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Monday, July 19, 2004

Relocating 

I am happy to report that Exile in Wrigleyville is moving to Most Valuable Network. You can now find my posts about the White Sox at whitesox.mostvaluablenetwork.com. This site, including the archives, will remain at this location. The new template allows readers to post comments, which several readers have asked about here. I hope you'll continue to read at the new address. Thanks.

Thursday, July 15, 2004

The fallout finally comes 

When a young man was shot and killed about a block from Wrigley Field in May, I wrote that city officials would make a ruckus about this. Well, the ruckus is finally here. Tom Tunney, my alderman in the 44th Ward, is calling on police to write more tickets and make more arrests in the area around the park. Tunney contends that police officers are wary of making misdemeanor arrests for disorderly conduct because the nearest lockup is at Area 19 headquarters at Belmont and Western. They don't want to be off the street all the time it takes to drive an arrestee there. Tunney's idea is to provide some sort of local option -- possibly even a bus that would transport arrestees -- for a lockup, allowing officers to arrest problem fans without taking themselves so far out of commission. Tunney also said some sort of temporary court could be set up in the area to quickly adjudicate these cases. The Philadelphia Eagles and local authorities set up a court house at the old Veterans Stadium and included space for a court and holding cells at their new home, Lincoln Financial Field.

Here's my idea. I think Tunney's on the right track. The Cubs will be trying to get city approval to build their Cubs Hall of Fame and sports bar/restaurant on the parcel west of the park and their bleacher expansion that will encroach on city right of way on the sidewalks on Sheffield and Waveland. When the Cubs seek the zoning approval, the city should require some holding cells and a courtroom be built somewhere in or very near the park. The city holds all the cards here. The Cubs need the city's approval to make more money. Not much stands in the way of Tribune Co. making more money.

Enjoy the Oakland series 

I am leaving town Thursday morning to drive up to Door County, Wis., for my annual golf trip with a group of friends. Except for 1998, I've been up for this trip every year since 1996. This is a long way of saying that I won't be posting for a few days. Monday evening is probably the best bet for seeing new content. Check back here then, and you'll also read an announcement about the future of this blog.

(Music to write by: Steve Earle, "Transcendental Blues.")

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

Up to his eyeballs in snubs 

I think even a big Frank Thomas fan like me can forget just how good this man has been in his career. (Some of that is Thomas's fault. His ability to stick his foot in his mouth is well-documented.) A couple of things triggered my interest in examining Thomas's career Monday night, and my review took so long that I had to wait a day to finish writing this post.

I had already been thinking about the lack of respect for Thomas more than a week, since the All-Star teams were announced. I was at my parents' house having dinner on the Fourth and clicked on ESPN to see the announcement. Not only was Thomas not on the team, but neither was Paul Konerko (if Paulie had made it, I would've immediately understood leaving Thomas off, although, before his injury, Thomas was having the better season). I had a few choice words to say about Joe Torre. Later, when I saw how the player voting went down and how the American League was stuck taking Ken Harvey from the Royals to give them a representative, I understood Thomas's absence but it still bothered me. Why isn't this player who is among the all-time greats in the All-Star Game?

Then, there was the column by Greg Couch in the Sun-Times which, without judging Thomas, noted that his visibility and prominence in the game of baseball has declined sharply. Coupled with his silent treatment for the media, Couch wondered if Thomas will be shut out of the Hall of Fame.

Watching the Home Run Derby Monday night was the final straw. I really wish Thomas had been chosen for the 2003 Derby in his home park (not to mention that he belonged on the AL All-Star team). I bought a pair of tickets for my dad for Father's Day, and we had a great time, but it would have been even better with Thomas performing. Remember the 1994 Derby in Pittsburgh and those 500-foot bombs Thomas hit? Even though a lot of old clips were shown, I didn't see any of Thomas. OK, it's a decade ago. I understand. Still, I hate the lack of recognition for Thomas.

Joe Morgan lit the match that set off my bomb. I don't remember the exact context, but somehow, he and that knucklehead Chris Berman got to talking about Seattle Mariners DH Edgar Martinez. Very offhandedly, with no qualifiers, Morgan called Martinez the best right-handed hitter of the 1990s. Let me repeat that: Edgar Martinez was the best right-handed hitter of the 1990s, according to Morgan. Are you kidding me? Thomas was the best right-handed hitter of the 1990s (Alex Rodriguez only played the second half of the decade). Probably the guy who comes closest to Thomas is the man born on the exact same day who also plays first base and has been with a single team (at the major-league level, anyway): Jeff Bagwell. At the very least, Thomas has been significantly better than Martinez, who I think has had an excellent career. Let's look at some comparisons (through the 2003 season):

OPS (on-base plus slugging)
FT: led league four times (1991, 1992, 1994, 1997) and five other top 10s, 10th career
EM: led league once (1995) and seven other top 10s, 25th career

OPS+ (OPS relative to league average = 100), best five seasons
FT: 212, 181, 180, 178, 178
EM: 183, 166, 164, 163, 161

Win Shares (as defined by Bill James), five best seasons
FT: 39, 34, 34, 33, 32
EM: 32, 28, 27, 25, 24

Win Shares, 1990s
FT: 273 (3rd in all of baseball)
EM: 204 (20th)

Batting average
FT: led league once (1997) and six other top 10s
EM: led league twice (1992, 1995) and five other top 10s

Slugging
FT: lead league once (1994), eight other top 10 (including six in top 5), and 16th career
EM: never led league, six top 10s, and 52nd career

Runs
FT: led league in 1994 and six other Top 10s
EM: led league in 1995 and two other top 10s

Home runs
FT: never led league, eight top 10s
EM: never led league, one top 10

Walks
FT: led league four times, seven other top 10s, 24th on career list
EM: never led league, eight top 10s, 41st on career list

Extra-base hits
FT: led league twice, six other top 10s, 56th all-time
EM: never led league, four top 10s, tied for 78th all-time

Doubles
FT: led league once, two other top 10s, 97th all-time
EM: led league twice, three other top 10s, tied for 46th all-time

Career BA/OBP/SLG:
EM: .315/.423/.525
FT: .310/.428/.568

Had enough? Well, I have just one more:

MVP awards
FT: 1st (1993, 1994), 2nd (2000), 3rd (1991, 1997), 8th (1992, 1995, 1996)
EM: 3rd (1995), 6th (2000)

Case closed. Edgar Martinez has had an excellent career and he has meant an awful lot to the Mariners franchise, but he hasn't performed at the level at which Frank Thomas has and, when healthy, continues to perform. I especially like to compare the two since they've both been designated hitters for much of their careers and neither was known for defense when he played the field -- the comparisons are purely about hitting, their foremost skill.

As I was looking up the statistics, I received this letter from Daniel Grillo regarding that Greg Couch column that I wrote about a few days ago:
Greg Couch is a ding-dong. I can't believe he actually suggested that Frank's snubbing of the media will hurt his HOF chances. Look at guys like Steve Carlton or Eddie Murray. Neither one was media-friendly, they got in on the first ballot. I'm sure that other examples can be cited, but those are two I can think of off the top of my head. Anyway, Greg Couch is a ding-dong. Did I say that already?
Dan raises a very good point. One thing that Murray and Carlton had going for them is round numbers -- 500 home runs and 3,000 hits for Murray and 300 wins and 4,000 strikeouts for Carlton. Here's my response to Dan, in part:
I wish I could agree with you that it's outlandish for Couch to suggest this, but, unfortunately, sportswriters do a lot of knuckleheaded things. Like let their personal feelings about a player affect their voting for the Hall of Fame. I do agree with your two counter examples. I'd add a third who I think is particularly relevant to Frank Thomas -- Ted Williams. Neither one cared much for defense (do you think Williams would have played left field if the DH had been in existence? I sure don't), neither one had a good relationship with local media (actually, Thomas and the Chicago media get on pretty well compared to Williams and the Boston writers) and both were criticized for being selfish with all the walks they took.

Where I think Couch makes his best point is how Thomas is simply overlooked. He's almost forgotten today, especially nationally.
Can you believe that Frank Thomas hasn't been to the All-Star Game since 1997? It's simply a travesty, perpetrated in part by Joe Torre. In a way, this year's All-Star Game could turn out very well for Thomas. Since the AL won the game, the AL representative will have home-field advantage in the World Series. So if the White Sox make it to the Series -- a very large if -- Thomas would get an extra start as DH. That, and the Sox being in first place to start the second half, is what is really important.

(Edited 7/14.)

(Music to write by: Pearl Jam, "Riot Act," and the Rolling Stones, "Sticky Fingers.")

Saturday, July 10, 2004

Prognosis negative for Thomas 

We may not see much more of Frank Thomas during the regular season. Thomas was placed on the 15-day disabled list today and was replaced on the roster by Joe Borchard. The rest could help Thomas avoid surgery on his left ankle, which has been bothering him since he hurt it running the bases in a game at Miami last month. He aggravated the problem during the sweep of the Twins in Minnesota. Thomas has a sharp case of tendinitis and so-called loose bodies in his left ankle that are causing him tremendous pain and making it difficult for him to put weight on his front side when swinging. If the condition doesn't improve enough over the next three weeks to allow him to play, Thomas may need in-season surgery, which would knock him out four to six weeks. Hence, the idea that he may not play again until September. I hope they don't wait too long and end up needing the surgery anyway. I do appreciate that they're taking the cautious approach, but sometimes I wonder if they aren't just engaging in wishful thinking. Then again, it's not my ankle they'd be cutting into.

Earlier this week, the Sun-Times' Greg Couch wrote that Thomas may be hurting his chances for the Hall of Fame by not talking to the media. Using Thomas's snub in the All-Star Game as a jumping off point, Couch wrote that Thomas has receded from the public stage even as he continued to put up excellent numbers before his injury sapped his effectiveness. The main reason the All-Star snubs bother me with Thomas is that someday, when it comes time to vote him into the Hall of Fame, writers will use the fact that Thomas has played in "only five All-Star Games" against him, as if he weren't the best right-handed hitter of the 1990s. Joe Torre will be partially to blame.

Thomas's injury represents a chance for Borchard to establish himself in the major leagues. Borchard figures to play right field Saturday and Sunday while Magglio Ordonez fills in at designated hitter. After the break, the two could alternate between right field and DH, with Borchard possibly playing some games in center field, too. Manager Ozzie Guillen said Borchard will play a lot -- he's not being recalled to ride the bench.

Interesting to note 

Manager Ozzie Guillen caught his players and even his son Ozzie Jr. off guard Thursday with his dugout tirade during he come-from-behind win over the Angels.

Carlos Lee has been at his most effective hitting cleanup this year. He'll stay there with Frank Thomas on the disabled list.

Guillen plans to start the second half with Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia and Esteban Loiaza in some order depending on Loaiza's workload, if any, in the All-Star Game. I wrote it Friday and I'll repeat it now: Let Jon Garland start the first game after the break. Give the other guys the extra rest, as Garland has had plenty. I really don't care a bit if Scott Schoeneweis has to wait a long time between starts again. Maybe he can get an outing in relief before then, to clear his head a little. And if he complains, too bad. His performance lately hasn't justified any complaining.

(Music to write by: Wilco, "A Ghost Is Born.")

Friday, July 09, 2004

Sox 6, Mariners 2 

I certainly liked what I saw tonight from the Sox. Magglio Ordonez returned from more than a month off and went 2-for-4, with a double, an RBI and two runs scored. Amazing. Jon Garland had his second straight strong outing, pitching seven innings and allowing only one run on four hits and two walks and striking out three batters. I hope the Sox have him pitch in the first game after the All-Star break. I won't mind seeing the Saturday and Sunday starters -- Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia -- get that extra day off with the way Garland is pitching. And he had waited eight days between starts before Friday night. He's pitching well -- three out of his last four starts have been excellent, including the 4-2 loss to the Expos in Montreal -- so I think we should ride him a bit right now.

Carlos Lee was the hitting star, driving in five runs on two home runs. The second dinger was a towering shot that fell deep into the grandstand in left field. The first home run, however, landed around the second row. I know it's picky to criticize a guy who hit two home runs, but when is Lee going to stop standing at the plate and admiring his handiwork when he hits a deep drive to left field? Just start digging for first base. You are not Barry Bonds. Besides, has he already forgotten how he got thrown out at second base against the Indians when a ball he thought was out of the park hit the top of the wall and remained in play? I'd really hate to see the Sox get involved with a beanball war because Lee likes to stand at the plate and preen.

While I'm dreading Frank Thomas's stay on the disabled list, I'm looking forward to seeing Joe Borchard play. Supposedly, he's showing more plate discipline and making better contact at Class AAA Charlotte this year. He's hitting .268 with 16 home runs, 48 RBI and 26 walks, but 64 strikeouts. His on-base percentage is .359 and he's slugging .503, which are nice numbers, but they don't scream out for a promotion to the big leagues, especially for a guy in his third year at Class AAA. Still, it pays to remember that Borchard didn't play as much baseball as most college players who are drafted at age 21 because of his football commitments at Stanford. Maybe he's learned all he can at Class AAA and needs to come up to The Show. Let's hope.

Isn't this refreshing? 

Ozzie Guillen and Ken Williams are like us fans. They had had enough of the way the Sox had been playing during the five-game losing streak that included a sweep by the Cubs (so hard to type that). Guillen let his players know he was seriously unhappy with their performance as the Sox were trailing the Angels 8-5 Thursday afternoon. The Sox came back twice from three-run deficits Thursday, including a three-run eighth off All-Star reliever Francisco Rodriguez in a 9-8 win that the Sox desperately needed.

Willie Harris cleanly summed it up: "He said, 'Let's go, I'm sick of it.' That's what it boiled down to." You can sum up the difference between Guillen and Jerry Manuel with what happened yesterday. Here's how the Sun-Times' Chris DeLuca described it:
During his sales pitch for the job last November, Guillen promised general manager Ken Williams and chairman Jerry Reinsdorf there would be days like Thursday, when a swift kick in the pants serves as the manager's job description.

This is what Guillen brings to the table. No hiding in the manager's office. No sitting quietly in the dugout watching the season swirl down the drain.
Amen. Juan Uribe knocked in Jose Valentin in the bottom of the ninth for the winning run. In the eighth-inning rally, Willie Harris has a pinch-hit infield single to keep the inning alive for Timo Perez, who knocked in two runs with a single. Harris scored on the play when Vladimir Guerrero fumbled the ball away for an error. With Magglio Ordonez out for more than a month and with Frank Thomas headed to the disabled list, it's a good thing the Sox bench players have been playing well.

Exile in Wrigleyville reader Ryan Lockwood sent this report after the game:
I sat in Section 158 today (left field lower reserved), which are not that bad ... even though I'm as red as a lobster now from the scorching sun. I also sat next to a guy whose son played college ball with Neal Cotts at Illinois State (we were both glad to see Neal come in and close it down on the Angels...4 K's). Only issue of complaint for me today was Loaiza. He wasn't holding up his part of the bargain. I don't know if he will ever regain the form he had earlier this season, when he was gettin' his cutter inside, and working off-speed stuff in there. I would rather him skip next week's pageantry and take some time to work out the kinks.  Maybe he can take Schoeneweis with him.

It finally came together for me today, how the offense is working, or hasn't been working. It is a hole in the lineup when guys like Harris, Thomas and Ordonez aren't available to play. But for some reason, it was clicking...and I think one reason I liked what I saw today...Konerko is back hitting for power as well as average. He is up to .291, including today's four-hit outing. I was never happy this season watching him going for the long ball every time. Now that he is zoned in, I think we may see a good streak by the Sox.

Another thought...this Thomas injury may spell well for all involved. First, it gives Thomas a chance to heal his wounds, and his ego. Maybe some time away from the clubhouse will calm him down, and he will come back renewed, and more able to concentrate on the task at hand, like playing in October. Second, this will shuffle some spots giving Harris and Uribe a chance to play the infield together, while Valentin can fill in at DH. Or maybe this will mean more at bats for Gload, who has been filling in quite well despite limited playing time.

Those are my thoughts...oh, and today was the closest I ever came to getting a home run ball when C Lee hit one right in our area.  I would have had it too if it wasn't for a Sox fans version of Greg Louganis, diving almost 5 seats down his row to grab it off the ground.  He was so excited I thought he was going to jump out of himself.
Here was my reply, also sent yesterday:
Glad you enjoyed the game. Looked like a great day to be out there. I like sitting in those sections behind the bullpen. My favorite place in the park.

I would rather that Loiaza not be on the All-Star team because he doesn't deserve it. I'm not sure he would work out his problems by staying home. I know if I got three days off in the middle of a long season, I'd probably put the glove down for at least a day.

Thomas going down would be terrible for the team, but it may be necessary for him to be healthy for the stretch run. I agree that a hot Konerko can practically carry the lineup. I think Harris should get playing time when he's earned it. He'll get his spots here and there for now, and if he plays well, he'll play more. I think if Thomas has to go down, the Sox have to think about a call-up of Joe Borchard.
And I'd add that I've had about enough of Ross Gload getting a lot of playing time. He's OK as your fifth outfielder and a pinch hitter. The Sox might be better off playing Lee, a platoon of Rowand and Borchard and Ordonez, from left to right, with Timo Perez as the fifth outfielder and Gload back at Charlotte, although I suppose that means you don't really have a back up for Konerko at first.

The 25th anniversary of promotional infamy 

I just wanted to watch a baseball game. I wanted to see the second game of a doubleheader between the Tigers and the Sox on July 12, 1979. I was eight years old, so I didn't really have an opinion on rock 'n' roll versus disco (although I know that within four years, I would've come down on the rock side). I couldn't believe what I was seeing on the broadcast when the fans stormed the field on Disco Demolition Night. For a time, I demonized disc jockey Steve Dahl for forcing the Sox to forfeit the second game of the doubleheader. It wasn't long, maybe a year or two, till I was listening to Dahl and his partner, Gary Meier, on the Loop every afternoon after school. The only clear memory I have of Disco Demolition Night is the disgusted look on the face of Tigers manager Sparky Anderson as he talked to the umpires about the condition of the field.

Greg Couch of the Sun-Times has the best recollection of Disco Demolition Night. He intersperses comments from the participants with quotes directly from the printed schedule for the promotion. Couch also recounts the difficult times that Mike Veeck has overcome since that fateful day, which ruined his career in sports promotion, at least in baseball, for a time.

Jim Kirk of the Tribune has an interesting take on Disco Demolition Night. He compares the contemporary reaction to the reaction now. Kirk notes that the embarrassment and anger over the incident in 1979 mirrored a down-on-its-luck city, while today's fond recollections reflect a city that has bounced back.

The Tribune's Paul Sullivan tells of his experience on Disco Demolition Night. Sullivan, then 20, writes that he went down on the field and ran the bases, among other things.

Dave Hoekstra of the Sun-Times was also there that night. Unlike Sullivan, Hoekstra and his girlfriend at the time left as soon as the trouble began. Hoekstra also recounts some of the musical history of Comiskey Park in the 1970s under Bill Veeck's ownership.

Jim Caple suggests honoring Disco Demolition Night by destroying all copies of some more recent songs and ridding the world of a lot of other things that annoy Caple. I can't condone all of his choices. He includes "Rock 'n' Roll, Part 2" because it's been played too much. I can't argue that it hasn't been overplayed, but that song will always remind me of the six-time champion Chicago Bulls. It's staying on my iPod. And he also suggests getting rid of bobbleheads and dog days. I just got a sweet Paul Konerko bobblehead for my birthday. He's wearing the black jersey and the (admittedly too small) bat comes right out of his hands. Nice touch. I put him on the shelf between Frank Thomas and Hank Williams Sr. (I'm serious -- a souvenir from Nashville.) And the White Sox invented Dog Day. So forget about that, Caple.

(Lightly edited 7/12.)

A thaw in the cold war? 

Alan Schwarz of Baseball America has written a new book called "The Numbers Game" that tells the history of baseball's love of statistics. ESPN.com has a review of the book and an excerpt from it.

I don't know enough about Schwarz to know if he's this way, but Baseball America is generally seen as being on the tools side of the "Moneyball" divide between tools (physical potential) and performance (based on statistics). All too often, this divide is made out to be scouts versus computer geeks. The former goes out and watches players play the game and projects what they'll be in five years, as the oversimplification goes. The computer geeks sit with their laptops and download statistics into a spreadsheet, then they draft players without ever seeing them, as the oversimplification continues. I hope that Schwarz's book will bridge the unnecessary divide between those who advocate using statistical analysis (I hope I understand it well enough some day to be able to say I'm one of them) and those who look for a player's physical tools.

(Music to write by: the dulcet tones of Rooney and Farmer, the postgame program with Dave Wills and R.E.M., "Murmur.")

Wednesday, July 07, 2004

Times that try a fan's soul 

I sincerely hope that this is the toughest stretch of the season for the White Sox. They are in the midst of a season-high five game losing streak after getting smoked by the Angels tonight, 12-0. I was at the game tonight and for last night's 6-2 loss to the Angels. I'm embarrassed to say that I had to look up tonight's final score because I left after the bottom of the eighth. I went to the game with my friend Dion on tickets he got from a business associate, so at least we didn't pay hard-earned money to watch the Sox sleepwalk through that game. (Tuesday night was half-priced night, so at least I only paid $10 to watch that lackluster performance.) I think the last time I left early was Opening Day 2003, when it was about 36 degrees, and we'd been there for 4.5 hours thanks to a long rain delay. And it wasn't my idea to leave that evening. Wednesday night, I suggested it. I couldn't watch it any longer.

I'm not sure what's wrong with this team right now. To look on the bright side, recall that last season, the Sox swept the Twins after taking a series 2-1 against the Cubs and pulled off two trades in the middle of all that. Coming off the high of an extra-inning win over the Twins that came on a 12th inning, walk-off home run by Frank Thomas, the White Sox had what was probably their worst road trip of the year. They went to Tampa Bay and lost two of three. They got swept in Detroit by a team that won just 43 games. It was the only three-game sweep the Tigers had last year, according to retrosheet.org. On to Cleveland for a split of a four-game series, and the White Sox staggered into the break at 45-49.

This year, the Sox won a series 2-1 against the Cubs, pulled off a huge trade for the best pitcher available (unless Randy Johnson agrees to be traded later) and then swept the Twins in Minnesota. Of course, they did get swept at Wrigley. Damn. But still, there are a lot of parallels. At least these last two losses were to a team like the Angels and not the 2003 Devil Rays or Tigers. I guess I'm just optimistic by nature, despite nearly 27 years as a Sox fan. The Sox are in much better shape than they were a year ago, although it's hard to feel that way right now. They are 42-38, 2.5 games behind the Twins, but only one back in the loss column. I can't find the standings for this point in the season last year, but the Sox, I believe, were behind both the Twins and the Royals. And the manager was Jerry Manuel, not Ozzie Guillen. (One plus for 2003 -- Esteban Loiaza was a whole lot better then.)

That's all logical and rational. Right now, it feels like they might not ever win another game. I don't see how anyone can overlook what Frank Thomas does for this team. For the most part, if Thomas is on -- and he's day-to-day with some left ankle soreness -- the Sox are on. The highlight of Wednesday evening was obviously the 5-4-3 triple play the Sox turned in the sixth inning to save rookie pitcher Felix Diaz from himself. When I saw how close the one-hop grounder by Angels catcher Bengie Molina brought third baseman Joe Crede to the bag, I said to Dion, "That might be a triple play." I managed to get that short sentence out before Juan Uribe's strong relay throw easily beat the slow-footed Molina. That's definitely the first time I've seen, in person, a ground ball turned into a triple play. It's probably the first triple play I've ever seen in person, but I have this nagging feeling that some opposing team has turned an anti-climactic triple play on the Sox on a play with the runners in motion. I don't remember it, but maybe.

Tomorrow, I plan on catching up on a few things. I visited the revamped upper deck Tuesday night for the first time. I have some thoughts on the All-Star Game selections for the American League. And I'll wrap up the Cubs debacle.

(Music to write by: Pink Floyd, "The Wall" (Disc 2) and a few songs by Queen.)

Saturday, July 03, 2004

Maybe it's me 

The White Sox are now 0-2 against the Cubs when I'm in attendance this year. Of course, they were 2-0 against the Cubs last year with me in attendance. I don't have anything to do with how they play. I'm not a Cubs fan, so I don't believes in curses, etc.

The funniest moment of the day came as I made my way to the hot, putrid cesspool that the Cubs call the upper-deck men's room on the third base side of the park. I was wearing my black, fitted Sox cap, my "Nossek 23" jersey and, beneath that, my "Sox Pride" T-shirt (which I am still wearing as I write this). I heard plenty of taunts all day, most of them good natured. But as I walked along, minding my own business, I heard a woman say something to me. I think it was just "Sox suck," or something equally lacking in creativity. I don't know if it was her persistence in repeating the phrase, the tone of her voice or the fact that she was decked out in pink Cubs gear, but this grabbed my attention. I reacted before I could even think about it. I guess this phrase had been in my subconscious, waiting to leap out at the right moment.

"FIVE OUTS AWAY!! FIVE OUTS AWAY!!"

I then made an "L" sign with my thumb and index finger and thrust my right hand toward the pink-clad loudmouth, who was about two or three rows up. Then it finally hit me what I'd yelled. I was surprised, almost as if I had heard someone else say it. I couldn't stop laughing, partly at myself. Having sufficiently cracked myself up, I continued on toward the men's room, even as Pinkie kept it up.

When I finally arrived on the landing in front of the men's room, I spotted a Sox fan with a black cap on and a blue T-shirt with the big red "C" followed by the letters "hokers." I love those T-shirts. I gave him the fist bump and said, "1908 and never again," then made jokes about the washroom situation, to the agreement of all, Sox and Cubs fans alike. I had been hoping to make my way out of the park without that second trip to the men's room, but it couldn't be avoided. Well, if the beer vendors had ignored us a little, maybe it could've been avoided.

I met my friend Kent at Murphy's before the game. The others in our group were running late and met us at the park. We also missed out on seeing Scott, who went to college with Kent and me. We did run into two of our fraternity brothers at Murphy's. After the game, we went to our favorite post-game hangout, the Nisei Lounge (where I pretended to be from Louisiana on Memorial Day). We ran into three more fraternity brothers there. It was great seeing all of those guys.

A very good time was had by all, despite the Cubs winning 6-2. If only that ball Ross Gload hit had stayed fair. It was great seeing Sammy Sosa jumping up and down in anger at the initial call -- I said he was "doing his Moises Alou impersonation," referring to Alou's reaction to the Bartman play. I love to see Sosa all ticked off. Alas, it was pretty much the highlight of the day. The other encouraging sight was the double-play combination of Jose Valentin and Juan Uribe turning a couple beautiful double plays. Uribe's arm is good enough for shortstop, so he can throw out the batter on some double plays that other second basemen wouldn't.

I was joking that Gload was a "plus 1" on the day, since he knocked in two runs (the only two) but also misplayed a fly ball in right field that led to an unearned run scoring. Gload has been shaky in right field during two games against the Cubs. I still say it wouldn't be a bad idea, with Magglio Ordonez out, to move Carlos Lee to right field, play Paul Konerko in left and have Frank Thomas at first base during interleague play in National League parks.

And don't let a Cubs fan ever tell you that he doesn't care about the Sox or what they do. I saw an abundance of "Sox Suck" T-shirts. There was also a T-shirt that took unpleasant liberties with the Sox batter logo from the 1970s. Cubs fans, get over yourselves. It's OK to hate your crosstown rival. The Cubs and the Sox are the longest-standing crosstown rivalry in baseball. Enjoy it.

Noooooooooooooooooooooooo!!!! 

If I were the conspiracy-minded type, I would think that Tribune Co. is using its newspaper to help the Cubs land Magglio Ordonez. Cubs beat writer Paul Sullivan, who used to cover the Sox, accuses the Sox of failing to treat Ordonez like the superstar he is. In doing so, Sullivan writes, they may be driving him into the hands of the Cubs. They could decline the $11.5 million option on Moises Alou and add Ordonez. I think I would be very sick if that happened.

Another Tribune reporter, Phil Rogers, wrote about the fleeting fame of Ross Gload. Rogers uses Gload's near grand slam in the first inning of Friday's game as a segue to talking about the Sox trading Ordonez, since the team can't sign him to a new contract (or won't offer him one to his liking, if you want to look at it that way). The rampant speculation is that the White Sox will send Ordonez and a young pitcher, probably Jon Rauch, and possibly other players, to the Atlanta Braves for starting pitcher Russ Ortiz and center fielder Andruw Jones.

I wrote a post about this deal on White Sox Interactive, which I'm repeating here:
I don't like this deal at all. Ortiz is nothing special. I'm plenty happy with the starters we have right now (all six, if you include Diaz and Schoeneweis). They're plenty good enough. The top three are the ones that matter the most in the post-season, and Ortiz is not better than Garcia, Loiaza or Buehrle. Is it worth it not to have Ordonez to have Ortiz start a Game 4 instead of Garland? Not in my opinion.

Moreover, while I like Andruw Jones, I don't want his albatross contract on the Sox payroll. I'd rather lose Ordonez for the two draft picks the Sox would likely get (the first rounder of the team that signs him and a supplemental pick between the first and second rounds). The draft picks are determined by the contract Ordonez would sign, and I imagine it will be a big one that will net the Sox two draft picks. That restocks our prospect pool, making up for the Garcia trade. I'd prefer that than to lose the payroll flexibility.

Finally, one reason that I didn't mind giving up two good players/prospects in the Garcia deal was the idea that the Sox are going for it this year. If you're going to do that, then go for it full bore. Keep Ordonez. After the season, offer him arbitration. If he walks, you'll get draft picks. And I doubt a player at his age would accept arbitration, which would be an implied one-year deal between him and the Sox, and thereby risk injury. This deal is the one that will set him for life (not that he shouldn't already be in pretty good shape, having made $30 million over the last three years). He delayed free agency by a year with his last deal. I doubt he'd do that again.
My first choice is still to see the Sox and Ordonez come to terms on a new contract, with Carlos Lee sent away if the team needs to trim payroll.

Tough call 

Who's the bigger idiot -- Hawk Harrelson or Jay Mariotti? The two numbskulls had a little confrontation in the press box in Minneapolis during the Sox-Twins series this week, the Tribune reports. The verbal war between them has reignited with Mariotti's column on the off-duty police officer and his wife who were injured in a fight with two young men during the Indians series last week.

I guess my vote has to be for Harrelson. All Harrelson is doing is drawing more attention to Mariotti, which is just how he likes it. Mariotti is hardly a journalist anymore. He's an entertainer. He's doing radio and TV. It wouldn't surprise me to see him cut back on writing columns at some point -- perhaps by writing for a national publication instead of the Sun-Times, the better to go along with his electronic media gigs. Grab some bench, Hawk.

Interesting to note 

Ozzie Guillen was wondering where Magglio Ordonez was. Sox trainer Herm Schneider said Ordonez was working on his rehabilitation with a physical therapist near his home in the west suburbs. Scheider noted that there isn't a whole lot of room in the visitors' clubhouse at Wrigley Field for rehab work.

Comparisons with last year are not good for Sox starting pitcher Esteban Loiaza. Last year was a career year. His ERA was in the mid 3 range for the first two months of the season, but is up sharply since then. He doesn't have to pitch like he did in the first half of the 2003 season. Loiaza just needs to get back to the very solid performances he posted in April and May. The Sox are right to be careful with negotiating a new contract with Loiaza. He's playing out a club option this season at $4 million. I hope he pitches well enough to deserve a raise. If he doesn't, the Sox will need to look elsewhere.

That's two days in a row that the Sox have been held to two runs. On the bright side, they split those games.

(Music to write: Wilco, "A Ghost Is Born," and Yes, "Classic Yes.")

Just a note on the Twins 

Before the Cubs-Sox series overshadows it, consider that the White Sox are now 6-1 against the Twins in Minneapolis this year, after winning just five games in total there the last two years. The only game the Sox have lost in the Humpdome came on a "bullpen day" on the first trip to Minneapolis. I can't wait to see them play there in person in September.

Thursday, July 01, 2004

An all-too-familiar feeling 

I don't know about you, but whenever I hear of any kind of incident at the Cell, I get a deep sense of dread, knowing what the reaction is going to be. I hate to acknowledge that Jay Mariotti has a point, but this time he does, to an extent. Mariotti writes about an incident from last week's series against Cleveland, which didn't break into the news until Tuesday. Here's a synopsis of Mariotti's account of the incident: A couple and their two sons overheard two young men swearing loudly while sitting in their seats at the end of the game. Unwisely, the father, an off-duty suburban police officer, confronted the two men and strongly suggested that they watch their language. The two men then beat up the father. The mother tried to help and was hit by the wife of one of the alleged attackers. The two boys, 6 and 8, witnessed the whole thing before security guards finally broke it up. The White Sox need to be more proactive to do whatever they can to avoid these incidents. I don't know if that means more security guards or better supervision of them to ensure that they're on their toes. Maybe they're just so attuned to fans who might run on the field that they missed something going on in the stands. No matter the explanation, the White Sox have to do more to prevent these incidents because they are hurting the team's image.

That said, Mariotti takes this reasonable point and goes so far beyond it that you can barely make out reasonable by the time he's done.
We keep waiting for U.S. Cellular Field to mellow into a safe place, a happy place, a place where a family can attend a White Sox game without the dad -- and the mom, for God's sake -- getting beat up while their 6- and 8-year-old sons watch. But the joint is hopeless, I'm convinced, still filled with too many drunks looking for a fight and too many loons out on parole.
It would be tough for even a world-class blowhard like Mariotti to exaggerate anything more than this lead paragraph. I have never witnessed a fight at the Cell. I know one broke out a few sections over from me at a Cubs-Sox game last year, but I only knew because everyone stood up and looked. That said, I know they happen there. They also happen at Cubs games, Bears games, concerts -- wherever a large group of people gather and drink in close proximity, you can probably expect a few fisticuffs. This one was worse than a normal fight, I agree, but still.
True, there has been a homicide outside the Friendly Confines this season, part of a suffocating, pressure-cooker feel in what's supposed to be The Year of The Cub. But that was a road-rage episode outside the park two hours after a game. Tuesday night, 40,000 fans watched intently, with no incidents in the stands, as the Cubs and Houston Astros battled in another meaningful summer series. [emphasis added]
This is where the difference in how the two teams are treated comes in. To his credit, Mariotti called for something to be done about the crowds around Wrigley after the murder there in May. But I would bet some good money that Mariotti really has no idea what happened Tuesday night at Wrigley Field or in the neighborhood after the game. The Sun-Times has somewhat early deadlines relative to the Tribune and the Daily Herald. Did Mariotti talk to police media affairs to see what went on? He may have been at the game, but that doesn't mean he can see everything going on in the park, and he certainly couldn't have seen everything that may have happened away from the park. Despite the continued reports of questionable activity around Wrigley, Mariotti always is willing to give that side of town the benefit of the doubt.

The Cubs/Wrigleyville got much more sympathetic treatment after a murder than the Sox do after violent, but not deadly, incidents. Excuses are made for Wrigleyville (it wasn't inside the park, it was nearly two hours after game time), but none are accepted for the Cell/Bridgeport. Instead, Sox fans and the neighborhood around the park are painted with a broad brush. I don't blame anyone for reporting these incidents, and unfortunatley, there have been several of them in or near the park, but I do see a double standard. The murder on Clark Street wasn't the only incident in Wrigley or in the neighborhood, as I've written about before.

It's possible that there aren't enough security officers at games, and that's the fault of the Sox. Just like it's possible that there's a problem in Wrigleyville in the after-game scene that the city, the team and the restaurant and bar owners need to address.

I'm not blaming the victim 

I do have to wonder what the cop was thinking. There's a lot of bravado in confronting two drunken young men with the words, quoting Jay Mariotti's column, '' 'Do you mind? Our kids are here,' '' he said, confirming the dialogue in a Chicago Police report. 'I am a cop. Watch your mouth.' '' [Emphasis added] It doesn't say much for his judgment as a police officer. He should have notified security. Saying he was a cop very well may have fueled the two alleged attackers, who were already making trouble. I know that a lot of off-duty police officers carry a concealed gun. Did he ever think that he might have to use his weapon in front of his children? Why didn't he think that two jerks like the accused might go after him? Is he that imposing of a figure that he was reasonably sure they would back down? Or did he just forget for a moment how crazy some people are, especially when they've been drinking? It wasn't a smart move on the officer's part, which in no way absolves the alleged attackers. It's just that I expect more sense out of a police officer.

I get letters -- really, I do 

Well, once in a while, anyway. Clifford Grammich wrote regarding my defense of Sox GM Ken Williams:
Good points about the trades, but I'll give Kenny Williams credit simply for not signing Colon last winter (or at least not outbidding the Angels).
That is a good point. He also wasn't afraid to let Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett walk away if they wouldn't agree to a contract on terms the Sox wanted. Alomar got a one-year, $1 million deal from Arizona, with a chunk of the money deferred. From the Expos, Everett got two years for a total of $7 million. Despite all the talk about Ken Williams being so enamored of "proven veterans" (which is something of an epithet among the stats-inclined -- and I'm one of them -- who believe that veterans often get paid for past performance, not what they can reasonably be expected to produce in the future), he let them walk and counted on Willie Harris and Aaron Rowand from his farm system and traded for Juan Uribe. They're less expensive, but you could throw Scott Sullivan and Tony Graffanino in there on the "proven veteran" side and throw Neal Cotts and Jon Adkins in on the relying-on-your-system side.

True, I would be remiss if I didn't mention some other gaffes, such as retaining Jerry Manuel for the 2003 season and signing Royce Clayton to displace Jose Valentin. Ugh. The latter was as bad as that idiot Hawk Harrelson putting Carlton Fisk in left field so Joel Skinner could be the every-day catcher in 1986. Except that at least Williams was trying to solve what many Sox fans also felt was a problem -- Valentin's defense at shortstop. It turned out that better coaching (I've heard/read Valentin credit first-base coach Rafael Santanna with improving his defense) was a better answer. Nobody but Harrelson thought Fisk needed to be anywhere but behind the plate.

Ryan Lockwood also wrote in about the Freddy Garcia trade:
I had to write in, regarding Mariner fans, and their reaction to the recent Garcia trade.  The common opinion I picked up from baseball blogs covering the trade was "Sox lose on this one" or "this was a steal for the M's."  Are these the same reactions the M's fans had when (Junior) Griffey and (Randy) Johnson were traded?

Was this trade a steal?  From my point of view, I think both teams made out, especially when the trade fills the need of each team.  The Sox needed a starter, especially with Schoeneweis going down.  Garcia will be able to step in NOW, settle the boat, and solidify the rotation. Seattle (is rebuilding) and they don't have the pressure to win like the Sox do (c'mon, I've been to Seattle...it is no where near the sports town Chicago is...the best part about it is that Mariotti isn't there). (Miguel) Olivo will fill in nicely for the M's, and he may become the All-Star we know he can become. (Jeremy) Reed, on the other hand, is still a question mark, as any minor league prospect is.  And I have to admit I have no idea about (Michael) Morse (and I wish the Seattle M's blogs would stop talking like they have been scouting Reed and Morse for months...they have no idea, yet talk of Reed sharing the outfield with Suzuki next year)....

Seattle has had baseball for what, (about) 30 years ... not counting the Pilots (in 1969).  The pressure to win NOW isn't as great...I mean, how many White Sox fans would watch a team win 116 games, NOT win the World Series, and then lose the way they have the past couple of years. Go back further, when this team had three first-ballot Hall of Famers in their PRIME playing on the same team, never winning a World Series, and then watching them all leave inside 4 years.... Would the Sox survive something like that?

I hope Mariners fans enjoy the rest of their season.  I know when it comes to October, I'll be at 35th and Shields, enjoying the playoffs, while the rest of Seattle blogs ponder the starting lineup for 2005...make that 2007, since they just picked up some Great Prospects.
To be fair, Reed has been highly touted by national scouting publications. He was listed as the No. 2 prospect in Baseball Prospectus 2004 and made Baseball America's Top 25. So, at the very least, the Mariners bloggers who have been drooling over Reed have done some homework. And the Mariners didn't start losing until this year. The M's won 93 games in each of the last two seasons, but did not make the playoffs either time. That said, I agree with most of what Ryan is saying here. The Sox have to compete with another major league team located, famously, 8.1 miles to the north. Seattle has to put a good product on the field to keep its attendance up, to be sure -- it hasn't always been a great market -- but at least they don't have to compete with a national phenomenon like the Cubs for attention and ticket sales.

And Garcia does fill a big need. I watched Wednesday night's 9-6 victory over the Twins. He made a huge mistake to Christian Guzman, and it ended up a three-run home run. Guzman shouldn't hit home runs off anybody but guys headed back to Class AAA. That said, I think the ability in Garcia's right arm was plainly evident tonight, too. Sure, he allowed five runs (four earned) and seven hits over six innings. Garcia also struck out nine batters and walked none, and he was dominant early in the game. It's possible that he was fatigued from the travel, the stress of being traded and the demands of blending into a new clubhouse and fulfilling all the media requests. I hope that explains the dropoff in his outing after the first three innings. He still had pretty good stuff his last three innings.

Steve from Mariners Wheelhouse wrote this in response to Sunday's post about the trade:
Just a note that it's far from clear about what the final impasse was in the Garcia trade. I know the Tribune says the Mariners wanted Crede and settled on Reed. But some of the word here in Seattle is that Reed was the key guy for the Mariners all along.

I'm personally inclined to believe that the Mariners were more interested in Reed, myself.
Could be. Fair enough. I didn't read the Seattle Times or Post-Intelligencer stories about the trade. I guess we Sox fans will have to watch the career of Jeremy Reed.

Thanks to everyone for reading and writing in to talk a little baseball. I appreciate it.

(Music to write by: Elastica, "Elastica," and The Cars, "Complete Greatest Hits.")

Tuesday, June 29, 2004

Too little too late 

Online voting for the All-Star Game ends at 11 p.m. CDT Wednesday. Frank Thomas has moved up to second place in the voting for first basemen, but he's not going to catch Jason Giambi, who's got more than twice as many votes. Still, it's nice to see Thomas getting some recognition. Giambi, meanwhile, is day-to-day thanks to some intestinal parasites that have laid him low. Dude, you make $20 million a year -- where the hell are you eating?

(Lightly edited 7/1/04.)

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