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Sunday, February 29, 2004

It might be too late 

The BALCO criminal case may leave baseball with an even bigger black eye than Pete Rose. The Collective Bargaining Agreement that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to in 2002 contained the first step toward baseball testing players for performance-enhancing substances, but maybe it was too late. If baseball had cleaned up its act sooner, than all the uproar over BALCO and its "designer steroid" THG would be less pronounced as far as baseball is concerned. Because the players association has so strenuously and successfully resisted testing over the years, baseball players are under a much bigger cloud than football or basketball players, who have submitted to testing for years. Did you notice last fall, when the THG news broke, that even though four Oakland Raiders were reported to have tested positive for the substance, the entire NFL wasn't under suspicion? A testing program buys you more credibility, but the baseball players association hasn't been willing to buy into that. Now, even if they buy in, it might be too late. The Tribune's Phil Rogers writes today that if the BALCO indictments proceed to criminal trials, players who testified last fall before the grand jury investigating the case could have to testify in open court. Grand jury testimony remains sealed except under very limited instances (notwithstanding leaks), so this testimony would be the only way to know what Barry Bonds, Gary Sheffield, Jason Giambi and other athletes told the grand jury.

A pox on both, but not equally 

This is an instance in which the players association has served its members poorly. Testing for performance-enhancing substances was never about the money in the game and who would get it. It was about keeping the game clean and building up a reservoir of trust with the public. No matter how good your testing program is, some players are going to try to beat it. But when an NFL player is suspended for violating the program, the suspicions begin and end largely with that player, because the league and its players have credibility. Baseball does not. The baseball owners deserve some blame, too. They haven't pushed testing very hard, preferring to give on this issue so they can try to win on the money issues. The players association is more culpable on two counts. One, they have been winning their battles with the owners for decades (although the tide is turning), so they came at this from a position of strength. Two, they are supposed to represent the best interests of players, not just be a collective bargaining unit. Most unions push for enhanced safety measures for their members. Taking performance-enhancing substances is, ultimately, the player's choice, but it would be easier for some to resist the temptation if they didn't feel it handicapped them in their competition to survive in the big leagues. Let's get back to talking about the game.

The sweetest breakout season 

Seeing Jon Garland bust through and win 15 games with a sub-4 ERA would warm the heart of every Sox fan, and not just because it would be so good for our team's fortunes this season. You'll remember that the Sox acquired Garland in a 1998 trade with the Cubs. The Cubs received reliever Matt Karchner for Garland, whom they had chosen with the No. 10 pick in the 1997 draft. Karchner did very little to help the Cubs win the wild card that season, had a decent showing in limited action in 1999 and left baseball after an awful 2000. Cubs fans, don't tell me I'm being petty unless you all want to stop bringing up Sammy Sosa's trade from the Sox. The Trib's Bob Foltman writes today that pitching coach Don Cooper thought that Garland made a lot of strides last year and had earned the right to pitch deeper into games, even if he started to get into some trouble. Jerry Manuel obviously disagreed, as he continued to yank Garland at the first sign of trouble. Ozzie Guillen has already told his starters that he expects them to be ready to pitch nine innings and he will trust them. Instead of 13, sometimes I think Guillen should wear 180, as in degrees difference from Manuel. A close second would be seeing Joe Borchard establish himself as a major leaguer. Doug Padilla writes in the Sun-Times today that Borchard believes he's turned the mental corner between playing baseball rather than football. Borchard was a star quarterback at Stanford -- including starting in the Rose Bowl -- when the Sox chose him in the first round of the 2000 draft and gave him a $5.3 million signing bonus to play baseball exclusively.

A final thought 

I have to recommend reading this spring training notes column from Peter Gammons, and not just because Gammons is one of the few writers who seems to remember that not only is Houston still in the National League Central Division, but so is St. Louis. (Music to write by: Ryan Adams, "Gold.")

Saturday, February 28, 2004

It's nice to have options 

I have never seen Jeremy Reed play, but the minor-leaguer outfielder’s numbers from last year are pretty amazing. Reed would probably have to have a monster spring to stick with the White Sox out of spring training, but it’s nice to know he’s there. He’s left-hand hitting center fielder. His numbers suggest that he’s line-drive hitter with some power to the gaps and he had 70 walks versus 36 strikeouts in 464 at bats split between Class A Winston-Salem (the “high” A ball) and Class AA Birmingham. I still expect Aaron Rowand to win the center field job and have a solid season, but I’m looking forward to seeing Reed play this spring.

How'd we ever win 8? It's a miracle. 

Mike Downey actually makes some sense in the first item of today's column. Frank Thomas and Ozzie Guillen could have some trouble this year because of their clashing personalities. Then Downey has to go ruin it by being Downey.

This is getting out of hand 

The expectations of Cubs fans are getting so high that the FAA may have to assign air traffic controllers to start monitoring them. It's a very good team this year, I agree. But they have excellent competition in their own division from Houston and St. Louis. They also have serious question marks in center field (How long will it be until Corey Patterson's knee is 100%?) and catcher (Michael Barrett?). Moises Alou is 38 and has been injured a lot in his career, although he was healthy all last year and Todd Hollandsworth is a decent backup. Will Aramis Ramirez play the way he did in his 2+ months as a Cub, or will the habits that showed up after Pittsburgh gave him a fat contract recur? Ramirez's play will be very important for the Cubs. Here's another example of what I'm talking about. This blogger, Cubs Pundit, is furthering the suggestions of many Cubs fans that they're the National League's Yankees, in that they go out and get whomever they want, cost be damned. CP suggests that the Cubs might sign Aaron Boone to a multi-year deal and look for him to contribute in 2005. Right idea, wrong team. Boone will be a Yankee next year, mark my words. This is how A-Rod not playing shortstop this year makes sense. Rodriguez fills the hole at third base this year. In 2005, Boone is resigned to play third, Rodriguez moves to short and Jeter moves to second, having proved that it's his team by relegating Rodriguez to third for a season. Jeter will tire of the constant speculation that the Yankees would be better off with Rodriguez at short, and he'll also realize that he'll look better on defense (and make more All-Star teams) playing second base. If they really were the new Yankees, the Cubs would have signed Eddie Guardado along with LaTroy Hawkins. Joe Borowski is an OK pitcher, but he's not scaring anybody out there. The Cubs do have more financial flexibility than other teams, I agree. But let's not go overboard.

Matched set 

It took me 3 hours and 39 minutes to get through, but I managed to get four tickets to the Cubs-Sox game at Wrigley Field on July 2. So I have tickets to the first game of each series. I have a friend who didn't get through until almost 3 p.m. She didn't seem to mind, though. She got a game in June.

Before I forget... 

I enjoyed this Rick Morrissey column about Ozzie Guillen and the energy he brings to the White Sox. It is what they have needed the last two years, but that was not Jerry Manuel’s personality.

And I hope this article about the arrival of Carlos Lee in White Sox camp portends even bigger and better things for Lee this year. If the Sox do end up losing Magglio Ordonez, Lee will have to step up. (Music to write by: Elvis Costello and Garbage.)

Thursday, February 26, 2004

Credit where credit's due 

I have to hand it to Cubs fans. I think it's kind of crazy, but I also sort of admire the ridiculous lines outside Wrigley Field the last couple of days as fans have lined up to get wristbands that will give them, potentially, first shot at single-game tickets Friday morning. I took a ride on the El this morning and arrived at the park at about 7:15, and the line was past Waveland and Seminary, starting just north of Addison. I thought if I got lucky with the wristband, I would be able to buy tickets to one or more of the Cubs-Sox series games and maybe Opening Day. But there's no way I stand in line for a half an hour just to have an outside chance at getting tickets for the Cubs. Not even with the Sox as the opponent. I'm already pretty sure I have two tickets for the Cubs-Sox opener at The Cell. That'll do. I do admire your loyalty. I question your sanity often. For instance, what were so many of you doing standing out on Sheffield and Waveland avenues during Games 6 and 7 of the NLCS? You couldn't see the game there. It's the fundamental difference between Cubs and Sox fans. All too often for Cubs fans, the scene or something aesthetic is considered more important than the game itself. Not us. Not that we're perfect. I'm not even talking about the knuckleheads running onto the field, either. I think that's going to change this year. We're disappointed about the lack of moves in the offseason, but we're excited about Ozzie Guillen. Don't laugh, Cubs fans -- remember how much you all waxed poetic about Dusty Baker last year. Man, I can't wait for Opening Day.

If only these were the last words 

Hoo, boy. Could there BE any more stories about Dead Ball Rolling? Here's what I found by searching Google for Bartman ball Harry Caray's. Actually, I'm kind of surprised that there were only 404 results. Then, there was this quote from Harry Caray's Grant DePorter, the man who hatched this brilliant marketing plan, according to the Los Angeles Times: "This ball is baseball's anti-trophy," DePorter said. "I had a pit in my stomach, for sure, because it was so expensive. But what would happen if we didn't destroy it and some Marlins fan got ahold of it? What if someone used it to psych out the Cubs next year? No, it's got to go." Right. Like having an entire event to destroy the ball doesn't serve to remind every last Cubs player and fan about last year's NLCS. He's either lost his mind or decided this was a good way to ensure the heat stays off Cubs SS Alex Gonzalez. To be fair, I should mention that this event has raised about $1 million for charity, which is the redeeming side of this story. The funniest man (unintentional division) in Chicago sports writing, Mike Downey, got in on the treat-the-ball-like-a-wrongly-convicted-defendant nonsense. Um, Mike, don't you read your own paper? Maybe he can't get the Tribune from wherever he's mailing his column in from. ESPN.com's Page 2 columnists Jim Caple and Eric Neel also followed Downey's path to no laughs. Leave it to a loyal Sox fan -- John Kass -- to figure out who really should have that ball. Steve Bartman is the one who should decide its fate, Kass wrote for today's paper. Bartman, Kass points on, is the one this ball has cost the most, not Harry Caray's, which has reaped its investment in free media a hundred times over, or the Cubs, who had every opportunity to win that game after the foul ball incident. It struck me as I read about "Lawyer Jim," the guy who ended up with the ball that night, how unfair it was to Bartman that he got all this infamy, all this harrassment, all this guilt, but not the ball. (Music to write by: Cream and George Thorogood.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2004

Gee, Frank, I don't get it either 

I'm glad that Frank Thomas reported to camp a day early and contends he has no problem with new manager Ozzie Guillen or the organization in general. But, Frank, you can see why we were concerned that you were hacked off, can't you? You didn't return phone calls from Guillen or GM Ken Williams all winter (although I think you spoke with another former teammate who's joined the coaching staff -- former second baseman and current third base coach Joey Cora). You barely spoke to pitcher Mark Buehrle when your teammate ran into you at a casino in Las Vegas. These are typically signs that you're ticked off, Frank. You could have simply told your agent, Arn Tellem, to let the team know that you'd like to wait until the start of spring training to sit down and talk face-to-face with Guillen and Williams. But I'm glad to hear you say that you're OK and that you have "a different rapport with Ozzie" than you had with Jerry Manuel, whom you apparently couldn't figure out in six years. My guess is, he'd say the same about you. I just hope that the other big name who reported yesterday -- Magglio Ordonez -- gets his wish: To stay with the Sox. I want to keep chanting, Oooo-weeee-ooooo Maaaaggliooooo. I hope to chant it not only at the Cell this year, but also from the right-field bleachers at Wrigley when the Sox play the Cubs there. Wish me luck for a good number when I get my wristband for single-game tickets.

A good point about Baker and steroids 

While clearly not excusing Dusty Baker's overreaction to questions about steroid use in baseball, the Tribune's Steve Rosenbloom displays a good memory in recounting an episode from Baker's past that may explain his blowup. Rosenbloom notes that Baker's name came up in the discussions about the Pittsburgh drug trials that wracked baseball in the 1980s, but he was never charged or even called to testify.

They can destroy the ball, but not the jokes 

I guess it should have gone without saying that new Cubs first basement Derek Lee won't be talking about last year's NLCS with his new teammates, but this Associated Press story takes that tack in a nice feature about Lee. Another dispatch from the AP shows that Marlins second baseman Luis Castillo, the batter who hit the foul ball that Steve Bartman deflected away from the glove of Moises Alou, can be a very cold man. Funny, too. He may be an early favorite for NSSF's favorite National League player this season. Castillo is certainly a lot funnier than the Tribune's Stephen Nidetz shows himself to be in this little piece. Har har, Steve. Did it take you four whole months to come up with this?

Tuesday, February 24, 2004

Niche Publications = Sun-Times 

I work in publishing, so it was pretty stupid of me yesterday (strictly speaking, early this morning) not to make the connection. I should have done a simple Google search and there wouldn't have been any mystery. (I often find myself writing something in a casual e-mail to a friend like, "I don't remember exactly, but I think so-and-so actor was in..." and then I hit it on Google. It's a beautiful thing.) At least the Sun-Times isn't making their sports staff denigrate themselves to produce this special report on the Bartman ball that's scheduled to be in Thursday's Sun-Times. (Music to write by: The Who.) P.S. Very funny -- my spellchecker wanted to replace Bartman with Parthenon.

Baseball's king of the non-denial denial 

I just got a chance to read this Associated Press story covering Sammy Sosa's comments when asked about allegations that players are using steroids. I think these were the most interesting parts of his remarks: "I really don't want to make a comment about that because we've got a beautiful team here," he said when asked about steroids following his first spring training workout Tuesday. "We've got something else in mind, to come here and play baseball. I don't want to make a comment because I don't have anything to talk about." and "That's something that Barry Bonds has to deal with himself. I don't want to even think about it," said Sosa, who doesn't look any different than he has in recent years. "I don't really know and I don't want to know. I know myself, I know who I am and that's it." Contrast that with what Barry Bonds had to say: "They can test me everyday if they choose to." Sosa, who originally said that he'd be the first to get in line for testing once it was part of baseball's collective bargaining agreement, now deflects those questions without any denial. Perhaps he just felt burned by the run in he had with Sports Illustrated's Rick Reilly a couple years back. And he doesn't need to comment about anyone else. That's perfectly legitimate in my mind. But why doesn't he come out and say he didn't use steroids? That alone is far from proof that he has. I just don't understand the reluctance to put the rumors to rest, or at least try to. I also had a hard time understanding why Dusty Baker went after Brad Palmer, a long-time sports reporter for WLS-TV Channel 7. Palmer asked Baker whether players were using steroids, and Baker answered like he'd been asked if he has stopped kicking his dog. Jay Mariotti of the Sun-Times took Baker to task today, writing that Baker better get used to the questions, because reporters will be asking them every time there is a development in the BALCO case. (I'm not sure whether that was a warning or a threat.) Baker did make an interesting point about how the steroid allegations have made all players guilty until proven innocent. But, so far, these baseball players aren't criminal defendants. They're public figures. As such, they should expect this kind of questioning. I saw Barry Bonds's interview on ESPN, and the normally surly slugger answered the questions I saw without any trace of anger or bitterness. I haven't seen or heard Baker's interview, but he didn't come through as calm and collected in print. And Sosa offered an evasive answer that any White House press secretary would appreciate. (Music to write by: Stone Temple Pilots, "Purple.")

It would be right, but painful, too 

I think I’m like a lot of long-time Sox fans regarding Frank Thomas. Sometimes, I want to strangle him. (Remember that non-slide at home plate in the Juice Box in St. Petersburg a couple of years ago? The doctor’s note he gave Jerry Manuel at the start of spring training in 2000 to get out of the shuttle run? I could go off in this direction for an awfully long time.) But sometimes, I think how proud we fans could be to have Thomas complete his career with the White Sox and become the first player in team history with 500 home runs. I hope I don’t sound like a Cubs fan when I say that. It’s just that Thomas is without a doubt the best player to suit up for the Sox in the 25 years that I’ve been watching. He’s not the most lovable, just the best. Phil Rogers hits on this theme in his Tuesday column. He suggests that Thomas’s act has grown completely tiresome and suggests that Kenny Williams shouldn’t saddle Ozzie Guillen with a player who might be a cloud in the otherwise sunny skies that seem to have blown in with Guillen. Rogers implores Williams to explore another deal with the Dodgers. I definitely agree that the Sox need to move either Thomas or Paul Konerko. Not because they don’t get along, but because they’re too much alike -- play the same position, bat from the same side, both run as slow as Jessica Simpson thinks. If the Sox do trade Thomas, I’ll know in my head that it was the right decision. That won’t make it any easier in my gut.

Shouldn't we be nervous about... 

Scott Schoeneweis as the fourth starter? I could stomach him as the No. 5.

Cub fans, lie down on the leather couch 

I saw something interesting in the Sun-Times today. It was an ad on p. 22 in the news section. (Unfortunately, I didn’t seen anything online to link to.) “The end is near…” it said across the top. Reproduced was a cover of the S-T with the Bartman ball. “Look for our special section on Thursday,” it read across the bottom. Some outfit called Niche Publications bought the ad. I’m not familiar with Niche. I can imagine that perhaps they were hired by Harry Caray’s to help them recoup the $110 large that they put out to buy the Bartman ball. Not that they haven’t already won $10 million in free media about their stunt, which ends Thursday in the destruction on the ball. Fittingly, they’re doing it on the “toast to Harry Caray,” the annual marking of his death. I don’t take anything away from the marketing genius of the restaurant. But I think Cubs fans are slowly losing their minds. (Maybe not so slowly. Maybe it was gone when they decided to root for them in the first place.) And I still have to wonder about the mindset of this team. That was absolutely the most crushing way a team could lose a league championship series. Yes, even worse than the Red Sox, who can (rightly) blame Grady Little, who was promptly exiled for that and a multitude of other sins. Jim Hendry, who apparently likes playing with lit matches, hired Little as a special assistant. I hope Little wasn't hired to give Dusty Baker pointers on when to take out exhausted starters. If the Cubs are going to have a successful season, I think they desperately need to get off to a solid start. They need to bury last year quickly, and that’s going to be tough to do if they struggle out of the gate.

Why is this a surprise? 

I’m talking about the news that pitcher Roy Oswalt will start Opening Day for the Astros. Look, adding Andy Pettite and Roger Clemens is huge for the Astros, but does anyone really think either of them is better than a healthy Oswalt? I’ll say this: If Pettite and Clemens are better this year than Oswalt, Houston will be in trouble. (Music to write by: Smashing Pumpkins, David Bowie)

Saturday, February 21, 2004

Everyone's still in the pennant race 

All the cliches about the start of spring training are true. How else to explain how excited I am about Ozzie Guillen starting his first season as manager of the White Sox? I realize that the media attention will die down soon enough. Heck, half of those crews covering the Sox yesterday have probably already hit the highway back to Mesa to cover the Cubs. So be it. It's going to be fun to be a Sox fan -- or player -- again, and it's all because of Guillen. I particularly enjoyed this Phil Rogers column in today's Tribune.

Some thoughts on Jerry Manuel 

I guess the beginning of Ozzie Guillen's tenure as White Sox manager is as good a time as any to take a final look at Jerry Manuel. I put together a little spreadsheet using managerial tendency figures from the 2004 edition of The Bill James Handbook. James presents a final stat line for managers that projects their tendencies over their careers as 162-game averages, sort of like how ERA is projected over nine innings. One of the criticisms of Manuel, especially from fans on White Sox Interactive, has been that he changes his lineups too often. I bet those fans would be interested to know that, of the 31 managers who either managed 100 games last year or had at least two years with their team, Manuel's average of 106 lineups per season was the second-fewest, behind Atlanta's Bobby Cox. (The stats only go back to 1994.) This is why I love looking at baseball statistics and why I love Bill James. Manuel also was the least-likely manager to order a steal. Since I am a firm believer in the "Moneyball" way to look at baseball, this speaks well of Manuel in my opinion. By the same token, his teams have executed sacrifice bunts at the seventh-highest rate, which speaks poorly of Manuel on "Moneyball" terms. He also was near the bottom of the rankings for using intentional walks and pitch outs. In "Moneyball" terms, you could make the argument that these are both good signs. After all, "Moneyball" mavens stress the importance of working the count and getting on base at a high rate, so it makes sense that you wouldn't want to give away a ball or a base to a batter. So the statistics say that Manuel's lineup juggling was relatively low and that he followed a lot of the "Moneyball" tenets. The lineup juggling isn't as important to me as the second part. Still, I think the White Sox were justified in firing Manuel. Most statistical analyses suggest that the White Sox won fewer games than their players' performances would indicate. And I definitely think that a soft-spoken gentleman like Manuel can lose effectiveness over time if he doesn't have some startling success to give weight to his words. It was time for him to go, but I think he'll get another chance somewhere else and has a good shot at being successful. (Music to write by: The Strokes, The Verve and The Flaming Lips.)

Thursday, February 19, 2004

New multi-game ticket package 

When I received an e-mail today about the White Sox Starting Nine ticket package, I smelled something Reinsdorfian. After all, the old deal -- the Sox Seven -- required fans to purchase tickets to six games to receive $1 tickets to a seventh game. The new plan requires the purchase of eight tickets to receive a ninth game for $1 per ticket. Typical Reinsdorf, I thought -- squeezing his more loyal fans for two extra games. But there's a couple of key differences that make this a good deal. One, you can include tickets for Opening Day and the Cubs/Sox series in this. There was no rule prohibiting this before, but there might as well have been one, because the Sox Seven was by mail and came after the start of single-game ticket sales. Since Opening Day and the Cubs/Sox series always sell out within minutes of single-game tickets going on sale, you couldn't get tickets to those games with the package deal anyway. So it's really a wash on the number of games for die-hard Sox fans, as it turns out. Two, and this is the real beauty of the deal, you have a chance to get better tickets for Opening Day and the Cubs/Sox series as a result of this, no question about it. You're not competing with people who just want to go on those few dates. As a bonus, it means that the park will have more true Sox fans for the Cubs/Sox series (although a lot of Sox fans, yours truly included, bring Cubs fans to the game; I did it last year -- not only a Cubs fan, but an Indians fan to boot -- so I'm guilty; hey, it was his birthday). Three, I like that I can do this deal online, rather than the mail. I know that doesn't work for the whole fan base, but I think it's great. I trust an online secure server a lot more than the U.S. Mail. OK, I need to go pick my games out now. (Still listening to the Place Mats.)

More thoughts on Maddux vs. Pudge 

After I wrote yesterday's post, I thought that maybe one reason why the Maddux signing would be better for the Cubs than trying to work on a deal for Ivan Rodriguez was financial flexibility later this season. I thought that Maddux's deal, which is only $6 million for 2004, then $9 million in 2005 with a vesting option based on innings pitched that could guarantee him $9 million for 2006, might leave more room for the Cubs to add players later on. But that's apparently not the case. Rodriguez will only make $7 million this year, and his deal is guaranteed for only $19 million, compared with $15 million guaranteed for Maddux. Financially, it's close to a wash, although the Pudge contract has the potential to be more costly -- but only if he performs well. I also checked The Bill James Handbook 2004, which has full 2003 statistics. Looking at James's Win Shares, I found something of note. Maddux's Win Shares have declined three years running, form 24 in 2000 to 11 in 2003. That's not a good sign. Rodriguez had been in a three year decline that was largely because of injuries, but he shot back up to 23 Win Shares for 2003. Now, I agree that Rodriguez's skills are likely to decline, as they normally do for catchers at his age. Rob Neyer covered this point well after the Tigers signed Rodriguez. But Maddux isn't the 1995 (30 Win Shares) Maddux either. He, too, is poised to decline. If $4 million in guaranteed money was the difference, wouldn't Rodriguez be worth it? (Music to write by: a playlist of favorite songs by The Replacements.)

Stay tuned 

Any minute now, I expect Rick Morrissey will report that Greg Maddux's signing with the Cubs will lead to peace in the Middle East.

Wednesday, February 18, 2004

Let the overkill begin in earnest 

As you've probably heard, Greg Maddux has signed a two-year deal with a vesting option for a third year at a total price tag of $24 million. OK, at least all the speculation and angst from Cubs fans is over. But let me give the overhyping award to Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Tribune. In his column today, headlined: Maddux back in the place he truly belongs, Morrissey connects the all the Lovable Losers dots: 1908, 1945, the goat, Steve Bartman. Really, it's a piece of work. I agree that signing Maddux is nice work by the Cubs. He's still a solid pitcher, and it can only help to add such a heady, accomplished pitcher, who's been through so many successful seasons in Atlanta. Yes, I also agree that there's some nice nostalgia, too. But, if you're going to beat a "curse," or "Mystique and Aura," to borrow from Curt Schilling, talent is more important than how something makes fans feel. Maddux is a nice addition, but wouldn't Ivan Rodriguez been better? I don't think it would've cost the Cubs that much more to sign Pudge instead of Maddux, but they showed little interest in the catcher. He would have filled a much bigger weakness -- everyday catcher versus, essentially, the fifth starter (Maddux is probably No. 3, but he pushes Matt Clement back to No. 5, instead of the club having to find someone for that spot in spring training or filling it during the season). Maybe if Jim Hendry had showed the same doggedness going after Pudge, he might have found a deal amenable to player and club alike. I also think Morrissey is dismissing the Astros much too quickly. Houston's biggest weakness last year was its starting staff. Adding Pettite and Clemens is going to be no worse than good for the Astros, even if they take some time adjusting to the new league, which seems to be the thin reed Morrissey is leaning on in dismissing the Astros. Of course, hitters have to adjust to them, too. I would usually put the adjustment advantage on the pitcher, since he initiates the action and the batter has to react. Guessing helps with reactions, and I think a hitter usually needs at-bats against a pitcher in order to better guess. For the pitcher, it's better to be unknown. You know what you're throwing. Getting Maddux makes Cubs fans feel good in February. I think getting Pudge Rodriguez would have made them feel better in October.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

My thoughts on Guillen in November 

I was cleaning out some e-mail at work when I ran across this one that I sent to a friend, a non-Chicago native who married a real South Side girl, who asked for my reaction to Guillen's hiring. (Wait. Funny story. This guy and his wife were watching Game 6 of the NLCS with another couple, big Cubs fans, at a bar. When the eighth inning started falling apart for the Cubs, the real South Side girl says, audibly, to my friend, "What sound does a Billy Goat make?" Priceless.) Here it is: I am excited. I wish I'd seen the "Chicago Tonight" interview. I loved the way Ozzie played his whole career, with one exception -- he wouldn't take a pitch to save his life. Otherwise, he always played hard but had fun at the same time. You could see it on TV. He had this amazing ability to be joking around with the runner on second one moment, and the next moment, the ball would be hit in his direction, he'd field it and, with no hesitation, he'd know where that ball needed to be thrown. Always. Just a solid player who played the game the right way, but who isn't some active volcano like Larry Bowa. It's a personal bias I have, but I don't think managers like Bowa can succeed for very long anymore. The thing about Guillen is that he gets on you constantly, but you like him anyway, or at least that's the impression I got from his teammates over the years. And he's the perfect change from Jerry Manuel. If you're not going to bring in a guy who's sharply different from Manuel, well, why fire the guy? He wasn't a terrible manager -- frankly, I saw a lot of growth over his six years, although I've never seen a manager ruin more closers than him -- just a very bad fit for this team. So just between the white lines, I think this is a good hire. But I think it means a whole bunch more. First, ever since Bill Self left Illinois, I've started to see the wisdom of finding guys with a history with the organization. I know, it was just a few months ago, but it hurt a lot when Self left -- I felt incredibly let down as a fan who bought into his ability -- and I'm tired of people seeing my favorite teams as a stepping stone to someplace else. I think there's a lot to be said for hiring someone who doesn't just want the job but is dying for it. It is interesting, isn't it, that despite the constant demonizing of Jerry Reinsdorf and his executive subordinates, which sports teams in Chicago are the ones where the players want to come back and work for the organization after their playing days are over? The Sox and the Bulls. Period. The other three teams seem to drive away their players like a 55-year-old with a bad rug drives away South Beach hotties (assist to that Bud Light commercial saluting "Mr. Really-Bad-Hair-Piece-Wearer.") (Mmmmm, South Beach hotties.) (And, true, those teams' executives/owners are also villified. But given the success his teams have had, the level of vitriol toward Reinsdorf seems out of proportion to me.) So maybe Jerry Reinsdorf is a better guy to work for than all the sportswriters think. I'm sure you're familiar with all the former Bulls who have come back. With the Sox, besides Guillen, you have hitting instructor Greg Walker and roving hitting instructor Harold Baines, both members of the 1983 AL West champs. Kenny Williams, of course, was drafted by and made his ML debut with the Sox. Bo Jackson doesn't really have a formal, full-time role with the club, but he is still involved now and again with the Sox -- off just one year on the team! You have two people who never left -- Herm Schneider is the only trainer and Nancy Faust is the only organist, respectively, that I've ever known as a Sox fan (they predate Reinsdorf). It wouldn't surprise me to see Robin Ventura return to the Sox when his playing career is over. And if the new owner of the Dodgers axes GM Dan Evans, don't be surprised to seem him work for the Sox again, if only for a year while he tries to get another GM job. Sure, Evans was ticked that Williams got the GM job when Ron Schueler packed it in, but I think there are probably still good ties there -- that's just Reinsdorf's way. Remember, Guillen let the Sox have it when they decided not to resign him after the 1997 season, and that didn't keep Reinsdorf from being Guillen's biggest supporter in this process. [Ed. note: of course, Guillen didn't go work for the Cubs like Evans did. Just a thought.] Second, I don't think you can underestimate what Guillen's hiring does for us fans. Not only do we love him, we're going to love the way he steals back some of the spotlight from the Cubs. Guillen's hiring won't be enough on itself, of course, but it sure doesn't hurt. Now, the Sox have a colorful, quotable manager, too, though obviously not one who has the successful experience that Baker brought with the Cubs. I can't emphasize this point enough. I woke up this morning damn happy to be a Sox fan. Not that I ever wavered in my allegiance, but I was already wondering how I was going to reconcile my strong support for Ozzie with the possible hiring of Cito Gaston. I mean, either way, they're my team. But Guillen's hiring gives us a chance to pick up our heads and feel good about the team. How can I not? I mean, Ozzie's coming back. I know that how they fashion the team is ultimately more important, but this hiring signals the direction they're likely to take in that area, too, and I like it. A little more emphasis on defense and players who play the game right. (emphasis added) Believe me, I think Cito Gaston is probably a good manager who deserves a shot with some team, perhaps the other Sox (his low-key manner might be perfect with a club that has veteran leadership and plays in such a crazy, intense, high-pressured environment). But he would've been a disaster with the players and the fans here, me included, so I'm thankful and relieved that they didn't hire the man. Would've been a disservice to Gaston, the Sox and the fans. A good man, but a bad fit. [End e-mail] Of course, at the time, I thought at least a few of the free agents were coming back. And I thought a team built more around speed and defense would result. I'm still excited about Ozzie Guillen being the manager of the White Sox. I think he can do it. (Music to write by: Van Halen, Fair Warning)

A good reason not to watch local TV news 

I don't think I can wait for the first spring training games. I think I'll be excited just to see the lame footage from Arizona of pitchers running to cover first base. I always think I've reached my limit, but my passion for this game continues to grow. Not even the fact that I'm mostly pessimistic about the chances for the White Sox is keeping me from being excited about the upcoming season. Frankly, every year, baseball becomes more and more of a needed escape from life. I am expecting that the White Sox will get about 30 seconds of coverage to about 4 minutes for the Cubs during your average local newscast. It might be a little different on the first day of the Sox's camp, since they'll want to show some footage of Ozzie Guillen. He's new, so that'll be their story, for a day. Pitchers and catchers report to spring training this week ... there's no better sentence.

Monday, February 16, 2004

Another -- better -- way to look at it 

Here's an interesting analysis of the Rodriguez deal written by David Pinto, lead researcher for ESPN's Baseball Tonight. I made the mistake of considering the players at the position Rodriguez would fill -- third base -- rather than the player who was removed from the Yankees lineup to slot A-Rod in -- Alfonso Soriano. Pinto points out that the league may be catching up to Soriano (low and away, followed by lower and more away, etc.), whereas A-Rod has no obvious holes in his swing. I should've considered that. I also should've looked at how the 2004 second-base crop might do compared with the 2003 third-base crop. Those would have been the proper analyses to do. (Music to write by: Miles Davis, The Complete Bitches Brew Sessions; music to edit by: Radiohead, The Bends.)

The difference of A-Rod 

At first blush, I can't find much about the Alex Rodriguez deal that affects the White Sox. Partially, that's because I'm not terribly excited about the Pale Hose's prospects this season. (Of course, I waver on this. Sometimes I can see them winning their division.) Does the addition of one more superstar, even the game's greatest active player, really make that big of a difference for the White Sox when they play the Yankees? (What about Barry Bonds? He's the best hitter, no question, but he's slowing down in the outfield and plays a much less significant position, left field, compared with Rodriguez, even at third base.) We'll find out soon enough, since the White Sox and Yankees play seven times -- their entire season series --in April. Maybe the Sox will catch the Yankees before they've gelled as a team. But will Rodriguez make that big of a difference? Certainly, the Yankees struggled last year with their third basemen. That was why they traded for Aaron Boone in the first place. Here's the stat line for Yankees third basement last year and for Alex Rodriguez: G AB R H 2B 3B HR RBI TB BB SO SB CS OBP SLG AVG Yankee third basemen 214 666 93 159 34 0 21 96 256 75 130 8 0 .351 .384 .239 Alex Rodriguez 161 607 124 181 30 6 47 118 364 87 126 17 3 .396 .600 .298 These are very imperfect stats because it must include time these four players (Aaron Boone, Todd Zeile, Drew Henson and the sainted Robin Ventura) played other positions or appeared as pinch hitters. These stats also don't include Enrique Wilson's games at third base. I got these off the Yankees' official site. (I promise, I will learn eventually how to embed an Excel chart in my posts, because I bet that would look a lot better.) Just looking at the traditional stats, such as runs scored, home runs and RBI, you see a fairly large difference. A-Rod's advantages in those three categories are: 31, 26 and 22. Look at OPS (on-base + slugging): A-Rod's OPS is 996 versus 736 for the four men who were classified as third basemen on the Yankees 2003 roster (Wilson must have been listed, generically, as IF). That suggests a fairly large improvement. For comparison's sake, just on the OPS measure, consider this: Replacing the Yankees' primary third basement in 2003 with Alex Rodriguez is roughly equivalent to the White Sox replacing Joe Crede (OPS = 741) with Rodriguez. Not that I'm down on Crede. He just happens to fit the numbers and, fortuitously, even the position I was looking for. My analysis here is crude, but I hope the illustration in the preceding paragraph paints the right picture. But, getting back to my earlier question: Will this make a big difference when the White Sox play the Yankees? Yes, I'd have to say it does. I wish I had the software to run an entire season with a lineup of A-Rods and a lineup of Credes (via those OPS numbers) to illustrate how many more runs the A-Rods would score over the course of a season than the Credes. Great. Now I'm even more depressed than when I started writing this post. (Music to write by: Jimi Hendrix, "Axis: Bold as Love" and "Electric Ladyland.")

Sunday, February 15, 2004

I hope they choke on it 

You have to hand it to the Yankees. George Steinbrenner will do whatever it takes to stay ahead of the Red Sox. New York's willingness to take on the enormous financial commitment of Alex Rodriguez's contract is amazing, no matter how much revenue the team generates. Remember, because of their already 'roided out payroll, the Yankees will owe major dollars under the payroll tax, and the Rodriguez deal will add $6.3 million in taxes this year alone, according to Phil Rogers of the Tribune. Rogers writes that in future years, Rodriguez alone could cost $10 million in payroll taxes. I can't help but get the feeling that the Yankees dominance has come to an end. Maybe it's just because I'm tired of despairing their dominance of the American League, and therefore, I'm foolishly hoping it's over, simply because I can't stand the alternative. My thinking is this: When you spend the kind of money the Yankees are spending -- a payroll of $200 million or so, which is twice what some of the bigger spenders pay out -- the pressure that the players and coaches are working under is enormous. The internal pressure from Steinbrenner is augmented by the hypercompetitiveness of the New York media marketplace: It's a four-newspaper city, at least, plus radio and TV. As for Alex Rodriguez, he should be asking himself when was the last time he saw Jason Giambi smile on a diamond. I bet Giambi was wearing green and gold at the time. Rodriguez, too, should consider that he's now become even less popular than he was for being Mr. 252 million. Now, he's perceived as a whiny Mr. 252 million who plays for the Evil Empire. We'll have to see if the latest wave of high-paid stars can come into New York and handle this pressure, if they can handle how explosive the smallest incident becomes in the Bronx. Keep in mind, too, that the Yankees took an already old team and have made it even more geriatric (think Kenny Lofton and Gary Sheffield, although their starting staff should be a bit younger this year). The players' union didn't do Rodriguez any favors, either. The union should have recognized that A-Rod's deal was unique: Teams aren't giving out that kind of money or length of contract, and might not ever again. I know the union leadership believes it's in the best interests of all players to avoid salary givebacks, but the failed Red Sox trade gave the players' union another black eye, and fans will be reminded of that every time they see Rodriguez in those hated pinstripes. A-Rod going to the Red Sox to top the Yankees once and for all would have been a brilliant baseball story all summer long. If that deal goes through, Nomar Garciaparra ends up in Los Angeles, via (I hoped) the White Sox, whose pitching is greatly strengthened in the deal, although at the bitter cost of Maggs Ordonez. But look what we have instead. We have the best player in baseball playing out of position for the most-hated team in baseball. We have the potential demoralizing of the Red Sox after the best off-season the franchise has had. And we have the Dodgers and the White Sox both still so lopsided. Of course, on that last point, that's mostly the fault of the Dodgers and their unsettled ownership situation. I have a hunch that things aren't going to be as rosy for the Yankees as all these trades and signings would lead fans to believe. (Music to write by: a mix of Guns 'n' Roses, R.E.M., Smashing Pumpkins, Run-DMC, Eric Clapton.)

Saturday, February 14, 2004

Maddux fatigue 

Wake me when he signs a deal, OK? I'm almost as interested in where he's going as a typical Cubs fan, but enough already. Now, it's the Giants who are offering him a multi-year deal, with owner Peter Magowan getting directly involved with the negotiations, according to a report in the San Francisco Chronicle cited by the Chicago Tribune. And the Cubs are willing to sweeten their offer, according to the Sun-Times. (I would link to these stories, but I've already told you everything you need to know in these one-line summaries. Trust me.)

Friday, February 13, 2004

Open mouth, insert foot. Repeat. 

Well, the White Sox spread some more good vibes today with this story in the Chicago Tribune. Sports media writer Ed Sherman reported that Jerry Reinsdorf is steamed at WMVP-AM 1000 for its hiring of Sun-Times columnist jay Mariotti to host a show from 9 to 11 a.m. on weekdays. WMVP, of course, has the radio contracts for both of Reinsdorf's teams, the White Sox and the Bulls. Mariotti, of course, is very critical of Reinsdorf in relation to both of the teams. This is one fight that Reinsdorf shouldn't bother picking. There isn't much he can do about it at WMVP, despite provisions in his original contract with the station (those provisions gave him some say about 'MVP's on-air talent, Sherman reported, but ESPN demanded changes to the contract when it bought the station; to give credit where credit's due, John Jackson of the Sun-Times first reported this information when he wrote about the launching of Mariotti's radio program). All he is doing is giving himself and his teams another black eye. Plus, Mariotti thrives on being a pest. It feeds his ego to think that Reinsdorf is so worked up about the new radio program. I give Mariotti a lot of credit -- I think he's the best sports columnist in Chicago by far. He's certainly the hardest working columnist. (I mean, Mike Downey should've just stayed in Los Angeles so he could literally (e-)mail his column in. He's sure figuratively mailing it in. I can't wait to read tomorrow's latest installment of "Downey's Eleven." Always good for unintentional humor.) But all Reinsdorf is doing is encouraging Mariotti to be even more outlandish. In the last couple of years, I think Mariotti has become a lot more reasonable. He'll still occasionally write a column that I can quit reading after a paragraph, because it's obvious that he's just trying to stir up controversy. Most of the time, even if I disagree with him, I think he's at least writing about the right subjects and taking an intellectually honest approach to the issue. Still, Mariotti has a lot of six-year-old boy in him (I do, too, but I try to keep him quiet when I'm writing). Making a stink about him is exactly what he wants. It just makes him want to stick his finger in Reinsdorf's eye harder and more often. Reinsdorf has to start thinking of ways to avoid becoming a news story for all the wrong reasons. The more he fades into the background, the better. (This post was written while listening to "Definitely Maybe" by Oasis.)

Thursday, February 12, 2004

My kind of town 

Does anyone else find it funny that Chicago won't support a WNBA team, but we've been chosen to have a team in the "Lingerie Football League"? It's not really a league. Four teams, representing New York, Chicago, Dallas and Los Angeles will be formed. Chicago plays New York and Dallas plays LA, and the winners play in Lingerie Bowl II. In some ways, I'm proud of our chauvinist city. Count me among the chauvinists. I don't care what Carol Slezak says, I'm not interested in the WNBA, and I'd much rather watch a pack of bimbos in lingerie "play" football than a bunch of women who are serious about the game. I'm laughing either way; but with the lingerie bimbos, at least I'm seeing great eye candy. Aren't we allowed to have some fun? Does everything have to be so serious and full of social import? Can't we just have a laugh at a silly, titillating concept like lingerie-wearing hotties playing football? So what if there isn't a big market for women's sports. There isn't a big market for Greco-Roman wrestling beyond college and the Olympics, either. I certainly agree with Title IX and the need to fairly fund women's sports in community leagues, high schools and colleges, but when it comes to the pros, you're talking about the hard-earned dollars of fans. If they want to spend them on women's sports, great. But we shouldn't try to guilt anyone into liking women's professional sports. Not wanting to watch women athletes doesn't make me a chauvinist (I'm not a chauvinist, despite my joke above). (Tonight's posts written while listening to Zwan's "Mary Star of the Sea." Zwan, we hardly knew ye.)

Two months away 

Opening Day at the Cell is just two months away. Where is my team right now? I think they're just one deal away from being pretty solid. Please, Kenny Williams, make a deal with the Dodgers! We need one more starter and one more reliever. Maybe I should just accept this team for what it is, for what it is going to be. I just see the opportunity to be better. I'm glad that the White Sox hired Ozzie Guillen as manager, but I am disappointed that he's the only off-season move that they can promote. I really do think he's exactly what this club needs: a kick in the ass combined with a pat on the back. This team has sleepwalked for three years. I take that back. I give them credit for the way they fought through their injuries in 2001. But the last two years, they've snoozed too much. Even Doug Mientkiewicz acknowledged that the White Sox had a ton more talent than the Twins the last two years. It's just that the White Sox didn't play together -- Mientkiewicz said "White Sox" and "togther" were never in the same sentence. He's right. That's how a team inexplicably loses games they should win. You know, like when they're playing the worst team in the majors in 41 years and their All-Star Game starter is on the hill and they lose a one-run game. Twice, for crying out loud. Loiaza might've won the Cy Young award if those two games go his way, as they should have. Of course, if he beats the Twins twice down the stretch, that would've probably done it, too. I'm down on the offseason as a whole, yet I still have some hope for the season. I guess it's just the stupid optimism of winter, when you're just dying for baseball to start again. It's such a double-whammy every fall, having baseball and Daylight Savings Time both end the same weekend. But I made it through another awful winter in this city. Baseball is almost ready to go.

No news is bad news 

The Dodgers-Sox trade rumors have died down, unfortunately. So has any talk of the Dodgers signing Greg Maddux and keeping him from the Cubs. *sigh*

Wednesday, February 11, 2004

Nostalgists or killjoys -- who's worse? 

I'm referring to all the wailing and gnashing of teeth over the Cubs being allowed to play up to 30 night games in a season, up from 18 per season. The extra night games will be phased in four per year over the next three seasons. I was sort of coy with that title, because I'm not at all confused about who's worse -- it's the killjoys, for sure. By killjoys, I mean the people who live near the ballpark and are still fucking complaining about night games. Look, I know it stinks to live near the park. I once lived about two blocks from there. So guess what? I MOVED. Is that so hard? I know that there are people who have lived there since before the lights came on at Wrigley (wasn't it awesome that their cute little first night game -- on 8/8/88 -- got rained out, so the official first night game was 8/9/88?? I think so). So what. There are people who have lived in houses that are next to O'Hare since before the airport was built, too. There is a statute of limitations on these situations, and both of these have long since passed that limit. Get over it and yourself. No one is keeping either of these groups of people in their houses. Moreover, the Wrigleyville types who bought property before night games should get down on their hands and knees and kiss the sidewalk outside the park. Their property is worth 20 times what it was 25 years ago, when nobody wanted to live in this neighborhood. In that sense, I'm less upset about the O'Hare complainers, because they do have a tougher time selling their houses, no doubt. But there are plenty of people willing to put up with the noise, trash and nuisance of a neighborhood baseball park, even one that hosts night games. (As an aside, if the White Sox had followed this brilliant man's plan, I'd be living in a condo near 32nd Street, no question about it.) So sell your damn three-flat to them and move someplace quieter. It's almost 16 years now. As for the nostalgists, they actually may have a point. Even though I despise the Cubs and their annoying fans, there's not much better than leaving work early and catching a 2:20 p.m. start. For instance, how about the White Sox-Cubs game of June 20 last year? Unfortunately, baseballlibrary.com doesn't have the 2003 games up yet, or I could link to that one. Cubs fans, you remember, Miguel Olivo hit a grand slam to cap off an eight-run first inning off Shawn Estes. Anyway, I digress. The point is, weekday day games do have their place. That place is, to the extent that it's possible, to be stuffed as much as possible into late May, June, July and August. That's when the weather is nicer and more people are willing to go to a day game. Even for the wildly successful Cubs, the gate isn't as good for those day games in late September or early April, even when the team is doing well. Who wants to take off from work to freeze your ass off? Carol Slezak pointed out in the Sun-Times that the Cubs could lose something that makes them unique if they push for more and more night games beyond 30. She's assuming that push they will. I'm not so sure about that. I think they'll push for some of the other things she mentions, such as bleacher expansion and building the parking garage and sports bar and grill on the west side of Wrigley Field. Of course, were it not for the start of World War II, the Cubs would have had lights long, long ago, way before people could raise holy hell for more than a decade about night games and still garner political and media attention. Besides, people, while it is a beautiful park, we're not talking about the Sistine Chapel. We don't have to treat it with complete reverence. Respect its traditions, yes, but we don't have to be submissive to them.

Friday, February 06, 2004

More LA rumors 

There are more rumors today of a possible trade between the White Sox and the Dodgers. As Teddy Greenstein of the Chicago Tribune puts it, "The scenario is simply too obvious to ignore," referring to the Dodgers signing Greg Maddux and then trading Odalis Perez to the Sox for a hitter -- probably Konerko or Thomas. Let's hope so. Again, this team needs a few changes. Anything that will trim the number of slow, right-handed power hitters is a good move to me. And the Sox and Kenny Williams may be in an especially good position right now, since the Dodgers and their new owner may be desperate to make a splash and improve the team right now, as Greenstein points out. Of course, if Williams wanted to make a move to replace the hitter he trades away, he has fewer options right now. It's also possible that he could wait it out and make a move around the end of spring training, or even into June. If Williams can somehow pry Odalis Perez and Mota and/or one of LA's top two pitching prospects, they can afford to see how their new lineup plays with their improved pitching. I think this would be the best rotation in the AL Central (a low bar, I admit): Buehrle, Loiaza, Perez, Garland and Schoenweis. A little lefty-heavy, I suppose. But solid, even if Loiaza quits walking on water and is merely a good swimmer, so to speak, this year. I'm headed to LA this afternoon, so I should be able to keep up with the rumors there. Ah, and play a round of golf, too.

Wonderful irony 

There's a funny thing about computers -- they don't understand irony. The ads that appear at the top of this blog are a good example. Because my blog has Wrigleyville in the title and the Cubs are frequently mentioned, a lot of advertisers hoping to reach Cubs fans cycle through the Google ad bar. Sweet! For once, the Cubs' superior demographics works to my advantage.

Still nervous, but... 

What I'm still nervous about is the Cubs signing Greg Maddux, because then I'll never hear the end of it. Plus, it will be harder to make jokes about Mark Prior being an Atlanta Brave in 2009 if Maddux comes back triumphantly. In the meantime, I'll enjoy reading Jay Mariotti give Cubs fans nightmares and keep hoping that the Cardinals win the Maddux derby. It's one thing if he becomes a Dodger, but if he were to sign with the Cardinals, it would: a) lessen the chances for the Cubs to reach the playoffs and b) absolutely be a dagger to the heart of mouthy Cubs fans. They should have to be just as demoralized as Sox fans once in a while. It makes them bearable to live with.

Tuesday, February 03, 2004

My first Sox game, update 

I had dinner with my parents tonight, and I asked my father about that first game we went to in 1978. He's certain that it was on a Sunday in August. He's also certain that the Sox won 5-3 against the Indians. Well, BaseballLibrary.com shows that the Sox beat the Tribe 6-0 on Sunday, Aug. 27. So I guess now I have to conclude that that is the first Sox game I ever went to. I kinda liked it better when I thought they won a one-run game in my initial trip to the park, but a win's a win.

Missing the point 

I know Sam Smith couldn't have written this column to stay in the good graces of Jerry Reinsdorf. Too late for that, right? So why is Smith excusing the team's lack of action this winter? It isn't just a matter of money, as Smith contends most Sox fans are criticizing the team for being cheap. White Sox management need to change the make up of this team. It's still too slow and too right-handed up and down the lineup. And if they didn't want to meet the demands of Bartolo Colon, that's one thing. He was asking for a lot of money and a lot of years for a pitcher whose physical condition has never been particularly good. But why not Sidney Ponson? More importantly, why didn't this team turn some of that right-handed hitting into pitching? Give Guillen a team that's a little more to his liking -- a little faster, better on defense. The White Sox would still be a solid offensive ball club if they moved one of their sluggers for pitching. And if they had done this earlier, they could have had a replacement at a reasonable price. Glad to see the Dodgers finally emerge as a potential landing spot for Greg Maddux. It's going to be tough enough this year to put up with Cubs fans, but if they got Maddux, it would start right this instant. Without the Cubs signing him, I might get three more weeks of peace.

Monday, February 02, 2004

Well, I had the Pats part
of the score (almost) right
 

Weird Super Bowl last night. For a while there, I thought it was going to be the worst one I've ever seen -- and I thought this even though I was having a great time and had won the first quarter square. Of course, it was a great party because it was thrown by a Sox fan -- we drew the numbers for the squares board out of his 1983-era fitted cap. Sweet. Best halftime show ever, but only because of the last two seconds. I love how Janet Jackson and Justin Timberlake are trying to say it was an accident. I was really surprised that the Sun-Times published a photo that left nothing to the imagination (that's page 35 in today's editions, or at least the one that I received at home). Does she always wear decorative metal on her boobs? That flash was one of the few times that the party I was at really erupted. The other two involved Adam Vinatieri -- his miss in the first quarter (there was a prop bet on how the first points would be scored) and his game-winner, of course. Maybe the White Sox can get the two of them to come sing "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" and reprise their act. "Buy me some peanuts and crackerjack/I don't care if you rip off my blouse." I'm bracing myself for the Cubs signing Greg Maddux. It'll be unbearable around here if they do. I'm just hoping that they wait until at least Friday. I'm leaving town that day. That would be a bonus -- escaping winter and massive Cubs hype in a single trip. I guess I'm just going to have to get used to an even worse level of Cubs hype, because they are shaping up pretty well this year. This is why the White Sox's offseason has been so demoralizing. Reinsdorf (yep, again with the "k") needs to approve some expenditures because White Sox fans deserve to be able to keep their heads up during the baseball season. Reinsdorf (got it right, but I hesitated) is losing young fans. It's so much easier for a kid to decide to be a Cubs fan. They're the more popular team, and now they're the better team on the field, too. The Sox can't be second place in both races. Reinsdorf and his group need to either spend some money on the team or sell it. But I realize I'm dreaming.

Sunday, February 01, 2004

Let me amplify that 

I didn't really finish that last post. Reinsdorf (I swear, I did it again) owed his fan base an aggressive offseason, including a willingness to spend more than the budget the team has now. If you want people to come out, you have to give us a reason to do so. Despite the disappointment of last season, I think fans would have been optimistic if the club had resigned Colon and either Everett or Alomar, preferably Everett. I didn't expect them to be able to keep every player, but I didn't expect this team to basically regress to 2002 either.

Oh, now we get it 

It only took a day for the Tribune to catch up to the mood of fans at SoxFest. Look, I like Kenny Williams. I think he's been a creative GM who has been able to make solid deals -- at least they look solid initially -- despite the constraints put on him by Jerry Reinsdorf. (I keep accidentally typing "Reinsdork.") But Kenny, you've got to understand that we fans are tired of being told that it's our fault. It's our fault that we don't come out to the park enough. It's our fault that we're discerning baseball fans, for the most part. It's our fault that say the emperor has no clothes. The Daily Herald's Barry Rozner hit this nail on the head last week. It's not our fault. Everyone associated with the White Sox has to quit saying or implying that it is our fault. This is toughest for the players to do, I realize. Unfortunately, we take our anger out on them, because we can't get into the boardroom to let Reinsdorf (I did it again) have it. But really. It's not our damn fault. By the way, Patriots 31, Carolina 10.

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