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February 2010 Archives

Off the field: Twitter and "The Club"

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The Tribune reports this morning on the controversy over White Sox Manager Ozzie Guillen's new Twitter account (I tried to search for it on Twitter this morning, but the "find people" function was temporarily overloaded--with Ozzie followers, to be sure).

Sox management is concerned about Ozzie saying things that he shouldn't, going too far and talking off the cuff about matters best kept private--you know, basically being himself. I doubt the Sox need to fear Guillen saying much more than he alreay says publicly, which of course means that occasionally, he will say something, or say it in a way, that attracts a lot of controversy. But, that's just life with Ozzie.

Another interesting off the field tidbit that we haven't yet talked about: Jerry Reinsdorf, Kenny illiams and Ozzie, among others, are set to appear on the new MLB Network series, "The Club," this season. The series takes a close look at front office activities, though the Sox get to review the content, so presumably nothing at all will show up on the screen that embarasses the team.

Could off-the-field pursuits like Twitter and "The Club" prove to be unnecessary distractions? The Sox seemed poised for a solid year, possibly their best year since they won the World Series. If they fall short somehow, we know doubt will question anything and everything, including how much time management spent polishing their public personas.

Meanwhile, if you want to help me polish my public persona, you can find me on Twitter under "Doshea14" (Yes, the connection to Ernie Banks and Paul Konerko is intentional.)

Jonesing for a comeback

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Which Andruw Jones did the White Sox sign? The one that hit 51 homers one year and has won 10 gold gloves, or the fat, immature over-paid disappointment of the last few years? Jones reported to spring training early and a few pounds lighter, so maybe we can get more hopeful that his bid for a comeback with the Sox is for real.

At the very least, the Sox need him to do deliver some right-handed punch as part of a two-headed (or at times perhaps three-headed) DH. If they can get a slick fielder with some rediscovered endurance, all the better, since questions surround outfielders Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin.

If everything goes right, maybe Jones could be the same sort of extremely pleasant surprise Carlos Quentin was two years ago, when the Sox weren't expecting much but instead got 36 homers.

And so it begins...

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The Cubs' pitchers and catchers reported to spring training yesterday, though it sounds like a lot of player are there already and have been for several days. Sounds good to me. Guys like Carlos Zambrano and Geovany Soto are in better shape, and everyone sounds rested and committed.

It's hard to invest too much in the 2010 team, and Lou Piniella sounds no more happy and exuberant than he ever has, but who knows? I'm still looking at this year's club like a probable third-place, worst-case fourth-place team, but with a winning record. Could second-place be too much to dream? Let's stop there.

Frank's Place

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Frank Thomas' contributions in 2005, his final year playing for the White Sox, didn't amount to much, and I remember thinking at the time that it was kind of sad that the Sox were pushing toward the World Series with the Big Hurt, their two-time MVP winner on the bench. In those days, some fans felt the Big Hurt was a Big Pain to the team, a feeling that manager Ozzie Guillen had not done much to mitigate, and it was pretty obvious his career with the Sox was over.

When the Sox won the World Series though, one of the sweetest moments was seeing Thomas celebrating along with everyone else, knowing he had endured many years playing in a half-full stadium for almost-there-but-not-quite teams.

I've never completely gotten used to the name U.S. Cellular Field, and some days even now I like to call it "New Comiskey Park," considering everything Thomas did there for 16 seasons with the White Sox, maybe we should call it "Frank's Place."

Thomas retired from baseball today, ending a glorious, presumably steroids-free 18-year career. The Sox responded to his announcement in fine fashion by announcing they are retiring his number 35 and declaring Aug. 29 this season as Frank Thomas Day. Fans will cheer loudly that day, as they have in the years since 2005, when Thomas has returned to The Cell in a different team's uniform.

I will leave you to linger over his career stats at Baseball-Reference.com. I had forgotten that the Big Hurt actually finished 2nd in MVP voting in 2000 (to steroids cheat Jason Giambi), finished third in the MVP race twice, and finished fourth in 2006, the season after he was supposedly too washed up to play for the Sox.

Reinsdorf vs. Ricketts

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It's not bad enough that the Cubs can't get to a World Series, let alone win one. In addition to that ongoing pain, we keep seeing the club end up at the center of incidents that take the focus off of baseball. If it's not bad behavior by fans, or the bankruptcy and glacial evolution toward the team's sale, or the new owners' big plans for restroom renovation, it's something like this week's news that that other Arizona spring training teams will have to pay in via tax to support the new facility that Mesa, AZ, promised to the Cubs to keep them from fleeing to Florida.

Whether or not you feel that's fair--and White Sox boss Jerry Reinsdorf predictably and hypocritically does not--it perpetuates the image of the Cubs as a business first and a baseball team second. Weren't we supoosed to be done with that era? Also, we aren't even at spring training yet, and Cubs are already living under a new cloud that make the team and its fans look entitled. We don't need anymore of that than we already had through the "woe-is-me" attitude that followed the 2007 and 2008 post-season collapses. I was hoping at this point, a year removed from play-off blunders, with the sale done and the team seemingly set to field an under-whelming group, we could watch the Cubs develop without the full glare of seasons past into something surprisingly good.

Instead, the glare is already on them. Funny that it's been brought forward by Reinsdorf, who certainly knows how to use his team as a bargaining chip to gain a deal for a publicly-funded stadium. Still, no one can blame Cubs fans if they feel a bit nervous starting spring training after four months during which the biggest headlines have been more about Wrigley Field changes and this new "Cubs tax" than on-field changes the team has made to get ready for the 2010 season. Tom Ricketts had hinted he wouldn't be the type of owner who created off-field distractions, but here he finds hinself at the center of another.

If Reinsdorf keeps up his chatter about the Cubs tax in Mesa, spring training and the opening of the season could evolve around a Reinsdorf vs. Ricketts vibe. Nobody wants that. We just want baseball.

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