Here's my problem with Konerko -- he doesn't try anything different. Same stance, same swing, same result. His bat looks a lot slower. Yet his stance still has the bat angled at 2 o'clock. Why not start with the bat at 12 o'clock to see if that speeds it up? Why not do something? What do you think? -- Tim G, Bartlett
Any chance Ozzie will keep Paulie in the line-up but drop him a couple of spots in the batting order? It seems to me that, although Jim Thome has a great eye, teams are pitching around him in key situations to get to Paulie, usually getting their desired result (a popout or double play). Your thoughts? Also, given Nick Masset's poor showing last night in a mop-up (low pressure) situation, will we see more of Carrasco or Russell? -- HeGone915, Schaumburg
Can someone please have a heart-to-heart talk with Konerko and try to convince him that his skills are gone and he needs to stop playing and hurting this team? Yes he's had some good years and we might not have won in 2005 without him, but 2005 is fading into the distance. It's time to say thanks for all you did, have a nice life and here's your statue. Come back and visit once in a while. -- Jim McLaughlin, Chicago
Mark, it's plainly OBVIOUS that Paul Konerko is not doing well this year. Everyone agrees that he is a great guy and did a lot for us in 2005. However, a lot of guys from 2005 are gone and Paulie continues to pop out and hit into double plays. On any other team he would have been benched back in June (maybe even May). Why are they keeping him in? Why are they defending him saying "he will come out of it." He won't, it's been 2 seasons. -- Jennifer, Chicago
Let's move from the real world to the hypothetical for the sake of this question. Konerko has been in a hitting slump for approximately 2½ seasons. We've seen evidence of slower bat speed, whiffing at more pitches, and poor results when contact is made. If/when he runs, it is hard to imagine anyone in the bigs being slower. He has hurt more than helped this team since the magic 2005 season. When should he have been traded to avoid all this? Before the big contract? Certainly, LA was interested in him two seasons ago. Why didn't the Chicago baseball analysts-writers identify this fall-off and risk before it mushroomed into zero offensive production? Only the hard-core Sox fans were seemingly willing to admit this guy was burn-out city. -- Jimmy, Dundee
Aren't the players' values in MLB much like individual stock values in the equities markets? In other words, buy low and sell high is a prevailing maxim in both markets? Why haven't the Sox applied that measure more astutely in recent years to avoid depleting their farm system of talent? Weren't they supposed to trade players like Konerko, Crede, Buehrle, etc., at or near peak performance years to get young talent and multiple prospects for the farm system? Instead, they've seemingly unloaded young prospects for established talent who are coming off bad years or who are known to be on the decline. Be honest. What's your assessment of how Kenny has performed in this regard? -- Terry, Hoffman Estates
I have two questions and a comment. How many games are the Sox on pace of winning this year and what is Konerko's attitude in the clubhouse after a tough game for him? Because he is my favorite player on the Sox and watching him struggle like he is hurts me and I'm sure a lot of White Sox fans as well, I still think he can help going into September. -- James, Elk Grove
Mark - I expect that you are all over Paul Konerko's situation. Please enlighten me. Are his mechanics at bat different. Is it a lingering injury that is bothering him? What is different (aside from results) from past years? Thanks. -- Hank Balikov, Marlton, N.J.
Dear Mark, I've always been a fan of Konerko, but at some point you have to say enough! Do they keep records for lowest percentage of baserunners driven in? I think Paulie has to be close to the record. Ozzie says that Swisher isn't much better, but you wouldn't be replacing Konerko with Swisher, you would be putting in DeWise in center, or Uribe (ugh!) at second and Ramirez to center -- BUT no one on the team has left a larger percentage of baserunners stranded or has stopped more rallies. Doesn't Konerko care enough about the team to tell Ozzie to sit him down for at least a while, giving him a chance to figure out his stroke without hurting the team every night. Then all we need is Thome to figure out how to hit a ball to left field..... -- Ronald Reichman, Los Angeles
First things first. I see Paul using the same batting stance because that's the one he's most comfortable with and has used for several years. He could try to bring his bat closer and lower to get around quicker on fastballs, but a baffled scout told me last week that Konerko was late on every pitch.
As far as his placement in the lineup, Ozzie has stuck with an alignment in which left-handers and right-handers alternate. I don't see Paul walking away because he has too much pride and wants to salvage this season and perform well in the final two years of his contract. Remember that the Sox elected to put contract talks on hold before the 2005 season. Paul performed like a championship player in the second half and in the playoffs, so he earned himself an extra two years and an extra $24-30 million.
I asked Paul point-blank in Minnesota if he was healthy, and he responded that he was, so we'll have to trust him. His value obviously has diminished, but he has no-trade rights. I see him accepting a trade only to the West Coast if it gets to that point, but I don't see Ken Williams seeking to trade him.
As Ozzie pointed out in Kansas City, Paul's teammates are pulling hard for him to succeed, and his home run Tuesday night enabled the Sox to get within striking distance.
Has there been any progress with Mike MacDougal down in Charlotte? Any reports he might still help the club this year or is he destined to be the highest paid pitcher in AAA? -- Senor Sock, Sherman Oaks, Calif.
I placed a call to his agent's office in May to confirm a tip that I got from a clubhouse source that Mike had sought a trade. That telephone call wasn't returned.
Mark, Last year the future of the Sox was in the hands of Jerry Owens, Josh Fields and Danny Richar. Any update on those guys? Will we see them during September? -- Remberto Chicago
Danny is in the Cincinnati organization as a part of the Griffey trade. Owens probably will be up in September. Fields was called up when Joe Crede went on the DL and, if he is sent down whenever Crede returns, should be with the team in September as well.
Is Gordon Beckham going to be signing soon? How many of the draft picks have the Sox signed this year? -- Logan, Chesterfield, Mo.
Is everything all right with the Gordon Beckham negotiations or is he looking to go the way of Bobby Seay, Jeff Weaver, and J.D. Drew and hold out another year so that he can get the "real" money? -- John Fitch, Cary
Beckham negotiations will go down to the wire, as seven of the top nine picks have yet to sign. Beckham and Jordan Danks, the Sox seventh-round pick, are the lone draftees in the top 10 rounds who haven't signed. I think Beckham will get a lucrative signing bonus shortly before the Aug. 15 deadline, but I don't think the Sox will pay significantly more than the recommended slot by MLB.
Okay, I may not be the first one to ask this, but now that the Sox have Griffey, can Carlos Quentin play center? Or is Griffey better there, even at age 38? -- Craig Robison, Orland Park
No, Carlos looks more comfortable as a corner outfielder.
Please help me understand the Jr. trade. What does Kenny find so attractive about slow, aging players ... or does MLB give teams a senior discount? Contrast his move with other teams' July trades: Cubs/Harden, Angels/Teixeira, Brewers/CC, etc. Those moves have one thing in common: they smartly address pressing needs. The Sox need a starter and or reliever first and foremost, not a future Hall of Famer playing centerfield in a golf cart. Mercy, this trade was daft ... -- Eric, Germany
Kenny looked to improve the quality of the offense, and the addition of Griffey actually strengthens the bench. Swisher came off the bench in Tuesday's game and hit a game-winning homer three innings later. I agree that they needed pitching help, but Kenny determined the price was too high.
One more of what I'm sure is already a giant pile of Griffey questions you're already receiving. Griff has a $16.5 million option, and Cincinnati is supposed to be splitting the $4 million buyout with us. I read somewhere that Griffey had planned on allowing the Reds to decline his option and re-sign him at a lower per year salary if they agreed to tack on one more year for him. I'm completely taking a guess at what we might see coming, but I wonder if its possible that Griffey would return to the Sox next season cheaper than the $13.5 million option they have for Thome, and give them a DH that has the flexibility of being more useful on the field defensively when needed. I have always been one of Thome's biggest supporters, and still am, but there is a part of me that wonders if this is where Kenny is headed with this trade. -- Tyson Shroyer,Peoria
Shortly after announcing the Griffey trade, Kenny said he had "some ideas" about next year. You mentioned one of those scenarios. The same could be applied to Thome, who still manages to take his share of walks and has hit to left field with more frequency. There's a lot of financial balls Kenny and assistant GM Rick Hahn are shuffling, and third base is another issue, especially with Crede's recurring back problems.
Although I'm excited about getting Ken Griffey, Jr, the trade raises major questions for the future. What about second base/shortstop, now that Richar is gone, and Cabrera and Uribe likely gone after this year? Also what about Jerry Owens' future with the club? -- Allan Solon, Ohio
I can see Alexei Ramirez as the shortstop, with Chris Getz pushing soon for a starting job. And don't rule out Juan Uribe at second next year. He has proven to be very valuable and has been a solid team player in the wake of Ramirez's emergence and switching positions after the arrival of Cabrera.
With all the bullpen issues why isn't Jon Link, with his 28 saves at Birmingham, being considered. In 2005 we brought in Bobby Jenks from Birmingham when we had issues. -- John, Bradley
Jon doesn't possess the 98 m.p.h. fastball that Bobby had when he was promoted three years ago. But he's opening some eyes and has a chance to be promoted when rosters can be expanded in September.
Mark, What are the chances that Jim Thome will get some playing time at first base now that the Sox have Ken Griffey Jr.? Would the Sox at least consider this to give Junior some rest as the DH? -- Jacob Peklo, Wheaton
Thome won't play first, but Griffey's arrival will give Jim an occasional blow.
Hey Gonzo, I don't get why Ozzie rarely bunts anymore. -- Janice Gagerman, Chico, Calif.
I saw one player pop up a sacrifice bunt attempt Tuesday, which reminds me of what the Sox need to work on next spring.
I've heard that Ben Sheets will be testing the free agent market this offseason. With Jose Contreras's contract coming off the books and our staff lacking a dominant lights-out ace, do you see Kenny making a big effort to bring him to the South Side? -- Patrick, San Diego
No. The Sox broke out in a rash after they saw the free agent market for pitchers soar in December of 2006. Sheets also is represented by Scott Boras, and Contreras is signed through 2009.
I was a very big Freddy Garcia fan when he was a part of the Sox. How probable is it that he returns to the Sox this year now that he is a free agent? -- Kyle Summerlin, Hickory Hills
On Sunday the Sox fell out of first place, & the pitching has been horrible since the All-Star break. Instead of putting Contreras back in when he gets healthy, why don't the Sox try & get Freddy Garcia? I've heard he's healthy again. Wouldn't he be better than Contreras or any Double or Triple A pitcher at this point? -- Dave, Vegas
Re Garcia's return: I doubt it. The Sox seem content with their current rotation once Contreras returns. From what I've been told by various sources, Freddy might not be ready for major league action until the end of August.
What's wrong with Mark Buehrle? He cannot get anybody out. -- Sam, Rolling Meadows
Location, location, location.
When is the Sox coaching staff going to wake up to the fact that Hall and Buehrle do not make a good consistent battery. Mark needs to throw to A.J. to be effective. Check the stats to verify. -- Fred Rybicki, Lansing
Dear Mark, I am troubled that all of our pitchers, starting and relief, are performing worse than earlier in the year. Given this consistency of failure, wouldn't you suspect that either the league has become prepared for how AJ is calling a game, and/or are somehow getting a clue regarding what pitch and what location is coming e.g. is one of the infielders seeing the sign and subtly changing positions, leaning, etc. I know that I'm grasping at straws, but why is everyone going south??!! -- Ronald Reichman, Los Angeles
Sandy Alomar Jr. is available, but I like the current alignment of A.J. as the starter and Toby as a capable backup. The main problem is location.
The Sox look more like they will finish in 3rd place and not 1st. The pitching seems weak and the hitting isn't consistent enough to overcome the 6 or 7 runs they give up. Why did Clayton Richard deserve more starts? Did he look particularly impressive in one of the big innings he surrendered? I think you could steal a couple of bases off him. -- William Downie, Carson City,Nev.
My running days are over. I stick to an elliptical machine. Richard was the best choice to start those games at Minnesota and Kansas City because he threw more strikes than Lance Broadway has, and Nick Masset was traded.
I understand that you write for the Chicago paper but seriously, how can you fail to mention that was the 3rd time that Olivo has been hit by the White Sox this year? Do you not feel as though that is important? -- Ashley, KC
I understand you're from Kansas City, but how could you fail to notice that I wrote that Octavio Dotel apologized for accidentally hitting Jose Guillen and Olivo on June 4?
Two questions: 1. It seems obvious that Vazquez almost always is pitching for the strikeout, often to his and the team's detriment. Does Coop try to get him to pitch to contact sometimes and with his stuff, get weak fly/ground balls instead of Ks? 2. Are either Jason Childers or Derek Rodriguez ready to help in the big league bullpen? What about trying Poreda out in the pen to see if he can help? -- John, Lake Forest
One question, John. I think Javy's start against Kansas City was a step in the right direction, where he could succeed with few strikeouts and trust his defense. Cooper stresses throwing first-pitch strikes and throwing two of the first three pitches for strikes.
Hi Mark -- Could you please answer three questions for me: 1) What is the White Sox ERA since July 7? 2) After you answer 1), please tell me why I should have any confidence that the pitching staff will return to its earlier form this season? 3) Why is it that after losing Santana, Hunter and only getting Liriano back this week, the White Sox don't have a better record than the Twins? Thanks. -- Robert Rich, Ossining, N.Y.
I'll take No. 3. The Twins made some solid deals in the off-season. They got Gomez in the Santana deal. They lost Hunter but added more outfield depth by getting Delmon Young in a trade with Tampa Bay. Their pitching staff gives up few walks, and they have solid situational hitting. I'm not on the Twins' bandwagon and not about to get caught up in blogging that they had a share of first place, but they've done a remarkable job this season to this point. They do have a tough schedule ahead of them, so they'll be tested down the stretch.
Hi Mark: I know that it's too early to talk about next year, but with the Sox dropping a lot of payroll after this season, (Cabrera, Crede, Thome, Uribe), I'll bet that you have already given thoughts to which free agents the Sox should look at with the $30 million-plus war chest that they can use in the off-season. Care to share your wish list with us? -- Jim Kessler, Tampa
Keep in mind that one of the reasons astute Angels general manager Tony Reagins went after Torii Hunter despite a well-stacked outfield was that next year's free agent market was deemed somewhat shallow with outfielders. The Sox are well-equipped with outfielders, and the pitching market will be top-heavy with Sabathia and Sheets. The Sox could look at Arizona second baseman Orlando Hudson (who could give anyone a run with his clubhouse chatter but is a tremendous defensive second baseman).Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun