Wednesday, March 28, 2007
Roster Decision Day
Following today’s game, the club will make its final decisions on the 25-man roster, so stay tuned to whitesox.com for our official announcement.
Tomorrow, we play a noon game against the Rockies with one lineup while everyone else flies to Birmingham for our exhibition game tomorrow night. Then, it’s on to Atlanta for exhibition games Friday night and Saturday afternoon.
Do you think there is any chance AJ figures out a way to stay in Atlanta and watch his beloved Gators?
Sunday, the team works out in Chicago at noon, which then brings us to the day we have all been waiting for … OPENING DAY.
Some people have asked why we wait until after the game to announce moves. I have two examples, one sad and one gulp.
The sad one came just a few years ago when Brian Simmons, an outfielder who had earned a job on the big-league club, went down in a heap rounding second base in the final game in Tucson. It turned out he had ruptured his achilles (which I had also done). Brian re-habbed, but it is safe to say he never was the player he could have become.
Another time was during the season. We were making a player move after a game on the road. It was a travel night, so the newspaper writers weren’t even going to head down to the clubhouse after the game. Because of their deadlines, it reached a point where I either had to tell them the move while the game was still going on, or stay quiet and have them mad that they didn’t have the move. So I told them to try and help. The minute after I told them, a hitter lined the ball off our pitcher’s leg (the guy who was going to be sent down). As a result, instead of being sent down, he was heading to the disabled list. Now, the news was out (even though it didn’t happen) and we had to worry that early editions would be wrong. So I learned a lesson.
I’ve been back in Chicago this week preparing for Opening Day and getting our new press box in shape. I think people will be pleasantly surprised by what they see.
Sunday, March 25, 2007
Pods, LF; Erstad, CF; Thome, DH; Crede, 3B; Iguchi, 2B; Perez, 1B; Hall, C; Uribe, SS; Anderson, RF. Buehrle pitching. Adam Russell in relief.
We played another B Game this morning at Colorado with Paul Konerko and AJ Pierzynski taking part.
Mr. Danks, I Presume
After yesterday’s game, Ozzie Guillen announced to the media that John Danks would be the fifth starter, but he hadn’t found Danks (who was in the shower) to tell him yet. So the media agreed to wait, and I went up to John with a solemn face and told him, "Ozzie wants to see you."
Ozzie, Rick Hahn and Don Cooper then broke the good news.
Danks was beaming. What is always tough at this time of the spring is that a decision like that negatively impacts several other guys in the clubhouse. So you often get this mix of happiness and disappointement. It’s a tough time as the roster gets pared down.
As part of an initiation into the big leagues, several Sox players reportedly (I didn’t see it) made Danks go into the stands during a game last week (in full uniform) and serrenade a young female fan with a top-of-the-lungs rendition of Happy Birthday.
Danks then returned to the dugout, scoring tons of points with his teammates.
A poster questioned why we didn’t trade Sean, now or later, as opposed to allowing him to be claimed.
I hope I can explain this well.
At this time of year, some teams have a surplus of players, guys who can probably make other teams’ rosters but who aren’t going to make the final cut for the team they are with because of where they rank on the "depth chart" at their position. So those teams often shop those players to other teams, calling around to see if there is any interest in a trade. Of course, the other team also knows you might be caught in a roster bind, so they may adjust their trade offer (downward) or even wait, assuming that at some point near the end of spring you will have to make a roster move.
If a team waits until the very end of spring to make this move, the player is often hurt because suddenly the market is flooded just days before the start of the regular season. Many of these guys have to settle for finding spots with new clubs at Class AAA. Next week you will see this happen to a lot of guys.
In other cases, teams help the players or agree to let the player know earlier in the spring, which gives him a chance to find another big league job. I don’t know if this was the case, but the Rockies released Javy Lopez last week. At least now, he has the chance to get another job. What if they had made him the final cut on March 31?
In Tracey’s case, we did the player a favor in the sense that we could have sent him to Class AAA again for the year as insurance against something bad happening to our big league bullpen. Rather, when there was no viable trade possible, we placed him on waivers to allow other teams to claim Sean. Now, he has a chance to make an Opening Day roster with the Orioles, and we wish him luck. I like the move by our baseball operations staff. Call it good karma.
One of the great things we get do to is work with the Make-A-Wish program to give kids who are battling deparate illnes a chance to fulfill a life-long wish.
Today, Bob Beghtol, our director of public relations, took a young fan around our clubhouse. You should have seen the kid’s face (as well as his dad’s). Ozzie Guillen, Jim Thome and Scott Podsednik posed for photos. Toby Hall gave him a bat. Everyone signed his jersey.
It certainly is a small gesture on behalf of the team and takes only a few moments, but those few minutes are something the child and his family will remember for the rest of their lives. Puts everything in perspective, doesn’t it?
Saturday, March 24, 2007, 1:05 pm MT
Spent my morning at one of our bazillion B games this spring. But this one was different, much different.
On a dusty back field on a sunny Saturday morning, Randy Johnson and Bobby Jenks faced off.
Writers describe fastballs as "exploding" into catcher’s mitts. You couldn’t pick a better word to describe Saturday’s outings. With no crowd buzz, fan noise or vendors barking, all you heard were the sounds of the game and the loud, loud thwack as another Johnson or Jenks fastball struck the glove.
Other Sights And Sounds
Once Bobby finished his 3.0 IP of work (one hit, no walks, one strikeout), he was greeted by his little son shouting, "Good job, daddy!" loud enough for all to hear.
Sox catcher Wikki Hernandez was the star for the Sox. In addition to two doubles and an RBI, he also threw out a runner at second base from his knees.
Also appearing in the game were Mike MacDougal, David Aardsma and Nick Masset on the mound, while Scott Podsednik and Pablo Ozuna (in center field) got some at-bats.
Sitting so close to home plate, about 20 feet away, it was interesting how guys stepped into the batter’s box. Many drew lines in the dirt, some inside the box for their feet, some off the nearest corner of the plate and some even off the diagonal line of home plate. All were intended to help the hitter visualize where he was standing in relation to home plate. And of course, several hitters drew crosses before stepping into the box.
I spent much of the game sitting next to Ozzie Guillen and Joey Cora. The multiple conversations in multiple languages — english, spanish and spanglish — was entertaining.
"We’re undefeated in B Games," Cora said, although we eventually lost this one, 4-3, to the DBacks. "We’re good in the morning."
Ozzie is constant motion. He’s spitting seeds, talking endlessly, jittery, always joking, always moving.
Joey is the constant bench jockey, generally in fun and often pointed at his own team.
"Hey, I-Pod," Cora said. "I’m watching you. Show me something."
Earlier this spring Cora challenged Pods during another B Game. After Pods collected two hits, including a bunt single, Cora responded:
"You don’t have the (guts) to do that again," the bench coach said. "You can’t get three hits in a game, no way."
Today, after Pods walked, stole a base, scored and then singled in his next at-bat, Cora offered:
"That was a big league knock. That a way, I-Pod. I see you working."
"The thing about spring training is," Don Cooper explained, "that it’s always the same. You can’t wait for it to get here. You can’t wait for pitchers to throw bullpens. You can’t wait for live batting practice. Then you can’t wait for games to begin. Then you can’t wait for games to be over and the season to begin."
Saturday, March 24, 2007
Erstad, CF; Iguchi, 2B; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Crede, 3B; AJ, C; Cintron, SS; Mackowiak, LF; Terrero, RF. Garland pitching.
Today’s game is on WGN TV and WSCR Radio.
All of our minor leaguers took part in media training sessions this morning. In addition to talking to our media relations staff and watching a video from MLB, Ozzie Guillen, Paul Konerko, Jim Thome and one of our beat writers took part in educating our minor league players on the role of the media in our game, the media needs and the best way to make the relationship between the media and a clubhouse work. In the afternoon, we do a version in Spanish for the Latin American players in our system.
Heading home tomorrow night and can’t wait to arrive in Chicago.
Friday, March 23, 2007
I return home on Sunday to prepare for Opening Day on April 2, so this is my last weekend in Tucson before wheels up Sunday night. So it’s time once again to pack up the office. Sure will be nice to sleep in my own bed, sit on my own couch and watch a big-screen television. I admit it, I’m soft.
Return of the Newman
Thanks again to Mark Newman of MLBAM. He’s the creative guy who adds all the photos and clip art to my wall of text. Given all he is responsible for, I am honored he has the time to read and work on this little experiment.
Pods, LF; Ozuna, 3B; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; Cintron, 2B; Hall, C; Uribe, SS, BA, CF; Danks, P. Floyd will also throw for us.
It rained yesterday, rained last night, rained this morning and is expected to rain again this afternoon. Comcast is carrying the game, as well as WSCR Radio, so hopefully you can listen to White Sox baseball.
Only In A Baseball Clubhouse
I walked into our clubhouse this morning, and Jim Thome walked up to me.
"Here, try this," he said, holding out a ziploc bag with a slice of meat in it. "It’s good."
Never knowing what jokes could be happening but also knowing Jim is pretty straight up, I figure, what the heck. So I try it.
"It’s smoked deer pastrami from a deer I shot this winter," Jim said proudly.
I look at the clock. It’s 8:45 am, way to early to be eating pastrami of any kind, let alone deer pastrami.
So I finish the piece, immediately look for a Gatorade, and sit here writing this with the taste of deer pastrami in my mouth. I wonder how long it will linger?
Fun With Numbers
Sensing the usual cynicism among some of my readers about our spring training stats, I had my super interns in Chicago pull our numbers for the last nine years here in Tucson compared to our regular season figures.
Here’s what I saw …
We average scoring 1.3 more runs per game in March than during the regular season. Our spring training range has been from -2.5 (2002) to 0.2 in 2006. (Yes, we actually scored more runs in the regular season than spring training last year).
Spring training appears to add about 40 points, on average, to the team batting average with a range of .010 (2006) to .073 (2002).
And our pitching staffs have averaged spring ERAs 1.31 higher in March than the regular season with a range of 0.23 (1998 when our ERA actually went up in the regular season) to -3.42 in 2002 (a pretty amazing number).
The size of the ranges surprised me. We have ended springs with ERAs above 6.00 three times since 1998 (1999, 2000 and 2002) and above 5.00 in eight of the nine years. The only exception was 2003 (4.27).
During the same period, our regular season ERAs have ranged from 3.61 to 5.24. Last year, our ERA was 1.18 higher in spring training than the season and in 2005 it was 1.98 higher (5.59 to 3.61).
So then I looked at today’s team statistics for this spring.
In the American League, the top five offensive teams (and six of seven) in terms of BA play in the Cactus League. We rank third with a .309 team mark. Only Detroit, sixth at .290, cracks the Cactus League teams.
Pitching is even more pronounced. The top eight teams based on ERA all pitch in Florida. The bottom six are all based in Arizona. We currently are last with a mark of 6.75.
Let’s see where we end up at the conclusion of spring play and what those numbers tell us, if anything, during the regular season.
Topping 2 Million
We just went over 2 million tickets sold for this year. While demand is high, there still are tickets to be had for great games on our schedule. Don’t wait. Act now.
With just over 2 million sold in 2007, we already rank eighth-best in club history.
Last Six Years
Putzing around, I pulled together our division W-L records for the past six years.
Of course, the Twins lead easily with a 540-431 (.577) mark, 18 1/2 games ahead of us. We are second at 522-450 (.537), and the Sox are 38 games ahead of third-place Cleveland, who has gone 484-488 (.498) over the six-season span.
For those of you who have not checked it out, we are selling legacy bricks that will become part of a very cool Gate 4 plaza next Opening Day. In the center of this plaza will be a granite and bronze sculpture celebrating the 2005 World Champions. It’s your chance to leave your name immortalized outside U.S. Cellular Field surrounded by other Sox fans who lived that moment.
Many fans are buying bricks to memorialize a deceased Sox fan, some are buying them as gifts and others are listing names of their family members. Prices range from $175 and you also receive a replica brick for your home or office.
Supplies are limited, so act soon. You can find more info by checking out of homepage at whitesox.com.
Someone asked what team we would take to Birmingham for the exhibition game next Thursday. Probably the only players not going to Birmingham will be starting pitchers who stay here to remain on schedule. Otherwise, you will get our regulars and probably some extra guys to cover us for that game.
After Thursday night’s game in Birmingham, we fly on to Atlanta for games on Friday night and Saturday.
This is far from official (because it is based on our memories), but to the best of our recollection, there have been two for certain concourse shots at U.S. Cellular and two that were borderline (and that we think would likely count).
The two for sure were Joe Borchard’s (2004) and Mark McGwire’s (1996). The two right on the edge were Frank Thomas (2002), which hit right on the railing of a handicap section in left center field, and Cecil Fielder’s (1998) that hit off a beer stand in left/left center.
Some say Dan Pasqua’s in 1991 also hit the beer stand in right field. His shot stood for the longest in ballpark history for quite a while, but I didn’t personally see it, so I can’t comment. I’ll ask "the Hammer" next time I see him.
Thursday, March 22, 2007
I forgot to add my final kicker to yesterday’s post, Hurt Feelings. The kicker should have been that Sports Illustrated, in its annual baseball special, didn’t list this blog among the blogs and fan websites that have the best White Sox info. I’m hurt.
No surprise as well, but SI picks up third in the division behind Cleveland and Detroit. We may all feel indignant, but how about the defending AL champion Tigers who add Gary Sheffield to their team and still have the Indians picked ahead of them? This is about the third straight year the Indians are everyone’s darling in spring training …
Overall, SI ranks us 12th in MLB and 7th in the AL behind NYY (1st), Angels (2nd), Red Sox (3rd), Indians (7th), Tigers (8th) and Jays (9th).
Erstad, LF; Iguchi, 2b; Thome, DH; PK, 1B; Dye, RF; Crede, 3B; AJ, C; BA, CF; Uribe, SS. Contreras pitching.
Brian Anderson did a live spot on Cold Pizza early this morning, and his appearance was seen by the early arrivers in the Sox clubhouse.
"Next time, look into the camera," AJ chided him.
"Hey, I’m not AJ, Mr. Media," Anderson responded. "I’m not on Cold Pizza all the time like you are."
Anderson’s appearance included a self-made hat advertising a friend’s father’s business. The hat read, Merchado Masonry & Concrete.
Wednesday, March 21, 2007
We announced a series of roster moves this morning as Ken Williams and Ozzie Guillen delivered the news to seven players. Josh Fields, Jerry Owens, Ryan Sweeney and Sean Tracey were optioned to Class AAA Charlotte, while Gio Gonzalez, Gustavo Molina and Robert Valido were reassigned to minor league camp (a decision will be made on what team and what level later this spring).
Always a tough way to start your day all around.
We now have 33 players left in camp (15 pitchers, three catchers, nine infielders and six outfielders).
Today’s Lineup vs. SF
Two instances of note from yesterday, one in the game vs. Oakland in Phoenix (where I was) and one here in an intrasquad B Game (according to the reliable Bob Beghtol).
As Lou Merloni’s home run sailed over the fence, center fielder Luis Terrero leapt to try and catch the ball. (AP Photo is above.) As he banged into the wall, his glove slipped off his hand and fell on the wrong side of the eight-foot fence. Luis either did think he had another option or really loves that glove because he vaulted over the wall, tossed the glove back over into the field of play, and the pulled himself back up and over the fence to cheers from the fans.
In Tucson, Mark Buehrle and Jim Thome faced off in the intrasquad game. With Thome batting every inning to increase his AB totals, the left-hander continued to record out after out. Buehrle made sure Jim heard about it, shouting, laughing and egging him on — all in a good-natured way. Finally, the big bopper had enough. In his final at-bat against Buehrle, he hit a bomb, estimates had it at 450 feet, and he just stood at home plate, bat pointed to right center field in the classic Jim Thome pose.
Jim could never remember showing up someone in that way but everyone agreed that Buehrle had it coming. As Buehrle bowed in respect to Thome, everyone laughed.
Watching A Baseball Game
Yesterday reminded me how nice it can be to just watch a ballgame and not have 25 other things going on. I had the chance to drive to Phoenix with my dad and take in the game. It reminds me of what it’s like to be a fan and why you all love the game so much.
On my dad note, Moose Skowron (pictured here in Yankee days) saw me over the weekend and asked (in a way only Moose can), if I was from Iowa?
"Yes, Muscatine," I said.
"I was in Iowa and they tell me you were a heckova pitcher," Moose said.
"I pitched," I answered, "but I am sure you are talking about my dad."
My dad, Ron Reifert, helped pitch his team to three straight state titles, went 36-1 in his career with four no hitters and averaged two strikeouts per inning, went on to pitch at Iowa, hurt his arm and then coached at Iowa and for years and years in high school, Little League, pitching clinics, you name it.
Moose still thinks it was me. My greatest accomplishment was to win both games of a doubleheader once, a la Tom Seaver with the Sox.
Chicago is hitting .341 (138-405) with 30 doubles, 19 home runs and 94 runs scored (8.5 per game) over the last 11 spring contests (team is 6-5).
Monday, March 19, 2007
Sorry, between the off day (Thursday), demands on my time Friday and Saturday (broadcasts, meetings, etc.) and then yesterday (I rested), I haven’t posted for awhile.
I’m in Tucson today (so not at our game) but am heading up to Phoenix tomorrow for our game against the Athletics.
Jim Thome, Scott Podsednik and Jon Garland, among others, stayed here in Tucson to play in minor league games.
For those of you watching, I heard Juan Uribe picked up that rarest of spring training gems, an inside-the-park home run.
You also have gotten to see Adam Russell pitch again on today’s telecast. Keep an eye on this guy. He was a combined 10-6 last year at Winston-Salem and Birmingham. Adam is big, like 6-foot-8, 250 pounds big, and our minor league pitching guys now have him dropping down from the side from time to time. The closest comparison is Jose Contreras. Anyway, keep an eye on Adam and his pitching lines this summer. He has impressed this spring.
As I’ve said before, numbers can be misleading, particularly whey they involve Cactus League pitching. Yesterday’s outing by John Danks is a good example. He pitched well in the first inning and third. Was OK in the second and ran into trouble in the fourth. Not exactly what you want, but not quite as bad as the pitching line might lead you to believe.
Pitching Coach Don Cooper offered these thoughts today during the Comcast Sports Net broadcast.
"What that taught us about John Danks is that he’s got to change speeds," Cooper said. "In the early innings he was getting ahead of hitters. In the fourth inning he got fastball happy and forgot about his curveball and changeup."
Party In The Park
After Saturday’s game, the White Sox held their annual team picnic in back of the complex. In addition to food, drink and dip-and-dots (where were those when I was a kid), the afternoon’s fun included all kinds of kid-oriented giant blow-up toys. Many of the Sox players and staff, as well as families, came out to enjoy the weather and mingle with White Sox partners, staff and family.
Former coach Joe Nossek, in Arizona to visit his son, Scott, attended. It was great to see Joe and Jean.
Feel free to fire any questions you may have about the team, spring training, Tucson, etc. my way over the next day and I’ll try to answer what I can later this week.
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
Tomorrow’s News Today
Leading off in tomorrow’s B Game for the Sox is Scott Podsednik.
Today’s B Game
With the Dbacks ended in a 6-6 tie. Jermaine Dye homered, Mike MacDougal was lights out (four strikeouts in 1.2 IP), and Charlie Haeger allowed three runs over 5.0 IP. Arizona scored three times in the eighth of Boone Logan (3 ER/1.1 IP, 2 SO) to tie the game.
Monday, March 12, 2007
Another gorgeous day here in Tucson with temperatures approaching the mid 80s. Sounds like we could be playing ball in Chicago as well.
Jim Thome absolutely crushed two balls today. His first home run sailed over the 50-foot high batter’s eye in center field where the fence sits 405 feet way. The second went just to the right of the first and one-hopped the cyclone fence that surrounds the ballpark block. Two massive shots.
Trip to Peoria
Yesterday’s successful trip to Peoria to face the Mariners luckily fell on a weekend so traffic was minimal. We left on the two-hour trip at 10 am (the team bus left the complex at 8 am) and arrived home at 7:40 pm. A tiring day of riding in the car, watching baseball and then riding in the car. Tough job, but someone has to do it. Props to all the White Sox fans who showed up in Peoria. The crowd seemed to be almost half Sox fans. As we got gas at a local station before the game, a black pick-up truck nearby had a Sox logo in the back window and an Arizona license plate that read, WSOXFAN.
Good to see Jim Parque yesterday, and we wish him luck on his comeback attempt after sitting out two seasons. Plans are for him to go to AAA and build up arm strength.
Following this morning’s workout, Bobby Jenks followed through on his pledge to support the St. Balderick’s Foundation’s efforts to cure childhood cancer and shaved his head in front of WFLD cameras. Bullpen mates Andrew Sisco and Sean Tracey learned of Bobby’s gesture and shaved their own heads in support. Heath Phillips helped in the clipping, but since the left-hander is already bald, he couldn’t join in the team gesture.
Nice to see Scott Podsednik taking live batting practice on the backs fields before today’s game. It had to feel good for him, too.
A.J. Pierzynski and Herm Schneider watched yesterday’s game on AJ’s computer from the Tucson trainer’s room thanks to Pierzynski’s slingbox. Cool technology.
Each day at 8 am, the staff (baseball operations and coaching staffs) have a meeting to review the previous day’s game (what went right, what went wrong), discuss the plan for the day ahead and evaluate individual players and their progress. Early in the year, the meetings are relatively quick, 15 minutes or so. As it gets later in the spring, the meetings can last an hour or more.
It took two innings for the first bad hop single of the spring. Roger Bossard, our world reknown grounds keeper (and good friend), comes down in early February each spring to get the fields ready for the team. It seems like as soon as Roger leaves, and he flew back to Chicago this afternoon, the fields start to show the wear and tear of the spring.
How do you think minor-leaguer Clayton Richard felt when his errant throw hit Bobby Jenks in the side of the neck yesterday. Richard, a former quarterback at Michigan, sailed one into the big right-hander as the team warmed up prior to a B Game in Tucson. Stunned, Jenks took a couple of steps toward Richard before he realized it was an accident. "Bobby was going for the first sack of the spring," quipped pitching coach Don Cooper.
Count on AJ to finish his NCAA basketball pool by having Florida face the Ohio State Buckeyes. The Gator fan’s guess at the score? 41-14, the same score of the national championship football game.
Looking forward to the arrival of the Reifert family tomorrow night. It will be great to see my wife and kids. They are looking forward to swimming, hiking, warm weather and Sakura.