The Tribune's White Sox writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, Josh Fields' chances of spelling Joe Crede, a scouting report on Aaron Rowand and whether the Sox will show some fire in Minnesota.
Mark, now that Joe Crede's back is worse and his chances of staying with the Sox long-term are even dimmer, what's up with Josh Fields? Is he playing third in the minors, or is he in the outfield? Are there any recent indications he could be Crede's worthy successor? --Danny Kramer, Steamboat, Colo.
With Crede's back still giving him fits, is it time to sit him down for a rest and take a long look at Josh Fields? --Doug, Westwood, Kan.
Mark, would the Sox ever think about bringing up Josh Fields to play some third while Joe Crede is sidelined with his back injury? I cannot help but think he would be an upgrade from Pablo Ozuna defensively and at this point, offensively as well. --Derek, Chicago
The fact that Joe's back is acting up this early isn't a good sign, although he was showing signs of finding his stroke the game before his back started to stiffen in 45-degree weather. I'm not sure Josh Fields, would benefit being on the 25-man roster as an insurance policy or backup, as was the case with Ryan Sweeney and Brian Anderson.
But if Joe's back condition necessitates him being placed on the disabled list, then I'm all for giving Fields a look at the big league level.
As for Joe's future beyond 2007, keep in mind that he cannot become a free agent until 2008. I know there was speculation that Crede was about to be dealt the past two years because he is represented by Scott Boras, but Scott and assistant GM Rick Hahn found some common ground last January and I wouldn't be surprised if this happens next winter, assuming Joe's back condition doesn't get worse.
Fields played shortstop on Monday, but that was because of an "out of our control," issue, according to a team official. I believe it was because of Andy Gonzalez's promotion.
Rowand is not an "exceptional" centerfielder. All you'd have to do is watch last night's game and see him misplay three catchable fly balls. He plays too shallow and lacks the speed necessary to get the ball over his head. Also, his arm is below average. Frankly, he's been awful this season in the field. The Phillies' best centerfielder is their right fielder, Victorino. --Duttch, Philadelphia
Hi Mark, life-long Sox fan living in Philly. I have a partial season plan here and love seeing Aaron and Fredo at Citizens Bank Park. But to the faithful who long for Aaron's return, I say he's not the same defensive outfielder we saw own Yankee Stadium in 2005. His run-ins with the wall and Utley last year have left him noticeably gun shy and he is not getting a good break on line drives this year. I love the guy, but my fellow fans need to live in the present with Erstad. Aaron for Thome was a good trade for both teams. --Paul Aspan, Havertown, Pa.
Thanks to the scouting reports on Aaron. I did see Aaron misplay a ball that resulted in a triple for Miguel Olivo, of all people, last week.
For those of us that actually watch the Sox every day, and don't use websites to form our opinions about players, Darin Erstad has been a great addition to the team. That being said, what are your thoughts on the leadoff spot when Pods returns? Pods was having a good year before the injury, but Erstad is doing a heck of a job as our leadoff man. --Dan, Omaha
Dan, you're the leader for e-mail of the year. I like to use stats to support my case, but I'm mindful of what late scout Lloyd Christopher told a few of us in high school when evaluating players: "Statistics don't mean a thing."
I'd prefer to keep Erstad as the leadoff batter, but keep in mind that he hasn't played a full season since 2005, and he's played a lot of games already. Podsednik, if healthy, could provide a lift with his speed.
What are the odds of the White Sox signing Torii Hunter after this season? I think he's got the talent and grit to finally get people to stop talking about how to get Aaron Rowand back. --Curtis Marquardt, Chicago
Curtis, I was thinking the same thing shortly after Hunter robbed Thome of a homer. If Torii could hit well at the top of the order, he might be worth a look. He has tremendous defensive gifts, and he is one of several options this off-season if he doesn't re-sign with Minnesota.
Thought you'd like a break from the Ozzie-bashing to answer a general baseball question: Do you know why teams don't shake hands after games? It seems as though baseball is the only sport where this doesn't happen. --Ed, Indianapolis
My guess is that so many teams played each other (as many as 18 times against every league team), so it would get very repetitive. You hear and read about stories where players didn't want to get too friendly with opponents because there would be situations where a player had to slide hard into second to break up a double play, etc.
I do see a lot of camaraderie with players before games.
Mark, I have one thing to say to those who are asking for the dismissal of Ozzie: Be careful what you wish for. Geez. This guy has done nothing but win. --Jeff Waterman, Indianapolis
For those interested in the success of past Sox's managers, Clarence Rowland (1915-1918) has the highest winning percentage of any Sox manager with more than three years at .578. After Monday's game, Ozzie's winning percentage is .556.
Your colleague, , correctly casts much of the blame on Ken Williams, and the players haven't played small ball. But Ozzie's managing has been odd this year, too. Sunday, he had Hall try to bunt with two men on, including Konerko on second. Hall, of course, couldn't get it down. But what are the chances that a bunt could be perfect enough to give Konerko time to get from second to third? Better to swing away. --B. Miller, Chicago
Earl Weaver would say, "Why waste an out?" The Sox started early bunting work for selected players during their last homestand, and I expect that to continue. Nick Masset laid down the best bunt of the year at Wrigley Field. What does that say about their state of bunting?
The other problem is that with Podsednik out and now Ozuna lost for at least three months, the Sox are very pedestrian. This might call for more hit-and-run plays, provided they can get on base with more frequency.
In the Central Division, where do you see the Indians and Twins at the end of the season? Is it possible that the Twins can overtake the Sox and Indians and finish behind Detroit? --Terry, Schaumburg
The Indians' lineup has vastly improved, and I think the addition of sidearm specialist Mike Koplove can help them in the midst of some power arms. The Twins' success will depend on a healthy and quick return by Joe Mauer. This could be the last hurrah for Torii Hunter and Luis Castillotwo important parts of their lineup. They could make a run but I think they need another bat. The Tigers are still the team to beat but Cleveland made an impressive statement last weekend.
Mark, any advice for a budding sportswriter. For instance, where do you get information on the team stats. Does the media guide give you all the stats? Anything that can help back up my writing would be much appreciated. Thanks for your great work with the Pale Hose. --Denis, Chicago
Denis, thanks for the kind words. The Sox's 2007 media guide has been very helpful, but I also use various Web sites for statistics breakdowns, matchups, etc.
Hey Mark, I am still sick about the Sox letting Magglio Ordoñez go, he is well and tearing the cover off the ball for Detroit. Trading the best centerfielder to the Phillies still hurts, I recall the Sox trading a great outfielder to the Phillies, John Callison, long before your time, he played on all-star teams and hit over .300 and got Gold Glove awards. Same old, same old with the Sox. --Cliff Zeider, Port St. Joe, Fla.
Cliff, Magglio is making a strong case for American League most valuable player, especially now that Alex Rodriguez's torrid home run start has tailed off. The biggest improvement I've seen with Magglio is his defense. He no longer looks tentative.
You're right about John Callison being before my time, but I still remember Walt Williams, Carlos May, Wilbur Wood and of course, Bill Melton.
Mark, one thing that became apparent during the recent offensive slump is how few batters on this team take walks or even work a count. Is there anyone in the farm system that knows how to take some pitches and get on base besides hitting the long ball? Or do the Sox simply stay away from these types of hitters? --Brian, Tinley Park
Brian, at times I saw Ryan Sweeney take some pitches, but most of the kids hack up there. Chris Getz's development at second at Double-A Birmingham merits a close look. Many teams draft players with physical tools first.
That's what makes Jim Thome so specialhis ability to hit for power and draw walks.
Mark, why do the Sox continue to let Ed Farmer announce games? For an announcer, he's a lousy pitcher. He doesn't talk about the game ever and only talks about himself. I know I am in the majority in this opinion too. Is there any hope of the Sox having a competent announcing team next season? --Joe, San Jose
Joe, you're probably spoiled with Jon Miller announcing Giants games on KNBR in San Francisco and listening to Lon Simmons and Hank Greenwald and the late great Bill King in past years.
Ed is in the second year of a five-year deal with the Sox, so don't expect any changes as he is as loyal to the Sox as they are to him. And Ed's passion for Notre Dame football runs very deep.
Is there any truth to the rumor that Ichiro Suzuki is interested in coming to the Sox. --Thomas, Cedar Hill, Tenn.
Assuming the Sox lose Mark Buehrle and Jermaine Dye to free agency, they could be looking for a player like Ichiro who can play right or center field, hit like a machine at the leadoff spot and still possess a bazooka arm.
The bidding could be fierce, however, with Seattle likely to make a strong push to keep him and San Francisco looking for a star position player with international appeal, assuming Bonds leaves. There will be more bidders.
Have there been any good trade rumors for outfielders running around? Usually Ken Williams is trying to get a guy early in the process to get some value out of his transition year, and this seems to be a good year for that with Mackowiak/Ozuna playing so much. --Rick Hiatt, Cincinnati
Outside of the Rowand rumors, there have been very, very few. I heard a wacky one last week not worth writing in this forum, but I expect trade talks to accelerate as teams start to distance themselves in their respective divisions.
The latest pitching prospects du jour are Bret Prinz and Carlos Vasquez. Whatever happened to Charlie Haeger? He was supposed to be the best knuckleballer since Tim Wakefield. How come these pitching prospects go hot and cold like Internet stocks? --Michael Friedland, South Bend, Ind.
Hey Mark, how is Charlie Haeger doing? I have not heard anything about him in a long time. --Mike Taskila, Downers Grove
Evaluating Triple-A pitchers can be very tricky, especially in small ballparks like the one Charlotte plays in. That's why you've seen the Sox promote the likes of Mark Buehrle, Bobby Jenks and now Dewon Day from Double-A.
Charlie Haeger is 2-7 with a 5.97 ERA for the Knights. Walking 40 in 63 1/3 innings makes it tough to promote him at this time.
Mark, seriously, how can the Sox not call up Jerry Owens from Charlotte? He is already 26 years old and has 21 stolen bases in AAA. The Sox have no speed with Pablo's and Scotty's injuries. The kid won a batting title in Birmingham and is a career .296 hitter, give him a chance. --Ben, Loveland, Colo.
Ben, I was a big Jerry Owens fan out of spring training a couple years ago, but he has trouble staying healthy. There was some debate whether he could play on an everyday basis or was no better than a fourth outfielder.
I'm not sure whether Jerry has the arm strength to play center but he can play left. And he has raised his batting average to .287 (with a .372 on-base percentage). I'm curious to find out what Kenny Williams' observations are, based on his recent visit to the minors.
Mark, I'm so tired of watching the Sox fold in Minnesota. Yesterday's game was another example. After the Twins claimed Piersynski spiked Morneau and started whining and complainingyou couldn't tell from replay if he even touched himthe Sox should have immediately reacted. They did nothing but fold under pressure even after Torii Hunter stole third to rub their noses in it again. It all goes back to Guillen and his ridiculous continued exclamations of admiration for them (piranhas), which establishes the mindset that the Twins are going to nibble away until the Sox crack. It's time the Sox stood up or I'm afraid fourth place beckons. --I. Sloan, Manalapan, N.J.
Does anyone sense a lack of urgency? I know it's late May, but there have been some disturbing trends despite a plus-.500 record.
What would have Jack McDowell done if Hunter stole third?