White Sox

Sox Drawer: The First Annual Melty Awards

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Sox Drawer: The First Annual Melty Awards

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
Updated 9:32 PM
By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

OK, so the White Sox cant win the division.

Paul Konerko has no shot at AL MVP.

This could be his final week in a Sox uniform. Same with A.J. Pierzynski.

Manny Ramirez now hits for power like Juan Pierre.

Gavin Floyd, Bobby Jenks, Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios all might be shut down for the season.

Yep, things went south pretty fast.

At least some sanity was restored Monday with Ozzie Guillen announcing hes coming back for 2011. Where were the MLB Network cameras when he had his meetings with Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams? Well have to use our imaginations.

But before we say good-bye to the 2010 season, which will forever be remembered for its extremes; either scorching hot or arctic cold (the Sox were last in the league in being lukewarm), its time to hand out some prizes for everybodys efforts. Awards, if you will. Something flashy. Something catchy. Something the players and coaches can put on their mantles to inspire them for 2011.

Or not.

For this, we need a name. Television has the Emmys. Theater has the Tonys. I have a seat next to Bill Melton for six months. Thats my reward. So in honor of my macho friend, illustrious colleague and 1971 home run champ, here are the first annual Melty Awards!

Most Valuable Player (as if there was any competition): Paul Konerko

Despite my on-air campaign to make him the MVP of the American League (and entire western hemisphere), Konerko will have to settle for the most valuable on the White Sox. He leads the team with 38 homers, 106 RBIs, a .310 batting average and has carried the team on his back from the word go.

He also gets a Swiss timing award for once again having a career season during a contract year. The last time it happened, the Sox won the World Series and Paulie surprised Jerry Reinsdorf by giving him the baseball used for the final out. The Sox, in turn, rewarded Konerko with a five-year, 60 million contract.

This time, in lieu of a World Series ball, may I suggest that Konerko give Reinsdorf a sample of his DNA. That way if we ever start cloning people, the Sox can field a team with nine Paul Konerkos.

Theyd win the title every year.

The Mickey Rourke Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Rios

When the Sox claimed him off waivers from Toronto last August, lets just say the Alex Rios Era didnt get off to the greatest of starts. First, Kenny Williams received a jaywalking ticket on his way to Safeco Field in Seattle moments after making the deal. And when Rios arrived, the guy Williams thought he acquired never made it through customs. Rios struggled mightily at the plate, batting .199 in 41 games. He pressed so hard he seemed to be on a one-way ticket for Carlos Quentinville.

My family and I couldnt go anywhere without hearing how much of an idiot I was, Williams told USA Today about the deal this summer.

But Rios arrived in spring training having lost about 50 pounds (all in his brain). He was loose, relaxed, confident and it showed on the field. Through Tuesday, he was batting .284 with 21 homers and set career-highs with 88 RBIs and 34 stolen bases.

And unlike Mickey Rourke, he did it all without plastic surgery.

The Benjamin Button Aging Backwards Award: Omar Vizquel

I know his birth certificate says he was born on April 24, 1967, but someone in the medical community needs to do a thorough investigation on this man. There is no possible way that Omar Vizquel is 43 years old! I truly believe that he was found wrapped in a blanket on someones doorstep in Venezuela in the early 1900s, a baby trapped in a 104-year-old mans body.

When the White Sox signed him last winter, he was in his early-40s, but by the time August rolled around, Omar had magically reached puberty. His voice started changing, his teeth needed braces, he began using words like dude and ya know, and kept wanting to hang out with Oney Guillen.

But on the field, Omar was a wunderkind. A true freak of nature.

Comparing 2009 to 2010, Vizquel doubled (or more than doubled) his hits, runs, homers, RBIs, stolen bases and walks from the year before. And in 106 games and 216 chances at 2B, SS, and 3B he made only three errors.

I make that many mistakes every night on the postgame show.

Omar has to come back for 2011. Unless hes wearing diapers.

The Aaron RowandNick SwisherJim Thome Medias Best Friend Award: Gordon Beckham

Beckham had many reasons to give us the occasional Heisman; he got off to a terrible start, he was playing a new position, he had the pressure of being the Sox new cover boy, plus it got out that hes a huge fan of Justin Bieber. That fact alone would send most athletes into a cave for six weeks. But every day, Gordon was there at his locker (which at one point had a nameplate that read Gordon Bieber).

He was totally accommodating no matter what was swirling around in his head. A class act.
Someone Buy This Man Another Pair Of Pants Award: Bill Melton

Yes, Melton wins a Melty. Although this is probably nothing to be proud of.

One of the tricks of doing our pre- and postgame shows is that you dont see what were wearing from the waist down. Its not like we do the shows in boxer shorts or anything, but Melton prefers to come to the studio in blue jeans, which is no big deal. That was until we got a new set, and while it was being built, we had to do our shows from the set of Chicago Tribune Live, which exposes your body from head to toe.

This was a huge problem for Bill, who has only one pair of pants other than blue jeans here in Chicago. Its a set of beige khakis, which viewers would become familiar with over the next three weeks because Bill wore them for every single show!

I frequently suggested that he stop by a department store and buy another pair, but Melton would have nothing of it. He and his slacks remained firmly entrenched on the postgame set as if it were Custers Last Stand. There would be no backing down.

Eventually, the pants took on a life of their own, often taking part in the on-air discussions. They were vehemently opposed to the Manny Ramirez trade, wanted Paul Konerko batting third and believed that the Sox need to blow up the entire roster and start over (they became a little salty towards the end).

Fortunately, the new set is now finished. Bills blue jeans have returned. Life is back to normal. But Saturday night, after our final CSN Sox game of the season, well all have to deal with the new normal. Bill will drive back to his home in Arizona (cruise control set at 35 mph), leaving behind a newsroom that isnt the same when hes not in it.

I dont mean to get dramatic here. Melton would smack me over the head for that. But theres a certain pulse in our office, a beat that exists on a nightly basis, and when Bill walks in the door, you can feel it. Ask him about the Twins and youll hear it. Hes a spring and summer staple at Comcast SportsNet. The weather is good. Were not buried in snow. Theres baseball and theres Bill. Knowing we wont have either of them again until April is downright depressing.

So safe travels back to Scottsdale my friend. Well see you back here in 2011. Hopefully by then youll learn how to use a computer (so you can read this), which will also explain the brand new pair of pants waiting for you at your front door.

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.

Winter Meetings wrap: Why the White Sox left San Diego without a top-of-the-market free agent

Winter Meetings wrap: Why the White Sox left San Diego without a top-of-the-market free agent

SAN DIEGO — “We belong at the table in these negotiations, we belong as part of negotiations for premium talent. And regardless what happens over the next several weeks with either of these two players, we plan to be at the table and continue to attempt to convert on these guys.”

That was Rick Hahn in January, talking about his front office’s pursuits of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, the two biggest names on last winter’s free-agent market and two guys who landed $300 million contracts. Neither, obviously, is playing for the White Sox. But Hahn set forth expectations last winter that the White Sox were going to try to land that kind of top-of-the-market talent.

Fast forward to the current free-agent cycle, and the biggest names on the market have all signed. None of them signed with the White Sox. The Winter Meetings saw a tidal wave of spending, with Gerrit Cole, Stephen Strasburg and Anthony Rendon all coming off the board, all inking huge deals that figure to transform their new teams (or old team, in the case of Strasburg).

The White Sox, meanwhile, headed home with nothing more to show for their efforts than Nomar Mazara. No word came from any of the usual baseball news-breakers connecting the South Siders to Cole, Strasburg or Rendon.

Why not?

Hahn spent this week, and has spent his media availabilities this offseason and in the months prior, talking about fit. The White Sox are looking for players who fit their long-term plans. The 2020 season might be the year the long-awaited transition from rebuilding to contending comes. It might not be. So the White Sox are searching for players who align with a contention window far into the future.

And that’s an admirable goal. The White Sox should stick to those plans. They’ve suffered too much to make a handbrake turn to try to rush things, certainly at the expense of their bright future. That’s completely understandable.

But didn’t Cole, Strasburg and Rendon fit into that box? Aren’t they the type of premium talents Hahn has talked about wanting to add to a burgeoning young core? Wouldn’t the long-term deals they got insert them right into that contention window?

“Probably a guy the fans see out there and see fits with what we're doing and, ‘Hey, they should pursue him,’ maybe we did,” Hahn said Thursday. “Maybe we have extra information where it shows that would’ve been a fruitless pursuit in the end, just based on the player’s preference for where they want to be, league or locationally. Perhaps it’s something that we did get after and just weren’t able to convert on.

“We obviously operate best when there’s less noise around what we’re doing. Certainly we recently showed that on (Yasmani) Grandal. It would be temporarily nice or fulfilling for me to stand here and say like, ‘Yeah, we didn’t go after Player X because we knew for a fact this thing about why he wasn’t coming here,’ or, ‘We did go after Player X and we came up short.’ That might satisfy some sort of desire to show that we were active if people didn’t think we were.

“But I would hope after all this time that people understand our approach tends to err on the side of being aggressive. And if there’s a high-quality player that seems like a fit for us, we probably went down that path to some extent, and if it didn’t wind up converting, there’s usually a pretty good reason why.”

That quote hit the Twitterverse not long after it left Hahn’s mouth, and the reactions were, generally, less than favorable. Plenty saw it as an excuse. But while vague, there’s a lot of truth in those words.

The White Sox cannot control everything when it comes to free-agent pursuits. They can control how much money they offer, but as we saw with Zack Wheeler, that doesn’t always win the day. Wheeler spurned the White Sox richer offer to please his family and pitch for the Philadelphia Phillies.

Cole, meanwhile, was long expected to choose between a preference for the West Coast or his childhood fandom for the New York Yankees. It helped, of course, that the Yankees offered him a stupifying contract. Strasburg was long expected to return to the Washington Nationals, and that’s just what he did, with folks wondering if there was any consideration given to pitching somewhere else.

Those are mighty difficult things to overcome, and they could have made the White Sox — and plenty of other teams — jumping into the fray a potential non-starter.

“More often than not, early in the process, you hear why it’s a potential non-fit for either side,” Hahn said Monday, speaking in the wake of Wheeler’s decision. “Again, that doesn’t mean anything was mishandled or anything was wrong with this. In the end, when offers are on the table and it's decision time, guys can make that decision based upon any factor that they view as important. You’ve got to respect that. And they’ve earned that right.”

That’s not really supposed to make anyone feel any better. As Hahn often says, you either sign the guy or you don’t.

What’s probably got some fans stewing as much as the eventual free-agent destinations is the White Sox complete lack of attachment to Cole, Strasburg or Rendon in the typical stream of rumors that flows during baseball’s busiest week. As Hahn mentioned, all being quiet doesn’t mean the White Sox weren’t pursuing those players. But after years of discussing financial flexibility, the team seems to have the economic means to play in the deepest end of the free-agent pool, so it’s not unreasonable to expect to hear about it doing so.

"The money will be spent,” Hahn said in February, after Machado picked the San Diego Padres. “It might not be spent this offseason, but it will be spent at some point. This isn’t money sitting around waiting to just accumulate interest. It’s money trying to be deployed to put us in best position to win some championships.”

With that in mind, plenty assumed the White Sox would be able to afford even the gargantuan contracts that went to this winter’s three free-agent superstars. But simply having money to spend doesn’t mean they believed Cole was worth the $324 million he got from the Yankees. It doesn’t mean they believed Strasburg was worth the $245 million he got from the Nationals. It doesn’t mean they believed Rendon was worth the $245 million he got from the Los Angeles Angels.

That’s where that discussion of fit comes in again. It’s easy for us to see a player and believe him a fit for what the White Sox are building. But we’re not the ones defining the fit. The White Sox are. And while they might have pursued all three, might have wanted to pursue all three, might have been willing to back a truckload of money up to all three, it’s also possible that, for whatever reasons, they didn’t see them as the same kind of fit they see other players at different price points.

The lingering notion that the White Sox shy away from handing out long-term deals to pitchers is likely more of a general caution than the edict it’s often portrayed to be. It’s also not reserved to the White Sox.

“In general, the investment in a position player is less risky than an investment in a pitcher,” Hahn said. “Those things vary. We are talking just about generic players, you generally err on the side of a position player being less risky.”

“Is anybody worth $300 million?” USA Today’s Bob Nightengale said Tuesday on the White Sox Talk Podcast. “Say the White Sox signed Gerrit Cole, it doesn’t make them an automatic winner. He’s a good pitcher, but hey, good pitchers get hurt, too.”

OK, so what about Rendon? The White Sox were willing to offer a reported $250 million in guaranteed money to Machado last winter. Rendon got less than that to play for the Angels. Of course, Machado’s free agency came before Yoan Moncada blossomed into the team’s best all-around player at third base. Machado was 26 during his sweepstakes. Rendon is 29. These are not necessarily defenses, they are simply truths.

“As a general thought, when you are making a long-term commitment, doing that to a player who is in their mid 20s, in general, is a more appealing alternative then doing that with a player who is in his 30s at the start of the contract,” Hahn said. “Everyone is familiar with aging curves and risk and how that balances out as you get older. So yeah, the idea of devoting big money to someone who is younger versus older is certainly more appealing.”

And then there’s the clarifying Hahn did on those “money will be spent” comments from 10 months ago. Basically: That money doesn’t all have to be spent in one place to make the White Sox better.

“I think it would be awfully foolish to say we're going to go out and spend whatever the amount of the offer (to Machado) was immediately,” he said Wednesday. “The point of that comment was there's other ways for us to allocate this money, and it's going to be allocated toward player acquisitions.

“You could argue some of it went to Grandal, you could argue some of it went to the Eloy (Jimenez) extension or re-signing (Jose) Abreu or whatever we have coming down the pipe next.

“That offer was over an eight- to 10-year period, so to say it's all going out the door in Year 1 just because it's sitting there, maybe, but it's got to be for the right players.”

None of this will satisfy the critics. And that’s a product of the frustrating on-field success of the big league team during the rebuild and the expectations that came into this offseason. The White Sox pursued the talent at the top of the free-agent market last offseason, so they must be willing to do the same thing again this winter, right? They might have. But it didn’t work out, and now there are two offseasons where fans wanted Machado and Harper and Cole and Strasburg and Rendon and watched all those players go elsewhere.

It’s important to remember the White Sox did sign Grandal, that they do still have that young core that broke out in a big way in 2019. The future is still blindingly bright, and Hahn & Co. see that. It’s why they remain so committed to their long-term plans — because they could very well work.

Those plans might mean that the consolation prizes for teams that didn’t land one of the top three prizes on the free-agent market aren’t quite as appealing fits. It’s not as easy as just moving down to the next name on the list. The White Sox are being picky, and they can afford to be picky. Not adding a huge free agent — and, again, remember they did sign Grandal — doesn’t mean Moncada and Jimenez and Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito are suddenly all bad. The future is snowballing for the White Sox, in a good way, and the melting process is nowhere near starting.

Yes, the South Siders left San Diego without Cole, Strasburg or Rendon. Perhaps it wasn’t for lack of trying. Perhaps they weren’t able to get past the bouncer, no matter how big the checkbook was. Perhaps they didn’t see these guys as good fits. Perhaps they saw these guys as expensive in a way that would jeopardize their carefully laid plans.

The biggest takeaway from this week: Those plans are the driving force for these White Sox. Do not, for any reason, expect them to deviate.

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White Sox Talk Podcast: Guest appearance Hall of Famer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson

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NBC Sports Chicago

White Sox Talk Podcast: Guest appearance Hall of Famer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson

Ford Frick winner and Hall of Famer Ken "Hawk" Harrelson joins Chuck Garfien on the podcast.

(3:15) - People that have congratulated Hawk on his induction, including some people you would never guess

(12:24) - Origin of some of your favorite "Hawk-isms"

(15:29) - Great story about the late great Harry Carey

(18:46) - His life growing up in Savannah, Georgia

Listen here or via the embedded player below:

 

White Sox Talk Podcast

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