January 2010

White Sox gain one win

White Sox fans received a slight boost of encouragement today when Baseball Prospectus adjusted their 2010 PECOTA projections.

Instead of the original 79-83 record and deadlock for second with the Tigers in the American League Central, the White Sox have been elevated to 80-82 and sole possession of second place behind the Twins. Minnesota gets the division nod with an 83-79 record.

I have a great deal of respect for the work done by Baseball Prospectus, but just a gut feeling tells me right now a win total of 88-to-90 games will be needed to win the AL Central. I think both the Twins and White Sox will have far better than average teams, even if that thought means an increase of 10 wins for the White Sox from 2009 to 2010. It’s certainly possible.

Remember, PECOTA literally was dead on with the 72-90 forecast prior to the 2007 season. But it missed by quite a bit during the White Sox 99-win World Series championship campaign in 2005.

Meanwhile, this present PECOTA adjustment really hit hardest on the Rays. Sure, they still are projected to win 92 games and finish 22 games above .500, but they went from the best team in baseball in the original projection to out of the playoffs in this one.

Thome just wants to play

Jim Thome wants to play baseball

Aside from all the other intangible factors, this point has clearly been made by the veteran designated hitter both this past weekend to MLB.com at the Joyce Thome Benefit for Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria and Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. Thome and his wife, Andrea, were joined by Paul and Jennifer Konerko and Gordon Beckham on the South Side of Chicago for the Grand Slam Party, benefitting Illinois foster families and celebrating the ‘Bring Me Home’ campaign in partnership with Children’s Home + Aid.

Thome followed up his expressed desire to suit up for season No. 20 with an equally strong desire to avoid talking about contract particulars.

“I would rather not get into all that stuff,” Thome said. “I just want to play baseball.”

This question deflected by Thome centered on whether years or money would make a difference in his ultimate 2010 destination. But finding the right fit stands as the most important factor for the prolific slugger.

Once again, Thome mentioned how there was talk between his camp and a few teams. As for a return to the White Sox, Thome said with a smile that he hadn’t closed down this option from his side.

“My door is open,” Thome said. “All you have to do is call me.

“From my end, everyone knows I love Chicago. It’s a great city, and the organization has treated me great for the last four years. It has been a pleasure to play here and be part of it for the last four years.

“So, we’ll see what happens,” Thome said. “In baseball, you learn how business moves are made and decisions are made. You respect those decisions and move on.”

Other interesting fits in the American League Central for Thome would be Kansas City, who could use a veteran bat at DH, or Minnesota, where a great deal of mutual respect exists, but a full-time DH spot is not open. Konerko, the White Sox captain and a good friend of Thome, said he’s campaigned for Thome to return and won’t really deal with the departure of Thome or Jermaine Dye until he arrives at Spring Training and they aren’t there.

Here’s an idea: What if the White Sox announce a Thome one-year deal Friday as the players are introduced for SoxFest? It’s unlikely to happen, but how’s that for drama?

The Peoria Outdoorsmen

Paul Konerko stands among the plethora of White Sox players, coaches, broadcasters and front office personnel scheduled to attend SoxFest in Chicago this weekend, really the most comprehensive list in the past eight years. But at this point, it’s no certainty Konerko will be able to find his way to the Palmer House Hilton.

More will be known about the White Sox first baseman’s arrival and whereabouts during Wednesday night’s Grand Slam Party at U.S. Cellular Field, benefiting Illinois foster families and celebrating the ‘Bring Me Home’ campaign in partnership with Children’s Home + Aid. This effort was started by Jim and Andrea Thome and Paul and Jennifer Konerko to help raise money and awareness for the needs of foster children in families in Illinois, and Wednesday’s party also will feature Gordon Beckham joining the Thomes and Konerkos.

Here’s the only issue: Konerko has spent the past few days at Thome’s property in Peoria, taking a rare step into the outdoor life that is second nature to the former White Sox designated hitter. Before he departed, Konerko simply hoped to be able to find his way back to said property.

“He’s going to show me how to be an outdoorsman,” said Konerko with a laugh, speaking Saturday night prior to the 15th Joyce Thome Benefit for Children’s Hospital of Illinois at the Peoria Civic Center. “I just hope he doesn’t drag me off into the middle of nowhere and leave me and tell me to get back on my own.”

The truth of the matter is that Konerko and Thome enjoyed a little playoff football on Sunday, after their families got together for Saturday’s entertaining event, and then it was off to the property. Thome and Konerko both planned to work out and hit at Thome’s own facilities.

Yet, with a wry smile, Thome wouldn’t guarantee serving as a perfect tour guide for Konerko.

“Tell White Sox fans I’ll get him to Spring Training,” said Thome with a laugh, after expressing his deep appreciation for Konerko attending Saturday’s charity event. “I’ll have a little fun with him.”

By the way, the ‘Bring Me Home’ campaign has raised over $235,000 since its inception.

Thornton takes on the Inbox

Matt Thornton has been called upon to tackle some difficult situations during the course of his successful career.

How about tying run on third, one out in the eighth inning and a tough left-handed hitter such as Justin Morneau at the plate, as an example. The next challenge for the hard-throwing southpaw, though, will take place off the field.

Thornton will serve as the guest conductor for next week’s edition of the White Sox Inbox. One of the game’s best setup men will be answering questions sent in by the fans, with his responses to run on whitesox.com in the days leading up to SoxFest’s start on Friday. The exact date will be specified on the Being Ozzie Guillen blog and through @scottmerkin Twitter.

So, submit those questions through the same form usually used within this Inbox, and they will be assembled and sent to Thornton. They don’t have to just be about Thornton, but also can be directed at the White Sox as a team for 2010 and beyond.