Ballantini: Different directions for Alexei and Freddy

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Ballantini: Different directions for Alexei and Freddy

Tuesday, Feb. 1, 2011
2:10 p.m.

By Brett Ballantini
CSNChicago.com

With rumors, whispers, and team sources ever swirling through the offseason, look to BBQ to provide a bit of a reality check. Stories broke on Monday about two White Sox players, one speculative but logical (Alexei Ramirezs reported contract extension), the other elementary and borderline sad (Freddy Garcia taking another bite of the Big Apple). Lets take a look at how these latest developments affect the big picture for the White Sox:

Whats the story with Alexei?

Ramirez was already signed for 2011 after opting out of the fourth year of his original, four-year deal, which forced the White Sox to re-sign him at 2.75 million instead of the original payout of 1.1 million. His value to the White Sox being self-evident (per FanGraphs, Ramirez has provided 29.3 million in value in exchange for just 3.6 million in salary in his first three seasons, and even at a more than doubled contract in 2011 he projects to give the White Sox a surplus value of around 12 million), clearly the club would be working on an extension for their prized shortstop. GM Ken Williams told me that very thing back at the start of December, once Adam Dunn was signed, although he acknowledged it could be around spring training by the time something got done.

So this extension is a good deal for the White Sox?

By inking Ramirez to a reported four-year, 32.5 million extension with a 10 million club option in 2016, the team will give itself cost certainty at the most important fielding position on the diamond and will build around a player who will turn just 35 at the end of the 2016 season. Abacus-ing up the quick and dirty numbers, by 2016 the White Sox will have paid 48.8 million over nine seasons (5.4 million per season) to a player who has averaged almost 10 million in value for the team in his first three years. Providing Ramirez can at least reach his average major league season so far in the six to come, the White Sox will have gotten a return of around 200 on the shortstop over the breadth of his career. Many are calling the speculated extension reasonable and fairfrom this angle, it looks like an incredibly team-friendly deal, and another masterstroke from Williams.

As the potential foundation piece of the future White Sox, does Ramirez have the leadership capability to mentor a new generation of White Sox players?

Leadership and such intangibles develop over time, and to be fair, in many ways Ramirez is just getting his feet wet in American culture and within the confines of a clubhouse already rife with veteran leadership. And providing that Gordon Beckham will be his double-play partner over the course of his contract, Ramirez will always be the second course, at least to Bacon, when it comes to overall team leadership. But with a second year under his belt (including Gold Glove-quality defense in 2010, AL managers and coaches!), Ramirezs confidence is growing. The shy import will never fill Ozzie Guillens cleats when it comes to media friendliness and team leadership, but if he commits to the White Sox for what will essentially be the remainder of his career at shortstop, its an indication he is ready to grow a bit into areas hes yet to explore, like leadership, mentoring, and maybe even expanding his English vocabulary.

Have the White Sox ever committed this kind of money to a shortstop?

Is that a rhetorical question? Well, not only have the White Sox not, but few major league teams have ever invested so heavily in a shortstop. From Cots Baseball Contracts via J. Jonah Stankevitzs analysis of the deal at Sox Examiner, just seven teams have plunked more money into a shortstop than the White Sox are in Ramirez: the New York Yankees (Derek Jeter), Colorado Rockies (Troy Tulowitzki), Florida Marlins (Hanley Ramirez), Baltimore Orioles (Miguel Tejada), Los Angeles Dodgers (Rafael Furcal), San Francisco Giants (Edgar Renteria) and Boston Red Sox (Julio Lugo).

So the White Sox have just secured their Tulowitzki or Ramirez for the next six seasons?

Well, not exactly. In terms of comps, Alexei comes only as close as a surname to Hanley, unfortunately. Interestingly, Alexeis most comparable player (per Baseball-Reference) is an infielder named Charlie Neal, who played eight seasons in the majors, much of them with the Los Angeles Dodgers. In 1959, Neal made his first of three All-Star appearances, won his first and only Gold Glove (at second base), finished eighth in NL MVP voting, and ironically enough stung the 1959 White Sox in the World Series to the tune of two homers, six RBI and a 1.037 OPS.

Will any White Sox player ever have a cooler nickname than the Cuban Missile?

Probably not.

OK, now that Garcia has signed with the Yankees, where does that leave the White Sox in terms of a fifth starter?

Very comfortably, thank you. Listen, were talking about six potential aces among Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Edwin Jackson, Jake Peavy and Chris Sale. As well as Garcia pitched for the White Sox in 2010, he wasnt a world-beater, just a fifth starter who benefited from good enough health to take the mound for 28 starts. That durabilityoften the bane of fifth starterswas what allowed Garcia to give the White Sox a phenomenal return (5.4 million) on what was a gamble of a million-dollar contract.

There were a multitude of reasons why Garcia could not have returned to the White Sox in 2011, from the way Williams bolstered the bullpen for 2011, early reports that Peavy could well occupy that No. 5 slot beginning on Opening Day (the club wouldnt need a fifth starter until April 9, the ninth day of the regular season) and a payroll stretched wafer-thin. The only reason to bring Garcia back, frankly, was sheer sentimentality.

Is it written anywhere that a fifth starter has to stink?

Thats a great point. While its rare these days when even three starters in a rotation are reliable, it seems silly to therefore accept that every fifth day needs to be batting practice, because pitching is so very scarce in baseball today. Think about the multitude of horrors sent out by fifth starters in recent White Sox past, and then feel your blood pressure lower as you envision Peavy andor Sale manning that post in 2011. Talk about Adam Dunn all day long, but the real reason why the White Sox have World Series potential is being six starters deep in a league that struggles to find a single ace in a haystack. On the other hand, some clownish projections have the White Sox with just a middling rotation (worse than the Tigers and Cubbies, really, Matthew Pouliot?), so who knows what lies in store for the Pale Hose.

What are Freddys prospects in Gotham?

Well, it didnt work out too well in 2009, when his tenure with the New York Mets lasted all of three months and exactly zero regular-season games. Garcia really needed the White Sox to be less set with their rotation and overall pitching, because there are few places where such a unique veteran (read: awful spring outings, languid demeanor, stubborn streak) can flourish. Garcia benefited from the immediate care and curating of pitching coach Don Cooper and the support and mentoring of Guillen. In New York, its going to be a Florida free-for-all among the Bartolo Colons, Sergio Mitres, Mark Priors of the rest of the 30-and-up softballers the Yankees have opened their spring training mounds to. Guillen said in January that any team picking up Garcia had better talk to us, meaning that when Garcia is sweating a 20.00 ERA in spring training and looks utterly lost andor disinterested, dont be so quick to judge him. Think the Yankees, who cant even decide who their go-to GM on signings is, did any sort of background check beyond a physical? Like Mick Jagger wrote in the back of a cab some three decades ago, go ahead, bite the Big Appledont mind the maggots; unfortunately, Sweaty Freddy is set up to fail in those dastardly Yankees pinstripes.

Brett Ballantini is CSNChicago.coms White Sox Insider. Follow him @CSNChi_Beatnik on Twitter for up-to-the-minute White Sox information.

Todd Frazier still able to laugh off most embarrassing Little League story ever

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Todd Frazier still able to laugh off most embarrassing Little League story ever

When it comes to hitting homers and driving in runs for the Chicago White Sox in 2016, Todd Frazier is No. 1.

But ask the third baseman for a favorite story about being a baseball player, and he won’t hesitate.

It’s the time he was on the field in a middle of a game---and he went No. 2.

“It was a 10-year-old tournament. Final game. Winner goes to the sectionals. I’m at shortstop,” Frazier explained to CSN Chicago. “I don’t know what I ate. I had the bubble guts all day long. The next thing I knew, I was in trouble.”

Before we get to the dirty details of the Frazier detonation, the original goal of this story was to ask White Sox players about their memories growing up playing baseball.

As the hero of the Toms River East All-Star team that won the 1998 Little League World Series, Frazier probably has enough memories to fill a book.

In the championship game alone, he went 4-for-4 with a leadoff home run. He started that day at shortstop, came on to pitch in relief and threw the game-winning strikeout that gave Toms River a 12-9 victory over Japan for the title.

All the great stories from that magical season have already been told.  This is one from two years earlier that Frazier has been saving for years.

“I s— in my uniform," Frazier said. "I’m not ashamed to admit it."

With quotes like that, I think I speak for every Chicago media member that the White Sox should sign Frazier to a lifetime contract.

And it only gets better.  Or in Frazier’s case, much worse.

“We had a bases loaded jam, and the next thing you know, I couldn’t hold it in,” Frazier recalled. “I didn’t know what to do, to either run off the field or not. So I just let it go, man. Diarrhea all through.”

Frazier’s messy situation came at a terrible time: They were in the final inning of a huge playoff game. Winners move on, losers go home.

Suddenly, Frazier didn’t care about any of that. He needed to go to the nearest bathroom, quickly.

But instead of escaping the field with a victory and his dignity, Frazier’s internal crisis was about to be magnified.

“Coach actually said, ‘Todd, let’s go. It’s your turn to pitch.’ So I’m like, ‘Oh, my God.’ I walk up there gingerly. I get to the mound," he said. "I took one warm-up pitch and that was it. The umpire came out and said, ‘Dude, there’s some kind of stench going on here.’ And I’m like, ‘Yeah, I smelled the same thing when I came out.’ We’re all laughing.”

Not for long.

Thrust into this pressure situation as a relief pitcher who ironically had already relieved himself, with the fate of his team resting in both his pitching hand and his soiled underwear, the proverbial s— was about to hit the fan.

“First pitch, the guy hits a bases clearing triple (to win the game). I was elated. Everybody else was crying,” Frazier said. “I run to the Porta John. My dad is laughing at me.”

Cackling as his son raced to the facilities after a heart-breaking little league game speaks to the offbeat sense of humor embedded in the Frazier DNA.

And yet, this ludicrous moment was almost topped by what happened next.

“I had to ask my dad if he had an extra pair of clothing. Lo and behold, I’m wearing my 6-foot-8 dad’s jeans going home.”

Little Frazier was about 5-feet at the time.

‘I’m like, ‘Dad, let’s get out of here. Let’s not even shake hands. I don’t care about the (second place) trophy. Let’s get out of here.”

It might come as a surprise, but Frazier is not the first baseball player to pollute his baseball pants during a game. A well known major leaguer who will remain nameless said he once did it during an actual major league game.

It’s so embarrassing, who would let the world know about it, especially in today’s age of athletes being so guarded with the media, trying to control the message (and bowels), in the attempt to hide their imperfections?

Clearly not Todd Frazier. We applaud him for it.

“It’s a classic,” he said laughing.  “Now it’s out of the bag, so we’ll see what happens."

In the 20 years since that fateful day, Frazier has made sure this never happens again.

“I’ve always had a bottle of Pepto (Bismol) with me just in case. We've even got them inside the clubhouse here, so I'm good to go.”

Carlos Rodon, White Sox shut down Mariners in series finale

Carlos Rodon, White Sox shut down Mariners in series finale

Carlos Rodon continued his best stretch of the season on Sunday afternoon.

The White Sox pitcher earned his fifth consecutive quality start in the team's 4-1 win over the Seattle Mariners at U.S. Cellular Field.

Rodon had another impressive day, finishing the game with six innings pitched while allowing one run on five hits and one walk. He also struck out six.

In his last five starts, Rodon is 3-0 and has allowed only six runs (five earned) while tacking on 26 strikeouts. He lowered his season ERA to 3.91.

"Carlos is really evolving. As he goes along he just seems to be getting better, there's more confidence there," manager Robin Ventura said. "He's learning a lot about himself as well, going through these. He gets extended somewhat, he's in there for a while, he's seeing these guys the third time around, which is good for him.

"He has the stuff to be able to do that and continue to do that, really. The future's really bright for him."

Though four runs were scored, it was mostly a quiet night for the White Sox offense, which finished the game with five hits. The team had two hits in the first seven innings and the remaining three came in the eighth.

The White Sox opened the scoring in the fourth inning with a single by Justin Morneau, which scored two.

Adam Eaton left the game in the fifth inning with a bruised right forearm after the White Sox outfielder was hit by a pitch in the fourth inning. X-rays were negative and he remains day-to-day. J.B. Shuck replaced him in center field.

"He got hit in the forearm and he couldn't hold on to the bat," Ventura said. "As of right now, he's just day to day."

The Mariners got on the board in the sixth thanks to a solo homer by Robinson Cano, his 30th of the year, to cut the lead in half.

On his 100th pitch of the day, Rodon was removed in the seventh after allowing back-to-back singles to lead off the inning.

"As a competitor, I want to be in that situation," Rodon said. "I didn’t want to come out. But when you’ve got a manager who has done it for awhile, he knows the game of baseball, he knows what he’s doing, obviously it worked out there. You put your trust in him and leave it to your teammates, let them do it.

"You’re up 2-1, you want a quick inning, you want another hold in that seventh. Didn’t really want to dip into the pen that early. I’ve been trying to stay in the game longer. Just a little frustrated. I want to be competitive, I still want to be out there. But hats off to my teammates once again for digging me out."

The White Sox bullpen shut down the Mariners the rest of the way in the final three innings. Chris Beck, Dan Jennings and Nate Jones combined for two scoreless innings.

In the eighth, Melky Cabrera legged out an RBI triple for the White Sox to pull ahead, 3-1. An RBI single from Jose Abreu, who was hit by a pitch twice, made it 4-1.

David Robertson closed out the ninth and earned his 33rd save of the season, which ranks third in the American League.

The White Sox are 63-66 on the season and have won six of their last eight. As it stands, the White Sox are 7.5 games out of a wild card spot and 10.5 behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians.

The White Sox picked the perfect time to heat up if there's any shot of them playing October baseball, with 27 of their last 33 games being against division opponents. 

"Anything’s possible," Morneau said. "It’ll take a lot but we do it one day at a time one game at a time. If we kind of prepare the way we need to prepare and go out there and do everything we can to win that day. If you look at the big picture it seems pretty overwhelming, but if you go out there and just try and do what you can everyday I think we’re still alive.

"We kind of control our own destiny."

White Sox: Adam Eaton is day-to-day with bruised right forearm

White Sox: Adam Eaton is day-to-day with bruised right forearm

Adam Eaton left Sunday's White Sox-Seattle Mariners series finale early with a bruised right forearm.

The White Sox outfielder was hit by a pitch to lead off the fourth inning in his second time at the plate. X-rays were negative.

"He got hit in the forearm and he couldn't hold on to the bat," manager Robin Ventura said after the game. "As of right now, he's just day to day."

Eaton remained in the game to field in the top of the fifth, but was replaced by J.B. Shuck for his next at-bat in the bottom of the inning.