Chicago White Sox

Sox Drawer: The First Annual Melty Awards

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Sox Drawer: The First Annual Melty Awards

Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2010
Updated 9:32 PM
By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

OK, so the White Sox cant win the division.

Paul Konerko has no shot at AL MVP.

This could be his final week in a Sox uniform. Same with A.J. Pierzynski.

Manny Ramirez now hits for power like Juan Pierre.

Gavin Floyd, Bobby Jenks, Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios all might be shut down for the season.

Yep, things went south pretty fast.

At least some sanity was restored Monday with Ozzie Guillen announcing hes coming back for 2011. Where were the MLB Network cameras when he had his meetings with Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams? Well have to use our imaginations.

But before we say good-bye to the 2010 season, which will forever be remembered for its extremes; either scorching hot or arctic cold (the Sox were last in the league in being lukewarm), its time to hand out some prizes for everybodys efforts. Awards, if you will. Something flashy. Something catchy. Something the players and coaches can put on their mantles to inspire them for 2011.

Or not.

For this, we need a name. Television has the Emmys. Theater has the Tonys. I have a seat next to Bill Melton for six months. Thats my reward. So in honor of my macho friend, illustrious colleague and 1971 home run champ, here are the first annual Melty Awards!

Most Valuable Player (as if there was any competition): Paul Konerko

Despite my on-air campaign to make him the MVP of the American League (and entire western hemisphere), Konerko will have to settle for the most valuable on the White Sox. He leads the team with 38 homers, 106 RBIs, a .310 batting average and has carried the team on his back from the word go.

He also gets a Swiss timing award for once again having a career season during a contract year. The last time it happened, the Sox won the World Series and Paulie surprised Jerry Reinsdorf by giving him the baseball used for the final out. The Sox, in turn, rewarded Konerko with a five-year, 60 million contract.

This time, in lieu of a World Series ball, may I suggest that Konerko give Reinsdorf a sample of his DNA. That way if we ever start cloning people, the Sox can field a team with nine Paul Konerkos.

Theyd win the title every year.

The Mickey Rourke Comeback Player of the Year: Alex Rios

When the Sox claimed him off waivers from Toronto last August, lets just say the Alex Rios Era didnt get off to the greatest of starts. First, Kenny Williams received a jaywalking ticket on his way to Safeco Field in Seattle moments after making the deal. And when Rios arrived, the guy Williams thought he acquired never made it through customs. Rios struggled mightily at the plate, batting .199 in 41 games. He pressed so hard he seemed to be on a one-way ticket for Carlos Quentinville.

My family and I couldnt go anywhere without hearing how much of an idiot I was, Williams told USA Today about the deal this summer.

But Rios arrived in spring training having lost about 50 pounds (all in his brain). He was loose, relaxed, confident and it showed on the field. Through Tuesday, he was batting .284 with 21 homers and set career-highs with 88 RBIs and 34 stolen bases.

And unlike Mickey Rourke, he did it all without plastic surgery.

The Benjamin Button Aging Backwards Award: Omar Vizquel

I know his birth certificate says he was born on April 24, 1967, but someone in the medical community needs to do a thorough investigation on this man. There is no possible way that Omar Vizquel is 43 years old! I truly believe that he was found wrapped in a blanket on someones doorstep in Venezuela in the early 1900s, a baby trapped in a 104-year-old mans body.

When the White Sox signed him last winter, he was in his early-40s, but by the time August rolled around, Omar had magically reached puberty. His voice started changing, his teeth needed braces, he began using words like dude and ya know, and kept wanting to hang out with Oney Guillen.

But on the field, Omar was a wunderkind. A true freak of nature.

Comparing 2009 to 2010, Vizquel doubled (or more than doubled) his hits, runs, homers, RBIs, stolen bases and walks from the year before. And in 106 games and 216 chances at 2B, SS, and 3B he made only three errors.

I make that many mistakes every night on the postgame show.

Omar has to come back for 2011. Unless hes wearing diapers.

The Aaron RowandNick SwisherJim Thome Medias Best Friend Award: Gordon Beckham

Beckham had many reasons to give us the occasional Heisman; he got off to a terrible start, he was playing a new position, he had the pressure of being the Sox new cover boy, plus it got out that hes a huge fan of Justin Bieber. That fact alone would send most athletes into a cave for six weeks. But every day, Gordon was there at his locker (which at one point had a nameplate that read Gordon Bieber).

He was totally accommodating no matter what was swirling around in his head. A class act.
Someone Buy This Man Another Pair Of Pants Award: Bill Melton

Yes, Melton wins a Melty. Although this is probably nothing to be proud of.

One of the tricks of doing our pre- and postgame shows is that you dont see what were wearing from the waist down. Its not like we do the shows in boxer shorts or anything, but Melton prefers to come to the studio in blue jeans, which is no big deal. That was until we got a new set, and while it was being built, we had to do our shows from the set of Chicago Tribune Live, which exposes your body from head to toe.

This was a huge problem for Bill, who has only one pair of pants other than blue jeans here in Chicago. Its a set of beige khakis, which viewers would become familiar with over the next three weeks because Bill wore them for every single show!

I frequently suggested that he stop by a department store and buy another pair, but Melton would have nothing of it. He and his slacks remained firmly entrenched on the postgame set as if it were Custers Last Stand. There would be no backing down.

Eventually, the pants took on a life of their own, often taking part in the on-air discussions. They were vehemently opposed to the Manny Ramirez trade, wanted Paul Konerko batting third and believed that the Sox need to blow up the entire roster and start over (they became a little salty towards the end).

Fortunately, the new set is now finished. Bills blue jeans have returned. Life is back to normal. But Saturday night, after our final CSN Sox game of the season, well all have to deal with the new normal. Bill will drive back to his home in Arizona (cruise control set at 35 mph), leaving behind a newsroom that isnt the same when hes not in it.

I dont mean to get dramatic here. Melton would smack me over the head for that. But theres a certain pulse in our office, a beat that exists on a nightly basis, and when Bill walks in the door, you can feel it. Ask him about the Twins and youll hear it. Hes a spring and summer staple at Comcast SportsNet. The weather is good. Were not buried in snow. Theres baseball and theres Bill. Knowing we wont have either of them again until April is downright depressing.

So safe travels back to Scottsdale my friend. Well see you back here in 2011. Hopefully by then youll learn how to use a computer (so you can read this), which will also explain the brand new pair of pants waiting for you at your front door.

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

Nicky Delmonico is the White Sox hero we don't deserve

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USA TODAY

Nicky Delmonico is the White Sox hero we don't deserve

The legend of Nicky Delmonico grows every night. 

On Friday, the White Sox rookie produced his second career multi-homer game in extraordinary fashion.

The first of his two bombs was just a good, old-school mash to right field: 

The second, however, conflated muscle and hustle: 

What can't this guy do? 

The pair of homers boosted his total to five in just 15 games. May want to save voters the time and just induct him into baseball's Hall of Fame now. 

How Michael Kopech's rigorous offseason strength and conditioning program played a role in Friday's promotion

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USA TODAY

How Michael Kopech's rigorous offseason strength and conditioning program played a role in Friday's promotion

He’s never pitched more innings and yet Michael Kopech feels great from a physical standpoint. The White Sox prospect -- who was promoted to Triple-A Charlotte in a surprising move on Friday -- is also throwing as well as he has at any point in his young career.

Kopech and those around him attribute how he feels on the mound in spite of a large innings total to a rigorous offseason strength and conditioning program. Kopech, who spends up to an hour a day in the gym in between starts during the season, works out 15-18 hours a week during the offseason in order to be prepared to withstand the rigors of a full season. With an 0.66 ERA over his last 41 innings, Kopech feels that work has been validated.

“There’s a lot of natural fatigue throughout the season,” Kopech said. “I feel like I do a pretty good job in the offseason of preparing myself for a full-innings load and that’s what I’ve done every offseason.

“Unfortunately, until this year I haven’t had that opportunity. Now that I’ve finally got the opportunity, I’m starting to see the work that I did, it’s paid off. I do feel like that has had a lot to do with (the success).”

Kopech has done many things to impress his now former Birmingham Barons manager Julio Vinas. But one event that recently stood out was when Kopech hit 99 mph on the radar gun with his 95th pitch of the game without any extra effort. The right-hander naturally produced the same velocity fastball he had earlier in the game.

Vinas has little doubt about the origin of the pitch.

“He’s a workhorse,” Vinas said. “I get here early. He’s here and always doing something to better himself, whether you see him in the outfield getting some extra running in, you see him in the weight room, he gets after it. It just shows how hard he works. To maintain that 99-mph fastball when 95 pitches into a game, you’ve got to be in great shape. He is because you never see him laboring.”

But Kopech was struggling in June when he posted a 6.95 ERA in five starts and walked 18 batters in 22 innings. The stretch had the White Sox wondering if MLB Pipeline’s No. 12-ranked prospect had hit a wall. The pitcher had completed 75 innings by the end of June, which was 3 2/3 shy of what he totaled in all of 2016, including 22 1/3 innings in the Arizona Fall League.

[MORE: Pair of White Sox top pitching prospects promoted] 

The White Sox made no certain plans, but determined they’d be vigilant in seeing how Kopech handled the workload. The team gave him a nine-day break in between starts around the All-Star Futures Game and made a mechanical adjustment with Kopech, too.

Just like that, Kopech has soared, which led to his promotion on Friday.

“Since then he’s on the best run he’s been on,” player development director Chris Getz said. “He’s in a really good place. But we’re constantly having conversations on his work, physically where he’s at, his weight and then obviously the on-field performance. Are there any indications of fatigue or anything like that? We’re near the stretch run and then the finish line and well aware of the innings and what he has done in the past.

“If he were to hit a wall and we feel like physically he needed to be shut down we certainly were open to it. We weren’t going to force any issues, but he’s shown no signs. He’s a physically gifted guy who works very hard, has a goal in mind to finish a full season. He’s on track to that do that.”

Kopech thinks it’s due to the offseason work he has always put In but never had a chance to test out. This is the first time he’s had the chance to pitch a full season as 2015 ended with his 50-game suspension and the first half of 2016 was wiped out by injury.

Kopech said he works out two to three hours a day for five or six days in the offseason. He’s also “getting after it” in the gym for an hour on three of the four days in between his starts.

On road trips, Kopech also eats pre-packaged meals prepared by a nutritionist rather than normal clubhouse fare to eat healthy.

Kopech was expected to start on Friday at Birmingham before he was promoted. Now the plan calls for him to start on Monday at Charlotte. If he stays on a regular schedule, Kopech would be in line for three starts at Charlotte, a plan for which he feels physically prepared.

“I haven’t really felt very fatigued,” Kopech said. “I’ve felt comfortable. I feel like I’m within myself. I don’t feel like I’m overthrowing when I need to rear back. I don’t feel like I’m losing any velo. I’ve felt pretty comfortable in probably close to double the amount of innings I threw last year.”