With the White Sox's turn on "30 Clubs in 30 Days" coming up on MLB Network on Wednesday at 9 p.m. Central (and other times - check Tailgater's FanPost), the network provided me the opportunity to throw a few questions at Harold Reynolds, Al Leiter and John Hart.
As I said in the previous thread, I tried to focus on questions that would draw upon their specific experiences around the game. We know what the numbers say, but they don't always correlate with what baseball thinking dictates, so that's what I was most interested in finding out.
SSS: (To Harold Reynolds) You were Omar Vizquel's double play partner for the first four years of his career in Seattle, and he didn't hit in his first three. How surprised are you that, 19 years later after you last played together, he's still playing and contributing at a major-league level, and is a borderline Hall of Fame candidate?
Harold Reynolds: I’m not surprised at all that Omar Vizquel is still contributing to a Major League team. When he came up with Seattle, our hitting approach wasn’t conducive to him becoming an aggressive hitter. In Seattle’s system, Vizquel was learning how to take pitches, move runners over, play hit and run, and hitting with two strikes. He wasn’t able to become an aggressive, consistent .280 hitter until he got to Cleveland. Remember in Cleveland, with all those power hitters, he wasn’t worrying about taking pitches. The bottom line is he’s a Hall of Fame player who can still help Chicago. 19 years later, he still doesn’t have an ounce of fat on his body. He’s in great shape, he can still play solid defense, and there’s no doubt he can help Chicago win.
John Hart: The thing about Omar Vizquel is that he has retained a great enthusiasm for the game. He’s also got the best hands I’ve ever been associated with. He’s a Hall of Fame player, and if he wants to manage one day, he’ll be a terrific Major League manager. Chicago is going after a World Series title and if you want to win a World Series, Omar Vizquel is the perfect extra player to have on your roster.
SSS: Historically, the Sox bats take about two full months to heat up. Even the new guys succumb to early-season struggles, and so Greg Walker usually finds himself having to justify his employment until summer rolls around. Could a different hitting coach make a difference, or is this really out of his hands?
Reynolds: I think the early season struggles have more to do with the weather than anything else. When the weather is cold in Chicago, it takes away your aggressiveness as a hitter. When it’s cold, hitters start chasing balls out of the strike zone, and laying off the balls they should be attacking. You become more hesitant at the plate when it’s cold out there. But even with the cold weather in April and May, it’s time for the White Sox offense to pick it up. Chicago’s offense hasn’t been very good since 2006 and if the White Sox want to go anywhere, they need to score more runs.
SSS: White Sox pitchers typically work faster than most, with Mark Buehrle serving as a role model in the organization. It certainly hasn't hurt their results. Why don't more teams encourage their pitchers to get it and throw it?
Al Leiter: Trust me, everyone wants pitchers to work fast, and I do believe pitching coaches encourage pitchers to ‘get it and throw it.’ It makes it easier for the defense, the manager, and the fans. The only person it doesn’t help is the hot dog vender in the stands. I just think every single pitcher has their own mechanism, nuances and routine. Some guys are comfortable working quickly and some guys are not. For me, it was about the situation in the game. When it was a critical point in the game and runners were on base, I slowed down. Every pitcher is different and I don’t think that’s going to change. I wish there were more Mark Buehrles out there.
SSS: "Closer by committee" has a negative connotation, but Matt Thornton and Chris Sale are both more than capable of getting the final three outs. Do the Sox need a defined, designated closer in this situation?
Leiter: I’m not a fan of the closer by committee. I’m a believer that pitchers need to have their roles solidified and established. It makes pitchers feel comfortable when they get to the stadium. I think a team likes it when they know who is closing down a game. I think when teams say they’re going with a closer by committee, they’re saying, "We don’t have a pitcher who has emerged as the clear-cut closer." If a team is going with a closer by committee, they’re trying to make everyone feel good, and I don’t think that’s necessarily a good thing.