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December 2010 Archives

Oney vs. Bobby

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Aren't Oney Guillen's 15 minutes of fame up yet? He slammed Bobby Jenks after Jenks, now with Boston, had some negative but very typical parting words for the Sox. Even though Jenks blew some games last year and obviously has been less of a force the last couple of years, he's still aces in my book for bringing order to the chaos of the White Sox' closer situation in 2005. There were plenty of heroes on that team, but Jenks perhaps was the most unexpected and therefore arguably the biggest hero of all.

Crain on the brain

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The White Sox officially signed ex-Piranha Jesse Crain, a deal we have been hearing about for several days while the team parted ways with 2005 World Series hero Bobby Jenks and veteran relievers J.J. Putz and Scott Linebrink.

Signing Crain and losing those bigger names doesn't sound like much of a trade-off (or cpensation for the Twins' signing Jim Thome last year), but Crain surprisingly pitched better than either Putz or Jenks last season, and not surprisingly was much better than the long-declining Linebrink. The Sox opened the 2010 season with what appeared to be great depth and heavy artillery in the bullpen, but when Tony Pena looks like your most effective reliever down the stretch, you know something has gone wrong.

Crain strikes out a lot of guys, and in some ways may look like another Linebrink, primarily a fastball pitcher prone to streaks of both greatness and failure. If nothing else, the Sox get in Crain a guy who vexed them when he pitched for Minnesota (though you can say that about a lot of guys). But, Crain may prove to be much more than that. I particularly like his .196 opponents' batting average vs. lefties last year, making the right hander someone you can count on in a multitude of situations without wasting a southpaw.

Crain presumably will be setting up Chris Sale as the closer, though we may need to see what spring training brings before the news becomes official. If the Sox had been able to land Kerry Wood, they would again be heading to Arizona with nice bullpen depth. With key components of the new Sox power offense now in the house, the team may still have some work to do to round out the pen.

 

We got Wood

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Surpisingly, Kerry Wood reported in returning to the Cubs on a one-year contract. Over the last few days, it seemed more likely that Wood would (see what I did there?) return to the Yankees or even possibly move to (gasp!) the White Sox.

Both the Yanks and the Sox were in more obvious need of Wood as a set-up man, the role he somewhat starred in for the Yankees last season. The Sox lost J.J. Putz and are about to lose Bobby Jenks, while the Cubs at least have wannabe starter Andrew Cashner in the set-up role. Maybe this means Casher is destined for the starting rotation, though there is still talk the Cubs maybe sign another veteran onto the staff.

Ultimately, Wood's return probably came down to what he really wanted to do, rather than blanket himself in the security of a longer-term contract. That desire should bode well, though a lot of desire wasn't enough to keep Woody healthy on his first tour with the Cubs.

Wrigley Field East

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For some reason, the New York Yankees seem intent on assembling a team out for former Cubs.

First, they brought on Joe Girardi, who of course is also a former Yankee, as manager. Then, Kerry Wood came to NYC seemingly at the end of his rope, but revived his career as a solid set-up man. Next, the Yanks stole Cubs pitching coach Larry Rothschild, whose pitching staffs in Chicago tended toward better than average, but never quite seemed to match his reputation as a star coach.

This week, there have been reports that the Yankees have signed Mark Prior to a minor league dealand would consider trading for Carlos Zambrano.

With the exception of Girardi, this sounds like a group of underachievers. But, knowing the Yankees, they will probably make it work and end up in the World Series again.

Who's on first? Paulie and Pena

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Sox fans said good-bye to one of their favorites on the last day of the 2010 season, but guess what--it wasn't good-bye after all.

The news of the day is that the White Sox have succeeded in re-signing Paul Konerko to a three-year contract, a deal that came after what seemed like 11th-hour hijinks by GM Kenny Williams to bring in a first baseman from elsewhere, though of course Kenny might have been bluffing.

The duration of the contract is perfect for the Sox and Konerko. It may allow him to finish his career in Chicago, but doesn't keep the Sox tied to a 40-something player down the road, as so many contracts these days do. There were other options for the Sox, but hard to argue re-signing a guy who got MVP votes.

This saves the Sox from having to look at Adam Dunn as a full-time fielder, rather than as a DH. Look for Paulie to so some very hittable pitches batting a spot ahead of Dunn, or maybe even getting more walks from lefties who want face Dunn instead.

Meanwhile, on the Northside, the Cubs have signed slugger Carlos Pena as their new first baseman, concluding a hunt that had them rumored to be interested in Dunn, Adrian Gonzalez, Adam LaRoche, Chris Davis and pretty much every other 1B with either trade value or no current contract. Pena is a gamble, having hit .196 last season. He had 28 homers, and usually has been among the A.L. leaders while playing for Tampa the last few years, but his homer totals have been going down.

He does know how to take a walk--actually a lot of walks, and he hits left-handed, so might be a good compliment to Aramis Ramirez in the line-up, more than Derrek Lee was in his final days as a Cub, but the Cubs really need to hope for a rebound in homer totals and his average. As an intangible, he is said to be a happy-go-lucky guy and a fun clubhouse mate, something that always helps in surviving those Cubbie occurrences.

In other news, The Sox lost J.J. Putz this week when he signed with Arizona, and the future of Bobby Jenks remains unclear, so I'm going to bet Chris Sale will be closer next year.

Santo's gone, hope springs eternal

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There was no member of the Cubs family who epitomized the complex mix of hope and exasperation surrounding the team better than Ron Santo. There was no one happier when the Cubs won--or even when the Cubs pushed a single run across the plate. There was no one who battled more health demons just to be a little bit closer to a simple game and the team he loved.

There was also no one more frustrated when the Cubs lost or messed up on a single play. And like the Cubs, Santo could never win the big prize, neither making it to the World Series as a Cubs player nor as a broadcaster. And he never got what everyone wanted most for him in recent years--to be a member of the Hall of Fame. (I always liked to remind people that Santo played for the White Sox, too, and his fueding with Dick Allen supposedly caused Allen to retire early, and that Allen, because of that early departure, had been overlooked even more unjustly than Santo on Hall of Fame ballots.)

The Cubs were set to start the 2011 with possibly their least competitive-looking team since 2002. So, maybe it's good that Santo won't be around to witness this season, but it will certainly be strange without him. He had been less present in the broadcast booth in the last couple seasons--even when he was present. Long stretches of silence were sometimes interrupted only by a befuddled question for Pat Hughes. And each time he missed a road trip, Cubs fans probably feared the worst for him.

It began to seem more and more like his days on the radio were numbered, that he might be forced to retire very soon. But, Santo didn't have any quit in him. He only knew how to fight on and have hope for the next game, and next year. Santo's gone, but his hope still lives.

Sox signing frenzy nets Dunn, A.J.

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The White Sox have landed Adam Dunn and re-signed A.J. Pierzynski on what turned out to be a very busy Thursday. The Dunn deal shouldn't be surprising given how much we were all talking about the possibility since before the All-Star break last season, but happened surprisingly quickly once Dunn became a free agent.

It's a great move because the Sox didn't have to trade anyone, and they get a powerful left-handed bat and possibly more than 100 walks--though a ton of strikeouts, too. Plus, they don't have to play the stone-handed Dunn at first base or anywhere else if the Sox re-sign Paul Konerko, which is looking more and more likely. The Sox have a new full-time left-handed DH who may hit around 40 homeruns, something they sorely missed last year.

In another move that was just plain unexpected, the Sox have re-signed A.J. Pierzynski, who seemed as good as gone once his free agency started, since it was assumed the Sox weren't terribly interested and several other teams were. Even after star catcher Victor Martinez joined Detroit, the Sox appeared to be more interested in the likes of Miguel Olivo than A.J., and other teams like Toronto and Texas appeared to covet him. I wonder what this means for Tyler Flowers, the catching prospect who hasn't managed to play up to his promise thus far.

 

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