Wednesday, December 28, 2005

White Sox Pitching Staff Roulette

Jon Garland re-ups for 3 years, $29 million.

The Sox pitching staff then breaks down as such...

MARK BUEHRLE -- signed through 2006, with an option for 2007
FREDDY GARCIA -- signed through 2007
JON GARLAND -- signed through 2008
JAVIER VAZQUEZ -- signed through 2007
BRANDON McCARTHY -- under contract through 2007

JOSE CONTRERAS -- Signed through 2006...

So the deepest pitching rotation in the majors is set with a showdown looming in spring training over who fits where. McCarthy proved in the second half of 2005 that he was ready for a permanent spot in the rotation, particularly now that Neal Cotts has settled into relief work (Setup Man of the Year, anyone?) The question is simple: Would McCarthy accept being in the bullpen for at least one more season? If he simply performs too well in Arizona to be ignored, will the Sox trade Contreras, whom they are likely to lose to free agency anyway?

So many questions in Sox World these days...


In the End, As It Was in the Beginning...

Here's me outside Heinz Field on September 3rd, some seven hours before Notre Dame's season began against the Pitt Panthers...

And now here I am, sitting in a hotel room at 2:40 AM Phoenix time, getting ready to cover the season finale for the Irish at the Fiesta Bowl.

Plenty to come on the site as we kick off FIESTA WEEK. Watch this space tomorrow as well for a huge announcement about the future of Sox-Irish.

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Sunday, December 25, 2005

Merry Christmas to All

Our Christmas Wish list here at Sox-Irish...

1) World Championship for the White Sox...check

2) Prolonged agony for the Cubs...check

3) A new left-handed power protector for Paul Konerko...check

4) Paul Konerko...check

5) Ozzie back next year...check

6) A dazzling array of offensive firepower for the Irish...check

7) Brady Quinn, stud quarterback...check

8) Receivers who can catch, lineman who can block, and defenders who can tackle...check

9) A BCS Bowl Bid...check

10) A thrilling victory over USC, dethroning the self-proclaimed kings of college football...almost

So we didn't quite get everthing we wanted this year. But don't mistake that for complaining, Santa.



Tuesday, December 20, 2005

The Homecoming of A.J. Pierzynski

Sox re-up with catcher and pro wrestler wanna-be A.J. Pierzynski for three years to the tune of $15 million.

All eyes now shift to the final act in the offseason drama for the Sox - Jon Garland & Jose Contreras. Who's staying? Who's going? All we can say is, "Stay tuned".


Thursday, December 15, 2005

What Becomes of Contreras and Garland?

The breakout star of the White Sox regular season, Jon Garland, is under contract through next season and is arbitration eligible.

The rock of the White Sox' amazing postseason run, Jose Contreras, is under contract through next season.

The question is, will either be pitching on the Southside next season?

The Sox may be the first World Series champion Chicago has seen in 88 years, but major moves remain in their immediate future depsite the acquistions of Jim Thome, Javy Vasquez, and Rob Mackowiak. With six good starting pitchers in the fold now, the question turns to who winds up being the odd-man out?

Mark Buehrle and Freddy Garcia aren't going anywhere. Neither is youngster Brandon McCarthy. Vasquez has two seasons remaining on a contract which the D-Backs will help the Sox pay with cash considerations.

That leaves Garland and Contreras. Unless one of them REALLY crashes and burns in 2006, the Sox will not be able to keep them both. They may not be able to keep either one. So if you can get something tangible for one of them now, rather than lose them in free agency in return for a draft pick, why not?

The more valuable of the two is clearly Garland, younger, more durable, but also more expensive. If Miguel Tejada REALLY wants out of Baltimore (he denies it), the Sox could dangle the hard-sinking righthander and see what the O's will cough up in return. Boston wants young pitching, and they desperately want themselves to be rid of Manny Ramirez. While a monster 3-4-5 of Ramirez-Konerko-Thome sounds amazing, cost would prevent such a deal ever happening. But maybe it's worth it for the ChiSox to see just how much of the contract the BoSox would be willing to eat.

If one thing has been proven this off-season, as has been the case in every off-season he's been at the helm of the Sox, Kenny Williams in unpredictable. Nobody saw Rowand-for-Thome as a trade possibility, and to some it wasn't exactly welcomed like an early Christmas present. But this isn't about sucking in the karma of a one-year wonder run; Kenny is priming to do that parade down LaSalle three or four more times before he checks out. Give him props for his ambition.

Just don't put any move past him.


Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Kenny Williams STILL Not Done

Another day, another reason to be proud of the Sox workaholic GM.

Give Kenny Williams credit. He can see the sharks circling and is doing everything he can to make sure the Sox stay on top. Today's trade:

SOX GET: RHP Javier Vasquez

SOX LOSE: Outfielder Chris Young (top prospect), Orlando Hernandez, & Luis Vizcaino

Javy Vasquez as the fifth starter? Oh yeah! Vizcaino was reliable in a long-relief role last season after coming off with Podsednik from the Brewers, but the Sox now have Brandon McCarthy to fill that void and a veteran 5th starter to hopefully hold that spot until McCarthy is ready in a year.

"El Duque" had quite a year for the Southsiders, capped off by not one but two playoff escapes, entering with no outs and the bases loaded against Boston (and not allowing a run), then escaping a bases loaded jam against Houston in the bottom of the ninth of Game 3 of the World Series. Still, his durability is fading.

Young was without question the guy the D-Backs really wanted, as he is considered a top-tier outfield prospect. He was a candidate to replace Aaron Rowand in center, so this move basically confirms Brian Anderson will be taking over out there.

That Kenny Williams, he's the Energizer Bunny of GMs. He just keeps going, and going, and going...


Monday, December 12, 2005

Finals Week

It's Finals time. The grind begins tomorrow at 8 AM with FTT 30101, History of the Film, Part I. Getting up at 6:45 AM to prepare for a test in that beautiful Browning Cinema. Be serious.

Fiesta Bowl: 20 days away. Irish have the week off to prep for final exams while Charlie Weis breaks down film after film after film, trying to find the chink in Ohio State's armor. He is going to have to look VERY, VERY hard.

Tune in for our season-ending wrap up two hour blowout show on WVFI Thursday evening. More details to follow.



Friday, December 09, 2005

A Fan's Appreciation

Chicago Tribune commentator Jon Baskin on Frank Thomas' legacy:

To watch Frank hit in the '90s was an event. You stopped what you were doing and studied the TV as he planted his prodigious back foot and waved those massive arms. The announcers' voices went taut with excitement. The pitcher's eyes widened. This was Mozart, Einstein. You were in the presence of a kind of genius...

It was a simplistic but devastating formula. For all the things columnists say about him now, they rarely say this: Frank Thomas was the greatest hitter in the most offensively prolific decade in baseball history. Between 1991 and 1997, Frank hit .331 and averaged 36 home runs and 118 runs batted in a year. (His best year, 1994, was cut short by the strike.) Frank was robbed of what should have been his third MVP in 2000 and, as recently as 60 games into the 2004 season, when he sustained an injury, Frank remained one of the most potent offensive forces in the steroid-juiced American League. He was, quite simply, the greatest offensive force to ever set foot in Chicago.

But what the columnists would have us remember is that Frank studied his stats in the clubhouse, didn't know enough about Jackie Robinson, built his house with non-union workers. He wouldn't do a running drill in spring training.

To be sure, Frank has never been a natural leader, and, occasionally, he has done inexplicably stupid things, like when he held out in spring training for six days in 2001. But can you imagine Bonds or Clemens being held to answer for such small crimes? Ruth? Williams? Somehow, in Frank's case--maybe it was his ineptitude at defending himself--these things stuck. Before long, it was common knowledge that he was viewed as being petulant, selfish, acid in the clubhouse...

Maybe you were at U.S. Cellular Field on Memorial Day, when Frank came off the disabled list. The stadium was uncharacteristically packed. A buzz was in the air, old feuds forgotten. What mattered was that Frank Thomas was in the lineup; he was going to hit. The crowd stood and held its breath every time Frank was to bat. With each monstrous swing came an eruption of hope: Something spectacular might happen--at any moment, he might launch one.

It was clear on that day that Frank was in bad shape. He could barely run. His swing was slow. He couldn't reach the outside pitch. Still, he laid out a rope to left and walked in three at bats.

The fans--can you blame them?--wanted more Big Hurt. They knew his days were numbered.

You say Konerko is the perfect White Sox, the first baseman of our dreams. I'm glad we signed him, but the best Sox first baseman I know will be playing elsewhere next year.

I came of age as a White Sox fan in the golden era of Frank Thomas. He is the organization in my mind. It will be tough to stomach watching him hit his 500th home run as a member of the Oakland A's. He should've retired here. Paul Konerko is a worthy successor. But for those of us who watched Frank launch 448 bombs for the White Sox, who saw how much this year meant to him even though he barely played, it will be tough to say goodbye.

I hope he comes back for the ring ceremony. He deserves one final curtain call in front of the home fans.


Thursday, December 08, 2005

Sox Make a Deal

The trade: Damaso Marte for Rob Mackowiak.

Analysis: Mackowiak, an Oak Lawn native, hit .272 with 58 RBI in 2005. Marte was 3-4 with a 3.77 ERA, but he walked 33 batters in 45 innings.

The Sox got the utility infielder they wanted alongside Pablo Ozuna and an insurance policy for Joe Crede's bad back. Marte was as good as lefthanded relievers can get in 2002-03, but control issues haunted him for the past two seasons. The guy could not handle anything resembling a pressure situation, and got on Ozzie Guillen's bad side more than once this year.

And after seeing Neal Cotts take control of the lefty reliever situation, he was expendable.

Decent move, Kenny Williams.

Another note: The Frank Thomas Era
officially ends, unceremoniously as I predicted, with the Sox declining to offer arbitration. Big Hurt, no amount of blogging words can ever express the appreciation of all true White Sox fans. What you have done for this organization will be remembered by us all.

The Big Hurt
Frank Thomas
Chicago White Sox, 1990-2005



One thing I can say with total confidence is that (after this year's Basketball Ticket distribution and yesterday's Fiesta foolishness) there is no event which the Notre Dame Ticket Office cannot monumentally screw up.

Take yesterday's student lottery for Fiesta Bowl tickets. 2500 tickets were released, and yet something close to 10000 (rumored) lottery numbers were handed out. That was when some genius in the NDTO must've figured, "That basically means every student on this campus applied for a ticket. Something is amiss."

You can imagine how the conversation went from here:

NDTO Stooge #1 -- OK, 6 PM, time to draw the winning numbers.

NDTO Stooge #2 -- Don't you find it strange how we gave out more lottery numbers than there are students?

NDTO Stooge #3 -- Yeah, that is don't think somebody cheated, do you?

NDTO Stooge #1 -- Cheated?!?!? NEVER!!!!

NDTO Stooge #2 -- Although, cheating at this event would be pretty easy. I mean, we didn't even swipe ID cards. We just wrote names on little slips of paper.

NDTO Stooge #1 -- No, it was a foolproof scheme!

You get the idea. After reports of some students scamming the line seven or eight times, getting as many people with the same last name as they could to go in line, and a general debacle of a lottery process, the winning numbers were finally pulled and sent in an 2:45 AM.


George's number? 004922!! YIPPEEEE!!!

Getting tickets to this event should not be so needlessly complicated and ridiculously stupid. Have you no shame, ND Ticket Office?

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Sunday, December 04, 2005

Irish vs. Buckeyes, Round Five

Notre Dame and Ohio State, two schools with 9-2 records, "Oh what could have been" thoughts regarding both of their losses, and tremendous fanbases are heading to Tempe.

At 2:00 PM Pacific, 5:00 PM Eastern on Monday, January 2nd, the BCS 2005 kicks off with the most anticipated non-Rose Bowl matchup of the postseason.

Notre Dame brings in a Top 10 offense. The Buckeyes counter with a lethal defense that ranks 4th overall, #1 against the run. Charlie Weis needs a month to prepare for this type of defensive attack...oh, wait, he's got a month.

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BCS Crunch-Time

All the games have been played and six teams are certain of their postseason destiny:

ROSE BOWL -- #1 USC vs. #2 Texas
ORANGE BOWL -- Florida State vs Penn State
SUGAR BOWL -- Georgia vs. West Virginia
FIESTA BOWL -- Ohio State vs. (TBD)

That's not a mortal lock on the Orange Bowl, but how could any bowl committee pass up an opportunity for Paterno-Bowden? The wild card factor: where will Notre Dame finish in the BCS rankings? If the Irish rise two spots to #6, highly likely given the fall this weekend of Virginia Tech and LSU, then there is no suspense involved - as a non-BCS conference team, the Irish are assured of the berth.

Let the bitching and moaning commence. But I ask that the "ND Isn't Good, They Just Travel Well" crowd to consider this - who is less worthy, Notre Dame or 4-loss Florida State? Notre Dame or Big East champion West Virginia, which had such powerhouses as Wofford, East Carolina, and Cincinnati on its schedule. Why don't we even compare common opponents for the Irish and Mountaineers - each thumped Pittsburgh, 48-21 and 45-13 respectively, but WVU had a devil of a time beating Mighty Syracuse, 15-7.

Food for thought. BCS selections begin in 15 minutes...


Friday, December 02, 2005

The End of an Era

There will be no trumpets of adoration. No victory lap around the Comiskey outfield. No Bo Jackson riding a priceless Harley in from the bullpen. No teary farewell speech, no last hurrah, no dramatic "final at-bat of your career home run".

Frank Thomas will have none of that, and it's a damn shame.

Just six weeks after finally reaching the top and getting the World Series ring he so hungered for, Frank Thomas and the White Sox are almost certain to part ways. With the resigning of Paul Konerko and the trade for Jim Thome, the Sox have the full complement of DH/1B power. There is no longer room for the Greatest Player in White Sox History.

The Big Hurt was never fully loved in this city - he never had the smooth image of Michael, the happy-happy joy-joy antics of Sosa, or the blue-collar appeal of Brian Urlacher. Which is unfortunate, because after MJ he was the greatest athlete Chicago has ever seen. That's right, I said it, and the stats back me up.

In seven or eight years, when his name begins to appear on a Hall of Fame ballot, you wonder if the baseball writers will be able to see the plain truth: Thomas was hands-down the best hitter of the 1990s. From 1991 to 1997, Thomas' worst season was a .308 campaign in 1995. He had eight consecutive seasons with 100 RBI and 100 runs scored, and hit 30+ homers in six of his first seven full seasons. He had five 40+ home run years and the lowest on-base percentage of his career was .381 in 1998. A career .307 hitter with 448 home runs AND a career OBP of .427. The career leader in just about every hitting category for the White Sox.

And yet he had no gimmick, no schtick, just a towering presence and a surly demanor. It produced stats any fan would kill for, and yet casual sports fans found it very difficult to love Frank Thomas. The real Sox fans knew better. Perhaps that is what is most tragic about Thomas' legacy - unlike Barry Bonds' "SuperDiva" act in which the slugger seems to egg his critics on, Thomas never sought the spotlight. He was never trying to be confrontational. Trouble seemed to find him, and he would say something off-the-cuff and see it blow up in his face.

More to the point, Thomas has been cheated out of his place in the discussion of current baseball legends because of steroids. The guy was a tight end at Auburn throwing vicious pancake blocks in the SEC while Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire were shooting up in the bathroom. Unless Frank was on the juice from about age 11 on, he got where he was on pure skill and hard work, only to see confessed cheaters like Jason Giambi get the 2000 AL MVP award ahead of him.

And so it is the end of a 16-year era on the Southside, as Frank Thomas is going, going, and very likely gone. He will land on his feet somewhere, and we'll try to root for him to cross the 500 HR plateau. In a fair world he would do it in a White Sox uniform and enter the Hall of Fame as one of the last players to spend their entire career with one organization. ESPN's Rumor Mill reports that the TWINS are interested for a power-hitter to jump start their anemic offense. Minnesota? Frank, please don't. Don't make this Sox fan who grew up cheering for you treat you like the enemy. That was always Frank Thomas' downfall - he could never make Chicago think he wasn't the enemy.