Peavy, Dunn giving Kenny Williams a return on investment

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Peavy, Dunn giving Kenny Williams a return on investment

As sports fans, we are always looking for results, instant gratification in the form of some hardware for our beloved teams. We long for it because at the end of the day we deem the success of a professional ball club as our own. It is truly a personal investment both monetarily and emotionally. For the past 12 years, White Sox fans have intermittently praised and pointed the finger at general manager Kenny Williams. Approval ratings plummeted to an all-time low last year when 28 million in the form of Jake Peavy and Adam Dunn reaped next to no production. The first chapter of the 2012 season has told a much different story to this point so what is the reason for Williams sudden return on investment?

In 2011, Peavy was underwhelming to say the least. It may sound harsh, but the overpowering right-hander was having trouble with velocity and control which caused him to record the highest ERA (4.92) of his career. Peavy only saw 111 and 23 innings of action, less than half of his 2007 Cy Young year total. The problem was 2011 Jake and 2007 Jake were two completely different pitchers. Last year, Peavy was battling not only opposing hitters, but also the uncertainty of his surgically reattached lat muscle. It was his first season back from surgery to repair a completely torn latissimus dorsi and his lack of confidence in his body was glaringly obvious.

This year, Jake has taken a different approach to his pitching philosophy and the results are undeniable. While he still relies mostly on his fastball, Peavy has thrown substantially more change-ups this year, stressing location rather than trying to overpower hitters. He knows what his bodys limits are and he is beginning to play to his own strengths. Peavy holds the third lowest ERA (2.39) in the American League, the second lowest WHIP (.91), and is still top 10 in strikeouts. The south side ace was named AL Pitcher of the Month for April, and has already thrown more than half the amount of innings as he did last season. Peavy is currently in the final year of his contract, so naturally trade rumors have gotten louder as his production has increased but this has not fazed the anchor of the White Sox pitching staff, if anything it has made him more effective.

Another big time performer that has Williams wiping the sweat off his brow in relief is Dunn. The slugger is widely regarded across baseball as a pure power hitter. The behemoth of a man stands 66 285 lbs. and he can promise you two things: home runs and strikeouts. Unfortunately for Williams and the rest of Sox nation, Dunn only held true to one half of that statement last year. The big man hit a befuddling .159 last season and every single one of his power numbers dropped by more than 50 percent. Whether it was playing with a new team or facing new pitchers in the AL, Dunn was frustrated at the plate and at one point he even went as far as throwing around the idea of retirement.

If Im not having fun anymore, Ill go home, flat out Ill go home. I mean that. Swear to goodness, Ill go home. I enjoy playing, even though I suck, or have been sucking. I enjoy playing the game. Love it. But as soon as I lose that, Im gone dude. Its true, Dunn told Yahoo Sports in the midst of his slump.

It is apparent that Dunn has cast away whatever self-doubt he may have had. He's already hit 15 homers, three more than his total last year, he is hitting .239 and rising, he has an OBP of .383, and he has driven in 35 runs. Dunn has already struck out 64 times in 148 at bats, but thats simply business as usual with the big fella. Dunns confidence is sky high right now and his preseason goal to be named Comeback Player of the Year is becoming more and more of a reality.

It is obvious that these two White Sox standouts are experiencing some sort of resurgence this season, but what is the reasoning for them being hotter than North Avenue Beach in July? Ultimately, it boils down to three things: money, reputation, and the future.

As we all know, one of the major motivating factors in professional sports is the all-mighty dollar. This year is the final stanza of Peavys three-year contract and he is scheduled to make 17 million, with a 22 million option next season. Whether the Sox plan to trade him before seasons end, pick up his option, or let him go to free agency, Peavy is in a make-or-break position and he knows it. A 15-20 win season could mean a long-term deal with a lot of zeros in it for Peavy. Dunn will make 14 million this year, and 15 million in 2013 and 2014 with the White Sox. Kenny Williams paid over 100 million dollars for these two premiere athletes and it appears as if they are finally giving a true return on investment.

The second motivating factor of the recent success of Dunn and Peavy is reputation. After a dismal 2011 season both of these once superstar-type players were put into question. They were not playing anywhere near the levels they were capable of and the south side faithful let them know it. Peavy mentioned that it was hard to go out to dinner with his family without being verbally harassed last year. He has admitted to taking the hill this season and throwing with a chip on his shoulder. So I think it is safe to say that both of these players have something to prove in 2012, and they are both well on their way there.

The third motivating factor for Peavy and Dunn is a harsh reality of not only sports but of any professional realm; tomorrow is never promised. Despite having a multi-year contract, your future as a major leaguer is never completely certain. We are talking about a 30-year-old Peavy and a 32-year-old Dunn who are both in what many would consider their prime. Two years ago, Peavy was told that if he re-injured himself he would never throw a baseball again and last year Dunn toyed with the idea of retirement so an uncertain future is not a foreign concept to these two.

The reality is both of these men are All-Atar caliber athletes who deserve the big time contracts they have been given. The only difference is that in 2012 they had their abilities and mental toughness questioned and they are responding in a big way. For that, Williams is breathing a sigh of relief.

--Joe Musso contributed to this article--

Preview: White Sox, Red Sox duel Tuesday night on CSN

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Preview: White Sox, Red Sox duel Tuesday night on CSN

The White Sox take on the Red Sox on Tuesday night, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins live from the South Side at 7 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Tuesday's starting pitching matchup: Jose Quintana (3-1, 1.47 ERA) vs. Steven Wright (2-2, 1.37 ERA)

Click here for a game preview to make sure you're ready for the action.

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— Channel finder: Make sure you know where to watch.

— Latest on the White Sox: All of the most recent news and notes.

— See what fans are talking about before, during and after the game with White Sox Pulse.

Road Ahead: White Sox return home after seven-game road trip

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Road Ahead: White Sox return home after seven-game road trip

CSN's Chuck Garfien and Bill Melton talk about what's next for the White Sox, which host the Red Sox and Twins, in this week's Honda Road Ahead, presented by Chicagoland & Northwest Indiana Honda dealers.

After playing 19 games in 19 days the White Sox finally had an off day on Monday. The busy stretch ended in a seven-game road trip, which the Sox went 5-2 in.

Garfien and Melton talked about the success the White Sox have had on the road as the team returns home to face the Red Sox and Twins in a pair of three-game series this week. The Red Sox lead the AL East with a 15-10 record while the Twins have the worst record in the American League.

The White Sox entered Monday with more wins than any other team in the majors.

Tested White Sox get some well-earned rest

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Tested White Sox get some well-earned rest

They’re pretty darn accomplished and they’re finally off.

As they relax and unwind Monday, their first day off since April 12 and only second scheduled one since the season began, the White Sox have to feel a sense of satisfaction.

Not only do they boast a major-league best 18 wins and they’ve already spent spent 22 days in first place in the American League Central, but the team also conducted itself extremely well during one of its most grueling stretches of the season. 

Courtesy of a 7-1 victory over the Baltimore Orioles on Sunday, the White Sox finished off a run of 19 games in 19 days, including a dozen on the road, with a 13-6 mark. Given the rash of injuries suffered late in the span, manager Robin Ventura might describe Monday’s brief respite as well earned.

“Everybody’s ready for the off day,” Ventura said. “We knew it was there all along, and I thought the guys have handled it great, just taking care of each day as it comes, and we’ve got some guys who are banged up a little bit, some guys who are going on the (disabled list), and it’s been a pretty active stretch as far as playing games, winning games, losing guys to the DL, guys stepping it up for those guys, and so far it’s been pretty good.”

The schedule has been unrelenting for the White Sox (but more on that in a bit). 

What has raised the degree of difficulty is the way players began to drop like flies toward the end of April. 

It began April 24 with the hamstring strain that landed catcher Alex Avila on the 15-day DL.

His replacement, Kevan Smith, joined the team and suffered back spasms in pregame stretch on April 26, which not only removed him from making his major league debut, it also put him on the DL. 

Closer David Robertson returned to the club Sunday after he missed three of four games in Baltimore to attend the funeral of his father-in-law. The White Sox promoted Daniel Webb to pick up the slack in Robertson’s absence and the right-hander struck out the side in a scoreless inning on Thursday before he went on the DL with right elbow flexor inflammation.

Then on Friday, designated hitter Avisail Garcia tweaked his hamstring running to first on the final play of the game. As of Sunday morning, Ventura said Garcia’s availability for Tuesday might still be in question as Garcia wasn’t going to test the hamstring on Sunday. Garcia briefly tested it Saturday afternoon and said it’s not a serious enough injury to go on the DL, but also ruled himself out of action until at least Tuesday.

And on Sunday, Todd Frazier appeared to be in pain for several minutes after an Ubaldo Jimenez pitch hit him on his hand, though the third baseman wound up staying in the game.

Yet the White Sox endured through all of these speed bumps and closed out a seven-game road trip through Toronto and Baltimore with a win and a 5-2 record.

“We come here (Sunday), we do a job and we’re able to go back home with a lot of positivity and have a nice off day and relax,” second baseman Brett Lawrie said. 

The schedule has been anything but kind to the White Sox.

Had it not been for an April 10 rainout, the White Sox would be tied with the Arizona Diamondbacks for the most games played in the majors. To boot, 17 of their first 26 games have taken place on the road, where the White Sox are off to a 12-5 start, having won three of five series and splitting another.

Their strength of schedule also increased as the month wore on. So far, the White Sox played six teams that finished the 2015 season with a winning record, including two division-winners. 

Over their last 10 games, the White Sox played 2015 AL West champs Texas and AL East champs Toronto. They finished off the run with four in Baltimore, a place that has never been friendly, and went 8-2 in the process. 

So perhaps the White Sox will give themselves a pat on the back on Monday, or order a hot fudge sundae, or maybe even upgrade from a compact to a mid-size rental. 

They’ve handled themselves well through their first real test. And starting pitcher Chris Sale, baseball’s first six-game winner, said Sunday they’ll be ready for the next one, too.

“We’re playing great baseball against good teams,” Sale said. “We had some tough teams to face early on and the way we’ve handled it and the way we’ve played has been great. We go back to Chicago, enjoy the off day and keep it rolling.”