Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010
By Chuck Garfien
As Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, J.J. Hardy and Michael Cuddyer were doing their home run trots on Tuesday night, tilting the U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard like a pinball machine that had seen way too many quarters, I thought of Kenny Williams and the anger that was likely detonating inside his brain, the uber-competitive White Sox general manager forced to watch helplessly as his team was knocked out of first place in the Central Division for the first time since July 11.
Thats what the Minnesota Twins do. They dont just beat you. They evict you from your home, dance in your front yard and do it with a smile on their face.
Quite simply: the Twins cannot be trusted.
Except for getting scorching hot in the second half of the season, which they are doing again. Since the break: 18-7. Oh, and winning games in the Central Division. Theyre 30-16, compared to the Sox who are 20-22.
Considering those two facts alone, its a shock that the Sox are only a game out of first.
Maybe thats why Williams was able to find his happy place before Tuesdays thrashing, appearing as a guest on Chicago Tribune Live. He was calm, relaxed, even jovial as he was peppered with all sorts of questions from host David Kaplan and Trib columnist David Haugh.
Williams acknowledged that the four-game series in Baltimore was a bad weekend, but wasnt that concerned about his team because if they have shown me one thing, its their ability to bounce back and their ability to focus when they need to focus.
That didnt happen Tuesday. Maybe Wednesday.
In his first two starts with the White Sox, Edwin Jackson has clearly changed his focus, not to mention his mechanics. Hes given up just two earned runs in 13 innings, recording 13 strikeouts and just two walks.
Whats the reason for his rejuvenation?
No. 1, Edwin is excited to here," Williams said. "Were pitching in games that matter. You tend to amp it up a little bit and you come with it a little bit more. Also, he and Don Cooper have been working on a couple of little things that get him focused on the target. And it also helps that the hitters dont know whats coming. Now they dont know whats coming because hes not tipping his pitches.
Williams is still searching for another power bat. That likely means claiming a player off waivers. Its a tricky process that often has more to do with luck than anything else. Having Alex Rios fall into your lap like last year is a rarity, and Williams gave us an inside-look at whats going on behind the scenes.
The waiver process is such that most teams put all of their players through, so hitters and pitchers are popping up all the time, Williams said. The problem is, do they get to the first-place teams or does someone else put a claim on them and block them? So more often than not, players are going to be blocked.
"But every now and then, a guy with a salary that a team is more interested in getting rid of versus getting a player back will slip through and the other teams are afraid to grab that player. Thats how we got Alex Rios last year. But we were so confident in his abilities that we wanted that to happen where we didnt have to give up a player to get him.
One player that Williams went after right before the trade deadline is the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez. The Sox GM recently said that he wont acquire a player who could potentially disrupt the chemistry of the team. Considering Mannys controversial me-first past, he brings with him a scientific formula that could be utterly explosive (both good and bad).
But if Ramirez recovers from his calf injury, and Williams is still looking for a dangerous bat for his lineup, the possibility of Manny coming to the South Side cannot be overlooked.
Why? Well, if you read between the lines, heres what Williams said when asked about giving players second chances.
Who amongst us hasnt made mistakes, hasnt said something, particularly when youre younger, or done something that agitated people or got on peoples nerves, or just said the wrong thing," he said. "All you can do is pick yourself up and strive to be a better person. We give people that opportunity because we see the fallacies in ourselves.
Sound like someone you know?
After giving up six runs in 2 13 innings, maybe this isnt the best time to be writing about re-signing Freddy Garcia, but other than the occasional hiccup, the 35-year-old pitcher has been a rock in the back-end of the Sox rotation.
However, Garcia expressed concern on Sunday that a numbers game might cost him a spot on the starting staff next season.
Now theyve got Jackson, another pitcher with a lot of money, Garcia said. So they want to get Peavy back next year, who knows? They got Danks, Buehrle and Floyd. I dont know what the situation is for me.
Tuesday, Williams addressed it and opened the door for Garcia to return.
Garcia has to be a factor in our offseason discussions. Ultimately, hes a free agent and how that factors in with what we have coming back and what we want to do in terms of moving some pieces around that has to come into play. But you have to talk about him because he just goes out and wins.
Williams prefers his wins one way, and not the kind that end with a dramatic walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.
I like blowouts," he said. "Whether in an individual game or for the season. I dont like excitement. Hell no. I want the blowout every time. I dont need a close exciting game. For what?
I dont know ... better TV ratings?
Maybe the Sox can help their GM relax by torching Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday, but we all know better.
The Twins cannot be trusted.
Put it on a T-shirt. Slap it on a bumper sticker. Hopefully the Sox wont be sitting behind them for long, choking on their fumes.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.