Why is the heat on Jerry Manuel when the problem clearly seems to be with the talent? After the debacle with Todd Ritchie, the acquisition of David Wells and now the sucker trade of Koch for Foulke, it seems to me that the heat should be on GM Ken Williams for depleting the team's talent. Why isn't anyone asking for his head? --Rick Redondo, New York
Teddy, although Jerry is a considerable upgrade over Terry Bevington, the Sox don't get bunts down, make dumb base-running mistakes, silly errors, etc. At some point, doesn't the manager have to take some responsibility for this? --Bob O'Connell, Hoboken, N.J.
So there you have it: In an unscientific poll conducted by the Tribune, 50 percent of Sox fans want Williams fired and 50 percent want Manuel to walk the plank.
It always surprises me that when a team is struggling, few fans blame the people who are most responsible: the players. (If I write a lousy story, is it my editor's fault?)
It's curious that Williams will get ripped for acquiring Koch, rather than Koch taking the heat for not performing well. Same goes for the manager. Is it Manuel's fault that Frank Thomas is hitting .167 with runners in scoring position or that Jon Garland has one quality start in seven tries?
No, Manuel puts his players in a position to succeed, which is what a manager is paid to do.
Here's how I evaluate Williams. He has made some brilliant trades (Damaso Marte from Pittsburgh for Edwin Yan and Matt Guerrier), some stinkers (Todd Ritchie for Kip Wells, Josh Fogg and Sean Lowe) and many that fall in between (Gary Glover for Scott Eyre). Then there are the ones that are still up for debate (Willie Harris for Chris Singleton; Koch and two minor-leaguers for Foulke, Mark Johnson and Joe Valentine).
Don't forget the Bartolo Colon deal, which was widely viewed in the industry as grand theft. If Colon has a poor season, is Williams to blame? No.
As for Manuel, the only thing I fault him for this year is not playing outfielder Armando Rios. It was clear in mid-April that Aaron Rowand needed time in the minors to find his swing. Instead the Sox waited until May 1 to demote him. By then, he was batting .133.
The errors and base-running mistakes you see are part of baseball. The A's committed four errors Thursday and had a runner thrown out Friday on a pitch-out. The Sox are hardly one of the game's least disciplined teams.
Why hasn't Frank Thomas been given the opportunity to play first base all this season? I know he isn't a Gold Glover, but I think that would help his batting. I really don't think it would be a big deal to have him play first at least once a series. His production from his bat would far out-weigh his defensive problems. --Nate Park, Glenview, Ill.
You make a good point. Frank has always hit better when playing the field. Let's compare:
First base: .336 average, .425 on-base percentage, .620 slugging. DH: .285 average, .408 on-base percentage, .502 slugging.
So why hasn't he used a glove this season? Manuel prefers Konerko's defense at first and Konerko likes to stay active during games. Thomas, though, hopes to play first in late May to prepare for the Sox's interleague series at Arizona, L.A. and Wrigley Field.
Big Frank does not want to be a spectator for all or most of those games.
After watching the shortened game on ESPN Sunday night, I am left wondering why Jimenez is leading off. A leadoff man should not make two miserable mistakes on the base paths. How about Valentin leading off? He's not only one of the best baserunners on the Sox but in the league. Valentin, Lee, Thomas. --Neal, Philadelphia
Jimenez did get thrown out at the plate Sunday by roughly the length of an El car. Third-base coach Bruce Kimm took the blame for testing right-fielder Ichiro Suzuki on a fly to medium right field.
Jimenez remains a valuable leadoff guy because of his plate discipline. He takes a lot of pitches and his on-base percentage has hovered around .400. Valentin is more of a free swinger with average speed. He stole 19 bases in 2000 but had just three last year.
Why is Kelly Wunsch relegated to only an inning of work per week? The guy has a 0.00 ERA for all of 2003 and yet he's been strait-jacketed by some ridiculous mindset among Sox coaches that he's a "short" set-up man. Why? Let the man pitch! And what is Manuel's obsession with using Tom Gordon and Rick White? --Marshal Kingsbury, Honolulu
Yeah, I was wondering the same thing on April 24. That's the game in which Wunsch blanked the Orioles in the sixth inning to preserve a 4-2 lead. Then White and Gordon combined to give up three runs in the seventh.
A similar thing happened Wednesday, when Wunsch was yanked after recording five consecutive outs. Gordon then walked three straight batters.
Manuel's reasoning is this: He doesn't want to push his luck with Wunsch and overextend him. And he wants to instill confidence in White and Gordon, who were signed for the express purpose of keeping the opposition down late in the game.
Old-school managers probably would be more likely to ride the hot hand. Manuel wants to get everyone involved and keep them fresh and active, so they can perform well when he needs them.