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Well, real Spring Training has started and the
games are underway finally! Took some
more time to look over all the questions you have been submitting and picked
some out to answer. Make sure you check
out the album I posted on my site from the first week of camp.
On to your questions …
Q: I loved the picture in the (Chicago) Sun-Times the other week of you as “The OzFather.” What do you think of that
nickname? Also, what is your favorite mafia movie? Go Sox! — Chris M. (Villa
think that is a great nickname and I love that movie (“The Godfather”). But “Casino” is by far my favorite movie
because of Sharon Stone. Wow!
Q: How would you compare yourself (when you were
playing baseball) with Pete Rose as a ballplayer? — Barb R. (Goodyear, Ariz.)
were both hard-nosed players, and we played the game with a lot of heart and
balls. His hustle paid off a little more
than mine did, though.
Q: I’m excited about this upcoming year for a
lot of reasons, but I think I’m most excited about seeing John Danks take the next
step and become this team’s ace. What do you see as his ceiling? Cy Young one
day, Top 10 AL pitcher? I would be interested in knowing. Thanks, Ozzie, and
good luck this year. It’s been too long since 2005. — Eddie M. (Chicago)
don’t think Danks is in the Top 10 yet, but he has the potential to win the Cy
Young one day. He has the stuff and the
drive to make it.
Q: Hey, Ozzie, I hear a lot of people in the
organization say that Frank Thomas is the greatest hitter in White Sox history. I would argue. I would say “Shoeless” Joe Jackson without a doubt. What is your
take? — Keith W. (Bradenton, Fla.)
never saw “Shoeless” Joe play. Did you? Frank is the best hitter I have ever seen, with all due respect to Tony
Gwynn and Wade Boggs.
Q: I’m a big Carlton Fisk fan. How would he be
as a pitching coach or manager? (Not for the White Sox, of course, since they are
set at these positions for the next 20 years — haha) — Will O. (Saunemin, Ill.)
Never. Pudge doesn’t have the patience or the passion to deal with
baseball now. He is a great man and a
great baseball man, but I don’t see him as a coach.
Q: Hi, Ozzie. Lucky you, having a English
bulldog — they are great dogs! I have had two and they are exceptional. One day
I’ll have another. What is your dog’s name and how old? You should post a
picture of it on your site. Have a good Spring Training. — Steve L. (Downers
A: My English Bulldog’s name is “DH.” He is 7
years old and named after Harold Baines.
Q: Hey, Ozzie, do you follow soccer? And if so,
who is your favorite team? — Jared D. (Austin, Texas)
A: Yes, Real Madrid. I don’t like Barcelona because Gerard Pique
is with Shakira (haha).
Q: What’s up, Ozzie? I was just wondering, who
is the best prankster on the team? Who is the easiest person to prank? Thanks! I love the White Sox! — Danielle G. (Sycamore, Ill.)
Danielle. Ramon Castro is the best prankster on the team, and easiest to prank
is by far third-base coach Jeff Cox. Poor guy!
Q: Hi, Ozzie — the pride of Venezuela and the Tiburones. … Ozzie, is there a place to eat Venezuelan food in Chicago? Have you seen Greivis Vasquez play, and do you know him personally? Greetings from Guatemala. — Maxwell R. (Caracas, Venezuela)
A: I know there’s an Aripo’s, which is supposedly good. Regarding Greivis, I do know him and he’s a super nice guy. I’m very proud of him.
Thank you for all the support you have shown for the website. I hope everyone continues to enjoy!
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.
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.
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.