February 2010

Armstrong stands behind Team Canada

When the United States and Canada first met up in the preliminary round of Olympic competition, White Sox catcher and proud Vancouver native Cole Armstrong had about 12 friends and teammates over to his Spring Training home in Arizona to take in what was sure to be a Canadian victory.

You know what they say about the best-laid plans… .

“I figured I would get on them a little bit, and it backfired,” said Armstrong with a laugh, with the USA claiming a 5-3 victory in the first matchup. “I’ll be feeling better if they pull it out, have a little something more to talk about.”

Canada and the U.S. face off again on Sunday, only with the gold medal on the line in what could be the most watched game in hockey history. Armstrong admits to having a few friendly wagers on the line throughout the White Sox clubhouse, while picking out a few of the top U.S. hockey supporters.

“(Paul) Konerko is into it and (Mark) Kotsay and Carlos Torres,” Armstrong said. “Actually, I don’t know if Torres likes the U.S. team because they beat Canada and he can get on me.

“I’m getting excited. I’m a little more hesitant and a little less confident after the first game than I was going into that one. Like I said, hopefully they can pull it out.”

Armstrong tried hockey as a young player but stopped upon realizing “I wasn’t very good.” He also doesn’t seem too upset about trading in the Olympic experience for Spring Training in Glendale.

“That city is going to be going crazy,” said Armstrong of Vancouver. “I’m glad I’m not anywhere near it. It’s nuts right now.”

Guillen bids boss a happy birthday

Jerry Reinsdorf celebrated his 74th birthday on Thursday, joined by former Illinois governor Jim Edgar and some of Edgar’s family at Camelback Ranch for White Sox workouts.

To commemorate the milestone of a man he considers a second father, White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen made a special birthday request of his boss.

“Yeah, I asked for a plane. I need to go to Miami and I asked for a private plane to go there,” said Guillen with a laugh. “I don’t even know how old he is. Seventy-four? God bless him, because I don’t think I’m going to make it to 74.

“I said to Jerry, ‘Look at me and I hope to be 74 and still walking around like you, have the mentality you have, have the life you have,’ and I know the money’s not gonna be there. But it’s amazing.

“One guy I’m praying to stay alive the most is him,” Guillen said. “I love Jerry, and he knows it. He’s like a father to everyone here. I think the respect, the love we have for him – I’m glad to work for the guy. He means a lot to me.”

Guillen went on to explain the positive influence Reinsdorf has had on his life.

“He’s not just my boss,” Guillen said. “The reason I have a great life and the reason why I really take care of all my family (is) because of him. He means a lot to us. I thank God for my dad but I think my real dad is Jerry. He spent the most money (on) me. My dad gave me a couple dollars – Jerry’s made me rich.”

And what connects Guillen, a baseball-savvy entertainer, to a more low-key and accomplished businessman such as Reinsdorf? Guillen summed up that connection in one simple word.

“Honesty. There’s one thing about Jerry. Every time I wear this uniform, Jerry knows I give him 100 percent,” Guillen said. “I told my family this: ‘You put a difference between making another $2 million a year with another ballclub, I’d rather stay here with Jerry.

“There’s one thing for sure – Ozzie’s not going anywhere as long as Jerry (doesn’t) leave, unless they fire me, then that’s a different thing. I don’t think anybody out there (has) enough money to buy myself to go someplace else.

“As long as Jerry’s (here), I don’t think I’m going to walk away from here for any reason,” Guillen said. “For (lifestyle) or better money or better team or better town. As long as Jerry is still alive, he can count on (the fact) I’m going to be here for him.”       

Guillen joins Social Media

There was no official announcement made by President Barack Obama. There was no breaking news cut-in among whatever shows fill the airwaves on Tuesday night–most likely Keeping Up with the Kardashians on the E Network.

But the world of Social Media changed forever through a simple Twitter, whether you knew it or not. Ozzie Guillen, the always-entertaining and always-colorful White Sox manager, now has his own account: @ozzieguillen.

In the short time that account has been up and running, Guillen already has 3,229 followers and is following nobody. That line pretty much sums up the unique presence known as the leader of the White Sox.

On Monday, we were standing around the clubhouse at Camelback Ranch, taking a break from interviews, when Guillen came in and held an impromptu political roundtable as he was stretching on the floor near the door. I’m not sure what the exact topic was. There were a few of them mixed in there.

I happened to look around the clubhouse, though, as Guillen was passionately mixing his political beliefs with a little bit of profane humor (sidenote: Guillen would give James Carville a solid run in the arena of national and world politics. He’s that knowledgeable) and saw a few non-roster pitchers watching Guillen in action. They had broad smiles on their faces, infinitely entertained, but also had a slight look of ‘Does this happen all Spring Training?” The answer is, yes, it does.

Later, Guillen was talking to Andruw Jones while sitting at his locker, when he spied Juan Pierre getting dressed about six or seven lockers away. Guillen asked if Pierre had been hitting at all during the offseason, to which Pierre responded “No.”

“Good,” Guillen said. “After what I watched today, it would have been a waste of your time.”

Pierre is a Guillen veteran from their days in Florida. He quickly shot back to a laughing Guillen how he saw Guillen’s response coming and that’s why he answered like he did. Yes, this could be a fun clubhouse.

You can read about what happens at @scottmerkin, on this blog, dubbed Being Ozzie Guillen, at whitesox.com and now, @ozzieguillen. His first day of tweets talked about being bored after three days of Spring Training, the bad round of golf he played Tuesday and why Jermaine Dye still doesn’t have a job. Why doesn’t a talented player and a great clubhouse influence such as Dye have a job, by the way?

To sum up Guillen’s Twitter addition, I defer to a tweet from Anthony Castrovince, my friend and colleague covering the Indians.

“At long last, @OzzieGuillen is on Twitter. I’m pretty sure that’s why this thing was invented.”

Saturday tidbits

The potential signing of free agent outfielder Johnny Damon had a direct effect on both Daniel Hudson and Andruw Jones.

If Damon had come on board, the White Sox designated hitter-by-committee plan would have been scrapped and a very determined Jones would have been searching for at-bats. Damon’s presence also probably would have reduced Ozzie Guillen’s pitching staff from 12 to 11, meaning a long relief spot would have been vacated, and Hudson would have started the season starting for Triple-A Charlotte.

To the credit of both these players, they kept any personal concerns to themselves in regard to these negotiations. They actually deferred to the good of the White Sox.

“That’s none of my business,” Jones said. “That’s the team looking to get better or doing what they need to do to get where we need to get. I don’t think about all of that stuff. I know I’m mentally ready and physically ready.”

“I’ve heard about it a lit a bit, and obviously it’s a great bat to add to the lineup,” Hudson said. “Whatever helps the team win, I’m all for it.”

Hudson and Jones can breathe a little easier, as Damon opted for a one-year deal with the Tigers, pending a Sunday physical. Jones’ roster spot is secure, but Hudson will try to parlay last year’s success into the seventh and final relief opening on the 2010 staff. If the soon-to-be 23-year-old has any nerves jumping around inside for his first big-league camp, they certainly aren’t getting through his calm exterior.

“My mindset is to throw as well as I can and make the decision really hard for them,” Hudson said. “It’s really out of my hands after that.

“I feel like no matter what the roster situation, if they feel you can contribute, they will make room for you,” Hudson said.

Hello, Old Friend: Jones played the 1998 and 1998 seasons with Guillen in Atlanta. So, suiting up for the White Sox manager in 2010 won’t present any sort of unexpected challenge.

“Everybody hears so much stuff about Ozzie. He’s a great guy and he knows a lot about the game,” Jones said. “I had an opportunity to play with him in Atlanta for a year and I learned a lot from him.

“He was always on my butt to go out there and produce every day. Now, to get a chance to play under him as a manager, it’s going to be a good experience. I think on paper, we’ve got a good team to go to the World Series and win it. It’s all about getting it together and staying healthy.”

Jones admits to having lost a step or two in regard to his one-time flawless defense in center field. But the veteran was almost defiant when stressing how he still can play the outfield if given the chance.

“The judgment of me not being able to go out there and play center field anymore, that was the big thing that motivated me more to get my legs right,” Jones said. “So if they put me out there, I’m going to get the job done.”

Camelback Changes: A once barren Camelback Ranch corridor, with the White Sox clubhouse and training room on either side, now features famous franchise historical photos on the far wall. They range from countless 2005 World Series celebratory shots to pictures of Mark Buehrle’s 2010 perfect game and 2007 no-hitter to the team’s trip to the White House last year. The faces of Buehrle and Josh Fields are blocked out by other players standing in front of them in that particular group shot.

Heavy Traffic Area: Lockers against the wall to the far left as you walk into the clubhouse line up as Paul Konerko, Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Omar Vizquel, Jake Peavy, Scott Linebrink and Bobby Jenks. That sector figures to be heavily populated by the media on a daily basis during Spring Training.