SoxFest 2010: News and notes
CHICAGO -- News and notes from SoxFest 2010:
-- The good news for Chicago White Sox fans is that closer Bobby Jenks looks slimmed down and also talked about finding some new inspiration to motivate him for 2010. Be sure to check out Melissa Isaacson's column about Jenks Sunday on ESPNChicago.com.
-- Sox first baseman Paul Konerko told me he'd love to finish his career on the South Side. Truth be told, Paulie, not Mark Buehrle, has been the face of the South Siders since 1999. Moving toward his mid-30s, Konerko said on Friday that the final decision as to whether he stays with the Sox is out of his hands.
"I'm [pretty sure I'm going to go out there and have a good season," Konerko said. "That's certainly going to be my intention. It's kind of easy for me now. I just prepare, try to play well and after that we'll see what happens. The ball is in their court after that. It's understood on my side of it [that he wants to stay]. I've kind of had the attitude that I've come this far with the White Sox, I'd like to finish it out that way but I know I have to earn that."
Konerko is in the final year of a five-year, $60 million contract which was signed after the White Sox won the World Series in 2005.
-- It's clear that both owner Jerry Reinsdorf and general manager Kenny Williams are giving manager Ozzie Guillen the keys to the car for 2010. The pressure will be on the Sox manager, who so far has talked both Williams and assistant GM Rick Hahn out of adding a left-handed RBI bat to a lineup that will be void of Jim Thome's power for the first time since 2005.
"I'm going to do a lot of crazy things," Guillen said. "I'll be changing things around in my lineup. I might put a squeeze bunt on in the first inning, then the next day they will want me to be fired. I already talked to [Reinsdorf]. I already talked to [Williams]. I will take my chances [with what we have]. That's the way we're going to play it."
With sluggers like Thome, Carlos Delgado and Hank Blaylock still out there, Williams had a two-hour meeting with Guillen Friday to make sure he's comfortable with rotating the designated hitter spot among Andruw Jones, Mark Kotsay, Paul Konerko, Omar Vizquel and A.J. Pierzynski.
Williams has made more trades than any GM in the American League in the last 10 years. In 2010, starting pitching, a speedier team and better defense will be the keynote.
"We felt that our peripheral needs were more important than our big needs," Williams said during a management seminar that included Guillen and announcers Steve Stone and Hawk Harrelson. "Kotsay, Vizquel and Jones were important moves for us."
Historically, Guillen has asked for more speed and more flexibility with his lienup since signing on as manager in 2004.
-- Winning another World Series title might be enough for Guillen to go home, finally.
"I don't know. Sometimes when you stay home with your wife and family, you can't wait to get out of the house," Guillen said. "But when it's the middle of July and your team is very bad, you want to do something else. I love the game, but if I win another World Series, I'll think about [retiring]."
-- I asked Guillen about whether Jake Peavy or Mark Buehrle would be his Opening Day starter in 2010. The usually politically incorrect manager went politically correct on me, basically saying that Peavy will be the ace of the staff, but that Buehrle deserves Opening Day status due to his 10 solid years of service. Guillen promised to make the decision on his Opening Day starter early on in spring training.
-- This year's management seminar had an unusually small crowd turnout due to the fact that the Sox scheduled player autograph sessions at the same time that Guillen and Williams spoke. Two fans during an audience Q & A took off on Greg Walker asking why he hasn't been dismissed as hitting coach.
"I don't believe in a whole lot of changing," Williams said. "I like continuity in coaching. There's just too much changing in sports."
Guillen had a different perspective.
"If they [coaches] don't get the job done, I get rid of them -- even if they're my friends. Rock Raines was my friend. He didn't do things the way we wanted him to. He gone. I think sometimes we don't need a hitting coach, we need a [psychologist]. There are a lot of headaches for a hitting coach."
Williams was emphatic about Walker's status.
"Greg Walker is going to be here," Williams said.
"Good hitters make good hitting coaches," Guillen added.
Another fan during the session questioned the logic of Alexei Ramirez returning to shortstop over Gordon Beckham. Williams said he likes Beckham's ability at short, but Ramirez has more talent at the position. Guillen chimed in and said Ramirez was as good as any shortstop in the American League in 2009.
-- I asked Peavy if the White Sox should be the team to beat in the AL Central. The Sox' new ace stopped short of saying they'll win the division, but he did say he likes the team's chances.
Peavy had an interesting observation about his teammates.
"I couldn't believe the amount of rednecks this team had on it," Peavy said. "With Jim Thome leading the way and then you meet a guy like Jermaine Dye who you think is going to listen to rap music and he puts country music on and talks about going deer hunting with Mark Buehrle. I said, 'What is going on here, you know?' But we have a tremendous bunch of guys."
-- Be sure to check out Jon Greenberg's column on Mark Teahen and Melissa Isaacson's coverage of Saturday's SoxFest highlights throughout the weekend, which will include another Kenny Williams-Ozzie Guillen seminar and marketing director Brooks Boyer seminar on the business side of the White Sox.