Happy new year to everyone! I hope you all were safe and enjoyed time around the people you love the most. 2013 is a chance for everyone to start fresh and think about what happened in 2012. I know I have.
I got to spend the holidays here in Venezuela and go over the options I have on what to do during the baseball season off the field. Not sure what the future holds; I might decide to work, but right now traveling sounds pretty exciting. It’s something I have never gotten a chance to do in the summertime. I have a couple of trips planned already: I’m going to head down to Colombia to watch some bullfighting and then on to Panama to catch up with my good friend Ruben Blades.
So far, the best news I have received this year is that my good friend Ugueth Urbina was released from prison after eight long, hard years. I believe he has served his debt to society and is ready to move on with his life. He came by the house the other day and it was like he had never left. It was great to see him. We have so many great baseball memories together, and he believes we both will come back to the game we love. We will see.
As the season gets closer, I will give you guys my predictions for this year. It’s almost like I’ll be playing fantasy baseball for the first time (haha). I will be looking in from the outside, so it should be fun. Stay tuned.
One of our worries at the start of the season was to improve our road record, because at home, with the support of our fans, we generally have a winning record. But this season has been a strange one for all of us. In our last 12 games at U.S. Cellular Field, we have a record of 4-8, while in our last nine road games we have seven wins and only two losses, including two wins this weekend against the leaders of the NL Central, the Milwaukee Brewers.
One of the strengths of this team, despite the ups and downs that have characterized us during the season, has been that it never gives up. No matter what, my players go out and battle every day. It’s true we haven’t had the consistency that we would like, and that even I have been confused by some of what I have seen, but overall we have won and lost as a team, as a group.
It’s important to highlight the performance of Jose Contreras, who started the season with a 0-5 record and who offered to go down to the minor leagues to get better prepared to return to the team in better shape. At that time when we were discussing the minor leagues, Jose told Kenny Williams and me that he needed to pitch in order to come back and help the team win. Truer words couldn’t have been spoken. Jose has two starts of 8 innings or more, giving up just three hits, and one against the Central Division-leading Detroit Tigers and two against the Brewers. It is very difficult to have the same level of consistency in every outing, but if he keeps it up, he will surely be one of the key pieces to winning the division title.
But, now, we need to improve our record at home. And I will repeat what I have said many times: we have the talent to win, but we have to be more consistent. We have to do the small things that are required to win, get the big hits, make the routine outs, and get the pressure outs. We have the players here who can do that and other that are learning to do that quickly. If we can stay healthy, free from injuries, and we play the baseball we know how to play, we will be battling until the very end. I still very much like the team that I have.
Now, let’s respond to some of the e-mails:
Melissa Cruz, de Yubacoa in Puerto Rico, asks about the trade that brought over catcher Ramon Castro from the Mets. It seems to me a good trade because Ramon will surely help us. With him, our starting catcher A.J. Pierzinski can get some much needed days off. It is not easy to be behind the plate every day, especially playing with the intensity that A.J does, who plays at 1000 percent every day.
Pedro Soto, of Chicago, asks “how can you ask a hitter to bunt with two strikes and one ball with no one out and a runner on first, late in a close ballgame?” I don’t know if this is a hypothetical question or if he is referring to specific play. In any case, I don’t think I would have done that, but if that did take place, I would have to look over the situation more closely to see what might have happened. I have always said the games are better analyzed the farther you are from the action. From the stands everything looks very easy and some things can look ridiculous without knowing what is going on in the dugout. And finally, don’t forget that I make mistakes just like everyone else. Jordy Perez of New York asks when is the list of 103 names going to be released. Jordy is asking about the 103 players who tested positive for using steroids during the 2003 season. Sorry Jordy, but honesty, I have no idea about that subject.
Carlos Luis Hidalgo, of Venezuela, asks if it is true what journalist Juan Vene wrote in his column about a “near brawl between the manager of the Chicago White Sox, Ozzie Guillen and the 3B Josh Fields was broken up by the players.” That is absolutely false and Mr. Vene is clearly a liar. Fields is a very religious young man who is very well mannered, and I, even though many still don’t believe it, am too smart to get into a situation like that. Fields is upset because he has lost his starting job at third base and I have personally talked to him about the fact that his production hasn’t been what the team has expected. In terms of Vene, everyone in the journalism world knows him. He uses his column to discredit people who he doesn’t like, including using insulting nicknames for them. My friends in the media tell me he didn’t even go to the games in Yankee Stadium last year, meaning he has become one of those people that write from their house without stepping foot where the action takes place. Because of his bad attitude no Venezuelan media outlet wants him on their radio or TV stations. The Caribbean Confederation denied him a credential for the Caribbean World Series last year. Everyday more doors are closing for him. It is sad that someone with his background and long career in the business has resorted to lying.
Joel Rodriguez, of Caracas, asks why the White Sox don’t pick up Gregor Blanco from Atlanta to be our leadoff hitter. In reality Joel, I don’t have anything to do with the signing or trading of players. That is the job our GM Kenny Williams, who has a team of professionals in charge of evaluating and analyzing talent on other teams. Those are the people that really know about talent. I have no doubt that if Gregor was a player like you say that would be an “ideal leadoff hitter” then Kenny’s team is surely on top of the situation.
Duane Abreu, of Guacara en the Carabobo state of Venezuela, asks if I would like to have Bob Abreu on my roster. Any team would love to have Bob in its ranks.
Geovanis Lopez, of Havana, Cuba, and Manuel Gomez want to know why Dayan Viciedo has not been moved up to the Majors. Patience, Geovanis, patience. Dayan will be up when he is ready and when he will help us win games. In the mean time, it is better that he play every day, facing good pitching and preparing to improve every day.
Nancy Ward writes to me in English to ask some advice for her daughter and her fiancé, who are big White Sox fans. They don’t play baseball, but that they want is a “little marriage advice.” I have been married 26 years and I have to say that marriage is like baseball: there are many good days and some bad days. What is important is to love and respect your partner. The key is to not let the bad moments overshadow the thousands of happy moments you have spent together.
Ray Rojas, of Minnesota, asks why we don’t change starting pitchers in the first three innings if they are having a bad outing. I’ll repeat Ray, it’s not as easy as it seems from the outside. There are times that the bullpen is tired and we have to try to get five innings out of our starters. Each case is very different and every team manages its bullpen differently. We don’t work the same as other team because we have our own guidelines. For better or worse, in these last five year that we have worked together we have won a World Series and two division titles which could indicate that we are doing a good job. But thanks for your suggestions, and thanks to all that have taken some time to write in to wish me well during the season.
I can’t say goodbye without sending a shout out to Eduardo Flores, of Barquisimeto, and to all the members of the team “Bandidos de un Solo Brazo”, who have represented Venezuela so well in international competitions. I had the opportunity to spend some time with them in my house in Caracas and to play with them alongside of Bob Abreu, Freddy Garcia and Ugueth Urbina, and I will always remember them with great affection.
Good luck in your next tournaments.
I’ll be back in 15 days answering your questions and sharing my opinions, comments and criticisms. One more time, thanks for your participation.