Well, it’s almost over! I’m all packed as we finish up Spring Training here today and head to
Winston-Salem to face one of our Minor League teams tomorrow. Then it’s on to Cleveland for Opening
Day on Friday.
Here are the last
set of your questions before the 2011 season starts …
Q: Hey, Ozzie, greetings from Maracaibo. I’d like to see you in the playoffs again. I’m a big fan of you how manage, even though the last few years you’ve lost some games. Is your game a Caribbean style? — Eneil G. (Maracaibo, Venezuela)
A: I can only work with what I’ve got. Sometimes, the pieces they give me don’t fit the Caribbean style. But this year, I feel we have more better speed and there are going to be a lot of runners on base.
Q: I’m really interested in why Adam Dunn is batting third. I would think that with his high strikeout record and low batting average, that Paul Konerko would be better in that slot. Just interested to hear why you think differently. — Brian M. (Minneapolis, Minn.)
A: I think Dunn is around a .370 on-base percentage. But it was never
a choice for me between Dunn or P.K., it was a choice between Dunn and Alex Rios. I
felt more comfortable with the guys the way we have them. But anything can
change, although I hope I don’t change the lineup too much.
Q: Hey, Ozzie. I see the White Sox have one roster spot left open. Have you thought about giving that to Domingo Ayala? I hear he’s got unbelievable God-given talents. — Dale H. (Rockford, Ill.)
A: I would pay to have Domingo on my team, just so I
could see him dress up and make everyone laugh (haha).
Q: Who’s a better person — Luis Aparicio or Dave Concepcion? — Greg M. (Managua, Nicaragua)
A: They’re both good people. They treat me very well, and they’re both stars and I respect them a lot.
Q: Ozzie, I’m a Venezuelan lawyer with experience in sports and I’m doing my Master’s in Chicago! I want to work with the White Sox. Can you help me? — Pablo G. (La Guaira, Venezuela)
A: Well, I’d like to help you but that’s not my area of expertise. Send your info to the White Sox offices and see what they say. Good luck.
Q: What do you think of Lastings Milledge? I know he was a Cubs killer in Pittsburgh. I think he is a great defensive replacement in later innings. — Robert W. (Darien, Ill.)
A: I think if Lastings stays within himself and doesn’t try and do too much, he can help us — not only in late innings, but starting as well.
Q: What changes in the division’s balance of power demand your greatest attention? Will Jake Peavy make it OK uninjured? How are Dunn and Gordon Beckham adjusting? — Jeffery M. (Chicago)
A: I think every
year the AL central gets better. Yes, even the Twins and Royals got better. But
that makes it more fun competing against them. I hope Peavy makes it ok–we
need him. I think Dunn will be fine and Gordo should be ok, these guys just
want season to start already.
Q: Can Lastings Milledge be an everyday player for you guys? How did it go with Manny Ramirez last year? Take care. — Guillermo R.
A: I don’t think Lastings is going to be a regular because we already have three very good outfielders. Manny and I were fine. Really, he never gave me any problems, and I have a lot of respect for him.
Q: Hey, Ozzie, will your English Bulldog be at “Dog Day.” And does he bark at you in Spanish or English? (HA!) Have a great season. — Dave G. (Glenview, Ill.)
A: DH won’t be “Dog Day” because he usually humps everything he sees (hahaha). He speaks both
English and Spanish.
Q: Ozzie, who will be the next three Venezuelans in the Hall of Fame if everything stays on course? Do you hear Gaita? — Jose R. (Maracaibo, Venezuela)
A: Omar Vizquel, Miguel Cabrera, and after that I don’t know who has a real chance. I hear Gaita in December. But only in December (haha).
Thank you for all your questions since the website launch. They have been fun to read and
hopefully we can continue to do this once the season starts. Thank you to all the fans that came out
to Spring Training this year. We really appreciate your support.
Monday, and we are getting closer and closer to Opening Day! For everyone that is going to be in
Chicago for Opening Day, please keep your schedule open, as there is going to be
a way for you to come out and enjoy the game with White Sox fans and support The Ozzie Foundation. More details
are coming this week, and I will be sure to post them!
more good ones this week. … Enjoy.
make themselves great? — Mickey S. (Trabuco Canyon, Cal.)
helped! They also worked very
hard, but the one thing I will tell you about all the great players is they
study the game within the game. They don’t just go out there and play.
Q: Hey, Ozzie, I love your website and the initiative to create it so that we are more in touch with you. How difficult is it for you to build your roster when you have so much talent in Spring Training, and do you have to send some of it to the Minors? — Teodoro M. (Caracas, Venezuela)
A: Thanks; the idea behind the website was to be more connected to the fans. Building the roster isn’t that difficult because the majority of the time, the ballplayers are in or out based on their play. For me, the thing I like least about my job is sending down players to the Minors because I at one point was one of those, and as an older player, too (haha).
Q: A pleasure, Mr. Guillen. I’d like your opinion with regards to the next manager of Venezuela in the World Baseball Classic. Who’s capable in our country to be in charge of that? — Marcos (Barquisimeto, Venezuela)
A: Good question, and I wish I had the answers. I don’t think that the reason Venezuela has lost in the last two WBC’s is Luis Sojo‘s fault. The reason has to be that the teams from Asia have a lot of time together and they’ve already been playing the entire year, while the other teams can’t play up to their full potential. I really think there could be a lot of managers who can keep order and that the players would want to play for.
Q: Hey, Ozzie, cheers from Maracaibo. Let me tell you that I manage the White Sox more than you. Of course, I do it while playing on the Wii. I admire you. Best of luck this season. Are we going to be champions again? (hahahaha) — Alberto B. (Maracaibo, Venezuela)
A: (hahahaha) I’m sure you do a better job than me. Hopefully we’re champions — you on Wii and me in real life.
Q: Oswaldo, you have been very successful being how you are. I’m surprised you say you’re going to change because if you do, you’ll lose your identity. Will you really change? — Hector M. (El Tocuyo, Venezuela)
A: Well, I’m 47 years old. I don’t think I’m going to change now at this age. I say it in the sense of trying to be more calm because every time they throw me out of a game it costs me money (haha). Lots of money, and my family can benefit from that.
Q: So many kids are playing ball for teams that practice year-round
these days. Is that a good thing, or do you think they need time away so their
bodies can rest and mature without straining the arm all year? –– Bob C.
A: Well, I think it’s a good thing and a bad thing. You don’t want your arm to get too
tired, so I agree with that. I also
believe that kids that play year-round have an advantage over kids who don’t, because the only way you get better is by practice. But you never want to blow a kid’s arm out, so there is
probably a balance.
Q: Ozzie, how important is it to win Spring Training games? Do you
focus more on how the pitchers are doing rather than the wins? — DJ (Antioch,
A: Not important. I focus
on health and how certain players respond in game situations, like a hit and run
for example. That’s pretty much
what I look for.
Q: Best of luck this season, Oswaldo! Tiburones and White Sox forever! My question is: Where do you rank yourself among the best Venezuelan shortstops? With Luis Aparicio, Dave Concepcion, Omar Vizquel, where are you? — Sergio C. (Philadelphia)
A: Well, those players are and were the best, as well as role models to kids, and now I have the honor of serving as manager to one of them. To me, Omar is the one who dominated the position. David was my idol and the prettiest (haha). Luis is the only Hall of Famer and the one with the most girlfriends (hahaha). And me, I’m the one that has the most money (haha) — just joking. I’m honored to say that with all of them I’ve had relationships and friendships that I’ll never forget.
Q: Who was your favorite speaker at your Roast? — Bob C.
A: My favorite speaker at the Roast was my son, Ozzie Jr., and Peggy Kusinski was also very good. But the best all around was probably the host, Chris Rongey.
Q: Miss Spring Training in Sarasota at all? Speaking for many Sox fans here, we miss you guys! Once enjoyed having a cold one with Ron Schueler after a round of golf and saw him call the dugout during a game to talk to Terry Bevington about you playing right field. Remember that game? — Scott H.
A: No, I don’t remember that game, but I do miss Sarasota; had some great times and memories there! I have to say, though, that I love where the Sox are right now in Arizona.
Q: You seem to like looking into the crowd during games, so what is the craziest thing you have seen in the crowd? — Anthony D.
A: Once back in the ’80’s, when I was playing at Old Comiskey Park, I saw a couple being … let’s say “intimate.” (hahaha)
Q: Which Venezuelan will be part of your team this year? Who is the White Sox’s No. 1 Venezuelan prospect? — Hector F.
A: I am very proud of once again having Omar Vizquel on my team this year. I can’t answer who the best prospect is because the Minor League system is very large and my focus is on the big team.
Q: If you could play ball with any player on today’s team, who would it be and why? — Kyle B.
A: Good question, but I would play with my whole team if I was playing. They all play hard and have fun doing it. That’s the way I played.
Q: Ozzie, would you ever wanna be the owner of the winter ball team Tiburones de La Guaira? Would you ever want to be their manager? — Juan C.
A: I have always wanted to be the owner of the winter ball team Tiburones de La Guaira. If I had the money and time to invest in the team, I would. Right now, I have to take care of my three kids — imagine me taking care of a whole team. (haha) But you never know what the future might bring!
Q: Once the Sox clinch the division in September, is there any chance that you will activate yourself for one game and come in as a defensive replacement and play alongside Vizquel? That would be great! — Jimmy Z.
A: I would never activate myself. I respect baseball, the players and the fans too much to do that.
Q: Hello, Ozzie. You had your extension picked up through 2012, but you will be managing the Sox way past that, right? Please. — Will O.
A: I hope I am managing the White Sox for the rest of my life; that’s my goal. But it’s not my choice.
What’s up, 2011?? The holidays are over; it was a lot of fun for me with a lot of sun! I always enjoy being here in Venezuela, but now that the vacations are over, it’s time focus. Time to focus and start looking ahead to SoxFest and, of course, Spring Training. The month of January is always fun for me because we have a lot of birthdays in my family that we get to celebrate. Other than that, I have so much planned, which is great because I would always rather be out doing things than sitting at home. My guys over at Triple Crown have been working hard and, boy, do we have some awesome things planned for this year! I’m sure some of you guys have noticed I am pretty hyper, but I enjoy seeing all the fans and look forward to being in Chicago very soon. Baseball-wise, I can’t wait for this season to start because a lot of changes have been made and a lot of teams are going to make it exciting.
Here are a couple of pics from my time in Venezuela:
On that note, I was SHOCKED that my boy Robbie Alomar is a Hall of Famer (hahaha). In my opinion, he was the best player in my era. This guy could beat you in every way possible and was probably the smartest player ever to wear a uniform around me. Congrats to him and his family. And then there’s Bert Blyleven. … It’s about time!!! Mr. Curveball was a great pitcher and one of the best guys on and off the field. I love him because he has so much fun being around the game. Congrats to him and his family, too!
On to more of your questions:
Q: What are some of your favorite memories of Old Comiskey Park?
A: My favorite memories of Old Comiskey would have to be my first game, of course, and the last couple of days of that park. Those are the memories that stick out to me as being special. Playing on the same field as Luke Appling, Chico Carrasquel, Luis Apparicio and Nellie Fox, for me, was a thrill. That field had the BEST plying surface in the game. Thanks, “Sodfather,” Mr. Roger Bossard, for making me a lot of money (haha).
Q: How do you like sharing a Spring Training facility with the Dodgers?
A: To me, it was a great experience and still is to be with such a great organization. I’m looking forward to seeing and competing against Donny (Don Mattingly), one of my favorite players coming up. And, of course, now I get to see my boy Uribiiiiiittttoooo (Juan Uribe) all spring long.
Q: Do you feel any more pressure going into this year to win than previous years?
A: I never feel any pressure. I approach the game the same way whether we are in first or last place. I know what my coaching staff and I can do, so I trust them. Thanks to the front office for putting a good ballclub on the field once again. Pressure is when you have seven kids and only make $2 a day like a lot of people do around the world. That’s real pressure.
Q: Now that the holidays are over, what will you do to keep yourself busy from now until Spring Training?
A: I will play some golf in Miami and of course get on my boat. I will go to SoxFest like I do every year since it started. I have never missed a single one. Maybe another record; who else can say that?? … Maybe Ken “Hawk” Harrelson and Ed Farmer (hahaha).
I would ask all of you to stay tuned because now on, in every blog I will include something about me that you don’t know. Also, make sure you pay attention to me on Facebook and Twitter because I will be having some contest to give away some free stuff coming up soon. So be on the lookout for that!
‘Til next time … and remember, if you want your dreams to come true, just wake up!!!
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.