For those of you who asked, I do not have a picture of Mrs. Rodriguez, but the image here today is pretty darn close so I hope that’ll work for you.
Anyway, a brief interlude before we get to any salient point. Last Sunday some buds and I went to go watch the Bulls/Heat game. Our favorite bar was closed due to a minor family emergency so we decided to go to this other place that none of us had been to. We got there and saw about 15 middle aged, Latin, men sitting at the bar. So far so good. They all had beers and some had shots that appeared to be tequila. Also fine. There were four plasma screens showing the game. Pretty darn good as well. But what gave us pause was something completely unexpected. The jukebox was jamming ABBA. Not just one ABBA tune, but an album’s worth. And everyone was singing along. From Fernando to Take a Chance, they knew every word and were happily singing them loudly. It was like being trapped n a drunken rehearsal for Mama Mia. So we did the only thing we could think of doing, we ordered beers and joined in.
It was kind of fun, if extremely bizarre.
Speaking of bizarre, yesterday Phil Emery gave his first interview as General Manager of your Chicago Bears. Much was made of the fact that he wears cowboy boots because, as you all know, no one else on the planet has ever worn cowboy boots. Much was made of the fact that he was given a five year contract. Had it been left at that I would probably not have cared. But he opened his mouth and dropped these two gems on the huddled masses;
(1): ‘‘I’m here to help this team. I’m a teammate. Yes, I’m in a leadership role, but I’m here to provide support, help, guidance and talent toward winning championships. I’m gonna do all with every fiber of my body to develop within that role and to sync with coach Smith and to help bring those championships.’’
(2): ‘‘The qualities that I saw in coach Smith then in the draft room and being around him are the same qualities that I have seen from afar. Leadership, poise, calmness under duress, skills as a coach, demanding of his players, helping others, being a good teammate. I’m excited to be around him and his staff as we build toward winning championships.’’
Why not just admit that he’s excited to be working FOR Coach Smith and be done with it? If it wasn’t so sad it would be funny.
Maybe it will work. I don’t know. It’s just that I have never seen any organization run successfully from the bottom up.
Speaking of doing things bass-ackwards, the Cubs have announced that they think they might be kind of sort of possibly close on a deal with Boston relative to the compensation owed for Epstein. Toni Ginetti sounds slightly less sure.
A resolution could be coming to the pending compensation issue between the Cubs and Boston Red Sox.
The stalemated issue over what the Red Sox should receive for allowing Theo Epstein out of the last year of his contract to become Cubs president is in the hands of commissioner Bud Selig. He said over the weekend that he has yet to resolve the issue, but a report Monday in the Boston Globe said a meeting could be scheduled shortly with representatives of the teams. An unnamed American League general manager speculated the Cubs might have to part with a “significant” player.
The commissioner’s office could not confirm a meeting.
In the most recent compensation issue, the Miami Marlins sent two minor-league prospects to the White Sox for manager Ozzie Guillen, who departed with one year left on his contract.
Those players, infielder Ozzie Martinez and right-handed pitcher Jhan Marinez, were ranked the Nos. 4 and 5 prospects in the Marlins’ system by Baseball America.
Keep in mind kids the Cubs also owe the Padres a few players. The Cubs could lose Garza and get nothing in return and then lose a few more players from their farm system that they are just now trying to build. Gosh, wouldn’t that be funny? Word out of Boston, from my buddy who works at the Green Monster, is that they are saying that “If a World Series winning manager is worth two top prospects then a general manager who’s won two World Series is worth two top pro players.”
In case anyone was wondering what the hang up was, I hope that clarifies everything. The Cubs were looking to give up a couple of kids in 1A. Thanks to Crane Kenney promising “significant players” in return for Epstein, the Cubs have no longer have any say in this any more.
So how about our South Side ballers? What are they up to? Well, they’ve been hiding very far under the radar but are now starting to pop up here and there and speak in complete sentences. Scott Merkin was able to locate and interview the Sox new bench coach, Mark Parent.
When Mark Parent talked about improving the White Sox recent lack of success on the basepaths during Sunday’s SoxFest finale, the team’s new bench coach wasn’t just focused on cutting down the opposition’s running game.
“Take advantage of what they give you,” Parent told MLB.com following the last town hall meeting at the Palmer House Hilton. “[Alexei] Ramirez stole a bunch of bases two or three years ago. He didn’t hardly run any last year. They play behind Paul [Konerko]? Well, if Paulie is feeling good, take off.
“[Alex] Rios can run. Let’s run him. You know [White Sox manager] Robin [Ventura] is all for playing the game a certain way, and you’ll get to see in Spring Training he’s far different than what you have seen.”
Far different, in that Ventura isn’t solely the laid-back leader with a wickedly dry sense of humor. That Ventura sentiment was echoed by general manager Ken Williams during Friday’s town hall meeting, as he mentioned that the White Sox manager already stressed in a strong way during phone conversations that the White Sox will be working hard on fundamentals this February and March. Ventura’s hard-nosed edge already has been evident to anyone who ever watched him play.
But Ozzie Guillen, who also tried to employ an aggressive managerial style during his eight-year stint on the South Side, found out an important lesson in 2011. It’s hard to steal second or go from first to third on a base hit to right when nobody is on base.
As Williams said on Friday night, if the White Sox hit, they will contend. Parent’s adjustment to that statement is if the White Sox hit, Rios might have a chance to top his career high of 34 stolen bases, Ramirez might surpass 15 for the first time in his career and Konerko might even reach five stolen bases in a season.
While the White Sox are running, the opposition has to be slowed down. Pierzynski, 35, finished 14-for-78 in trying to nail 2011 would-be basestealers when a throw was made. Tyler Flowers, 26, was a bit better at 6-for-26, checking in at 23.1 percent.
Take a look at stolen bases against White Sox starters, though, and it becomes clear that success and failure in this area can’t be totally put upon Pierzynski and/or Flowers. White Sox catchers were successful just twice in 25 attempts with Gavin Floyd on the mound and just once in 18 with Edwin Jackson pitching.
Mark Buehrle (3-for-10) did his usual exceptional job of holding baserunners, while John Danks (15-for-23) was successful as well. So the goal for Parent is to make this change a collaborative effort.
“One thing we are going to do is something forgotten a little bit during the course of a season, even just throwing over to first, shortening guys up, slide steps from the pitcher,” Parent said. “Even having pickoff plays with the second baseman, even third base, first base, whatever. Just to shorten guys up, maybe to secondary leads.”
In the process of helping out the catchers, Parent believes the White Sox can slow down runners moving from to first to third on base hits, scoring from first on an extra-base hit or even a guy “wearing out the shortstop on a double-play ball.”
With 427 career games behind the plate, Parent understands the frustration felt by Pierzynski with runners being consistently successful against him. With Parent having an exceptional 34 percent success rate at nailing basestealers, he’s a good person to turn this negative into a positive.
“All of those little things that we will talk about and we’ll fix and we’ll work on,” Parent said. “Those are little things that can develop into big problems if you don’t take care of them. You saw what happened the last couple of years with the running game.
“I have to take a good look at A.J. and his mechanics. But there are ways to simplify things, and that’s what people tend to do mostly is when they are struggling, they add more on to it. If you take it back to the simplicity of ‘Catch it and get rid of it,’ you are quicker and there’s no ‘Your shoulder and glove have to go up to a certain point.’
“No, as soon as you get the ball in your hand, and stuff like that,” Parent said. “Just to make it a priority. Let’s just fix it. That’s what we are going to try to do.”
I love the philosophy. But, and here’s another one of those big old butts, if you look at the projected opening day line up there’s not a whole lot of speed there. And teams that run hard like that need to be deep on the bench so they can give guys a breather from time to time. As things sit right now I’m not sure they have a starting 9, let alone 25.
Oh well, we shall see what we shall see.
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If you need a laugh, click here and read the opening paragraph.
Moving on, it’ s supposed to be a nice day today. Looking out the JTJ Weather Window - we spare no expense here at JTJ - I can see that there is widely scattered light and Mrs. Rodriguez - who defines the term M.I.L.F. perfectly - is vacuuming in her cut-off T and thong again. And if that doesn’t turn your heart and mind to baseball I don’t know what will. I know my little batter wants to get up in the box.
PLAY BALL! In ... deed.
So, let’s take a look at some of the exciting things fans can expect this year.
Besides Mrs. Rodriguez, that is.
The Cubs are excited about Brett Jackson.
And now you know why MLB’s ranking of top prospects lists Jackson (No. 33) and Rizzo (No. 37) as the only Cubs among the top 50.
Cubs fans aren’t the only ones who can’t wait for spring training in mid-February, although Epstein and general manager Jed Hoyer seem in no rush to promote prospects before their time and already have a starting outfield of Alfonso Soriano, Marlon Byrd and David DeJesus.
“My approach is I have a really great opportunity and I’m going to try as hard as I can to seize it,” Jackson said. “That being said, there are a lot of decisions outside my control. I think I’m big league ready and … I’m 100 percent confident in my abilities.”
Jackson never has lacked for self-confidence, or free-thinking.
The Bay Area native appeared at the Cubs Convention this month with long, flowing blond hair and a beard to match, which put him in sharp contrast to bald manager Dale Sveum during their first meeting.
“We’ll see what’s trendy,” he answered with a laugh when asked if the hair would be gone by the time he arrives in Mesa, Ariz.
He’ll shave or it will be shaved for him. That one’s simple.
As to Jackson’s career, though, I don’t know what else he can do in the minors. He’s got power, he’s got speed and he’s a great defender. The only thing he lacks is plate discipline. He strikes out a lot. Like 264 times against 146 walks over the last two seasons.
The Sox are excited about Viciedo, Sale, Morel, Flowers. No, it’s not a law firm, it’s about half of their starting line up.
Three years ago, no one told then-19-year-old Dayan Viciedo to check the bulletin board to notify him of cardio work he was scheduled to perform after one of his spring trainingworkouts.
And last spring, Chris Sale had trouble familiarizing himself with the layout of Camelback Ranch practice fields.
“I won’t be walking out any wrong doors this spring,” Sale said with a smile as SoxFest concluded Sunday with plenty of optimism surrounding rebound years from several veterans.
But it’s youngsters like Viciedo and Sale, along with Brent Morel and Tyler Flowers, who will be counted on to making bigger contributions after gaining major league experience during the Sox’s 79-83 season.
Part of the reason the Sox traded slugger Carlos Quentin was because they believed Viciedo, 22, who has a .282 batting average in 206 at-bats over parts of two major league seasons, is ready to take over in right field.
Moving Sale, 22, to the rotation could be perceived as a gamble, but Sale was targeted as a starter by the Sox on a long-term basis after he was 11-0 with a 2.01 ERA with 146 strikeouts in 103 innings at Florida Gulf Coast University in 2010.
There are bigger expectations for Morel, 24, who took over the full-time third base duties in late July and hit eight of his 10 home runs and collected 19 of his 41 RBIs in September.
Flowers, 26, drew praise from the pitching staff after A.J. Pierzynski and Ramon Castro were sidelined because of hand injuries, and Flowers is expected to catch more as new manager Robin Ventura wants to keep Pierzynski, 35, as strong as possible.
“I’m excited to be a part of this youth movement, and it’s a group that I’ve worked with before, and there’s a good bond,” Viciedo said. “So there’s going to be some good chemistry.”
Good chemistry is good. Good baseball would be even better. Great baseball may be too much to ask for but if it’s available I’d be willing to accept it.
Another guy the Cubs are excited about is Anthony Rizzo, and with good reason. The kid has all the tools needed to be a star. This is despite the fact that Jed Hoyer nearly destroyed the kid last year when he was with the Padres.
When Hoyer and McLeod took jobs with the Padres, they acquired Rizzo again as part of a five-player deal that sent Adrian Gonzalez to the Red Sox.
Rizzo got a taste of the big leagues last June when he was called up to the Padres. In his Major League debut June 9 against the Nationals, he struck out in his first at-bat, then tripled in the fifth, walked twice and scored a run. He arrived after hitting .365 at Triple-A Tucson.
But Rizzo batted .143 in 35 games and was sent back to Tucson. In hindsight, Hoyer said, Rizzo wasn’t ready.
“I don’t think it was a mistake,” Rizzo said. “It is what it is. Things didn’t go as planned, obviously, but everything happens for a reason. If I didn’t do bad, I wouldn’t be here [with the Cubs] right now.
“I think when I got called up, I was trying way too hard,” he said. “Things I was doing that I’ve never done before and I asked myself, ‘Why am I doing that?’ I just couldn’t help it.”
He never lost confidence.
“I tried to not let it affect me at all,” he said. “I know it’s just a game and a lot worse things can be going on.”
“If I didn’t do bad, I wouldn’t be here [with the Cubs] right now.”
Savor that sentence. He thinks that he was punished by the Padres. And a Padre punishment is to send players to the Cubs. Hopefully he’ll realize that Epstein, et al, wanted him and that this is not some major league demotion.
No, really, it’s not.
One guy who’s looking at playing on a Chicago baseball team as a promotion is the Sox’ very own Brett Lillibridge.
Lillibridge competed for the starting second-base job coming out of Spring Training in 2009, but lost out to Chris Getz. He played 31 games on the infield during that season and 32 in 2010, but only played six games there last year if his 2011 first-base stint is not counted.
Adding the infield glove into the mix, especially with Omar Vizquel gone, simply makes Lillibridge more valuable to the team and moves him toward his ultimate full-time goal.
“I’ve said it before that, at one point, I do want to get a chance to be an everyday starter,” Lillibridge said. “I finally made a little bit of a quake offensively or whatever you want to say.
“The defense has always been there. Personally, I perform at a high level and play sporadically and still contribute and do damage offensively.”
I could go on but you get the idea. Both teams are slated to struggle this year and both teams are trying to remain as positive as possible about their chances.
Long term it does seem like the Cubs have positioned themselves better. But, and this is a big old butt, if my friend, the scout, is right and Adam Dunn has his swing back then the Sox just got promoted to the big kids’ table. They already have one of the best fielding infields in the majors and they look to be okay at pitching, assuming they shore up that pen that K-Dub just gutted. So if they get some power in the middle they could be playing meaningful baseball in October.
Like I said, that’s a big old butt.
Of course, keep in mind that the Tigers will have the two worst corner infielders, Fielder and Cabrera, holding down their defense. Each should be good to give up a run every other game. In other words, every team that plays Detroit is going to be bunting like mad. It could be fun to watch.
Almost as much as Mrs. Rodriguez.
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Exactly seven days ago I wrote this:
No matter what happened to me yesterday nobody’s getting more screwed than Bears fans right now. In the cartoon world known as Halas Hall they just finished interviewing the only candidates on their list. There were five of them. They have floated several press releases about what a skippy wonderful guy Tim Ruskell is. Those press releases focus on the fact that in his first two years as GM for the Seahawks they went to the Super Bowl. They neglect the fact that he inherited a strong team and a Super Bowl winning coach. Smart people look at his last two years where the team was in disarray, he was loathed by players and coaches alike and even the Seattle media widely lampooned him as a useless buffoon.
I should now point out that Ruskell was the most experienced candidate on the Bears’ list.
Way to set the bar low there kids.
However, even Virginia McCaskey doesn’t need glasses to see what fan reaction would be if Ruskell got promoted. The Bears message boards are filled with comments that often start with “Who wants my season tickets?” But since they’re keeping Lovie they may as well keep Ruskell too. After all he’s been such an asset answering phones and getting people coffee. But how to do it?
Sean Jensen reports that the Bears have figured out a way to get what they want. They are going to hire the one guy who has never handled a draft, never negotiated a contract and never worked on the pro side of any organization.
What are his qualifications? He plays nice with Ruskell.
Well, last night, when no one was looking, the Bears quietly announced that Phil Emery, the man I was discussing above, has been named as the new General Manager for the Chicago Bears. The new official team mottoes are henceforth; The Misers of the Midway or the Monsters of Mediocrity. Bears fans are guaranteed year after year of shallow promises and average football. Will the team make the playoffs? Maybe. Who cares? The question should be, will they beat the Packers or the Lions. That answer is clearly no. And, thanks to this move, it will continue to be so.
At least until Rogers and Stafford retire. And maybe not even then since both teams have shown some skill at grooming players. Something the Bears have avoided like the plague. Especially since Coach Mumbles took over.
Dan Pompeii actually knows Emery and has some nice things to say. Since I prefer first hand accounts to rumors, I’ll let him share his thoughts with the class.
Having known Phil Emery for more than a decade, I can tell you with complete confidence the Bears new general manager is one of the NFL’s best evaluators of talent.
He forms strong, substantive opinions based on in-depth research that goes well beyond the norm.
Emery should do well on draft day.
Drafting players, though, is only one part of being a general manager, even if it’s the only one most of the world sees or cares about.
If all a general manager did well was draft, he ultimately wouldn’t be very successful.
He also has to be a leader. He has to be able to manage the coach and his staff. He needs to endure ownership. In a tweeting world, he better be media savvy.
A general manager is an administrator. He has to be able to negotiate and have a feel for working a budget. He has to be able to delegate and trust.
He should give credit to others quickly and be open to their ideas while never losing sight of who is in charge. He needs to be able to evaluate himself honestly.
A GM should be able to think outside the box.
More than anything, he has to see a big picture.
And that’s really why Emery will be introduced as the Bears’ new GM on Monday.
In two interviews, Emery impressed team President Ted Phillips and Chairman George McCaskey with his vision, his command of the room and the depth of his plan.
The Bears were looking for passion and commitment. They wanted someone who could communicate well but also someone who could listen. They wanted a strong personality.
These characteristics are evident in Emery. Something else is too.
Emery is a man of integrity. He is committed to doing the right thing, for the sake of doing it.
In that manner, he is not unlike Jerry Angelo, his predecessor. In fact, he’s like a lot of other men who have sat in comparable chairs at Halas Hall.
Mark Hatley. Rod Graves. Bill Tobin. Jerry Vainisi. Jim Finks. They all were cut from the same cloth Emery is cut from.
Angelo thought so highly of Emery he recommended him to Tim Ruskell when Ruskell became player personnel director of the Falcons in 2004.
The Bears learned of Emery in the fall of 1997, when then-college scouting director Bill Rees paid a visit to Navy to scout offensive lineman Mike Wahle. Rees took note of the intense strength coach. The Bears didn’t draft Wahle, but they did draft Emery … as a scout.
When the Bears came back to Emery nearly 15 years later this winter, he wasn’t the same guy. He had been reshaped working with Angelo, Ruskell, Rich McKay, Thomas Dimitroff and Scott Pioli.
The perception is the Bears made the safe hire with a friendly, familiar face. I don’t think Emery is going to be acting like anybody’s brother-in-law.
It’s not like he and Lovie Smith are old playground chums. They worked together for about four months. Smith, like everyone else in the building, will have to prove himself to the new boss.
Emery the general manager in 2012 is not Emery the southeast regional scout from 2000.
I think Emery is going to rock the Bears’ world where it needs it. And he’s not going to worry if he’s hurting anybody’s feelings.
Look for change in the front office. A director of college scouting and a director of pro scouting are likely to be added.
Ultimately, Emery will be judged by draft picks. He once told me Hatley taught him he can learn everything he needs to know from game tape. Emery is likely to wear out a few remote controls in his tenure.
When Emery doesn’t find out everything he wants to know from game tape, he will ask questions. For instance, in 2007, he was watching tape of then-Oklahoma running back Adrian Peterson. He told me he noticed Peterson kept running up the backs of blockers in a game against Nebraska.
So he asked Peterson about it. Peterson told him his coach told him if blockers are in his way, run into them as hard as he can. That way, they will get out of the way next time.
Emery wants to run the Bears with better vision than Peterson had running the ball back then. But that doesn’t mean he won’t run up somebody’s back now and then.
“Mark Hatley. Rod Graves. Bill Tobin. Jerry Vainisi. Jim Finks. They all were cut from the same cloth Emery is cut from.”
Jerry Vainisi won the Super Bowl in 1986 and was fired twelve months later. There’ll be none of that nonsense around Halas Hall.
The rest? Well, I’m sure they’re all very nice and kind to puppies.
What they are not is winners. The McCaskeys don’t want winners. They want people they can share tea with. This guy’s nickname was Satan. But look at his career. He has made his life taking orders and not rocking the boat.
My guess is that he’s an Earl Gray kind of guy.
I started a thread yesterday so CLICK HERE TO WALLOW IN SELF PITY
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Yesterday, White Sox fans led a torch light parade, pitchforks optional, which descended on Kenny Williams. Reporters were advised to wear Haz Mat suits to avoid any infectious diseases from the inevitable blood splatter. Hotel staff were quickly trained in the use of fire hoses as non-lethal crowd control. Strippers were hired to offer complimentary lap dances in the lobby in the hopes of distracting the more testosterone fueled in the crowd. Police made sure their Tasers were fully charged and that their rifles were loaded with rubber bullets.
No one wanted a tragedy.
Once the Commander on the scene was assured that every possible precaution had been taken he allowed the doors to open and Kenny Williams to enter. Realizing that this would probably be the last breath K-Dub took before being summarily executed by the mob, the Commander offered a jaunty salute to hide his tears.
Kenny, bravely, took the stage.
The strippers stopped stripping. The hotel staff carefully lifted their hoses. The officers selected primary targets. A hush fell across the room. The silence was truly deafening.
And then ......
A couple of people booed.
And then ......
Nope, that’s about it.
Mark Gonzales was there and has the whole, not very exciting, story.
What rebuilding process? What payroll slashing?
Aside from some boos during introductions during Friday’s opening ceremonies at SoxFest, general manager Ken Williams came away relatively unscathed — especially at a seminar where fans had the opportunity to ask directly about his motives in parting with ace Mark Buehrle, slugger Carlos Quentin and closer Sergio Santos and a payroll that could be cut by as much as $20 million.
During the question-and-answer session, one fan praised Williams for constructing the Sox’s 2005 World Series champions and told him he got a free pass for life.
Williams did accept the chilly reception he received during introductions that didn’t include embattled slugger Adam Dunn, whose flight from Texas was delayed. Dunn is expected to be in attendance at the Palmer House Hilton on Saturday.
“It kind of comes with the territory,” Williams said of the boos for a 79-83 record and third-place finish in the American League Central despite a $127 million payroll.
“When the team plays well, the players and the coaching staff get the accolades,” he said. “That’s great. It’s as it should be. When the team plays poorly, it’s the GM and owner’s fault. It’s part of the deal.”
Williams added later: “I have broad shoulders so, over the years, I’d rather they point the finger at me rather than somebody who isn’t as equipped as I am to carry the weight.”
During the “retooling’’ process this offseason, Williams said he explained his plan to veteran slugger Paul Konerko, who re-signed with the Sox in December 2010 with the expectation the Sox would contend.
“He expressed to us that he had the confidence in whatever plan we were going with,” Williams said. “We’ve been competitive every year he has been here with a couple of exceptions, and he was on board no matter what the direction was. He also thinks we have the ability to compete this year. We just have to have some guys get back to themselves.”
Williams was more specific during his session with the fans.
“If we hit, we’ll compete in the division,” he said.
If the Sox compete, it will be without adding another player. Williams claimed he has reached his limit, meaning the Sox’s opening day payroll could be around $107 million.
“We don’t have to trim (more),” Williams said. “We’ve had opportunities. We’ve looked into opportunities if we wanted to go into a full rebuilding mode, opportunities that would give us some of the top talent in all of the minor leagues.
“Well, that didn’t materialize. So you try to give yourself the best chance of winning with the current roster.”
Williams said pitching prospect Nestor Molina, acquired from the Blue Jays for Santos, could be ready to join the Sox rotation by midseason. By then the Sox should know if they can complete with the defending AL Central champion Tigers, who added slugger Prince Fielder this week.
“Listen, Detroit was going to be formidable anyway with Victor (Martinez) healthy,” said Williams, who admitted the signing stunned him. “They just replaced a guy (Martinez) who went down on. It must be nice.”
Oh no Kenny, you don’t get to envy another guy’s wallet. Mr. Reinsdorf has given you nutty money the last couple of years and you spent it like a sailor on leave. If it was shiny or made your special spot tingly, you bought it. It didn’t matter to you that the shiny tingly pieces you bought didn’t fit with any of the other pieces you had, you went and got them anyway. And now, like the bad dog you are, Mr. Reinsdorf is rubbing your nose in this mess and making you clean it up.
Oh, and feel free to read his last statement several times and try not to think of porn.
Very uncomfortable porn too.
But what about the rest of the fest? Well, it seems they were passing out perky pills to the players. Toni Ginetti reports that Gordon Beckham was absolutely giddy in anticipation of the 2012 season.
Robin Ventura has a simple message for second baseman Gordon Beckham after a disappointing 2011 season:
“I just want him to play and not worry about going 8-for-10,’’ the new White Sox manager said. “I get where he’s at and the pressure. I understand where he’s at and what he’s gone through. I saw him when he was drafted and he’s a very talented kid.’’
The same message is coming from general manager Ken Williams. “I want him to play to win and I want him to have fun,’’ he said.
It’s a message Beckham penned for himself in the off season.
“This year is going to be a good year. I just know it. I feel different mentally. I can feel it,’’ Beckham said Friday. “I feel good and my swing is there. You know it when you see it. You know where you’re at.
“For me, it’s about getting back to being me. It’s not about anything else. There’s no magic excuse. [I was] swinging at bad pitches, and that’s being anxious.’’
Beckham’s 2011 was far from the rebound season he hoped for. His average fell from .252 in 2010 to .230 while his strikeouts climbed from 92 to 111. Beckham wasn’t the only Sox hitter to struggle, but a new season, with a new manager and coaching staff, is about turning a page.
“There’s only one Ozzie [Guillen], but Robin’s going to be great,” Beckham said. “He’s a pretty special guy and there’s a reason they chose him. It seems like Robin has surrounded himself with good guys [as coaches.] I know Joe McEwing from the minors, and the others are guys who have played in the big leagues who produced, and that’s what you need.’’
His personal turnaround path started in December when he began hitting and working to correct what he thought were flaws in his swing.
“I worked on what I needed to do to get back to being me,’’ he said. “I can tell the way [the bat] comes through the zone. I think what I’m doing will hold up.
More important is his sense of mental confidence, and a positive outlook he sees Ventura fostering.
“Robin said we have to be a positive clubhouse,’’ he said. “It’s such a negative game and you have to stay positive or it will beat you down. I let it beat me down last year. But I made a decision not to be that guy [this year.] I won’t forget about . I’ll remember everything about it, but I don’t want it to happen again.’’
Beckham was so cheery he was autographing anything within reach, which included an awkward moment where they had to reattach a man’s wooden leg that Beckham mistook for a bat.
And what of those heroic strippers who manned, if you will, the front lines? Well, the Sox’ V.I.P. club was closed to reporters for several hours as the players tastefully displayed their gratitude.
They are such givers, aren’t they?
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You know what? These Sox thongs are more comfortable than you might think. And, as loyal readers know, nothing says “SEXY!!!” like a hairy fat man in a thong.
All righty then, now that you’ll never eat solid food again, let’s move on.
Last week it was Cubbie-Con so we took a day to look at all things Cubbie. It was a truly Cubbie-licious experience. As one reader noted on Twitter, if I was the person finding hope for the Cubs, and I did, then the 7th seal of the Apocalypse had truly been broken. I think he may have been overreacting just a smidge.
That’s so Cubbie of him.
But today’s all about bringing Soxy back. Nothing but Sox in the City.
Fans are wondering if this year’s version of the team will be the SoXXX, triple X penetration with deep scoring and pitchers who know how to use their balls, or if they’ll be the Socks, those limp fabric things that smell like used feet.
Mark Gonzales says that Robin Ventura is wondering about the same things and is hoping to be allowed to meet some of the players while he’s at the convention.
New White Sox manager Robin Ventura is eager to see many of his players for the first time when SoxFest opens Friday, regardless of a potential negative reception for some of them over last year’s lackluster performance.
“There seems to be a feeling they are out to prove last year was an aberration,” Ventura said Thursday during a conference call.
With ace Mark Buehrle with the Marlins, closer Sergio Santos dealt to the Blue Jays and Carlos Quentin moved to the Padres, Sox fans only can hope changes on the 2012 squad are bounce-back seasons from Adam Dunn, Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios.
Fans will have only one shot to ask Ken Williams about his plans, as the general manager is scheduled to speak only at Friday night’s seminar during the three-day event at the Palmer House Hilton.
Dunn and Beckham spoke earlier this week about the need to distance themselves from last year’s struggles and move forward.
Ventura, meanwhile, is eager to begin the evaluation process even with the start of spring training four weeks away.
“I’m ready to get a feel, to see people do things, rather than look at some sheets of paper,” said Ventura, who added his preparation became more accelerated in the past month.
With Alejandro De Aza the leading candidate to bat at the top of the order and Dayan Viciedo slated to take over in right field for Quentin, Ventura provided a curious response when asked about the role of Alex Rios, who batted .227 in 145 games and struggled defensively in center field.
“We could move him around — left field, center field,” Ventura said. “I want him to be able to play. I want him to be in the middle of it.”
Ventura feels the same way about Dunn, who is attempting to rebound from a franchise record 177 strikeouts and a .159 batting average.
“I don’t see Adam repeating anything that happened last year,” said Ventura, who played against Dunn toward the end of his career. “I’ve seen what he’s capable of doing.”
Beckham, who batted .230 last year, understands the fans’ frustration but hasn’t lost faith in himself or his teammates.
“If you have Adam Dunn doing what he’s capable of doing, if I’m doing what I’m capable of, that’s a big step in the right direction,” Beckham said. “I believe in Adam. I believe in me. I believe whoever had a bad season last year — it’s over. There’s no time to worry about that.”
Extra innings: Philip Humber remains the strong favorite for the fifth spot in the rotation, Ventura said. … Gerardo Concepcion, an 18-year-old Cuban left-hander, is close to signing a contract, ESPNDeportes.com reported. The Sox are one of the teams interested in Concepcion. … CSN will televise opening SoxFest ceremonies at 4 p.m. … Sunday-only passes to SoxFest are sold out.
I love ESPN. He’s close to signing a contract. We have no idea with who or what for, but, BY GOD, he’s close to it.
My buddy, the scout, and I were talking a couple of days ago about the Santos trade. I was, as is my norm these days, whining like a little girl who lost her favorite Barbie over it. My buddy, who is not really a K-dub fan, said something interesting. “There’s something wrong with Santos. Make bank on it. Williams would rather eat his spleen than trade a high quality closer. Something showed up last year near the end of the season and suddenly Santos was movable.”
And that may be the first thing that’s made sense since the end of September. At least as far as the Sox are concerned.
So with all this talk about “bouncing back” and “playing for pride” and “living up to expectations” I guess there’s reason for hope on the South Side. Joe Cowley says I couldn’t be more wrong if I tried to book Rick Santorum as the Grand Marshall of the Gay Pride Parade.
This weekend’s SoxFest is no longer about which players are showing up for the annual fan fest. It’s no longer about whether fans will lob tough questions or softballs at White Sox general manager Ken Williams.
No, that all went out the window Thursday with Prince Fielder’s first appearance with the Detroit Tigers.
There’s only one question that has any relevance the next three days: Will it be a closed casket at the Palmer House Hilton or an open one?
That’s what happens when the signing of a Prince makes the Tigers kings. They stay on top, and the Sox arrive at spring camp next month DOA, before the first pitch is even thrown.
‘‘Dreams come true,’’ Fielder said in his news conference at Comerica Park.
For the rest of the American League Central, so do nightmares.
Even with Victor Martinez likely lost for the season with a bum knee, the Tigers likely had enough talent to win the division without Fielder. But with a $214 million deal for Fielder over the next nine years, Motown has pushed its foot on the throat of the rest of the Central.
If there was a division screaming for a hostile takeover, it’s the mess in the Midwest.
Minnesota Twins slugger Justin Morneau is one blow to the head away from thinking he’s a French-Canadian double agent named Guy, while Joe Mauer is the guy in the foxhole who’d rather push someone else onto the grenade than risk his hair getting messed up. Talented hitter, but marshmallow-soft in the heart department.
The Cleveland Indians are interesting, if we could get past the 25-man roster having more aliases than Fletch.
Then there are the Kansas City Royals, who have moved on to Reclamation Project 5.0, or is it 6.0? I’ve lost count.
That leaves the Sox, the one team in the division willing to go toe-to-toe with recent Tigers spending, but because of bad decisions, they can only put their foot halfway in the water while trying to convince us they’re swimming.
No GM should be angrier than Williams with the fact that Tigers architect Dave Dombrowski landed Fielder, not only because of the talent The Prince brings to the Tigers’ lineup but because while Williams promised a dynasty on the South Side after the 2005 World Series run, it’s Dombrowski who’s actually building one.
That became even more evident Thursday.
‘‘I just never thought this could happen,’’ Fielder said.
Very few did.
The Tigers were the ‘‘mystery team’’ lurking in the shadows that agent Scott Boras likes to tease potential buyers with.
And don’t let Fielder’s size fool you into thinking this is dead money. He is a competitor. He’s definitely not a signing who spent his previous days playing in non-pressure vacation destinations such as Cincinnati, Arizona and D.C., hitting some home runs between shooting deer and raccoon. No, he’s a baller.
Now he’s teamed up with Miguel Cabrera, who was acquired from the Florida Marlins right under Williams’ nose in December 2007. The reason the Sox fell short on Miggy: Not enough prospects in the system to tempt the Marlins. Thanks, KW.
It was then that Williams uttered this line: ‘‘All this has done has put the Tigers in a better position to contend with us.’’
He proved to be right, as the Sox did win the division that year. But they haven’t won it since, and you can guarantee Williams won’t be expressing that same bravado this weekend.
What he should do is be honest and say, “I messed up big-time, and I need to fix it . . . and did everyone get a free Joe Crede bobblehead?’’
The last few years have reeked of dishonesty and ineptitude, from Williams’ relationship with former Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and his coaching staff to Williams not realizing that Nestor Molina — who was acquired in the Sergio Santos trade last month — wasn’t even playing winter ball this offseason. Sox fans deserve Williams being honest with them now.
And he should do so with a black suit on. That’s only proper attire for a wake.
I’ve said it before, probably yesterday, and I’ll say it again. Unless the Tigers get a couple of front line starters they are going to be the ‘83 Cubs. In 2011 they rode Verlander hard and put him away wet. They barely cleared .500 on games not started by him. They cannot rely on that happening every year. They can’t even count on it for this year. As my buddy noted, after he was kind enough to buy me a beer, “2 through 5, they’re very beatable.”
As to the rest of the division, I’d say Joe’s 90% right. Kansas City scares me for no logical reason other than they’ve been getting better every year and now have the farm system to deal for major players if they find themselves in the thick of things.
So, who knows, this could be the year for Southsiders to feel Soxy about themsleves.
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