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!
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.
My relationship with the press, generally, is a good one. The reporters know they can ask me whatever they want because I am always going to respond honestly and at times say controversial things. But I am sure you, the fans, also want to ask me things that for whatever reasons the media doesn’t.
That is why we are opening this line of communication between you and me. Every two weeks, starting today (May 4), I’ll be writing on this page about different topics. I’ll share with you my concerns about the team, my satisfaction with our performances and unleashing a rant or two, but most importantly, I’ll be responding to the questions you send me.
Obviously, if there are a lot of questions I’ll need to be selective and respond to the ones that this space permits me. But be sure that I will read all the messages. I’m sure that these messages will at times turn into suggestions that will help me or criticisms of my moves as manager of the Chicago White Sox. I will read and appreciate all the messages.
The reason this space was created is so you can communicate directly with me, without any intermediaries or moderation. I’ll be waiting for your messages.
On the baseball front, I want to make perfectly clear that I really like the team we have. I’m not going to lie to you, like some politicians do, and tell you things about this team that aren’t true. Now that the first month is in the books and we are starting the second, I still think that the key for us defending the division crown we won last season is to play well consistently and staying healthy.
If the starting pitching holds, our defense plays solidly and we can get key hits, then we will be in the fight until the very end. Of course, the bullpen has to keep the leads we give them. In terms of the injuries, there is really nothing we can do. They are just part of the game.
We’ve already had to deal with DeWayne Wise going down for several weeks and the nagging injuries to Chris Getz and Jim Thome which cost them a couple of days. Recently, Brian Anderson has had problems with a strained oblique muscle. But the season is a long one and the way you start isn’t as important as the way you finish. My job is to get the White Sox to first place of the Central Division by the end of September so we can advance to the postseason in order to win another title for the city of Chicago.
We have the personnel and the talent. We also are hungry to win. What do you guys think? Let me know through this page.