Debate Cubs vs. White Sox with Jerry Crasnick
THE CASE FOR THE WHITE SOX
Amid the obligatory Ozzie Guillen tirades (and that little inflatable doll incident in the clubhouse, which mercifully faded from the news in a hurry), the White Sox have emerged as the team to beat in the American League Central. They're third in the AL in runs even though Nick Swisher (.221), Paul Konerko (.216) and Jim Thome (.209) all have considerable room for improvement. Youngsters John Danks and Gavin Floyd have flourished under the guidance of pitching coach Don Cooper, and the Sox lead the majors with 41 quality starts. The relief corps also ranks second in the big leagues to the Phillies with a 2.82 ERA. With the recent injuries to Jeremy Bonderman in Detroit and Jake Westbrook in Cleveland, the clubs that were considered the class of the division in spring training are now even less prepared to make a run at Chicago this summer.
THE CASE FOR THE CUBS
Carlos Zambrano and Ryan Dempster are 15-4 at the top of the rotation, and Ted Lilly has carved his ERA from 9.16 to 5.23 since mid-April. Remember when manager Lou Piniella spent much of the spring debating which reliever would close out games in the ninth? Kerry Wood has been dominant in the role, and he and setup man Carlos Marmol have combined for 100 strikeouts and 39 hits allowed in 74 1/3 innings. The Cubs lead the majors in runs scored and on base percentage -- an amazing turnaround given that they were 18th in the big leagues in OBP last season. Chicago has two potential Rookie of the Year candidates in Geovany Soto and Kosuke Fukudome, and a little new blood is always a good thing. That 14-16 road record is a little worrisome, but the Cubs are an impressive 26-8 at Wrigley.
Heck, it was only a week ago that Ozzie Guillen was ranting about his team's lack of production, calling for roster changes and telling everyone that he and hitting coach Greg Walker could both be in trouble. Is this just another Ozzie-outburst-fueled bump at U.S. Cellular? Since we're hesitant to buy into the White Sox-related euphoria this quickly, we'll give the nod to the Cubs because they've been the more balanced, consistent club through the first two months. And when the Cubbies struggle, they know they can always rely on the calm, measured leadership style of Lou Piniella. (Well, compared with Ozzie, anyway).
Jerry Crasnick (1:00 PM)
Guys, It's 100 degrees in my house (the AC is down today) and even hotter on this chat. Let's get started ...
Jeff Lewisville, Tx
As a cubs fan my fear is the starting rotation. How long until Big Z breaks a hand on one of his fits. Can Dempster keep up this amazing run? Lilly and Marquis are questionable at best. And who is there 5th starter? They are an injury or two away from being the Texas Rangers!!! Tell me there is help on the way in the rotation!!!
Jerry Crasnick (1:02 PM)
Jeff, I think you're a little too pessimistic there. Zambrano is a legit ace, and Lilly has been much better of late. And while Dempster can make you sweat at times, he's been pretty darned good. That said, I wouldn't be shocked to see the Cubs make a serious run at C.C. Sabathia if and when he goes on the market.
Robert Septer: Des Moines, IA
What do you think the White Sox will do about Paul Konerko? He has been in this slump for quite some time do you think they will do anything about it now or just keep giving him time?
Jerry Crasnick (1:03 PM)
Robert, Konerko has some kind of soft tissue injury in his right thumb that makes it difficult for him to grip the bat. He could probably do with a couple of weeks on the DL, but he's been sucking it up and playing. It'll probably be a season- long issue until he gets an extended rest.
Paul - Colorado Springs, CO
The X Factor is Ozzie - he keeps the pressure off his team by taking the media spotlight ... Lowest total runs allowed in the majors ... edge to the White Sox
Jerry Crasnick (1:06 PM)
Paul, There are people around the White Sox who really think there's a method to Ozzie's madness -- that he tends to blow up and create controversy to take the focus off his players when they're going bad. I think he just gets bored. I remember talking to him in spring training and he was giving out the old, "If they don't want me here, they can just fire me" line. This was about three months after he received a contract extension through 2012.
B-Dog (Palos Heights, IL)
Hey Jerry its Game 7 of the World Series...your team is up 1 run in the 7th inning...which back end of the bullpen guys would you trust more (Howry, Marmol, Wood) or (Dotel, Linebrink, Jenks?) So Sox!
Jerry Crasnick (1:07 PM)
B-Dog, I'm not sure about Howry at the moment, but I'd certainly be willing to take my chances with Marmol and Wood. (no offense intended to the White Sox guys).
You talked about Thome and Konerko's problems but what about D-Lee's struggles as of late his hitting percentage has dropped almost 40 points since April
Jerry Crasnick (1:09 PM)
Jake, When big, tall, rangy guys like Derrek Lee have one thing go wrong in their swing, it can get out of whack in a hurry. He'll turn it around. One interesting note on D-Lee: 11 of his first 13 homers have some at Wrigley. He's one guy who definitely needs to pick it up on the road.
Jason Denver, Co
With Crede playing the way he is, do you see the Sox sigining him to a long term deal or tading him before the deadline so they at least get something in return?
Jerry Crasnick (1:10 PM)
Jason, It's starting to look like neither. If the White Sox are contending for the division title, they're not going to trade Crede while he's on the way to a 30-35 homer, 100 RBI season. And with Crede playing this well, Scott Boras will now be more determined than ever to take him on the open market.
Jerry, look at the difference in "quality" teams that each one has played: Cubs (PHI, AR, SD, NY) - Sox (CLE, MIN, OAK, BAL, NY, TB, TOR, LAA). Still on top of that, the Sox have played the fewest home games in the major leagues (18-8). You still think that the Cubs are better after that?
Jerry Crasnick (1:12 PM)
Roger, I don't really buy the "weak schedule" argument. It's not as if the Cubs are an ACC hoops team and they're playing McNeese State outside their conference. That said, the Cubbies are about to open a series against Atlanta, then play two AL East teams (Tampa Bay and Toronto). So this should be an interesting 10 days.
The sox are 35-16 on natural grass and 1-9 on artifical turf...only tampa is in the playoff picture who plays on artificial turf, does this bode well for the white sox in the playoffs against teams like Boston and Anaheim?
Jerry Crasnick (1:14 PM)
Dave, Very interesting note, but I don't think it means a heck of a lot. Maybe the White Sox fare poorly on turf because they're old and slow. You have to wonder how fresh an old, slow and non-athletic team's legs will be in October.
Rich Hill makes me sick when I look at how good his stuff is but yet he isn't able to command it. The Tribune had a short blurb yesterday about how his walks have been just as big a problem since getting sent to AAA Iowa. Can the Cubs pretty much write-off any chances of getting a contribution from him this year?
Jerry Crasnick (1:16 PM)
Kyle, I think Lou Piniella has started to question Rich Hill's mental toughness, and that's never a good thing. It's a little early to write off Hill for this season, but he's got some work to do to convince Sweet Lou he can be a factor in a pennant race.
With Alexei Ramirez playing so well, do you think the Sox are going to trade WS hero Juan Uribe? If so, is there still any value for an older 2B who strikes out so much?
Jerry Crasnick (1:16 PM)
Erik, I think you just answered your own question.
Any team that is depending on Gavin Floyd to be a consistent starter is screwed
Jerry Crasnick (1:18 PM)
Philly, That sounds a little like sour grapes to me. I think if the Phils could have a do-over on that Floyd-Freddy Garcia deal, they might take a mulligan.
Petedaver (Chicago, IL)
Who do you think has better shot going to the World Series thus far; Cubs or White Sox?
Jerry Crasnick (1:19 PM)
Pete, I'll take the Cubs simply because I think they have an easier route in the NL in the postseason, (although the Phillies, who play here where I live, are starting to look quite formidable).
My only concern about the Cubs is the bullpen -- Wood, Marmol, Howry and Wuertz have made a ton of appearances already this year. What do you think the likelihood is of a late bullpen swoon?
Jerry Crasnick (1:22 PM)
Dan, I checked on the ESPN.com site, and the Cubs bullpen ranks sixth in the majors with 216 innings pitched. The White Sox, conversely, are tight with the Angels for the lightest workload in baseball (at 166 innings). That's definitely worth keeping an eye on, and an incentive for Jim Hendry to add another bullpen arm in July.
Vince (Joliet, IL)
Jerry, If the Sox were to add speed where would it be? In center at the expense of swisher, or by moving konerko or thome? I don't see how they make drastic changes to the roster when its in first, but also see a need for a little more speed when the lineup cools back down.
Jerry Crasnick (1:24 PM)
Vince, It's a lineup that definitely relies a lot on the home run. I think they felt like Alexei Ramirez would have an impact, and he has, but they could use another set of wheels. What the heck, Kenny Lofton is still out there ....
Steve (Mt. Pleasant, MI)
Do you think Bud Selig has it in for the Cubs? They hardly play ANY home games in September, and they close AT Milwaukee, who will be more of a challenge to the Cubs than the Cardinals down the stretch. With all those blown calls this weekend in Los Angeles (even Peter Gammons pointed them out last night), don't you think that it's just not fair that a man who owned a team for decades is the man running baseball? That would be like George Steinbrenner becoming commissioner!
Jerry Crasnick (1:26 PM)
Steve, 1) Bud Selig doesn't actually sit at his kitchen table and devise the schedule, so it's tough to pin that on him; 2) the Cubs haven't won since 1908. And as far as I know, Bud wasn't around back then to start the curse.
Nathaneal (Nampa, Idaho)
A good point here is that Konerko, Thome and Swish are started to hit. But while they weren't hitting, the White Sox were still able to stay in first. These last six games has shown us the real Chicago White Sox.
Jerry Crasnick (1:29 PM)
Nathaneal, The White Sox offense should continue to pick it up as the weather gets warmer. But what the heck -- they're already fourth in the majors with 80 home runs. As to their extended stay in first place, it's partly the result of Cleveland and Detroit being so unexpectedly pathetic.
Do you think the Cubs will make a big trade before the deadline? If so who do you think they might go for?
Jerry Crasnick (1:29 PM)
Drew, As I mentioned, I can see them making a big run at C.C. Sabathia. Piniella wants another left-handed bat, but Edmonds has picked it up lately to the point where he's at least not killing them in center.
How come Ozzie wasn't fired yet? He is a terrible coach and makes a mockery out the Chicago White Sox and the entire organization as well as the City! He needs to relax and learn his role. Do you think he will be there at season's end?
Jerry Crasnick (1:31 PM)
Andrew, I love to watch Ozzie personally and find him very entertaining. But you have to wonder when all the tantrums and distractions eventually reach a point of bringing diminishing returns. That said, he'll probably be emboldened by the team's latest hot streak after he trashed the offense.
You mentioned a possible deal for C.C....what would be a fair and balanced trade for either team??
Jerry Crasnick (1:33 PM)
Chad, It's interesting. If you had suggested Felix Pie and Rich Hill as part of a package for C.C. Sabathia in the offseason, it wouldn't have seemed far off base. Now Pie is hitting .190 for Triple A Iowa and Piniella has soured on Hill. So Jim Hendry might have to get inventive.
matt (the chi)
Can you tell Andrew that he is a fool. Ozzie is the best manager in baseball. He is a master motivater, has won manager of the year and oh yeah, he won a world series
Jerry Crasnick (1:34 PM)
Matt, Yeah, that helps. It seems as if Ozzie, for some strange reason, loves bringing a lot of this stuff upon himself. He's a psychoanalyst's dream.
Scott (Lombard, IL)
If the Cubs make the playoffs they will find some way to screw it up. Hey, maybe Lou will hold Zambrano back in case there's a game 7 or put Soriano in for his Defense.
Jerry Crasnick (1:35 PM)
Scott, Yeah, that's the thing with Cubs fans. They're not defeatist at all or inclined to dwell upon negative things that have happened in the past.
Earlier you mentioned that the cubs might make a run at C.C. Sabathia. Who would they potentially use as trade bait?
Jerry Crasnick (1:38 PM)
Rob, If the Cubs make a run at C.C., I can only assume that Mark Shapiro will work from the Baseball America Prospect Handbook and run down the list. That means kids like Josh Vitters, Tyler Colvin, Jose Ceda and Jeff Samardzija. And Hendry will offer him Matt Murton and Ronnie Cedeno. And maybe they can meet in the middle.
Bobby L (Geneva, IL)
Jerry, Ozzie said he just doesn't trust Alexei Ramirez at the top of the order yet. If he continues to play as well as he has, when do you think we can see him hitting 1 or 2. His average is improving but his OBP still needs work.
Jerry Crasnick (1:40 PM)
Bobby L, Alexei Ramirez is a really dynamic player, but he has five walks all season. I think it's a lot to ask of him to be a catalyst type in the leadoff spot just yet. The kid has an awful lot on his plate as it is. Ozzie is being wise to take things step by step with him.
John (Coralville, IA)
The one thing that I think could hurt the Cubs down the stretch and in the playoffs (if they make it) is the lack of a true #2 starter. You mentioned Sabathia; are there any other possible targets out there? Harden? Burnett?
Jerry Crasnick (1:42 PM)
John, Given the whole 100-year mania, I'm sure Jim Hendry will be looking at all his options as the trade deadline approaches. I'm sure Lou Piniella will also be pushing and prodding him to upgrade the roster. Lou doesn't care about what the cupboard looks like three years from now; he wants this to be the team that ended the curse.
Joe (Chicago, IL)
Jerry, I am a Cubs fan but I'm also pretty impressed by what the White Sox have done so far. However, do you think that relying on 2 young starting pitchers is dangerous come September & October? (see Dan Haren, 2007).
Jerry Crasnick (1:44 PM)
Joe, No, I think they're OK. Floyd has been around a few years now. Plus, they just picked up Esteban Loiaza as a potential Don Cooper reclamation project. And they've got Lance Broadway, who's pretty good, down there in Triple A. This team isn't completely lacking in Plan B's and C's.
Bob (Arlington Heights, IL)
The Sox sent Josh Fields down to the minors after spring training and now that looks like a great move. Although I'm wondering what happened to Josh since last year he had 23 homers and 67 rbi's while filling in for Crede. This year's AAA stat's are nowhere near these numbers. I was hoping the Sox were grooming him to play 1B when either Thome eventually steps down or 3B if Crede leaves due to free agency.
Jerry Crasnick (1:46 PM)
Bob, I think Fields is still in the picture as the likely third base successor to Crede if and when he leaves through free agency. FYI -- Fields is hitting .260 with eight homers in 150 ABs in Triple A this season.
Is there any possibility of Hawk Harrelson getting fired? His voice and that "put it on the board" thing are the most irritating things I have ever heard in my life. Go Cubs!
Jerry Crasnick (1:46 PM)
Mike, I don't imagine White Sox fans think Ron Santo is the cat's meow either, do they?
Justin (Tallahassee, FL)
Jerry, do you see the Cards or Brew Crew giving the Cubs a run for their money in the Central?
Jerry Crasnick (1:48 PM)
Justin, Intermittently, although I think the Cubs will win that division. With the NL East and West both being suspect, it's actually opened the door for an NL Central club to contend for the wild card.
With Zumuya and Rodney getting ready to come back, do you see the Tigers getting back into contention?
Jerry Crasnick (1:49 PM)
Larry, I've been slower to give up on the Tigers than most, but I'm starting to think that ship has sailed.
This is why I don't get in Cubs/Sox arguments anymore. Cub fans don't like Hawk. Us Sox fans don't like Santo. All we're missing is Cubs fan talking about attendance.
Jerry Crasnick (1:50 PM)
Godish, Well, I noticed you dropped by to slip in an attendance reference.
Ryan, Atlanta, GA
I feel the most important ingredient is the role players on a team. The Cubs have DeRosa, who learned from Bobby Cox and Chipper how to successfully fill that role. He's a role player that gives you superstar flare once in a while......He will be the difference!
Jerry Crasnick (1:51 PM)
Ryan, I don't know if DeRosa alone will make the difference, but it's a real luxury to have a versatile guy like that who you can rely on every day. Given what they're paying him, he better be pretty good.
Dave G, Denver, CO
Why won't Pinella take Soriano out of the leadoff role? Theriot is a much better fit.
Jerry Crasnick (1:54 PM)
Dave G., This has been the conversation around Soriano for years. Apparently he just feels most comfortable hitting leadoff. Someone submitted another question (I can't seem to find it) pointing out that Soriano isn't much of a postseason player. For what it's worth, that's a legit observation: Soriano has a .598 career OPS in 160 October at-bats. Not very good.
Dan (London, England)
You said you would take the cubs late relievers, Nathan and Mo Rivera (its the playoffs) those are the only two closers I would take over Bobby, who is more proven over all and has closed in the WS before. And is there any better pitching coach than Coop?
Jerry Crasnick (1:56 PM)
Dan, Wood's numbers are better than Jenks' so far this season, but Jenks has also had a lighter workload -- which could bode well for the second half. As far as Don Cooper, he's pretty high on the list.
alex (chicago, IL)
I'm sick of people saying Ozzie is a distraction. He may be slightly crazy, and not always say the smartest things, but its clear to me that he intentionally says these things to keep the incessant Chicago media off his players' backs when they are slumping. If its not a distraction to the players, and not a distraction to Ozzie or Reinsdorf, then it seems to me its not a distraction...I know you're average White Sox fan cares a lot more about the fate of the teams than whether they pulled some stupid prank with blow up dolls...so this is all really just a media creation in the world of 24-hr sports coverage.
Jerry Crasnick (1:57 PM)
Alex, The writers certainly can't complain about Ozzie -- he's very accessible and tremendously entertaining. And I'm sure when things are going badly, the players love him being a magnet for attention. I just have to think a few eyes roll here and there when it becomes such an ongoing soap opera.
Do you see the Sox possibly trading Buehrle near deadline time unless he returns to his old ways?
Jerry Crasnick (1:59 PM)
John, No, they just signed him to a long-term deal. Again, with the Sox in the race, Kenny Williams isn't going to be trading away his resident workhorse. Based on his career numbers, Buehrle is probably in line for a pretty good second half.
Jerry Crasnick (2:00 PM)
Thanks for the emails, everybody. We've got a lot of baseball passion in Chicago this summer. Maybe the Cubs and Sox can settle the debate in the Series.