Saturday, February 28, 2009
Anybody Out There
How about a White Sox vs. Cubs game with no broadcasts? No TV, no radio, nothing. I’m surprised. I arrived here assuming today’s game was on TV or radio somewhere, but no … so glad I am here (not to mention the 80 degree day).
This is one of five times the two teams meet this spring. Prior to the game, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was asked about the increase in meetings.
“Now, it’s just a regular spring training game,” he said. “Before, it was showtime!”
So in my last post I wrote about actually winning two games in a row, in Tucson, over the Rockies and Dbacks. I think I called it historic.
So, today, I checked with Pat O’Connell of our media relations staff, to see just how historic.
“When was the last time we did that?” I asked.
“Last year,” he replied.
Sure enough, we won three straight last spring to improve to 3-1 in early May.
I’m getting old and my memory is fading.
Ozzie was upbeat about the two victories, especially with the way the young players acquitted themselves.
“Very impressed, very happy, very pleased,” he said. “Not because we won a couple of games but because of the way we played the game. You win with pitching and defense.”
The White Sox and Dodgers open their brand-spanking new ballpark, Camelback Ranch — Glendale, with a 1:05 p.m. contest (shown in Chicago on CSN, nationally on MLB Network and heard on WSCR Radio).
“It will be a special day for the White Sox organization,” Guillen said. “We will enjoy it the best we can.
“I was the first on the field in Sarasota and at U.S, Cellular Field. It’s the 50th anniversary of the 1959 World Series, and it’s a great, great complex. You’re always pleased when baseball gets better and better with newer and newer facilities.”
After pitching today, left-hander Matt Thornton boards a plane to join Team USA for the WBC.
When asked by a Sox TV crew what it will feel like to take the mound with guys like Derek Jeter behind him, Thornton said, “It’s going to be like playing in a video game where I got to pick the team.”
Thursday, February 26, 2009
We Won One!
Yesterday, a press box observer noted that 1. it was February and 2. we were in Tempe and noted our chances of winning were slim and none.
Well, today, we got one. We actually beat Colorado in Tucson in February, 4-1.
Cuban Dayan Viciedo singled sharply into left field in his very first at-bat as a professional in this country.
“I’m happy. I feel great,” he said through interpreter Joey Cora. “I’m just happy I could finally play in a major league game.
Viciedo acknowledged the speed of a big league game.
“I know I need to keep working on my defense,” he said. “I understand that’s what it is going to take to be here.”
Most of the club — minus today’s pitchers — is sticking around for tomorrow’s game against the Dbacks at TEP. I actually drove down last night to miss traffic and to steal another night of eating at some favorite Tucson restaurants.
So for those of you with tickets to tomorrow’s game, here’s our lineuo:
Owens, LF; Wise, RF; PK, 1B; Betemit, SS; Viciedo, 3B; Anderson, CF; Broussard, 1B; Getz, 2B; Stewart, C. Danks pitches.
After tomorrow’s game (what do you think our chances are against the Dbacks in Tucson? … but we are on a roll!!), we travel to Mesa on Saturday and then open our new digs in Glendale against the Dodgers on Sunday at 1:05 pm (2 pm in Chicago). The game will be carried on CSN and WSCR.
Monday, February 23, 2009
Never Make That Mistake Again
Prior to today’s workout, third base coach Joey Cora called all of the White Sox players and staff together on a back practice field. Media members edged closer and television cameras zoomed in.
In addition to the usual daily announcements (today’s schedule, travel plans for the week, etc), Cora had a trick up his sleeve on Monday.
He wanted to play a game of “Who am I?”
You see, a couple of days ago, 2008 first round pick Gordon Beckham stepped into the box to hit during a round of batting practice. AJ (of course) was catching.
Number 80? the veteran asked. Kinda a high number for a prospect.
“What number should I have?” Beckham replied.
“I heard they were un-retiring No. 3, Harold’s numbers,” AJ countered.
“Harold who?” the rookie answered.
Oops. Might want a mulligan.
Flash forward then to Cora. He dramatically pulled out a sheet that detailed all of Harold Baines’ accomplishments.
With great aplomb, Cora listed all of Baines statistics, emphasizing where he ranks in baseball history …
“57th All-tme!” he yelled as players and staff stiffled giggles.
Beckham meanwhile took it all in stride with a big smile on his face.
When Cora finished, he asked, “so who am I? Just in case no one knows, the next time you are at U.S. Cellular Field, you can look up in right field and see a bronze statue of this man. It will be there forever!”
He then pointed to Beckham.
“Who am I?”
“Harold Baines,” Beckham admitted as Harold jokingly introduced himself and signed a photo for Beckham. The team roared.
“But I knew that,” Beckham explained.
He certainly does now.
Sunday, February 22, 2009
Wed at LAA
Richard, Marquez, Thornton, Williams, Russell, Link, Harrell, Salmon, Wassermann
Thu at Colo
Floyd, Carrasco, Egbert, Broadway, Nunez, German
Fri at Ari
Danks, Salmon, Russell, MacDougal, Van Ben, Santeliz
Fri vs. LAD (SS)
Poreda, Linebrink, Jenks, Link, Harrell, Wassermann
Camelback Ranch Facility
Today’s Sun-Times included a great story by Dave Hoekstra on our new facility. Click here to read it.
A couple of days ago, a poster asked a few questions — with an edge, at least in the way I read them — about the complex. Let me try to offer answers to the abridged questions.
Q: Ticket sales are slow
A: In our case, I’m not sure compared to what. I am told that our sales are competitively near the top of Cactus League sales. Given the economy and its impact on vacation-like travel, I am anticipating that every spring training site will feel/see an impact this spring in lower attendance. We certainly have battled the clock in that we only confirmed last November that we could make it here this spring. I have run into a lot of people in Glendale/Phoenix who are surprised we are here. We are fighting that perception but it will take time. I think we all feel that, in the end, our attendance numbers in Glendale this spring will surpass what we saw in Tucson.
Q: Prices are high
A: We made a determination to price our tickets on a consistent basis with the Dodgers. Imagine the confusion if we played the Dodgers one day as the home team and the next as the visitors with different pricing. Our approach to spring training pricing is no different than at USCF. We try to offer price points at a range of options for fans, allowing for a family of four that wants to come and sit on the grass to get in for as little as $8 each, while someone at the other end of the spectrum can spend more for the best seats. We also offer a series of package discounts, a Family 4 Pack (4 tickets, 4 hot dogs, 4 drinks) and a “Guy Pack” on certain dates. I suggest you go to camelbackranchbaseball.com or call 480-784-4444 for details and specific pricing.
Q: Corporate sponsorship sales are slow
A: I don’t know specific numbers for Camelback Ranch yet, but with CP sales at all major league ballparks, yet alone all sports events, down, I am sure this new enterprise is feeling the tough economy as well. Not sure there is any news there.
Q: Fan friendliness
A: Compared to our Tucson complex, fans will have a great deal more access to players, at least in my opinion (and early experience). Today, I saw Alexei and Carlos signing autographs for fans. Unlike Tucson, fans here can watch B games on our replica field and can stand on a pathway/bridge over our complex as players and staff pass under. Today, I saw players stopping and signing on their way into the clubhouse. In the ballpark, our players will access the field and dugout by walking all the way in the right field line along the stands. This is much more access to players than fans had in the past. I can’t speak to the Dodgers since I have not been over to their practice fields.
Q: No businesses near the ballpark …
A: I guess that depends on how you define “near.” The ballpark — as with most new facilities — has been built on a open plot of land just east of a small airport. Housing developments are located due east and south of us (north, I think, too, but I haven’t gotten there yet). Within blocks are Subway, Wendy’s, Starbucks, Home Depot, etc. Within a couple of miles is more food and shopping than you can ever imagine … Westgate, Bell Road, etc. You’ll fine more than your fair share of restaurants, bars and hotels. Ultimately, the city of Glendale plans to create a development, hotels, golf course, etc. right near the facility. We likely will see this develop more in coming years. Critics will always find something to harp on, but you can’t say there isn’t stuff to do in the area. (And there are several golf courses withing miles of the field, not that I can say that from personal experience).
Our advertising agency, BBDO Chicago, has been in town the last two days shooting television advertising spots for this summer. Among the stars: Q, AJ, Roger with appearances by a number of White Sox (rumor also has popular Herm Schneider making a cameo).
Saturday, February 21, 2009
Live from Glendale
Missed the last couple of days due to workload and late afternoon golf games (sorry, but someone has to test out the new courses here to see which ones to recommend … Ozzie calls me the “Director of Golf,” which I should add to the back of my business card). (Note: I understand there is no sympathy for me for golfing on February 20th and in fact some of you might become hostile because I missed posting in order to golf. My wife and kids aren’t really speaking to me right now as the snow falls and blows in Chicago, so I’ll just have to wear it. I understand. It comes with the job.)
The last two days have been absolutely beautiful with temperatures around 80 degrees. Yesterday was the annual photo day and a tour of the Dodgers side of the complex, at least for me.
Today was a short camp day.
Biggest news seemed to be that Alexei hit a line drive that caught DJ Carrasco on the right arm. He seemed to be fine, Ozzie said afterward, and would likely just be sore for the next day or so. Didn’t seem to be a big deal.
Irony was that earlier in the BP round, DJ had hit Alexei with a pitch.
“Take it,” Ozzie yelled. “We’ve got plenty of ice.”
Today was a case of hitters trying to catch up with the pitchers. At one point, Carlos Quentin managed a line drive to the outfield, prompting Ozzie to stand and applaud, drawing a smile from Q.
Ozzie seemed to chuckle about how much attention his reaction to Lou Piniella’s off-season book club seemed to generate. Ozzie reads a lot, mainly Venezuelan politics and Columbian crime stories, he said. You’ll often find him on the couch in his office reading early in the afternoon during the season.
Ozzie spent much of the post workout media briefing talking about Joe Crede’s signing with Minnesota.
“If that kid’s healthy, he can help any team in baseball,” Guillen said, congratulating Joe and his family. “Too bad he’s in my division.
“But it’s good to see one of my favorite guys back on the field. This entire organization, all of his teammates, we all have a lot of respect for him.”
Guillen spoke about Joe’s heroics in the postseason of 2005, his clutch hitting and how Ozzie ranks Joe ahead of teammate Robin Ventura.
“A lot of people get mad at me about that, but I playyed with Robin,” said Ozzie. “Joe Crede is one of the best third basemen I’ve ever seen.”
He was asked if this makes the Twins the favorites.
“He’s not pitching,” Guillen responded. “He will make their pitching staff better. If Crede’s on the field, they’re going to be better, but I don’t think they win the division because of one guy.”
As part of photo day’s activities, several PR staffers have questionnaires they fill out with the players, fun stuff like “which teammate is most likely to be President” or “who would you like as a teammate”, stuff like that. Some guys take it like a test, some take it off by themselves, others took a unique approach this year. Jim Thome took his and then quizzed Paul Konerko, studiously writing down each of Paul’s questions.
Three guys sat at a table comparing notes.
“There are no wrong answers,” I said.
“Oh, yes there are,” one replied. And as I thought about it, he was right.
Jerry Reinsdorf walked into the lunch room and Thome began asking him questions.
“Who would you want as a teammate?” Thome asked Jerry.
“Pee Wee Reese,” Jerry replied, showing his youthful passion for the Dodgers.
A day after taking the quiz, Thome sought out the PR rep who interviewed him. He had left one answer blank. It obviously had stuck with him and he had thought about it all night.
“Affordable healthcare for everyone,” he said. That’s what he would do if he was President.
And what scares Jim Thome most?
His daughter’s teenage years.
Tuesday, February 17, 2009
Fun In The Sun
Alexei Ramirez became the most recent regular to shop up at camp, arriving in time for a workout this morning. Several position players are in early, including BA, Brent Lillibridge, JD, Jim Thome, Carlos Q, Chris Getz, and others. A good showing.
“Don’t they know this spring training is already 50 games long,” asked/exaggerated Guillen.
Yesterday, Ozzie pointed out that his spring training history goes from Glendale, all the way back to Tucson, Ed Smith Stadium and even Payne Park in Sarasota.
“All that means is you’re old,” I told him.
Ozzie was chuckling that three days into camp, it’s a little tough to pick a standout.
“Maybe Roger Bossard,” Guillen offered.
So Sunday, I read that the President is going to be in Phoenix on Tuesday and Wednesday. I shoot an email to a contact at the White House, just reminding them that we are here in case someone wants to stop by. Monday, the media ask me if we’ve invited the President since he was in town. Yes, I explained, I sent a note, but haven’t heard anything back so don’t imagine he’d be stopping by. BAM! Obama Might Visit White Sox Camp is suddenly all over the place.
I still haven’t heard anything, so highly doubt he’s stopping by on a whim.
I received a great letter in the mail today from Thomas H. of Homewood. Apparently, Thomas and a buddy got into a friendly argument/disagreement about the location of Carlton Fisk’s famous two-outs-in-one-play-at-home-plate play on August 2, 1985. One says Yankee Stadium. The other says Comiskey Park. Money and pride are on the line. Somehow, they decided I was the official judge on the issue (which is actually more credit than I am given, even in my own house), and they have asked me to send them validation, which I will easily do.
So, did anyone on this blog happen to attend that game? If so, post your memories, and we will check your recollections against reality to see who wins …
Monday, February 17, 2009
Day 2 In The Books
Day 2 went just like Day 1, but with the second half of the pitching staff throwing today.
Newsworthy: Mark Buehrle did not retire … Steve Stone stopped by camp to check out the finished complex, as did Jerry Reinsdorf. Construction workers continue to cover the site, preparing the ballpark for its grand opening on March 1.
One of the most interesting things that occurs each day early in camp is Ozzie’s meeting with the media. He was in form again today.
When asked about Carlos Quentin’s 2008 performance and his chances of repeating it:
“Surprised. This kid wasn’t even in the starting lineup on Opening Day. He works hard and it was his first full season in the big leagues. He really proved me wrong. Thank God he did. It shows that if you work hard and put the time in like he did, you’ll get results.
“He’s not the man on this ballclub,” Guillen said, naming Konerko, Thome and Dye. “He’s a big piece of the puzzle.”
Yet again on the White Sox getting little respect:
“It’s up to the players. I think we have a team that’s good. If we stay healthy, we have a chance.” (Sound a little like that bus scene from Bull Durham?)
On who impressed him on the mound yesterday:
“Gavin. He was amazing. And Danks. We had these guys throwing 96 next to Buehrle.”
Contreras continues to draw comments based on his new physique and quick recovery from Achilles surgery.
“I’m not going to hold him back. It will be up to him when he gets out on the mound to throw. I talked to him today face-to-face, and he’ll let us know when he’s ready.”
And talk of Contreras led to a question about Bartolo Colon and his physique:
“He weighed 350 pounds when he won a Cy Young Award. He’s not a model. He’s not a jockey. He’s actually in better shape than I expected.”
From a clubhouse smart-alek:
“I guess we missed Uribe so much that we brought one and a half of him back and called him Franklyn (as in German).”
Sunday, February 15, 2009
Sorry, sorry, sorry. So sorry it has taken me this loooonng to finally post again. There were several times this offseason when I thought, “I need to blog,” but time pressures always seemed in the way. I hope I haven’t lost too many readers over the winter, and beginning today, I will start to rev the engines again to provide you one person’s inside look at the 2009 White Sox.
Our new complex in Glendale, Ariz. opened today to rave reviews from staff and players. Brand new look, new car smell and construction workers everywhere. Things are definitely still “under construction,” but you can see how amazing this place will be by March 1.
“Unbelievable,” Ozzie Guillen said in describing the complex. “Spoiled. So nice to come here and work every day.”
Guillen offered an array of thoughts and opinions as he met with the Chicago media following the first workout.
On the Sox being projected for last place in the AL Central by Baseball Prospectus:
“We have a good enough ballclub not to finish last,” he said with a sly smile. “If we finish fourth, I might ask for a raise!
“It’s another year to prove people wrong. I love that.”
On the first day of spring:
“I love my job. There’s nothing like spring training.”
Jose Contreras, or at least what’s left of Jose Contreras, was the talk of camp today. The right-hander looks great, having dropped a lot of weight and worked hard this offseason. Ozzie cautioned patience with Contreras in terms of returning too quickly to the mound after the Achilles injury, saying, “we will let him set the schedule.”
On the weight loss:
“Jose always came to spring training in shape. It was the end of spring training when he was out of shape.”