Scenes from Spring Training: “Ozzie Guillen! Look at me!”

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So I slid down close to the White Sox dugout when I saw Ozzie Guillen sitting there like that. Figured I’d take his picture.  I took this one and a couple other ones of him hanging out there.  Then a guy a couple seats down said “want me to get his attention for you?”  I said “no, that’s cool,” figuring that it’s probably not kosher to bug the manager in the middle of the game.  The guy next to me had made up his mind already, however:

Guy: “Ozzie! Yo! Look up here!”

Guillen: [not taking his eyes off the field] “Nah.”

Oh well.  Other stuff from today’s game:

Forgot to mention this earlier, but when I was in the White Sox clubhouse there was a table set up where two women from a company called Elevee Custom Clothing were handing out cards and catalogs to players. The deal: busy players get measured by them once and then they buy their clothes over the phone or the Internet all year. Convenient, I suppose.  I snagged a catalog because I thought it might be cool to dress like a ballplayer. There was nothing in there for me, but tell me: am I nuts, or is that Dan Haren modeling?

Hey, good for him. Handsome man. Glad he has a second gig lined up.

I think it’s pretty lame to hear reporters complain about the lunch spread the ballpark puts out for them, but today was kinda nuts: creole chicken and beef barley soup. I’m sure it was tasty, but it was pushing 80 degrees today and that stuff sounded all hot and complicated. I went to the concourse for a Chicago dog with crazy dayglo green relish and a Deschutes pale ale. I chose … wisely.

I teased it with the pic of Adam Dunn playing first earlier, but it was a very special day defensively speaking. Not only did the Donkey have first base, but Jack Cust was playing left for the the Mariners.  Sadly neither one of them embarrassed themselves out there. I had my hopes up.

I made a point to get here early this morning because with the Mariners coming to Camelback that means Ichiro, and that means a Japanese press contingent that, I’m told anyway, is even bigger than Matsui’s. A press corps that big means space in the box would be at a premium.  Sadly, no Ichiro and no Japanese press corps. I like those guys. I kinda missed ’em today.

Tony Pena came in to pitch for the Sox. I was all excited because I had never seen a converted middle infielder pitch in person before. I enjoyed it for a whole inning until I realized that it was the other Tony Pena. I should probably start paying more attention to random relief pitchers.

It occurred to me that I’ve seen Adam Dunn play in person six times and that each time I’ve seen him — mostly when he was with the Reds, but once when he was with the Nats — he hit a home run. No homer for Dunn today, however. The streak, she died.

And tell me, this ain’t bad for a little pocket camera, is it?

Teahen took that one for ball two low, then flew out to center the next pitch.

That pic made me happy. What makes me sad: this was my last game and thus the baseball portion of my trip is over. If I didn’t have a wife and kids back home who I miss very much, I’d stay until the teams broke camp. Then I’d follow them around until NBC decided that the hotel bills were getting out of hand.  But I do have a wife and kids back home and NBC would probably suspend my expense account by April 10th, so I fly home tomorrow.

I’ll have a big honkin’ Scenes from Spring Training retrospective up before I catch my flight tomorrow morning.  But for now I reluctantly bid the ballparks adieu.  Thanks for travelling with me, everybody.

2017 Preview: Chicago White Sox

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Between now and Opening Day, HardballTalk will take a look at each of baseball’s 30 teams, asking the key questions, the not-so-key questions, and generally breaking down their chances for the 2017 season. Next up: The Chicago White Sox.

After a couple of years of an all-in approach with a core of Chris Sale, Jose Abreu, Melky Cabrera, Todd Frazier, Adam Eaton and friends, Rick Hahn and the White Sox finally decided to tear it all down. And they tore it all down pretty productively, actually, dealing Sale and Eaton for a boatload of prospects, leading with Yoan Moncada, who has hit .287/.395/.480 with 23 home runs, 100 RBI and 94 stolen bases in 187 minor league games.

They also picked up righthander Michael Kopech who hits triple digits on the regular, one-time top prospect and still-promising Lucas Giolito, Reynaldo Lopez and 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning. They all join existing young talent like Tim Anderson, Carlos Rodon, Zack Collins, Carson Fulmer and Alec Hansen. The system, she is stocked.

 

In addition to all that new talent, the Sox have a new manager in Rick Renteria. What he’ll have to work with at the big league level is somewhat spotty, however, and could change pretty radically as the season wears on.

Still in house: Carols Quintana, Frazier, Cabrera and David Robertson, all of who are likely on the trading block (we know Quintana is). Hahn will entertain offers for anything not nailed down which, in this case, means anyone over the age of 25 or so. We could give a blow-by-blow of the offense, the pitching and the defense like we normally do here, but if you’re an obsessive White Sox fan you know that stuff already and if you’re not, all you really need to know is that between those inevitable departures and the loss of their ace in Sale and their best position player in Eaton, last year’s 78-wins are gonna seem like a distant memory.

Beyond trading stars for prospects, the White Sox have signaled that they’re in non-compete mode in other ways as well. New in the fold: Derek Holland, Peter Bourjos and Geovany Soto. Veterans who do a task or two well, go about their business and, if they have a super nice year, can get dealt at the deadline. In short, the lifeblood of a rebuild, not the stuff of greatness. There’s nobility in fulfilling that role even if there aren’t a lot of wins to be found in it.

Where are some wins to be found? Jose Abreu had a down year in 2016 and could be better this year. Both Holland and James Shields are capable of better years than they had last year. Indeed, it’d be close to impossible for Shields to be worse. They’ll have Carlos Rodon, who took a step forward last year and could be poised for a breakout. Quintana and company will be around until July most likely before they’re traded and before Hahn begins to call young dudes up for second half cups of coffee.

And that’s what this season is about, really. The cups of coffee. Seeing what the Sox have in their young talent, particularly Moncada, who has little left to prove in the minors, even if he spends some more time there and Rodon, who is already a key part of the big club. They may lose just as many games or more than they lost the past couple of seasons, but they’ll do it with more interesting players who fans can imagine being better in a White Sox uniform one day. And, heck, if someone develops a bit more quickly than expected, it could actually lead to good baseball. At least here and there.

Prediction: Fourth place, American League Central.

The Braves cave, a little anyway, on their outside food policy

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On Friday the Atlanta Braves announced a new policy for outside food, prohibiting ticket holders from bringing in their own. This was a reversal of their old policy — and the policies of the majority of teams around the league — which allowe fans to bring in soft-sided coolers with their own food and beverages, at least as long as the beverages were sealed.

The Braves claimed that the policy change was “a result of tighter security being put into place this season throughout the league,” but this was clearly untrue as no other teams are cracking down on outside food like this. If there are new security procedures, everyone else is able to accommodate them without an opportunistic crackdown on fans bringing in PB&J for their toddlers. It seemed more likely that this was a simple cash grab.

Today the Braves have reversed the policy somewhat:

While they’re looking for kudos here, this is likewise an admission that the “security” stuff was bull because, last I checked, security procedures aren’t subject to popular referendum and aren’t changed when people complain. What really happened here, it seems, is the Braves, for the first time in living memory, were called out by the public for their greed and realized that even they have some responsibility to not be jackasses about this sort of thing.

Still, a gallon bag policy is not the same as it was before. You could bring coolers into Turner Field and still can bring them into most parks around the league. But I guess this is better than nothing.