witness what our superfan superhero experiences each game.

I met him where the “Soxmobile” is parked, observed his pre-game rituals before he got into costume and walked with him along the covert route he takes to the stadium (this route keeps the Soxmobile location clandestine) This was unprecedented “Sox access.” 

“For five years, my routine as remained unchanged.  Pregame meal at a local Bridgeport establishment, listening to Sox jams to get into the character “zone,” and NEVER leave my seats if we are losing or the game is tied.  I didn’t waver for a second today,” Soxman said.

Countless fans seek getting their picture taken with him everywhere he goes in the park and our Sox superhero never turns anyone away.
“There are no greater fans in the City of Chicago, the United States, or even the world!  I’ve said it 1000 times before.  Brad Pitt is just another actor if the fans don’t buy tickets to his movies.  The fans made Soxman and I’ll never forget that.  It’s why it took us 1.5 hours to get to the Sox Mobile after the game,” Soxman said.

The Sox trailed for nearly the entire game, but beat the Royals 4-2 in highly dramatic fashion. Legend and former Baltimore Orioles manager Earl Weaver once said the key to winning baseball is “pitching, defense, and the three-run homer,” the exact formula the Sox implemented on opening day. My story with this superfan included a happy ending because the Southsiders: played errorless ball in the field, limited the Royals to 2 runs, and Jim Thome’s 3-run blast in the 8th inning. The storybook finish created a joyous atmosphere on our way out of the park.

“White Sox opening day is like a family reunion.  There are so many fans that I have come to love with distinct personalities. Like your wacky uncle, girl-chasing younger brother, or grandma who likes to give hugs,” Soxman aptly described.