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--

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

White Sox: Happy with progress, Brett Lawrie tries to clear final hurdles

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Brett Lawrie isn't sore, he's just not yet correctly aligned.

Until that happens, the White Sox second baseman doesn't want to risk playing at full speed, which for him is nearly the equivalent of hyperdrive on the Millennium Falcon.

Lawrie said Sunday he has been pleased with the progress made in returning from a series of leg injuries that wiped out the final 2 1/2 months of last season. But he also isn't quite ready and doesn't want to risk re-injuring himself until he feels total confidence.

"I've been very happy and I haven't really gone backwards and that's been key for me," Lawrie said. "I guess the biggest thing is being able to trust myself when I get out on the field and not have to worry about my body and just worry about the game. If I can't do that then I'm not going to go out there and do that. S once I can clear that stuff up, and it's in the near future.

"I just need to keep being positive and keep putting the work in every single day and I'll be OK."

Lawrie and Rick Renteria said the veteran has been his normal hyper since he reported to camp eight days ago. He'd been a full participant leading up to Saturday when he told Renteria he still didn't feel completely right. But Lawrie said he's just working out the "end kinks" to a trying period. Even though he's had a few tough days of late, Lawrie is trying to stay upbeat and power through.

"It's nothing that's grabbing at me or anything like that," Lawrie said. "I think it's just how everything is sitting and needs to be aligned, that's all.

"Not completely where I want to be and I want to be right where I want to be in order to get out on the field. This last part has just been tough but I'm just continuing to push through and I want to be out on the field and be 100 percent and just have to worry about baseball and not have to worry about this. Before I get out there I just want to make sure that everything is cleared up."

Discomfort sidelines White Sox infielder Brett Lawrie

Discomfort sidelines White Sox infielder Brett Lawrie

GLENDALE, Ariz. — The White Sox held Brett Lawrie out Saturday after he reported discomfort in the same left leg that sidelined him for the final 2 1/2 months of 2016.

The second baseman has been a full participant the entire spring until he informed manager Rick Renteria what he was experiencing Saturday. 

"We're going to reevaluate him tomorrow and see where he's at," Renteria said. "He didn't feel quite right, and so he was in there earlier today getting treatment. We'll reevaluate tomorrow and make a determination where we're at in terms of trying to set some parameters for how we move forward."

A confusing, tricky series of injuries that Lawrie blamed on wearing orthotics limited him to 94 games last season. He hit the disabled list on July 22 and didn't discover the cause until after the season ended. But Lawrie reported to camp feeling healthy once again and has participated at 100 percent until this point, Renteria said.

"It's been good," Renteria said. "Everything has been clean. There have been no notifications anything had been amiss. He just woke up this morning and felt it. So we're going to be very cautious, take it a day at a time, reevaluate it and see where we're at."