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.