Sox Drawer: The dangers of being 'All-In'

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Sox Drawer: The dangers of being 'All-In'

The Detroit Tigers won the American League Central by 15 games last season. They have the reigning MVP and Cy Young Award winner in Justin Verlander. Now they've added Prince Fielder for nine-years, 214 million, the largest contract in franchise history, in the hopes of getting 82-year-old owner Mike Ilitch a World Series ring.

But Detroit, before you crown your Tigers World Series Champions, or even division champions, be aware of the dangers of going "All-In" like you appear to be.

"If they're using that slogan, then I like our chances because the Red Sox had that slogan, we had that slogan and it didn't work out for either one of us," said A.J. Pierzynski in an interview with Comcast SportsNet.

A.J. knows from experience.

Last season, Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams bet heavy on free agents Pierzynski, Adam Dunn, Paul Konerko, and Jesse Crain with the hopes of bringing another title to Chicago. What did they get for it? 79 wins and a whole lot of heartache.

Pierzynski was also the featured star in an "All-In" commercial that seemed to run on a loop everyday from April through October.

"I'm glad it's over to say the least," Pierzynski said about the 2011 season. "Frustrating, confusing, everything. Every word you can use to describe craziness is about how it went last year. It wasn't good. It wasn't fun. It wasn't the way it was supposed to be. Things just didn't work out."

Go ahead and point the finger at Dunn, Alex Rios, and Gordon Beckham. Everyone else is. But really, if you look at how the whole season unfolded, with the exceptions of maybe Mark Buehrle and Konerko, every single White Sox player had a role in it: Matt Thornton unable to save games early, Juan Pierre's struggles on the basepaths and in the outfield, John Danks 0-8 start, Sergio Santos giving up 7 runs in back-to-back losses just as the Sox were making a move in June. There's plenty of blame to go around.

"It's not one person's fault. People want to look at this person to blame, that person, but it was everybody," Pierzynski said.

While the White Sox were crushing the Indians on Opening Day in Cleveland, Jim Thome says he and his Twins teammates were watching the game on television in the clubhouse.

And I remember our guys saying, It looks like Chicago is going to be tough to handle,'" Thome said. "And then as baseball goes, you just never know."

The White Sox won the first two games of the season and led the division by a half-game. They'd only be in first place one more time. Four days later. And they were tied.

Meanwhile, after a slow start themselves, the Tigers won 95 games thanks to an all-world season by Verlander, closer Jose Valverde not blowing a single save all season, and 24-year-old catcher Alex Avila suddenly hitting like Johnny Bench. Now after winning the division, and the pressure and expectations to win it all in 2012, could the Tigers find themselves in the same boat the White Sox were last year?

"One break here or there, one tough loss, you never know how people are going to react," Pierzynski said. "One guy goes down like Dunn last year with the appendectomy, and it seemed to affect him the whole year. You just never know. One little thing can affect the team for a long time. If the Tigers don't get off to the start they're supposed to get off to, maybe the pressure will rise, expectations mount, fans will get on them and they might struggle. But if you look at them on paper, they're as good as anybody."

The Tigers are good. Potentially great. The last time we said this about them was 2008 when they traded for Miguel Cabrera. What happened that season?

They finished in last place.

You just never know.

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

Veteran outfielder Peter Bourjos eyes role with White Sox

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- As he surveyed the landscape this offseason, Peter Bourjos thought he and the White Sox would make for a good fit.

Adam Eaton had been traded and Austin Jackson departed via free agency, leaving the White Sox with Melky Cabrera and several young players to man a thin outfield. Bourjos, who lived in Chicago until second grade, pursued the White Sox and last month agreed to terms on a minor-league deal in hopes of earning a spot on the Opening Day roster. Last season, Bourjos, who was born in Chicago, hit .251/.292/.389 with five home runs and 23 RBIs in 383 plate appearances for the Philadelphia Phillies.

“I always liked playing in Chicago,” Bourjos said. “It was a good fit and then spring training is here. I have two young kids. So packing them up and going to Florida wasn’t something I wanted to do either.

“We definitely look at all those options on paper. Evaluate what might be the best chance of making a team and this is definitely one of them. It seems like a good fit on paper.”

If he’s healthy enough, Charlie Tilson will get the first crack at the everyday job in center field. Tilson, who missed the final two months of last season with a torn hamstring, is currently sidelined for 10 days with foot problems. Beyond Tilson, the White Sox have prospects Adam Engel and Jacob May with Cabrera slated to start in left field and Avisail Garcia pegged for right. Leury Garcia is also in the mix.

But there still appears to be a good shot for Bourjos to make the club and manager Rick Renteria likes his veteran presence for the young group. Bourjos has accrued six seasons of service time between the Phillies, Los Angeles Angels and St. Louis Cardinals.

“Bourjy has been around,” Renteria said. “He knows what it takes. He understands the little nuances of major-league camp and how we have so many players and we want to give them all a look. We want to see Bourjos, we want to see him out there.”

Bourjos, who turns 30 in March, has an idea what he wants to do with his chance. A slick defensive outfielder, Bourjos wants to prove he’s a better hitter than his .243/.300/.382 slash line would suggest. He said it’s all about being relaxed.

“Offensively just slow everything down and not try to do too much,” Bourjos said. “I put a lot of pressure on myself and it hasn’t translated. I think last year I got in a spot where I just tried to relax in the batter’s box and let everything go and what happened happened. I had success with that.

“I now realize what that feels like and it doesn’t work. Just take a deep breath and be relaxed in the box and good things are going to happen.”

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

Gio, Geo and Gio: White Sox spring training has its own version of 'Who's on First?'

GLENDALE, Ariz. — Giovanni Soto pitched to Geovany Soto at White Sox camp on Monday morning, and the Internet loved it.

The veteran catcher and rookie pitcher, who share similar names and have been friends for two years, worked together during live batting practice. The unrelated pair, who both hail from Puerto Rico, said they’ve been confused for each other several times since reporting to camp last week. Each has also heard the other’s name being called out and thought it was for them, which has led to more confusion. But those mix-ups haven’t limited their enjoyment of the situation, either.

“It’s kind of surreal that he has the same name, last name,” Geovany Soto said. “It’s kind of weird calling him Gio and he’s calling me Geo. It’s kind of weird.

“With the physicals, doctors, the people for the drug testing, we’ve been confused in all three of those. I’m expecting that to happen. Hopefully I can get a big check on his name and cash it.”

The social media world isn’t alone in its enjoyment of the topic as both players smiled while discussing it on Monday.

Giovanni Soto said the players met two seasons ago when he pitched for the Cleveland Indians and the catcher was in his first stint with the White Sox. They grew up about 20 minutes apart from each other in Puerto Rico and now spend time together in the offseason. But what has made the scenario even more confusing is that White Sox prospect Lucas Giolito is seated only a few stalls away from Giovanni Soto in the clubhouse.

“It’s kind of weird, especially in the clubhouse and on the field because when someone says Geo, we turn around to see if it’s for him or for me,” Giovanni Soto said. “And we also have Giolito, and people call him Gio. It’s weird, but it’s funny too.”

Both Sotos could make the team’s Opening Day roster.

Geovany Soto, who signed a minor league contract in January, is the most experienced catcher in camp and is favored to win a job. Giovanni Soto, who was claimed off waivers from the Cubs in November, is one of several relievers competing for a spot and could make the club if the White Sox decide to carry two left-handers in the bullpen. And while Giolito is expected to start the season at Triple-A, he could reach the majors at some point causing more pandemonium.

“There’s a lot of Geo going on with Giolito, Giovanni and then me,” Geovany Soto said. “And can get pretty hectic. But yeah, it’s fun for us.”