Bud Selig, 4 Things Chicago White Sox Fans Should Look for at SoxFest
This weekend, the Chicago White Sox will host SoxFest, their annual gathering with fans to promote the season ahead. Fans will hear Kenny Williams, new manager Robin Ventura, players and others speak. Also, they get a chance to get autographs and to talk to players.
Certain faces that had been familiar to White Sox fans will not be at SoxFest. Mark Buehrle, who had pitched in the White Sox organization ever since they lifted him out of the 38th round of the draft in 1998, took his talents to South Beach to pitch for the Miami Marlins. Ozzie Guillen, who took the Marlins managing job, won't be there to make brash proclamations.
Those White Sox fans willing to fork up the money can pay $50 a for Saturday pass or $70 for a two-day pass. This writer is not up for spending that kind of money for a fan gala.
However, here is a short preview of the event.
Tough Question for Bud Selig
On Friday, Bud Selig will host a question-and-answer session for White Sox fans. One can expect simple questions to be asked, such as what he thinks of the White Sox and what he enjoys about White Sox baseball.
Baseball conventions generally aren't the type of place where people will see Occupy Wall Street-style mic checks.
However, White Sox fans might ask Selig a tough question concerning the idea of a hard salary cap. The idea of revenue sharing was one of the prominent issues during the 2002 collective bargaining negotiations. Smaller market teams were interested in split-pool revenue, which would have brought them more TV revenue.
A new revenue sharing formula brought new revenue to smaller market teams. Also, it brought down the payroll ratio between the seven largest spending teams and seven lowest spending teams from 3.5 to one in 2000 to 2.9 to one in 2008, according to CBS News.
A hard salary cap would do even more for middle market teams, like the White Sox, and small market teams.
This year, White Sox fans might want to bring up the question to Selig. While the White Sox had the fifth highest payroll last year at $127 million, the White Sox are now looking to trim it to between $90 and $95 million, which would put them between 15th and 18th in payroll. They'd likely be spending $110 million less than the New York Yankees.
Jerry Reinsdorf and the White Sox were all in last year, as the White Sox slogan said.
Now, since reality has kicked in for Reinsdorf and the team that big spending isn't feasible for either his pocketbook or the White Sox market, the White Sox are cutting back.
This could put them at a competitive disadvantage, since it impacted their chase for Mark Buehrle and has forced them to trade away a couple of key players, such as Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos.
Teams like the White Sox shouldn't have to close their playoff window by spending less money. Player development and coaching should have a bigger role in a team's chance at being successful than a team's payroll. In the NFL, the playing field is more level and the playoffs see more turnover from year to year due to the hard salary cap.
Also, spending wouldn't be as likely to cause boom and bust periods for teams like the White Sox.
Whether someone asks Bud Selig that question will be interesting to see.
A Subdued Robin Ventura
In the past eight years, White Sox fans have grown accustomed to a fiery manager in Ozzie Guillen. Guillen ranted about underperforming players and players who had just left the White Sox. He blasted media members like Joe Cowley and Jay Mariotti who were critical of his performance.
He protested and swore.
Robin Ventura is a much different personality. Ventura is a quieter person. He's consistent in demeanor. Unlike Guillen, he isn't prone to outbursts. Chicago fans might want to see a fiery, passionate manager, but that isn't Ventura.
White Sox fans would be best served to embrace the new manager as the man he is.
A New Look on the Mound
The White Sox will be trying to promote their new-look team at SoxFest. The starting rotation will star John Danks, Phil Humber and maybe Gavin Floyd, depending on what happens on the trade front. Getting people excited about Danks as a No. 1 starter won't be easy, since his earned run average was above 4.00 last season and he had a losing record.
While Mark Buehrle wasn't a prototypical ace, Danks seems even less like an ace—a far cry from Justin Verlander.
Phil Humber won't be considered part of the front end of the rotation if Chris Sale, a new member of the rotation, takes off. Sale has pitched 130 innings in a season. Thus, he could handle a significant number of innings. Also, he's a great strikeout pitcher, having struck out 10.6 batters per nine innings in relief in the past two years.
It'll be interesting to see how Chris Sale stretches his strikeout ability in his starter role.
Also, Jake Peavy will be one to watch since he has been dealing with injuries. Since Peavy—unlike Danks, Humber, Floyd and Sale—won't be featured in any seminars this weekend, White Sox fans won't hear him discuss his arm.
Trying to Excite People About White Sox Hitting
The White Sox will be trying to pump fans up about their hitting, which was not much to talk about last season. The White Sox were eighth in the AL in on-base percentage and on-base-plus-slugging in 2011. The White Sox had three players in the bottom 11 in on-base percentage (Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham).
The White Sox will feature new hitters in the heart of the lineup. After posting a .314 slugging percentage and hitting one home run in 29 games last season, Dayan Viciedo will look to get things going this season. Brent Lillibridge will have an uncertain role after hitting 13 home runs in a pinch-hit role.
Tyler Flowers will take more of a share of the catching role, since A.J. Pierzynski is growing older and Flowers showed flashes of potential last season.
Lillibridge will be featured in a seminar, and ardent fans may be able to squeeze a few words in with Flowers and Viciedo while grabbing autographs.