The Tribune's White Sox beat writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, who stays and who goes, re-evaluating the Thome-Rowand trade and some bald-faced optimism.
I have always wondered what the numbers in front of the pick to click mean on the TV broadcast of the Sox games. Can you help me out? --Peter, Bartlett
The number refers to how many times that person who makes the pick is correct. For instance, Hawk gains a point after Monday's game for picking A.J. Pierzynski, who had three hits.
Has Thorton thought of adding a change-up or a forkball to get hitters off his fastball? He gets ahead 1-2 all the time but can't put guys away, because everything he throws is hard and it gets easier for hitters to get their timing down on his fastball. --Grant, Warrenville
Too often this year Matt has given up a broken-bat hit or grand slam after getting ahead on the count. It's been a very mystifying year. He's better than his numbers but he's still not getting the results. One of the bigger mysteries of the season.
It seems to me the Sox bullpen troubles stem from pure arrogance on Kenny W's part: Sure, these guys all failed with the Royals (the Royals!) or Seattle or the Cubs, but we're the White Sox and by God we can fix 'em. Yeah, right. --David, St. Petersburg, Fla.
Mark, when does the rebuilding project begin and how many years will it last? Do the Sox make the playoffs again within the next decade? The World Series title gave them a five-year flyer in my book, but there just seems to be no future hope for this team. --Jason, Chicago
Mark, please make it stop! I have been a Sox fan my whole life and never, never have I been so disappointed. I think I finally know what it feels like to be a Cubs fan! --Bob, San Antonio
Sox fans, we did our part. We filled the stands as Reinsdorf wanted. He said if we did, he would spend the money to put a true contender on the field. What he put on the field is a hodge-podge of injury-prone bargain basement retreads. Our season tickets are a sunk cost, Mr. Chairman! --Joe Kaminski, Chicago
It's time to surrender and plan for the future. Trade Buerhle, Dye and Contreras. And shame on Joe Crede, I love him, but he should have listened to management and had surgery in the off season. --AJ, Los Angeles
I wouldn't say the shakeup started Saturday, but the acquisition of Danny Richar from the Arizona organization was a move toward the future, especially in the event Tadahito Iguchi seeks and receives a multi-year deal elsewhere. I've been hearing more encouraging reports from people no longer with the Diamondbacks organization on Richar, so we'll see how he fares in a different organization with a chance to succeed.
I would hold onto Mark Buehrle and Jermaine Dye as long as possible up to the trading deadline for three reasons.
First, if the team embarks on a winning streak and makes a push toward the top of the division, you still possess two of your most valuable components.
Second, if the team continues to slide and other teams define themselves as contenders, you still have two of your most valuable players to deal to the highest bidder. Buehrle arguably would be the best pitcher available should the Sox fail to make a push in the division. National League West teams desperately could use a right-handed hitter with power like Dye.
Finally, if you can't move them before the July 31 trading deadline, you can receive two draft picks for each player if you can't re-sign them next winter. The Sox need to fortify their farm system, particularly with infielders and catchers.
I would like to see the Sox rebuild their staff around Buerhle, Garland and Danks. Any chance we will see the Sox trade Contreras and/or Vazquez and use the money they save to re-sign Buerhle? --Bob O'Connell, Hoboken, N.J.
The White Sox need to unload Uribe, Crede, Dye and most of the other outfielders. On the pitching staff, unload Vasquez, Contreras and all the middle relievers. --Frank, Watertown, N.Y.
If you want to trade a starter, keep in mind that Vazquez is signed through 2010, Garland is very durable and his contract expires after 2008 and Contreras' velocity has dipped. And Kenny Williams is very fond of Gavin Floyd.
If Alex Cintron's arm allows him to play over an extended period, then you can make a case for trading Juan Uribe (if you don't get a shortstop in return).
Mark, this royal mess of a team is all the fault of one Ken Williams. I know Rowand isn't an All-Star, but he provided spark and something in the clubhouse. The Thome/Rowand trade was just plain STUPID! --Michael Klempin Jr., West Frankfort
Mark, I think the White Sox need to bring back Aaron Rowand and stop bringing up all these young players and prospects who are not getting the job done. They cannot wait until the end of the season to realize that the players did horrible, like they did with Brian Anderson. --Michael N., Villa Park
Dissecting the Thome-Rowand trade is intruiging. Thome is not the problem. He helped the offense immensely last year and his hot stretch in mid-April was a large reason why teams started to pitch around him to get to Konerko and Dye. The player he replacedCarl Everettwas released in the middle of the season by Seattle and is currently playing in an independent league.
Carl made some astute observations about baseball, but his skills were diminishing.
Rowand is pure blood and guts, and he's sorely missed this season, especially after the injuries to Podsednik and Erstad and the June Swoon.
I'm impressed by the way Fields has rebounded after a tough start. His next test will come when teams start throwing him more breaking balls, but I think he'll make the necessary adjustments. His defense has been better than expected.
Owens is a work in progress. If he's sent down when Podsednik or Erstad return, I'd be anxious to see how much more he improves in his next promotion after getting an extended look at the majors.
John Danks won the fifth starter's job in spring training primarily because of his excellent control. What happened to that control? Is he being squeezed because he is a rookie, or is he simply missing on the corners too much like the rest of the staff and not trusting his stuff? I am afraid his pitch count is beating him more than anything right now. --Jim Crestani, San Diego
Jim, great observations. At times John looks like he's in control, then he throws four consecutive balls. He's only 22, so there are growing pains. He's a good kid, but his body language isn't the greatest after walking a batter on four pitches. I think he trusts his stuff but just needs to keep his delivery more compact. Keep in mind that I'm not a pitching coach, either.
All the Sox try for is homers. I wish I had a dollar for every time Hawk says, "He just missed that one, DJ". No situational hitting, no apparent game plan, a defeated manager and GM. Guess next year I'll be sitting wherever I want in the Cell "Ghost Town." --Karl Mahler, Chicago
I don't think you'll be able to sneak past the guards and sit in one of those seats in the Scouts' Section.
Tell us about Jason Bourgeois. Is he a legitimate prospect? --Bob Freundt, Manakin Sabot, Va.
Bourgeois is hitting .343 in his first 17 games at Triple-A Charlotte. He's only 25 and was a second-round pick of Texas in the 2000 draft. But I'd be a little reserved because of the acquisition of Danny Richar. The Sox are his fourth organization in four years.
First, can you tell me what percentage of the Sox's home runs are solo shots? Second, compared to the Tigers, Twins and Indians, our minor league players come up to the bigs and seem absolutely lost. It seems that our minor league system may be a bit of a problem. --Dan Bowman, Marlett, Mich.
Through Monday's game, 61 percent of the Sox's homers came with no runners on base. The amateur scouting department has been under scrutiny, and I'm sure the player development department will be under the same microscope soon. A scout pointed out to me that the likes of Anderson, Sweeney and Owens started to struggle after succeeding at Double-A. Anderson and Sweeney might benefit from a full year at Charlotte. Aaron Rowand returned for good after a second stint in the minors.
Why have the White Sox had trouble developing middle infielders over the years? The only middle infielder that comes to mind that 's panned out over the last 20 years has been Ray Durham. You'd think with Ozzie Guillen as the manager it would be even easier to develop somebody into a legitimate Major Leaguer. --Dennis, Wheaton
There were high hopes for Pedro Lopez, but he didn't progress after a brief promotion in 2005, and Robert Valido's struggles at Double-A Birmingham put the organization in a bind. The White Sox will have to look outside if they don't pick up Juan Uribe's option in 2008.
Ozzie keeps a close eye on the shortstops in spring training but his main focus is on the Major League club.
Kenny Williams said the slump is his fault and so did Ozzie. I think it is the fans' fault. I've never heard so many people throwing in the towel this early in the year except on the North Side. What do you think, just another scapegoat or the truth? --Eric Hendrickson, Western Springs
I'd never tell a fan how to spend his or her money. It's up to the team to prove they're worthy of providing quality entertainment.
With the way this team is playing, we need to start thinking to the future. But, besides trading our current players with expiring deals for prospects, where else can we look for the team to get better? Why would a free agent want to come to the Sox? The organization has created issues like refusing to deal with Drew Rosenhaus and not giving pitchers more than three-year deals. Why is this team handicapping themselves with these ego driven rules? --Dave, Chicago
If you're looking to upgrade through free agency, you usually have to overpay if you're a losing team. Just look at the past few years with Detroit (Magglio Ordonez), the Cubs (Soriano, Lilly, Marquis) and San Francisco (Zito).
The team has to recruit well for a free agent to return. Kenny Williams did a good job in convincing Konerko to stay by telling him he was trying to land Jim Thome.
There's also the international market, but I don't hear the glamour names like I heard last winter (Matzusaka, etc.).
By eliminating the clients of certain agents, you're eliminating the aggravation of negotiations. You're also eliminating some of the best talent.
Health and productivity are the biggest issue with giving a pitcher more than three-year deals. Vazquez got a four-year deal because of his history of being durable.
Mark, do you think Kenny Williams could talk to the Cubs and borrow Zambrano to come over and beat up on a couple of the Sox's .200 hitters and set off something to spark the team as this apparently has done for the Cubs and their "new season"? I hate to use the Cubs as an example, but they seemed to have figure out where to find this spark. Also, why don't any of the struggling players try hitting the ball the other way for a base hit instead of swinging for the long ball in an attempt to regain their batting stroke? --Mike Datzman, Melbourne, Fla.
Hey, Zambrano is a pretty good hitter.
Mark, I was reading the comments about the Twins announcers. I am a die-hard Sox fan that moved up here to Minnesota area over a year ago and I have the MLB package and I have to say that I have been watching more Twins games as of late and Bremmer and Blyleven are the perfect cure for insomia. Hawk and DJ are the best in my opinion, and I have heard quite a few others. As for the Sox this year, it's not over yet but with the AL Central being as strong as it is, I can not see them making a comeback but I hope I am wrong. I hope the Sox keep Buehrle unless they can get Jered Weaver or Cole Hamels to replace him. --Jeff Skellenger, Farmington, Minn.
I think we'll take a break on the Twins announcers. I have the MLB package as well, and they're not the worst, by far.
Don't count on Weaver or Hamels coming to the White Sox. Weaver is a Scott Boras client and doing quite well.
Hi Mark, I wanted to get your thoughts on Tadahito Iguchi. He has become a fan favorite and has been a pretty decent second basemen since the time Ray Durham played for the team. What I wanted to ask was, do you feel the White Sox should/will sign him to a contract extension after the 2007 season is done, or do you think Kenny Williams will let Gooch go to make way for Andy Gonzalez? --Galen Ly, Chicago
I think Iguchi's sore finger affected his play quite a bit early in the season. I don't see him playing with the same rhythm he possessed the past two seasons.
I think Iguchi's future with the Sox depends on his contract demands. It sounds as if Andy Gonzalez will be a utility player unless he hits his way into the lineup.
Mark, I follow every Sox game possible, most via the Internet. I find the bullpen and the lack of hitting as painful as everyone else. However, I don't see why we should "white flag" this season. If the Sox coaches and players get back to where they should be (if the other teams have figured out how to hit our bullpen, then the bullpen has to adjust) this could be the best season ever. It is never too late before the All-Star break! --Tom Fleming, Richardson, Texas
Tom, I admire your optimism.
No question the Sox have under performed this year. Do you think that the players have tuned out Ozzie? His constant rants are a little like the mom that never stops yelling at the kids. They eventually just tune her out. --Irv Kaage, Park Ridge
When will the White Sox fire Ozzie Guillen? --JJ, Wood Dale
I was at all three games in Phillyneedless to say it was truly embarrassing. I was wondering why Thornton pitched two innings (41 pitches) during Wednesday's finale, and I just read that both Prinz and Day told Ozzie that they couldn't pitch that day. What a bunch of babies! They should have been on the first plane to Charlotte! The mental makeup of this team (coaching staff included) really bothers me. --John, Western Springs
For five years we've heard Kenny and Ozzie express admiration for the way the Twins play baseball. Yet the only time the Sox had anything close to a 'balanced' attack that could beat you with a home run or a stolen base, a bunt or a hit and run was in 2005. If Kenny and Ozzie truly mean what they say, then how is it that after five years the Sox STILL can't play the style that apparently the G.M. and the field manager want? And how is it that after five years, which included daily drills in spring training this past year on fundamentals, the Sox STILL have guys on the roster who can't even get a bunt down? --Mark Liptak, Chubbuck, Idaho
As long as the Chairman lends his support, Ozzie Guillen will be the manager of the White Sox for the duration of his contract.
The lack of execution in bunting situations is embarrassing. I'm surprised there aren't more extra bunting sessions, but we've seen this before with extra bunting not resulting in more sacrifices.
I wouldn't say the players have tuned out Ozzie. I noticed during Sunday's game at Pittsburgh that nearly all the players were on the top of the dugout rail rooting on their teammates.
Everyone seems to be worried about Don Cooper and the under-performing hitters, but I'm more worried about the bullpen blowing games left and right. Do you think it is time or out of the question to start looking at brining up Gavin Floyd, Lance Broadway, or Gio Gonzalez? --Eric G., Ft. Wayne, Ind.
The rotation isn't the problem unless John Danks continues to walk batters and produce high pitch counts early in game.
Lance Broadway has pitched very well at Charlotte but needs to cut his walks down. I think Gavin Floyd, a favorite of Williams, gets the first look if there is a change in the rotation.
Assuming Crede recovers from back surgery, is there any way he or Fields could move to shortstop? --Mike, Scottsdale, Ariz.
Mike, great to hear from Scottsdale. Last year, a scout liked Fields' improved footwork and raised the possibility of moving him to second. Fields also played short at Charlotte for a few games this season, but it was stressed that this was an emergency move only at the time.
Joe has to prove he's healthy. When he does that, then I think he gets dealt and Fields moves in permanently at third. But losing Crede and Dye also means a significant loss of power.
Where is Dustin Hermanson? I think the White Sox could use him? Do you think the White Sox will finally go after some speed instead of power? I think it hurt them the last two seasons. --HLJ, Macon, Ga.
Dustin was cut by Cincinnati on the final day of spring training after barely missing out on being the Reds' closer. The speed will come back with the return of Podsednik, but the power hasn't been the same as it was in the past.
As a Sox fan I find it hard to beleive that they would trade Mark Buehrle. I know he is a free agent and all but to me he is the face of the franchise. Do you think he gets traded before the deadline? --Jim Harlan, Chicago
Jim, I see this decision going down to the final week of July, perhaps down to the July 31 deadline. It could make for some wild times in New York.
Mark, I am a season ticket holder, and now we have a little problem. We may or may not make the playoffs but the core is solid, if unspectacular at this time. Let the guys play. They will work out of this funk, and when they do, maybe I'll have to get playoff tickets again. This is the only team I saw win two division titles, one pennant and one World Series title. Give 'em a chance. --John Molin, Glen Ellyn
Kenny Williams gave them another chance on Monday. Whether it's their last chance remains to be seen.