March 2007

Two For Saturday

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Thought for Today

How about we win two today to improve to 4-9?  Actually, from now until Thursday, our one off day, we play two games per day on Sunday, Tuesday and Wednesday (B games all three days).

Today’s Lineups

at Colorado

Erstand, CF; Ozuna, 3B; Thome, DH; Hall, C; Mackowiak, RF; Perez, 1B; Cintron, SS; Spivey, 2B; Terrero, CF; Buehrle, LHP.

vs. Oakland

Owens, LF; Uribe, SS; Crede, 3B; AJ, DH; BA, CF; Sweeney, RF; Gonzalez, C; Rogo, 1B; Lopez, 2B.  Broadway pitching.

Garland’s Health

Don’t be overly concerned with the knot in Jon Garland’s arm.  It is something he had for the first time last spring and it just took time to work itself out.  Every starting pitcher’s arm is different in preparing for the season.  Most guys, including Jon, also go through a "dead arm" period in spring training and once more at a point during the season.

Fifth Starter

Gavin Floyd’s outing on Thursday is a great example where stats can be deceiving.  He pitched well but gave up a home run in his final outing of work after a misplayed ground ball.  While the boxscore wasn’t pretty and the stories weren’t positive, inside camp, people were pleased.

"He had a hammer curveball, attacked the strike zone and threw consecutive changeups," said Ken Williams.  "That’s just what he has to do."

John Danks was very impressive yesterday in 3.0 IP of relief.  Charlie Haeger pitched in a B Game Thursday and was hit around.  Just like with breaking balls, it is very difficult to judge knuckleballs in Tucson.  That’s why everyone was so excited with how sharply Floyd’s curveballs were breaking.  A good sign.

Baseball Prospectus

There has been some conversation in the media and around baseball that Baseball Prospectus’ PECOTA system is projecting us with a 72-90 record for 2007.  I’d take the over.

In fairness to BP, the analysis is basically a computer system that projects runs created, runs scored and runs allowed for players based on past performances and future expectations (based on historical data) … they would probably explain it better and more succintly than that, but it’s my blog.

In 2005, BP projected us with a 71-91 record, good for fourth place, seven games better than the Royals.  We know how that year turned out, and BP published an article that July explaining why their projection turned out so wrong.

Last year, BP projected a 90-72 record, spot on, and a second place finish.  The Twins were projected to win 94 and the Tigers 78.

As a very general rule, BP doesn’t like our pitching staff because of our ballpark (hitter friendly), our ages, our fly ball to ground ball ratios (given the ballpark) and our declining strikeout-to-walk ratios for some starters.

Offensively, because their projections are based on mass historical data, any older player is automatically assummed to regress slightly each year (a safe general assumption but wrong in some specific cases) and players who have fought injuries at times in their careers (read Thome, Dye) are always assumed to be more suscpetible to injury now.

Anyway, I understand the logic, but still think we will win more than 72 games in 2007.

Explanations

I read through some of the reaction to my posts from the other day.  Please allow me to clarify a couple of points that drew reaction.

When I talk about players having to be willing to trade maximizing salary in exchange for the security of more years on the contract, I’m not just talking White Sox, or Mark Buehrle.  I am talking any player in this industry.  Bascially, every player who reaches that stage knows that by taking a multiyear contract (security), they risk forfeiting some dollars (since wages don’t ever seem to be flexible downward in baseball).  Conversely, teams know they risk a drop in performance or paying a player to rehab a serious injury.

It was not meant that White Sox players had to take less to stay.  Any player for any team who wants a longer term deal, in the end, could not be maximizing earning potential over the length of the contract (call it the Pippen Principle).  My example, if I sign you to a six-year contract today to play shortstop, and if you remain healthy and continue to perform at a superior level, by the time the sixth year comes around, you very likely will be "underpaid" compared to the market in 2012.

But if you have gotten hurt at some point over those six years or suffered a drop off in performance at some point, then you probably have been "overcompensated" (for your actual production) over the life of the contract.  That’s the risk the club takes.

Make sense or just confuse things more?

Also, when I wrote that piece a couple of days ago, I assume a difference between extensions (which you reach with your own current players and that tend to be about three years in length) and free agent signings, which can be of any length.

For example, this year roughly 117 free agents signed with new teams.  Thirty-seven of those (about 33 percent) signed for three years or more, meaning 67 percent of free agents signed for one or two years.  Of the long deals, the breakdown was this:

8 Years … 2 (Soriano and Zito)

6 Years … 1 (CLee)

5 Years … 6 (Suppan, Pierre, Lugo, Meche, Drew and Matthews)

4 Years … 5 (Speier, Catalanatto, Eaton, Lilly, A. Gonzalez)

So, by my math (admittedly some margin of error), only six free agent pitchers signed deals of four years or more with a new team in 2007 (Zito, Suppan, Meche, Speier, Eaton and Lilly).  Nine more sign three-year deals (Embree, Marquis, Bradford, Schoeneweis, Batista, Schmidt, Stanton, Walker, Williams).

My point: deals of longer than three years are the exception and not the rule in the industry.

Friday’s Lineup

Friday, March 9, 2007

Today’s Lineup

The best kind of road game, in your own ballpark.

Erstad, LF

Iguchi, 2B

Thome, DH

PK, 1B

Dye, RF

Crede, 3B

Hall, C

BA, CF

Uribe, SS

Garland pitching.

The game is on WSCR Radio, 670 AM.

Interruption

Thursday, March 8, 2007

Post Number 2 for the Day …

Pardon This Interruption

Because my Tuesday flight from Chicago to Tucson lasted 3 hours and 45 minutes, give or take the wind, I ended up with too much time on my hands.  The result:  I want to get a couple of things off my chest related to three popular criticisms levied against this team this offseason and early in the spring.

So if you don’t care about my soapbox sermon, skip this entry until the next one when I’ll get back to describing the clubhouse, our players, Ozzie, games, etc.  If you do care, bless you, and read on.

Criticism No. 1

The White Sox are cheap.

Our payroll for 2007 is going to be close to $100M and rank among the top figures in baseball.  Not really sure how you can call that “cheap.”  When we won the World Series title in 2005, our payroll was about $75M, so you can see that we have increased spending in this area 33 percent (brilliant math, eh).  Of course, when you trade a veteran player like Freddy Garcia for young talent like we did, your “payroll” goes down, ipso facto.  But the trade was not made for financial reasons and Freddy’s “money” has been passed along to others on the roster for 2007 like Joe Crede.

Some people in Chicago would look to the north and say, yeah, but they spent $300M.  True, but all $300M was not spent in 2007 (it’s spread out over many years in some cases).  Tuesday’s Tribune had an interesting quote from Bears GM Jerry Angelo, who was talking about evaluating NFL offseasons.  He said something to the effect of, don’t confuse activity with achievement.

Let’s all wait until this season ends before we make judgments on money well spent … and that caution goes 30 ways.

Interestingly, some baseball people believe there is a problem of a team actually having too much money to spend.  If the point is to build a winning “team” made up of 25 players, going out and spending on the most expensive free agents (read veterans) you can buy doesn’t really seem to be the answer with any consistency in our industry.

Criticism No. 2

The White Sox Won’t Sign Players to Long-Term Extensions

Wrong.  Just plain wrong.  One reporter wrote of the Sox this spring:

“… that would likely increase the price for keeping the players in the free-agent market, and the team has been reluctant to sign players to long-term extensions.”

The facts:  White Sox players signed to multiyear deals in the past 15 months, including the recent inking of Javy:

Jose Contreras
Jon Garland
Toby Hall
Mike MacDougal
Rob Mackowiak
A.J. Pierzynski
Javier Vazquez

Players on our current roster playing under multiyear deals (all negotiated and signed by the Sox):

Mark Buehrle
Jermaine Dye
Jose Contreras
Jon Garland
Toby Hall
Tadahito Iguchi
Paul Konerko
Mike MacDougal
Rob Mackowiak
A.J. Pierzynski
Juan Uribe
Javier Vazquez

It has long been the policy of Ken Williams and Rick Hahn to lock as many key players as we can into multiyear deals.  But it takes two to tango.  It’s not unilateral.  A player has to be willing to make a reasonable commitment to the club and potentially make an economic sacrifice (if the market explodes), while the club assumes the risk of injury or underperformance by a player.  The point is that both sides need to agree and believe it is in their best interests to get a deal done.

Criticism No. 3

Say Good-Bye to All The Free Agents To Be

A.K.A. The White Sox won’t make the commitment to sign any of their free agents to be (i.e. Buehrle, Dye, Iguchi).

I think I only need one exhibit to rebut this:  Paul Konerko.

We don’t know what the end of the season will bring.  These players may leave or stay.  We just don’t know.  It is in everyone’s best interest, the team, the players, the fans, to have everyone play well.  I don’t think that type of motivation is a bad thing. (And I don’t buy the pressure argument.  These guys are highly successful professional athletes.  As JD faces a Johan Santana pitch in the batter’s box in front of a sold out ballpark, I just don’t think he’s worried about the pressure of his contract, but that is just my opinion, others may disagree).

Like his directness or not (most people do), Kenny Williams’ answers this offseason were honest.  He is not going to lie to you or to the player.  If any of us were potential free agents at the end of this year, we would be irresponsible (to our families, to ourselves, to other players) to not check out the market first and then make a decision.  Free agents have earned that right.  They should exercise it.  But at the same time, that does not preclude a player from coming back to the team if a deal makes sense for both sides.  In some cases it does.  In others, it might not.  Ultimately, see exhibit #1:  Konerko, Paul.

Sorry for the rant.

Random Ramblings

Thursday, March 8, 2007

OK, We Get It

OK, we get it.  Today’s Tribune contains about the eighth story written within the last two months by national baseball writer Phil Rogers along the same theme, criticizing our offseason moves, Kenny’s long-term plans or outlining just why we won’t win in 2007.

We get it.  Phil doesn’t like our team.  Doesn’t like Kenny’s trades and disagrees with how he has tried to restructure our pitching staff for this year and into the future.  He’s certainly entitled to his opinion, but …

Enough already.  How many times are we going to read about it?

Related

I have appreciated all of the Tribune conspiracy-theory emails from you that tie the Tribune’s editorial approach to our club since October to the changes on the other side of town and a new marketing approach/attitude.  I’ve never been much for conspiracy theories, but they can entertain.

One correspondent noted that there was money to be made on the Sox post World Series (books to be written and published, ratings points to be had, etc).  Now, we are just another team … I can’t believe that would be true.

As you read today’s article, remember that Contreras was our No. 1 starter for 2005-06 and is signed through 2009, Garland is signed for the next two years (through 2008), Vazquez through 2010, and the club approached Buehrle last summer on a reported three-year extension, which he chose to decline.  Is there another team in baseball with the quality and stability of those top three starters for the next two seasons?

It appears to me that the New York Yankees are taking a very similar approach to accumulating and developing pitching as we are.  Maybe it’s just me, but I don’t read the same amount of skepticism about their approach as ours.  It also seems to me that an interesting story might be how these two teams are trying to get ahead of the game’s current pitching trends.  Will it succeed?  October will tell.

Yesterday’s Leftovers

Ross Gload just didn’t look right in Royals blue.  Ozzie gave him a round of applause before his first at-bat.

Kenny Williams wandered into the WSCR Radio broadcast booth in the second inning to congratulate the guys for being on the air.

Nick Masset impressed with his arm yesterday and with his glove, stabbing a liner right back at him that would have hit him in the hip.

Some correspondents are correct, David Aardsma in uniform does remind you of Billy Koch, but believe me, it’s just the way he wears his pants.

Former PR director Paul Jenson took in the game along with former SI publicist Art Berke.  Another former Sox PR guy, Chuck Shriver, has been down this spring and I exchanged calls with Aaron Cushman, who worked alongside Bill Veeck for the Sox in the 1950s, during the winter.  See, what they say about old Sox PR guys isn’t true …

Haircut

Jim Thome has kindly offered to shave my head for me.  He looked at the top of my head (which has thinned, I must admit, over the years) and said, "It’s time."

Not sure how my family or the front office will react to it.  And I’ll certainly need more sunscreen.

As we rode exercise bikes this morning, Jim was explaining how beneficial it is for him to play in minor league games during the spring.

"I can move from AAA game to AA game to A game and get three or four at-bats in a 10 minute span," the designted hitter said.  "For me that’s invaluable."

For those unfamiliar, minor league games are played each day on the back fields at 1 pm (beginning March 15).  Several games are played at once and often major league players (pitchers and hitters) are inserted into the lineups.  A guy like Thome can hit leadoff in each inning and get repeated at-bats.

"Take yesterday," he said of our home game at TEP.  "I was the DH.  We don’t have a batting tunnel in the ballpark, so basically, it’s like pinch hitting four times in a game.  Compare that to how much work and how many at-bats I can get in a B game or in a minor league game."

The Sox played a B Game at the Rockies this morning.  There was Jim, in uniform with his bats and baseball bag in hand, climbing into his SUV to drive over for the game.  Reminds you of American Legion ball.

Departing Quote

Royals coach Eddie Fisher to Ozzie Guillen yesterday (they were together in Tampa Bay near the end of Ozzie’s playing career):

"Shut up Guillen.  We used to walk three guys just to pitch to you."

Today’s Lineup

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Today’s Lineup vs. the Royals

Off the clubhouse wall:

Ozuna, 2B

Cintron, SS

Konerko, DH

Dye, RF

Fields, 3B

E. Perez, 1B

Mackowiak, LF

Hall, C

Anderson, CF

Contreras pitching

Back In Town

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Cacti_1

Tucson Restaurants

A poster asked a week or so ago for my recommendations of good restaurants in Tucson. So below is my very subjective list based on 10 springs in the Old Pueblo.

You cannot go wrong with any of the Metro restaurants (think Lettuce) like Old Pueblo Grille (southwest, corner of Broadway and Alvernon, not far from Hi Corbett), City Grill (Tanque Verde), Firecracker (Pan-Asian, at Swan and Ft. Lowell) or McMahon’s (steak, across from Firecracker).

Up in the foothills a popular place is Piazza Gavi (Sunrise and Kolb) for the best Italian, Risky Business (same general locale) for good bar food. Over near La Paloma, you can find Janos (at the Westin), Café Terra Cotta (a personal favorite), Fleming’s (West Coast steak chain). At the corner of Campbell and Sunrise (near where I live), there is North, Ra and a couple of others I can’t remember as I sit on the plane. Nearby is Anthony’s (I think you need a jacket) and Soleil, where I am planning to take my wife when she arrives later this month.

At the corner of Campbell and River, (south of Sunrise), there is Bistro Zinc, Sullivan’s (yes, the Chicago favorite) and P.F. Chang’s.

Lots of our players and staff like Sushi, but I am from Iowa, so inherently I don’t like Sushi. We cook anything that comes out of the Mississippi. You are on your own when it comes to Tucson Sushi.

Some other popular spots around Tucson include:
Daisy Mae’s … very casual but a steak/rib place near Starr Pass.
Lil’ Abners … Ed Farmer swears it’s the best rib place in the country (and you should see him down a rack of ribs).
Sakura … my family has already voted to head to this Teppan Yaki/Sushi place on their first night in town (on Tanque Verdi)
Fox & Hound … (located NE near the Foothills Mall) for those of you looking for a good place to watch NCAA Basketball
Champions … (I think that is the name, located near 22nd and Campbell near the U of A) has a great bar and nice menu.

Re-reading this list, you must wonder if I do anything but eat while in Tucson (well, you know I do golf). But take 45 x 10 = 450 nights of my life spent in Tucson. And some springs, I never even open the oven in my apartment. In spring training 1995, Dan Evans and I roomed together in Sarasota. That was the year to two spring trainings, one with replacement players, one with the regular guys, and Dan always joked that we did not cook a single meal.

While I am on the Tucson topic, here are a few non-baseball things you could consider while in the city…

Visit Sabino Canyon, Saguero National Forest (it’s Cactii, not trees), drive to the top of Mt. Lemmon or any of the other outdoor options that are so great. Watch for rattlesnakes (when it gets warmer) and Mountain Lions. On the Mountain Lion point, I read somewhere that if you see one, make yourself as tall and as loud as you can, place small children on your head, etc. Whatever you do, do not run (something about triggering a chase instinct and you ain’t gonna outrun one, guys). Someone else told me not to worry. By the time you see it, it is way too late. These things are apex stalkers. (Editor’s Note: Remember I live in Chicago. Don’t take wildlife advice from me very seriously).

So my kids posed around a big orange sign last spring that read: “Warning: Be Alert for Mountain Lions” or something like that. We made it into a holiday card and sent it to the grand parents. They sure loved seeing their progeny placed at risk in the wild.

A Connecticut cousin (all due respect to Mr. Twain) visited us last year and the kids, ages 6, 9, 11, 13 and 15 set out down a Sabino trail to “find a rattlesnake.” We figured what were the chances? Well, pretty good. About 10 steps down the path, there was a snake, minding its own business, curled under a tree/bush. You should have seen those kids scamper back up the trail. The biggest one was shoving his loving little cousins aside in his effort to escape the snake. It was Survivor writ large.

OK, re-reading this section (and I hope my wife does not), I realize you must think we are terrible parents. Please assume I have exaggerated some of this for effect, call it fictionalized non-fiction. But they did see a snake.

So there’s some of the other fun stuff you can do with your family and toddlers in Tucson.

No really, some of the other cool stuff is… Pima Air Museum (near the ballpark, military planes of all kinds, even the Air Force 1 Johnson was sworn in on), Zoo at Reid Park (right by Rockies ballpark), The Desert Museum (really a Zoo, this place is great. Make sure you take Gates Pass Road to get over to it), Old Tucson, Kitt Peak (an hour away), and there is a cave to the east of town that is worth the trip out (bank robbers used to hide out, lots of bats, lots of bat guano … my nine-year-old loved it).

Finally, the U of A offers great options. Their sports teams are fun and there is always something happening on campus or in the artsy area around the campus.

I am sure I have omitted much and maybe have made some mistakes in this info. Anyone who has visited or who lives in Tucson, please add to this entry or correct the record.

Special thanks to Kevin Buzard, who I understand is encouraging his MySpace friends to visit this blog. Appreciate the added readership, Buzz. Thanks.

Second Post Today

Friday, March 2, 2007

Breaking Fastballs

Bobby Jenks threw 23 pain-free pitches today, all fastballs, and said he felt good.  All-together-now, "Sigh."

Game Time

Temperature is a cool/cold and windy 61 degrees.  Don’t bother sending along any sympathies from Chicago.

Friday Morning

Friday, March 2, 2007

Today’s Lineup

Erstad, LF

Iguchi, 2B

Konerko, 1B

AJ, C

Fields, 3B

Mackowiak, RF

Anderson, CF

Uribe, SS

Contreras, RHP

Yesterday

I didn’t post because I spent the day attending BAM meetings in Phoenix.  Each spring several BAM staffers travel to Arizona and Florida and meet with all the teams to discuss any issues and plans for 2007.  At first I didn’t think you guys would care much, but then I thought, of course people who read my blog would care given you obviously are all internet advanced. 

Several news things are planned for 2007 and most of it will be unveiled in the coming month or so.  I need to let BAM make its own announcements, but obviously one of the goals is to add more and more video to the site.

Vandals

It seems someone (hmmm) defaced one of our billboards on Ashland (between Armitage and North).  The board, which reads "Let’s Party Like It’s 2005" was painted over with blue paint.  I guess we hit a nerve (or maybe the vandals thought it was a statue of a horse).  Jealousy can be so, so very ugly.

Needless to say, the vandalized board will be replaced.  Remember when "Sox fans" were accused of spraying acid or something on the ivy and it supposedly was going to take years to re-grow?

Read On!

Arizona’s (and Naperville’s) Scott Hairston and our Sean Tracey celebrated Dr. Suess’ birthday today by reading to a group of Tucson grade schoolers.

Sean read "I Can Read With My Eyes Shut" and then took questions from the kids.

He prepared for the event the day before by reading to bullpen mates Boone Logan and Bobby Jenks.  Jenks sat enraptured (joking) at Tracey’s feet in the clubhouse as the reliever sped through the best seller.

Tryout

Tomorrow morning is the annual open tryout for anyone, and we mean anyone, who wants to be a professional baseball player.  Sorry I didn’t mention it earlier because now Tom Quaid won’t have time to get down here and tryout at shortstop.  I think Klein is local to Tucson, so maybe he wants to attend.  Begins promptly at 8 am on the back fields.

Usually, we end up signing a player or two out of this to fill out our minor-league roster.  Many of the players trying out have college or even professional experience at some level.

Weather

I head home to Chicago tonight (weather permitting) and won’t be back in Tucson until Tuesday afternoon.  I will try to post on Monday by providing a list of the top restaurants and places to go (Seuss reference for the literari among you) in Tucson but you won’t get another Tucson report until Wednesday AM.  It will be nice to see my kids …

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