White Sox

Sox Drawer: Ozzie Guillen Exclusive Interview

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Sox Drawer: Ozzie Guillen Exclusive Interview

Monday, October 5th
Theres a clubhouse filled with more boxes than humans.

Theres an outfield without any grass, just layers and layers of dirt.

This was the U.S. Cellular Field Ozzie Guillen entered on Monday morning, there to visit his office one final time before going home for the winter. His White Sox season over. Speculation for next season just beginning.

And he had a lot on his mind.

Fortunately, we brought along a camera and microphone.

Before his team took the field on Sunday, Guillen had two overwhelming thoughts.

One, he didnt want a front row seat to the Tigers celebrating a Central Division title. And two, he was concerned about one of his players who wouldnt, or should I say, couldnt even look at him.

That was Jermaine Dye.

Over the last two months, Guillen has repeatedly said that Dye is one of his all-time favorite players. But the soon-to-be-free agent likely will not be re-signed.

Ozzie knows it.

So does Jermaine.

And considering their tight relationship over the last four years, they were both having trouble coming to grips with the painful reality that Guillen was probably managing Dye for the very last time.

It was kind of hard when I was thinking about JD, Ozzie told Comcast SportsNet. And I dont think JD wanted to have eye contact with me. I dont think it was one of the hardest things I ever went through with the players, because I went through a lot, but when JD said to me before the game that this might be the last game Im going to play for you, I dont want to say that it was creepy, but kind of. I got a lot of feelings out there.

So in your gut, has Dye played his last game with the White Sox?

Yes, because our budget is going to be pretty tight. Thats the only reason. Do we want JD here? Of course. Kenny Williams loves him. Jerry Reinsdorf loves him. The fans ... hes one of my favorite players. The relationship between JD, his family, and myself was pretty special. And thats why it was kind of hard for me to maybe not see him again in a White Sox uniform.

Dye might be gone, but after Sundays season-ending defeat, Guillen was impressed by several players who are coming back.

Jake Peavy walked into Ozzies office, and even though it was completely out of his control, he apologized to Guillen for not being able to pitch when the Sox traded for him, and promised that hell be ready when Spring Training begins in February.

Paul Konerko also offered a mea culpa, telling Ozzie, sorry we let you down.

Gordon Beckham thanked his manager for giving him the opportunity to play 103 games, less than a year after being drafted by the White Sox out of the University of Georgia. Guillen said he told his rookie phenom, I didnt give you the opportunity, you did it yourself.

His players humility left a deep impression.

That was the first time Ive ever felt that way with the players because they expressed themselves, Guillen said. They expressed themselves about the way they felt about the season, and it's something I will talk to Kenny and Jerry Reinsdorf about what they say and youre always pleased by the way they were thinking.

Whos Guillens MVP?

We can talk about Scott Podsednik. But I think its DJ Carrasco. A lot of people say, 'Well the MVP is the person who has the best numbers.' Well, the managers MVP is the guy who helped him out the most. When I said in 2005 that Tadahito Iguchi was my MVP, people didnt believe me. Carrasco was picking garbage from everybody.

Guillen and Kenny Williams will speak frequently over the offseason. They had a 15-minute conversation inside the Sox lunchroom on Monday. Fans have a laundry list of players they want the Sox GM to sign for next year, as we saw by all of your comments here last week.

Sign Chone Figgins.
Trade for Carl Crawford.
Add Matt Holiday.
Deal Bobby Jenks.

Etc, etc, etc.

But when I asked Guillen if he could go to Kenny and say, I need one thing this offseason, what is it? he replied:

Sign Mark Kotsay.

But what about from the outside? What else do you need?

I dont have the title, but there are two things. If we sign Podsednik, then were almost set. If we dont sign Podsednik, then well need speed at the top of the lineup. A lot of people think about Chone Figgins. Well, Figgins is going to cost a lot of money. Behind Figgins there are going to be 30 teams. And when you have 30 teams, its like going fishing and there are 30 boats out there to catch one fish. Well, good luck.

And good luck to Jayson Nix and Brent Lillibridge, who struggled mightily at the plate this season, and will definitely have to improve if they hope to make the club next season. Guillen said he sent messages to both rookies.

They dont play the way they have to play," he said. "They struck out too much. Offensively, they want to play a big man game when theyre little. If they do that, theyre not going to go with me, because we need those guys to be better offensively than we had this year.

Probably the biggest surprise from our 25-minute interview was Guillens admission that he doesnt just answer fan e-mails, but that he has actually used some of your ideas in ballgames.

Said Ozzie, I put Carlos Quentin third in the lineup one time because we were desperate about something. One fan wrote it in, and I put him in third. I put A.J. Pierzynski batting second. Some idiot from Joilet. I said, Maybe this guy knows more than me. And we did. And we win with him!

Did you thank him?

Ozzie answered sarcastically, No, because I didnt want to give him the credit.
Part 2 of our conversation runs Tuesday at 6:30, 10:00 p.m. and midnight.

Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

Believe in 'Magic': For White Sox, a matter of when, not if, Nick Madrigal starts raking in the majors

When will Nick Madrigal reach the majors?

That, now that Luis Robert's path to an Opening Day roster spot has been cleared by a big-money contract extension, is the most pressing of the prospect-related queries facing the 2020 White Sox, a team that, it should be noted, will be turning its focus away from the minors and toward playing big league baseball in October for the first time in more than a decade.

Not unlike Robert, Madrigal shredded minor league pitching in 2019, playing at three levels and showing just how successful his elite bat-to-ball skills can make him as an offensive producer. He stepped to the plate 532 times and struck out only 16 times.

There's a reason even Rick Renteria is already calling the 22-year-old "Magic."

The general feeling seems to be that Madrigal will start the season at Triple-A Charlotte, though with the waiting game apparently over on the South Side and the intent to win as many games as possible, perhaps a strong showing at spring training will see Madrigal starting at second base in the March 26 opener.

That's a question better answered after the White Sox have been in Glendale for a few weeks.

But Madrigal's goal is clear.

"I definitely want to be in Chicago as soon as I can," Madrigal said earlier this week at the team's hitters' camp out in the desert. "I know they have a plan for me one way or another, but I think that’s the ultimate goal: being in Chicago and winning with that team.

"I know this offseason there’s been a lot of moves, and I’m excited to be a part of that, hopefully, in the near future. The ultimate goal is winning. There’s nothing else at this point."

Madrigal might not have blown the doors off the minors like Robert, who finished with a 30-30 season, but he wasn't fazed by climbing through the system. Madrigal put up good-not-great numbers in nearly 50 games at Class A Winston-Salem but exploded for a .341 batting average and a .400 on-base percentage in 42 games at Double-A Birmingham before batting .331 and reaching base at a .398 clip in 29 games at Charlotte.

That he didn't even reach 30 games in a Knights uniform could signal that the White Sox might prefer a little more seasoning, but he didn't see any problems facing the pitching at Triple-A.

“Honestly, it wasn’t too different at all. There was nothing I hadn’t seen before," he said. "There were some older guys in the league, more consistent arms. I thought it wasn’t anything too different.”

Madrigal's earning high praise all over the place, rated among the best prospects in the game. He's earned rave reviews for his ability on both sides of the ball, picked by team executives (in an MLB Pipeline poll) as having one of the best hit tools and gloves of any player in the minor leagues.

There still might be some skepticism, or perhaps mere curiosity, as to how Madrigal's skill set will translate to the major leagues. Players like him, who focus on making contact and putting the ball in play, are becoming rarer in today's game, which sees a focus on power and launch angle and an acceptance of strikeouts. His manager, one of "Magic's" biggest fans, isn't too concerned about Madrigal finding success once he finally makes the jump to the bigs.

"Watching him swing the bat yesterday, I'm amazed at his bat-to-ball skills. It's incredible," Renteria said Wednesday from Arizona. "He's actually filling out a little bit more. All these guys, we've seen them for the last four years, they're growing up. And even though Magic just joined us last year, you can see a difference in him, physically speaking.

"I think his skill set, in terms of his bat-to-ball skills, as he continues to develop, you may see a ball leave the ballpark here and there. But the fact he can put the bat on the ball and manage the barrel as well as he does, he'll be able to find holes. Continuing to improve upon and cleaning his swing path, staying through the ball a little bit more and still being able to use all parts of the field, his skill set will play. He'll find a way to get on base at a high rate through probably contact and eye recognition, pitch recognition."

Rick Hahn has said that he expects Madrigal to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign, so even if he doesn't make the 26-man roster out of spring training, keep your eyes peeled for a Madrigal sighting not too deep into the baseball calendar.

This is a matter of when, not if. So the walk-up music folks at Guaranteed Rate Field better start getting ready. Will it be "Magic Man" by Heart? Or "Strange Magic" by Electric Light Orchestra? "Do You Believe in Magic" by The Lovin' Spoonful is, of course, also acceptable.

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Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

Focus shifting to major league White Sox, but they still have some of baseball's best prospects

White Sox fans suddenly have reason to stop focusing on the minor leagues.

Rick Hahn's front office has done an incredible amount of work this winter adding impact veterans to the team's young core, and because of it, there are realistic playoff expectations on the South Side. The summer figures to be spent focusing on what Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease are doing at the major league level rather than what the potential stars of the future are doing in the minors.

In other words, the future is here.

But it's worth noting that the White Sox still have some of the best prospects in the game. It's true that a few of the biggest names among that group won't be prospects for much longer. Luis Robert just got a high-priced contract extension that clears the way for him to be in the lineup on Opening Day. While Michael Kopech will be limited in some fashion as the White Sox manage his workload in his return from Tommy John surgery, it's hardly out of the question that he could be a part of the 26-man group that leaves Glendale at the end of March. And Nick Madrigal, Hahn has said, figures to be the White Sox second baseman for the bulk of the 2020 campaign after he reached the doorstep of the majors last year.

The point is, however, that the White Sox core is not done growing. Moncada, Giolito, Anderson and Jimenez all broke out in big ways in 2019, and the veterans added to that group could push the team into contention mode as soon as this season. But Robert, Kopech, Madrigal and Andrew Vaughn are set to join that core, too, expanding it to one the White Sox hope will power championship contenders for years to come.

The Athletic's Jim Bowden ranked Robert as his No. 1 prospect in baseball, picking the 22-year-old center fielder to win the AL Rookie of the Year Award. And that's no stretch after the way Robert lit the minor leagues on fire in 2019. Playing at three different levels, he slashed .328/.376/.624 with 32 home runs, 92 RBIs, 31 doubles, 108 runs scored and 36 stolen bases. He's a true five-tool threat who receives rave reviews that peg him as potentially the best of all the White Sox young talent. MLB Pipeline is in the middle of rolling out their rankings ahead of the 2020 season, and we'll learn where Robert ranks on the site's updated list next weekend during SoxFest. But most recently, Robert was the site's No. 3 prospect in the game.

Kopech still has prospect status despite the fact that he made his big league debut in August 2018. That Tommy John surgery limited his major league experience to this point to just four games, wiping out his 2019 season. Whether he'll be the same elite pitcher that was promised prior to his surgery is one of several important questions facing the 2020 White Sox, but it doesn't seem to be deterring the rankers. Bowden has Kopech as the No. 11 prospect in baseball, and MLB Pipeline ranked him as the No. 4 right-handed pitching prospect in the game. Kopech is said to still be capable of unleashing the blazing fastball that made him such a tantalizing prospect in the first place. The big question now is how often he'll be able to use it, with the White Sox planning to limit him in some capacity. We'll have to wait until spring to find out exactly what those limitations look like.

Madrigal might not spend a long time at Triple-A Charlotte, expected to be manning second base for the big league White Sox for the majority of the 2020 season. But like they did with Moncada, Jimenez and Robert before him, the White Sox have no plans to rush Madrigal to the majors. Bowden has him ranked as the No. 14 prospect in the game, and we'll find out soon where MLB Pipeline has him among second basemen. We already know they think the world of his glove — which was touted as Gold Glove caliber by the White Sox the night they drafted him in 2018 — naming him the second baseman on their all-defense team (he won a minor league Gold Glove for his work last season, too). MLB Pipeline also polled general managers, scouting directors and executives across all 30 teams, and Madrigal's name popped up often, voted to possess the third best hit tool, the third best glove and the highest baseball IQ among all of the game's prospects. The guy struck out just 16 times in 532 trips to the plate last season, so he's obviously doing something right.

Vaughn is receiving similarly rave reviews this winter. Bowden ranked him as the game's No. 35 prospect, and MLB Pipeline might end up putting the White Sox most recent first-round pick even higher, naming him the top first-base prospect in baseball. A slugger whose bat earned high praise when he came out of Cal last summer, Vaughn might not reach the South Side in 2020 like the rest of the guys discussed here. But he does figure to have a similar impact when he finally does. He played just 52 games between Class A Kannapolis and Class A Winston-Salem after joining the organization, hitting a combined five homers at those stops. He's still swinging the bat that launched 50 homers and drove in 163 runs over three seasons in college. That aforementioned MLB Pipeline executive poll? In it, Vaughn was picked as having the second best hit tool in the game. The White Sox just gave Abreu a three-year contract extension that will keep him on the South Side through at least the 2022 campaign, but the 37-year-old Encarnacion could be here as briefly as one year (his contract has an option for 2021), potentially opening up a spot for Vaughn should everything go right in the minors.

And this is without even mentioning guys like Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert and Jonathan Stiever, who could all wind up playing important roles on the pitching staff.

So while there is plenty of reason for your minor league interest to wane — because meaningful baseball is expected to be happening at the major league level in 2020 — know that the White Sox farm system (at least the tippy top of it) is still worth salivating over. These guys should be on the South Side soon, only adding fuel to the fire Hahn has built this winter.

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