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Category Archives: Chicago White Sox

Season Preview: AL Central

Expectations: Prince Fielder hopes to live up to his father’s legacy in the Motor City, and the Tigers hope to snap a near 30-year title drought.
Key Addition: 1B/DH Prince Fielder (signed from Milwaukee)
Key Loss: DH Magglie Ordonez (free agent)
Projected Record: 97-65
Summary: Expecations are very high in Detroit as the Tigers are coming off a 95 win season and have signed one of the biggest free agents in Prince Fielder. Fielder allows Miguel Cabrera to move back to third base which is his natural position. The combination of Cabrera and Fielder in the lineup should allow the Tigers to score a tone of runs and take control of the AL Central.

The Tigers also have a very strong pitching staff. Justin Verlander is the reigning AL Cy Young and MVP and was a dominating 24-5 in 2011. Combine that with Max Scherzer and Doug Fister, who can win 15 games this year, and this is one of the stronger rotations in the American League.

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Victorino wins Final Vote

The fans have spoken, and just like 2009, it was in the favor of Shane Victorino.

Victorino was voted by the fans in MLB’s Final Vote, making his second career All-Star appearance. He was an All-Star in 2009, making the team by the same method.

But whether or not Victorino will be able to play remains to be seen. He is currently having a swollen right thumb checked out and could land on the DL. His chances of playing in the final series before the break are slim and it’s doubtful the Phils will let him play in a meaningless exhibition in Arizona.

Victorino was on half of the Victor/Victorino campaign in Detroit. While Tigers fans were voting for their boy Victor Martinez, they pitched in and helped the Flyin’ Hawaiian on the NL side. But unfortunately for them, the most deserving AL nominee won, Chicago’s Paul Konerko.

Faceoff: Who should we thank?

Question: Was Pat Gillick responsible for the Phillies current success as a franchise and perenial power in Major League Baseball?

Writer Brian Jacobs decided challenge the rest of the Faceoff competitors with this question and John Russo, reeling from his loss to Christian Hetrick, wanted to get himself in the win column.

Brian: Yes.

The Philadelphia Phillies formed a new brand of baseball in the city of Philadelphia during the 2000’s. In 2005, Pat Gillick joined the front office, and the Phillies took off from there.

Former general manager of the Phillies, Ed Wade, brought in the big bat of Jim Thome to go along with the new stadium, Citizens Bank Park, in 2004. Most Phillies fans wouldn’t hesitate to smash Wade and those horrific seasons under his watch, but a small portion of credit should be given to him.

Former Phils GM and HOFer Pat Gillick helped bring a championship to Philadelphia for the first time in 25 years and the first World Series in 28 years.

With Gillick at the helm and new scenery, the fans had a taste of something they were deprived of for years, which was change. Are the Phillies going become a winning team? What are our expectations now? Those were the questions, asked by fans of the club during this time of change.

Gillick’s first big move was trading Jim Thome and cash to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand and two prospects. Thome’s time in Philadelphia was somewhat symbolic. It was almost as if his stay in the city was simply used as a jolt of electricity that the city was in need of.

Along with the players on the field and the front office, Gillick created a feeling of hope and positive expectations for Phillies fans to bask in. The Phillies were no longer going to accept defeat. They were finally sick of seeing the Atlanta Braves at the top of the division.

Once again, a few pats on the back should be given to Ed Wade. Gillick inherited the future stars, Ryan Howard and Chase Utley, whom Wade had drafted. Gillick then brought over the rule-five selection, Shane Victorino, along with the battered bat of Jayson Werth. We all know how that turned out. Gillick looked like a genius and he wasn’t done.

The Phillies finally entered the post-season, but failed to get past the Colorado Rockies in the National League Division Series. In the offseason, Gillick made a trade with the man he had replace, Ed Wade, who was, and still is with the Houston Astros organization. In came Brad Lidge and his soon-to-be perfect season. Thanks again, Ed Wade.

The Phillies went on to win the World Series in 2008 and they’ve been knocking on the door ever since.

A lot of times, players receive most of the credit for a successful season. General managers sometimes get slighted, but I have a feeling that Pat Gillick and his master plan, as the Philadelphia Phillies’ general manager will find a way into the hearts of fans if it hasn’t already.

John: No.

Three huge things have factored into the recent success of the Philadelphia Phillies before Pat Gillick even stepped in as GM: the farm system, Scott Rolen and the new stadium.

I’ll attack the more logical reason first. The Phillies farm system was teeming with talent. Before Gillick was GM, Ryan Howard, Chase Utley and Cole Hamels were playing minor league ball. They had Pat Burrell, Brett Myers and Jimmy Rollins already up on the Phils.

But you will bring up Shane Victorino and Jayson Werth being acquired along with Pedro Feliz and Brad Lidge. Werth and Victorino were diamonds in the rough. It was a complete shot in the dark on whether or not they would make an impact.

But Rolen may actually have been the catalyst in David Montgomery and the rest of the office relinquishing their tight grip on their wallets. When offered a 10-year, $140 million contract to stay with the Phillies, arguably for life, Rolen turned it down because of squabbles in the front office because they showed no interest in winning.

Not only has Chase Utley cememted himself as the greatest Phillies second baseman of all time but he may find himself in Cooperstown one day.

Rolen was traded to the St. Louis Cardinals for three scrubs and Placido Polanco, who gave way to Utley three years later and returned to the Phillies in 2010. Only months after the trade did the Phillies front office get it. They signed first baseman Jim Thome and third baseman David Bell to replace Rolen on the field and in the line up. They also traded back-up catcher Johnny Estrada for Braves starter Kevin Millwood, who threw a no-hitter during his tenure with the Phillies.

It didn’t stop there as the Phillies finally sought external help, signing players like Pedro Feliz, Adam Eaton and Freddy Garcia (don’t laugh, they were supposed to be big improvements at the time), Jamie Moyer and traded for Brad Lidge.

But the money didn’t grow on trees. In 2004, the Phillies moved into their current stadium, Citizens Bank Park. Their lowest attendance since the stadium opened was 75% capacity. And with a division win in 2007, a World Series win in 2008, a NL Pennant in 2009 and another division win and league’s best record in 2010, the Phillies are selling out games and have seen  their payroll sky rocket from under $58 million in 2002 to $170 in 2011.

Gillick was a fantastic GM but the right pieces were there before he became the GM in 2005. All he did was do some minor tweaking and turn the Phillies into World Champions, finishing the job started four years before he was signed.


Season Preview: AL Central

Chicago White Sox

Expectations: Ozzie Guillen tweets every lineup change from the dugout.
Key addition: 1B/OF Adam Dunn (.260, 38 HR, 103 RBI with Washington)
Key loss: RP Bobby Jenks (1-3, 27 Saves, 4.44 ERA)
Projected record: 92-70

Summary: Most of the puzzle pieces remain from last year’s team, with a power addition of Adam Dunn.  The team has speed (Juan Pierre, Alex Rios), power (Dunn, Paul Konerko) and pitching (John Danks, Mark Buherle).  Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham and Carlos Quentin are all solid ballplayers. The White Sox have a question mark in the bullpen, as they will have Chris Sale or Matt Thornton closing.  Jake Peavy’s injury concerns are troublesome, but as an end of the rotation guy, he won’t be relied on as an ace.

Minnesota Twins

Expectations: Increased amount of man-crushes on all-star catcher Joe Mauer.
Key addition: 2B Tsuyoshi Nishioka (.260, 14 HR, 41 RBI with Chiba of the Japanese League.
Key loss: 2B Orlando Hudson (.268, 6 HR, 37 RBI)
Projected record: 89-73

Summary: Mauer leads the Twins, who are bitter after two straight first round exits to the Yankees.  The core of the team returns, although key component 1B Justin Morneau missed the second half of last year with a concussion, and has only played six spring training games thus far.  The Twins rotation is decent; no stud ace, but some solid pitchers to get the job done.  One of the biggest question marks is the bullpen.  Joe Nathan is coming off Tommy John surgery, and if he is the Joe Nathan of old, the Twins will be fine.  If not, Matt Capps will be their go-to guy.

Detroit Tigers

Expectations: Leading the league in DUI arrests.
Key addition: C/1B Victor Martinez (.302, 20 HR, 79 RBI with Boston)
Key loss: OF Johnny Damon (.271, 8 HR, 51 RBI)
Projected record: 85-77

Summary: The Tigers underachieved last season going 81-81, finishing 13 games behind the first place Twins.  They added Boston’s Victor Martinez, who is a .225 career hitter at Detroit’s Comerica Park.  Will Martinez continue his struggles at his new spacious home?  He will likely DH for the team, hitting behind Miguel Cabrera and Magglio Ordonez, so RBI opportunities will be there.  Detroit’s pitching is good with Justin Verlander, Matt Scherzer and Rick Porcello.

Cleveland Indians

Expectations: The Indians beg Pedro Cerrano and Rick Vaughn to come back and play for the team.
Key addition: OF Austin Kearns (.263, 10 HR, 49 RBI with Cleveland and New York AL)
Key loss: Uhhhh…. I guess 3B Andy Marte (.229, 5 HR, 19 RBI)
Projected record: 70-92

Summary: Carlos Santana has recovered from a knee injury he suffered last August, only two months after being called up to the major league club.  The Tribe are going to rely on their young catcher and OF Shin Soo-Choo, who hit .300 last year, with 22 HR and 90 RBI.  Other offensive weapons, Travis Hafner and Grady Sizemore, have had trouble staying healthy in recent years.  Pitcher Fausto Carmona had a good year last season (3.77 ERA), despite losing 14 games.

Kansas City Royals

Expectations: Could contend for the AAA Championship.
Key addition: OF Jeff Francoeur (.249, 13 HR, 65 RBI with New York NL and Texas)
Key loss: SP Zach Greinke  (10-14, 4.17 ERA, 181 K)
Projected record: 65-97

Summary: The Royals fortunately have a deep minor league system, stocked up from many years of top draft picks.  However, that won’t help them this year.  They do have 1B Billy Butler, who hit .318 last year.  Top prospect 3B Mike Moustakas is ready for a promotion, and might get one this season.  Unfortunately the Royals traded away their best player, SP Zach Greinke for a boatload of prospects.  It’ll be a while before Kansas City is a competitor again.

Buehrle Wished Vick Got Hurt

This isn’t Phillies news but it’s baseball and Philadelphia related.

The White Sox starting pitcher Mark Buehrle, who many were happy to see get the perfect game two years ago, may have tarnished that image. “Couldn’t happen to a nice guy,” was the phrase uttered around the baseball world. But not after something he said in an interview with MLB.com.

The following quote came from here. It was taken down from the MLB.com article, which is cowardly for the journalist and the site. I can’t wait to read their retraction statement if there was one. Here is the quote:

“He had a great year and a great comeback, but there were times where we watched the game and I know it’s bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt. Everything you’ve done to these dogs, something bad needs to happen to these guys.”

Buehrle was talking about a certain quarterback for the Philadelphia Eagles. I guess 18 months in prison, going bankrupt and still being about $40 million in debt wasn’t enough punishment for Michael Vick.

Buehrle is also an avid dog lover. He and his wife are also animal rights activists and started up a program called “Sox for Strays,” which hosts local animal rescue groups throughout the season at US Cellular Field in Chicago.

I’m one to respect another man’s opinion but this was just tasteless. I know you’re upset over what Vick did but for an athlete to wish harm on another is just taking an opinion too far.

I’m sorry, Mark, but I guess you weren’t the nice guy we all thought you were.

A Legend Retires

He had the sweetest swing. He had the backwards cap. He had the video games and Nike cleats. Ken Griffey, Jr. was every kid’s role model, including mine. Today, one of baseball’s finest hung up the spikes after 22 spectacular seasons.

Junior was a gift to the game. He played baseball the right way, the only way. Griffey finished his career with 630 home runs, fifth on the all-time home run list. He was a career .284 hitter and hell 219 hits short of 300. He would have easily hit 800 homers and reached a much higher plateau of hits if he hadn’t ruptured his hamstring three times that ended his 2002, 2003, and 2004 seasons.

But let’s not look at the rain cloud of injuries that ruined probably the greatest player I’ve ever seen only behind Albert Pujols. Let’s celebrate a man who climbed the wall like a cat and swung the bat as smooth as silk.

When playing back yard baseball, I would often imitate that upright stance with the unique bat movement. He then loaded up, throwing his hips into the pitch. With his head down, he drove the bat through the ball.

He busted onto the scene in 1989. Drafted with the first overall pick in 1987, Griffey became an every day player in his rookie season of ’89. All throughout the 90′s, Griffey made himself into a house-hold name as a slugger and a gold glover. Griffey was a 13-time All Star, including 11-straight from 1990-2000. He was the American League MVP in 1997 when he led the league in homers (56) and RBIs (147) while batting .304.

Griffey led the league in homers four times and RBIs and runs once. He was a 10-time Gold Glover, a 7-time Silver Slugger, was a 3-time Home Run Derby champion, and was named to the Major League All Century Team, the last being a remarkable honor.

In 2000, Griffey was traded to the Cincinnati Reds. There he had one good season in 2000 and a solid year in 2001 until hamstring problems ended the next three years and basically hampered him for the rest of his career. In 2008, he was traded to the White Sox and played half a season there. In 2009, the Kid returned home to Seattle where he finished his career where he started.

In five years, Griffey will join hundreds of great players in Cooperstown. He and Randy Johnson will go in together as a pair of Mariners that truly changed the game of baseball.

The Kid was clean through an era of steroids. He played the game the way it was meant to be. Every kid turned their hat backwards and ate their Wheaties because of Junior.

Thank you, Ken Griffey, Jr. I flip my hat to you.

Off Season 11/25/09

Jamie Moyer was sent back to the hospital after reoccurring symptoms from his groin injury back in September according to Todd Zoleckia via Twitter. Moyer tore his groin when trying to field a ground ball back in September.

Also according to Zolecki, the Phillies signed outfielder DeWayne Wise and infielder Wilson Valdez to minor league contracts and also brought back catcher Paul Hoover and infielder Andy Tracy to minor league contracts.

Zolecki had this to say on these four guys:

• Outfielder DeWayne Wise, who preserved Mark Buehrle’s perfect game in July with a leaping catch at the wall in the ninth inning at U.S. Cellular Field, hit .225 with two home runs and 11 RBIs in 142 at-bats last season for the Chicago White Sox. He is a .216 career hitter in seven seasons in the Majors.

• Infielder Wilson Valdez, who hit .256 with seven RBIs in 86 at-bats for the New York Mets. He is a career .222 in four seasons in the Majors.

• Infielder Andy Tracy, who hit .417 in 12 at-bats for the Phillies.

• Catcher Paul Hoover, who had three hits in four at-bats in three games for the Phillies.

I doubt Hoover was the answer to the Phillies back-up catching problems. Tracy didn’t play that much either and won’t be a huge factor either. Both he and Hoover are in their mid-30′s and are insurance guys.

Wise is 31 but is an exceptional fielder. He may make the team as a late-inning defensive substitution so Ben Francisco can be used in pinch-hitting situations. Valdez will likely play a similar role to the first two.

Happ Honored

JA Happ was named by panel of players as the Sporting News National League Rookie of the Year. Along with American League winner Gordon Beckham of the White Sox, Happ was very well deserving of this award. One thing to consider is that this is not the official ROY honors. Those will get announced after the World Series.

Happ went 12-4 with a 2.93 ERA in 35 games (23 starts) during the season. He struck out 119 batters in 166 innings pitched and had two shutouts. He has made to appearances in the NLDS as a reliever and starter and has made to relief stints thus far in the NLCS.

After overcoming just barely making the Opening Day roster, getting thrown in to start when Chan Ho Park couldn’t get the job done, and bein thrown around in numerous trade talks for Roy Halladay, Happ settled in real nice and helped lead the Phillies to their third straight NL East championship and second straight NLCS (and likely World Series) berth.

FIM #10: Ryan Howard Wins ROY/MVP

The Phillies have not seen hitters like Mike Schmidt or Pete Rose since 1990 and 1983 respectively. They wait no more as we have another pair of amazing hitters that my generation’s children wish they would have seen in their prime: Chase Utley and Ryan Howard. Moment #10 will be dedicated to Ryan Howard and his history making first two seasons.

Howard saw some playing time while Jim Thome was still in town, playing a majority of the games at first base. It wasn’t until an injury to Thome in 2005 that people got a taste of Howard’s potential.

In 2005, Howard replaced Thome and played in 88 games total, hitting 22 homers with a .288 average. He also recorded 63 RBI’s and 52 runs scored, sweltering numbers for half a season, especially by a rookie. He would win Rookie of the Year and Jim Thome would be traded along with $22 million in cash to the Chicago White Sox for Aaron Rowand and two pitchers. It was Howard’s time to shine.

In 2006, Howard made history. No player in the National League has ever won Rookie of the Year and then followed it up with an MVP award. Only one player has done it in the history of the game and that was Cal Ripken Jr., winning the ROY in 1982 and MVP in 1983 for the Baltimore Orioles.

Howard’s season was highlighted with 2 ridiculous homers, the first being the first ever to be hit into Ashburn Alley in center field which traveled 496 feet and the other was the first home run hit into the 3rd deck, a 381 foot shot.

Howard finished his MVP campaign with a .313 batting average, 58 homers and 149 RBI’s. He shattered Schmidt’s record in Philadelphia of 48 homers. He beat out Albert Pujols in the MVP balloting, who argued that he should have won because his team won the World Series and the Phillies missed the playoffs. Unfortunately for Pujols, post season doesn’t mean a thing to the regular season.

Howard’s power numbers never died off but his batting average sure did drop. He’s a career .270 hitter which is not bad just as long as he hits 40 homers a year. He is going to keep doing this for a very long time we hope, especially batting behind a guy who gets on base like Utley.

American League Preview

So this will also be posted in the Whit, Rowan University’s paper. I will be doing both the AL and NL previews and when the season starts, I will be doing weekly recap/previews. Here is the uncut version of my post. A link will be posted when the article comes out:

The AL East used to be a two team division until the Tampa Bay Rays finally showed up and won the division and the A.L. pennant last season. But the New York Yankees are back in business with an unbelievable offseason and the Boston Red Sox revamped to still be competitive. The Central should feature the Detroit Tigers while the Minnesota Twins and Chicago White Sox try to keep up. In the West it should just be the Los Angeles Angels. Here’s a look at the key teams in the A.L.

In the East, the Rays are bringing back some major parts to their A.L. championship team such as Rookie of the Year winner Evan Longoria, Carl Crawford, and Dioner Navarro. Their rotation features James Shields, Scott Kazmir, and Matt Garza. The Rays like to play small ball but a power hitter is what Tampa Bay needed. They got that in Pat Burrell, their big offseason signing who will become their DH, a fitting role for him due to his lack of skill in the outfield. This balances out the team, making them more dangerous offensively.

The Yankees re-tooled dramatically in the offseason. Their key signings included pitchers C.C. Sabathia, A.J. Burnett, and the resigning of Andy Pettitte. They also signed first basemen Mark Teixeira who will instantly boost an offense that was 10th in runs scored last season. Those are just the signings though. The offense still features Alex Rodriguez, who despite the steroid saga and hip injury is still one of the best in the game. They also have captain Derek Jeter and Hideki Matsui at the DH. The five-man rotation is filled out with Chien-Ming Wang and Joba Chamberlain, giving the Yankees the most dangerous rotation in baseball. With five pitchers like that, they should win on pitching alone. Mariano Rivera is still one of the best closers in baseball. They simply have the best team in baseball again.

The Red Sox are still one of the best teams in baseball. Tampa Bay and New York have improved and Boston wasn’t going to sit around and let them have all the fun. The signings of John Smoltz and Brad Penny give them six good starting pitchers. Smoltz will probably see bull pen action which isn’t a bad thing for Boston since he is an ex-closer. Speaking of the pen, it’s anchored by closer Jonathon Papelbon and set-up man Hideki Okajima. The offense is nothing short of amazing either. It features reigning A.L. MVP Dustin Pedroia. He is supported by an excellent offensive cast of Kevin Youkillis, Mike Lowell, and David Ortiz. The outfield also features young centerfielder Jacoby Ellsbury and Jason Bay and JD Drew.

In the Central, the Detroit Tigers look to be the strongest team. They moved Miguel Cabrera to first base due to a lack of glove but he is still a fine hitter. The outfield is very good with Carlos Guillen, Curtis Granderson, and Maglio Ordonez. Marcus Thames is a great bat off the bench and can play the outfield in the late innings. The rotation features great pitching in Justin Verlander, Armondo Galaragga, Jeremy Bonderman, and Dontrelle Willis. They should be good enough to win the division but Chicago and Minnesota are always in the mix.

The White Sox are a shell of the 2005 World Champion team. They lost Joe Crede, Orlando Cabrera and Ken Griffey Jr. in the offseason and didn’t make any vast improvements. They do still have Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye, their two best bats. Gavin Floyd and Mark Buehrle emerged as their two best pitchers and will have to post better numbers to keep Chicago in the mix. The Twins missed the playoffs by a game last year. They added Crede from the White Sox to go with the young stars in Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau. Pitching isn’t all that awesome this year and could be a problem for them. The Cleveland Indians and Kansas City Royals should not factor into the race too much this year.

In the West, the only team that truly stands out is the Angels. They lost record-breaking closer, Francisco Rodriguez to the New York Mets but won’t have to worry about him blowing saves this year. Instead they added a steady Brian Fuentes who will not blow games. They also a great bat in the outfield in Bobby Abreau to go along with Vladimir Guerrero and Torii Hunter. Pitching is also a strength for the Angels with John Lackey, Ervin Santana, Joe Saunders, and Jered Weaver as the main guys in the starting rotation. The Texas Rangers and Oakland Athletics don’t really impress and the Seattle Mariners brought Griffey Jr. back but still won’t see much of an improvement.

The Yankees will take the East, the Tigers will win the Central, and the Angels will again run away with the West. The Wild Card will be very interesting as the Red Sox and Rays will battle it all year for the final playoff spot. Next week we will have the National League preview.

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