July 2010

Williams pulls off the perfect prank

The familiar refrain of “Stay out of White Sox business” turned to a little bit of funny business for White Sox general manager Ken Williams on Saturday afternoon. Williams used Gordon Beckham as the target of a well-crafted practical joke that would have made proud Dick Clark and the late Ed McMahon.

With about 10 minutes to go before Saturday’s non-waiver trade deadline, Williams purposefully walked through the White Sox clubhouse at U.S. Cellular Field and stopped at the players’ dining area. Williams got Beckham’s attention and asked the second baseman to come with him to Ozzie Guillen’s office.

Earlier in the week, Williams had assured Beckham how he wasn’t going anywhere. So, needless to say, Beckham was stunned–much like the assembled media, whose jaws collectively dropped as Beckham walked away.

“He first invited Ozzie in and shut both doors,” said Beckham with a relieved smile, recounting the story after he was let off the hook. “I kind of thought I was going somewhere.

“Then he said, ‘Last night, your at-bat against (Brett) Anderson, where you hit it back up the middle, was just a great at-bat. Now get out of here.'”

But here’s the unintentional comic value of Williams’ move. He also caught Guillen off guard, with the manager sitting unaware of any last-minute trades in the coaches’ room when Williams came to get him.

“When you walk in on the trading deadline, No. 1, every player is looking at you out of the corner of their eye,” Williams said. “So, I walked in and called Gordon over and he had this look like ‘No. Really?’

“I called him into Ozzie’s office and Ozzie didn’t know anything about it, but he saw Beckham walk in and then saw me close the door. And he went, ‘No.’ The other coaches went ‘No.’ I had Ozzie close the door and sat Gordon down in the chair.

“Then I said, ‘Well, I would really like to say one thing to you before I get into the nuts and bolts of this stuff. That at-bat you had last night, where you pushed across that run, it was one of the best at-bats you had all year. I just want to say nice job.’ Then I shook his hand and he said, ‘That’s it?”

“And I said ‘That’s it,'” Williams said. “He had a sigh of relief. Ozzie had a sigh of relief and started cursing at me.”

One more layer of perfect timing exists within Williams’ prank. Just minutes before he called in Beckham, White Sox captain Paul Konerko threw out these words of wisdom concerning Williams’ deadline maneuvers to Beckham as the clubhouse carefully watched the deadline coverage on MLB Network.

“Konerko says, ‘You won’t believe this but one minute before you walked in, I told Gordon that this is about the time in the show where Kenny Williams says, ‘The (heck) with it. I’ll give you Gordon Beckham,'” said Williams with a laugh. “Then I walked in and called him out.

“We had a little fun with it. It’s anything you can do when you are playing well and have the intensity around you to lighten the moods up a little bit. It helps things.”

Quickly revealing the joke, though, brought the greatest happiness to both Beckham and Guillen.

“A lot of names come through my mind, where I was hoping ‘We got this guy, that guy and that guy for this kid,'” Guillen said. “(Williams) got everyone in the coaches’ room. He got everyone. It was a good practical joke, and at first, I don’t know what to say.”

“It was funny,” Beckham said. “I walked back in there and (Scott) Linebrink said, ‘That’s funny if you haven’t been traded before. When you have, that’s not that funny.’ It’s whatever. It was fun. We’re having fun.”

Berkman nixes potential White Sox deal

The White Sox almost had their much talked about left-handed run producer on Friday, except for the fact that this left-handed run producer decided not to join the White Sox.

Ken Williams confirmed to MLB.com during the White Sox 6-1 victory over the A’s at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday night how Lance Berkman used his no-trade veto power to nix a potential trade to Chicago. This piece of news was originally reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale.

“I can’t deny the truth,” wrote Williams in the e-mail. “It is what it is.”

The switch-hitting Berkman, 34, appears to be headed to New York, reuniting with one-time Astros’ teammate Andy Pettitte as part of the Yankees. Berkman has a .245 average this season with 13 home runs and 49 RBIs but did not make his 2010 debut until April 20 while recovering from knee surgery. He has six home runs in July, marking his highest monthly long ball output of the year.

Williams has another 16 hours or so to look for a bat of greater impact, although the White Sox offense has put up a .303 average over the last 27 games.

Jackson joins the White Sox–for now

Edwin Jackson officially has become a member of the White Sox, traded to Chicago from Arizona in exchange for right-handed pitcher Daniel Hudson and Minor League hurler David Holmberg.

But Jackson might not want to pick out a permanent residence in the Windy City quite yet.

With the Nationals interested in the right-hander and the White Sox interested in first baseman Adam Dunn, who would serve primarily as designated hitter for the South Siders, general manager Ken Williams could flip Jackson to Washington in exchange for the left-handed slugger. In a text to MLB.com Friday afternoon, Dunn said he was still a member of the Nationals and had not heard anything to the contrary.

No announcement has been made as of yet on Friday’s starter for the White Sox, taking the place of the traded Hudson. Lucas Harrell, who is on the White Sox 40-man roster, could be called up to make the spot start. Long reliever Tony Pena, who has asked manager Ozzie Guillen for a chance to start, also could get the call on Friday.

Jackson deal close, but will he stay in Chicago?

Edwin Jackson could be joining a White Sox starting rotation with a 26-9 record, 2.73 ERA and 36 quality starts in its last 45 games. The question is: will he remain a permanent member or just be passing through Chicago?

The soon-to-be 27-year-old right-hander has become the South Siders’ target with a little more than 24 hours left before Saturday’s 3 p.m. CT non-waiver trade deadline. But Jackson also is coveted by the Washington Nationals, meaning the White Sox could turn around and ship him out as part of a deal for Adam Dunn, the left-handed hitting run producer who the White Sox have pursued.

Asking prices on Dunn have been too high to this point, with White Sox general manager Ken Williams not willing to part with either Gordon Beckham or Carlos Quentin. A deal for Jackson would cost the White Sox their top pitching prospect, Daniel Hudson, but if they were to pursue a Dunn deal, it might save them losing a second highly-touted young player such as Dayan Viciedo or Jordan Danks.

There’s a chance the White Sox could hang on to Jackson, choosing instead to fortify a starting rotation serving as the backbone for this team’s planned deep run in into the playoffs. Jackson carries a 6-10 record with a 5.21 ERA over 21 starts in the National League, including an eight-walk, 149-pitch no-hitter thrown against the Rays on June 25.

Jackson would be pitching for his fifth team overall and fourth team in his last three seasons. He has a career record of 44-49 with a 4.74 ERA but features a 33-30 record over the last three seasons.

A control issue would be the primary glaring problem spot in Jackson for a White Sox rotation priding itself on attacking the strike zone and letting the strong defense behind them do its work. Jackson walked at least 70 in each of his last three full seasons and has 60 walks in 134 1/3 innings during the 2010 campaign. But Gavin Floyd and All-Star Matt Thornton had previous control issues since corrected upon joining the White Sox.

If Hudson was moved today, with a start scheduled for Friday’s opener against the A’s in Chicago, the White Sox have a couple of one-day replacement options. Lucas Harrell pitched Sunday for Triple-A Charlotte and Jeff Marquez pitched Monday for the Knights, with the two pitchers currently on the White Sox 40-man roster. The White Sox also could turn to Tony Pena and work one game in a bullpen by committee.

When the White Sox traded Clayton Richard as part of the Jake Peavy deal on the day he was scheduled to start in 2009, long reliever D.J. Carrasco made the start.

Keeping Jackson, who would not be needed to be lights out as the team’s fifth starter, becomes a viable option thanks to a White Sox resurgence on offense. The White Sox are hitting .300 with 142 runs scored in their last 26 games overall and are hitting .314 with 40 home runs and 127 runs scored in their last 19 home games, of which they have won 18. They have knocked out 21 long balls in their last seven home games.

As part of the Tigers starting staff in 2009, Jackson found success against the AL with a 13-9 record. Jackson posted a 5-5 mark against the AL Central, with a 4-0 ledger coming against the Indians, and had a 5.07 ERA after the All-Star Break.

Expect the unexpected from Williams

With less than 48 hours until Saturday’s 3 p.m. CT non-waiver trade deadline comes around, the White Sox are linked to approximately two-thirds of the current rumors flying around Major League Baseball.

ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reported Thursday how the White Sox internally believe they were out of the Adam Dunn sweepstakes. Jon Heyman of SI.com said a three-way trade scenario involving the White Sox, Nationals and D-Backs, focused on Edwin Jackson to the Nationals, Dunn to the White Sox and pitching prospects to Arizona, still was in play, and later Tweeted how the Dunn battle could come down to the White Sox and Tigers, much like the battle for Johnny Damon at the start of Spring Training.

Other players linked to White Sox interest Thursday were Colorado’s Brad Hawpe, Houston’s Lance Berkman, Toronto’s Jose Bautista and the ghost of Babe Ruth. Ok, I’m kidding on the last one.

But as of Thursday, nothing seemed imminent on the White Sox trade front. Of course, that quiet could be the calm before the storm where White Sox general manager Ken Williams is concerned. By Saturday afternoon, the posturing from other general managers on the fence concerning moving top players will end either in a deal or said player staying put.

You can count on two White Sox-related factors to play out before 3 p.m. CT rolls around on Saturday. Expect the unexpected where Williams is concerned, with the last-minute Jake Peavy deal from the 2009 non-waiver trade deadline supporting that theory, and know Williams will not make a trade just to make a trade.

At 101 games into the 2010 campaign and the White Sox sitting at 57-44, the White Sox are who they thought they would be leaving Arizona in March. It’s just a bit more dramatic road traveled because of their horrible first two months. And while they are always looking to enhance a championship product, Williams doesn’t want to do anything to disrupt his group’s 33-11 flow.

“I don’t think Kenny will make a move just to make a move,” said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen, prior to Thursday’s 9-5 victory over Seattle, completing a four-game sweep of the Mariners. “I think he will make a move if we really desperately need it.

“When you make a move, you’ve got to try to say who are the people who we’re going to bring in, who we’re going to lose, what’s our future, what’s our present. There are so many things involved, and I bet you he is doing all those things. Believe me, it’s not fun to be in the front office in this part of the year, always. If you’re a seller or you’re a buyer, you’re going to be involved with every conversation about it.”

It has been widely assumed how the White Sox are going after a left-handed run producer or a starting pitcher. But here’s three caveats to that particular idea: the White Sox could be looking to add a starting pitcher and a hitter, the targeted hitter doesn’t necessarily have to be left-handed and they ideally would make any move without giving up top pitching prospect Daniel Hudson.

With Minor League catcher Wilson Ramos going from Minnesota to the Nationals in exchange for reliever Matt Capps on Thursday night, the Twins improved their bullpen but still are a bit short in their rotation. The acquisition of Ramos also takes away White Sox Minor League catcher Tyler Flowers as a potential trade chip in a deal for Dunn.

Berkman looks to be on the block with the Astros acquiring Major League-ready first baseman Brett Wallace from the Blue Jays in an off-shoot of the Roy Oswalt deal. The 34-year-old switch-hitter could fit the designated hitter/first base description on the South Side and would be owed just $5.4 million for the remainder of this year, with a $2 million buyout for next year. Berkman does have a full no-trade right of refusal.

During Thursday night’s victory, the White Sox knocked out four home runs and 13 hits in the four-run decision. Granted, it was done against the hapless Mariners, but there could be a solid argument made to not messing with success or at least tabling any moves until August.

Guillen is one who didn’t see a move coming before Saturday, after not talking with Williams for the past two days, while the GM was involved in meetings. But much like the design of the Peavy and Rios deals from 2009, don’t count out Williams until the last moment on Saturday–especially if the team gets markedly better through the move.

“If Carlos (Quentin) swings the bat the way he did a couple weeks ago, we’re set,” Guillen said. “Everybody has to pull it together. We have to go and continue to do what we’re doing and see what happens. I don’t have any gut feeling. I just go by ears and day-by-day.”

Mayor Daley escapes flying bat

The Daleys not only are known as the first family of Chicago politics, but as die-hard White Sox fans for many generations. So, it was no surprise to see Mayor Richard M. Daley in his regular seat for Wednesday’s game at U.S. Cellular Field, located just to the right of the White Sox dugout.

What the Mayor didn’t expect was having to dodge an Andruw Jones projectile in the bottom of the fourth inning of the White Sox 6-5 victory. Jones struck out swinging on a pitch from Jason Vargas and lost the grip on his bat, sending it flying into the stands. Daley moved out of the way quick enough to avoid injury, and the bat actually missed all innocent by-standers.

“He got almost hit by the bat, and two balls. I think somebody’s not happy with you when it’s like that,” said a smiling White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen on Thursday of Chicago’s Mayor. “The way Andruw has been going around, he couldn’t hit anything.

“We were making fun of him, because he was trying to hit the fans, and he couldn’t even hit the fans. Thank God nobody got hurt, because that was very dangerous. That was very dangerous.”

Jenks shrugs off doubters

Bobby Jenks was warming up in the bullpen Wednesday night, getting ready to come in and protect a one-run lead in the ninth inning against the Mariners, as he has done so many times before at U.S. Cellular Field.

But something was a little different on this night. At least one fan was a bit more focused on a blown save in Seattle last week and a tough ninth-inning loss he suffered against Minnesota on the first Sunday of the second half then his overall body of work.

“Before I got in the game, some (idiot) was out there telling me I (stink),” Jenks told MLB.com after striking out the side for his 21st save. “You know, where has he been the last six years that I’ve been doing my job?

“Situations like that, it bothers me a little bit. But not enough to where it affects me. I look at it and say, ‘Who is this guy? Does he know baseball?’

“Is he a fan or just a numbers guy and looks at the numbers and judges where I’m at. And obviously my numbers aren’t good,” said a defiant Jenks with a laugh. “I’ve had a few bad ones so far. All and all, in save situations, I’ve been doing my job when I’ve been healthy out there.”

Jenks has served as the White Sox full-time closer for the past five years. Arguably, the hard-throwing right-hander, who touched 99 mph on his fastball against the Mariners, stands as one of the most important White Sox additions in the last decade and possibly longer than that particular time frame.

The 2005 squad was dominant from start to finish in winning the team’s first World Series title in almost nine decades. But Jenks became that missing late-inning piece, with Dustin Hermanson injured, plucked by the White Sox from their system without losing a player via the trade route.

Since becoming the team’s last line of pitching defense, Jenks has amassed 167 saves to put him second behind Bobby Thigpen’s 201 career saves on the all-time franchise list. He was the second-fastest to 100 career saves behind Seattle’s Kaz Sasaki in Major League Baseball history, needing just 187 games, and of course, tied the Major League record of 41 consecutive batters retired in 2007, a mark since broken by teammate Mark Buehrle.

Yet, Jenks believes the respect he deserves is not always afforded to him–from the media, fans and even the organization, although he doesn’t come out and say it. Jenks knows how he simply has to save his talking for the field, as he did on Wednesday, by knocking down Franklin Gutierrez, Russell Branyan and Justin Smoak on strikes.

Blowing saves is part of a closer’s job, and it also is the one time a closer is sure to get attention. The veteran Jenks is able to separate his own feelings about the role he has talked about being born to fulfill with important perspective on what the team needs to be successful.

“Regardless of what happens, everyone on the bench is under a lot of pressure, and winning the division is the most important thing,” Jenks said. “If a certain situation calls for where (manager Ozzie Guillen) thinks I’m struggling, and maybe I am, and three lefties are coming up or two lefties and a righty, and (Guillen) goes to (left-hander Matt) Thornton, I got to understand a little bit because it’s still a team of 25 guys.

“It hurts a little. Yeah, I’m not going to lie. But it’s part of the game and you have to roll with it some time. When you do get the ball, go out there and do what you know how to do best. Hopefully, it turns things around and gets it going again.”

Before the road struggles, Jenks had recorded 15 straight saves. He hopes Wednesday’s domination starts another string of at least 15 and points up one of the game’s elite closers, even if one fan on Wednesday might disagree.

“He had two bad games, and it (stinks) for a closer or a bullpen to go out there and have one bad inning and everyone kind of wants your head, you’re losing your job,” said Mark Buehrle, who had a no-decision in Wednesday’s victory. “I think everybody has confidence in him. He has to go out there and continue to do what he’s doing now.”