Keep the Faith
Sunday, September 29, 2013
This Afternoon’s Game
White Sox vs. Royals at U.S. Cellular Field (1:05 p.m., CT, WGN) in the finale of the four-game series and last game of the 2013 season. Starters: LHP Jose Quintana (9-6, 3.45) for the Sox, LHP Bruce Chen (8-4, 3.31) for Kansas City.
“Q” is 2-0 with a 1.33 ERA in his last three starts. He will be making his team-leading 33rd start, 18th at home and fifth against the Royals, and is the youngest pitcher (age 24) to lead the Sox in starts since Mark Buehrle (23) in 2002 with 34. He is aiming to become the 12th American League lefty to win 10 games this season and leads the major leagues with 17 no decisions, which is the most in A.L. and club history. He needs 7.0 IP today to join Chris Sale as the only Sox pitchers to reach the 200-inning mark.
Sox Starting Lineup: De Aza, LF; Ramirez, SS; Konerko, 1B; A. Garcia, RF; Jor. Danks, CF; Viciedo, DH; Beckham, 2B; Semien, 3B; Phegley, C.
With the regular season ending, this is my last daily post. Keep in mind that I’ll be in touch during what promises to be an active and exciting offseason.
Want some thoughts to keep you warm (and positive) during the cold winter months? Think about All-Star and Cy Young candidate Chris Sale, Quintana, newcomers Avi Garcia, Marcus Semien, Erik Johnson and others who will be part of a winning White Sox future.
Look forward to seeing you at SoxFest, January 24-26, at the Palmer House Hilton. Check whitesox.com for details.
Opening Day 2014
The Sox open the 2014 season on Monday, March 31 vs. the Twins, 3:10 p.m., at U.S. Cellular Field. We begin at home for the second straight season and seventh time in the last 10 years. See you then and there.
GM Hahn on the State of the White Sox
From Rick’s session with the media on Friday:
“At the end of the day, I feel personally responsible. There’s no two ways about it. I’m not in uniform, I’m not hitting the ball or throwing the ball, but I’m heavily involved in deciding who’s out there and in what role. It is my responsibility to maximize the number of victories this club can have, allbeit over an extended period of time and not just in one season. The way I see, it has been a very disappointing season and we’ve underachieved. I know there are a lot of people –between the players, coaches and the front office – who feel responsible, and I don’t feel any different in feeling responsible to get this thing right. It has been a very disappointing and long season, with a lot of work ahead of us, but I like the fact we’re very well aware of what needs to be done. One of the silver linings of a season like this is that we’ve been able to get going on some of these changes around the trade deadline. We’ve been able to spend a lot of time over the last few weeks and months talking about what needs to be done and have open and candid dialogue, and we’re ready to hit the ground running in the coming weeks to get this thing right as quickly as possible.”
On outsiders looking for one person to blame…
“There has to be accountability at the end of the day. Sports are a results-based business. In my position you can get a little too hung up in the results and you try to focus a little more on the process and making the right decisions based upon the information you had at the time. We all know in the end, we will be judged upon the final result; what is the end result of wins and losses. Again, we’re at a point right now where the goal is to get us to a championship caliber level on an annual basis. Ultimately, I plan or at least expect to be judged, over an extended period of time and how we get to that level. This is an unfortunate position we found ourselves in this year, but if anything it puts us in a better position in the long run. It’s nothing any of us wanted to sit through or endure, but in terms of the amateur draft and international signing bonuses, come next June or July we’re going to be in a better position, along with the players we acquired at this year’s trade deadline, to be in a better position for success.”
On Jeff Keppinger…
“Kepp would say [the shoulder injury] really didn’t affect him hitting. Personally, I think anytime you have a shoulder in need of repair it has to impact your ability to swing a bat. He’s not using it as an excuse and I’m not trying to throw him an excuse, but certainly it limited his ability to play in the field. That’s why you saw him primarily as a designated hitter or pinch hitter that last few weeks leading up to his surgery. As for [his role] going forward, the intent is to use him in the way he was initially brought here. That is as a complimentary player who can be moved around and give Robin some flexibility. The Beckham injury obviously forced him into greater playing time than we anticipated, but a healthy Jeff Keppinger can play a key role on a good team.”
Anything he prioritizes as something for the team to improve upon for next year…
“I think our runs scored going from fourth in the league [in 2012] to the bottom, our on-base percentage plummeting, the extra-base hits near the bottom are all real issues. Those are all things we’ll address here. The defense obviously slipped considerably. I did see the other day we’ve committed the most errors since 2000. We committed more errors in the 2000 season [than this season] and won 90 some odd games, which I think speaks to a margin of error with the offense. We couldn’t stomach the errors this year like we did in 2000. The offensive performance, the defense inconsistencies and our ability to run the bases are all real issues of concern. The caliber of play we’ve received in those three areas is unacceptable and it’s a priority for all of us to improve.”
On if he connects the dots between last year’s collapse and this year’s performance…
“I look at them as two separate things. Obviously, you can trace our disappointment back a calendar year given how we finished the 2012 season, but I don’t think there was anything endemic that the 2012 team carried over and soured this season. We had a 2012 team end a season spending 110 or so days in first place and first in the division in run differential. We finished that year with the idea that the team would carry over the success and be able to compete in 2013. We did that knowing there was going to be a core change in the team come 2015 just by the nature of Konerko’s age and contract status of Dunn, Rios and Peavy. There was going to have to be a new core here for 2015 and as we sat here a year ago deciding whether to take a step back and solidify the core for 2015 or do what we feel is in our best interest as we transition to that core. Obviously, it did not work out as we had hoped or intended and we got the chance to start focusing on the future sooner given the way this season has unfolded. For me, the way 2012 ended we owed it to the players in the clubhouse and White Sox fans to follow the nature of if we had the opportunity to win to maximize that opportunity. Again, part way through the season that focus switched.”
On if he needs three years to fully evaluate Robin Ventura…
“I don’t know if there’s a magic number of games or time to have a true sample of what a manager is capable of doing. If anything, we’ve seen a very wide spectrum of situations Robin’s had to confront in his first two seasons. I think he’s met the challenges this team has put in front of him the last two years, the good and the bad. I think at the end of the day coaches and managers are judged on results, but it’s also about communication, enthusiasm and the ability to get the most out of players. He’s certainly had some challenges here, but I think Robin’s met all of them very well.
“I think at the end of the day all of us, me included, are evaluated based on player performance. Fundamentally, that may seem unfair at times because we’re not the ones in between the white lines, but as a front office executive who picks the players who play and the coaches who put them in positions to succeed, there has to be accountability with where we go with that performance. I don’t want to get into coach by coach and going through evaluating each guy, just as I wouldn’t sit here and go through each player. It’s disrespectful to say ‘this player had a good year and he’ll be back’ or ‘this player won’t be.’ Certainly, though, we’re all accountable for the performance on the field even though it’s the players who are doing the performing.”
As a person who grew up as a fan of Chicago baseball, what does it mean to have two teams with a combined 190 losses?
“It is really unfortunate. I can’t speak to anything on the other side of town; I simply focus on our own performance. Part of the reason I took this job is because summertime baseball in this town in important. Perhaps I have too lofty of a view of its importance in this town, but I look back at this past summer and look at it as a wasted summer. There was an opportunity, in our opinion, to perform better than we have, and we failed to meet that. Certainly if things had gone better on the other side of town it would’ve segmented for at least some of Chicago to feel better about the summer, but we certainly didn’t meet our obligation to entertain and get people excited about baseball. Ultimately, I feel that’s what our responsibility is.”
“A lot of the performance of the pitching staff does come from what the catchers are doing. So while it is easy to look at a guy hitting .190 or another that is hitting .210 and say ‘oh these guys aren’t getting the job done,’ that’s really only part of the equation. Catching for a young guy at the big league level is a huge job in terms of pregame preparation, sticking to the game plan and pitch-to-pitch focus. I do feel our catchers deserve a fair amount of the credit for what our pitchers have been able to accomplish. Obviously offensively we’ve fallen short. Production from that position, along with other positions, hasn’t met what we envisioned. There’s two ways to go about it. Either the guys we have improve or we get someone from outside the organization.”
The development of the young pitchers…
“I certainly think we’ve gotten the most out of our young pitchers and helped them develop. You look at a guy like Jose Quintana who took a step forward this season or Chris Sale who has finished the season strong, who in my opinion is a viable Cy Young candidate. The Jose’s and Chris’ of the world deserve credit, along with Don Cooper, Bobby Thigpen and our training staff. But the catchers are part of the conversation too.”
How you would grade yourself…
“If it’s going to be for a one year basis, frankly, I look at these things as pass/fail. We won’t win the last game at the end of October and be crowned the champions, so we didn’t accomplish what we intended to accomplish. That may be black and white, but that’s how I view it. I will say there’s been a lot of progress in this organization as a whole. It’s been continued progress with the amateur draft, our presence internationally, the development of some of our internal prospects – Marcus Semien, Micah Johnson, Erik Johnson- who have taken steps forward this year. I think we’ve added to that prospect base and I think we’ve also purposely, as we went about building the team this year, not make any moves that were going to compromise our long-term competitiveness. I feel good about the health of the organization, I feel good about where we are from a scouting standpoint, I feel good about our reputation in the international market and as painful as it has been to sit through this year, come next June and July we’ll have about $15 million to spend on the amateur draft and international market to further solidify our direction to a long-term sustainable success. But if you’re going to look at the one season evaluation, we’re not winning the last game of the World Series and that’s not a passing grade.”
There being too many nice guys in the clubhouse…
“I think the won-loss record is a prism you judge clubhouse chemistry through that affects your verdict. If our record was reversed, I think we’d be getting a load of credit for having 25 good guys who all work hard, don’t ruffle feathers and are all pulling in the same direction and a cause of praising our clubhouse. Given things haven’t gone well and you haven’t seen a guy turn over a buffet table or something, people think there’s an edge missing. I do think there’s a bit of a chicken and an egg issue. I will say Robin and the coaches have addressed issues privately, behind closed doors and that may not be satisfactory to people on the outside who want to see that anger and passion, but quite frankly it’s how we prefer it to be handled. We like to keep clubhouse issues as clubhouse issues. I do feel that having an edge and having a fight and having an approach to every pitch, both offensively and defensively, can make you stronger and better. I don’t feel like we were missing that, per se, and I do feel that having bad clubhouse chemistry can make a good team worse. But I don’t think there was a missing element on this team and that it was the reason that we’ve performed the way we have.”
“We have to get better, and we have to get better quickly. We feel we’re in a good position from a pitching standpoint. Given the starting pitching that we already have under control, whatever turnaround that needs to take place here, we hope to minimize the time that takes. Quite frankly, getting a guy like Avisail Garcia at the trade deadline shortens that time as well. We’ll enter this offseason knowing there are a few areas that we know we need to improve. Our decision is to get those pieces and improve as quickly as possible. However, we aren’t going to do a band-aid approach that will move the arrow slightly just for 2014. I don’t want to sit here saying we won seven more games and we’re headed in the right direction. Instead, we’re going to make moves whether they’re in free agency or trade that continues to feed this effort towards a long-term success. If we do sign free agents on shorter term deals, part of that may be to allow for our prospects longer time to develop. The intent is to aggressively address our needs and get this thing turned around as quickly as possible.”
Potentially landing a big-time free agent…
“It is certainly conceivable, yes. As in terms of budgets nothing has changed from Jerry’s approach and you’ve heard that repeatedly. Now we will have, due to where we finished, we are going to have sizable expenditures in the amateur draft and internationally. Those two things will be fully funded up front and looked at as fixed costs. Is it possible from there that we’ll have enough money to sign a player in free agency, absolutely. Again, we’re going to shy away from a short term fix and get this thing right so we’re in a position to contend annually for the postseason. If a high-priced free agent is going to fit, it’s not going to be for just 2014, it’ll be a vision for the next few years after as well.”
“I think it has to be about maximizing wins over a period of time and that’s what people want to come to see. Now, I will say the brand of baseball we’ve played, I can understand why it hasn’t been appealing to people. It doesn’t appeal to me. Some of the areas where we want to improve will resonate with fans and our intent is to give them a brand of baseball that they associate more with what they want to see. Ultimately, to make a splashy move in hopes of selling some tickets isn’t as important as establishing what we want to here for the long term.”
“We’ll handle it the way we’ve handled it the last two times. We’re going to let everyone get away for a few weeks and exhale. Then we’ll sit down with Paulie face-to-face about what he wants and how he’s feeling and what he hopes to accomplish next year, as well what the team’s going to look like and how he’ll potentially fit. I think he needs some time right now himself just to get away and think through his options. I think we’ll address that fairly early in the offseason so we’ll have some direction probably before the GM meetings, roughly.”
Where Konerko fits after his playing career…
“I don’t want to push him down that route or suggest that’s where it’s headed. There’s a process here that needs to take place. I will say, regardless of what happens, he’ll be remembered as the face of the franchise for this important period of White Sox baseball. One that obviously includes a World Championship as well as several big moments he played a part in. Personally it’s not my call, but I expect to see his number on the wall here someday. I know from my standpoint, if he so chooses, has a lot to add to a baseball operations department or player development department. There’s always going to be a spot here in some capacity, whenever that time comes.”
“He obviously was the face of the franchise here for a very important time. He not only was a stabilizing force and a productive force in the middle of the lineup for well over a decade, but he was a go-to guy in the clubhouse for a lot of guys. He continues to define what it means to wear a White Sox uniform and represent himself on and off the field the way we want our players to be. Whenever he looks back on his time here I hope he does with a great deal of pride and he should. He was and is and will continue to be a tremendous White Sox.”
Quote of the Day
Whatever the future brings, Konerko has established himself as a Sox icon, one of the most productive and beloved players in franchise history–ranking second in games, homers, runs batted in, total bases and extra base hits, third in hits and fourth in walks. Here’s a tribute from his friend and former Sox teammate Mark Buehrle:
“Paul is one of the true professionals in the game. He was the guy that you knew was the leader of the team and everybody looked up to him. He was one of my better friends on the team, just a good guy and outstanding player who plays the game the right way.”
Play(s) of the Day
The Sox tied their season high with four homers (click link below) in last night’s 6-5 victory over the Royals. Adam Dunn (No. 34) and Conor Gillaspie (13) smashed two-run blasts while Marcus Semien (2) and Jordan Danks (5) hit back-to-back solo shots in the second inning. Semien also was a triple shy of the cycle, adding single and a double…Erik Johnson went 5.1 innings, allowing three runs and five hits for his third win. Addison Reed came on in the ninth to record his 40th save.
Did You Know…
…that the Sox started seven rookies last night–Gillaspie, Semien, Johnson, Leury Garcia, Avi Garcia, Jordan Danks and Miguel Gonzalez?
Photo of the Day
To loyal White Sox fans, young and old alike, 2014 can’t come soon enough.