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July 2010 Archives

Reports: Lilly, Theriot gone to L.A.

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Yahoo! Sports and others have been reporting in the last 20 minutes that the Cubs have traded Ted Lilly and Ryan Theriot to the Dodgers for Blake DeWitt and two minor league pitchers.

Wow.

Both of their names have been mentioned for weeks concerning possible trades, but as recently as yesterday, many observers were discounting the likelihood that they would be shipped. I personally hoped the Cubs would pass on trading Lilly and try to sign him next year--he would basically be their No. 1 starter, pending other deals.

If these most recent reports are true, it also would be sad to see The Riot go. He's streaky, but he's a scrappy, speedy hitter and fielder offering flexibility in the line-up and the field. The best you could say about DeWitt is that he is about the same thing, but not as speedy and maybe a slightly better fielder.

Right now, this looks like a pretty poor trade by General Manager Jim Hendry, not long after his boss gave him a vote of confidence. Of course, a lot could depend on who those minor leaguers are--I haven't seen them named anywhere.

There has suddenly been a lot of trading in the last 24 hours leading up to the MLB rade deadline. the White Sox yesterday acquired staring pitcher Edwin Jackson from the Diamondbacks for Daniel Hudson. I have been holding off examining that one too closely because Jackson reportedly could be making a very quick stop in Chicago, but we'll take a good look at it tomorrow.

Don't trade Beckham

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I am in favor of the White Sox making some sort of trade deadline deal to help strengthen the most inconsistent spot in the line-up: DH. If you are going up against Tampa or New York or Texas in the play-offs, you need every bat in the line-up to produce, because as good as the Sox pitching staff is, it can't be expected to completely snuff out the three most impressive offensive attacks in the American League.

And, they may even need that DH before they get to the play-offs. They have been playing with the confidence of a team that is running away with the division--only they aren't. Sox fans know all too well that Minnesota isn't done with us yet. 11-0 wins like we saw last night are still the exception, not the rule. Just ask Gavin Floyd, who at 6-8 has rarely gotten run support like he did last night.

There are DHs to be had on the trade market, too. National Leaguers like Adam Dunn and Prince Fielder would more than fit the bill. Jose Bautista leads the league in homers and reportedly is available.

I think almost any deal to get Dunn or Fielder would be worth doing--they are that good. However, both the Nationals and the Brewers reportedly are asking for Gordon Beckham in return. I only have one deal-breaker, and unfortunately, that's the one. Beckham was barely surviving in the line-up a couple months ago, and the Sox showed extraordinary patience--not only by running him out there more days than not, but by keeping him at the major league level. There were times when I thought he needed to be sent down to get the seasoning he didn't get last year when the Sox promoted him earlier. Now, the faith is paying off, as Beckham has been hitting like last year.

Beckham simply is too valuable now as a middle infielder, and will be too valuable over the long-term for the Sox to trade him for a chance at a title this year. Both Dunn and Fielder could help the Sox this year, but in the long-term would like be too expensive to keep.

The problem is that there seem to be few other alternatives. Do you trade Tyler Flowers and Daniel Hudson? Even if you do, you need to throw another more proven name in with them to get Fielder in particular--J.J. Putz? After the Jake Peavy deal, the Sox don't really have any minor league arms left that make other teams salivate, and Putz is part of the multi-arm back-up plan for the shaky Bobby Jenks.

As much as I think the Sox need a better plan at DH, I think they have to pass on any deal that calls for Beckham. That may mean no deal at all.

Lou will bid adieu

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Lou Piniella announced he will retire at the end of the season, according to the Trib. Though the statement indicates this is all Lou, and that's he's trying to help the organization by rolling the news out early, I wouldn't be surprised if he was pressured to say something by the team's upper management. It helps them avoid what would have been a complex, messy but almost certain parting with Piniella at the end of the season, and it helps a longtime winning manager who probably has lost his touch save some face.

In another sense, this is a typical Cubs move: Keep someone on board, but effectively make him a lame duck (see Bradley, Milton and Zambrano, Carlos). Will Cubs players be terribly interested in whatever Lou has left to say the rest of the season, and will he be interested in saying much of anything with one foot out the door? If this was all by Lou's choice, it was kind of selfish wasn't it?

On the other hand, maybe the idea of sending a baseball great into retirement as a winner one last time will drive the Cubs to some second-half heroics. Banish the thought, and get ready for Ryno.

All about Kenny

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"The Club" finally premiered on the MLB network last night. The documentary supposedly showing an insider's view of the White Sox front office was announced last spring, right around the time that manager Ozzie Guillen conveniently got himself in some well-publicized hot water with his presence on Twitter.

The show promotes itself as a look at the tense, curmudgeonly but ultimately mutually-appreciative relationship between Guillen, GM Kenny Williams and owner Jerry Reinsdorf. By the looks of the first episode, which relived a bit of the Twitter saga, while also exploring topics that ranged from sprint training decisions to Williams' son Kyle experiences on NFL draft day, the show will be more about the GM than anyone else, and he'll be happy with the admiring tone.

"The Club" confirms the impression most fans probably have of Williams as an aggressive, powerful and somewhat humorless character--and one who likes his cigars as much as he likes to offer advice (One scene featuring Williams giving advice to his son is styled like something out of "The Godfather" with the GM dramatically sucking a stogie between bits of wisdom.) Though if it is all about Williams, who cares? He has earned the attention with a World Series to his credit, and some gutsy trades. If you're a Kenny fan, you'll like "The Club."

If you're an Ozzie fan, you still may like it. It predictably delivers some wacky Ozzie moments, and strives in the first episode to set up the battle of egos and emotions we already have heard too much about this year. Still, Guillen's got panache, and he's fun to watch even if some of what he says is stuff we've heard before.

Reinsdorf only lurks in the background of the first episode, mumbling through a few scenes, including a lunch with Bud Selig that seems staged only to emphasize that Reinsdorf is tasked with controlling Ozzie while Selig lurks not far away, ready to punish him for some potential offense.

There are worse ways to spend a Sunday night, and I will give "The Club" kudos for effectively telling the spring training stories of how Sergio Santos and Randy Williams made the team, and how closely Daniel Hudson missed making it. There was some good insider stuff from always-entertaining pitching coach Don Cooper, too. I can do without the Kenny-at-home scenes, but we'll let the GM have his showbiz moment.

All-Star surprises

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If you asked me before last night's All-Star game how I expected our Chicago boys--White Sox Matt Thornton and Paul Konerko, and Cubbie Marlon Byrd--to perform in the game, I would have said Thornton will get a key out against a lefty batter, Paulie will deliver a late-inning clutch hit and Byrd will not touch the field unless the game goes into extras (I also would have said the National League will lose again).

Boy, was I wrong: Thornton actually squared off against Byrd (both an SBW dream and nightmare) in a key situation and walked him after possibly the most intense at-bat of the game. Thornton then gave up what would prove to be the game-winning hit, a three-run double by left-handed hitter Brian McCann that scored the always-hustling Byrd from first base. Speaking of hustling, Byrd also saved the first N.L. All-Star win in 14 years by charging a shallow 9th inning fly ball, grabbing it on the first bounce and spinning around and throwing to second in time to force out David Ortiz, who had been on first but had to wait to see if the ball would drop.

As for Paulie, he got his late-inning at-bat, but struck out.

McCann may have been the obvious MVP of the night, but Byrd was awfully close, and it's nice to see a Cub get the spotlight for something positive during this otherwise tough season. As for Thornton and Konerko, time to forget about this game, and go about the business of keeping the Sox in first place.

First place finish

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The White Sox reached first place in the A.L. Central Division on the final day of the first half of the season before All-Star Break. Now, they just need to repeat for the next half.

A 15-5 victory of the Royals today featured a franchise record-tying four homers in one inning. Carlos Quentin had two homers on the day, including a grand slam, making it four for him within the last 24 hours. He can keep hitting below .250 as far as I'm concerned if he keeps knocking homers with men on base.

Dayan Viciedo also hit a monsterous homerun almot all the way to the left field concourse. He is looking more and more like this year's Gordon Beckham, a rookie addition making a huge contribution.

It remains to be seen if the Sox will make a trade within the next few weeks to increase their chances of holding onto first place. Daniel Hudson did not do well today at all, even though the Sox gave him an 8-1 lead, but if you believe Ozzie Guillen, Hudson will get a good, long look as the fifth starter. On the other hand, if you believe more in Kenny Williams fidgety trade fingers, the Sox may add to the rotation through a trade sooner rather than later.

As I've said before, I'm hope for a trade for a power-hitting lefty DH, if anything, and I don't want the Sox to give up Beckham to make it happen.

In other news, Paul Konerko is headed to the All-Star game as a replacement.

Peavy's done

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Jake Peavy is officially out for the season with reports that he will have some kind of experimental-sounding surgery on his detached chest muscle (ow!) next week. So, a year after Kenny Williams gambled on a trade for the then-injured Peavy, the deal can't be graded any differently than as an "Incomplete."

Peavy came to town with awesome credentials, but also as a bit of an injury concern--nothing in the arm, mind you, but enough to keep him off the mound for stretches. Then, of course, he started so poorly this year, and really was the fifth-best pitcher in a five-man starting rotation. He was much better of late, but now it will be next spring before we really know if he was turning things around.

How badly does this hurt the Sox chances this year? Amazingly, even without Peavy, they still have the best pitching staff in their division, and the second or third-best in the American League. There is more pressure now on Freddy Garcia to continue a stellar season, and the loss of Peavy could make Williams pursue a trade for a pitcher when what he really should do is get his hands on a lefty DH slugger like Adam Dunn.
The White Sox, having beaten the Angels two in a row this week, are still looking like a team ready to make its big move. Yes, they are still in third place, but it's all bunched up at the top of the A.L. Central, and going into the second half, the Sox are looking at least as good as the Tigers and probably better than the flagging Twins.

Now, the bad news: Jake Peavy, who seemed to be turning around his season of late, is probably headed to the DL. Until he walked off the mound in pain last night, the Sox pitchng staff, top to bottom, looked every bit as good as we thought back in spring training. Looks like Daniel Hudson gets another try.

Offensively, the Sox have been looking great, scoring without homeruns when they need to, dominating with power when they can. With the resurgence of Carlos Quentin and the pretty impressive arrival of Dayan Viciedo, the only sagging spots in the line-up have been those occupied by Gordon Beckham and Andruw Jones/Mark Kotsay.

What can the Sox do to help their chances in the second half? If Viciedo plays well enough to stay, that could solve the Beckham problem by pushing Omar Vizquel, Brent Lillibridge or even Alexei Ramirez to second base. That would still leave currently-injured Mark Teahen as a third base or DH option.

Of course, GM Kenny Williams loves to make moves, so trading for another veteran infielder or a regular DH (too bad Jim Thome isn't available) wouldn't be out of the question.

Prolonging the pain

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The Cubs had a rare offensive outburst today, beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 9-4. How rare? Well, nine runs is more than they scored in their previous five games combined.

Have they turned a corner of some kind? Only the next corner on a path leading them to a losing season. The team's strength--starting pitching--has become, if not bad, at least inconsistent. Add that to a list of already bad compenents: Bad fielding, bad hitting, bad baserunning and bad attitudes (at least where Carlos Zambrano is concerned--the rest of the team seems to have no attitude).

I've said before that it's time for Lou Piniella to go, and I still think it's the only way to salvage this season on a positive note. Yes, the players are the ones playing and Lou can't play for them, but at least part of his job is to motivate them, and he can't seem to get that job done anymore. If you fall in with the crowd that thinks GM Jim Hendry deserves more blame than Piniella or his players for the sad state of the Cubs, that may be hard to argue--which only demonstrates further how messed up this team is.

I wouldn't be saddened if the Cubs sent both Piniella and Hendry packing before the end of this month, though presumably Hendry will be busy shopping a few of his players--Kosuke Fukudome, Xavier Nady and Mike Fontenot, I'm betting--to real contenders. If a new GM were to be brought in this moment, with some weeks to go before the trade deadline, he would be hard-pressed to make the sort of deals that could boost the Cubs division hopes.

My guess is still that the Cubs will be stuck with Piniella and Hendry until the end of the season. Who's next? Ryne Sandberg as manager and Greg Maddux as GM. (I am not saying it's a good idea, but the writing is on the wall.)

Want another crazy idea? How about Bob Brenly as manager and Steve Stone as GM? Tony LaRussa as GM and manager? Is Leo Durocher still available?

Meanwhile, Dusty Baker is managing a first place team. Reality bites.

Back in the swing of things

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Just back from a week of vacation, and I know there's a lot to discuss, but for now just a brief post recognizing our two Chicago All-Stars, Matt Thornton of the Sox and Marlon Byrd of the Cubs.

The picks are surprising, not because the players picked weren't deserving, but because of who was left off the list: Paul Konerko and Alex Rios from the Sox and Carlos Silva and Carlos Marmol from the Cubs. Konerko still has a chance to get in on fan vote, and I wouldn't be surprised if Marmol gets on at the last minute if someone else bows out.

Meanwhile, the Cubs are right now allowing the Reds to have another epic inning, and are losing 13-3. I have some thoughts on the Cubs, Lou Piniella and Jim Hendry that I will share over the next couple days.

The Sox are down in Texas, where they had a nifty 5-3 victory Friday night, but lost last night, and remain two games out of first. We'll talk more of the Sox' second half chances this week.

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