July 2006

Catching Up

Allstargame

All-Star Photos by Kenji Takabayashi / MLB.com

Friday, July 14, 2006, 10:48 am ET

Happy Bastille Day to all

Enjoy a fine Bordeaux today to celebrate the storming of the Bastille …

Sunday

Sorry to again go some time since blogging but that All-Star Game got in the way.  I returned from Pittsburgh Wednesday and then we headed to New York late last night.  Snuck in a round of golf yesterday morning with Ed Cassin, our traveling secretary, Mike Mazza of our ticket office and Donn Pall, former pitcher and a good friend.

Actually last Sunday I had written an award-winning piece about our starting pitching, context, 2005 vs. 2006.  Believe me, it was really good (smirk).  But when I went to hit "save", my computer frooze.  Alas, the words were lost forever.  Little did I know that I would have something like seven hours of baseball to watch later that day.

Talking to players and staff alike after the 19-inning victory, the general mood was consistent.  After a while, you just want one team to win to end the marathon.  But then after you have played enough innings, you better darn well win it yourself.

"At one point we thought about just challenging the Red Sox to a game of home run derby," one player joked, "but by then neither team had the strength to hit a home run."

So it was off to the All-Star Game Sunday night.  Instead of a 5:30 pm charter, we left at 9:00 pm and arrived in Pittsburgh at 11:30 pm.

The Red Sox joined us on the flight.  I laughed as Jermaine Dye sat one row in front of Jonathan Papelbon.  Wondered what he was thinking during the flight?

Papelbon, David Ortiz and Mark Loretta were all tremendous guys with great families/friends.

Markandfriends

Monday

Ozzie Guillen met the media Monday morning and announced his lineup and starting pitcher.  The room was filled, I mean filled, with people.  Ozzie even admitted to being a bit unnerved by all the cameras and reporters.

But he was Ozzie … which by that I mean he was engaging, funny (in two languages) and amazing in his ability to move from English to Spanish and to even translate for himself and others.  More than half of the questions were in Spanish by reporters from Latin America.

After that, all of the AL players met with the media. 

We were trying to get ahold of Francisco Liriano at this time to see if he could get into town to replace Jose Contreras on the roster.  Liriano was in the Dominican, but did make it in time.  Too bad he didn’t get into the game.

Monday night meant workout and home run derby.  I am not a big fan, so once Jermaine Dye hit, I was out of there, headed to dinner.

Mark Buehrle and his family arrived late in Pittsburgh and he came into the hotel lobby just as Phyllis Merhige and I were talking.  He hugged Phyllis (not me) and then headed over to the ballpark to watch the derby.

When he arrived at the ballpark, the guard asked him for some ID.  Mark showed him his player ID card.  The guard looked at him skeptically.  Do you have anything else?  He asked Mark.  How about this, Mark answered, showing him his World Series ring.  The guard let him in …

Prehomerunderby

Tuesday

Now understand, that I have been working in baseball for a long time and I don’t often stop and think to myself, this is pretty cool.  I did that Tuesday night.  My "job" was to sit on the American League bench and call the press box with any changes to the lineup.

This meant my wife and kids got to see a lot of my feet and hands.  My wife chided me for not wearing my ring on the bench.

Anyway, what it really meant was that I could sit there and listen to the All-Stars interact and banter throughout the game … pretty cool.

So, because I thought to myself, this could be a great blog item, here is some of the stuff I heard and saw (realizing I do not want to step on any toes by betraying anyone by reporting an overheard comment):

Pregame

Ozzie gave his pregame speech, basically saying, "We won’t have any signs.  Just play the game."

He also pointed out that this game was going to make the difference for someone in this room.  "Last year, it was us.  Someone in this room will benefit, so let’s go win this game."

At that, Ichiro stood up and extorted his teammtes with a very specific cheer.

In the dugout

Spanish was the dominant language in the AL clubhouse and dugout.

Guillen worked his way up and down the dugout, saying:  "Good luck, have fun and stay healthy.  Vamanos."

First Inning

Penny
Brad Penny is working hard on the mound for the NL, grunting loudly as the radar gun reads "98."

"I’ll just have to top him," AL starter Kenny Rogers jokes.  His first pitch is 83 mph and his teammates laugh at the stark difference in pitch speeds.

On his way out to the field the first time, David Ortiz struggles to find his glove (which features a Dominican flag) and a ball for infield practice.  After a quick search, Ivan Rodriguez’s son finds both for Big Papi.

Second Inning

Players are amazed at Vlad Guerrero’s ability to go "oppo" on a high pitch that registers 98 mph.  AL leads, 1-0.

"I said ‘He is the only guy who could swing and hit that pitch’," said Greg Walker, our hitting coach.  "Joey Cora said, ‘No, Uribe could, too.’  And he could."

Third Inning

AJ Pierzynski sees me and asks, "What are you doing here?"  While the seat is great, the view isn’t.  I spent most of the game looking at the backs of several Guillens and Cora.

Ozzie and Don Cooper were looking to the bullpen to find Barry Zito, who was scheduled to pitch the next inning.  They expected to see him warming up in the pen.  Instead, Zito was standing behind them.

"I’m a starter, bro," Zito responded.  "I don’t know how to jog in from the bullpen."

Fifth Inning

Ortiz scoops a low throw at first base, drawing a standing ovation from the AL dugout and a big, big smile from Papi.

Mid Game

Troy Glaus gave a scouting report on NL pitcher Brandon Webb to Derek Jeter.  This happened a lot throughout the game as hitters shared info among teammates.

For some reason, ARod and Jeter shared the same helmet for each at-bat.  Although each Yankee had his own helmet, it was funny to see these superstars switching helmets like Little Leaguers.  Maybe one fit better than the other …

What a dad … when Ozzie Guillen and his family were interviewed during the red carpet ceremony before the game, he pointed to his son, Ozzie Jr., and said, "He’s the Paris Hilton of Chicago."

Sixth Inning

With two outs and Ortiz at the plate, Paul Konerko tells Cora, "If he get’s on, I’ll go pinch run for him."

"You don’t have the guts to," Cora laughed.

Ortiz did not reach.

Throughout the game, the Pirates scoreboard staff showed each player’s photo a la the Andy Warhol images.  Very cool.

Hoffmanbeaten
Seventh Inning

Walker walks by me and says (this is true): "Gordon will throw the eighth inning for them and Hoffman the ninth.  We will beat Hoffman."

Eighth Inning (I think)

All game long, Jim Thome paced the dugout, bat in hand.  When he finally got the chance to pinch hit, his bat shattered as the pitch hit the very end.  So much for that relationship.

Final Inning

Before the bottom of the ninth, Konerko walked up to Twins catcher Joe Mauer and laughed, "Settle him (Mariano Rivera) down out there if he gets nervous."

With the tying run on second base, two outs and Carlos Lee at the plate, Cora exclaims …

"It had to come down to this, an ex-White Sox …"

Rivera won the Panamanian vs. Panamanian showdown …

Odds and Ends

I sat down with Ozzie last Friday and he answered several questions about the team and the second half.  We sent it out this week as a newsletter.  If you haven’t watched, check it out.

Because of your requests, we also now have all of our advertising spots up on the site.  Check those out as well.

When I have a second this weekend, I am going to pull together the best AJ lines from last week and let you all vote on the preferred winner.  Stay tuned for that.

Sorry for the brevity and grammar in this post, but I am rushing to go have lunch with Art Berke of Sports Illustrated.  Art is a huge Sox fan and has promised to bring an SI model to lunch with us here in Manhattan.

Hopefully, more later from Yankee Stadium.

When is the last time the Sox had the same pitcher start consecutive games?

Ozziesallstars

Saturday Morning

Saturday, July 8, 2006, 10:15 am

Early Morning

While we know fans appreciate the 7:35 pm starts on Fridays because of traffic, the quick turnaround for a 12:15 pm Saturday game is a killer.  Clubhouse guys said they walked out of here just before 1 a.m. and were back in by 8 a.m.  Tough to bounce back for staff and players alike (I know I don’t do it as well as I used to, but I’m just old).

Today’s Lineup

Pods, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; AJ, C; Crede, 3B; Mack, CF; Cintron, SS; Garcia on the mound.

Hafner

I do feel sorry that Cleveland’s Travis Hafner is not on the All-Star Team.  I don’t know Travis personally, but the AL team would certainly be better with his bat on our bench.  And I want to win the game.

The problem is that every single year one or more very deserving 1B/DHs in the AL gets left off the team, especially in a National League park.  Frank Thomas did not make the All-Star Team in 2000 when he was hitting .333 with 26 home runs and 75 RBI at the break.  In 2004, Paul Konerko was batting .296 with 22 homers and 59 RBI and did not make the team.

Unfortunately for Hafner (and really all the AL 1B/DH), there are so many first-class offensive performers at that position that someone will be left out.  And worse news is that next year’s game is again at an NL venue, San Francisco, so the problem isn’t going away.  Personally, I don’t understand why the ASG doesn’t always feature a DH.  It would allow for more of these players to appear, and also would let managers dictate how and when their starters came out of the game, rather than the flow of the game (i.e. time to pinch hit for my pitcher, so I double switch to remove my starting shortstop).

Having to use an extra player as a DH during interleague play is certainly a disadvantage for the NL clubs in our ballparks.  But in the case of an All-Star Game, there are more than enough candidates to fill the role (Pujols, anyone?).

Just my opinion …

When we looked at the five candidates for the Final Vote, we actually thought the race would be Hafner and AJ.  The Indians were at home, against the Yankees, so we assumed a lot of attention and media coverage.  Statistically, Hafner dominated the other candidates.  While Liriano and Verlander are outstanding young pitchers, neither seemed to have the national (or international) appeal and name recognition at this point in time to capture a fan vote.

I’m really not sure why Hafner did not receive more support.  But the way it is set up, it’s a popularity contest/how many votes can you generate.  AJ and White Sox fans do not have to apologize for his winning.

The Jockey

The clubhouse can be a tough world …

As Ed Farmer and third base coach Joey Cora exchanged insults the other day, Farmer finally silenced Cora with the following …

"How’s Barbaro?  If you had just let up on the reins a little bit, that horse would still be OK."

Cold.  Cora, nicknamed "The Jockey," earned the moniker for both his size and his habit of verbally riding someone unmercifully.

He just laughed and walked away.

Redman and Buehrle

Kansas City’s Mark Redman made Ozzie Guillen look pretty smart — despite what a KC columnist might argue — with his selection to the All-Star Team by allowing just two runs over 8.0 IP in his final start before the break to win his fifth straight game for the Royals.

Mark Buehrle on the other hand was hoping his start last night would vindicate his manager for selecting him to his third All-Star Team.  Buehrle had a rough outing at Wrigley last Sunday in what turned into a slo pitch softball game.

I haven’t seen Mark yet today, but I am sure he was disappointed.  A few big hits early in last night’s game would have changed the entire contest.

Oh well, at least we get to play another game just hours later.

Friday Night

Friday, July 7, 2006, 6:22 pm

Playoff Atmosphere

Electricity is in the air tonight before the Red Sox vs. White Sox series opener.  Brings back memories of October 2005 … very good memories.

Tonight’s Lineup

Ozuna, LF; Cintron, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; Crede, 3B; Uribe, SS; Widger, C; Anderson, CF.  Buehrle on the hill.

We struggle at times against unknown pitchers (guys we haven’t faced), especially left-handers.  Let’s see how tonight goes.

AJ Followup

I passed all your comments and posts along to AJ today, explaining how the three days worth of posts showed how much passion you guys brought to the process.

I Punched AJ

SoxprideclubWe are offering special t-shirts for purchase, exclusively to members of the Sox Pride Club, that read "I punched AJ" with a whitesox.com logo and details about the Final Vote on the back.

If you are a member of the Club, you should have received the email offer today.  If you aren’t, it’s not too late to join.  Sorry about the $21.95 cost, but we tried to keep it as low as we could.

Anyway, order yours today if you want one.

Iguchi

Continues to improve but Ozzie Guillen might still want to hold him out of tomorrow’s game.  He will wait until after the game tonight to decide.

Iguchi is the star of our newest television spot, called "Play Like A Star."  The 30-second spot, which should debut next week, features his amazing acrobatic play from earlier in the year.  I gave Tad an advanced copy DVD earlier today.

Congratulations

Thursday, July 6, 2006, 6:02 pm

Punch That

Congratulations to AJ Pierzynski and all White Sox fans on becoming the final All-Star today after holding off a late surge by Minnesota’s Francisco Liriano.

The announcement was made over the ballpark intercom at the same time ESPN announced the news nationally.

Aj_5
AJ was congratulated by teammates and media members while manager Ozzie Guillen just rolled his eyes.

AJ has several thank yous prepared to go out, but we cannot say enough about the support and time and effort devoted by thousands and thousands of White Sox fans around the world. 

You are now 2-for-2 in elections — in fine Chicago tradition.  My guess is we won’t be getting a third chance anytime soon unless we win this thing again.

You all should be proud tonight.  Sox Pride.

It will be fun to see AJ’s reception from our fans …

This Is It

Thursday, July 6, 2006, 4:04 pm

Less Than One Hour to Go

Word from BAM headquarters is that AJ holds a slight lead over Francisco Liriano but that the Twins pitcher is gaining.  The race is going to be decided in the next hour …

… so vote again and again and again …

First Thing Thursday

Thursday, July 6, 2006, 9:35 am

AJ Update

Word from MLBAM early this morning has AJ taking over a slim lead from Francisco Liriano is balloting for the American League’s 32nd Man on the All-Star Team.

Way to go White Sox fans.  Just under eight hours remain in the race (which ends at 5 pm CT today), so keep clicking for AJ.

I read all the posts on yesterday’s blog.  Great ideas and some very funny lines.

Let’s follow up Scott Podsednik’s win in 2005 with an AJ triumph in 2006.

Go Sox!

Wednesday Pregame

Wednesday, July 5, 2006, 6:21 pm

Tonight’s Lineup

Pods, LF; Cintron, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; AJ, C; Crede, 3B; Mack, CF; Uribe, SS.  Garland on the mound.

Injury Updates

Crede is back in the lineup tonight (see above) and will join AJ at Taste of Chicago tomorrow (see press release).

Ozzie thinks it will be another day or two for Tadahito Iguchi.  He ran in the outfield today and continues to get better.  Ozzie expects him to be back for the weekend.

Dustin Hermanson is beginning his rehab assignment tonight at Class AAA Charlotte.

Punch AJ

Keep voting.  Keep the faith.  Two years in a row would be a great accomplishment for our fans.

To have some fun with this … the Milwaukee Brewers offered fans 10 reasons to vote for Chris Capuano.  We are countering with 12 reasons (because we wanted to have more than the Brewers and because AJ’s uniform number is 12) to vote for AJ.  The email should go out sometime tonight, overnight or tomorrow with our 12 reasons.  We also want fans to contribute.  Feel free to submit your best reason to "vote for AJ" on this blog.  We will pick one winner (decisions by the judges are final) and the winner will receive four tickets to a future game and an autographed AJ ball.

An example:  "National League fans need someone to boo."

Come up with something better …

Grinder Rules

Many of you have asked about our Grinder Rules.  I thought they were up on the website, but have learned they are not.  Therefore, here you go in a couple of versions:

1     Win. Or die trying.

2     Be MVP, M T W T F S S

3     Bite worse than your bark.

4    Knowing what’s coming and hitting what’s coming–not the same thing.

5    Every pitch is full count.  Every inning, the ninth.  Every game, game seven.

6    The best seat in the house is often determined by the best players in the house.

7    Grinder ball requires speed, defense, and discipline.  And immigration.

8    Play every game like it’s your last.

9    Be realistic, expect miracles.

10    Only one statistic matters:  W

11    When jumping on the White Sox bandwagon, do not, I repeat DO NOT, keep your  hands and arms inside the wagon at any time.

12    There is only one acceptable reason not to hold onto the ball:  Amputation

13    There is only one thing more valuable than ability. The ability to recognize it.

14    It’s a mother’s right to yell at her boys.

15    Be a highlight reel.

16    Level the playing field. Preferably while the other team’s on it.

17    Never be satisfied with what you have achieved. It pales in comparison to what you can achieve.

18    NEVER be late for the National Anthem.  No matter what nation you’re from.

19    A reputation is not built on what you are going to do.

20    Hot dog vendors don’t take credit.

21    Thieves will be punished. Swiftly, harshly and repeatedly.

22    When attending a Chicago White Sox game, don’t blink.

23    When all is said and done, make sure you’ve “done” more than you said.

24    Play like there are no rules.—like gravity for instance.

25    A good outfielder doesn’t see the wall.  He tastes it.

26    Your hitting should serve as a warning. To low flying aircraft.

27    If the fence won’t come to you, go to the fence.

28    Always give fans something they can take away from the game.  Like the other team’s pride.

29    Play like a star. Never act like one.

30    Good enough, isn’t.

31    Never swing at foolish pitches. Unless they’re foolishly belt high, right down the middle.

32     Respect respect.

33    The best way to get out of a hole is to dig deeper.

34    For some, it’s not a choice. It’s genetic.

36    You can’t spell “win” without a few “k’s”.

37    Never walk.  Even when you walk.

38    You’re either counted on or counted out.

39    Be a man.  Play like a boy.

41    Never underestimate the power of power.

43    Step up to the plate even if you’re not stepping up to the plate.

44    There is more to baseball than peanuts and cracker jacks.

45    The best defense is a good win.

46    Respect the past, people that are shoeless, and anyone named Joe.

47    Flying does not make you superman.  Getting up and making the throw to first for the force out, now that makes you Superman.

49    There are no starting pitchers.  Only finishing pitchers.

50    Be head and shoulders and arms and legs and spine and torso above the competition.

53    There are always willing players: Those willing to do whatever it takes to win. And those willing to watch them.

54    If you can’t take the heat get out of the batter’s box.

55    It’s called stepping up to the plate for a reason.

57    There’s power in numbers. Like #14, #23, #5, #24, #15, #25…

58    Never throw back a home run ball, even if it from the other team.

59    GO. GO. GO.

61    There is no “I” in team. But there is one in quit.

63    You don’t have to be a coach to coach.

65    Do not sit in the leftfield bleachers, home to Scott Podsednik.

66    There is nothing loveable about losing.

69    There’s always this year. (Well, and last year.)

71    If at first you succeed, repeat.

73    When bringing the family to a White Sox game know your limits.

74    Believe in magic. Not magic numbers.

75    Heroes aren’t made.  They’re rotated.

76    Pitch. Hit. Win. Repeat.

78    Ixnay on talkin’ about the ayoffsplay

88    Make history, history.

89    Taste victory and be hungry forever.

92    Interpretive dance at 101 M.P.H.

95    Be more than a one hit wonder.

96    Expect the unexpected at U.S. Cellular field, home of the White Sox.

98    Batters should fear your fast ball.  Not because it can get them out. Because it can knock them out.

99    Intimidation can come in the form of a screaming 99 MPH fastball or a screaming 9 year-old.

162    Crying in baseball is acceptable only if champagne burns your eyes.

174    Hoist the city up on your shoulders. They’ll return the favor.

 

Wednesday News

Wednesday, July 5, 2006, 9:51 am

Vote Update

MLBAM announced this morning that A.J. Pierzynski is running a close second to Minnesota’s young pitcher Francisco Liriano in on-line voting for the 32nd member of the 2006 AL All-Star Team.  Voting ends at 5 pm CT tomorrow.

So all this means is that White Sox fans need to step it up in voting for the guy everyone else in the AL loves to hate.

We did some overnight polling and found that, as expected, AJ is showing poorly in Minnesota, San Francisco, Houston, the North Side and in the Orange County/Anaheim area.  It is the Chicago vote that is keeping him on pace with Liriano, so Sox fans need to keep hammering away at your keyboards.

Crede Update

X-rays on Joe Crede were negative, so the third baseman is listed as day to day after being hit by a pitch yesterday.

Fireworks on the Fourth

Tuesday, July 4, 2006, 2:41 pm

Today’s Lineup

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

Tad’s Health

Tadahito Iguchi was sitting on a table in the trainer’s room with stim attached to his wrapped and sore left ankle.

"It is feeling better today," Iguchi told me through his interpreter, Ryan McGuire.  "As soon as I can, I am going to be back in the lineup."

Iguchi sprained his ankle as he tumbled over right fielder Jermaine Dye last night.  Iguchi made the catch as his ankle twisted under Dye’s falling body.

"We have him on a rehab routine of ice, stimulation and ultrasound," said Head Trainer Herm Schneider.  "Sprains are on a scale of mild to moderate to severe.  In Tad’s case, this is a one plus sprain, which means it falls between mild and moderate.

"As soon as he can move and handle the pain, he can be back on the field," said Schneider, who indicated it should only be a matter of days.  "With sprains, the swelling sometimes lingers but he should be back soon."

Golf

The White Sox episode of The All-Star Big Break debuts tonight on the Golf Channel (9:30 pm CT on The Golf Channel).

Filmed in Tucson this spring at Starr Pass Golf Course, the show pits our coaches (Kenny, Ozzie, Harold and Rock) against players (Dye, Podsednik, AJ and Gar). 

The entire team sat around the television in the clubhouse earlier today watching the competition.  As you can imagine, there was quite a bit of bragging, at least by one team.

Highlights of the show include an Ozzie Guillen putt, a dramatic shot by Williams and deep drives by Jermaine Dye.  Tune in tonight to see all the action.

Hermanson

Dustin Hermanson is very close to beginning a rehab assignment in the low minors.

Punch AJ

Keep voting for AJ as the 32nd Man.  Our campaign is in full swing.  Voting closes at 5 pm on Thursday, and you can vote as many times as you want (we are told).

Vote, vote, vote and vote again …

Monday and the Birds

Monday, July 3, 2006, 2006, 1:40 pm

Tonight’s Lineup

Pods, LF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; Konerko, 1B; Dye, RF; Crede, 3B; Uribe, SS; Widger, C; Anderson, CF. Garcia on the mound.

Aj_4

Campaigning for AJ

Gears are turning here at the ballpark to begin our campaign for AJ as the 32nd member of the AL All-Star Team.  Our fans set a high bar last year, electing outfielder Scott Podsednik with a record vote.  Let’s do the same for AJ.

Jokes around the clubhouse has people standing in line to "punch AJ" on their ballots, and some wondered if anyone other than AJ would have to contend with a negative vote.

You can vote or text message for AJ at whitesox.com.  Start clicking now.

All-Star Team

It was fascinating to be a small part of watching how the All-Star Team was selected.  Many fans may be under the impression that the manager sits down and makes his pick.  That is far from the case.

Leading up to last weekend, we had prepared page after page of stats and player rankings, along with projected pitching rotations.  Ozzie spoke with managers of other teams.

As you know, fans selected the eight starters.  Players vote on the the next eight players, one per position.  Players also select eight pitchers, five starters and three relievers.  This leaves seven players for Ozzie to select.  Of the seven, four must be pitchers, and he had to cover the four teams — Bal, Oak, KC and Cle — who did not have a player among the fan and player choices.  So, really, Ozzie had three picks of his own and used them on Konerko, Jenks and Buehrle. 

Because the players selected Jim Thome as the backup first baseman, Konerko was needed as the only true first baseman on the team.  Jenks received a lot of support from the players vote as well and obviously is one of the top relievers in the game.

Grady Sizemore was Ozzie’s easy choice as the Indians rep (and he also gave the AL another center fielder), Miguel Tejada was the Orioles selection so that he had another middle infielder to play with in terms of game strategy.  And Barry Zito and Mark Redman were the pitchers selected to represent their teams.

Starting pitching was an concern.  Three of the five starters chosen by the players are scheduled to pitch Sunday, which limits them to at most one inning in the ASG.  So in Buehrle, Zito and Redman, Ozzie was adding pitchers who could give him innings should the game go to extras.

Pitchers like Mike Mussina and Curt Schilling are having great years but are scheduled to throw Sunday.  Adding them to the team would not solve the innings issue.

Hope that explains some of the behind-the-scenes concerns with picking the team.  It was sure an experience to sit in on the meetings, watch, listen and learn.

In the end, it’s Ozzie’s team, and he believes its a team he can win this game with … after all, we want home field advantage.

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