FINALLY … the day is here. Opening Day never gets old to me. I am and we are all blessed to have this chance to put on the
uniform and go out and play. I
have been around this game for a long time and every year Opening Day has the
same excitement. The thing about
this day that is so great is the hope that every team has. Every single team thinks they a have shot
at the World Series for maybe the only day all year.
Although I’m very excited, it’s also very cold here in
Cleveland. From what I heard, it’s
a little warmer back in Chicago. I hope you all will be watching today; we need
your support. If you are looking
for somewhere to watch the game, I would love for you to join my Foundation at
Public House (400 N. State Street). It’s going to be a great atmosphere to watch the game and we will be
raffling off some great prizes during and after the game. It’s going to be free to get in, so you
can just come and hang out if you want. Some of the raffle items include autographed bats from Adam Dunn, Alex
Rios, A.J. Pierzynski and Alexei Ramirez. Some of my friends from the Yankees were also nice enough to donate some
autographed memorabilia, so we will also have autographed baseballs from Andruw
Jones, Jorge Posada, CC Sabathia and future Hall of Famer Mariano Rivera.
Thanks for all your support, and I really mean that. We are
going to need your support this year.
WOW! What a crazy and awesome weekend! First of all, I want to thank everyone that wished me a Happy Birthday on my Facebook and Twitter pages. I spent some great time with my family, players and coaches, and it’s always awesome to see all the fans come out and support us during SoxFest.
January is always a crazy time in my family, not only because of SoxFest, but this year, Chicago Sports Radio 670 The Score held my Celebrity Roast. The Roast was awesome and everyone was very funny, except for a few drunk people. (haha) Thank you to everyone for coming, you all looked very sharp and it was just an amazing day. Some of my pictures from the weekend will be up in the photos section of my new website, so check them out.
As some of you know, my option for the 2012 season was picked up this weekend as well. I am very excited about this, and anyone who knows me knows I have said I want to be with the White Sox all the time, as long as it makes sense for both sides. I am glad I won’t have to answer questions about that anymore and now everyone can focus on baseball. It was great to see my players this weekend and get to hanging out with them. So glad we got the boys back, P.K. (Paul Konerko) and A.J. (A.J. Pierzynski). It was also nice to meet some of the new guys; that’s always fun. As you can tell, I am ready for the season to begin right now, just like Alexei Ramirez is. (haha)
Other than that, I got to finish up the weekend by relaxing and watching the Bears game. Chicago wants a winner, that’s it, so I was disappointed just like everyone else that they couldn’t pull it off.
I hope you all are enjoying the new website. I think it looks great, and I’m very grateful for the work that MLBAM and Triple Crown did for putting in the effort to make this possible. I will be uploading fresh stuff all the time — pictures, videos, behind-the-scenes looks at what’s going on in my life — so make sure you are ready!
Thanks again for all your support and always remember: If you want your dreams to come true, wake up and go get them!
This week, I had the great opportunity to go with Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor to Woodside Ranch, a new sports complex they’re building in Mauston, Wis. This place is gonna be mind-blowing and great for the kids up there. I only wish I had something like that when I was a kid!!! I want to give a special thanks to Damon Zuwalt and Orlando Cepeda Jr. I had a great time up there doing this, and it was good spending time with you guys. What can I really say about Frank Thomas and Paul Molitor, besides the fact they’re Hall of Famers and they played the game right. They were what I felt were two of the best right-handed hitters I ever saw.
This week, I’m going to Miami to see my son, Ozney, even though he clearly is doing fine without his parents. I hope to catch a couple of his games, but the game that is really going to be fun is the Bears-Dolphins game — and, yes, I will be tailgating. It will be fun to be in South Florida and around my old stadium (when I was there, they called it Pro Player; but who knows what they call it now). I will be sure to try and post some pictures.
OK, now on to the questions.
Q: Do you think Derek Jeter deserved a Gold Glove this year?
A: I’m not really in a position to judge whether or not he deserved it, but in my opinion, there were a few guys better than him defensively at shortstop. Some who come to mind are Alexei Ramirez, Elvis Andrus and Yuniesky Betancourt. And not because they are all Latinos, they were just better at playing shortstop this year.
Q: Does it bother you that sometimes your “crazy” antics get in the way of how people perceive you as a manager?
A: First of all, I’m not crazy, because crazy people, the way I see it, are in hospitals and mental facilities. I’m not going to any of those places any time soon, unless you ask my wife and she might agree with you guys. I am honest; there is a big difference. I say what I believe to be the truth. It doesn’t bother me that people see me that way because I know what I’m doing on and off the field, and especially with my relationship with my players. Don’t forget that I have been in this country since I was 16 and have learned many valuable lessons throughout that time.
Q: Do you get much of a chance to sign autographs for fans during Spring Training?
A: Yes, I get a chance to sign autographs before and after games. During practice a lot of times when fans are waiting around, I usually stop by and sign more than a couple at a time. I never say “no” to an autograph unless I’m busy, because if I have time I usually say “yes.”
Q: As a player, what were the best and worst playing surfaces you ever played on?
A: The best playing surface, by far — and this is no lie, you can ask anybody in the game, and they usually give the same answer: Comiskey Park (or U.S. Cellular Field), to me, is the best and always will be. Thank you to “The Sod Father,” Roger Bossard, and his grounds crew — those guys are amazing and make me a lot of money (hahaha). The worst had to be old Anaheim Stadium and Tropicana Field because it played so fast. But, remember, I haven’t played since 2000, so I’m sure they have changed.
OK, that’s all for now. Remember to keep the questions coming! Talk to you guys soon.
I have never bothered God or my saints to ask them for anything related to baseball because as I’ve said on many occasions, none of them have played the sport. I ask them for good health for myself and for my family, wisdom to make the best decisions, wellbeing for my friends and the best for humanity. That is enough to keep me happy. Nonetheless, there is an exception to every rule and so before this last road trip that took us to the West coast, I asked God to keep the White Sox away from all the negative things that happened to us on our last road trip to Boston, New York and Minnesota. It was more of a plea than a request. Please God, don’t let us have a terrible road trip like the last one, which practically took us out of contention and put us against the wall when it came to our goal of claiming the title in the American League Central Division, which we won with much effort last year.
We obviously dug ourselves into the deep hole that we are currently in. The inconsistency that we have talked about all season has manifested itself during these last few months. After suddenly taking three out of four games against Boston and winning series against the Yankees, Tampa and the Angels, right away we lost to Baltimore, Cleveland, Oakland and Kansas City. Without taking credit away from the other 29 teams in Major League Baseball, any team that aspires to win a championship has to battle against teams with winning records and crush those under .500 and out of contention. Unfortunately, we have not been able to do that and the result is our current position in the standings.
It is true that as I write this column, we are still alive mathematically, which some faithful fans pointed out in their messages. They calculated how many wins we need combined with Tigers losses in order to surpass or tie the division leaders before the last game of the regular season. The optimism of some fans is truly incredible and contagious with all of their analysis and encouraging messages. I cannot thank them enough for all the affection and positive energy that they send in each one of their e-mails. But in reality, our mission is simply to win, win and win. There’s no alternative. We must go out on the field every day with the goal of winning in mind, without paying attention to the results of other teams. If we get to the series against Detroit with a difference of only a few games, then we can dream of a miracle. If not, lets pack our things and “head out, it’s getting late,” as Joey Cora would say.
In any case, I want to reiterate that I hold myself responsible for all the blame if we don’t get to where we want to be. Although I don’t pitch, bat or run the bases, when I took this job I made a commitment to get the team to play well and we haven’t done that. I understand that the expectations of the fans, the front office, the coaches and the players are many, especially because we are convinced that we have the talent and the material to win many games. But as I’ve always said, in the end what matters is the work that takes place on the field. We’ll see what happens in the next few days.
For now, let’s answer some of your questions and messages.
Julio Jacome of Puerto La Cruz, Venezuela, writes to opine that the recent White Sox trades involving Jim Thome and Jose Contreras were not good because the players we received in return have not helped us this year. He also thinks it was a mistake to acquire an outfielder like Alex Rios when what we really needed, according to Julio, is a second baseman that is more effective than Chris Getz. He ended his e-mail by saying that he is not convinced by Gordon Beckham.
It’s a matter of opinion, Julio. Personally, I think Alex Rios is going to help this organization a lot, although you are right to point out that down the stretch he hasn’t contributed much. As for Thome and Contreras, I think their departures did not affect our chances of competing for the title. Thome, a true baseball gentleman, accepted a trade to the Dodgers because his career is coming to an end and he dreams of winning a World Series ring before he retires. Obviously, the California team seems to have a better chance than we do of playing in the Fall Classic. As for Contreras, I think he needed a change of scenery and as his number one fan, Francisco Aguiar, points out, he’ll probably fare better in Colorado. Personally, I wish him the best of success because as I’ve always said, Jose is a great person, serious and hard-working with an unrivaled human touch.
Juan Carlos Martin of Miami writes to congratulate us for the moves that sent Thome to Los Angeles and Contreras to Colorado. That’s baseball. There are all kinds of opinions. Juan Carlos also says that the bad performance by the White Sox this year is not my fault and that I shouldn’t be embarrassed. I must correct him, however, because I get paid to make the team play well and if I don’t achieve that it means that I’m not doing my job well. It’s that simple.
Frank Abel Villalonga writes to us from La Habana to ask if there is a possibility that we will give Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez an opportunity to return to the White Sox. Frank points out that since the team rewarded Freddy Garcia’s contribution to the 2005 championship by giving him a chance to pitch with the team again, “El Duque” should be given the same consideration. I will pass along the message to our scouts so that they can evaluate Hernandez’s performance in the minor leagues. They would be the ones who would let General Manager Kenny Williams know whether or not we should sign him. In any case, you can never have too much pitching in this game.
Victor Saldivia of Valencia asks if I would be interested in managing another team besides the White Sox and if I currently see any team in the big leagues that conforms to my philosophy, which was called “Small Ball” in 2005 and I renamed “Smart Ball.” By that I mean that, rather than doing the “little things,” it’s more of game based on intelligence. Honestly, I wish I could manage the White Sox until I am over 100 years oldand have to be transported to the stadium in a wheel chair. I can’t see myself managing another team. However, I have always liked the way the Minnesota Twins play. They are the famous “piranhas,” who never seem to be in the postseason predictions of analysts but are always relevant because they do their job and play an aggressive, intelligent kind of baseball.
Along the same lines, Julio Acosta of Barcelona, Venezuela, wants to know if managing the Tiburones (Sharks) of La Guaira in Venezuela’s professional baseball league is among my goals. It is not, Julio, but it would be an honor and a dream come true to have that privilege. The Tiburones were the first team that gave me an opportunity to play professional baseball and I will always be grateful for that. My relationship with the team’s founder, Pedro Padron Panza, goes beyond that of owner and player. Panza and my family have established a very close friendship. I also have a great relationship with the new owners and my three sons are die-hard La Guaira fans, but managing during the off-season is not in my plans for the time being.
Victor Lapenta of Guyana asks if coaches in the organization are also promoted on September 1 when the Major League rosters expand from 25 players to 40. Yes, Victor, some coaches also are called up. As you yourself pointed out, they are responsible for overseeing the performance of the call-ups, but in the case of the White Sox, I try to get them involved in all team activities so that they can participate in all areas and give their opinions on different aspects of the game. In Venezuela we say four eyes can see better then two; therefore their input is always welcome.
William Ochoa of Salt Lake City says he has noticed a lack of intensity and aggressiveness in our last few games. What can I say, William? When a team is losing, everything seems horrible. Everything. But I can guarantee that it is not due to a lack of desire or of lost motivation or anything like that. The baseball season is really very long. There are 162 games, which demand physical and mental conditions that are difficult to maintain. That obviously goes for all the teams, but not everyone deals with it in the same way. When a team generates many expectations, which was our case this year, the effort and the mental fatigue is even greater. I suppose some of that could be going on, but I can guarantee everyone here goes out to battle with the same intensity, especially because we still hope for the miracle of winning the title, as difficult as it may seem.
Miguel Angel Barrios of San Francisco wants to know if my controversial statements are a result of ire or if I make them to get publicity. Miguel Angel adds that sometimes my statements are exaggerated, considering that baseball is a sport followed by children and young adults. Well Miguel Angel, first of all I must tell you that for publicity I only say and record what I am told by my commercial clients. I do not make statements, controversial or not, in order to get the attention of the media or to divert attention away from criticisms against my players as it has been suggested. I say what I feel even if sometimes I have to recant or apologize. I don’t know if that is good or bad, but it is how I have always been and what has allowed me to get to where I am right now. Fortunately, there are those “beeps” that keep children from hearing some of my more famous phrases.
Dimas Nieto of Barquisimeto points out that our defense is weak this year and asks if we plan to hire Omar Vizquel for the 2010 season. Certainly defense has been our Achilles heel and we are among the teams with the most errors in the Majors, although we’ve improved as of late. As for Omar, the truth is that we tried to sign him for the 2005 season when he decided to go instead to San Francisco, where he was being offered a three-year contract compared to the two-year contract the White Sox presented. For 2010, we have already decided that our shortstop will be Alexei Ramirez, who has improved considerably by playing the position. Perhaps I put extra pressure on him myself when I remarked, before the season started, that the Chicago fans would forget all about Ozzie Guillen when they saw Alexei play shortstop. My bad.
Carlos Sanchez of Rubio, Venezuela wants to know if we still have a chance of winning the division. Well Carlos, as I said at the beginning of the column, mathematically speaking we are still alive, but we have to win a lot of games. I can assure you that while we have even the slimmest of hopes, everyone here is going to go out there and battle and that no one is going to give up or wave the white flag. We shall see.
And now that I have picked up the phone to contact God, I am going to ask him for much health and wellbeing for all of those who during this first season of columns spent a few minutes of their time to share their opinions, concerns, doubts and words of optimism with me. This is the last column of this series for the 2009 season and I want to especially thank Raul Corro and Eduardo Menda Osorio of Caracas, Osmar Cardenas of Maracaibo, Gerardo Rangel of South Australia, Rafael Vergara of El Tocuyo, Pedro Luis Cova Salom of Guyana and Orlando Figueroa of Carora. I wish them and all those who have written to me throughout the course of these last six months the best of luck. Keep rooting for the White Sox!
More than once I have emphasized the need to reduce the number of defensive errors because they result in more work for the pitchers. As I write this column, the White Sox lead the American League in errors. Although our opponents don’t always score runs as a result, defensive errors force the pitcher to throw more pitches, which can limit the number of innings he throws. This can be very serious.
For this home stretch, we need all of our pitchers, both starters and relievers, to pitch effectively for as long as possible. For that they need help from our offense, but also from our defense. Pitchers seem larger than life when they have a solid team backing them from the first through the final inning.
Speaking of good outings, Freddy Garcia and Jake Peavy had great starts with the Charlotte Knights, our Triple-A affiliate, were very good. Freddy went 6.0 innings and although he took the loss, he allowed only two runs and struck out nine. Peavy also showed that he will be a big help when he joins our pitching staff. In 3.0 innings against Pawtucket, an affiliate of the Boston Red Sox, he allowed only one hit, walked one batter and recorded five strikeouts. Three of them came when he struck out the side in the first inning.
If Freddy and Peavy pitch according to their credentials, count the White Sox in the race for the American League Central title. It’s important, of course, that the rest of the players continue to do their jobs in terms of producing runs. To that end, the addition of Alex Rios should add great depth to the outfield and a respectable bat that should strengthen our lineup.
Anyway, there is a month and a half left in the season. The team’s management has made the necessary moves to strengthen our roster and our destiny is still in our hands. We hope to continue receiving support from our fans in Chicago and will keep giving our all on the field until the very end. Hopefully we’ll be battling in October to the satisfaction of our fans.
Now for some answers.
Angel Ramon Deonice of Carupano, Venezuela asks what motivated the White Sox to release Scott Podsednik in 2007 only to rehire him in 2009. Although I have said in the past that I have nothing to do with signings, I’d like to remind Angel Ramon that during the last two years that Podsednik was with us, his playing time was limited due to injuries. From there, the team decided to let him go. After the Colorado Rockies opted not to sign him for the 2009 season, Scott was willing to go to the minors to prove that he was in excellent health. If you take into account the trouble we had finding a leadoff hitter, you will understand why we re-signed him. I can honestly tell you that without Podsednik in our lineup we would not be contending for the division title.
Arturo Fadragas, a Cuban resident of Chicago, wants to know if his fellow countryman Jose Contreras is finished as a pitcher and if he figures in the White Sox’s plans for 2010.
Arturo is not the only Cuban who inquires about Contreras. Every week I get messages giving me suggestions as to how to deal with him, on what advice I should give him and how to support him. Some request that I order him to throw this pitch or that pitch at this or that angle. The truth is that upon his return from Charlotte, Contreras looked great and won some very important games. But his most recent starts have been a disaster, as Dr. Julio Antonio Machillanda of Porlamar points out. I really don’t know if it’s a lack of concentration or a lack of command of his best pitches, but the truth is that Jose is in the rotation right now because there is no other available option. His future with the White Sox will depend on what he does on the mound. Personally I hope that he gets out of this funk not only so that he can help us in the home stretch but because he is a hard worker and an excellent person.
Rafael Loretto of Valle La Pascua and Luis Manuel Ferrer Torres of Caracas ask about the famous “Guerrilla” of the 1980s with the Tiburones (Sharks) of La Guaira. At some point I will discuss this in the column that I write in Venezuela, but I will mention that, contrary to what has been said, the term “guerrilla” does not mean that the players played like hardened warriors but that there was much discord in the clubhouse among some of the players. So and so did not speak to so and so, so and so did not have a relationship with so and so, so and so hated so and so. Nonetheless, once the umpire said, “play ball,” the internal “warfare” did not keep the players from playing like professionals or from devoting themselves, body and soul, to the quest for victory. The result is known by Venezuelan fans, especially fans of los Tiburones of La Guaira.
Carlos Andrade of Maracay asks when Bartolo Colon will be ready to pitch for the White Sox. Carlos, I really don’t know and by the way, if you see him in Maracay, please give him my regards.
Marco Antonio Bonilla of San Diego, California, asks how many games I think Jake Peavy can win for the White Sox this year. Honestly, Marco Antonio, I hope he wins enough games to help us win the division title and the World Series. I would be satisfied with that.
Your question allows me to answer those who, like Wenceslao Moreno of Maracaibo, Oswaldo Peroza of Valencia and Juan Martin of Miami, wonder if it was a good idea to bring aboard an injured Peavy. Personally I think it was, not only because of the games he can win this year, but because of the message it sends to the team and to the Chicago fans. Peavy and Alex Rios, another acquisition for the second half of the season, have contracts that guarantee that they will remain in Chicago for several more years. This means that Kenny Williams is set on building a competitive team, not only for 2009, but for a long time. It’s true, as Martin points out, that we gave up valuable prospects, but in baseball you have to give something good to get something of equal value. Time will tell if it was a good decision, but right now it seems excellent.
Rafael Escalante of Valencia asks me if I would like to end my career with the White Sox. Definitely! I would like to be here for another 20 years or as long as my body can take it. However, the day that my work is poor or that I can no longer help the team win, they should send me home without contemplation. I hope I have grandchildren by then so I can drive them crazy!
An annoyed Victor Saldivia Simanca of Valencia wrote to complain that I have not responded to any of his questions. Although I was sure I had discussed his messages in previous columns, I nonetheless want to reiterate my appreciation. Your letters, more than questions, contain analysis and opinions that I respect although I may not always agree with them. For example, in one letter you suggest that Freddy was a warrior but that even warriors must meet their end. In your opinion, Freddy’s end has come. I hope that is not the case and that he can contribute this year. In any case, thank you for sharing your thoughts on the White Sox and Venezuelan baseball with me and for the advice you provided in your last message.
By the way, many encouraging messages have been sent to Freddy Garcia via this column and I will definitely pass those along to him. Like I said at the beginning, his starts in the minor leagues have been very good and we can only hope that he will exhibit that same intensity in the big leagues and show why he earned the nickname “Big Game Freddy.” In response to Hector Natera of Guayana, Anibal Contreras of Santa Teresa, Jaifre Gutierrez of Maracay, and Royer Cegarra and Juvenal Briceno of Caracas, who asked when Freddy will be back in the majors, based on what we has shown us up until now, it is likely that he will be back earlier than we expected. In conclusion, I want to respond to Jose Sanchez of Punto Fijo, who asked why we signed Freddy if we already traded him once. Well Jose, first of all, everyone deserves a second chance, especially Freddy, who achieved so many good things with this organization. But more important
ly, it was because we think that he can still help us win games. Let’s see how things go for him.
Pepin Hernandez of Tenerife, Spain, asks if there is tension on the bench between our American and Latin American players. Pepin brings up the incident between Alexei and Pierzynski in one of our games. Even in the best families sometimes there are arguments, Pepin, and that does not mean that there are problems. The team’s friendly atmosphere is the main weapon that allows us to battle as one. Remember that there are 25 players and 8 coaches each with a distinct personality. But the desire to win unites us and makes us a family in which each member protects the others regardless of whether they are rookies or veterans. Incidents and differences will always be present but in the end, after each storm, the sun rises once again.
Ramses Valladaras, a child from Ocumare de Tuy, writes to tell me about his dream of becoming a professional ballplayer and to send me many positive messages. Ramses, the key to achieving your dreams is to work hard and persevere. As you know, I too was born in Ocumare del Tuy and although many people didn’t think I was tall enough or strong enough or whatever to play professional baseball, thanks to my efforts I got to where I got. If I was able to do it, you can too, but it will depend on your perseverance and hard work. Hopefully I can be your manager in the big leagues one day.
Jose Jimenez, also of Ocumare del Tuy, writes to suggest that I build a baseball stadium in that town where I was born although, as Jose recalls, I was not raised there. If it were in my power, it is likely that I would build baseball stadiums in all the towns of Venezuela for children and young people to play sports and stay away from vices. But as I have said in the past, that task lies with the authorities, with the governors and mayors. They are the ones who are truly responsible for the health and wellbeing of the town that elected them. The Guillen Foundation unfortunately does not have the resources for an investment of that magnitude, which is why we use the little that we collect to help children and young people with health problems. My advice is that you demand that the authorities keep their promises and that they prioritize sport, which is the best way to combat poverty and delinquency.
Carlos Venot of Caracas and Carlos Ovalles of Mariara, Carabobo, asked when my contract with the White Sox expires and if I have received offers to manage other teams. Carlos, I should be in Chicago until 2012, which is the last year on my current contract. The rest of the teams cannot make me offers because it would be illegal, but I really hope to finish my career in this city.
Leonardo Araujo of Caracas wants to know which position on our team is the weakest and needs immediate attention. Well, Leonardo, the starting pitching needs to be more consistent if we aspire to make it to the postseason. The starters have done a good job, but have been unpredictable. In general, our defense needs to improve because the errors are hurting our pitchers. I reiterate that with the material we have we can be champions, but we need to do our job properly at every position.
Alejo Manriquez of Maturin suggests that we try to acquire Pablo Sandoval from the San Francisco Giants. Alejo, “Kung Fu Panda” has a long ways to go before becoming a free agent and I doubt that the Giants would be willing to trade him right now.
Angel Ramon Utrera Ovalles of San Juan de los Morros in Guarico brings me joy with his optimism. He asks what the White Sox’s rotation will look like for the postseason. I hope God hears you, Angel Ramon. First we have to get to the postseason before we think about rotations. If that is the case, I would welcome the headache that would result from having to choose four starters among an effective Burhle, Floyd, Danks, Contreras, Peavy and Freddy. The best four would be given the responsibility of guiding us to the title.
Maikel Ferreras, of Ciudad Bolivar, asks me three questions: What recommendations do I give to players who are starting their careers? That they work hard and never give up. What is, in my opinion, the best Venezuelan player right now? It’s impossible to answer, Maikel, because there are too many that are really good. And, why aren’t there more Venezuelans on the White Sox? Although I have addressed this in previous columns, you should know that in the minor leagues there are approximately a dozen of our fellow countrymen making strides towards the big leagues. Little by little, since I arrived in 2004, the number of Venezuelans that have been signed by our scouts has increased. Before then it was difficult to compete with Dominican Republic in signing talent, but we are on the right track.
Esteban Armando Marquez of La Guaira clearly has not read any of my other columns because he asks if there is a possibility that I will manage the Tiburones in the Venezuelan tournament. Although I usually “never say never,” the problem is that those are the months that I devote to my family. As long as I am working in the Major Leagues from February to October, it is impossible to think about managing in the Venezuelan baseball league even if I wanted to. That is not in my plans for the time being.
Angel Esnaldo Lopez of Santa Lucia wants to know if I have been asked to manage Team Venezuela in the two World Baseball Classics that have taken place. Angel, no I have not, because the event’s rules prohibit the participation of Major League managers. In the first tournament they asked me for advice, which I provided with much love, but they ignored me almost completely.
Well, that’s enough for today. Once again, I apologize to those who wrote to me and didn’t receive responses due to a lack of time. My sincere gratitude goes out to those who sent encouraging messages and their congratulations for our work. I would like to mention Tito Barrera, Randy Roy Ramirez, Neji Hyuga, Sergio Sequera and Hendrick Espiona of Maracaibo, Jose Alberto Soterano, Charle Rondon, Haydee Matey, Raul Castellanos and Newlson Gomez of Caracas, Douglas Mendoza of Miami, Yazmany Monarrez of Mexico, Raul Rojas of Charallaves, Jairo Parra of Barinas, Edwin Salinas of Anaco, Andres Avelino Faneite, Cesar Pirona and Alejandro Leon of Valencia, Geraro Prior Harris of Colombia, Santiago Quinto and Olivia Ortega of Maracay, Alberth Chirinos of Coro, Lino Bravo of Fort Lauderdale, Ricardo Olivero of Highwood, Illinois, Yorman Armas of Los Teques, Nelson Caraspe of Valle de La Pascua, José Montero of Cabimas and the hundreds of people who took a few minutes of their precious time to share something with me through whitesox.com.
A million thanks to everyone and keep following and supporting the White Sox!
Thanks to this column I have received messages from places I love like Barquisimiento, Los Teques and Valencia in my homeland of Venezuela, and places I am close to like Skokie and Bolingbrook in Illinois. And from places as remote as Africa, Honduras and Cuba.
In all corners of the world there are White Sox fans who send me positive messages, concerns, worries, opinions and, obviously, questions about the team and baseball in general.
To think back 25 years when I was just starting in professional baseball, I had many difficulties then trying to communicate with my family. I remember having to save money for phone calls and waiting until odd hours of the night to get the best rates.
Now, the youngsters in the minors have different ways to keep in contact with their loved ones. From far away now, players can talk with their families when they have a good or bad day.
Really, communication is so important in all areas of life.
A couple of weeks ago I called a meeting with my players and my message was very simple and to the point: either play better or the general manager Kenny Williams will be obligated to make some trades. It was that simple.
Honestly I would like keep this group of players for the rest of the season because, as I have said many times, I am convinced that we have the talent to compete and win.
It seems that message was received, although it is too early to claim victory, because there is still plenty of baseball to be played.
But we have played better, and we have been able to win more often.
Can we keep this rhythm until September? I hope so, although through the course of this season we have had ups and down that have left me more than a little confused.
At the moment of writing this column we just finished a four game series with the Royals, ending a seven-game road trip where we went 5-2.
That trip started 13 straight games against our division rivals. Before the All-Star break we finish with three games against Cleveland at home and three against the Twins at Metrodome.
The big question that I get from the majority of the fans that write-in is whether we have what it takes to compete for the division title. My response is the same: Yes, and these next few games against the division rivals will be key.
What will Kenny Williams do before the non-waiver trade deadline? Only Kenny really knows, but that will also depend on how well our team plays this month.
I have never asked him for a specific player for the second half, not in 2005 and not last year when we won the division. Luckily, Kenny has been able to find the right piece each time to help us win.
We hope it happens again this season.
Now some questions:
Kelvin from Puerto Rico wants to know which is the best team in the American League and why. Well Kelvin, personally I think Boston is the team to beat because their pitching is the deepest in the league. They have good starters and their bullpen has done an excellent job, and don’t forget that too many experts, pitching is 70 percent of the game.
Jesus, from Caracas, asked my opinion of interleague games and which Venezuelan we have in the system that will soon make the jump to the majors.
Without a doubt the interleague games are a good idea for Major League Baseball, because it lets fans see players that might not come through their town otherwise. Before interleague play a fan in Pittsburgh would not get a chance to see Derek Jeter play unless there was a Pirates-Yankees World Series. It is also fun to see some of “turn back the clock” series. This happened a few weeks ago when the White Sox and the Dodgers faced each other, marking the 50th anniversary of the World Series in 1959. I am sure a lot of people enjoyed that series, especially with the presence of players like Luis Aparicio, Billy Pierce, Jim McAnany, Jim Landis and Jim Rivera.
I have always said, though, that the teams in the American League are at a disadvantage in these games, because we lose a hitter when we play in the National League parks. The National League teams though have the advantage of adding a hitter when they play in our park. But, I insist, that it is a good idea.
In terms of a Venezuelans that are on the verge of coming up to the big leagues, I have bad news Jesus, since it doesn’t look like there are any right now, but there may be some in the near future.
That lets me respond to Walter, from Valencia in Venezuela, who asked me about Clevelan Santeliz.
Clevelan is a great kid and is having his best season since he signed with the White Sox, in part, because of limited activity this winter during the Venezuelan League. This year Santeliz is playing with the Birmingham Barons in Double AA and he has shown great potential because he has stayed healthy. I think this is the best shape he has been in. In terms of his attitude, he is not afraid, doesn’t give in to pressure and has guts. If you watch him in Spring Training you will see him always rooting on his teammates, no matter who they are.
Neomar, from Caracas, asks me about my compatriot. He wants to know the chances of Freddy Garcia coming back to the Majors.
I haven’t had a chance to speak with Freddy lately, but my three kids are constantly keeping me up to date on his rehabilitation. If Freddy is able to regain the strength in his shoulder, then anything is possible. Right now Freddy is with Bartolo Colon in Glendale, Arizona working hard to see if he can come back and help us in the second half. Me, more than anyone, would love to be able to count on Freddy in the second half.
Rafael, de Los Teques, asks how I see the development of Venezuelan baseball.
I think our baseball is at its peak, because we have a lot of talent that is developing in organizations in the Major Leagues. At this rate we will shortly be side-by-side with the Dominican Republic. Soon we will see stars riding the bench in international tournaments, because we have so much talent. In terms of the future, it will depend on these players and their desire to play in their country and to pass on their knowledge. It is also important for the government to support the healthy competition that is our professional baseball.
Noe, from Chicago, asks me why we aren’t playing more “small ball” give that we have several fast players.
Noe, we are working on that. It is true that we have speedy players, but we also have players with a lot of power who are capable of changing a game with one swing of the bat. But we are working on it and our recent results are a sure indicator that we are able to win without the long ball.
Tirso, of Skokie, wants to know my opinion of what Frank Thomas accomplished in his career now that news of Sammy Sosa and Alex Rodriguez has broken about their steroid use.
I think Frank Thomas should be a first ballot Hall-of-Famer. His numbers rank up there with some of the best hitters ever and he deserves to be in Cooperstown next to the greats of the game.
Eduardo, of Sarasota, Florida, asks me if I think Alexei can hit 20 home runs this season.
Without a doubt, I think he can do that.
Hannah, of Naperville, Illinois, wants to know about Jim Thome’s future in 2010.
There are still a lot of hits in Jim Thome’s bat, but it is up to Jim how many more years he wants to play. Those who share a clubhouse with Jim are witnesses to his work ethic. He is constantly prepping himself so he stays in the best shape possible. It is not easy on his knees and legs to support that physique that lets him hit some of those mammoth home runs. I think if he keeps working hard like he has and if he still wants to play, then he will be out there. In terms of him playing with the White Sox, I have no idea what type of team I will have next year. For now we are concentrating on 2009.
Karen Aparicio writes in from Maracaibo to wish me luck and to thank me for the comments I made recently regarding her father, the immortal Luis Aparicio.. Karen, thanks to you for having a
father like Luis who is an example for all Venezuelans, the only one in the Hall of Fame and an inspiration for all of us who decided to play professional baseball.
Alvaro, of Bolingbrook, wants to know who my idol was growing up.
David Concepcion is my baseball idol and that is the reason I wear number 13 on my back. Luckily, I have had the opportunity to spend a lot of time with him. I have been really lucky to have him and Luis Aparicio and Chico Carrasquel at my side during my first game as manager at U.S. Cellular Field. Like David has been my idol since I was young, Roberto Clemente has been the player I have most admired in baseball. Not only because he was such a great player, but because of his dedication to mankind.
Finally, Antonio Miguel, from San Juan de Morros in Venezuela, wants to know the differences I see between this team and the 2005 team that won the World Series. Pitching. That is the big difference. In 2005 we had a foursome of strong starters that were able to combine to pitch four complete games in a row in the postseason. But besides that we had a bullpen that matured as the season went on. It had a combination of veterans like Cliff Politte and Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez, along with young studs like Neal Cotts and Bobby Jenks. Obviously winning a title was a team effort and every player contributed as some point during the season, but pitching was the key. In 2009, we have good arms that should turn into stars very soon, but currently are in the learning process.
Once again I am sorry that I haven’t been able to respond to all your questions and I reiterate the thanks for all the positive comments I have received from all corners of the world. I hope you keep supporting the White Sox, and keep writing in to find out directly from me what is happening with our team. It will always be a pleasure reading these comments and opinions, and even the criticism. Go Sox.
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.
First off, I would like to thank everyone who took a few minutes of their time to send me their questions, opinions, congratulations and criticisms through this page. I am sure that this exchange between you and me will be very productive. In this second column I will respond to a couple of questions that were sent my way. I will also respond to a couple of comments that were made about the team, which, truthfully, is going through a tough time.
I am still optimistic, as are my players, and I think that at any moment now we will combine good pitching, with timely hitting and solid defense, to get back on track. Up until now that hasn’t happened with the consistency we would like. Miguel Monges asks if it is possible to be able to finish in first place even though we have started the season with so many injuries. It’s true Miguel, that when we put a team together in Spring Training, the last thing we think of is losing so many key pieces due to injury. In 2004, my first year as manager, we lost our third and fourth spot hitters because of injuries in the middle of season and that ended any dreams we had of the postseason. It wasn’t impossible, but it was really hard to score runs without Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas in the lineup. That’s why I always say one of the most important things is to stay healthy, especially because of the 162-game schedule we play.
Luis Angel Rodriguez asks that I keep a consistent lineup “as much as possible!” You are right Angel, that is the best scenario, but it’s not always possible because of injuries and the rest that some players that play almost every day need to get. When you have the goal of winning the World Series, you know that that effort will require an additional 11 wins in October, and it’s impossible to reach that goal without your key players in good condition and that means giving them a break from time to time. Additionally, losing your leadoff hitter because of injury during the first week of the season has forced us to experiment with different things in order to get each player in a spot where they will be productive. It hasn’t been easy, but I am confident that we will have a set lineup soon.
Fernando Bosch, Rafael Castro and Sergio Villareal are just some of you that have asked about Jose Contreras. Honestly, I have to tip my cap to him for his professionalism. If before I respected him as a player because of his work ethic and enthusiasm, now I admire and respect him even more after the way he has handled the start of the season. Nobody thought that he would be ready before July or August, but he arrived in Arizona in great shape. Perhaps his rehab wasn’t complete and we rushed in getting him back in the starting rotation. It was his own idea to go down to the minors to work on his mechanics and that is admirable and worth my respect. Anyone else might have stayed at home enjoying his guaranteed money. Contreras went to Charlotte to work because he wants to come back and help his team. I am sure that will happen, too.
Cristóbal Silva reminds me that we need a consistent leadoff hitter that doesn’t get hurt. It’s true Cristobal, and if you know where to find one, let me know and we’ll pick him up tomorrow!
Juan Moreno asks how I am going to get the White Sox to play my style if we have a team of sluggers. This season we added some speed to the lineup with players like Dewayne Wise and Chris Getz to add to Alexei Ramirez and Carlos Quentin in order to let make us more aggressive on the base paths. Also, Josh Fields will add youth and power. Up until now, the injuries and low production hasn’t let us be more aggressive, but I am confident that we will be able to add the youth to the power and experience of players like Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski and score some runs.
Smery Cortez and Carmelo Salazar have asked if Freddy Garcia is in our plans. A healthy Freddy Garcia, without a doubt, can help us a lot; I know better than most of his talent and what his is capable of doing in big games. Unfortunately, Freddy hasn’t been able to get the effectiveness back in his pitches because of injuries to his shoulder. I know that he is working hard and, personally, I hope he can soon get back to form because we are also great friends. The ultimate decision of his signing, though, would be the responsibility of our GM, Kenny Williams.
I’d also like to respond to Martin Quintero, who says ‘he has heard’ that my son was signed by the White Sox without being a good player, because I forced the team to do it, and that because of that we didn’t sign better players.
Martin, if you believe everything you hear you will end up going crazy. First off, I can say, that despite my excellent relationship with Jerry Reinsdorf, I don’t have the power to impose my wishes on this organization. My job has nothing to do with signing players.
Oney Robert, the son you are referring to, was signed in the 36th round of the 2007 draft because there were people in this organization that thought he had enough talent to be a professional baseball player, and I assure you that he didn’t take anyone else’s spot. As a father, I supported him just like any father would. It wasn’t going to be me that squashed his aspirations of being a Major League Baseball player, especially for a person who has been surrounded his whole life by baseball and the Majors. He was born in January of 1986, a few weeks after I was awarded the 1985 American League Rookie of the Year Award. He decided this year to let go of his dreams of being a Major Leaguer, but his talents now are being put to work in an office job. I think his two years as a professional baseball player was a good experience and that it will help him grow as a person.
I would love to have unlimited time and space to keep answering questions, but there are way too many of them. A couple questions that don’t have anything directly to do with me will be addressed by someone in the White Sox organization. Paul LaReau asks if there are White Sox signs and photos available for him to decorate his high school classroom in Indiana, Mavel Zubia wants to know about White Sox training clinics, Francisco Eduardo Arvayo inquired about if we are planning on playing in Hermosillo, Mexico again.
Several of you also sent congratulations and good wishes which I have taken to heart. Keep writing, because I do my best to respond to all the questions. And again, thanks for your support.