White Sox

Sox Drawer: Williams says no to Pujols, 'insanity'

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Sox Drawer: Williams says no to Pujols, 'insanity'

Monday, Feb. 21, 2011Posted: 4:30 p.m.
By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

GLENDALE, Ariz-- Kenny Williams said he wanted peace and quiet at spring training this season. No drama. No controversies. Just baseball and sunshine.

Well, it was good while it lasted.

With the White Sox in position to contend for an AL Central title, there is an undercurrent of hostility boiling inside him. It has nothing to do with Ozzie or Twitter. But instead, the face of baseball, Albert Pujols.

The Cardinals slugger might be thousands of miles away from Glendale, but with talk that he might command around 30 million a year when his contract runs out or re-signs with the Cardinals, Williams has looked at the present and into the future, and he doesnt like what he sees.

Consider this his warning shot to the rest of the league.

For the games health as a whole, when were talking about 30 million dollar players, I think its asinine, Williams said in an interview with Comcast SportsNet. We have gotten to the point of no return. Something has to happen. And if it means the game being shut down for the sake of bringing sanity to it, to franchises that arent going to stop the insanity, Im all for it.

Considering the White Sox just raised their payroll for 2011 to around 125 million, a franchise record, one could say that Williams is just as guilty as the other big market teams who are contributing to the escalating salaries. But Williams is simply playing by the rules that the league set forth, a system without a salary cap, that gives big market teams a significant advantage over the smaller teams.

And get this: its a luxury Williams says he doesnt even want.

I personally, from a competitive standpoint, would love to be on an even playing field with everyone, Williams said. But its really difficult for me to complain too much when we still have a higher payroll than some of the others. So at least we have a fighting chance.

Pirates, Royals, Marlins...Kenny Williams is looking out for you. And hes not the only one.
Jerry Reinsdorf put it best when he and I had a conversation about it, he said, Its a shame that our game is played, and when the game starts, everybody plays under the same rules, the same 27 outs. The problem is, before the game, the rules are completely different.

Compare the Pujols situation to the NBA, where there's a salary cap. When LeBron James became a free agent last summer, the Cleveland Cavaliers, a small market team, had the money and ability to re-sign James. Forget about LeBrons intentions about where he actually wanted to play, but finances were never the issue for the Cavaliers.

But in baseball, what kind of shot do the Cleveland Indians have in signing Pujols? Zero.

If Pujols does hit the open market, only a handful of teams will be able to afford him. Would the White Sox go after him? The answer is no. Not at that price.

If (Jerry Reinsdorf) gave me 30 million dollars right now, Im not going to spend it on one guy. Sorry White Sox fans, Williams said. But I tell you what, Im going to take that 30 million and Im going to distribute it around. My team is going to be better as a whole than it is with one player who might get hurt. Then youre done. Sorry, thats just me. And thats no disrespect to a future Hall of Famer, first ballot, one of the greatest players in history.

Where is all of this headed? Nobody knows. Kenny Williams doesnt. But hes prepared for the worst-case scenario, which he believes might be the best-case scenario for the health of the league.

Youre not going to get any disagreement from me or argument from me if the game is shut down for a while until something is put in place where there is some sort of cap on the board, Williams said.

Do you think the game might get shut down?

Listen I love the game, I love the game for the players and the fans, but in order for the game to continue to be affordable for families, for guys who are hard-working guys busting their butts everyday to take their kids to a ballgame...well, hell yeah. Yes. Im okay with it being shut down.

Then Williams remembered something.

Wait a minute, didnt I say I wanted it quiet, I wanted peace? Let me shut the hell up already. I was hoping no one would ask me that this entire spring training.

And the drama begins again.

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.

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

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USA TODAY

Adjust your White Sox free-agent wish list? Gerrit Cole's teammates predict he'll land in California

Gerrit Cole is rightfully at the top of many White Sox fans' free-agent wish list. But might those hopes already need adjusting?

Cole looks to be on track to land the richest pitching contract in baseball history when he hits free agency after the Houston Astros' playoff run is over. The White Sox are shopping for starting pitching, and what team wouldn't love to top their rotation with the guy who might be awarded the AL Cy Young?

But whether or not you're part of the Twitter-using faction of White Sox fans that believe the team would never spend such money to land a pitcher the caliber of Cole, it might not matter.

USA Today's Bob Nightengale spoke to a couple of Cole's fellow Astros, and they told him they think Cole will end up playing in California. The South Side, at least in the Astros' clubhouse, it seems, is not a betting favorite.

"It will be west of Nevada," outfielder Josh Reddick said. "We know he wants to be a West Coast guy. He’s a California guy, so he probably wants to be close to home. I know he mentioned Oakland a couple of times because of how he’s pitched there in the past. ... But that probably won’t happen. They’d have to clear the whole roster to afford him."

"I got the Angels," pitcher Wade Miley said, "and paying him at least $250 million."

Well then.

Certainly the Los Angeles Angels are not a new suggestion in the "where will Cole sign" discussion. Cole went to high school a 10-minute drive from Angel Stadium and pitched his college ball at UCLA. The Oakland Athletics? That's a new one.

Anyway, a lot of White Sox fans are probably out there thinking "here we go again" as we begin poring over every bit of minutiae in this winter's free-agent market, just like we did last offseason, when Manny Machado and Bryce Harper were both out there for the signing — and both White Sox targets. That months-long reading of the tea leaves, of course, was all kicked off when MLB Network's Jon Morosi reported the White Sox interest during the GM Meetings in November.

So far, there's nothing out there connecting the White Sox to Cole besides pure speculation, that and the fact that Rick Hahn has said his front office will be in the market for starting pitching. Cole, being a starting pitcher, fits the minimum requirement as a potential target.

In fact, in listing a boatload of teams that might make a run at Cole this winter, Nightengale left the White Sox out. He mentioned four of the five California-based teams: the Angels, the Los Angeles Dodgers, the San Francisco Giants and every White Sox fan's favorite, the San Diego Padres, who landed Machado back in February. He also mentioned the Astros, the New York Yankees (who Cole will pitch against in game 3 of the ALCS on Tuesday), the St. Louis Cardinals, the Washington Nationals and the Texas Rangers.

No White Sox.

There are plenty of other variables in this sweepstakes than just geography, and chief among them figures to be money. The White Sox have plenty of financial flexibility gained as a goal of the ongoing rebuilding process, but Hahn said that's not the most attractive element when it comes to free agents signing up to play on the South Side.

"The biggest advantage we have is the talent base we've accumulated so far and the excitement to come and be part of that," Hahn said during his end-of-season press conference last month. "We do have some economic flexibility. That was part of the plan from the start. But I think if you're looking at advantages, a lot of teams have money. A lot of teams don't offer the ability to play with some of the players that are joining us here already and joining in the coming years and the opportunity to win a championship in a city like Chicago."

Whether that appeals to Cole or whether the White Sox will set their sights elsewhere remains to be seen. Certainly his fellow Astros' predictions aren't the be all, end all. Remember last winter when it was a foregone conclusion Machado would be a Yankee because he was a fan of that team growing up? Didn't work out that way. (It's here that I'll mention a pretty cool nugget in Nightengale's piece about Cole sitting in the front row cheering on the Yankees during the 2001 World Series. Is he destined to wear pinstripes because of it? No.)

For the White Sox, they certainly should chase Cole, who would count as the biggest free-agent splash in team history and do a heck of a lot to vault the team out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode. But Hahn is hoping that whichever players he lands this winter can do that, along with the team's talented young core, and there are plenty of starting-pitching options out there not named Gerrit Cole: Madison Bumgarner, Dallas Keuchel, Hyun-Jin Ryu, Zack Wheeler and maybe even Stephen Strasburg. It's an impressive list of possibilities, one that remains impressive for the White Sox even if they fail to meet any imaginary Golden State requirement from Cole.

Even as Cole readies to face off against the Yankees in the ALCS, attempting to go 19-0 since he lost to the White Sox on May 22, his role as the star of the hot stove season is already beginning.

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MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

MLB'ers think Lucas Giolito was one of the comeback-iest players in baseball this year

It isn't "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, but it is "an" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award.

The MLB Players Association announced Monday that White Sox hurler Lucas Giolito is a finalist for its "Players Choice" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award, voted on by the game's players. He was joined by outfielders Hunter Pence of the Texas Rangers and Jorge Soler of the Kansas City Royals. On the NL side, the three finalists were Atlanta Braves third baseman Josh Donaldson, Cincinnati Reds pitcher Sonny Gray and Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu.

The whole "voted on by your peers" element is pretty cool, as certainly they know how different the 2019 version of Giolito was from the one they saw a year earlier. James McCann, who played against Giolito as a Detroit Tiger in 2018 and then caught him as the White Sox backstop in 2019, constantly talked about how transformed Giolito was from one year to the next.

A totally different pitcher.

That's precisely what Giolito seemed like to us non-player types, too, after he went from the worst statistics of any qualified pitcher in 2018 to an All Star and the ace of the South Side staff in 2019.

Giolito gave up more earned runs than any pitcher in the game in 2018, also leading the AL in walks during a season he finished with a 6.13 ERA. Then he went to work in the offseason, making mechanical changes and overhauling his mental approach to the game. It resulted in the kind of breakout season the prognosticators foresaw when they ranked him the No. 1 pitching prospect in baseball once upon a time.

In 2019, Giolito posted a 3.41 ERA, went to the All-Star Game, struck out a whopping 228 batters — that particular feat accomplished by only two other pitchers in White Sox history — and will likely place somewhere in the AL Cy Young vote.

His season was highlighted by a pair of complete-game shutouts against two of the best teams in baseball, the Houston Astros and Minnesota Twins. Both shutouts came against 100-win teams on their own turf.

Presumably some Astros and Twins threw a few votes Giolito's way.

Giolito's status when it comes to "the" AL Comeback Player of the Year Award will be revealed next month, after the World Series is over. But for now, this is a pretty cool feather in the cap for him, another example of how far he's come.

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