Chicago Sox Exchange 3

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By the Soxman and Paul M. Banks

Correct me if I’m wrong, but the Royals seem like more of a threat to me than the Tigers do right now. No team that started 0-7 has ever made the postseason. Only a handful of teams that started so poorly ever finished at or above .500. Are the Tigers de-clawed for the season already?

I’ll address the Royals last because I truly don’t know what to think about them yet. And as everyone knows, I have a soft spot in my heart for any small market team that manages to win despite a minimal team payroll. Like the 2007 White Sox, the Tigers have been hit by the injury bug early and could easily mount a challenge in the Central, but history is now against them. I said all along that their bullpen was in shambles and their rotation is questionable. Their offense is not firing on all cylinders yet either likely because everyone is pressing to make something happen. I predicted them to finish third in the division, so time will tell. As for the Royals, Billy Butler and Alex Gordon appear to be the real deal and could quickly become the new faces of the organization. Unlike the Tigers, who have the second highest team salary in the majors, the Royals rank 25th out of 30 teams. So you have to respect what they are doing. However, they started out as the hottest team in baseball a couple of years back as well and quickly swooned into the central basement. So I don’t believe they will challenge, yet. Ask me this question again in May.

For those like myself, who claimed Sox management was frugal, think again. They have the fifth highest team payroll in the majors. The Twins actually scare me more as they re-loaded on major-league ready talent in all of the trades they made. Their line-up showed it by exploding on the Sox last home stand.  
 

Speaking of the Royals, I was out at Elfstrom Stadium doing a story on the Kane County Cougars, and Mike Moustakas, the number one overall prospect in the Royals organization, (and the Royals would certainly be a good organization to be rated highly in as I imagine the upcoming opportunity for playing time would be ample, given all the holes the Royals have) got ejected in the fifth inning. The guy who runs this Minor League baseball site told me I should try to catch him in a couple innings because he’ll be on the bus and gone by the time the game ends. I thought it would be an excellent chance to have an exclusive with the #2 overall pick of the 2007 draft; and when I got to the locker room, no one was around except for three players. I asked if Moustakas was available, and they said, “No he was not.” Of course, I don’t have a Burlington Bees (Single A Royals affiliate) media guide, and I have no clue what Moustakas looks like, so he could have been telling me himself that “No, he was not there. And he was not available.” That would have been pretty funny.
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I’m not surprised that “Moose” was not available for post-game interviews.  His agent has called him the best overall middle infielder to enter the game since A-Rod.  Who is his agent you may ask?  Well, none other than Scott Boras of course.  With Tony Pena Jr and Angel Berroa as the only competition standing in his way, it would be very easy to fast track Moustakas to the majors, like they did with Alex Gordon. Moustakas is considered to be a below average runner so I doubt he could avoid the speedy Paul Banks if he truly was there.  However, he was given $4 million just for signing his name on a contract so it is possible he’s developing the ego of a major league star already.
 
 

That’s beauty of minor league baseball: host families, bus trips, and down to earth players, a $4 million signing bonus pretty much takes away all of those things. Mark Buerhle is a major innings eater, second only to Livan Hernandez for total innings pitched this decade in all of Major League Baseball. However, he had yet another rough start the other day. Javier Vazquez is the White Sox main strikeout pitcher, with the stuff he has and the ability he possesses to really punch people out; right now I consider him the Sox’s true ace. Is it blasphemy to say this?
 

I’ve received a lot of e-mail from worried Sox fans about Mark Buerhle’s performance this season.  After all, he is 1-2 with a 5.96 ERA.  I think Mark will be fine once he finds his pitching stride.  He’s looked good in a couple of outings and horrible in a couple of outings.  Even with all of the innings on his pitching arm, he’s not a hard thrower and does not appear to be nursing any sort of injury.

What truly defines a staff ace?  I don’t think the number of K’s a pitcher racks up defines this title.  I think it is the pitcher who day-after-day gives his team the best chance to win. 

So one could argue that ERA and WHIP would be the best two categories that define an “ace.”  So who is the Sox ace thus far statistically speaking?
 Jose Contreras, 1-1, 4.34 ERA- Nope
Javier Vazquez, 3-1, 3.20 ERA 27 Ks in 25 innings, Wrong guess!
Sorry Paul, Thanks for playing.
 John Danks, 2-1, 3.04 ERA, impressive but wrong.
 
The answer is shocking!!!

 The staff ace in the first month of the season has been none other than Gavin Floyd, who is 2-0, 1.40 ERA, and a minuscule 0.88 WHIP! I was the most critical of Gavin Floyd coming into the season, and I must say he is proving a lot of critics wrong thus far.  Let’s hope he can keep it up.  
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I’m having trouble deciding which hot new sensation excites me more: the new reality series “The Pussy Cat Dolls present…Girlicious” or Gavin Floyd. “Fukudome Fever” gets all the press in this town, but do you have “Floyd Fever?”
 
You know what?  The Pussy Cat Dolls really don’t “loosen up my buttons” all that much.  While they are very pretty, they don’t appear to have much depth beyond making the average guy wish his girlfriend was “hot like them.”  Look at Fukudome’s home vs. road splits and your fever will go down to a manageable 99.1. I’m not breaking out my Cy Young vote for Gavin Floyd just yet.  However, he has already surpassed most of my favorite Floyds in Chicago sports including: former Cub Cliff Floyd and former Bulls Manager Tim Floyd.  With another solid month or two he could very well become my all-time favorite Chicago Floyd by unseating Floyd Bannister, who has held the title since 1983. Anyone who would have called Gavin Floyd the staff ace going into opening day would have been checked for a fever, that’s for sure.

So what would your “Walk up” music be as you are coming to bat? 
Mine would be Kanye West, “Through the Wire” That song, his first ever single, was recorded while he re-covered from a life threatening car accident. At the end of the video, he pays homage to his main creative influence with a photo op. “Through the Wire” is my all time favorite pop song because both of us Chicago natives undertook our first major creative endeavors while recovering from life-threatening situations.  The moment is like Kanye West touching his Chaka Khan poster at the end of the “Through the Wire” video.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uvb-1wjAtk4

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And there is nothing like staring death in the face to make you want to express creatively. I wrote my novel while I was recuperating from a bone marrow transplant to treat my re-occurring Hodgkin’s disease. So when I went to Minnesota during the series they played the Sox, I made sure to take a picture of myself with my book next to one of my heroes, F. Scott Fitzgerald. The anthropologist of the ‘Jazz Age’ statue is in St. Paul’s Rice Park. It was like my Kanye video moment.
 
Paul, I really can’t even touch your explanation.  Despite your late inning “Bobby Jenks” like entrance to Saturday’s Heartland Blood Drive, meeting you and the other Heartland recipients was a true inspiration to Batboy and me. Anything I have been through in my life is small in comparison to the challenges you have overcome in your life.

 You all are heroes to me!

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I think if any of my friends were to ask what song Bruce Wayne would walk up to the universal answer would be “something by Linkin Park.”  I love their energy and their lyrics.  While Bruce Wayne or Peter Parker as I most identify with is an admitted sap for love music like “Your Guardian Angel” by Red Jumpsuit Apparatus, LP music rocks!
 So if I had to choose a song, I’d say “No More Sorrow” by Linkin Park.  It’s a song to me that speaks to taking accountability for your own actions rather than always blaming others.  It really applies when you are standing one-on-one in a batter’s box.

For the next question, I’ll get a little self-indulgent. Around my birthday, you and Dave talked about what it is to be Belichickian versus being Banksian. Define Banksian?
 

Ah hemmmm (the best way possible to spell out clearing my throat in writing).  You are just dying for this to show up when someone Google’s “Banksian,” aren’t you? Since this has so much to do with a White Sox exchange, I’ll gladly answer.
 
My gosh.  I just gave you the perfect example of Banksian.  Short, yet intelligent responses, with bite and perhaps a smidgeon of dry sarcasm.  When you deliver a Banksian response, you have a way of looking at someone and almost daring them to challenge your intellect. Yet, I know your kryptonite.  I know the two words that can light up your expressionless eyes, while chiseling a smile on your granite, emotionless profile.  Perhaps it is because the words define the one thing in this life that is ALMOST your intellectual equal.  Whenever you hear a Banksian response, just smile, look Paul in the eyes and say: {words omitted} His mind is then completely open to suggestion.  It is like a Jedi mind trick.  
 

Or perhaps that’s what I want you to think. The best way to disguise what my true kryptonite is by making you think it’s something else. We know from the 72 in your email that Carlton Fisk is up there, but give me your all time favorite Sox player, current and present and why?
 

All-time favorite Sox player is a challenge for a hero who is all White Sox, all the time. I’ll share five of my all-time favorite players with a short explanation as to why.
 
Ron Kittle
Sure, he was no Hall of Famer.  Most younger Sox fans likely have no idea who he even is.  With only a .239 lifetime BA, many might wonder why he’s a favorite.  Well, he was Rookie of the Year in 1983, belting 35 homers and massing up 100 RBI.  He’s also the career leader in rooftop homers at the Old Comiskey Park with seven.
 
My love for Kittle comes out of an act of kindness he did for me when I was a kid.  I used to get into the park before the gates opened.  While playing catch with another player, a ball sailed into the stands and I grabbed it and threw it back to him.  He smiled and said “nice throw.”  He then said “let’s see what else you got” and invited me on the field to play catch with him.  It was only 10 minutes before he was yelled at, but it was hands-down one of the greatest moments of my life.

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Robin Ventura
“Sweet Swinging” Robin Ventura had one of the most fluent swings I have ever seen from a fellow lefty slugger.  He was also Mr. Clutch throughout his career, as one of only five 3rd basemen to hit 250 homers and to win five Gold Glove Awards.  He has 18 career grand slams (4th all-time), the most famous of which was his “Grand Slam Single” in 1999.  He hit a walk-off grand slam with the Mets in the ALCS but was tackled in celebration by fellow teammates before reaching second, so the homer was changed to a single.  
 
Frank Thomas
The Big Hurt ranks as one of my all-time favorites as he is without a doubt one of the greatest hitters to ever wear a Sox uniform.  I met him the day after he signed with the Sox out of Auburn and watched him take batting practice.  He signed a ball for me and when I told him he’s going to be “awesome,” he humbly (yes I said humbly) responded, “I sure hope so.”  He’s one of only six players to ever hit at least 500 homers and accrue 1600 walks. 
 
Carlton Fisk
“Pudge” is arguably the greatest catcher to ever wear a White Sox uniform.  He was a true grinder before the phrase was coined, and had a training regime that prolonged his career beyond most catchers.  He’s a Hall of Famer.
 
Buck Weaver
Buck Weaver was an outstanding defensive third basemen, known as the only MLB player that Ty Cobb would not bunt against.  He was one of the only “innocent” players on the 1919 “Black Sox,” forever banned from baseball for simply not turning in his fellow players.  Weaver batted .324 in the 1919 World Series, tallying 11 hits. He played errorless ball in the Series and was played by John Cusack in the movie “Eight Men Out.”
 
Mark Buehrle or Paul Konerko?
 My current favorite White Sox Player?  While my friends often compare my love life to the “streaky” hitting of Paul Konerko, I’d have to say Mark Buehrle.  He’s a gutsy, left-handed pitcher who relies on control and finesse to win ball games. He works games faster than any pitcher I’ve ever seen, and is a true team player, who genuinely looks as though he has fun every time he takes the mound. He has averaged at least 200 innings for the last six seasons and pitched a no hitter against the Texas Rangers on April 18, 2007.  He signed for less money in 2007 to stay with the White Sox and will forever be one of the key faces of the 2005 World Champions.
 

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    Soxman has definitely become the early front-runner in the race for TSB ’08 MVP. the prolific amount of contributions, additions to the comment threads and the Heartland Blood Center appearance created big gains in the popular vote. And this forward momentum has won him the pledges of TSB MVP voting superdelegates.

  2. I am flattered Mr. Banks! I surprised you did not discuss the drive in your Week in Review.

    This Sox Exchange was one of the best yet in my opinion.

  3. However, what magical logic did you apply that prevents me from exposing your kryptonite? When I try to say {words omitted} this auto block mysteriously comes up!

    To any Sox Fans who do not know the Buck Weaver story, check it out with related sites on Wkipedia. Today’s comparison to the politics of baseball would be someone being banned from baseball for life for not turning a player in who used steroids or HGH.

  4. MVP? While its nice to hear, the season is early. I just go out day after day to try to help the Sportsbank Team gain more readers. I play my hardest and try to support my fellow teammates in the process. I the end, as long as this site is #1, that’s all that matters to Soxman.

    I don’t consider anything I did for Heartland heroic. The real heroes are the people who gave blood and those who battled life-threatening sickness to survive.

  5. The Statue of Harold Baines says

    My walkup music would be “Pour Some Sugar on Me” by Def Leppard

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