White Sox

Sox Drawer: A.J. prefers tougher Bacon

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Sox Drawer: A.J. prefers tougher Bacon

Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2011
Posted 5:25 p.m. Updated 6:30 p.m.

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz - In his first two major league seasons, Gordon Beckham took a page out of the Marv Albert School of Broadcasting by saying Yesss! to everything.

Fans, media, appearances, photo shoots, ice cream socials... you name it.

So on the day he reported to spring training - almost a week before his official reporting date - Beckham had a message waiting for him from teammate A.J. Pierzynski: Just say no.

Hes got a locker next to me, so Im trying to teach him to be more mean and tell people no sometimes, said Pierzynski, an expert in the art of saying no.

In the six years Ive covered him, Pierzynski (one of my favorite White Sox players) has given me every excuse in the book to not do an interview.

I have to work out.
I have to make a phone call.
I have to do something.
I have to do nothing.

Ive heard it all.

A.J. can also be extremely accomodating and gives some of the best interviews around - I think he knows it - so its worth getting turned down from time to time. Its actually become quite entertaining. On Wednesday Pierzynski said no to a pack of TV reporters, and then came back an hour later to give some of the best sound of the day - thats A.J.

But back to Beckham.

After his scorching White Sox debut in 2009 when he batted .270 with 14 homers and 63 RBIs in 103 games, Beckham came into last season treated like the second coming. He didnt believe the hype, nor the struggles that came next, which completely blind-sided him.

Ive got something to prove, said Beckham, standing at his locker with an additional 10 pounds of muscle added, not just to his body, but likely his brain too. I was probably more comfortable last year (at spring training), but I think thats a good thing. Last year I was probably too comfortable, lets just put it that way.

The season began with Beckham batting .235 in April, which wasnt a big deal until May came around and things only got worse. He hit just .159.

The rookie sensation was officially in a sophomore slump. There was even talk of possibly sending him down to the minor leagues. And when you add on the expectations, playing a new position, and a spotlight that was starting to burn a hole right through him, the heat was almost too much to take.

He didnt know what he was in for, Pierzynski said. Thats why you look at people who have the second year where theyre like, Oh man. Not neccessarily because their talent is gone or they tried less, I just think they just get in a situation where theyre spread too thin. Its not only his fault, its the organization, people outside, your mom, your dad, its everyone.

"I went through it and everyone went through it where you have that year and people are like... you can do this and you can do that. We need you to do this appearance, we need you to do this interview, and you want say yes to everybody.

In a way, thats what the White Sox did this off-season in regards to free agency. They shattered their piggy bank by signing lefty slugger Adam Dunn, and brought back Pierzynski and Paul Konerko, two pivotal mentors to Beckham.

To get Paul back and get A.J. back, these guys helped me come up, and helped me last year with my struggles, Beckham said. As a young guy, I didnt want to be in here with no Paul, no A.J., no Adam Dunn. We subtract those guys, you never know what this season is going to look like.

So how does Beckham look so far.... just hours into camp?

I like the way hes talking. I like the way hes acting, Pierzynski said. Hes got a different mind set this year, and thats good. I look forward to him coming out and having a great year, and as long as you guys dont annoint him the second coming of Babe Ruth, well be alright.

But can Gordon, the ultimate people person, actually say no to the people?

"I do need to learn."

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

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GOOGLE IMAGES

Let's compare birthday boy Dan Pasqua to Daniel Palka

Daniel Palka was a phenomenon in 2018. But before there was Daniel Palka, there was Dan Pasqua. You might have heard the Palka/Pasqua comparisons on White Sox game broadcasts or within White Sox fan circles. Both are lefty sluggers with a similar build: Palka listed at 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Pasqua at 6-foot-0 and 203 ppounds. Both led the White Sox in home runs in their age-26 seasons: Pasqua with 20 in 1988, Palka with 27 in 2018. And hey, they have the same first name and last initial!

Pasqua, nicknamed “The Hammer,” turned 57 years old Wednesday. Let’s learn a few more things about him.

— He was a teammate of John Elway (for four games with Oneonta of the New York-Pennsylvania League in 1982), Bo Jackson (with the White Sox from 1991 to 1993) and Michael Jordan (for four games with Birmingham of the Southern League in 1994).

— He was the 1985 International League MVP with the Columbus Clippers.

— He homered in his MLB debut on May 30, 1985, with the Yankees

— He was Sports Illustrated’s 1987 preseason pick to lead the American League in home runs. He finished with 17, only 32 behind Mark McGwire.

— He hit a Comiskey Park roof shot on May 30, 1989.

— He hit the last triple (and had the last RBI) in Comiskey Park history on Sept. 30, 1990.

— He hit a 484-foot home run, the third-longest by a White Sox player in Guaranteed Rate Field history, on April 27, 1991.

— He finished his MLB career with 117 home runs, tied with all-time great outfielders Ty Cobb, Tris Speaker and Ichiro Suzuki.

And finally, let’s compare Pasqua to Palka statistically. Since Palka had 449 career plate appearances through the end of the 2018 season, here's the duo's numbers through their first 449 career MLB plate appearances.

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

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USA TODAY

Could Manny Machado's NLCS shenanigans impact White Sox potential free-agent pursuit?

"It's a dirty play by a dirty player."

That was Christian Yelich, the all-but-sure-to-be NL MVP, describing Manny Machado, who's about to become one of the best-paid players in baseball history, after Game 4 of the NLCS, a game in which Machado once again grabbed headlines for all the wrong reasons.

Machado's Los Angeles Dodgers and Yelich's Milwaukee Brewers have played four games in this NLCS, and after three of them, the focus has been on Machado. Not because of his bat or his glove but because of lack of hustle and certain methods on the base paths that weren't exactly on the up and up.

After Game 2, he was criticized for not hustling on a ground ball to shortstop. In something straight out of a public-relations person's nightmare, he defended himself by saying that hustling really isn't his cup of tea. During Game 3, he twice attempted to break up double plays by interfering at second base and was, upon review, busted for it the second time. In extra innings in Game 4, he appeared to intentionally drag his leg across Jesus Aguilar's at first base. That play cleared the benches, got Machado called "dirty" in the Brewers' clubhouse and earned him the reputation of postseason villain.

And so Machado's impending free agency gets to be discussed in a brand new light. There's now more baggage attached to the 26-year-old superstar with a fantastic bat and a stellar glove.

The question is: Will the White Sox, one of many teams that could be mulling a contract offer worth hundreds of millions of dollars, care?

As much as it’s talked about building a perennial contender of the future by developing the on-field skills of their fleet of highly touted prospects, the White Sox brain trust has discussed developing a culture, a way of doing things, to go along with all that talent and all that skill. Unsurprisingly that conversation has focused on the oft-used phrase of “doing things the right way.”

Does what Machado has been doing count as “doing things the right way”? It seems easy to assess that it doesn't. It's far more difficult to determine whether it will end up making a difference or not.

Not hustling is one of Rick Renteria's biggest bugaboos. He sat down multiple players on multiple occasions throughout the 2018 season — starting with Avisail Garcia in a spring training game and including a veteran like Welington Castillo as well as a young star like Tim Anderson — for not running to first base on pop ups and line outs and ground outs. Would Renteria's tune suddenly change if Machado and his preference for not hustling arrived on the South Side in what would surely be the biggest free-agent deal in club history?

Renteria got fired up over the issue at the end of July, when he benched Anderson for not hustling on what the shortstop believed was a line out.

“We tell these guys, don’t assume anything. ... It’s as simple as that, and he understands it. He knows it. We’ve talked about it. He comes out of the box, he doesn’t stand there. But we just reiterated to make sure that you allow the umpires to make the calls and you allow the other clubs to go ahead and ask for reviews. We run.”

But asked about not running out his ground ball in Game 2, Machado shared pretty much the opposite philosophy.

"Obviously I'm not going to change, I'm not the type of player that's going to be 'Johnny Hustle,' and run down the line and slide to first base and … you know, whatever can happen," Machado told The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal. "That's just not my personality, that's not my cup of tea, that's not who I am."

What about Machado's interferences at second base? It was that exact play that sent Anderson into an on-field tiff with umpire Joe West during the second Crosstown series of the season just last month. Javy Baez slid into second base, and Anderson thought Baez did something he shouldn't have, raising his arm to interfere with a double-play turn, that sequence of events ending with Anderson screaming at West on the field. Would Anderson be cool with playing alongside — and potentially vacating his position at shortstop for — an infamous interferer?

And what about being a "dirty player," a villain? The White Sox always seemed fine — heck, they loved it — having one of baseball's greatest irritants in A.J. Pierzynski on the roster. Perhaps no player wore the "villain" title as a badge of honor more than the catcher on the 2005 World Series team. But remember that Pierzynski took the punch, he didn't throw it. Being baseball's version of a "villain" and being a guy who makes dangerous plays that could hurt somebody are two different things.

The point being: Do Machado's actions in this postseason series make him anathema to the "Ricky's boys don't quit" mantra? If the White Sox were to turn a blind eye to the events of this NLCS, would it qualify as a betrayal of their quest to establish a high-effort, high-character culture?

Or do they value that culture so much that they stay away from Machado this offseason?

Here's Rick Hahn from September of last year.

"It’s the culture that Ricky and his coaching staff have been able to create in that clubhouse. I cannot tell you how many various fans have stopped me, or emailed me or mentioned to me that they’ve never been this excited over a 60-win team. Or they’ve never been excited about a team that isn’t going to the playoffs. And I think so much of that is based on how Ricky and the coaches have them playing day in and day out. You see them fighting for 27 outs, you see them prepared every night. Sure, we’re going to get out-manned at portions during this process, but the fight and competitiveness and the style of play is the kind of thing that is going to endure year in and year out. And that is extremely important for us to establish at the big league level for all of us."

Machado's talent would make any team he's a part of more competitive. But for the White Sox, who talk an awful lot about hustling and refusing to quit, perhaps all these postseason shenanigans make it so Machado just isn't their cup of tea.