What is it about baseball that requires/supports such a large minor-league system, compared to the NFL or NBA? Is baseball really that much more difficult to master that it takes years in the minors to improve enough to advance the major-league level? I frankly find that hard to believe. Or do the economics just "work" well enough to allow such a large system, that they do it as a luxury and another industry unto itself? John, Columbus, Ohio
Tommy Lasorda always asked if a doctor operated on 10 patients, and only three survived, would that doctor be considered a success? Then he would ask if a batter collected three hits in 10 at-bats, would he be considered a success?
The point he was trying to make was that hitting a baseball is the toughest thing to do, and therefore (in his opinion) baseball was the toughest sport. Therefore you see players needing to hone their skills in the minors.
I'm not an NBA scout, but I wish more student-athletes would stay in school longer to polish their basketball skills as well as maximize a free education. Ditto with football, although more student-athletes are redshirted and deem themselves ready after two or three years of playing. I understand a lucrative signing bonus can give their families some instant security, but sometimes players find themselves out of work within a few years after they sign.
You do see more baseball players spending less time in the minors. I'm not trying to downplay the travel of the other sports, but there is a big test of maturity when it comes to baseball players being away from home for the first time, traveling by bus in the minors and preparing to play every day.
You wrote, "I can't see Jackson being moved to closer. He's got too many good pitches to be used as a closer, and he and Danks are the two most durable pitchers in the rotation right now." I have to disagree. They're not more durable than Mark Buehrle. Maybe you can tell me has Buehrle ever going on the DL let alone missing a start? Tad Verdun, Chicago
I'm sure you point to his impressive run of 200-plus innings and 30+plus starts for 10 consecutive seasons. Those are the longest active streaks in the majors (no thanks to Joe West).
But I point to now. Buehrle finally embarked on a shoulder strengthening program a few years ago on the suggestion of pitching coach Don Cooper because of tough second halves. It helped to some extent last year, although he was 1-4 with a 5.58 ERA in his final eight starts in 2010.
During the first five weeks of the 2008 season, Buehrle had seven, six and five days of rest before three starts in an effort to ensure his health. That extra rest hasn't been afforded to Danks and Jackson.
Obviously, Danks and Jackson are much younger. Danks threw more innings than Buehrle last season, and Jackson threw 209 innings with two teams. Jackson also threw a 149-pitch no-hitter last season that I still shake my head for several reasons. I consider this a passing of the torch, although I expect Buehrle to start opening day at Cleveland on April 1 because he's deserves that honor.
I wouldn't be surprised if Jackson, not Floyd, was the No. 2 starter, followed by Danks.
While I think signing Dunn was a mistake. He's here, so where do think that leaves Viciedo? Two years In the minors trying to learn to catch the ball, or will the Sox make the mistake of trading him? I didn't know the Sox hadn't signed Freddy Garcia, Can you explain why? He was as good as anybody last year. Warren Weaver, Long Beach, Calif.
Competition for an outfield spot will be intriguing with the likes of Viciedo, Alejandro DeAza, Lastings Milledge and Brent Lillibridge. The Sox are in a win-now mode, but they don't want to stunt Viciedo's development. I still think he'll play a role on the major league roster at some point. Young power is hard to find.
I don't blame Freddy for signing with the Yankees. Once Peavy returns, the rotation will be set, and Freddy isn't a long reliever.
I'm sure you spoke to Mark Buehrle during SoxFest. Is he still inclined towards retirement after this season? He might not be an ace any longer, but he's still a serviceable workhorse. Your guess on the odds of his playing more ball on the South Side after 2011? Might he transition to a closer like Smoltz did? It could work fine if most of his first innings have been scoreless ones. I'd like to see him stay with his attitude and work ethic.Michael, South Florida
I was somewhat surprised to hear Mark keep the door open toward returning. The end of the 2011 season is a long way away, and the shoulder strengthening program seemed to invigorate him.
But it's a long season, he's logged a lot of innings and he values his family life very highly. I can't see him shifting to a closer role, but there are many variables involving the state of the Sox's rotation in 2012.
Welcome to 2011, here we go: I can't see the Sox going the whole season with Thornton, Santos, Crain, and Ohman sharing the closer role. I predict they'll move someone for a "real" closer. If Viciedo can handle the outfield, are we looking at Quentin being moved at some point? (If you're reading this Kenny, please keep Sale as a starter!) Cliff Jordan, Chicago
I'd like to see Carlos stay healthy enough to get 500 at-bats and see where his numbers are at the end of the season. There might be a temptation to move a player to acquire a closer or address a glaring weakness.
A smooth transition to the outfield by Viciedo could give the Sox quality depth and some flexibility to make a mid-season move to address a need.
Gregori Infante's name hasn't been mentioned often this winter. He's got a powerful arm that could give the Sox a lift similar to what Bobby Jenks provided in 2005, but I'm not sure Infante throws strikes with enough consistency yet.
Do you think Chris Sale will ultimately be a starter? Jeff, Palatine, Ill.
Yes, I think that's his long-term destination.
I was curious to know who the two jerks on the '96 S.F. Giants were? Garrett R. CraigScottsdale, Ariz.
I didn't refer to them as jerks, but they're not on my holiday card list. Mel Hall was known for chiming in and interrupting interviews. Last time I checked, he was sentenced in 2009 to 45 years in prison. The other player who was difficult to deal with was Jeff Juden, who was waived at mid-season.
What are the Sox's plans with former first-round pick Jared Mitchell, I know he is coming off an injury. Mike, Delray Beach Fla.
Jared Mitchell will report to spring training with the rest of the Sox's minor leagues. I think this is a good idea as he needs to get some plenty of quality playing time and regain his timing at the plate.
He looked rusty in the Arizona Fall League but that was understandable with his long layoff after the injury. I'm not sure that he's ready to take over for Juan Pierre in 2012, but he will receive plenty of opportunities to make up for lost time. He showed plenty of promise before his injury.
Mike, if you see my brother-in-law, tell him to check in with me. You'll see him at the Delray Beach Golf Course.
I've never been to spring training. Can fans go to Camelback Ranch and see baseball workouts when there isn't a game going on? Is there an admission price to Camelback when there isn't a game? What's a typical day like there for the fans? Kurt Livingston, Marion, Iowa
Kurt, spring training is one of the best bargains for fans, especially before the games start. There's no admission price to watch the workouts, although fans have a more up-close view of the Dodgers' workouts at Camelback Ranch.
The workouts start shortly after 9:40 a.m. and often last just past noon, depending on how much work and fundamentals they wish to address.
Don Cooper made the comment last year that he was not surprised about the Stephen Strasburg injury due to his throwing style. That is what concerns me about Chris Sale being a starter. It appears that there is a tremendous strain on the kid's arm with his motion. I don't see him holding up for long. What is your take on that and has Coop commented on that? Also, where is Tadahito Iguchi these days? See you all at Camelback in February. Mark Blewitt, Buckeye, Ariz.
Mark, glad to hear that temperatures are warming in the Valley (although I can't complain since I was in Kaua'i during the blizzard here last week).
The first time I saw Sale on video (one month before the draft), I thought about the same issue as you did. But I've watched him more closely and have few concerns because he does an exceptional job of throwing from the same arm slot. His body can take more muscle (his father is a big man, according to the Sox's staff), so I think he'll hold up well.
Iguchi played for the Chiba Lotte Marines last year.
Do you the Sox are done dealing, or do you think that there could be a major trade before the end of spring training? Bill Wiggins, Rockville,Va.
I think much depends on the progress of Peavy, but pitching and health will dictate a lot. I'm of the belief a proposal must be overwhelming for the Sox to make a trade.
Some times the smallest trades look big later. Look at the Matt Thornton-for-Joe Borchard deal in late March of 2006.
How surprised are you that the payroll jumped to $ 130 million? How much do you think the fact that Reinsdorf is getting up in age and wants to win it one more time factored into the move? Irv Kaage, Park Ridge
I was very shocked, only because the last time the Sox increased their payroll this much came after they won the World Series, and they had the revenues stemming from that title to re-invest in their product (with Thome and Vazquez).
I think the Chairman has wanted to win badly since the last World Series. But to his credit, I haven't seen him slowing down. And he's rebounding from hernia surgery.
Do you think that Anthony Carter will be given the opportunity to be the closer for the White Sox this season? At the very least, would you expect him to be a part of this year's bullpen? Paul Dunne, Cornish, N.H.
I don't think Carter is in the picture yet, but he made a favorable impression last season. He made a remarkable transition to the bullpen, and that's one of the fastest ways to advance to the majors.
He and Infante could fortify the bullpen at mid-season if needed.
Hey, whatever happened to Old Timers games? Have the Sox run out of old timers? I can only imagine what guys like Greg "The Bull" Luzinski and Ed Herrmann look like now that they've had a few years to get out of shape. Senor Sock, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
The Sox have a pretty strong alumni group, so it might be time to resurrect an OId Timers Game. I'd like to see Rudy Law and maybe some players from the 1970s, such as Eric Soderholm and Ron Blomberg.
How is Jake Peavy really doing? Tony Liga, Sarasota, Fla.
Jake reported he is up to 40 pitches at about 60 to 70 percent. It's not unrealistic to think he could be ready by April 6. That's when the Sox will need a fifth starter.
But my assumption, based on what general manager Ken Williams said last month as well as Peavy's recent health issues, is that Peavy might not join the rotation until sometime during the second half of April.
With Teahen, Viciedo, and Morel competing for the third base position, why not trade Teahen for some more pitching backup? We can always use pitching in case some of the bullpen guys get hurt. I like Morel for third base and believe he will develop into a great player. As for Teahen, he just doesn't cut it. I'm sure there are more Sox fans that feel the same. What are your thoughts on this? Dan Moreno, Chicago
Teahen will earn $10.25 million over the next two seasons and is coming off an injury-plagued, defensively-challenged 2010 season, so it will be tough to attract another team unless they need a third baseman or can afford a pricy but versatile player.
It's going to be a challenge for Ozzie Guillen and the coaching staff to get Teahen enough at-bats unless Morel struggles from the outset, since third base is Morel's job to lose. But all it takes is one team to suffer an injury for the landscape to change.
How do you see the Sox using Viciedo in the end? Do you think he'll get a shot to be a corner outfielder? Can he handle the job defensively? Lindsey Brown, Woodhull, Ill.
I think much of Viciedo's work in spring training will be devoted to playing the outfield and working on pitch selection/recognition.
His arm is strong enough to play right field. If he works hard at it, I think he's capable of making the transition.
Mark, It's obvious by now that no team has shown enough interest to take a chance on Jermaine Dye. When can we expect to see his official retirement announcement? William J. Wermes III, Elmhurst
I thought he would have been a good fit with the Los Angeles Dodgers but read that he wanted a major league deal after not playing in 2010.
I also read that he is contemplating retirement if he doesn't sign by spring training. If this is the case, it would be a disappointing end to a guy who played the game the right way and didn't cheat the game.
I took a look at some of the 'expert' evaluations of the Top 100 prospects recently and don't see much reason to believe the Sox are capable of reloading through the farm system. While I realize the farm system can supply the majors - by trading talent as well as developing it, and that KW learned about talent evaluation from Roland Hemond, do the Sox know something everybody else doesn't...or is it the other way around? Al Bloom, Montgomery, Ala.
I look at this as a high-wire act when prospects are often traded to acquire more proven players for the stretch drive. In the past three seasons, the Sox always have taken a shot at adding players for a playoff push. It hasn't worked all the time, but you can't blame them for trying.
The Sox aren't much different than some organizations of the past. The Yankees traded prospects in the 1980s, the Giants in the late 1990s and earlier this decade.
Let me run this scenario by you: How would the Sox fare for the future if they kept their prospects and kept their 2011 team intact so that in 2012 their rotation would consist of Danks, Floyd, Peavy and Sale (all under contract or under team control) and Charlie Leesman nearly major league ready, with Infante and Carter ready to make contributions in the bullpen, and Viciedo, Mitchell and Jordan Danks ready to make contributions?
I know this is a best-case scenario as it relates to the prospects, but I thought this was something to consider.
Who in the Sox's 40-man roster who would be considered in a "bubble" position are out of options? De Aza, Lillibridge, Humber, Marquez, and Dolsi might fall in this category and this could affect whether they are on the final 25 man roster. Chuck Clarke, Beulah, Mich.
This is one of the most important questions of spring training, and I'm glad you asked.
DeAza and Dolsi have one option left. Lillibridge, Humber and Marquez are out of options.
The Sox claim they've always taken the best 25-man roster. Ozzie made an interesting comment at SoxFest about Lillibridge playing better in the outfield than the infield, and Lillibridge can play three infield positions. So we'll see if he fits especially since Vizquel can play the same infield positions.
I was really surprised at Gordon Beckham's extended slump last year. He was so solid his rookie year. His work ethic and confidence are strong. Do you see him still as a .300 career guy or is he somewhere between that and his slump? John Jentsch, Bethesda, Md.
I see him as more of a run producer than a .300 hitter. But he's got a chance to hit for a higher average in the second spot with Dunn, Konerko and Rios hitting behind him.
As a kid growing up in the 60's, Gary Peters was my favorite player. As a great pitcher as he was, I really liked him batting and pinch hitting. I can remember watching him pinch hit in the 9th inning and hitting a grand slam. How many home runs did he hit for the White Sox? Is he still connected to the White Sox? Dan Douglass, Sullivan, Wis.
Peters batted .222 with 19 home runs, including four in 1964. He attended 2010 SoxFest.
My question concerns Edwin Jackson. He had a great short tour with the Sox in 2010, but we all know Scott Boras is his agent, so the sky is the limit when he becomes a free agent at the end of this year. Do you think the Sox will move him during the season, and if so, what do you think they would be looking at in return -- a third baseman perhaps? Phil K., Mildenhall, England
There's a chance he could be moved during the season, and I'd expect the Sox to get a little more in value than what they dealt (Daniel Hudson) to acquire him.
I think young pitching remains the Sox's main thrust, along with some middle infield help, if they make a deal. They won't have a first round pick, so young talent is essential.
I was wondering what will happen in the nine Interleague NL games? I know it is far ahead, but will the Sox put Dunn out in left or right field, or will he be strictly a 1B/DH for the Sox? Pat E, Wheaton, Ill.
I'd expect Dunn to play a game or two at first, and maybe a game or two in the outfield (yes), depending on the matchup.
Ozzie said that Konerko was very tired at the end of the 2010 season, so you can expect Dunn to play more at first than originally anticipated.
What's the status of the minor league system? Do the Sox have any potential help coming this year or next? We might need help to fill in the pitching staff. Jeff Smith, Sycamore, Ill.
At the higher levels, the Sox need pitchers like Infante, Carter and Leesman and infielder Eduardo Escobar to continue their progress, and Jordan Danks and Tyler Flowers to rebound,
I'm curious to see how Mitchell and Phegley rebound from their ailments, and watching the development of Trayce Thompson and Michael Blanke.
They still could use another productive draft, which will be a challenge since they don't have a first round pick.
Jerry Krause just won "Scout of the Year". I assume this award is measured by his success in signing players. Who are the players that got the attention of the voters? Can you tell us something about them? Peter, Dallas
Jerry has been a scout since the Dead Sea was sick. I first met him in 1984 and followed him with former sportswriter Merv Harris (who knew Jerry from their Lakers days in the late '60s, early 70s and had a friendship with Wilt Chamberlain) to a junior college game and a UCLA-Stanford game in the same day.
Prior to that day. Jerry already had been involved in the signings of a young Ed Farmer and the acquisition of Greg Walker.
The award speaks to his longevity and passion as a scout, and I'd expect him to sign some prospects from Latin America soon. As I wrote in this forum last month, the process to ''sign'' players is more lengthy as MLB wants to make sure that players' ages are legitimate.
Are the Sox retaining a hypnotist or psychiatrist as a personal coach for Lastings Milledge? Seriously, this guy is dubious at best. Talented? Yes. Able to get along with other human beings? I wonder. John Browning, Flemington N.J.
The Sox love to take chances on talented players who have struggled elsewhere. They got a lot of mileage out of Bobby Jenks. I think many unfairly ganged up on A.J. Pierzynski in San Francisco.
This move might not work, but he adds depth as an outfielder at Triple-A Charlotte, at the very worst. He could be the fourth outfielder if he fulfills a semblance of his potential and doesn't get in trouble.
Who are the three "most fun" guys on the current White Sox roster? Don Voss, Aurora, Ill.
"Fun" can be interpreted in many ways. Some people thought Brian Anderson was fun, but his act wore on me after a few years and a teammate rolled his eyes when asked two years ago about Anderson's antics.
I enjoy talking with A.J. about college football, umpires and opposing pitchers (in that order). Buehrle has a great sense of humor, and I like that Matt Thornton jabs Ed Farmer about knowing Brian Kelly well before Farmer did and well before Kelly became Notre Dame's head football coach.
Michael Young is asking for a trade from the Rangers. Any chance the White Sox can make a deal for him? We have excessive starting pitching to offer and some talented infield prospects such as Eduardo Escobar, who won't have a position with the Sox for some time to come. Michael Young would anchor our infield and give the Sox an awesome offensive lineup. Mike Mucker, Wichita Falls, Texas
The White Sox reportedly aren't on Young's list of teams that he would consent to a trade to. He also will earn $16 million over each of the next three seasons.
Young is 34, and I think the Sox would like to see Brent Morel be their third baseman for many years to come.Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun