Sox Drawer: The return of Beckham

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Sox Drawer: The return of Beckham

Wednesday, July 21, 2010
12:25 PM

By Chuck Garfien
CSNChicago.com

For three months, Gordon Beckham remained stuck in a baseball abyss; a dark, lonely existence where its just you, your mind, your bat, and that embarrassing batting average that pops off the scoreboard for everyone to see when you come to the plate.

.202
.195
.191
.186
.182

How low could it go? And for how long? Beckham wasnt sure.

"I was supposed to come into Chicago this year and hit just like I did last year and then some," Beckham said by phone from Seattle before the White Sox played the Mariners. "I understand that a lot of people were wondering what was going on."

That includes the White Sox, who were suddenly faced with the possibility of sending their prized second baseman back down to the minor leagues. Did Gordon think it could happen?

"Yeah, that always goes through your head."

No one seemed to have the answer for Beckhams struggles at the plate.

Well, except for one Sox fan, who recently sent a letter to Gordon, a letter that begins with the words:

"Im 78 years old, so I think I know a little something about baseball"

Beckham picks up the story from there.

The guy says, You obviously have an upper cut in your swing. The Japanese guy from Seattle (Ichiro Suzuki) does not have an upper cut in his swing and hes hitting around .330. It seems to be working for him.

Sound advice. Entertaining as well. So much so that the letter is currently taped to a wall inside the White Sox clubhouse. Its the same place where Beckham and hitting coach Greg Walker have hunkered down, as Gordon puts it, "a million times trying to get his swing back.

"I know its been tough on Walker to watch me struggle, but hes been good. Hes helped me out a lot.

And it was advice that Walker gave to Beckham before the All-Star break that suddenly clicked with last years rookie sensation.

"We talked about the swing and the swing plane," Beckham said. He told me to almost swing underneath the ball as opposed to firing at the ball from the top. So its basically an easy path, an easy swing under the ball which is actually the way youre supposed to swing."

And lately, Beckham has started swinging like Tarzan from a tree.

In just 8 games, Gordon raised his batting average from .205 to .241, going 16-for-28 with 2 HRs and 8 RBIs.

Beckham and Walker had something to do with it, but so did that 78-year-old fan, and a countless number of Sox supporters who came to Beckhams emotional rescue when times were tough.

"People have been stopping me on the street, not really giving me advice, but just saying were still behind you and we know youre going to come through," Beckham said. "Thats always nice when people dont abandon you when youre struggling, and people could have for sure. A lot of people could have. The White Sox, everybody could have. People have stayed with me. It has obviously helped. And I have taken that with me. Im glad Im over the hump, and hopefully Ill give back to them in the second half of the season."

In one way, Beckham already ismusically.

Last month, his struggles had bottomed to the point where he had to ask the White Sox to stop playing his wildly popular intro song "Your Love" by The Outfield when he came to the plate.

Fortunately, Josies no longer on a vacation far away.

"If youve been listening closely, every time I get a hit now, The Outfield should be playing over the loud speakers, so weve turned it from a negative into a positive."

Personally, I hadnt noticed.

"Youve got to pay attention, Chuck. Youve got to pay attention."

My apologies. Ive been locked in the studio lately with Frank Thomas and Bill Melton.

As it turns out, the musical change was Gordons idea.

"I got a lot of flack from people saying they wanted the song back, so I said why dont we just put it back when I get a hit and that way everybodys happy."

Right now everybody is. Gordon, his fans, and probably the members of The Outfield, who are back raking in the royalties.

As for Beckhams hitting woes, "If I dont hear another question about that, it would be fantastic."

Agreed.

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

Jim Thome: Getting into baseball Hall of Fame would be indescribable

GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Normally upbeat and positive, Jim Thome can’t help but beam with pride when asked about his Hall of Fame candidacy.

Thome, who blasted 612 career home runs, including 134 with the White Sox, is eligible for induction for the first time in 2018. Even though he’s expected by many to one day be voted into Cooperstown, perhaps even in his first year, Thome said he’s merely honored to be on the ballot. Thome is joined on the ballot by Chipper Jones and former teammate Omar Vizquel, among others. Voting begins in December and the results will be announced next January.

“To even be on the ballot and thought of, it would be the greatest honor I think you could get,” Thome said. “Or if you get an opportunity to go into the greatest fraternity baseball has or created, it would be indescribable. How do you ever think as a kid or a high school player or even going through the minor leagues, that you’d play at the big leagues that long? And then to get an opportunity at the end of your career to be put on the ballot is so great.

“That would be the coolest moment ever.”

Thome – who is in White Sox camp as a special assistant to the general manager – provided plenty of big moments in a career that spanned 22 seasons. He hit 30 home runs in 12 of 13 seasons between 1996-2008, leading the league with 47 in 2003. The slugger was a five-time All-Star and produced 72.9 b-Wins Above Replacement.

[RELATED: Brett Lawrie trying to clear final hurdles]

Thome isn’t as superstitious about his candidacy as others previously have been. He won’t be the guy to bring up the topic, but the Peoria, Ill.-native doesn’t shy away from discussing it, either.

“It’s not something you talk a lot about,” Thome said. “We’re not going to bring it up. But when people do bring it up, there’s a sense of pride, a sense of ‘Wow, baseball has thought that highly to put you on the ballot.’ And the fact that there’s just this wonderful fraternity of incredible players that you could be a part of, if you’re chosen.”

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."