The Tribune's White Sox reporter answers reader questions each week during the season. This week, Nick Masset impresses and a point-counterpoint on whether the White Sox should have bunted in the top of the ninth of the first game of the Wrigley version of the City Series.
Has the torn rotator cuff injury become an injury of the past? For a while many ML pitchers were getting this surgery but now you hardly hear about it. Is it pitch count? Changes in conditioning? -- John Browning, Flemington, N.J.
Pitch counts vary, according to the pitcher's style. I remember Barry Zito telling me during a 2000 interview that certain weight exercises strengthened the area around the rotator cuff. Zito may have lost quite a few mph off his fastball, but he's remained relatively healthy.
Mark, I was reading over and there seemed to be a good deal of focus on the White Sox inability to play small ball (see: Brian Anderson/Jim Thome/9th inning fiasco). While the notion of a sacrifice bunt is burned into every baseball fan's brain as the correct way to execute in that situation, I think that people fail to realize that it takes two perfect plays to get that run in if small ball ensues. You have to have a good bunt (or in the Sox case ANY bunt) and then following that at bat, you have to have someone hit the baseball hard somewhere (whether it's a fly ball or a base hit) in the outfield. There seems to be a consensus that if Ozzie Guillen would have sent Pablo Ozuna up to bat that he would have put down a bunt and then that run would have scored. My guess would be that the percentages say to allow guys to go up there and swing away to get a hit (even though this particular case failed). --Ryan, Chicago
Mark, your answer regarding the bunt in the 9th inning of Fridays' game at Wrigley was wrong. There were NO outs when Anderson hit his double and Thome came to bat. Not having Ozuna come up to pinch bunt there was the single worst managerial move of the season, and is not defensible. Anderson gets bunted to third with one out, and Cabrera would have found a way to get him in, or Kerry Wood with a wild pitch would have. You should know the facts of you're going to respond to the single most perplexing decision for Sox fans all weekend. --Tom Campagna, Riverside
First, my mistake for writing that there was one out when Anderson was at second with no outs. I knew there were no outs at the time.
Second, I completely disagree that not having Ozuna pinch-hit was the single worst managerial move of the season. The upside to attempting a sacrifice bunt is that Ozuna is a more seasoned bunter, and you put the defense on alert by forcing them to handle the bunt and make the right play.
However, Anderson is already at second base and runs well. You run into the possibility of wasting an out and a valuable utility player in a National League game (unless you double-switch) by calling on Ozuna to bunt witih Anderson already in scoring position. Thome is a dead pull hitter and normally hits to the right side, which would have moved Anderson to third at the very worst.
Not long ago the White Sox had a serious lack of quality middle infielders in their organization. Robert Valido was their best prospect up the middle, but on June 25 he was batting around .216; his underdevelopment is well known. Now they seem to have an overabundance that might create logjams at shortstop and second base: Alexei Ramirez, Chris Getz (.304), Juan Silverio and now Gordon Beckham. Where do you foresee these good players ending up with regards to the parent club? Or, what are the Sox plans for these players? --Dave Stoika, Athens, Tenn.
Dave, it's always a great asset for an organization to have plenty of middle infielders. Mike Benjamin played parts of 13 major league seasons even though he was a lifetime .229 hitter because of his ability to play solid defense at shortstop, second and later third base.
Their development will dictate how the Sox use them. The Ramirez signing could be one of the best bargains in recent Sox history. Getz continues to improve and has expanded his versatility recently. Let's see if Silverio succeeds at the upper levels before throwing him into the mix, but I don't think the Sox would have signed him for $600,000 if they didn't think he had a tremendous upside. Beckham has a great future, but I think it's important for him to get acclimated to professional ball before putting a time table on him.
Times change dramatically. Look at what's happened since Valido, Pedro Lopez and Andy Gonzalez were touted as infielders of the future.
I am an avid ChicagoSports.com reader and a big fan of Mark, but I am very disappointed in the lack of in-depth answers in your mailbag this time. I understand it may be from a lack of in-depth questions. My question has to do with the beginning of the season. It seems that every year there are one or two players that play real hot at the beginning, and then play awful the rest of the way through. Juan Uribe is one that starts out with a terrific average through the first 2 months of ball, and then drops off the face of the map. Nick Swisher won more than a few games for us this season in the lead-off spot, but his on base average has dropped significantly. Do these players just get comfortable with thier early success, or do pitchers just figure them out? It seems that it must be more than them getting "lucky" for two solid months of ball. --Justin, Huntington, W.Va.
Justin, at the beginning of the "Ask the White Sox Writer" segments, there was a considerable amount of repetitive questions, such as inquiries about trading Paul Konerko when I answered repeatedly about his full no-trade rights. There also were many long-winded questions that veered away from the point the questioner was trying to make, so I asked everyone to submit one question per e-mail to make the responses more snappy.
OK, now that I've rambled on, here's my answer to your question. It's no secret that baseball is a game of adjustments, and we saw that last weekend with Ozzie stressing to his pitchers to pitch Ramirez inside after he dominated them the previous weekend at Wrigley Field. I think Nick has his keen batter's eye back, as evidenced by whacking Dempster's outside corner pitch for a grand slam that he might have been tempted to take when he was going through his slump. Scouting reports are so important because batters and pitchers are always looking for patterns.
What did you think about Ozzie's and Kenny's comments about the Cubs? --Bernie Graczyk, Chicago
Ozzie has great respect for the Cubs and their players. There's only so much you can do with the visitor's clubhouse at Wrigley, and I can understand why he and his team feel so cramped.
As for Kenny's comments, I'm sure there are plenty of Cubs fans who have his comments stored away, at least until the end of the year.
Nick Masset has impressed me. Has he developed enough to move into the starting rotation (for Jose Contreras). Or, if he stays in the bullpen, do you see the possibility that he can be placed in a more important role, say in the seventh (for Octavio Dotel) or eighth or even closer if the need arises? --Dennis
Nick is likely to stay in the bullpen unless the Sox need an emergency starter and feel that Esteban Loaiza isn't ready. I think Nick is ready for some seventh-inning duties if Dotel is unavailable. He's a pretty good reliever to have, especially if a game goes into extra innings and some of the other pitchers already have been used or are unavailable.
I'm still depressed at how the White Sox got swept at Wrigley, not that they got swept. Ozzie Guillen looked like he was in a trance on the bench and Lou Piniella outmanaged him. At least they can't blame it on Greg Walker! Actually the team hits much better when they are clean shaven! What do you think? --Allman, Tempe, Ariz.
Funny, I don't see as many e-mails about Greg Walker these days. Perhaps the most telling comment came after Sunday's game from Brian Anderson, who talked about how Walker keeps working with him on staying sharp. It's a great trait for a hitting coach to focus on all his batters and not just a select few.
I'm old enough to remember seeing Nellie Fox play. Whenever he came to bat and needed to move a runner along, he would choke up on his bat about four inches and take a controlled swing. I have never seen a modern day player use that technique. Could Ozzie dig out some old film and show Walker what needs to be taught? --Mike P, Las Vegas
Maybe when they play clips of the Sox's great players on the scoreboard, they can freeze-frame some clips of Fox bunting.
I think the White Sox can do great things this year. They have a good record, since our hitting has been extremely inconsistent. I'm a huge fan of Thome but I think it might be time to give up on him. I would love to see him win a ring with us but when he comes up to bat its either strike out, walk, or home run. Most of the time it's a strikeout. When Konerko comes back from the disabled list we should put him at designated hitter and keep wise in center field and swisher at first base. What do you think? --Bobby Strnad, Tinley Park
Because Jim virtually missed six games because of games with NL rules at Wrigley Field and at Dodger Stadium, I think it's only fair to give him time to get his stroke back, as he might have done with his two hits Sunday. Jim said that Friday's game felt like opening day because of the at-bats he missed.
Some have suggested that Konerko and Thome share the DH duties when Paul returns, but I don't think it's fair to either player until they've had enough at-bats to have a chance to regain their timing.