White Sox

Sox Drawer: Ozzie Guillen Exclusive Interview

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Sox Drawer: Ozzie Guillen Exclusive Interview

Monday, October 5th
Theres a clubhouse filled with more boxes than humans.

Theres an outfield without any grass, just layers and layers of dirt.

This was the U.S. Cellular Field Ozzie Guillen entered on Monday morning, there to visit his office one final time before going home for the winter. His White Sox season over. Speculation for next season just beginning.

And he had a lot on his mind.

Fortunately, we brought along a camera and microphone.

Before his team took the field on Sunday, Guillen had two overwhelming thoughts.

One, he didnt want a front row seat to the Tigers celebrating a Central Division title. And two, he was concerned about one of his players who wouldnt, or should I say, couldnt even look at him.

That was Jermaine Dye.

Over the last two months, Guillen has repeatedly said that Dye is one of his all-time favorite players. But the soon-to-be-free agent likely will not be re-signed.

Ozzie knows it.

So does Jermaine.

And considering their tight relationship over the last four years, they were both having trouble coming to grips with the painful reality that Guillen was probably managing Dye for the very last time.

It was kind of hard when I was thinking about JD, Ozzie told Comcast SportsNet. And I dont think JD wanted to have eye contact with me. I dont think it was one of the hardest things I ever went through with the players, because I went through a lot, but when JD said to me before the game that this might be the last game Im going to play for you, I dont want to say that it was creepy, but kind of. I got a lot of feelings out there.

So in your gut, has Dye played his last game with the White Sox?

Yes, because our budget is going to be pretty tight. Thats the only reason. Do we want JD here? Of course. Kenny Williams loves him. Jerry Reinsdorf loves him. The fans ... hes one of my favorite players. The relationship between JD, his family, and myself was pretty special. And thats why it was kind of hard for me to maybe not see him again in a White Sox uniform.

Dye might be gone, but after Sundays season-ending defeat, Guillen was impressed by several players who are coming back.

Jake Peavy walked into Ozzies office, and even though it was completely out of his control, he apologized to Guillen for not being able to pitch when the Sox traded for him, and promised that hell be ready when Spring Training begins in February.

Paul Konerko also offered a mea culpa, telling Ozzie, sorry we let you down.

Gordon Beckham thanked his manager for giving him the opportunity to play 103 games, less than a year after being drafted by the White Sox out of the University of Georgia. Guillen said he told his rookie phenom, I didnt give you the opportunity, you did it yourself.

His players humility left a deep impression.

That was the first time Ive ever felt that way with the players because they expressed themselves, Guillen said. They expressed themselves about the way they felt about the season, and it's something I will talk to Kenny and Jerry Reinsdorf about what they say and youre always pleased by the way they were thinking.

Whos Guillens MVP?

We can talk about Scott Podsednik. But I think its DJ Carrasco. A lot of people say, 'Well the MVP is the person who has the best numbers.' Well, the managers MVP is the guy who helped him out the most. When I said in 2005 that Tadahito Iguchi was my MVP, people didnt believe me. Carrasco was picking garbage from everybody.

Guillen and Kenny Williams will speak frequently over the offseason. They had a 15-minute conversation inside the Sox lunchroom on Monday. Fans have a laundry list of players they want the Sox GM to sign for next year, as we saw by all of your comments here last week.

Sign Chone Figgins.
Trade for Carl Crawford.
Add Matt Holiday.
Deal Bobby Jenks.

Etc, etc, etc.

But when I asked Guillen if he could go to Kenny and say, I need one thing this offseason, what is it? he replied:

Sign Mark Kotsay.

But what about from the outside? What else do you need?

I dont have the title, but there are two things. If we sign Podsednik, then were almost set. If we dont sign Podsednik, then well need speed at the top of the lineup. A lot of people think about Chone Figgins. Well, Figgins is going to cost a lot of money. Behind Figgins there are going to be 30 teams. And when you have 30 teams, its like going fishing and there are 30 boats out there to catch one fish. Well, good luck.

And good luck to Jayson Nix and Brent Lillibridge, who struggled mightily at the plate this season, and will definitely have to improve if they hope to make the club next season. Guillen said he sent messages to both rookies.

They dont play the way they have to play," he said. "They struck out too much. Offensively, they want to play a big man game when theyre little. If they do that, theyre not going to go with me, because we need those guys to be better offensively than we had this year.

Probably the biggest surprise from our 25-minute interview was Guillens admission that he doesnt just answer fan e-mails, but that he has actually used some of your ideas in ballgames.

Said Ozzie, I put Carlos Quentin third in the lineup one time because we were desperate about something. One fan wrote it in, and I put him in third. I put A.J. Pierzynski batting second. Some idiot from Joilet. I said, Maybe this guy knows more than me. And we did. And we win with him!

Did you thank him?

Ozzie answered sarcastically, No, because I didnt want to give him the credit.
Part 2 of our conversation runs Tuesday at 6:30, 10:00 p.m. and midnight.

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

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AP

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant: Now this is the show South Side fans have been waiting for

Yo-Yo and the Big Elephant sound like characters from your kid’s favorite show (or your favorite show, if you happen to be a kid).

But instead they’re the duo South Side baseball fans have been waiting for.

You might know them better as the Cuban Connection, an alliterative and far less confusing nickname that describes Yoan Moncada and Jose Abreu, who in Monday night’s 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners combined for seven hits, three home runs, a double, a triple, six runs scored and four RBIs.

It was a welcome sight after the White Sox offense slumbered through a weekend series with the Houston Astros in which they mustered just two runs. Heck, this offense has been hard to find during the entire month of April. Entering Monday, it’d produced just 16 runs in its last seven games (with 11 of those coming in a single contest).

But then came Monday’s show, in which Abreu launched a pair of homers and Moncada came a single short of hitting for the cycle. That had to be a proud moment for Abreu, who’s taken his countryman under his wing since Moncada arrived in the majors last summer.

“I’m really mad at him because he had two chances to do it and he couldn’t,” Abreu joked with the help of a translator. “Seriously, I’m really happy for him. I know today was a special game for him. I know he couldn’t hit for the cycle today. But he’s going to have more chances in the future. He’s going to be good.”

This is what White Sox fans have been hoping for. It’s what they’re still waiting for, considering much of that oft-discussed team of the future is still developing in the minor leagues. But Moncada is the story of 2018 at the major league level, how development will continue for the player White Sox fans drooled over at this time last year, when he was ranked as baseball’s top prospect.

Moncada got a lot of early attention for his high strikeout total, and with another punch out Monday he’s now got 34 on the season, still one of the highest totals in the league. But his numbers are looking good in many other facets. He raised his batting average .026 points Monday alone, and he’s now slashing .240/.345/.493 on the still-young season.

Abreu, of course, is the White Sox best hitter and has been ever since he arrived from Cuba before the 2014 season. For a team in such an offensive rut, Abreu’s four-hit night Monday raised his batting average up over .300, to .308. He’s now got six homers on the season, the most on the team and one of the higher totals in the American League. While Moncada and others will spend 2018 showing the White Sox what they will be in the future, this was expected from a guy who’s been one of baseball’s most consistent hitters in the last half decade.

But the future comes into play with Abreu, too, whose consistency at the plate and his presence in the clubhouse as a mentor to Moncada and other young players make him as believable a part of those planned future contenders as any of the organization’s highly rated prospects. A contract decision will need to be made at some point, obviously, but the White Sox will tell you any day of the week how much they value Abreu, who knows exactly where this franchise is and is excited as anyone about where it’s going.

“Everybody knows we are in the process, and everybody knows what this process is about,” Abreu said. “We have a lot of young talent, a lot of young players. They are going to hit some bumps and have some struggles as a team. But I think we all know how we have to play this game. (Manager Rick Renteria) has taught us how to play this game, how to play this game representing the White Sox organization and how they play this game.

“I feel really happy. We prove today that we are able to play a good game and to show the rest how we win games. That is the way we like to play.”

Monday was a bright spot in what’s been an otherwise very tough start to the 2018 campaign. But for a team where the future is what matters most, this is what fans have been waiting to see. A game like this might not be commonplace as the summer rolls on on the South Side. But for those dreaming about Moncada and Abreu teaming to lead those contenders of the future, this was one heck of a glimpse into the crystal ball.

“That’s our goal to have big games together for this team,” Moncada said. “Having the opportunity to play with Abreu — ‘The Big Elephant’ as we call him in Cuba — it’s good for me. It’s a big honor. I feel really happy when we have these kinds of games.”

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

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AP

Yoan Moncada nearly hits for the cycle, Jose Abreu hits two homers and the White Sox finally break out the bats

So, anyone out there still worried about Yoan Moncada?

The White Sox second baseman, who at this time last year was the top-ranked prospect in baseball, was the subject of much social-media frustration through the season's first few weeks. But it's safe to say he's "redeemed" himself in the eyes of fretting fans.

Monday night, he led the White Sox offensive eruption with a three-hit night that brought him just a single shy of the cycle in a 10-4 win over the visiting Seattle Mariners.

Moncada started the offensive outburst with a leadoff triple in the bottom of the first inning. He doubled to start the bottom of the second and launched a solo homer to begin the bottom of the fourth. He scored all three times.

Moncada entered the game with a .214/.329/.400 slash line, though he's been hot of late. In the last seven games, he's got nine hits, six extra-base hits and three homers. He still has 34 strikeouts on the season, one of the highest totals in the majors, but he's putting up some good numbers elsewhere.

Abreu also had a red-hot Monday night, picking up four hits with a couple of homers, the 12th time he's bashed multiple long balls in a single game.

It was quite the performance for a White Sox offense that has mostly been quiet so far in 2018. They scored just two total runs in three straight blowout losses against the Houston Astros over the weekend. And while they plated 11 in that 14-inning marathon in Oakland, the three road games prior to that featured a grand total of three runs.

Monday night that all changed with the White Sox banging out 18 hits, including seven straight to start the bottom of the first, the first time that happened in the big leagues in four years.