Stone's Mailbag: Sandberg next Cubs manager?

Stone's Mailbag: Sandberg next Cubs manager?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010
7:31 PM

Steve Stone dives into his mailbag toanswer some of your questions about Ryne Sandberg, Juan Pierre and more!

Question from John - Johnstown, NY: Right now the Twins are the class of the division. I'm still not sold on their bullpen. If the Sox can stay close I think they will have a chance. What do you think?

Steve Stone: I couldn't agree with you more.

Question from Ryan - Cedar Falls, IA: If the Cubs decide to part ways with Lou Piniella, do you think they might consider Ryne Sandberg. Do you think he would be a good MLB manager?

Stone: If Mr. Ricketts bows to the pressure to the fans, the next Cub Manager will be Ryne Sandberg. It's difficult to comment on a manager's major league abilities when he has never majored in the majors. There will be a number of qualified guys out there if this is in fact Lou's last year which has yet to be determined. If they get in to the playoffs, I could see Lou coming back and that would buy Sandberg another year in the Minors and another year of managing at the highest minor league level. There is probably one better candidate and for the right offer, he might just come back to the Cubs. Bear in mind, I dont believe the Cubs have the courage or the creativity to make a move this far our of the box or to at least for the moment turn their back on Ryan Sandberg who would be an instant crowd favorite and certainly have the backing of the Wrigley Field faithful. But lest I get too cryptic, there is a fine manager currently wearing the pinstrips of the Yankees who's contract ends at the end of this year. He has one thing that Ryne doesn't have and thats one World Championship. His name, Joe Girardi. Joe has alwayd had close ties to the Chicago community, was a former Cub player, managed with distinction with the Marlins before winning a World Championship last year with the Yankees and with another chance to win one this year with those same Yankees. The question you might ask is, would he come here and the answer is, for the right contract, I believe he would. Will it happen? I believe it won't. At the end of the day, the Cubs will bow to public pressure and name Ryne Sandberg a much less expensive alternative as the new Cub manager.

Question from Darrin - Milan, IL: What are the chances that the Cubs would ever pad the outfield wall at Wrigley?

Stone: I really have no idea how many people have asked this question over the years but the chances of padding going up and anything that obscures the ivy-covered walls which are a trademark look of Wrigley Field are about the same as me playing in the NBA next year and starting at Center for the Bulls.

Question from Todd - Chicago, IL: Who do you think should be the White Sox leadoff hitter?

Stone: The man who is primarily leading off, Juan Pierre. He is off to a slow start but let me go back and remind you when he was with the Cubs, after the first couple months of the season, his on-base percentage was .260 including hits and walks going on that season to get 200 hits. He will finish anywhere from .290 to .305 this year and be the leadoff hitter he has been. He is a prolific worker and starting to refine his bunting ability again and taking a look at the lineup, Juan is the prototypical leadoff hitter with the assets that the Sox have at hand.

Question from Ben - West Chicago, IL: Should the White Sox have kept Scott Podsednik? He would look good at the top of the White Sox lineup.
Stone: Juan Pierre is a better leadoff, base runner and in the mind frame that Juan will have the same kind of batting average of Scott. That in mind, Scott had a good series against the Sox, he has made himself a very good higtter and I like Scott as a person I just thought it was an interesting ability that Scott had to be a very good base stealer and a very bad base runner. If you doubt that, think of all the times he got doubled out last year and picked off last year. The same thing is going to happen to him this year. As far as the defense is concerned, neither throw particularly well and I know Pier has had some problems in the early going as far as balls hit over his head but I think that will take care of itself. I think the Sox are comforable with what they have and we wish him the best except of course when he plays the Sox.

Former White Sox OF Tim Raines elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

Former White Sox OF Tim Raines elected to National Baseball Hall of Fame

On his tenth and final year on the ballot, Tim Raines finally earned enough votes to earn the title of being a baseball immortal. 

"Rock" Raines will be inducted into the National Baseball Hall of Fame this summer after 86 percent of voters from the Baseball Writers Association of America cast ballots for the former White Sox outfielder. Raines played for the White Sox from 1991-1995, but was best known for being a star outfielder for the Montreal Expos from 1979-1990.

Raines received the second-highest vote percentage among the three players who will be inducted into the Hall of Fame July 30 in Cooperstown, N.Y. Former Houston Astros first baseman Jeff Bagwell (86.2 percent) and former Texas Rangers, Miami Marlins and Detroit Tigers catcher Ivan Rodriguez (76 percent) will join Raines in the class of 2017. 

Over his 23-year career, Raines put together a Hall of Fame-worthy resume in spite of being overshadowed by fellow leadoff hitter and Hall of Famer Rickey Henderson. Over 10,359 plate appearances (63rd all-time), Raines stole 808 bases (5th), drew 1,330 walks (38th), scored 1,571 runs (54th), hit 113 triples (118th) and had an on-base percentage of .385 (135th). His 69.1 WAR ranks 73rd in major league history and is squarely in the realm of plenty of current Hall of Famers, including Barry Larkin (70.2), Carlton Fisk (68.2), and Ryne Sandberg (67.5), among others.

Raines made seven consecutive All-Star teams from 1981-1987 and won the 1987 All-Star Game MVP. He led the National League in runs scored twice, led the National League with 38 doubles in 1984, hit a league-best .334 in 1986 and stole 70 or more bases in six consecutive seasons (including 90 in 1983).

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In 1993, Raines was an integral part to the White Sox American League West crown, with the then-33-year-old hitting .306 with an .880 OPS, both of which were his best marks of his post-Expos career. 

"We got a guy at the top who could steal bases," former White Sox third baseman Robin Ventura, who played with Raines from 1991-1995, recalled last summer. "He got on base and did a lot of things. A switch-hitter that could get on base and steal some bases. He was a definite impact, similar to what Rickey did with the A's and some other teams. He just immediately gave credibility at the top of the lineup.

"… When you break down his numbers with some other people, I think he ranks right up there with anybody."

Still, Raines' Hall of Fame election has hardly been a sure thing since he debuted on the 2008 ballot. His year-by-year vote percentages reveal gradual progress, then a surge in 2016:

2008: 24.3 percent
2009: 22.6 percent
2010: 30.4 percent
2011: 37.5 percent
2012: 48.7 percent
2013: 52.2 percent
2014: 46.1 percent
2015: 55.0 percent
2016: 69.8 percent

"This is probably the first year out of the nine years that I've been on the ballot that I really, really feel like I have a chance," Raines said last May. 

What began as a sort of fringy, sabermetric-oriented campaign to get Raines elected eventually received a groundswell of support from a broad voting audience. And because of it, on July 30 this summer, Raines will head to Cooperstown to take his place among the greatest players to ever play the game. 

"I just know the things that i did on the field, I enjoyed doing it and I'm sure the fans that cheered for me and cheered against me enjoyed seeing me and doing the things that I did," Raines said. "I would love for it to happen. It would be something that I never really thought of when I first started playing the game, or even when I finished playing the game. That never was a thought in my mind that Hall of Fame would even be a chance." 

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."