White Sox

Ballantini: Coop hits the hot seat - for good?


Ballantini: Coop hits the hot seat - for good?

Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2011
Posted: 8:36 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com White Sox InsiderFollow @CSNChi_Beatnik
READ: Cooper, Baines ink extensions
VIDEO: One-on-one with GM Williams, Part 1
VIDEO: One-on-one with GM Williams, Part 2

As Don Cooper ascended to the spot where former White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen sat and held court for nearly eight seasons, it sure didnt seem like the shoes were all that big to fill.

I could manage. If I had the right people around me, I think I could do it, Cooper said. I dont think its necessarily Xs and Os. Its more managing people, creating an atmosphere, things like that. I do believe I could do it.

Cooper has been coaching in the White Sox organization since 1988 and for the major league team since 2002, predating Guillen. The former major league pitchergenerally considered the finest pitching coach in baseballhas yet to try his hand at managing, but has long spoken of his managerial aspirations and believes he has the mettle to succeed. The two of us have spoken over time and at length, dating to last year, about that possibilityand in Chicago if Guillen was ever to depart.

While Ken Williams has made no mention of Cooper as a managerial candidate and has indicated he has a definite external favorite candidate, the GM definitely values his mentoring. That was evidenced on Tuesday, when Cooper and Harold Baines were both re-signed to coaching extensions.

Of Cooper, Williams said, Well, the pitching has been as consistent over the last decade, and thats a testament to our scouting department, to our player development department, to Don Cooper, directly in his direction. Its something thats well deserved and Im happy, thrilled to know that hes going to be on board here for the next four years.

Coopers charges believe he has the mettle to apply his success as a pitching coach to an opportunity in the big chair.

Yeah, why not, closer Sergio Santos said. He sees game situations well and deals so well with the mental side of the game.

Fellow reliever Will Ohman predictably was more contemplative, citing Coopers malleability as a particular strength.

Most players will rise to the challenge for a guy who you played your best for, and the guy you usually play your best for is the one who puts you in a position to play your best, said Ohman, pointing out that pitching coaches are often overlooked when it comes to managing. He asked me in spring training: How to I get you to be the best you can be? Hes not the kind of guy who will tell you, This is how we do it here, period He has a different method for each guy, some are thinkers, some are doers. Thats the job of a very good coach.

Cooper made specific reference to his communication style before the game, citing it as one of his key strengths.

Ozzie and I have had unbelievably good communication on the pitchers, on a daily basis Id like to think that same communication is going to happen with anybody else, he said. Im just a believer in communication as the key to any relationship, whether youre a bossemployee, coachplayer, boyfriendgirlfriend, manwife communications the key, man. That goes for any coaching job.

With Ozzie gone and Cooper no longer obligated to keep his big chair aspirations more on the down low, hes not looking at his late-season audition as a lark, but a tryout.

Cooper believes that his ability to motivate pitchers physically, mentally and emotionally can translate to an entire team and builds a bold and positive rsum for his candidacy. Counting Matt Thornton, Esteban Loaiza and Gavin Floyd among Cooper's dozen high-profile success stories, GM Ken Williams is well aware of his pitching coach's strengths and owes much of his executive success to Coop's coaching. That knowledge may result in Cooper being granted fuller responsibility with the teama responsibility that began Tuesday night.

Whether the GM recognizes it or not, if his pitchers have anything to say about it, Cooper should be considered for the top job.

He deserves consideration, lefty John Danks said. Hes helped me through different parts of my career in so many different ways. Hes got a great feel for what we need, mentally, physically, motivationally. I cant believe managing hasnt happened for him yet.

He gave me the opportunity to succeed or fail here with the White Sox and equipped me for the success Ive had here, said Phil Humber, Coopers latest revitalization, arguably the Soxs top starter in 2011. Thats a real key to who he ishe finds out what you need from him, then he equips you with it. Theres nothing more Id ask for in a manager, actually.

Hey, were the replacements

While Williams still is not speculating as to who would replace Guillen, he has said that the yearlong drama regarding the ex-managers contract prepared him well for the day that Williams would have to replace his former teammate.

And theres nothing that says we cant speculate on the man who trots the lineup card out for the White Sox's first game of 2012 at the Texas Rangers on April 6.

In order of likelihood, heres a glimpse at the candidates outside of current interim manager Don Cooper.

Dave Martinez: Martinez has the toughness and pedigree to appeal to Williams. Likewise his mentorship under universally-admired mentor Joe Maddon and Tampa Bays success with maximizing roster potential. But reading the tea leaves of Williams pregame comments on Tuesday, where, unsolicited, he mentioned that his clear choice might not be hired by the World Series because his choice might be involved.

We have to wait and see who the players are in the World Series and if theres someone on a playoff team that I ultimately might want to talk to, it might have to drag a little bit.

For those who feel Williams is leaning toward Sandy Alomar Jr., the Cleveland Indians are not in the playoffs; unless the GM is initiating heavy subterfuge and misdirection, hes already told us that his top candidate is in playoff contention.

Terry Francona: Long a favorite of Williams, its unlikely he is released from the Red Sox. But if Boston falters and falls from the playoffs in the seasons final two games, a change could be in the air. When talking about having to wait until after the World Series, Williams could be referring to an infatuation with Francona as wellalthough it is much less realistic or likely.

Sandy Alomar Jr.: The Cleveland Indians coach and former three-time White Sox interviewed very well for the Toronto Blue Jays opening in 2011, finishing a close second to John Farrell.

Joe McEwing: Ozzie himself seemed to transition from a mocking use of Super in front of McEwings name in passing to genuine appreciation for the Charlotte Triple-A manager. Yet the ascendance of a minor-league manager would seem more in line with a team going young, as the White Sox are too deep All-In for 2012 to make such a move.

Omar Vizquel: Vizquel said on Tuesday that he still wants to play in Chicago, not coach or manage hereyet. Vizquels artistic, mellow bent might be just the recipe for Williams after the eight-year diet of brashness and controversy Guillen provided.

Tony LaRussa: Unless Jerry Reinsdorf just extended Cooper for four years in order to fire him with four years left on the deal, LaRussa wont come to Chicago if only because he is forever married to pitching coach Dave Duncan. Still, LaRussa remains a favorite of certain dead-horse beating writers, despite the fact that the ex-White Sox mentor is unsure he even will commit to his current St. Louis Cardinals for more than a year a time.

Buddy Bell: For whatever reason, the former manager and current White Sox farm director was immediately bandied as a possible replacement despite the fact that he told South Side Sox this May he absolutely would not return to managing.

Joey Cora: Cora would have been a fair enough candidate if not so closely associated with Guillen. As the team didnt even allow Cora to serve as the interim manager to finish 2011, theres close to zero chance Cora will interview with Williams. Besides, the team malaise under Ozzie this season must also fall on Coras shoulders, as the bench coach handles a lot of the clubs heavy lifting.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.com's White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox information. CSNChicago staff contributed to this report.

Sox Drawer Q&A: Is this the White Sox 'Jon Lester' offseason?


Sox Drawer Q&A: Is this the White Sox 'Jon Lester' offseason?

Back for another round of questions here in the Sox Drawer. Let's go.

Q: Do you believe this is the Sox "Lester" offseason where they make a large investment in a player for the future? Or are we still one year away from seeing this? — @BCurley3

CG: That's a question many White Sox fans are wondering about. And by the "Lester" signing, I assume you are referring to the likes of Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. I'd like to think that if the White Sox have a desire to sign a big-name free agent, they will make every attempt to do it now and not wait for the 2020 free agents, even if it's coming off a 100-loss season. As general manager Rick Hahn put it in his season-ending press conference, "You can't always control when certain players become available. You can say in 2020 or 2021 we expect to be this, and we know we are going to need X. You can't look at the projected free agent and say that player will be available, much less that player will be a White Sox when the time comes." It might turn out that the White Sox don't sign that marquee free agent this offseason, but going off what Hahn said, I believe they will go all-in when their targeted "Jon Lester" is available.

Q: If you had your choice, would the White Sox sign Manny Machado or Nolan Arenado? — @Dehhmac_

CG: I'll take either. Arenado gets the edge defensively. Machado has the advantage offensively. One stat about Arenado that gives me some pause is his career home/away splits. At Coors Field, he's slashing .320/.374/.609. Away from Coors Field, he's at .263/.318/.469. He's still a great player, but his numbers are inflated due to the higher elevation in Denver. If they don't sign him to a contract extension this winter, I'm curious to see if the Rockies listen to trade offers during the Winter Meetings like the Orioles did with Machado last year. The Rockies are much more competitive than the Orioles, so they might decide to go for it one more time with Arenado. If not, a crazy Winter Meetings just got crazier.

Q: I have long expected this to be the offseason when the Sox start signing free agents. However, lately, I've heard about possible big-name trade potentials. Do you expect trades this early in the rebuild or mainly acquisition through free agency? — @ToddHertz

CG: At some point, the White Sox will probably dip into their farm system to acquire major league upgrades where they see fit. Because there were so many injuries to prospects last season, I'm not sure they've seen enough to know exactly what they have to make those kind trades just yet. However, the one position in the minors where they seem very deep right now is in the outfield. That could be an area they could subtract from to add elsewhere. I think the White Sox timed their rebuild very well with free agency. Last year's lackluster free-agent class was a great time to be on the sidelines. The next two winters will have much better talent available. The White Sox don't have much on the books and will be in a good financial position to make upgrades.

Q: After Eloy comes up in April who's the next guy in waiting and when does he come up? —  @franknacchio19

CG: With two open spots in the rotation, we could see a few prospects compete for starting jobs in spring training. Jordan Guerrero, Jordan Stephens and Spencer Adams are possibilities. All three of them finished the season at Charlotte and could be close to knocking on the door. The next big name after that would seemingly be Dylan Cease, who if he continues to pitch like he did this past season will probably be on the Michael Kopech timeline to the majors, and Kopech came up in August.

Q: If the rumors are true and the Diamondbacks dismantle their roster, which player on their roster makes sense for this White Sox team long term? —  @mr_zablocki

Q: Who would you hypothetically trade for Goldshmidt? — @DaRealScaletta​​​​​​​

CG: Looking at the Diamondbacks' roster, there aren't many natural fits with the White Sox rebuild. Where's the All-Star third baseman on a rebuilding team with a four-year, team-friendly contract? I like Zack Greinke, but he's going to be 35-years-old and has three years and $104 million left on his contract. A 27-year-old Robbie Ray would be solid, but he's under team control for only two more years. Paul Goldschmidt is an all-world first baseman with three Gold Gloves, but he's a free agent after next season. Depending on what the White Sox do with Jose Abreu, who also has one year left on his contract, maybe they go after Goldschmidt next offseason if they don't re-sign Abreu.

Q: Tell a Yolmer story. — @NJBooth20

CG: Yolmer was wearing this cool T-shirt in the clubhouse this past season. On the front, it said "play hard" with a photo of him making Mickey Mouse ears. On the back it said "have fun," and there's the photo of him pouring Gatorade all over himself. I asked him if I could have one of those T-shirts. He said, "50 dollars." I countered with, "How about 30?" With perfect comedic timing, Yolmer came back with, "Make it 10." He might not be the best bargainer in the world, but Yolmer Sanchez is definitely one of the funniest people around.

Q: Why did Nagy run the ball on 3rd and 4?? — @rypie182​​​​​​​

CG: Not sure.

Q: Can I leave a voicemail? Too drunk to tweet. — @HurriKayne26​​​​​​​

CG: Rough Bears game.

Q: Who will be the biggest surprise and/or the greatest improvement for next season's team? — @nicklicious33​​​​​​​

CG: Good question. If he's able to come back, I can think of one person in particular who would be quite an incredible surprise in 2019. That's Danny Farquhar. At home in California recovering from his near-death brain aneurysm, Farquhar is training with the hopes of pitching in the majors again, possibly as soon as 2019. I wouldn't put it past him. He's a special person who has been defying the odds since that horrific night in April. It would be great to see!

Thanks again for all of your questions. We'll do it again next week.

Sorry, White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked


Sorry, White Sox fans dreaming of Patrick Corbin: His free-agent destination might already be booked

For the biggest dreamers among the White Sox faithful, here's how this offseason might be playing out.

Rick Hahn said the team will make some additions to the pitching staff. So for those dreamers, it's a rush to the top of the list of free-agent starting pitchers, right? Why not hook one of the biggest fish in the pond?

The top of that list looks like this: Clayton Kershaw (should he choose to opt out of his deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers and seek a new, more lucrative one), Dallas Keuchel and Patrick Corbin. Some might even have those last two names flipped, with Corbin, coming off an All-Star season with the Arizona Diamondbacks, second only to one of the best to ever throw a baseball.

The White Sox might not be capable of outbidding baseball's biggest spenders, and that's without even mentioning that they might simply not be looking to ink a hurler to a long-term contract. After all, that's what all those talented prospects are for, right? Assembling the rotation of the future? Carlos Rodon, Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez are all already part of the 2019 staff. Michael Kopech, when he's done recovering from Tommy John surgery, will join them in 2020. And Dylan Cease was just named MLB Pipeline's minor league pitcher of the year. With all that in mind, any offseason additions to the rotation for 2019 might simply be one-year fill-ins.

But fans often like to dream big, and a lot of them have Corbin on their wish list.

That's not surprising when you look at his numbers. He threw 200 innings last season and struck out 246 batters while finishing with a 3.15 ERA, those last two numbers the best of his six-year big league career. He's 29 years old and a long-term deal would figure to have him in the starting rotation as the White Sox plan to shift from rebuilding mode to contention mode.

Just one problem: There's plenty of belief out there that Corbin's destination this winter has already been booked.

This has been a talking point for a while now, as the Yankees tried to bring Corbin to the Bronx via trade last offseason. They're expected to try to do so again, this time via free agency, as they've got a ton of money to spend. Corbin was quoted in the Nightengale story from April saying: "It would definitely be great to play there. I grew up a Yankee fan."

Sorry to burst your bubbles, White Sox fans. But don't blame me. Blame the Yankees, which seems to be becoming a frequent refrain. If Didi Gregorius' elbow injury means Manny Machado ends up in the Bronx this winter, too, White Sox fans might drop the Cubs as Public Enemy No. 1.

The White Sox have enough hurdles to clear in any pursuit of one of the game's top free agents: They have to compete with baseball's traditional big spenders, and they have to try and beat win-now pitches with a pitch of planned — though not yet arrived — long-term success. It's not like that hasn't been a winning battle before, though, as the rebuilding Cubs got Jon Lester to believe in their future and brought him in to help make their transition from rebuild to championship contention.

But throw in the hurdle of a history between a player and another team, and it makes it an even harder job.

The White Sox will be making some additions this offseason, though they might not be the ones fans are dreaming about. But not landing the winter's biggest fish doesn't mean the organization's biggest, most important dream of building a perennial contender on the South Side is going anywhere.