Garfien: Where there's a will, there's a Williams

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Garfien: Where there's a will, there's a Williams

Wednesday, Aug. 11, 2010
11:51 AM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

As Joe Mauer, Jason Kubel, Jim Thome, J.J. Hardy and Michael Cuddyer were doing their home run trots on Tuesday night, tilting the U.S. Cellular Field scoreboard like a pinball machine that had seen way too many quarters, I thought of Kenny Williams and the anger that was likely detonating inside his brain, the uber-competitive White Sox general manager forced to watch helplessly as his team was knocked out of first place in the Central Division for the first time since July 11.

Thats what the Minnesota Twins do. They dont just beat you. They evict you from your home, dance in your front yard and do it with a smile on their face.

Quite simply: the Twins cannot be trusted.

Except for getting scorching hot in the second half of the season, which they are doing again. Since the break: 18-7. Oh, and winning games in the Central Division. Theyre 30-16, compared to the Sox who are 20-22.

Considering those two facts alone, its a shock that the Sox are only a game out of first.

Maybe thats why Williams was able to find his happy place before Tuesdays thrashing, appearing as a guest on Chicago Tribune Live. He was calm, relaxed, even jovial as he was peppered with all sorts of questions from host David Kaplan and Trib columnist David Haugh.

Williams acknowledged that the four-game series in Baltimore was a bad weekend, but wasnt that concerned about his team because if they have shown me one thing, its their ability to bounce back and their ability to focus when they need to focus.

That didnt happen Tuesday. Maybe Wednesday.

In his first two starts with the White Sox, Edwin Jackson has clearly changed his focus, not to mention his mechanics. Hes given up just two earned runs in 13 innings, recording 13 strikeouts and just two walks.

Whats the reason for his rejuvenation?

No. 1, Edwin is excited to here," Williams said. "Were pitching in games that matter. You tend to amp it up a little bit and you come with it a little bit more. Also, he and Don Cooper have been working on a couple of little things that get him focused on the target. And it also helps that the hitters dont know whats coming. Now they dont know whats coming because hes not tipping his pitches.

Interesting.

Williams is still searching for another power bat. That likely means claiming a player off waivers. Its a tricky process that often has more to do with luck than anything else. Having Alex Rios fall into your lap like last year is a rarity, and Williams gave us an inside-look at whats going on behind the scenes.

The waiver process is such that most teams put all of their players through, so hitters and pitchers are popping up all the time, Williams said. The problem is, do they get to the first-place teams or does someone else put a claim on them and block them? So more often than not, players are going to be blocked.

"But every now and then, a guy with a salary that a team is more interested in getting rid of versus getting a player back will slip through and the other teams are afraid to grab that player. Thats how we got Alex Rios last year. But we were so confident in his abilities that we wanted that to happen where we didnt have to give up a player to get him.

One player that Williams went after right before the trade deadline is the Dodgers' Manny Ramirez. The Sox GM recently said that he wont acquire a player who could potentially disrupt the chemistry of the team. Considering Mannys controversial me-first past, he brings with him a scientific formula that could be utterly explosive (both good and bad).

But if Ramirez recovers from his calf injury, and Williams is still looking for a dangerous bat for his lineup, the possibility of Manny coming to the South Side cannot be overlooked.

Why? Well, if you read between the lines, heres what Williams said when asked about giving players second chances.

Who amongst us hasnt made mistakes, hasnt said something, particularly when youre younger, or done something that agitated people or got on peoples nerves, or just said the wrong thing," he said. "All you can do is pick yourself up and strive to be a better person. We give people that opportunity because we see the fallacies in ourselves.

Sound like someone you know?

After giving up six runs in 2 13 innings, maybe this isnt the best time to be writing about re-signing Freddy Garcia, but other than the occasional hiccup, the 35-year-old pitcher has been a rock in the back-end of the Sox rotation.

However, Garcia expressed concern on Sunday that a numbers game might cost him a spot on the starting staff next season.

Now theyve got Jackson, another pitcher with a lot of money, Garcia said. So they want to get Peavy back next year, who knows? They got Danks, Buehrle and Floyd. I dont know what the situation is for me.

Tuesday, Williams addressed it and opened the door for Garcia to return.

Garcia has to be a factor in our offseason discussions. Ultimately, hes a free agent and how that factors in with what we have coming back and what we want to do in terms of moving some pieces around that has to come into play. But you have to talk about him because he just goes out and wins.

Williams prefers his wins one way, and not the kind that end with a dramatic walk-off homer in the bottom of the ninth.

I like blowouts," he said. "Whether in an individual game or for the season. I dont like excitement. Hell no. I want the blowout every time. I dont need a close exciting game. For what?

I dont know ... better TV ratings?

Maybe the Sox can help their GM relax by torching Minnesota on Wednesday and Thursday, but we all know better.

The Twins cannot be trusted.

Put it on a T-shirt. Slap it on a bumper sticker. Hopefully the Sox wont be sitting behind them for long, choking on their fumes.

Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.

Former White Sox slugger Jim Thome taking his talents to MLB Network

Former White Sox slugger Jim Thome taking his talents to MLB Network

White Sox fans who miss Jim Thome will get to see the ex-slugger’s mug a whole lot more soon.

Thome won’t be rejoining the White Sox lineup, but he is adding television analyst to his job description, supplementing his gig in the White Sox front office with regular appearances on MLB Network.

“I’m excited,” Thome told reporters Wednesday at Guaranteed Rate Field. “The opportunity came up of maybe doing it, and then the first thing I thought of was my job with the White Sox. But it all worked out.

“I love baseball. I think being around baseball and talking hitting and maybe sharing some of the stuff that I learned over a 22-year-career, maybe to help kids, coaches, just in general maybe share a little input. Learn a lot of stuff from a lot of great people: Hall of Famers that are on the show, players that I played with, players that I competed with. And to me the biggest thing, when you leave the game, you miss that teammate camaraderie atmosphere that I think this gives you.”

Thome doesn’t know what his schedule will be or which of the network’s many shows he’ll be appearing on. He won’t be a full-time analyst, but he will be sharing his expertise on the art of hitting alongside his fellow players like Sean Casey, Al Leiter, Billy Ripken, Dan Plesac and plenty of others.

Per MLB Network, Thome’s first appearance will be May 1.

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Thome, who works with the White Sox as a special assistant to general manager Rick Hahn, is most looking forward to doing a little teaching on the show that he hopes gets through to some younger players.

“I’ve got a lot of drills I did when I played. So if I can teach that to the game, but also maybe to our youth side of the sport and also the college side,” he said. “Maybe you say something that helps a player and he goes out and does well. And that’s what it’s all about.”

This move to TV isn’t necessarily something that Thome ever expected, though it shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise to fans and observers who remember his personality from his playing days.

“I didn’t (ever think about doing this). I have to say, I never thought about, ‘Would I ever be an analyst? Would I ever get on the media side?’” Thome said. “I always say in baseball you never say never. If an opportunity comes up that fits your family schedule and then your work schedule — my work schedule is this job with the White Sox. That’s really important to me because I’ve been here now almost five years. To me that’s important.

“So to have them all mix and translate and feed off one or the other, being around here maybe will help me on the other side as well. That was the most important thing for me.”

Of course, White Sox fans might be curious about another part of Thome’s future career: Will he ever return to the dugout?

After Ozzie Guillen and Robin Ventura served as the team’s managers for a combined 13 seasons, speculation over whether some other former White Sox could ever sit in the manager’s chair has been fairly common, and Thome has been part of those “what if” conversations along with guys like A.J. Pierzynski and Paul Konerko.

“Again I answer that kind of the same thing with this, you never say never. If an opportunity comes up and you feel it’s a great opportunity, you know, think about it, getting a manager’s job would be a tremendous opportunity,” Thome said. “So I would definitely have to think about that, yes.”

As White Sox bats heat up, Todd Frazier feeling like himself after bumpy start to 2017

As White Sox bats heat up, Todd Frazier feeling like himself after bumpy start to 2017

Three games do not a comeback make, but Todd Frazier is feeling like his normal self again.

Frazier’s been battling a host of health-related issues since the start of 2017, including injuries to his finger and oblique that hampered him in the spring and most recently a bout with the flu that cost him six of eight games and saw him lose 10 pounds.

But the last three games have been more like it for Frazier, as the White Sox third baseman has gone 4-for-12 with five RBIs, four runs scored, three doubles and a pair of walks. In Tuesday’s win over the visiting Kansas City Royals, Frazier had a pair of doubles, matching his total from his previous 12 games.

“It was weird to start off with the finger on something weird that happened last year and that turned into a cast. And then the oblique. It has been a crazy ride,” Frazier said after Tuesday’s game. “That’s why this game you’ve got to work your butt off in the offseason and be ready now, and I feel like I’m getting back to where I need to be.

“I feel fine. I’m good. I’m trying to lift as much as I can. Maybe a little soreness from lifting trying to gain some muscle and some weight back. Trying to eat as much as I can too as well.”

The time off would be enough to knock someone off their game, but Frazier — who posted career lows with a .225 batting average and .302 on-base percentage last season — was still looking to heat up after struggling to produce through the season’s first few weeks. In his first 10 games, the veteran third baseman slashed just .091/.189/.212 with just three hits and one RBI.

So Frazier has been studying up. The entire White Sox lineup has feasted in the first two games of the current series against the Royals, combining for 22 runs on 29 hits. But Frazier credited his personal success to some of the work he’s been doing.

“Just doing my homework,” he said Wednesday. “I’m just trying to go back and understand what I did in the other years  that made me hit the ball better. Talk to the coaches. At the end of the day, it’s mental, that’s all it is. You’ve been hitting for all these years now, just got to understand to focus.

“We see these pitchers a lot. People always told me, ‘You’ve got the upper hand, you see these guys all the time.’ So let’s start figuring out what they’re throwing.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Tuesday night, Frazier served as the White Sox designated hitter, the second time he’s been in the lineup but not in the field this season, matching the number of times he played DH in 2016, his first year with an American League team.

While it presented a change of pace, Frazier had a positive review of something he hasn’t done very often.

“I liked it. Every once and a while I think you need a day like that,” he said. “I think we’ve got a lot of guys that can do it. It was good to get Matt (Davidson) in there at third base, get his body going a little bit out in the field a little bit more. It’s like, ‘You got a day off, you’re DH’ing.’ Not really. You’ve got to keep the body moving, keep staying loose. It worked out well for everybody.

“I did a little heavy lifting in the legs the day before, and Rick (Renteria) didn’t even know about that. I was a little sore, and I was like, ‘Good, I got a little DH spot today,’ which was great for me, and now I can focus on defense, as well.”

In baseball, fortunes can change on a daily basis, so who knows if this will be the start of a surge for Frazier or just a brief spike in a long season. But if the White Sox can get Frazier and the rest of the lineup to keep hitting like they have the past few games, it could mean big things.

“Everybody focused and prepared,” Frazier explained when asked about the big run totals in the last few games. “I think the little things, guys getting here earlier, guys wanting to get out there and take extra work, and the focus and determination that we’ve got going right now is pretty nice. Nobody’s trying to do too much.

“You see our plate approach, you see guys hustling out balls. You watch guys like Avi Garcia, he’s got two big infield singles for him. At the end of the year, you look back at some things like that, a guy hits a one-hopper to second base and beats out a ball. That takes your average from .250 to .260 if you get three or four of those. Examples: Leury Garcia beating out a ground ball, getting a play overturned because of hustle. We don’t lack that this year, and I think that’s something big that we’re working on.

“Win, lose or draw, we’re going to give 100 percent. We know we’ve got Rick Renteria coming in here telling us ‘Nobody’s feeling sorry for you. So pick yourself up. We’re professionals. We’re White Sox.’ I think that’s what we’re going by right now.”