Sunday, January 24, 2010
This is usually the time of the year for feel-good stories, boundless enthusiasm, Soxfest smiles and perfect world playoff scenarios. (And of course the countless "best shape of my life" comments, as already tallied here at Sox Machine).
However there are some puzzling bits coming out of the Palmer House Hilton this weekend.
Now, don't get me wrong, I actually do have have expectations for the White Sox this year, and I am enthused about their chances in the AL Central with or without a soon-to-be-40-year-old platoon DH. (Although I honestly would pick the Twins by a hair right now).
But somebody is going to have to explain a few nuggets from Kenny, Ozzie and co. to me. Most of this stuff is pulled from a few Trib and Sun Times articles.
Ozzie about re-signing Jim Thome:
I'm not even the biggest Thome fan here. In fact, I did not want him back early in the off season when I hoped the Sox would go in a different direction. And certainly even at the this point the 2010 season does not hinge on an old, regressing, injury-prone slugger who would only play against favorable match ups anyway. But, even with all that said, his pure offensive statistics so greatly outweigh those of the team's current lefty DH, Mark Kotsay, that I don't see how this is a "heart" decision at all.
"I'm still thinking about it. Sometimes when you make decisions with your heart, you make the wrong decision."
Thome's 2009 OPS: .847
Kotsay's 2009 OPS: .717
That's 130 points difference! A what point does this become a "brain" decision for Ozzie?
Ozzie on Alex Rios:
“I'd rather have Rios steal 50 bases than hit 50 home runs. I want production."
From a strictly literal standpoint, there is no way on God's green earth that 50 stolen bases is more productive than 50 homers. That is about as dumb of a baseball statement as one can make. But even as frighteningly ridiculous of a thought that is from Ozzie, there is zero chance Rios will come close to either of those two numbers anyway.
So, from an, um, "poetic license" approach to that quote: I agree over-emphasizing homeruns is a determent to players like Rios.
But if you want to talk about stealing bases, hey, go find Juan Pierre. How about let's focus on Alex Rios hitting the ball real hard into the gaps before we turn him into Juan Pierre II. A better quote from Ozzie would have been "I want Rios to hit 50 doubles."
Despite his massive struggles last year, Rios has a world of talent, and his ability to turn himself around is one of the two or three biggest keys to this team this year. But valuing stolen bases as more productive than hits, especially extra base hits... I just can't see any logic there, Ozzie.
Ozzie on scoring runs without the longball:
This is one of many recent quotes by Ozzie. In fact, why don't I just give you all of them:
"We are going to play aggressive and that will start in spring training. We are going to do some crazy stuff. ... I'm going to try to put everything in motion. Get used to it. Sometimes it's going to work, sometimes it doesn't. Sometimes we are going to run with no outs -- triple play. I will be criticized."
"I will find out if I can manage. People are going to say 'What's Ozzie doing squeezing in the first inning?'"
"From the first day in spring training, we have to create how we're going to play during the season. I'm not going to wait until the last week of spring training. No, you're going to see in the first day bunting and hit-and-run."You're going to see stupid things from the manager, crazy things from the manager. You're going to wonder what Ozzie is doing, but we're going to see what we can work with."
Ah yes, don't you just love it when your manager admits his strategy is "stupid" even before he's implemented it? Well, apparently we better get used to it, because Ozzie has been adamant about bunts, hit-and-runs, aggressive baserunning and general smallball in these myriad quotes from Soxfest.
Still no mention of hitting. So Thursday March 4, 4:05 pm, the Sox first spring game at bats, we will see a bunch of silly baserunning plays. And of course, the sacred bunt. The sacrifice bunt is among the stupidest, lowest-percentage moves in all of baseball. My blood boils when I see a Sox hitter square around with a runner on first base. Don't get me started on that topic.
But I really don't think a bunch of hit-and-runs are going to make that much difference either. There is a middle ground between all-or-nothing homeruns and extreme smallball: it's called baseball.
Ozzie on why Alexei Ramirez is playing shortstop over Gordon Beckham:
At least for now, we are going to have to trust Ozzie on this one. Ramirez showed flashes of brilliance last year, but also had far too many brain farts to be considered above average at the position. It is within reason that, considering his natural ability, he can turn into a top defensive shortstop.
"Alexei Ramirez is one of the top three shortstops in the American League right now."
I have my concerns as to whether Ramirez, with his so-called low baseball IQ and lack of focus, is a good choice for the captain of the infield. He seemed fine at second base in '08, and Beckham surely has the intensity to hold down short if need be (although his defense is still unknown). Can Ozzie, Joey Cora and Omar Vizquel hound Ramirez enough to make him a "smart", focused defender?