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September 2010 Archives

Last call

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Some observations for the final week of a mostly disappointing season on the Northside and a slightly disappointing season on the Southside:

--It would have been nice to see what Cubs closer Carlos Marmol could have done with more opportunities. He has saved half of the Cubs' wins (36 saves of 72 wins) and has 16.9 strikeouts per nine innings for 133 strikeouts total. He has blown five saves, which is not bad at all, and if the Cubs had even a modest winning record, he could be pushing 45 saves and 150 strikeouts. Bodes well for next season.

--It's nice to know that Ozzie Guillen and Jerry Reinsdorf have healed the rift--at least for now--that caused speculation that Ozzie might leave. What's been left unsaid is whether the rift between Ozzie and GM Kenny Williams is fully healed. Oh, well, it will provide more fodder for when the MLB network airs re-runs of "The Club."

--Both Chicago teams appear to want Adam Dunn, but I think the Sox have better odds to land him if they move quickly while Cubs GM Jum Hendry is sorting out his self-made manager hiring mess.

--Having said that, I think the Cubs will have a new manager by Thanksgiving.

--My prediction for the most intriguing Sox position battle during spring training: Brent Morel vs. Dayan Viciedo for third base. Though, that could all change if Paul Konerko leaves town.

Management consulting

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This is what I would say if the Cubs and White Sox were to ask me who should fill their respective manager and general manager jobs after this season:

Cubs manager: Mike Quade -- This is assuming they can't get Joe Girardi, Tony LaRussa, Leo Durocher or Frank Chance. I like Quade's style, and the young team that is winning for the most part under him is the same team for the most part that he would have to work with next year. Don't expect the Cubs to go chasing veteran contracts. Ryne Sandberg has done a lot in the minors in just a few years, but Quade did much more over many more years, and we know he's in tune with the players who are currently on the big-league roster.

Cubs GM: J.P. Ricciardi or Josh Byrnes -- The Cubs really should cut ties with Jim Hendry, but for some reason have given him the chance to hire a new manager even though Hendry himself hasn't been fully endorsed to return. Ricciardi made Toronto a contending team a few years ago, and is a protege of Oakland's Billy Beane, which means the Rickettses would like his budget-minding abilities. His tenure was marred by failing to trade Roy Halladay and giving a big deal to B.J. Ryan, but for the most part he did a solid job, and he would bring some youth and a different attitude to the job.

The same could be said for Byrnes, who was GM in Arizona until this summer. He did a nice job of making the D-backs contenders before they slid badly the last two seasons. Some people think he was fleeced more than once by Sox GM Kenny Williams, but they fail to notice one of those deals brought the talented Chris Young to Arizona. He also was the assistant GM in Boston when the Red Sox finally ended the Bambino Curse, an experience that prepares him well for the Cubs.

Sox manager: Ozzie Guillen -- Despite all the controversy and rancor, and some insinuations that Ozzie may leave, I think he will still be managing the Sox next year. Basically, the current team is built to his specifications, and it's on him to make them winners. The Sox didn't bring home the division title this year, but they did contend well, and we know Ozzie knows how to get them there. I think he deserves one last chance to do that, but I do think he needs to clear his head, step away from the microphone and just focus on directing a winning team.

Sox GM: Dan Evans -- Why not? The Chicago-born former assistant Sox GM and former L.A. Dodgers GM hasn't been part of a front office since 2004, but helped build some pretty good Sox teams, including the 2000 division winners. Also, though L.A. seemed to oust him pretty quickly, he is the guy that drafted a lot of their current young studs, like Chad Billingsley, Matt Kemp, Russell Martin and Jonathan Broxton. The team Ned Colletti GM'ed to the 2008 and 2009 play-offs was very much built by Evans. I am on board with those who say Kenny Williams has ransacked the farm system and drafted poorly (though Chris Sale and Gordon Beckham are nice arguments against the latter). Evans could be the right guy to re-grow that system.

For starters, Sox are finished

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The White Sox disappeared from the A.L. Central race so shockingly quickly that it is still hard to believe. But, the proof that it's over came last night with another Sox loss and another Twins win.

Like Ozzie, we can give the Twins a lot of credit for being almost unbeatable since the All-Star Break. However, you can't deny that the Sox had the potential to win the division themselves and just didn't play up to that potential. Sporadic hitting all year and a collapsed bullpen can take some of the blame, but I think the biggest disappointment was the starting pitching. Sox starters haven't won a game in more than two weeks.

Even after Jake Peavy was injured, the starting rotation still looked like the best in the division, if not one of the best in the league. After the addition and turnaround of Edwin Jackson, it seemed poised for big things. But, all month, starters have been getting bombed, and not just against the Twins.

It's been an uncharacteristic implosion for a Don Cooper-led staff. Freddy Garcia was great at the start of the year, and you had to figure he would come down, but Mark Buehrle, John Danks and Gavin Floyd have spent this month giving games away, sometimes in spite of offensive outputs that seemed to lock in wins. Jackson, meanwhile, seems to have reacquired some of his old bad habits.

When you look at what went wrong for the Sox this year, and why they didn't get the division crown, start with the part of the team that was supposed to get them that crown.

10 questions

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(See my answers below)

1) Who's the better team right now--Sox or Cubs?

2) Who would you rather see at DH for the Sox right now--Manny Ramirez or Mark Kotsay?

3) Will the Sox finish in second place or third place?

4) Will the Cubs finish in fifth place for fourth place?

5) Will Mike Quade manage the Cubs next season?

6) Will Ozzie Guillen manage the Sox next season?

7) Should the Sox re-sign Paul Konerko?

8) Will Carlos Zambrano be in the starting rotation for the Cubs next year?

9) How likely is it that next year's Opening Day infield for the Cubs will be Xavier Nady at 1B, Darwin Barney at 2B, Starlin Castro at SS and Blake DeWitt at 3B?

10) Are you still watching Sox and Cubs games this season?


1) Cubs. The Sox have folded completely.

2) Logic says Many is still better for your line-up even when he isn't hitting--but it doesn't really matter anymore, does it?

3) The Sox don't look interested in beating anyone right now. I think a 3-11 finish for an 82-80 record will barely keep them in second place.

4) Despite the 17-7 run under Quade and the good vibes, the Cubs re pretty much stuck in fifth, which shows you just how far they fell under Lou Piniella.

5) Assuming Joe Girardi isn't available, I think Quade is the next manager. If not, why is GM Jim Hendry giving him a tryout?

6) Ozzie has fallen out of favor in my household. He spends too much time admiring the Twins and not enough figuring out how to beat them. If he wants to manage Florida, I'd say let him go. Then, maybe the Sox can hire Joey Cora before someone else finally does.

7) No... but they will. Letting the fan favorite go after a near MVP season would be a tough decision.

8) Yes... but with a nice finish to 2010 his trde value will never be higher.

9) Very likely. I don't believe the Cubs will make a strong play for someone like Adam Dunn to play 1B, and Nady is playing well enough. Castro is a lock at SS, and Barney is forcing the Cubs to play him now, which wil push DeWitt over the 3B in the long-run. The likelihood the Aramis Ramirez will return to the Cubs for another year seems strong, but I'll be he starts the year injured.

10) Not really.

Swept away

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The Cubs swept the Cardinals this week in St. Louis, which normally would be a source of great joy and much discussion here, but another sweep, Minnesota's three-game domination of the White Sox at The Cell, extended a dark cloud over all of Chicago baseball. The Sox are officially unofficially out of the play-off race.

The Piranhas' total ownership of the Sox was something many of us thought might fade this year with the closing of the dreaded Metrodome. But, if anything, the Twins' ability to make the Sox look bad has evolved to a whole new level and is starting to look like one of those famous baseball curses. The Twins do everything right against the Sox--even more so than the findamentally precise team does against other foes, and they get all the calls. The Sox, meanwhile, can no longer muster an effective pitching performance or inning at the plate against the Twins to save their lives.

The Sox Tuesday through Thursday sumply looked beaten from the beginning, lacking the spark they all knew they would have to have. I'm not sure how to explain it or how it can be overcome, which basically puts me on the same level as Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams. Maybe some answers can be found between now and net spring--they are no other priorities left.

No black-out

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It might be a good time for the White Sox to order up a Black-Out for fans attending the series against the Twins opening tonight at The Cell. Granted, the Sox are only 1-1 in Black-Out games as far as I know, but the one win came in Game 163 of 2008 against the Twins (the loss came later in the 2008 play-offs in Tampa's NLDS clincher at The Cell, though the Black-Out effect was mitigated by the fact of daylight). Anyway, maybe I missed it, but I haven't seen a call for a Black-Out this week. Maybe most of us already stopped believin'. Well, don't stop.

At least not yet.

Other things I'm thinking about, both Sox-wise and Cubs-wise:

--Manny sure hasn't done much yet, not even an RBI since he came to Chicago. Though, he looked a bit better in the last two games, and now would be a good time for a breakthrough.

--The Sox looked really great in two comeback victories over the Royals last weekend. How did the team look so terrible in Saturday's loss to the lowly Baby Blues?

--Chris Sale is your new White Sox closer, and depending what happens, maybe your closer of 2011, unless a rotation spot unexpectedly opens up.

--Next year's Sox starting rotation: Mark Buehrle, Jake Peavy, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Edwin Jackson. Thanks for the memories, Freddy.

--One of the very few Cubs questions anyone still cares about apparently has been answered: Aramis Ramirez told the Sun-Times he is staying in Chicago, meaning he won't exercise his contract option to leave. I am trying to be happy about this, but all I can think of right now is that this should serve as notice to anyone being considered as the Cubs next manager that they will need to keep an extra infielder on the roster when camp breaks next spring for when A-Ram eventually lands on the DL.

--Maybe the only other nagging question is who will be the next manager? (OK, "Why is Jim Hendry still around?" might be another.) Mike Quade has done a nice job guiding the young Cubs to a winning record thus far under his watch, though he will be persona non grata if Joe Girardi becomes available. If Quade finishes the year in a winning mode and Girardi doesn't bite, I don't see how you can give the job to Ryne Sandberg (and I think Hendry secretly doesn't want Ryno to have it anyway because he hasn't paid his dues like Quade has).

--If the Cubs win all of their remaining games, they will finish 81-81. It's good to have goals.

The Chase Continues

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I'm not ready to give the A.L. Central crown to the Twins. I think the White Sox, at 4.5 games out of first place still have a decent chance to catch up, assuming they beat the Twins at least two out of three when they come to town next week, and meanwhile beat up on just about everyone else.

I'll admit, it looks bleak, particularly when the Sox won seven in a row and couldn't get any closer than 3.5 games back. The Sox have won seven of their last 10, but guess what: Minnesota has won eight of 10. It's frustrating, but the Sox must by now they can expect nothing less from their chief rivals (no, not the Cubs).

True, injuries to Gordon Beckham and Paul Konerko could not have come at a worse time, so for the Sox to be fully prepared for the Piranha invasion next, the pitching staff needs to--forgive the Hawkism--strap it down.

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