June 2009

Looking to improve at home

One of our worries at the start of the season was to improve our road record, because at home, with the support of our fans, we generally have a winning record. But this season has been a strange one for all of us. In our last 12 games at U.S. Cellular Field, we have a record of 4-8, while in our last nine road games we have seven wins and only two losses, including two wins this weekend against the leaders of the NL Central, the Milwaukee Brewers.

One of the strengths of this team, despite the ups and downs that have characterized us during the season, has been that it never gives up. No matter what, my players go out and battle every day. It’s true we haven’t had the consistency that we would like, and that even I have been confused by some of what I have seen, but overall we have won and lost as a team, as a group.

It’s important to highlight the performance of Jose Contreras, who started the season with a 0-5 record and who offered to go down to the minor leagues to get better prepared to return to the team in better shape. At that time when we were discussing the minor leagues, Jose told Kenny Williams and me that he needed to pitch in order to come back and help the team win. Truer words couldn’t have been spoken. Jose has two starts of 8 innings or more, giving up just three hits, and one against the Central Division-leading Detroit Tigers and two against the Brewers. It is very difficult to have the same level of consistency in every outing, but if he keeps it up, he will surely be one of the key pieces to winning the division title.

But, now, we need to improve our record at home. And I will repeat what I have said many times: we have the talent to win, but we have to be more consistent. We have to do the small things that are required to win, get the big hits, make the routine outs, and get the pressure outs. We have the players here who can do that and other that are learning to do that quickly. If we can stay healthy, free from injuries, and we play the baseball we know how to play, we will be battling until the very end. I still very much like the team that I have.

Now, let’s respond to some of the e-mails:

Melissa Cruz, de Yubacoa in Puerto Rico, asks about the trade that brought over catcher Ramon Castro from the Mets. It seems to me a good trade because Ramon will surely help us. With him, our starting catcher A.J. Pierzinski can get some much needed days off. It is not easy to be behind the plate every day, especially playing with the intensity that A.J does, who plays at 1000 percent every day.

Pedro Soto, of Chicago, asks “how can you ask a hitter to bunt with two strikes and one ball with no one out and a runner on first, late in a close ballgame?” I don’t know if this is a hypothetical question or if he is referring to specific play. In any case, I don’t think I would have done that, but if that did take place, I would have to look over the situation more closely to see what might have happened. I have always said the games are better analyzed the farther you are from the action. From the stands everything looks very easy and some things can look ridiculous without knowing what is going on in the dugout. And finally, don’t forget that I make mistakes just like everyone else. Jordy Perez of New York asks when is the list of 103 names going to be released. Jordy is asking about the 103 players who tested positive for using steroids during the 2003 season. Sorry Jordy, but honesty, I have no idea about that subject.

Carlos Luis Hidalgo, of Venezuela, asks if it is true what journalist Juan Vene wrote in his column about a “near brawl between the manager of the Chicago White Sox, Ozzie Guillen and the 3B Josh Fields was broken up by the players.” That is absolutely false and Mr. Vene is clearly a liar. Fields is a very religious young man who is very well mannered, and I, even though many still don’t believe it, am too smart to get into a situation like that. Fields is upset because he has lost his starting job at third base and I have personally talked to him about the fact that his production hasn’t been what the team has expected. In terms of Vene, everyone in the journalism world knows him. He uses his column to discredit people who he doesn’t like, including using insulting nicknames for them. My friends in the media tell me he didn’t even go to the games in Yankee Stadium last year, meaning he has become one of those people that write from their house without stepping foot where the action takes place. Because of his bad attitude no Venezuelan media outlet wants him on their radio or TV stations. The Caribbean Confederation denied him a credential for the Caribbean World Series last year. Everyday more doors are closing for him. It is sad that someone with his background and long career in the business has resorted to lying.

Joel Rodriguez, of Caracas, asks why the White Sox don’t pick up Gregor Blanco from Atlanta to be our leadoff hitter. In reality Joel, I don’t have anything to do with the signing or trading of players. That is the job our GM Kenny Williams, who has a team of professionals in charge of evaluating and analyzing talent on other teams. Those are the people that really know about talent. I have no doubt that if Gregor was a player like you say that would be an “ideal leadoff hitter” then Kenny’s team is surely on top of the situation.

Duane Abreu, of Guacara en the Carabobo state of Venezuela, asks if I would like to have Bob Abreu on my roster. Any team would love to have Bob in its ranks.

Geovanis Lopez, of Havana, Cuba, and Manuel Gomez want to know why Dayan Viciedo has not been moved up to the Majors. Patience, Geovanis, patience. Dayan will be up when he is ready and when he will help us win games. In the mean time, it is better that he play every day, facing good pitching and preparing to improve every day.

Nancy Ward writes to me in English to ask some advice for her daughter and her fiancé, who are big White Sox fans. They don’t play baseball, but that they want is a “little marriage advice.” I have been married 26 years and I have to say that marriage is like baseball: there are many good days and some bad days. What is important is to love and respect your partner. The key is to not let the bad moments overshadow the thousands of happy moments you have spent together.

Ray Rojas, of Minnesota, asks why we don’t change starting pitchers in the first three innings if they are having a bad outing. I’ll repeat Ray, it’s not as easy as it seems from the outside. There are times that the bullpen is tired and we have to try to get five innings out of our starters. Each case is very different and every team manages its bullpen differently. We don’t work the same as other team because we have our own guidelines. For better or worse, in these last five year that we have worked together we have won a World Series and two division titles which could indicate that we are doing a good job. But thanks for your suggestions, and thanks to all that have taken some time to write in to wish me well during the season.

I can’t say goodbye without sending a shout out to Eduardo Flores, of Barquisimeto, and to all the members of the team “Bandidos de un Solo Brazo”, who have represented Venezuela so well in international competitions. I had the opportunity to spend some time with them in my house in Caracas and to play with them alongside of Bob Abreu, Freddy Garcia and Ugueth Urbina, and I will always remember them with great affection.

Good luck in your next tournaments.

I’ll be back in 15 days answering your questions and sharing my opinions, comments and criticisms. One more time, thanks for your participation.

Consistency is the key

Thank God that the month of May is over! Even though we closed the month playing the way we all think we can, the truth is that the first few weeks of May were terrible. Too much inconsistency, too many ups and downs. One day we can look like the best team in the world and the next game we can look like an average one.

But all that is in the past. At this moment each player is doing his job, and the result is we have won four straight series, including two important ones against teams in our division, the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Royals.

There are still about 100 games left and every indication is that the division will come down to the wire. Nobody is going to give up easily. That is why the key to staying in the race and winning the title is consistency. I ask the fans to keep supporting the team, because we have a good team and they are trying their hardest on the field to win.

Now let’s answer some questions:

Orelvis Montero, Fernando del Pino, Juan Guillén, Guillermo Vázquez and Alexis Romero are among those that are suggesting that Alexei Ramirez’s moving to shortstop from second base where he played in 2008 is the reason for his slow start this season.

I think Alexei is a great hitter and he showed it last season. But this is the Major Leagues where the advanced scouts send in their reports and the pitchers go over videos in order to find weaknesses in each hitter. That is why the hitters also need to make adjustments, which is what he wasn’t doing. The worst part was that Alexei was taking his offensive worries out to the field and it was affecting his defense. He even admitted that the couple games he sat on the bench helped him find his rhythm. His average is going up and his production has been vital to our winning streak of late.

Nestor Rodrigo, Fernando Ortega Blanco, Jorge Ramos, Karel Tardo, Luis Rodríguez, Humberto Fernández, Servis Melendez and Yordanys Flores are among those asking about another one of our Cuban players, the rookie Dayan Viciedo.

Viciedo is playing in Double A with the Birmingham Barons and is having a good season. At the time I am writing this he is hitting around .260. During Spring Training, I was able to confirm with my own eyes that the kid could hit, but as it is to be expected, he needs to play some games in order to develop his potential.

Like I said in Arizona and I´ll repeat it here, players like Alex Rodriguez and Derek Jeter had to play in the minors in order to get better. That is what Dayan is doing: playing every day for when he comes to the big club he is ready to contribute to the team. Will he be ready this season? I don´t know, but the organization is counting on him.

Freddy Cordero, Jerónimo Sánchez, Rafael Morón, Arodys Pérez, Cliver Moreno and Jorge Humberto Mejía asks why there aren´t any Venezuelans playing on the team.

First off, I think this situation will change pretty soon, because in the last three years we have made an effort to sign more young Venezuelan talent. There are some names that keep popping up like Gregory Infante, Eduardo Escobar, José Alberto “Cafecito” Martínez, who unfortunately has been hampered with injuries, in addition to players like Miguel González, Jerry Puente and others.

One of the first things I did after I became manager was to convince the front office to invest more resources (time and budget) in Latin America. The tendency had been to find young talent in the Dominican Republic, where there are talented youngsters, but now, Amador Arias is doing a great job scouting Venezuela and the fruits of his efforts will soon be seen.

One of our readers, Carlos Graterol suggests that one of the solutions to the problems we had have in the leadoff spot is Endy Chavez. Endy is a great friend of mine and is an excellent hitter, but I don’t think the Mariners will give him up very easily.

Ramón Antonio Obando asks if it is true that I was thrown out of a game for arguing balls and strikes against the other team. Yes, it was something like that. I was thrown out after umpire Mike DiMuro called a strike on a pitch to Jhonny Peralta, the shortstop of the Indians, which was low. An inning earlier he had thrown out Jermaine Dye for arguing a called third strike. I was trying to explain to the umpire that his inconsistency was affecting the game.

Quiterio Henriquez, Raúl Fernández, José Sequera and Alfredo Uga asks why the White Sox don’t play more “Caribbean baseball,” which is what we Latinos call the style of play which emphasizes more of stealing bases, bunts and hit and runs. We are on the way to that style. I am convinced we will see more “Caribbean baseball” now that there isn’t artificial power in the game.

The end of the steroid age is going to force teams to be more creative when scoring runs and we are slowly trying to build a team that is based on power, speed, consistent pitching and good defense. This year, the injuries have limited what we have been able to do, but we are on our way.

Israel Díaz Ramos writes to ask my opinion on the political situation in Venezuela, while Ruben Cadiz Henriquez tells me: “to stick with sports, zero politics.” In the column I write for El Universal (Venezuela) I have touched on political issues pertaining to Venezuela more than once.

Gilberto Sandrea writes: “Will we be lucky enough to see Ozzie Guillén as the coach of Venezuela during the next World Baseball Classic?”

Gilberto, if that happens it’s because I have been fired as manager of the White Sox, since the rules of that event prohibit the participation of Major League managers.

That gives me the opportunity to answer an email from Jesus Rodriguez, who asks me to also publish and respond to negative comments and not only the positive ones. Fortunately, the only negative comment I have received up until now has been yours. Jesus says that I am a bad manager and that I will soon be fired. If that happens, like Jesus predicts, then perhaps I can be the manager of the Venezuelan team, but until that happens, my contract runs until 2012.

Javier Rosario and Martín Ramos ask why we haven’t signed Pedro Martinez to bolster our starting pitching staff. I remind both of them that the job of signing players is that of the general manager, Kenny Williams, who tried his hardest to land Jake Peavy, who would have been a big help. The pitching staff worries are also shared by Jose Hernandez who says we “should find one or two pitchers in the open market that will provide some consistency.” As many of you have gathered that is not very easy since every team is looking for the same, but I am sure that Kenny is on the lookout for ways to help the White Sox get better.

Williams Rodriguez asks if the White Sox would be interested in a hitter like Barry Bonds. Honestly, no. At the present time that is not we are looking for.

Carlos Armando Cheluja asks what is said when a manager visits the mound. First, let me tell you what is not said. We don’t tell him to throw strikes, since obviously that is what he is trying to do. If the idea is to keep him in the ballgame, the first thing is to ask how he is feeling, and after that I alert him to who is coming up in the lineup, who is more difficult of a matchup, that type of stuff. But in general, when the manager goes out to the mound it is to take the pitcher out of the game, and in that case it is better to let him talk to try and convince you to leave him in. In reality, the most interesting conversations are the ones between the pitchers and the pitching coach.

There are a lot of other interesting questions that I would love to respond to, but it is impossible because there are so many. I would like to thank everyone for their positive comments, analysis and suggestions. Some of those are of great use to me.

I will wrap this up without send out a big hello to Enrique “Quique” Germán, 13, who writes from Hermosillo, Mexico, and expresses his confidence in the White Sox. Thanks to you and your family for your support.

In two weeks I will be back again responding to your questions and comments.

Thank you to the fans that feel, like I do, pride in the White Sox.

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