Results tagged ‘ Jim Thome ’

Dunn appreciates praise, respect from Guillen

While Ozzie Guillen was holding court in his return to Chicago at Wrigley Field Tuesday night, Adam Dunn was getting ready to help the White Sox to another victory some 983 miles away at Fenway Park in Boston.

Guillen and Dunn have not spoken directly since Guillen’s White Sox managerial tenure came to an end after the 2011 season, although they have exchanged friendly messages through Austin Kearns, a good friend of the White Sox designated hitter and a current player for the Marlins manager. The two apparently don’t have to talk directly, though, for Guillen to express his profound respect for the affable veteran.

That effusive praise came through loud and clear during Guillen’s comments to the large group of assembled media in Chicago. Guillen spoke of the positive way which Dunn handled his forgettable debut with the White Sox in ’11 and added how happy he was for Dunn to find success in 2012.

Dunn, who is as laid back as a summer Sunday afternoon and seems to be truly enjoying this return to his previous norm as he promised during Spring Training, appreciated Guillen’s kind words.

“Absolutely it means something,” Dunn told after singling, walking and stealing a base in the White Sox 7-5 victory over the Red Sox. “I talked to (Guillen) about it all the time. He did everything he could to help me out.

“Everything he did was to help me. He gave me every opportunity in the world. You know, I feel bad. I feel bad for that whole staff that was here. I know they took a whole bunch of (garbage) each and every day about it. You know, it means a lot: (Guillen) has been in baseball a long time.”

This high-profile free agent signing came in to the White Sox on a four-year, $56-million deal, as almost the centerpiece of the team’s “all-in” campaign. So with that scenario in mind, Dunn still puts the previous team’s problems upon his broad shoulders—including, in part, the strained relationship between Guillen and general manager Ken Williams.

“I’ll take it all,” Dunn said. “I feel like I’m responsible for all that more than anybody else. You know, it (stinks) how it went down but everybody now seems to be doing good.”

That 2011 campaign is a distant memory for Dunn, where he has been trying to keep it since the start of the 2012 season. With the Major League lead in homers at 28 and 65 RBIs to go with those homers, not to mention the 2012 season fast approaching the end of July, Dunn has every right to believe such an expectation would be followed.

Comments from Guillen’s Tuesday press conference put a positive spin on that rough year for Dunn. In fact, Dunn was put in the same category as Jim Thome and Paul Konerko by Guillen, which is the highest compliment in player comparison coming from Guillen.

“If there’s one player I have more respect for in the game than Thome, Konerko, I think Dunner is,” said Guillen to the large group of assembled media. “What Dunner went through last year, and he took it like a man. He was the same guy in the clubhouse and dugout every day.

“He just had a bad year. It takes a very strong man mentally to go through what he went through last year. I’m very happy for him and his family for what he’s doing right now, and he knows that.

“I’m not saying this about Dunner because I’m here,” Guillen said. “He knows how I feel about him and I’m very glad he’s having the season he’s having.”

Williams calls for Opening Day Blackout

Ken Williams has a special request or, better yet, a challenge for White Sox fans to be carried out on April 5, and it involves their choice of clothing worn to the game against the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago.

The White Sox general manager would like to see the return of the Blackout.

“No better time to start than Opening Day,” Williams said.

This ‘back in black’ solidarity first was shown on the South Side during the one-game American League Central home tiebreaker against the Twins on Sept. 30, 2008. The 1-0 White Sox victory, behind Jim Thome’s solo home run and John Danks’ eight scoreless innings, sent Ozzie Guillen’s crew to the playoffs against the Rays and was deemed by many in attendance to be every bit as exciting as the 2005 playoff victories.

To this day, the contest was known as the “Blackout Game.” Fans all wore black shirts and waved black towels, followed by black shirts and white towels at the Rolling Blackout first game against the Rays.

Williams would like to set the tone for what could be a special 2010 campaign with the help of the White Sox support system.

And with the forecast calling for 62 degrees and partly sunny on Monday, the weather shouldn’t preclude black from being worn.

“Opening Day is always electric and I don’t know how these things happen,” Williams said. “But if our fans really want to turn up the heat on our opponents and fire up our guys, they will rally together and pick certain dates or against certain opponents and black it out.”   

Week in Quotes

At the end of each week during Spring Training and hopefully beyond, I’ll try to give you a little flavor from the past seven days of White Sox action with some of the more telling or even humorous quotes. Here’s a look from the first week of action in Arizona, in no particular order.

1. “People talk about trade deadlines and offseasons and timing on things. We are always looking to take that next step to get us that much better. That goes for today and the trading deadline season. All that means is other clubs are more apt to want to do things and if something arises where we have a need, regardless of where that need is, we are going to try to fill it.”
–White Sox general manager Ken Williams on the team’s aggressive philosophy in pursuit of top talent.

2. “We do things right, then we are out of here quick. If we play around and we do the wrong thing, throw to the wrong bases, and don’t take ground balls seriously or run the bases seriously, we are going to be out there for a long time. The best we work, we out of here.

“I’m not going to babysit them. It’s not an instructional league. You are in the big leagues for a reason. I’m not supposed to teach you here. We are supposed to remind you about what goes on with baseball.”
–Manager Ozzie Guillen, explaining White Sox players will dictate how long they are on the field for practice each day.

3. “Make sure you take that young guy under your wing and show him the ropes.”
–Guillen to Freddy Garcia, whose Spring Training locker is situated next to 22-year-veteran Omar Vizquel.

4. “This is a different type of team. We are not the slugging White Sox that hit 250 home runs and go base to base. But that’s a good thing.”
–White Sox veteran catcher A.J. Pierzynski on the change in philosophy on offense for 2010.

5. “I’m always asked that question and I just want to get as many at-bats as I can get. That’s what I’m looking for. Ozzie is the king of making that lineup and wherever he puts me, I’ll be happy.”
–Carlos Quentin on the ideal spot for him to hit in the lineup.

6. “It’s extremely strange. I talked to both a good bit this winter. They are dear friends for life, and I have a great deal of respect for them and their fabulous careers. But more than that, I have a lot of respect for them as people. I know the fans appreciate all they did for us. It was an honor to coach them, and when I retire and look back, those two are right up at the top of my list to be around.”
–Hitting coach Greg Walker on not having Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye in camp.

7. “I don’t want to bring up names, but you take Jermaine. I remember Jermaine telling me at the end of the year, ‘If I don’t like what I see during the offseason or I don’t get what I want, and that doesn’t mean money, it means just the situation and everything I want, I have no problem, I’m happy to not go play. I’ll maybe go during the season if someone asks me, but I’m content with that.’ I would say that would probably be my mindset, where I’m not going to force something if it’s not there because I have other things, I have a perspective of what’s important and what isn’t.”
–Team captain Paul Konerko, on possibly not playing after his contract runs out following this season if he doesn’t find the right fit.

8. “The bottom line is when you get [weather] like this, you have to be like the Marines – adapt and overcome.”
–Pitching coach Don Cooper, on making workout adjustments during a rare Arizona rainy period.

9. “Getting [drunk] every night. Let’s put it plain and simple. When I took a long, hard look at myself and saw where I was headed, at that point, I was headed in the wrong direction.”
–Closer Bobby Jenks, who came into camp in phenomenal condition, on why he stopped drinking during the offseason.

10. “Joey and everyone were praising him and saying how great he looks. He said, ‘I’m on a mission. I’m the best center fielder you have here.’ And Joey said, ‘Well, you should be there are only pitchers and catchers in camp.’ Line of the day.”
–Williams, at the start of camp, recounting a conversation between Andruw Jones and bench coach Joey Cora.

11. “If that thing offends anyone, beat it because I didn’t do anything wrong. I don’t need Twitter to let people know what I feel about this ballclub. I don’t need Twitter to let people know what I feel about this organization or Major League Baseball, period.”
–Guillen on the one-day Twitter-gate, after the entertaining manager started his own account, which is now up to 29,203 followers in less than one week.

12. “I’m really not a Facebook or Twitter guy. I’m a prime rib and baked potato guy. I hate to say that but it’s true. Maybe somebody should teach me.”
–Cubs manager Lou Piniella, when asked about the Guillen Twitter controversy.

13. “I’m ticked. We need to get the word out.”
–A smiling Mark Teahen on Guillen’s total of followers on Twitter surpassing the total for the followers of his popular dog, ESPY Teahen.

14. “I stopped pitching freshman year in high school. I closed then and used to throw hard.”
–Sergio Santos, who is making the successful switch from infielder to reliever with a fastball in the range of 98 mph.

15. “You mean Babe? Yeah. He’s a natural. Freaks like that just don’t happen. Don’t go looking for another Buehrle.”
–Scott Linebrink, when asked if Mark Buehrle, who hit his first career home run last year, would be the best candidate to follow Santos and go from pitcher to position player.

16. “I was happy to see him smiling and at peace with his decision and his family was around. I thought it was great. It was a great turn out from the Chicago media and it played well when it went out that night.”
–Williams on Frank Thomas’ retirement ceremony at U.S. Cellular Field.

17. “It was big for us. There were a lot of losing years. I got a chance to go to it, since it was in Miami, and I live there. They are still partying back there. That’s why it snowed in Louisiana.”
–Juan Pierre, on his beloved New Orleans Saints winning the Super Bowl.

18. “Good for the city? Try the whole state. It’s been a big party down there since it happened.”
–White Sox 2009 first-round pick Jared Mitchell, who played baseball and football at LSU, talking about the effect of the Saints’ Super Bowl win on New Orleans.

19. “They gave me an opportunity, and I didn’t put up numbers. So, this is where I find myself.”
–Cole Armstrong, once the White Sox catcher of the future, with a refreshing look at now being in camp as a non-roster invite.

20. “I still feel like I’m a productive player and feel like I can contribute, but teams want me as a backup player, and that’s something I’m not ready to do. I feel undervalued, basically. I don’t think I have to go out there and prove anything to anyone. My numbers the last five or six years show I can help someone.”
–Dye, speaking to Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times, concerning his shock to still be without a Major League job.

(Personal Bonus): “No, Merkin. I’m the animal whisperer and got that animal to lie down in front of me.”
–Pierzynski, showing off of a special calendar featuring the big game hunted on an African safari he took with Aaron Rowand and their wives. The response was to my question as to whether the mammoth animal in front of him really was dead.

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 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.

Talk of tiebreakers

The first comment made to Ron Gardenhire during his opening interview session of the American League Division Series Wednesday at Yankee Stadium was an offer of congratulations for Minnesota’s great win over Detroit in Tuesday’s thrilling American League Central tiebreaker at the Metrodome.

At that point, the Minnesota manager sort of patted his heart and smiled, as if to humorously indicate the ticker barely survived Tuesday’s excitement. But it didn’t stop Gardenhire from talking about a game that will live on a long time in his memory.

“I was so proud of both teams last night for the way both teams never quit and kept getting after it,” Gardenhire said. “I told (Detroit manager) Jim Leyland after the game that was one of the best games I’ve ever been involved in.

“Just watching two teams butting heads and going after it and never giving up and all the ups and downs. It was just fantastic baseball.”

Gardenhire and the Twins are no stranger to this sort of win-or-go home type of contest. In a game that was every bit as exciting as last night’s memorable affair, Minnesota came up short to the White Sox in a 1-0 final that gave the South Siders the 2008 AL Central title. That contest featured great pitching by John Danks and Nick Blackburn, Jim Thome’s mammoth home run for the game’s only run and a pinpoint throw by center fielder Ken Griffey, Jr. and an even better catch and tag by A.Z. Pierzynski to nail Michael Cuddyer at the plate

There was one problem with that contest in Gardenhire’s mind. Well, two if you factor in the final. The home field was decided by a coin flip, which went the way of the White Sox, although Minnesota had the better 2008 head-to-head record.

“Last year, I didn’t really particularly like it because of a coin toss,” Gardenhire said. “I thought that really (stunk). This year, you went on head-to-head and we got the ballgame at home which kind of helped us out.

“I don’t recommend everybody playing 163 games every year. It would be a lot easier to go the different route and do what the Yankees did or some of the other guys. Just play 162 and then you’re in the playoffs. But, you know what, it’s character — I mean it’s kind of mind-boggling. It shows a lot of character.”

Minnesota shortstop Orlando Cabrera agreed. Cabrera has played on the winning team in each of the last two AL Central tiebreakers and gives the Twins’ victory a slight edge.

“By far, that was the most emotional and intense game I’ve ever seen or played in,” Cabrera said. “And I’ve played in and watched a lot of games since I was a kid in Colombia.

“It was unbelievable. I never expected the Detroit Tigers to play that kind of game, especially the way they have been playing for the last eight games. I was really impressed with them. We put on a good show.”

Thome, Contreras = Pure Class

With the late-arriving news of Jim Thome’s trade to the Dodgers on Monday night, I was reminded of a moment involving the White Sox designated hitter from about two years ago. It’s a story I’ve told over and over again because it really defines the nature of one of the game’s most prodigious sluggers. And his ability on the field was surpassed by the great individual he was off the field.

It was a random three-game series at U.S. Cellular against some team I don’t remember. What I do remember is standing near the back of the clubhouse, where the media often gathers just to the left of where Thome’s locker was located, and having him walking by and stopping to say hi and chat with a handful of media members before going off for batting practice.

Two days later, on the morning before a day game, I was standing in the same spot, when Thome one again walked back toward his locker. He stopped, put his hand on my shoulder as sort of a pat on the back and said:

“It’s good to see you.”

Thome was just that sort of guy. He was such a good person, so upbeat and good-natured, that you often wondered if he really was that good of a person, that upbeat and that good-natured. Once you met Thome for about two minutes, the answer was a resounding ‘Yes.’

I had a chance to get to know Thome a little bit beyond baseball. I went to a Target in Chicago last offseason, when Jim, and his wife Andrea, every bit as nice and altruistic as her husband, were buying winter coats for kids through their charitable involvement with Children Home + Aid of Illinois, a program they got into in conjunction with Paul and Jennifer Konerko. I remember talking with Thome about the Hot Stove rumors, and he was as interested in the offseason maneuvers as if he was covering a team.

There also were a couple of opportunities for me to attend the Joyce Thome Benefit dinner in honor of Jim’s late mother, benefitting Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria. It was amazing to watch Thome treat everyone in attendance, and I mean everyone, like family members. It’s understandable why he is the favorite son of Peoria.

Actually, the move by the White Sox to send Thome to Los Angeles really is doing a favor for one of the game’s true good guys. The only spot left open on his Hall of Fame resume is winning a World Series title, and as a pinch-hitter or possibly spot starter at first base, he should be a valuable asset to the Dodgers. He also has been reunited with one-time Cleveland teammate Manny Ramirez, and there would be nothing more fitting than a championship and 600 home runs to close out Thome’s career.

In order to finish this trade, Thome had to waive his no-trade clause. He probably understood that the White Sox weren’t going to win a title in 2009 and that he probably wasn’t part of their plans for 2010 and beyond. With Tyler Flowers coming up Tuesday, don’t be surprised if the rookie catcher of the future gets his fair share of chances to serve as designated hitter over the final 30 games.

As for pitcher Jose Contreras, he was every bit as solid of a person as Thome. The quick comeback he made from a ruptured left Achilles suffered last August was nothing short of miraculous, and while he struggled mightily of late, people shouldn’t forget what he meant to the organization. There is no World Series title without Contreras.

If the White Sox don’t pick up the pace considerably in the next month, more good guys and one-time key contributors will be playing at new addresses next season.

Do the White Sox have interest in Alex Rios?

According to an report, citing Major League sources, the White Sox are most likely the team that will be awarded the waiver claim on Toronto outfielder Alex Rios.

Teams cannot comment on waiver claims, but the outfielder is a player who has been on the White Sox radar previously. The Blue Jays could work out a trade with the team that reportedly claimed Rios, they could pull him back from waivers and thus keep him for the rest of the season or they could let the team who put in the claim take him. According to the report, Toronto has until Tuesday to make the decision.

Hypothetically adding Rios would also mean the addition of another larger contractual obligation to go with recently acquired hurler Jake Peavy, although the White Sox could be having the contracts of Octavio Dotel, Jose Contreras, Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome coming off of the books for 2010. Remember, White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said he had to be talked into making that Peavy move by general manager Ken Williams and assistant general manager Rick Hahn. Then again, Reinsdorf said part of his hesitation was committing $52 million guaranteed from 2010-12 to a pitcher.

Over the past three years, Rios, 28, has never hit below .291 in a full season. He has plenty of speed and a strong outfield arm, along with more than a little bit of pop in his bat. His statistics have tailed off a bit this season, hitting .261 with 12 home runs and 58 RBIS.

Rios has roughly $2 million left owed to him this year and is guaranteed $59.7 million from 2010 to 2014. Rios would make sense in Williams’ plan to go a bit younger in the present, while also staying highly competitive and aligning the White Sox to stay strong in the future.

The questions that arise from even this possibility are numerous: What would become of Dye, a popular figure among management and within the clubhouse, not to mention a highly productive offensive force? Where does Rios fit this year? And if a trade was discussed, would the White Sox have anything that interests the Blue Jays. They never really seemed to be in play in the pursuit of Roy Halladay, but then again Halladay figures to require a different return than Rios.

And of course, all of this movement, if the White Sox are indeed the team awarded the claim, could be to block the Tigers from going after Rios or to set up possible future trade discussions.

Thome targets a Thursday return

Jim Thome hopes to be back in the White Sox starting lineup Thursday night at home against the Yankees and southpaw Andy Pettitte after missing the Minnesota series due to tightness in his lower back.

It’s a problem that has plagued the prolific slugger on a few occasions during his four-year tenure with the White Sox.

“Unfortunately, you know, this had to happen now,” Thome said. “Luckily, (White Sox athletic trainer) Hermie (Schneider) and I got on top of it right away and banged it out of there.”

Thome is batting .250 with 17 home runs and 59 RBIs. But at this point of the 2009 campaign, with the White Sox fighting for a playoff berth, Thome isn’t worried about individual numbers.

“It’s all about winning, that’s the bottom line,” Thome said. “You always want to have a nice year and you always want to do well, but ultimately you get into this time of year and you throw all that aside.

“You see new guys come in and it shows you this time of year is ultimately about winning. That’s the thing that frustrates me. You work so hard, but sometimes this stuff is out of your control. So, you do the best you can to get it out and work hard to get back.”

An important new White Sox addition?

In a seemingly unprecedented move, White Sox general manager Ken Williams inked a young but inexperienced hitter to a contract after an extended batting practice session prior to Thursday’s series finale with the Indians at U.S. Cellular Field.

Although this player seems full of promise, don’t look for him to reach the Majors any time soon. After all, Alexei Ramirez’s son, Alexei, Jr., is only five years old.

The younger Ramirez, working with an oversized plastic bat, took swing after swing early Thursday, with his dad pitching. When Ozzie Guillen was done with his pregame media session, he leaned over the dugout rail and watched Alexei, Jr. with amusement, with the little ballplayer yelling to Guillen almost every time he made contact.

Guillen occasionally would yell out, ‘Thome,’ and Alexei Jr., hitting left-handed, would raise his bat up to look like the prolific slugger. Williams eventually borrowed a piece of paper and a pen from one of the reporters and walked out to the batting cage to get Ramirez’s signature. Ramirez already had the Major League look working for him, sporting a full White Sox uniform with the No. 10 on the back.

No word on the length of the contract or the money offered as part of the spontaneous deal, but here’s an early scouting report–the kid can hit.