April 2006

Sox Win

Goochtheplay_1

Saturday, April 15, 2006, 3:40 pm

White Sox Win

Classic White Sox victory today … great starting pitching from Mark Buehrle, awesome defense from Joe Crede and Tadahito Iguchi, Bobby Jenks closing and the big bang when we needed it thanks to Paul Konerko.

Iguchi pulled off maybe one of the most amazing defensive plays we’ve seen from a second baseman during the ninth inning. See it again to believe it.

With one on, Bengie Molina topped a ball over the mound.  Iguchi charged in, fielded the ball falling forward and then twisted to get a throw off to first base in time to beat Molina.

"I’ve never seen that play made by a second baseman," said Hawk Harrelson in the clubhouse after the game.

"Coming off the bat, I know it was going to be a tough play," said Iguchi through an interpreter.  "But I knew I still had the time to get him out at first base.  I knew it wasn’t an impossible position to still make a throw.  But I knew if I was going down I might not be coming back up again.  Right now, I feel it in my lower back."

The keeper photo above is from Ron Vesely. You can click on it to see an even larger view.

Saturday Sunshine

Saturday, April 15, 2006, 11:25 am

Today’s Lineup

Pods, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; AJ, C; Crede, 3B; Mackowiak, CF; Cintron, SS; Buehrle pitching.

Uribe

Juan gets another day off today with hopes that his sore side feels better.  It is nothing major — he has had it since spring training — but Ozzie and Herm want him to get a break to fell 100 percent.

Sleepy Saturday

With the quick turnaround, the White Sox "banged" (canceled) batting practice before today’s game.

Last night’s loss was the tale of two games.  Javier Vazquez looked sharp as we took a 5-2 lead through four innings.  Then the wheels came off, things turned ugly and we walked away frustrated by a 13-7 loss.  I do like how Mark Buehrle’s turn in the rotation always seems to come up at a very good time.

MailboxMail Call

I mentioned yesterday about players and their mail and received a few emails about it.  Each guy handles his mail differently.  Some reply right away, some, quite honestly, might never reply.

Today’s starting pitcher Mark Buehrle is unique in that he makes it part of his pregame routine each start to answer mail.  You will see Mark today sitting in the clubhouse, signing baseball cards and licking envelopes.

World Series

A frequent reader and poster, Tom Quaid, challenged our description of the final two outs of the World Series.  Tom does a great job of keeping the comments to this blog witty and constructive, but I’m afraid we are going to have to agree to disagree on this one.  We describe Juan Uribe’s lunge into the stands for out No. 2 as "a diving catch into the left field stands."  Tom thinks it might be better described as "beyond third base."  We don’t think that does it justice.  Juan turned almost 45 degrees to his right and sprinted toward the stands about half-way down the left field line (Houston’s stands jut out like Fenway’s) and then lunged among the fans to make the catch as Joe Crede looked on from a couple of steps away.  We certainly aren’t contending that Juan dashed past Scott Podsednik to make the catch reaching into the bullpen, but I think it is fair for us to say that Juan reached into the stands down the left field line (as opposed to a shortstop who cuts behind the third baseman to make the catch beyond third base).

See for yourself: 350K

Tom’s other point is that Uribe earned the assist on the final play and therefore did not "record the final out." (Konerko did).  We intentionally didn’t say putouts.  Tom has more of a point here, we think, but we think everyone understands what we were describing … and by that time I think most of us were jumping up and down and pouring champagne over our heads.

What I find most impressive is that Tom was reading the final lines of Juan Uribe’s paragraph on page three of our nine-page daily games notes.  Kudos for that.

Ring

Oops

Forgot to mention to everyone yesterday that our Chicago White Sox Charities Ring Raffle began at 10 am.  You can sign up to win one of three chances (we are capping ticket sales at 100,000) to win an authentic White Sox World Series ring.  Cost is $20 per ticket with proceeds going to CWSC.  Thanks to all those who purchased tickets yesterday.

Cost Effective

A few days ago, fans shared some of their secrets to attending Sox games in a cost effective manner.

This came in from one in-park reader to me directly:

The MasterCard grand slam ticket pack is $12.50 per person.  This includes an upper deck reserved ticket and a coupon redeemable for a hot dog, soft drink and chips.  There are 10 mid-week dates that offer this deal, and the opponents include two each for Min, Det and KC, one Cle game, one Oakland, Angels and Os.  If this sounds good to you, click that link.

KC Pitching

Mon:  Joe Mays (0-1, 12.86) vs. Jose Contreras (1-0, 1.93)

Tue: Denny Bautista (0-1, 4.09) vs. Jon Garland (1-1, 13.94)

Wed: Scott Elarton (0-3, 3.60) vs. Javier Vazquez (0-1, 6.23)

Home Again

Friday, April 14, 2006, 4:21 pm

Tonight’s Lineup

Ozuna, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; Crede, 3B; Cintron, SS; Widger, C; Anderson, CF.  Javier Vazquez pitching.

Home from a Trip

The first day back in town for the team always means a busy pregame.  Players arrive to the ballpark early to set up their lockers.  Chairs are always piled high with mail, memos, boxes from suppliers, etc.

Part-time White Sox employees received commemorative World Series watches as keepsakes.  Many of these were handed out today pregame.  Players also purchased these silver watches as gifts for family and friends.  Many players had several stacked in their lockers.

First day of the homestand often means more media, especially the television cameras.  Paul Konerko was just surrounded by media, and due to demand, Jim Thome arranged through the media relations department to meet with all the media at one time when he is done with batting practice.

Weather Report

It is amazingly warm in Chicago today, and according to Roger Bossard, we should stay dry tonight.  It sounds like the weather will stay south of interstate 80.  Next chance for some rain might be Sunday morning.

Thursday Pregame

Thursday, April 13, 2006, 10:00 am

Today’s Lineup

Pods, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; AJ, C; Crede, 3B; Cintron, SS; Anderson, CF.

Back to Square

Thome_2

Wednesday, April 12, 2006, 3:42 pm

Hopefully, everyone is feeling a little better now at 4-4

Jim Thome has just been amazing.  He is just crushing balls.  It is early, but in my time here, he ranks right up there with Bo Jackson, Albert Belle and Julio Franco among hitters who just hit the ball really, really hard.  Several of his home runs this season have been lasers.  The cartoon image of a baseball screaming through the air comes to mind as his blasts go way, way out.

With five home runs in the team’s first eight games, Thome has tied Bob Nieman (1955) for the most home runs by a White Sox player in the first eight games of any season.

RV Nominated

Robin Ventura, the last Sox player to win a Gold Glove Award (could that change in 2006?), has been nominated for induction into the College Baseball Hall of Fame in Lubbock, Texas.  Voting is done April 26 with the induction scheduled for July 4.

Think that 58-game hitting streak at Oklahoma State in 1987 will mean anything?  By the way, anyone remember who snapped Robin’s streak at the College World Series that year?

Wednesday Pregame

Wednesday, April 12, 2006, 10:35 am

Today’s Lineup

Same as Opening Day …

Pods, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; Konerko, 1B; Dye, RF; AJ, C; Crede, 3B; Uribe, SS; Anderson, CF.  Contreras pitching.

With Roy Halladay now scratched from our series with the Blue Jays, here are the updated probables for Detroit and Toronto …

Thursday: 12:05 p.m. CDT, CSN

RHP Jon Garland (0-1, 15.19) vs.

RHP Justin Verlander (1-0, 0.00)

VS.

TORONTO

BLUE JAYS

Friday: 7:35 p.m. CDT, WCIU

LHP Scott Downs (0-0, 5.40) vs.

RHP Javier Vazquez (0-0, 2.57) vs.

Saturday: 1:05 p.m. CDT, CSN

RHP A.J. Burnett (NR) vs.

LHP Mark Buehrle (1-0, 2.25)

Sunday: 1:05 p.m. CDT, WGN

RHP

Josh

Towers

 (0-2, 6.75) vs.

RHP Freddy Garcia (1-1, 9.00)

Congratulations and Condolences

To my good friend and huge Sox fan James Rowe, who scored twice recently for his high school team in Washington, D.C.  Thanks as well to the Sox season ticket holder who gave James two tickets to Friday’s game.  James and his mom were headed out to Chicago last weekend because of the death of James’ grandfather.  James got onto the flight decked out in Sox gear.  Another passenger, a Sox fan and STH, started talking to James and handed him two tickets for Friday night.  What a nice gesture by the Sox fan during what was a pretty crummy week for a ninth grader.

Off Day in Detroit

Crede_6

Tuesday, April 11, 2006, 1:45 pm

Reading Posts

I enjoyed the give and take of your posts in response to yesterday’s blog (although I also appreciate how many times your online conversation has nothing to do with my posts, per se).  I enjoy it when the conversation goes in whatever direction you prefer.

At risk of continuing the debate around two arguments that really can never probably be "won," I wanted to wade in with some facts and opinions on two topics you were discussing … ticket prices and bullpen use.

First the bullpen use …

You certainly can argue that our bullpen last season overachieved or was lucky.  That is a fair opinion.

It is pretty tough to argue that Ozzie did a poor job with our relief corps.  The evidence is too overwhelming.  The team won 99 games, plus 11 of 12 in the postseason.  No matter what statistics you choose to use — wins, saves, holds, inherited runners, opposing BA, etc. — our bullpen ranked among the top three in the American League.  We won the Rolaids Relief Man Team Bullpen Award for all of baseball in 2005.  Finally, when ranked by a proprietary statistic created by Dan Fabian, our in-house expert, to evaluate the performance of players and bullpens according to season-long situational analysis, we again come out with one of the top three bullpens in the AL (along with Cleveland and Minnesota).  Pick your metric, we did pretty well in 2005.

Ozzie_7You can say we were lucky.  You can say we overperformed.  But the argument that Ozzie Guillen mismanaged the bullpen in 2005 is a tough one to make.  Over the past two seasons, Ozzie has seemed to spend April defining roles for individual pitchers.  This, at times, comes with some trial and error.  Take last year for example.  We began the season with Shingo Takatsu as our closer, switched to Dustin Hermanson until his back gave way, and then were blessed when Bobby Jenks arrived from Class AA Birmingham throwing heat.  He ended the year celebrating on the mound in Houston.  How many teams have won a World Series title with three different closers during the season?  I would argue this was a strong accomplishment for our bullpen, Don Cooper, Art Kusyner and Ozzie Guillen last year.

I think there is an understandable tendency to focus on specific in-game situations — usually failures like Boone Logan vs. Travis Hafner — and criticize bullpen decisions.  But the fact is that all bullpens fail to hold leads at times during the season.  If you look at the 2005 season in its entirety, our bullpen performed extremely well.  Some of this credit has to go to Ozzie Guillen.

I have mentioned before that in my experience, most "questionable" moves with the bullpen are based upon availability.

When you watch a game and say to yourself, "why isn’t Bobby Thigpen pitching now?", there is usually an issue with his availability … either over health (his arm, knee or back might be sore) or recent use (how much has he pitched recently in terms of games, consecutive games, innings and even pitches, or how much do you think you might need him over the coming days).  Teams rarely advertise these issues (obviously, we don’t want the other team or manager to know our closer or specialty left-hander are not available for that game), but availability does matter … sometimes a lot.

Just my opinion.  Not worth much.

And on to price of a Major League Baseball game …

Team Marketing Report just issued its annual evaluation of the cost for a family of four to go to a Major League game.  Sports teams typically question the validity of some of the data, but since the report often receives coverage in the media, let’s assume — for argument’s sake — the numbers are correct.

On average, MLB ticket prices are up 5.4 %, according to the TMR report.  The MLB average ticket price is $22.21.  The NFL averaged $58.95 most recently, while the NBA $45.92 and NHL $41.19.  MLB President Bob DuPuy says, "From the standpoint of family entertainment, baseball remains very affordable compared against comparable entertainment."

According to TMR, the average ticket price for the White Sox is $26.19, an increase of 2.5 percent from last year, while the Fan Cost Index (family of four with food, parking, etc.) is $191.26 (2.4 percent higher than last year), $70 more than the KC Royals ($120.35) and $96 less than the Red Sox ($287.84).  Both figures rank ninth among baseball’s 30 teams (behind Boston, the Cubs, Yankees, Cardinals, Mets, Giants, Phillies and Astros) and fifth lowest among the eight playoff teams from 2005.  Our increases from 2005 are the third-lowest among the 2005 postseason clubs (only San Diego and Atlanta were lower).

As a franchise, we try very hard to keep our games affordable for all fans.  Historically, we rank among or near the middle third of all MLB teams.  Because of our focus on kids and families, we have decided annually to maintain promotions like Half Price Mondays and $1 Kids Days.  We also offer discounts for seniors citizens and large groups.

Several years ago (I am sure many of you remember), Kenny Williams took a lot of heat for his comments about how our team’s payroll is tied to attendance.  He was truthful.  But our payroll is not just tied to attendance, it also is tied to all of our other revenue streams … sponsorship sales, broadcasting, mlb.com, etc.  Any profits generated by the White Sox in a given year go directly back into the team.  You have seen the impact of 2005’s successes (and the projections for 2006) this offseason as our payroll has gone from the high $70 million to mid $90 million.  Our revenues are not going to Jerry Reinsdorf, to the club’s investors or to anyone else not wearing pinstripes (upon review, this was a very weak attempt at a pun).  Our revenues are going back into improving the team, primarily in player payroll but also in scouting and player development.

I tend to agree with you all that everything seems to be more and more expensive with each passing year (I took my kids to the movies and to the Bulls game this weekend and suffered some degree of sticker shock both nights).  But it seems that way because it is true.  At the White Sox, we try to follow a model of steady annual increases as opposed to big jumps in any given year, and I assure you we spend a great deal of time making sure we never alienate our future … kids and families.  You are too important to us and to who we are as a franchise.

Our goal is to provide fans with options, whether it is a Scout seat behind home plate like in the photo below, a first-class suite, a bleacher seat or a spot in the upper deck on a warm Monday night.  We want everyone to be able to afford to be a baseball fan, and more importantly, a White Sox fan.

Feel free to weigh in.  This is a nice topic for an off day.  Some fans offered their own cost-cutting recommendations, which was great.  Tomorrow, we tackle the Tigers again.

By the way, the movie I went to see with my kids was BenchwarmersI am no Ebert and Roeper, but wait for the DVD.  And as for the Bulls Saturday night, ouch!  Let’s hope they get one tonight.

Scoutseat

Taking on the Tigers

Monday, April 10, 2006, 9:40 am

Today’s Lineup

Pods, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; AJ, C; Crede, 3B; Mackowiak, CF; Cintron, SS.  Garcia starts.

Freddy in Detroit

Freddy Garcia pitched poorly in his first start of the season last Tuesday.  Today, he faces the red-hot Tigers in their 2006 home opener at Comerica Park.

Last season, Garcia went 3-1 against Detroit with a 2.61 ERA (9 ER/31.0 IP).  Lifetime at spacious Comeria Park, Garcia is 4-2 with a 3.20 ERA (20 ER/56.1 IP).  Freddy won his last two starts against the Tigers in 2005, allowing two earned runs in 7.0 IP in both.

Kansas City Struggles

The White Sox lost their last two series against the Royals in Kansas City in 2005 (remember that mid September series?) and now have gone 3-6 in KC since sweeping the Royals at Kauffman Stadium last April.  The Sox were 8-1 against the Royals at U.S. Cellular Field last year and have gone 16-3 at home against KC since the start of 2004.

History Lesson

Friday, April 7, 3:30 pm

Time Well Spent

Prior to tonight’s game, the entire White Sox traveling party visited the Negro Leagues Baseball Museum in Kansas City.  NlbmBob Kendrick, director of marketing for the museum, led the tour with historical perspective provided by the legendary John "Buck" O’Neill.  Ozzie Guillen was presented with the C.I. Taylor Manager of the Year Award, while Ken Williams was honored with the Andrew "Rube" Foster Baseball Executive of the Year Award.

Kenny said during spring training that he wanted all of our players to experience the Museum and they were able to stop by and visit the site today.

Time Poorly Spent

It seems that on the way out of the clubhouse on Wednesday, rookie Boone Logan asked someone what time the plane left on Thursday.  The answer:  "Eight o’clock."

So Boone showed up at Midway airport at 8 a.m. yesterday.  Trouble was, the flight left at night.

Today’s Lineup

Ozuna, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Crede, 3B; Uribe, SS; Widger, C; Mackowiak, RF; Anderson, CF.  Garland takes the mound.

Friday Notes

Friday, April 7, 2006, 9:45 am

Opening Series

The dust has settled and everyone seemed to survive the Opening series and all the pomp and circumstance.  Now, on to baseball …

Our extra-inning loss on Wednesday was frustrating, but twice PK was at the plate with the potential winning run in scoring position.  I will take our chances with that situation all summer.

Jon Garland pitches tonight in Kansas City against the Royals.  It is the lone night game of this road trip.

Banners

Someone asked about our plans with the old pennants that flew above the ballpark.  In the past, we have usually sold these off to benefit Chicago White Sox Charities, generally at our SoxFest garage sale.  I assume the same will happen.  If you remember, once the Fundamentals Deck was built in 2005, we did not have enough flag poles to feature all our pennants.  Now, at least, they all are up on the light towers.

Speed Pitch

Observant fans noticed that the ballpark was missing speed of pitches for the first two games.  The cause?  Several boxes and crates were misplaced in transport from Tucson to Chicago to start the season and our lone radar gun was in one of the containers.  Not sure why we only have one, but now it is up and running.

It’s Got to be a Joke

Moose Skowron was incensed on Opening Day.  It seems Moose received a letter from the Baseball Hall of Fame this offseason that said, roughly, the following:

We read that you have a pacemaker.  We would like to request from you (or a family member) that you donate your pacemaker to the Hall of Fame when you no longer are using it …

The letter came in a HOF envelope but the letterhead appeared to be fake.  We all tried to get Moose to calm down (amid our laughter) and explain to him that this had to be a joke.

Then we decided we should get an old pacemaker from somewhere (not sure when you come up with that) and send it to the HOF with a note from Moose.

He was still angry about it when he left the ballpark on Wednesday. 

Someone has a great sense of humor.

St. Louis

As most of you know, our groundskeeper, Roger Bossard, is acknowledged as being the very best at what he does.  He has installed new fields at basically every new ballpark built recently.  This offseason was no exception as Roger put in a new playing surface in St. Louis.  He zipped down yesterday to check it out.

"The ballpark is gorgeous," he said.  "Ballparks are like new cars.  Each year’s model gets just a little bit nicer.  People are going to love this ballpark."

Ring Tour

I spent part of yesterday with Ed Farmer at Cog Hill and a couple of other south side haunts.

Ed carried his ring around with him, showing it to people who were interested and random Sox fans we encountered at places like Mindy’s in Orland Park.

It was great fun seeing the reaction on the faces of Sox fans.

Raffle

A few people asked about purchasing ring raffle tickets on-line and why this was limited to Illinois residents.  Obviously, our choice would have been to open it up to everyone (literally around the world), but of course legal concerns limit the on-line element of this to Illinois only.  Your address will be verified on-line by your credit card.

Benchwarmers

Safe bet that manager Ozzie Guillen is going to be sitting in a movie theatre on Saturday night watching Benchwarmers.  Guillen, who is a huge fan of Napoleon Dynamite, has figurines of the movie’s star in his office.  When you hit the button, the figurines spout lines from the move like, "Gosh." or "Vote for Pedro."

Lineup

I will try to post today’s lineup at some point this afternoon.

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 131 other followers