White Sox

Sox Drawer: In Jenks you trust?


Sox Drawer: In Jenks you trust?

Friday, July 23, 2010
4:25 PM

By Chuck Garfien

You swim in confidence, you drown in negativity.

Those were the deep thoughts coming from Don Cooper back on June 2 as he strolled through the White Sox dugout amid a torrential downpour of criticism that had the Sox sinking in the AL Central standings.

Lifeboats were standing by, not to mention a casket, a coroner, and the cast from the TV show Six Feet Under.

Ive seen it so many times. Confidence is the ingredient, Cooper said. Everyone has tough times. Tough moments.

And while the White Sox have magically changed the trajectory of their season since those dark, spring days, the team's pitching coach doesnt have to look far down his roster of arms to see a pitcher currently submerged in that same negativity, flooded by criticism that he can no longer be trusted to do his job.

Bobby Jenks.

In the hypersensitive world of modern day sports, one bad game is considered terrible, a second is downright appalling, while a third equates to the death of the players first born.

Maybe thats an overstatement, but often the reality is that when youre a struggling athlete not meeting a citys expectations, the heat you feel isnt the sun on your face, but a burning fireball of disgust and distrust by a countless stream of fans who have invested their hearts and souls into the uniform youre wearing, and if you continue to let them down, those same fans will no longer see flesh inside that uniform, but a skeleton.

Youre officially dead to them.

Thats sports. And right now there are many of you holding onto your shovels, ready to bury Bobby.

My advice would be to chill out! But I know better.

Its easy to roast your closer after he gives up four runs in the 9th inning in a heartbreaking loss to the Twins, especially when he follows it up by losing another game three days later with two runs in the 11th against the Mariners.

Its easy to condemn him because his name is not Mariano Rivera, and hell occasionally blow a save or two in a week, bringing your world to a crashing halt. Its painful. I know. Imagine having to talk about it live on television moments after it happens without using a single word of profanity.

Been there.

Its tougher to recall and appreciate what your closer did before the mess, converting 15 straight saves during the Sox torrid hot streak. Remember how downright filthy Bobby was for those few weeks?

Okay, maybe you dont.

Look, Im no dummy. Neither is Ozzie Guillen. Jenks is struggling.

Something has to be done right now, which is why the Sox will turn to Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz, or even Sergio Santos in closing situations in the near future.

But what happens if or when one of those saviors takes the mound and blows a save or two. Then what? Bring back Shingo Takatsu?

I agree with Ozzie that the Sox are a better team with Jenks as their closer, and with the set-up guys lined up in front of him. But right now, they cant go there. The boat has a hole in it.

Speaking by phone on Friday before the White Sox took on the As in Oakland, Cooper did not dance around Jenks problems. He went right at it, with a fastball down the middle.

The bottom line is this, Bobby has struggled his last two outings, Cooper said. The nature of being a closer is youre on the line, and when you dont save the game, youre kind of the goat. What were going to do is simply keep our options open with the other guys that are throwing the ball well. Wed be nuts not to keep our options open. In the meantime, well try to get Bobby throwing like he did during that streak again, and I think its going to happen.

After Wednesdays extra-inning loss in Seattle, Guillen expressed concern over Jenks fading velocity. But as the pitching coach, Cooper has a much different take.

I dont look at (velocity) to tell you the truth. When Im watching the game, I dont look up at the board and say, Oh, thats 93 (miles per hour), thats 97. I just look at, Does he have enough out there in his hand that day? You take the ball 70 times during a season, there are going to be times when you have your A stuff. There are going to be times when youll have your B stuff. You might even have your C stuff. You still got enough to get it done. The bottom line is, (Jenks) hasnt gotten it done. But theres enough coming out of his hand to get major league hitters out.

So for the moment, Cooper continues to swim in confidence, while watching Jenks as he dog paddles in negativity. The water in Lake Michigan can be murky. The same with our local media.

When you fail, unfortunately the best story in Chicago is not a guy whos soaring, its what kind of crash hes going to make when things are not going well.

Jenks has fallen. Hell eventually get up. The question is, do you have his back, or an arrow pointed directly at it?

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.

Remember That Guy: Kelly Wunsch


Remember That Guy: Kelly Wunsch

“Has absolutely the worst delivery I have ever seen, except possibly Floyd Youmans.”

 - From The Neyer/James Guide to Pitchers (2004)

In the year 2000…

A funky sidearming lefty made his MLB debut on opening day, then went on to tie for the MLB lead with 83 appearances for the season.

That would be Kelly Wunsch. Born July 12, 1972, in Houston, Tex., Wunsch was drafted twice. First, he was drafted out of high school by the Braves in the 54th round in 1990, but opted for college. The Brewers came calling in 1993, when they selected Wunsch in the first round (26th overall) out of Texas A&M, where he majored in mechanical engineering. He was the free agent compensation pick from the Blue Jays when Toronto signed Paul Molitor.

On April 15, 1994, pitching for Beloit of the Class-A Midwest League, Wunsch made history when he struck out five batters in the third inning in a game against Springfield. He was the first minor leaguer since Ron Necciai on May 17, 1952, with five whiffs in an inning (side note – Necciai struck out 24 in that game – for the Bristol Twins in the Class-D Appalachian League… after pitching a 27-strikeout no-hitter in his previous start four days earlier).

Wunsch continued making his way through the minors. He struggled to a 5.51 ERA as a starter for Beloit (A) and Stockton (Advanced A) in 1995, then missed all of 1996 with injuries. As noted in the 2003 White Sox media guide, he “proposed to his wife in 1997 while disguised as the Class A Stockton team mascot.” The team was the Stockton “Ports,” and the mascot is apparently a large fuzzy red thing and not an actual port, though it would be interesting to see someone try to pull off dressing as a port.

In any event, Wunsch was granted free agency by the Brewers in Oct. 1999 without yet reaching the majors. One month later he signed with the White Sox as a non-roster invitee to spring training and made the team. He went on to have a great rookie season, posting a 2.93 ERA in 61 1/3 innings with 51 strikeouts and a 1.288 WHIP. He finished fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting behind Kazuhiro Sasaki, Terrence Long, Mark Quinn and Bengie Molina. His 83 games in 2000 remain a White Sox rookie record (15 more than the next highest total). The rookie lefty even appeared in three games in the 2000 ALDS against the Mariners, collecting a loss in one inning work with one unearned run allowed.

2001 was tough. Wunsch pitched to a 7.66 ERA in 33 games before shoulder surgery ended his season in June. The lefty specialist returned to the mound in May 2002 and bounced back with a 3.41 ERA in 50 games (31.2 IP). Wunsch started 2003 on fire. His sidearm funk held opponents hitless over his first nine appearances (7 IP), scoreless over his first 14 appearances (11 1/3 IP), and had a 1.15 ERA and .102 opponent batting average in 22 appearances when he suffered a strained left lat at home against the Giants. He wasn’t quite as good when he returned, walking 16 in 20 1/3 IP with a 3.98 ERA.

He made only three appearances for the White Sox in 2004; by now the lefty reliever spots belonged to Damaso Marte and Neal Cotts. He pitched fairly well with Triple-A Charlotte and signed a free agent deal with the Dodgers in 2005, where he took the mound 45 times to the tune of a 4.56 ERA. Despite an attempt to come back with the Astros in spring 2007, he never made it back to the majors.

Since 2007, Wunsch has worked as a home builder and realtor, running Kelly Wunsch Homes in Austin, Tex. He has also worked as a color analyst for the Round Rock Express on radio and television.


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New Cubs pitcher joins chorus of friends and ex-teammates defending Manny Machado in wake of 'Johnny Hustle' comments

New Cubs pitcher joins chorus of friends and ex-teammates defending Manny Machado in wake of 'Johnny Hustle' comments

GLENDALE, Ariz. — To White Sox fans worried about what kind of addition Manny Machado might be, let a Cub alleviate your concerns.

Yes, I'm aware taking advice from one of those players from the other side of town isn't White Sox fans' favorite thing to do. But new Cubs relief pitcher Brad Brach spent five seasons as Machado's teammate with the Baltimore Orioles, and he has some insight for fans bothered by Machado's postseason antics, which were headlined by his comments that hustling wasn't his "cup of tea."

"He was good," Brach told reporters Friday at Cubs camp in Mesa. "He goes out there and plays hard every day. I know obviously some quotes were said later in the playoffs, but I enjoyed him as a teammate. He's going to make anybody who has him better, and he's a once-in-a-generation talent. It's exciting to get to see that on a daily basis.

"I think seeing him every day, you really appreciate it. If you see him in a short series or seven days or something like that, you might not appreciate what he brings for 162."

These are points that have been made by others who played with Machado, but it remains important to hear from former teammates while certain segments of the White Sox fan base remain fearful of what he'll do to the clubhouse culture should he end up signing on the South Side.

It's true that Machado has a history of unseemly on-field incidents. Even before a run of them in the NLCS while playing for the Los Angeles Dodgers in October — failing to run out a ground ball, interfering with double-play attempts at second base and dragging his foot across the leg of Milwaukee Brewers first baseman Jesus Aguilar — he threw a bat and a helmet in on-field fits of frustration and executed a spikes-up slide that injured Boston Red Sox second baseman Dustin Pedroia.

The notorious "Johnny Hustle" comments have helped color Machado in the minds of many fans this offseason, and while perhaps an ultimately harmless public-relations gaffe, they generated speculation of how he would fit in with the White Sox, where manager Rick Renteria has not been shy about benching players who don't run hard to first base.

But those who know Machado best have been quick to rush to his defense. New White Sox outfielder Jon Jay, a good friend of Machado's, called him an "unbelievable worker." New White Sox first baseman/designated hitter Yonder Alonso, Machado's brother-in-law, had even more to say when he joined the team.

"We’re looking at a player, a family person, a player that wants to be better every single day, a guy that pushes everybody," Alonso said back in December. "This guy shows up every day. ... We know what this guy does. I know what he does off the field, on the field. When he shows up, he shows up ready to play every single day. He gives it everything he’s got, and at the end of the day it’s about wins, wins, wins, wins. That’s all he wants.

"I know that in his past, playoffs, things were overblown, I believe. All the people don’t see the things that nobody can see: inside that clubhouse, how he gets ready, how he prepares, bringing it every single day, every night and making guys better every single day. This guy plays hard.

"He plays really good defense. He’s been a Platinum Glove winner. We obviously all know what kind of player he is when it comes to the offensive side. To do all those things you’ve got to play hard. You’ve got to go out there and give it all you got because there’s so many talented players out there that play the game very hard. ... I believe that he’s that type of player."

Machado's talent and statistical output are obvious. More of a mystery, however, to those who haven't been in a clubhouse with him is what kind of effect he could have on a team off the field.

Those who know him, those who have played with him, continue to say he's a good teammate and a totally different player than those comments during the postseason made him seem.

Machado still hasn't made up his mind about where he'll be playing. But should he come to the White Sox, it sounds like fans won't have to worry about his presence in the clubhouse being a negative one.

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