Meeting of the Minds

It's been said (often by myself) that one of the great things about blogging, and conversely the flat tire slowing the newspaper's stock car, is the speed of the medium. I mean how can you compete with a turnaround as short as one week? You can't.

I'd apologize or offer an excuse -- this past week has been my busiest week of '09 -- for the time it's taken me to post a recap, but this recap isn't going to be a simple retelling of what I heard from Rick Hahn and others. Even as we were sitting in suite 242 listening to Hahn trying to come up with the names of off-the-radar prospects not named Dexter Carter, I couldn't help but think that I had failed you guys. And this is where the post starts to get all Meta...

I'll get back to that I swear. Follow this meandering journey after the jump. And if you're at all intimidated by reading large blocks of text, please read the last passage.

Under different circumstances, I might have thought getting stuck behind a silver Jeep Grand Cherokee (Laredo) which sported vanity Illinois license plates reading "FAIL" on my way to the park would have a bad sign. But last Tuesday, all I could do was shake my head an laugh -- because unlike some people **coughHSAcough** I don't take pictures will driving a motor vehicle.

I don't need to set the stage for you, but I will anyway. The White Sox were coming off a brutal 1-6 road trip, had lost their last 5 straight, ranked last in the AL in basically every non-HR offensive category, and I (along with several other bloggers) was on my way to a USCF suite as an invited guest of the White Sox PR/Media relations staff. The "FAIL" plate was, I thought, the perfect representation of the Sox recent play and our own silly photo/posting memes here on South Side Sox.

* * * * *

When I first got the email from White Sox PR Coordinator Marty Maloney, I didn't really believe him. I mean It was clear the email address was legit, but I figured if I mentioned the meeting to anyone else the event would surely be canceled. Not wanting to be left with egg on my face, I mentioned the meeting only to Larry, whose full name was required (for Will-Calling of tickets, I presumed).

With our two secret identities revealed to the White Sox Powers That Be, I half-expected we'd be receiving mysterious ticking packages in the mail or at the very least be tailed by an unmarked black sedan with heavily tinted windows. Just to be sure though, I emailed Marty back asking if the two tickets would be waiting at Will-Call, to which he replied simply "Yes."

It was only when I got to the park early to pick up the tickets that I realized there had been a miscommunication. I handed over my ID to the ticket agent and a minute or so later he handed me a small envelope "The Cheat x2." Immediately I knew Larry wouldn't have a ticket under his name when he arrived. But I asked them to check anyway, even though I couldn't remember the proper spelling of Lare's last name.

No, no ticket for Lare. And since I didn't remember the proper spelling of his last name there was no way to leave the ticket for him at the same window.

Not wanting to be a total ass, I decided I would wait until about 6:15 on the lookout for a guy who had the stench of lawyer walking away from the Will Call window without ticket in hand. So I sat parked in front of Gate 4 for the better part of a half-hour, watching the Will Call lines intently and the "Players' Tickets" line even moreso, getting asked if I had extras every 5 minutes and if I wanted an extra every 10, with nary a Larry-candidate.

I had never met Larry, didn't have anyway to contact him -- I assumed he wouldn't be checking his dummy SSS email an hour before gametime -- and had only the vague recollection of a possible humorously embellished description from WU's Tampa meet-up with Larry to go on.

So I approached one guy who had been outside Gate 4 for longer than I had. He was tall, 6'4" maybe, reasonably thin, wearing a polo and khakis. "Is your name Larry?" Confused look. "Sorry."

So I sat for another 15 minutes. It was right at my self-imposed cut-off when I saw what I thought had to be the guy step into line. Wearing a button-down shirt and Sox hat while carrying a brown leather attache case, this had to be a lawyer, had to be Larry. A minute later he's turned away from the booth without a ticket.

"Is your name Larry?" Confused look. "Yeah."

It was only after the game that I realized the miscommunication was entirely my own fault. I had asked Marty if "both tickets would be under my name," while I thought I had asked him if we would each have a ticket under our separate names. Turns out all they wanted the second name for was some preprinted stick-on nametags.

* * * * *

When I say I didn't believe the Sox would be hosting us, what I really mean is I didn't know what to expect. They hadn't promised us anything other than a game in a suite with some special guests as a possibility. I assumed that would mean Rick Hahn, Scott Reifert and Moose Skowron, but I couldn't be certain.

To tell the truth, I was more excited to get the opportunity to finally meet Jim from that blog nobody reads and see what other groups the Sox had invited from the "more popular White Sox web sites."

I'm a fan, not a reporter, which is why I left the laptop at home. I could have live-blogged the whole thing -- I'm assuming the Sox wi-fi would have reached down the the third base line -- but I wanted to take the evening in as a fan, not get stuck with my face buried in a tiny monitor.

Minutes after entering the suite, I shook Jim's hand for the first time and he confirmed that Hahn was supposed to be one of our "special guests" I said "All I want to know is about the two young Cubans' contracts." After that, I didn't much care. Alexei Ramirez' contract status after his 4-year deal expires has been a curiosity for me ever since the deal was signed, and became even more important (in my eyes) when they gave Dayan Viciedo over $10M on what I assumed was a similarly structured deal.

So when the time came and Hahn opened the floor for questions, I was given the honor of firing the first shot. Hahn was delighted at my question. "That's the first question? That's what you wanna know after this week?!"

If you haven't seen the answer on Jim's blog or Larry's minor league threads here, both Cubans are under club control for their first 6 years of major league service. There are no out-clauses that make them free-agents when their current deals subside.

I would have loved to sit and pick Hahn's brain over the course of a game, talk pitching matchups, styles, defensive evaluation or any number of SABR-influenced decisions, but as I sat there, back to the field, the game (which had yet to start) felt secondary. And I felt completely out of my element.

I froze. I couldn't think of a single intelligent thing to ask. The conversation never really lingered thanks to Jim and Andrew Reilly, but collectively we never really pressed him on anything that wouldn't get asked by your above-average beat reporter.

Nobody asked about the Sox plans for Carlos Quentin who had already been diagnosed by Larry as having plantar faciitis. We didn't ask about the Sox internal defensive metrics, if they exist at all, or about the Sox advanced scouting as they entered the game scoring under 2 runs per contest against pitchers they'd never seen before.

The most interesting thing Hahn said was in reference to a meeting the Sox front office (and I think he said Ozzie) had earlier in the day. He was relaying Kenny's desire to put a better product on the field, noting that no team was out of it in the entirely mediocre AL Central, rattling off positions they should be better at, and positions they'd like to get better at. Specifically, he something like (and allow me some liberty with this quotation) "would we like to get better at CF? Yeah, but (...) Would we like to have a better 5th starter than Clayton Richard? Yeah."

I made a mental note about that one because I would have been perfectly fine going into the season with Richard as the 5th starter. I thought he had just let it slip that maybe he and/or Kenny and the Sox scouts didn't think too highly of Richard. But as it turns out, that meeting Tuesday morning was probably about the specifics of the proposed Jake Peavy trade, and Hahn was essentially saying, "Would I rather have Jake Peavy in the rotation? Yeah."

* * * * *

The overall theme for the evening was one of depression. After exchanging hellos, Tony from SoxTalk, whom I'd met before when Studes dropped me some free tix, asked me, "How can you write about this team right now?"

"I can't. I can tell you haven't been reading the site." At that point I was only mid-way through my unannounced hiatus from writing.

Hahn and Brooks Boyer both admitted "this isn't a very fun team to watch right now."

After they had wrapped up, I professed to Jim that my own malaise may be a combination of the product on the field and knowing full well that the Sox are another year or two away from being an exciting team to cover on a daily basis.

I have to say that Hahn and Boyer were both extremely candid and didn't really sugar coat anything when they spoke, though I don't think we got either of them to say anything extraordinary. Unless you consider Hahn dropping an F-bomb extraordinary. And when you compare that lone slip-up to Moose's unapologetic blue-streaking it isn't.

* * * * *

The game itself was a welcome respite from the Sox recent dreary offensive displays. Konerko and Dye homered to give the Sox an early cushion and Thome's 2-RBI double allowed us to breathe easier in the late innings.

Mark Buehrle helped by pitching in effective yet un-Buehrle-like fashion, giving Jim, Larry and I plenty of time to discuss important things like dishonorably retiring the numbers 7, 17, 22 and 44 and, of course, mockingly imitating Hawk at every possible moment.

* * * * *

Floatingthecip_medium

The subject of the origin of this blog came up at Miller's Pub on Friday, and even though it's a completely boring story I feel that at least some of it needs to be retold here. I didn't set out on this blog journey with the intent of turning it into a money-making empire, or hopes of spinning it into a real gig with the White Sox. And I've certainly never thought of myself as a real journalist, for reasons which I demonstrated during our Q & A with Hahn, but also others.

I want to remain a fan. I don't want South Side Sox to become a job. I put too much time into it as it is. I'd rather enjoy my time here than feel compelled to write when the words just aren't flowing.

I've always said I've written for me. I don't care if I miss a story here or there -- though when I browse through the archives I never say to myself, I wish I had written less -- if I don't have anything to say, I'm probably not going to bother saying anything at all.

But that's what makes this place great -- and I might not have truly seen it if not for the many sincere thank yous I received on Friday -- you guys can (and sometimes do) pick up the slack when I'm just not feeling it. This place, which may have started as just a collection of my own thoughts about the White Sox has grown into so much more. And for that I have to thank you.

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