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.

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

The last White Sox rebuild: Bobby Howry remembers aftermath of '97 'White Flag' trade

Bobby Howry wasn't aware of the fact he was part of one of the more infamous transactions in White Sox history until a few years after it happened. 

In 1997, with the White Sox only 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Cleveland Indians, general manager Ron Schueler pulled the trigger on a massive trade that left many around Chicago — including some in the White Sox clubhouse — scratching their heads. Heading to the San Francisco Giants was the team's best starting pitcher (left-hander Wilson Alvarez), a reliable rotation piece (Doug Drabek) and a closer coming off a 1996 All-Star appearance (Roberto Hernandez). In return, the White Sox acquired six minor leaguers: right-handers Howry, Lorenzo Barcelo, Keith Foulke, left-hander Ken Vining, shortstop Mike Caruso and outfielder Brian Manning. Only Foulke had major league experience, and it wasn't exactly good (an 8.26 ERA in 44 2/3 innings). 

Howry was largely oblivious to the shocking nature of the trade that brought him from the Giants to White Sox until, before the 1999 season, he was featured in a commercial that referenced the "White Flag trade."

"I don't even know if I knew it was called that before then," Howry recalled last weekend at the Sheraton Grand Chicago at Cubs Convention. 

The trade was a stark signal that youth would be emphasized on 35th and Shields. Both Alvarez and Hernandez were set to become free agents after the 1997 season, and the 40-year-old Darwin wasn't a long-term piece, either. With youngsters like Magglio Ordonez and Carlos Lee rising through the farm system, the move was made with an eye on the future and maximizing the return on players who weren't going to be long-term pieces. 

Sound familiar? 

It's hardly a perfect comparison, but when the White Sox traded Chris Sale to the Boston Red Sox in December for four minor leaguers — headlined by top-100 prospects in Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech — it was the first rebuilding blockbuster trade the organization had made since the 1997 White Flag deal. Shortly after trading their staff ace at the 2016 Winter Meetings, the White Sox shipped Adam Eaton — their best position player — to the Washington Nationals for a package of prospects featuring two more highly-regarded youngsters in Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez. 

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And there still could be more moves on the horizon, too, for Rick Hahn's White Sox (Jose Quintana has been the subject of persistent rumors since the Winter Meetings). But for those looking for an optimistic outlook of the White Sox rebuilding plans, it's worth noting that the club's last youth movement, to an extent, was successful.

Only Howry (3.74 ERA over 294 games) and Foulke (2.87 ERA, 100 saves over 346 games) became significant long-term pieces for the White Sox from those six players brought over in 1997. And it wasn't like Schueler dealt away any of the franchise's cornerstones — like Frank Thomas, Albert Belle and Robin Ventura — but with future starters in Lee, Ordonez and Chris Singleton on their way the White Sox were able to go young. A swap of promising youthful players (Mike Cameron for Paul Konerko) proved to be successful a year and a half later. 

And with a couple of shrewd moves — namely, dealing Jamie Navarro and John Snyder to the Milwaukee Brewers for Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin — the "Kids Can Play" White Sox stormed to an American League Central title in 2000. 

"It was great," Howry said of developing with so many young players in the late 1999's and 2000. "You come in and you feel a lot more comfortable when you got a lot of young guys and you're all coming up together and building together. It's not like you're walking into a primarily veteran clubhouse where you're kind of having to duck and hide all the time. We had a great group of guys and we built together over a couple of years, and putting that together was a lot of fun."

What sparked things in 2000, Howry said, was that ferocious brawl with the Detroit Tigers on April 22 in which 11 players were ejected (the fight left Foulke needing five stitches and former Tigers catcher/first baseman Robert Fick doused in beer). 

"About the time we had that fight with Detroit, that big brawl, all of a sudden after then we just seemed to kind of come together and everything started to click and it took off," Howry said. 

The White Sox went 80-81 in 1998 and slipped to 75-86 in 1999, but their 95-67 record in 2000 was the best in the league — though it only amounted to a three-game sweep at the hands of the wild-card winning Seattle Mariners. 

Still, the White Flag trade had a happy ending two and a half years later. While with the White Sox, Howry didn't feel pressure to perform under the circumstances with which he arrived, which probably helped those young players grow together into eventual division champions. 

"I was 23 years old," Howry said. "At 23 years old, I didn't really — I was just like, okay, I'm still playing, I got a place to play. I didn't really put a whole lot of thought into three veteran guys for six minor leaguers." 

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox Talk Podcast: Zack Collins discusses staying at catcher

White Sox 2016 first round pick Zack Collins joins the podcast to talk about his future with the White Sox, when he hopes to make the big leagues and the doubters who question whether he can be a major league catcher.   He discusses comparisons with Kyle Schwarber, his impressions of Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech, why his dad took him to a Linkin Park concert when he was 6 years old and much more.