Chicago White Sox Community Roundtable: Week 1

JJ SSenior Writer IApril 7, 2008

The Sox played, on the road, two teams out of the AL Central that were widely regarded as pennant contenders in the Indians and Tigers. How satisfied are you with the 4-2 record in the first week?

Thomas Barbee:
The fact that the Sox have not only posted a 4-2 record but have also been competitive in virtually every game is a testament to both the talent on the team as well as chemistry in the clubhouse. As indicated in the opener where the Sox came back from a 7-2 deficit, the Sox have displayed a lot of heart so far this year (something sorely lacking in their 2007 campaign) which will take them a long way. While it’s still early in the season, it’s good that the White Sox are showing such life early on, especially against the two teams that were supposed to finish at the top of the division.

Steve Jankowski: Overall pretty good. 5-1 was attainable if Buehrle didn't bomb his first start in Cleveland, but I'll take 4-2.

Corey Dowlar: If you would have told me that the White Sox were going to go 4-2 during this road trip, I probably would have laughed. These two teams are widely expected to finish among the top in the American League, so to go onto their turf and come away with four wins you have to be absolutely ecstatic.

TJ March: I’m very satisfied, and I have been saying since before spring training that neither of those teams are complete anyway. Detroit does not have pitching to compliment that dangerous lineup, and Cleveland does not have the lineup to compliment their pitching. However, I think with the way the Sox played ball over the first week in the season, many experts may re-think how things will shape up in the AL Central. Now, going into a homestand, I’m very excited to see more great baseball.

Jake Widlowski:
I am very satisfied with the 4-2 record. The Sox played the Indians well and caught a few unlucky breaks (the blown calls in the season opener for example). If not for some unlucky breaks in game one, the Sox could be 5-1 right now. Their series against the Tigers was an excellent display of good teamwork, quality bullpen pitching, and especially hitting. They came together against the Tigers and looked very impressive.

Aaron Rusnak: Although we clearly should be 5-1, I am extremely happy with the team at this time. I predicted a 2-4 start, so boy, have I been proven wrong.

Dieter Kurtenbach: I am very satisfied with the 4-2 record but I am most satisfied and impressed that we have been in every single one of the games we have played in, spare the asskickin' given to us by Fausto Carmona.

Isaac Sorsa: We certainly caught Detroit at the right time, but I think we contributed to their slow start more then we are being given credit for by the media. You can't ask for more then what the Sox have accomplished so far this season. I would have been satisfied with 3-3 given that all six games were on the road against teams of the caliber of those two.

JJ Stankevitz: Last Sunday, I predicted the team would go 3-3 in this stretch, taking one of three from Cleveland and then two of three from Detroit. Now, a week later, I feel like this team should be 5-1, but I'll take the 4-2 record any day. If the Sox can keep averaging a series win through April, it'll go a long way towards them having success for the entire season.


What has impressed you about the team so far?

Thomas Barbee: The bullpen—thanks to the newly acquired Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink—has been the team's greatest strength, bailing out the starters when necessary. The offense has been another strong point with AJ Pierzynski leading the league in most offensive categories, and Carlos Quentin and Joe Crede also  putting up very solid numbers.

Steve Jankowski:
The back end of the rotation has been better than expected.  Their offense is also returning to form, and tonight's game shows me that they are able to pounce on opponent's mistakes.  Also, the bullpen has been very good too, the bridge to Jenks is strong.

Corey Dowlar: Patience at the plate. Even from watching the series finale against the Tigers, it’s pretty evident that driving up pitch counts of the opposing starter has been very effective. Also, you got to mention something about AJ as well. He has been a force to be reckoned with at the plate so far.

TJ March: Three things: 1) Patience. Hitting coach Greg Walker has obviously done something different. The team as a whole has worked  a total of 32 walks in the first six games. Their batting averages might not be as high as they should be, but they are seeing more pitches, working counts, and getting pitches they want to hit.

2) The Outfield. Quentin, Swisher, and Dye have done nothing but impress me. Whether it be at the plate or in  the field (with the exception of Quentin's error on Sunday night), they have gotten the job done. They, especially Swisher, have worked walks, got on base, and driven in huge runs. Quentin is batting .313 with seven RBI (tied for 4th in the Majors). Dye is batting .417. And Swisher is batting a lowly .263 but has something close to a .500 OBP.

3) The Bullpen. With the exception of implosions from Dotel on Opening Day and Thornton and MacDougal on April 2, the bullpen has got the ball, thrown it, and got the outs when they needed them. Dotel (with his previously mentioned exception) and Linebrink look to be excellent choices for bridging the gap to Jenks.

Jake Widlowski: I am very impressed with AJ Pierzynski. He’s been absolutely great at the plate so far and I’m kicking myself for not starting him on my fantasy team this week! His doubles are great for a guy that isn't very fast. I am also very pleased with the bullpen. They have come in and just shut down great hitters for the Tigers. Bobby Jenks is also looking good, and his new Billy Goat facial hair looks very intimidating, which I like!

Aaron Rusnak: The bullpen. With the exception of Dotel during the opener, they have been lights out. I can honestly say that last year I absolutely hated Boone Logan and wanted him cut. Now, he has managed three innings of shutout ball, allowing just one baserunner, and striking out three, earning himself a win in the process.  If keeps this up, watch out.

Dieter Kurtenbach: Most impressive thing has been the rotation. In fact, I am so impressed that I am nearly skeptical. If this rotation can perform the way it did the first time through, removing opening day, this team will not only surprise, but contend.

Isaac Sorsa: It is a toss-up between the bullpen and the patience shown at the plate. We have won two games already by taking the right apporach at the plate. Dontrelle Willis had very good stuff when he threw against us, but the hitters showed a lot of patience and got to him when they had a chance. The tone that is set at the top of the order with Swisher and Cabrera has carried over to the rest of the lineup. This team will walk a lot.

As far as the bullpen goes, it was clear we had made major upgrades by picking up Linebrink and Dotel, and so far they have not disappointed. I am also comfortable with Boone Logan when he comes in to a game. They will need to continue to be consistent for this team to contend, and there are always question marks (MacDougal) when you are talking about a bullpen, but as a unit this is a very strong group.

JJ Stankevitz: The middle relief. The way Boone Logan, Scott Linebrink, and Octavio Dotel (minus the Opening Day disaster) have bridged the gap to Bobby Jenks has been very, very impressive. Granted, the bullpen started off hot last year and then fell apart by June, but this bullpen has a lot of experience and shouldn't see that kind of dropoff.


What has disappointed you about the team so far?

Thomas Barbee: Juan Uribe—he hasn’t done anything at the plate so far (other than strike out), and as a notoriously streaky hitter, he needs to get hot as soon as possible or it’s going to be a long year for him. If he doesn’t improve look, for Alexeí Ramirez to start getting playing time at 2B.

Also, if I had any expectations at all, I’d consider Mike MacDougal as a disappointment. It’d be nice if the Sox would just bite the bullet and release him and not let it turn into a soap opera a la Cliff Politte or Billy Koch.

Lastly, while it’s still early, it’d be nice to see the starters go a bit deeper in the game and take some of the load off of the bullpen. If Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez and John Danks can consistently pitch around seven innings, it would make the ‘pen that much better.

Steve Jankowski:
Contreras needs to get better. And Alexei Ramirez needs to get back to the form he showed in the spring.

Corey Dowlar: Despite putting up 13 runs tonight, the Sox could have definitely made it much more than that. I know that is being extremely picky, but this team needs to go for the jugular and put games away early if they can.

TJ March: There's really only one thing—taking advantage of runners in scoring position. The Sox have left plenty of men on base since Opening Day, certainly more than their 4-2 record shows. Despite winning games with what they have been doing, I would love to see them taking advantage of those extra baserunners.

Jake Widlowski: I am disappointed with the poor outings by Javier Vazquez and Jose Contreras. The game on Friday for Contreras was not good at all—his pitches were looking like juicy oranges ready to get ripped apart and eaten. And they were eaten indeed, as Contreras gave up five runs in five innings.

Aaron Rusnak:
Juan Uribe. Although a hero in the last game of the Tribe series, he's hitting just .188, which is 85 points lower than the next Sox starter (Thome at .273).

Dieter Kurtenbach: I'm disappointed in the lack of manufactured runs in the first two series. Anyone can score off the long ball, but real baseball teams can get five runs on a horrible offensive day when no one is clicking. I think Ozzie is getting too complacent with the longball, aka, pre-2005 baseball. The longball is great and all, but it is also in consistent, Ozzie needs to blend this phase of the game into the '08 team.

Isaac Sorsa: Obviously before Buerhle shut down Detroit yesterday his start was a bad spot, but I think he knows he was throwing too many strikes, and looked like himself against Detroit.

I'm fishing for something to be disappointed in, and the only things I can come up with are Mike MacDougal still being on the roster and Alexei Ramirez not making a good enough first impression. I was really hoping Alexei would get off to a fast start, but it looks like he is the most likely candidate to be sent down when Jerry Owens arrives.

JJ Stankevitz: The way Alexei Ramirez has been handled. It was painfully obvious in the first two games of the season that he needs some seasoning down in AAA, but the Sox seem to have decided to keep him on the team as a utility player. Problem is, they already have a player just like him in Pablo Ozuna. When Jerry Owens, returns, hopefully they'll send Ramirez to AAA instead of Brian Anderson. 


It's still early, but how confident are you with this team?

Thomas Barbee: I’m fairly confident—I guess cautious optimism would be a better way to put it. However, given the way the roster looks and the way the team’s playing, the Sox are poised to make a run for the division so long as they stay healthy. Consider the White Sox at this point something like the KC Royals, a dark horse that could very well make a lot of noise.

Steve Jankowski:
If they can hit the way they are showing they are capable of, and the bridge to Jenks stays strong, I think they can challenge Cleveland.

Corey Dowlar: I would describe my feelings towards this team as cautiously optimistic. Detroit is eventually going to start winning some ball games, that is a given. If the bullpen can pitch well and the offense can continue to churn out some runs here and there, this team could make a run this summer.

TJ March: In all honesty, and I have said this since the second week of spring training, I think that they are one or two moves away from being legit contenders in the division and league. I think they are relying too heavily on Floyd and Contreras.

Picking up one starting pitcher, whether it be proven veteran who is on the outs or in the free agent market still (Freddy Garcia, Kei Igawa, ect.) or taking a shot on a young pitcher who is out of a starting job could really shore up the rotation.

The second move is more of an opinion, rather than a need. They need a left-handed bat to come off of that bench. Whether it be a power or contact hitter does not really matter, but as of tonight, The Sox have a purely right-handed bench and it would not be a terrible idea to provide some difference against some tough righty closers in that division. (Alfredo Amezaga, FLA, Eric Hinske, TB, Jack Cust, OAK, just to name a few).

Jake Widlowski: I am very confident going into this week because we are (supposed to be) playing against easier opponents than last week. And to make things better, we are at The Cell, so this week will be fun to begin life in Chicago again.

Aaron Rusnak: I don't think the Tigers will do this all year and the Sox will contend, but I still think they end with just about 90 wins and in third place.

Isaac Sorsa: I'm quite confident. I was more confident than most Sox fans were before the season because this team has great depth and versatility. This is a club that underachieved badly last season even with minor league caliber players like Luis Terrero and Andy Gonzalez. We no longer have anybody like that, and I don't expect Konerko, Dye and the rest of the hitters to struggle like they did last year. I look at the 2006 ballclub which won 90 games, and I feel like this one is better then that one.

JJ Stankevitz: I'd say cautiously optimistic. I really like how the team has looked here in the first week, but the sting of 2007 has yet to wear off. Hopefully, the team can keep playing like they have and we can all forget about the debacle that was last year, though.

And do you think the eventual return of Jerry Owens will affect the team?

Thomas Barbee: It’ll be interesting to see what happens with Owens, especially given the fact that he’s battling a groin injury. They’ll certainly want to be cautious with him, so they may decide he’s better suited in AAA until he proves he can play everyday and stay healthy.

What the Sox need to avoid is rushing Owens back like they did with Scott Podsednik, as that could potentially ruin the team chemistry, not to mention Owens’ season.

Steve Jankowski: It will help. They don't have a lot of team speed (I'm looking at you, Paulie, and AJ, and Thome, and Crede). With him at the top of the order, Ozzie can play his brand of offensive baseball that was so successful in 2005, and we know how well that worked.

Corey Dowlar: Hopefully it wont change much. While it gives you some speed at the top of the order, these guys seem to be clicking really well right now. If it isn't broke, don't fix it.

TJ March: With the way Swisher is playing center field and getting on base, it is the old idiom, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it!" Swisher is getting on base and the Sox are driving him in. Between Quentin, him, and Dye running left to right in that outfield, there haven't seemed to be many problems.

Not to mention, Swisher has shown full well that he can play center. I do not know if Owens will affect the team. The worst thing that could happen would be for Owens to return and remove Quentin's hot bat from the lineup, as well as the team.

Jake Widlowski: The return of Jerry Owens could have definite complications because Carlos Quentin is doing such a great job in left field. When Owens comes back, Guillen will definitely have a tough choice on whom to play between the two of them.

I don't really have a prediction on who will play, but I must say that Quentin is impressing me so far. (Except for that missed can-o-corn in the outfield tonight. DOH!)

Aaron Rusnak: I hope that with the way the team is playing now, they don't rush to get him back. And when he does come back, I hope he doesn't take over someone’s job who may earn it by when he's due to return.

Dieter Kurtenbach: Carlos Quentin had a great series against Detroit, but I do think that Owens should be given his shot at the top of the order. I doubt that Quentin is a long term starter for the team. As for now, I wouldn't worry about rushing Owens back, let him heal 100 percent and more.

Isaac Sorsa: I think this offense can hit and score runs no matter what, and Jerry certainly won't hurt that. The problem I see is that someone is going to have to get sent down, and I love everyone who is up here right now. I mentioned that Alexei was the most likely candidate, but I think given some time to improve he can be better then Owens can ever be. Carlos Quentin is clearly a guy who can contribute a ton to this team so he can't go anywhere. Let's not forget that Josh Fields is sitting in AAA as well. Crede's bat and glove has looked good and at this point, but I don't want to just send him packing if we aren't improving the team for this season. We seem to have the problem of too many good players, which is something I'm sure Ozzie and Kenny are happy to have to deal with as opposed to the problems we were faced with last year.

JJ Stankevitz: I'm not so sure brining Owens back is a good thing. I really like what I've seen from Carlos Quentin and also think that Nick Swisher is a fine leadoff hitter who takes a lot of pitches and will get on base by any means necessary. That being said, if the middle of the lineup's production significantly slows down, Ozzie may have to consider moving Swisher back down to fifth or sixth to get him more RBI opportunities. However, for now, I'm satisfied with the way things are going and don't want anything to change.



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