Thursday, March 27, 2008

Speaking With The Enemy

In anticipation of Monday’s Opener against the White Sox, I had a nice exchange with Jim Margalus, who pens the very entertaining Sox Machine, where we asked 10 questions of each other about the other’s team. The questions I asked of him (in bold) about his White Sox and his responses (obviously, following the bolded questions) are both informative and unflinchingly honest:
Are the White Sox rebuilding or contending? Does anyone really know if this elevator is going up or down and are you truly comfortable with Kenny Williams pulling the levers?
I’m going to say they’re “retooling.” They didn’t do enough to contend, in my opinion, because 60 percent of the rotation is a mystery. On the other hand, they didn’t sell off their veterans, so they’re not rebuilding. They pretty much exchanged young players for slightly older (but still young) players who are under their control for the next five years or so, so “retooling” seems to work. Now, whether the tools are good enough to make the playoffs? I have serious doubts.

Is there an actual betting pool with an over/under date on when a wildly offensive comment by Ozzie Guillen becomes the lead story on PTI?
We’re still a ways away from it, I think. We just cashed in on the annual “I don’t deserve the Sox’s money” pool last week, so we are looking for a new game. But I think C.C. Sabathia will have his way with the Sox Opening Day, Ozzie will go too far out of his way to praise him, and we’ll check another item off his list.
Instead of a pool, we should just take bets on what specific group he trashes. For instance:
People from a specific South American country: 3-1
Homosexuals: 5-1
Women: 8-1
Mormons: 40-1
The Welsh: 75-1

The “homosexuals” one could be a bargain at that line, considering he’s offended them twice already. But on the other hand, he may have learned his lesson. A lot of interesting wrinkles to this game.

Did the White Sox give up too much in their acquisitions of two young quality OF in Carlos Quentin and Nick Swisher?
Swisher was a fair deal. The Sox really only gave up two pitchers (Ryan Sweeney is a non-factor), and one of them – Gio Gonzalez -- is an maximum-effort, undersized lefty who strikes out a ton but also gives up a lot of flyballs, which doesn’t play well in the Cell. Fautino De Los Santos is the real gem, but he hasn’t pitched above high-A. Meanwhile, the Sox get an OBP machine in Swisher who’s highly affordable for the next five years ($35 million).

The Quentin-Chris Carter deal will be fun to monitor. Quentin is a guy with massive production in the minors and injury problems in the majors. Carter hits the ball really, really hard and can take a walk, but has zero defensive value. He’s barely a first baseman. Too many unknowns to judge, but I think both teams got something out of it.

Both of them address the Sox’s crippling lack of OBP last year, which is a major step forward.

How do the AB’s break down for the suddenly crowded OF with Dye, Owens, Fields, Swisher, and Quentin fighting for time and Thome ensconced at DH? Does anyone REALLY think Swisher can play CF?
Swisher is the second choice for center, behind Jerry Owens. He wouldn’t be awful in a smaller outfield than Oakland’s for a game or two at a time. We lived through Rob Mackowiak’s misadventures, so we can live through Swisher’s, but if Brian Anderson is the fourth outfielder, we shouldn’t see that very often.

Dye isn’t moving from right, which is a shame because there isn’t a ball in play that he can’t turn into a triple. Owens will probably start in center and lead off, because Ozzie likes his leadoff hitters fast, with sketchy on-base skills and zero power.

Swisher’s in left, and Quentin will probably start in Triple-A because he’s looked rusty this spring while recovering from offseason non-throwing shoulder surgery. A month wouldn’t hurt him, and he’ll probably find time when either Thome (nagging back), Dye (nagging hamstrings/quads) and Owens (nagging groin) finds his way to the DL.

Does the landscape of the Farm System resemble scorched earth?
It’s more like a recently logged forest. The Sox have some interesting looking prospects in the low minors like Jose Martinez and Aaron Poreda, but they’re years away from contributing.

If given the opportunity, would YOU take a swing at A.J. Pierzynski?
Nah. He doesn’t have a discernable jaw or chin, so it wouldn’t be that satisfying.

Which young starter is going to step in behind Buehrle and Vazquez to settle the rotation…is there one?
John Danks is the guy to watch. He got smacked around in the second half last year, but he developed a cutter in the offseason, which is a pitch that has made Mark Buehrle tougher than he should be. And Danks has about 3-4 m.p.h. on him, so on paper, we should see a pretty hefty jump in his numbers and in-game stamina.

Gavin Floyd, on the other hand, will be a success if he gets his ERA under 5.00. He gives up too many homers, or rather has given up too many baserunners before that ton of homers, to get too excited.

How old was Jose Contreras during the Cuban Missle Crisis…16?
He’s only 36 in Cuban years. There have been some jokes around Sox camp that Alexei Ramirez is the first Cuban to actually look younger than his listed age (26). I’m guessing he’ll get carded if he goes out to Rush Street after games this season.

Will the additions of Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink settle the bullpen to finally get a lead to Fat Bobby Jenks?
God, I hope so. I had higher hopes for Dotel than Linebrink, because Dotel is a great Tommy John Surgery rebound candidate, and Linebrink’s peripherals have all trended in the wrong direction for the past three years. I thought the Linebrink deal was “paying for past performance” to the highest degree.

But Linebrink has survived in Arizona this spring, which is an awful place for pitchers to get a feel of their stuff. Dotel, on the other hand, has been smacked around. Both pitchers could get crushed for the exorbitant sum of $10 million combined. Last year has left enough scars to make me perpetually pessimistic about any reliever entering the game.

Will the White Sox finish higher than the Royals in the Central?
I think so. I certainly hope so. The Royals do have a lot of things in line with their 2003 aberration – new, optimistic manager, young pitching staff with upside, lineup that isn’t awful – so I wouldn’t be completely surprised if they made a jump. But I’ve settled on 79 wins as my prediction, and if that’s a last-place number, then the Central is better than anybody thought. If nothing else, I hope they finish ahead of the Twins.

A big thank you goes out as this is absolutely terrific remarks from Jim, particularly the line that A.J. lacks a discernable jaw or chin. My answers to his questions about our Tribe can be found at The Sox Machine here.

Also, in case you missed it, here’s an absolutely fantastic piece by Buster Olney on ESPN The Magazine’s cover boy for their 2008 Baseball Preview, the Hefty Lefty.

The Baseball Previews are on the newsstands, the boys at Yahoo (I thought I loved Jeff Passan before his linked comments on the AL Central, which are just spot on) are peering into their crystal ball, “games” are being played in Japan, 25-man rosters are essentially set…it’s close…very close.


Vegas Watch said...

Good stuff as always. You forgot to add in the link to your answers at Sox Machine though.

Sox Machine said...

To update one answer:

Jerry Owens is starting the season on the DL, so Swisher will be seeing a lot of time in center starting off. I'm guessing that means Carlos Quentin will play left, and Brian Anderson will be a defensive-replacement type in center.

It's entirely possible that Anderson could play left, but that'd be a waste of his one major-league tool.

Paul Cousineau said...

March Madness has taken a toll on my brain.

Cy Slapnicka said...

"Being from Cleveland, it was almost a matter of just waiting for that other shoe to drop when the Tribe went up 3-1 in the ALCS." Our Fearful Leader at

You should be ashamed. Are you trotting out your "Cleveland Complex" as an endearing trait to the enemy? Playing up to the media's view of Cleveland? What? Please explain, I'm interested in knowing. If I remember correctly, you and I, and a number of others spent a number of Miller Lites across the street from the Jake before game 5 (up 3-1) discussing where we were going to celebrate WHEN we won.

Take your Cleveland complex and shove it up your ass. If you really believed that, you were faking it to us. And if you didn't, then why trot out that tired ass stance? I had faith up until Skinner happened. And if you didn't, I don't even know what to say besides...I'm sorry to hear that. Good day to you, sir.

PS I am serious.

Paul Cousineau said...

Picky, picky...
I should have said AFTER Game 5 when Wedge left C.C. out there too long and we knew we were going back to Boston. So, instead of 3-1,it was when the Tribe went down 3-2 heading to Boston.

No question I was thinking that we had the series won prior to Game 5, pounding oil cans of Miller Lite at Local Heroes, but that inferiority complex came flying to the forefront about the time that J.D. Drew swung his bat in the 1st inning of Game 6.

I'd be shocked if anyone wasn't feeling the same thing when the series left Cleveland without an ALCS clinch...that we had let a golden opportunity pass us by.
Obviously, I held out hope all the way to Skinner (and probably to the very end), but the acids starting flying in my stomach and the first real thought that the Indians could lose the series came walking out of the Jake after Game 5.

Cy, you need some baseball to watch...maybe that will get you off my back.

Cy Slapnicka said...

actually, i thought "there's no way we can lose 3 in a row". i guess now i know how yankees fans, not like frontrunning assholes, when they lost to boston in 7 games. then i was forced to listen to my pessimistic father-in-law in the car. as a side note, why do these people think everyone else wants to hear their negativity?

i do need baseball, and i ordered my extra innings yesterday...monday can't come soon enough. :)

btw PC, if i google "waiting for that other shoe to drop cleveland tribe" you are the second link. you're not cached yet, there's still time to fix this!

Cy Slapnicka said...

the CC article is a must read. GREAT info that makes him seem like a regular guy. he appears to be boys with riske too. is there any way we can get him back? he doesn't even have to pitch if it helps keep CC in cleveland.

Baltimoran said...

on cy's recommendation, i also ordered my extra innings yesterday.
Gotta agree with PC though, as i sucked down miller lites with both of you jerks i thought i was hours away from an incredible celebration, yet when things started going bad i started worrying (and drinking harder...ended up puking on East 9th the following morning, got to yell at some sawx fans at Flannery's though). I don't know if i was more worried than I would be if I hadn't witnessed the drive and all that crap during my formidable years...but it seems likely. The "Cleveland Complex" is real and there is only one way to destroy it.