The other day, my roommate and I were sitting at a bar and got to talking about nipples. Namely, why do guys have nipples if they serve no purpose? This conversation was mostly a product of winter-swept thought, a few drinks, and our collective inability to score hot chicks. But we soon learned that, as an embryo, we are all females until the Y chromosome kicks in and, thus, dudes have nipples. But humans have tails as an embryo, and we manage to get rid of those, why do our nipples have the staying power? We concluded that evolution must just like nipples. Don’t we all? Shortly after this conversation ran its course, it hit me - I need baseball back in my life.
As the season draws near, people get excited. And rightfully so. Think back to last spring, expectations were soaring, money was deemed spendable, and Oney Guillen was way too fucking involved in our lives. The Sox were infamously branded All In, which always seemed more like a death wish than it did a rallying call, but as fans it was hard not to be giddy. This year, things are different. The expectations are quite grounded, with plenty of questions to ponder:
Can Rios and Dunn turn things around? Does Rios even care?
With all the talk about hitting coaches, offseason programs, regression towards the mean, hand position, etc, it’s really anyone’s guess as to what He-Who-Hits-Soft-Grounders-and-Misplays-Line-Drives and He-Who-Talks-a-Good-Game-but-Has-Failed-to-Back-It-Up will do this season. What we do know is that in order to compete this year, the Sox need both guys performing at the level their salaries dictate.
He-Who-Hits-Soft-Grounders-and-Misplays-Line-Drives has struggled to make any sort of appreciable impact with the Sox. And I think the question of whether Rios cares is a fair one. But what’s most frustrating, for me, is for someone with seemingly wonderful athletic gifts, Rios possesses zero Bo-Factor.
I had the privilege of having Bo Jackson be one of the first baseball players I ever watched. Frank Thomas was always my guy, but Bo was like a video game before I knew what video games were. I had a VHS titled "Bo Knows Bo" that I’d play over-and-over, and watching Jackson go parkour on the center field fence is still one of the coolest things I’ve seen.
Bill James is still working on a complex statistical formula for Bo-Factor, but it’s essentially a summation of several characteristics: Keeping the People in Their Seats, Towering Home Runs, Shock Value, Making Unbelievable Catches/Throws, Swagg, Genetic Potential, Clutch, and Overall Success. As a team, the White Sox have pretty poor Bo-Factor, but if I were to rank Sox players, it would look something like:
- Alexei Ramirez
- Brent Lillibridge
- Paul Konerko
- Dayan Viciedo
- Alejandro De Aza
(Cliché Alert) The only guy keeping Rios out of the Top 5 is Alex Rios.
Will the enigma that is Gordon Beckham ever stop being so enigmaful?
I just wish he’d either start being really good, or start sucking miserably. This middle of the road thing is getting annoying. I don’t know what to think. Let’s break this down Point-Counterpoint style.
POINT: Remember how the White Sox rushed Beckham to the majors? Just give him time, he’s still only 25. As the Hawk would say, "You need to learn how to fail before you learn to-
COUNTERPOINT: -to succeed." If we’re going to do this stupid point gimmick, we need to set some rules. First rule: no quoting Hawk Harrelson.
POINT: Fine. Where was I? Oh right, Beckham was rushed to the majors and soon after we all caught Beckham Fever. He smacked doubles to all fields. He smiled. And he brought us "Your Love"! Don’t you remember how fun it was to lose all self-control in the good name of 80’s Rock!?
COUNTERPOINT: You’re right. It was great. The wonder-kid blessed us with "Your Love" and tickled the taints of tween girls everywhere. But the guy can’t even hit a fastball. A martian from some Star Wars galaxy could visit Earth, watch Beckham’s swing, and even he could tell you he’s never going to be good. That hitch is huuuuuge!
POINT: Is that why he was great in college and previously good in the majors? He has it in him. The problem is Greg Walker got so deep inside Beckham’s skull, like Inception deep, that Gordon began to think. And as Twitter has taught us, thinking is not Beckham’s strong suit. Jeff Manto and a new mindset is all he needs.
COUNTERPOINT: If only it were that easy. Let’s face it, Gordon is a solid defensive second baseman but he’s never going to be an above average hitter. He’s just not. If Beckham hits .250 this year I’ll be pleased.
POINT: Don’t you say that. First off, he’s better than a "solid" defender. He’s excellent. Second, he’s already been an above average hitter in the majors! Why can’t you understand this? You cannot be this dumb.
COUNTERPOINT: I fully understand that…You know, let’s just stop this arguing. Let’s just accept Beckham for what he is. *Cues "Your Love"*
POINT: (After a long, warm embrace) I always new this song would keep us united.
What guy with an arm will be in the bullpen with the other guys?
Umm, I don't know. Stay tuned, I guess.
Can A.J. Pierzynski maintain relevance?
Since 2005, when A.J. started with the White Sox, he’s experienced a trendable decline, much like The Office. Now Pierzynski is in a contract year, and let’s say the White Sox struggle this season, would anyone object if Tyler Flowers took over? Anyone? Trying to predict what will happen this season is pointless, but I have a hunch A.J. will not finish the year in Chicago.
Is it biologically possible for Chris Sale’s arm to make it through the season without severing various ligaments and/or exploding?
Where is John Brenkus when you need him? Randy Johnson was able to do it, I’m hopeful that Sale can do the same. If not, well, at least we have Kenny Williams to blame.
Does Gavin Floyd have actual real human emotions?
Now entering his sixth season with the White Sox, the answer to this question is still up in the air. Every once in a while, Floyd will offer a little grin as if to say "See I’m not a robot." But isn’t that exactly what a robot would be programmed to do? From his ultra-mechanical throwing motion to his bone-dry demeanor, the jury is still hard at work on this one.
As someone who is well adept to awkward conversations, I can’t help but imagine Floyd and Brent Morel’s first run-in this spring.
Floyd: Hey man.
Floyd: So…how was your vacation?
Morel: It was nice. Read a few books, relaxed… I’m so ready to get back to baseball. What about you? Still doing those crosswords?
Floyd: Yeah, sometimes.
Floyd: I’m excited to start playing again too.
[slowly walking away]
Morel: Well I’ll see you around.
[Morel feels as though that could have gone better. Floyd feels nothing.]
Will Kosuke Fukudome manage to piss-off Cubs fans even more by playing good for the White Sox?
The Cubs signed Fukudome to a 4-year, 48 million dollar deal. The White Sox got Fukudome for 1-year, 1 million. He was largely terrible for the Cubs. Wouldn’t it be glorious if Kosuke had a productive year for the Sox? Like he becomes a pinch hitting warlord or something. This would make me very, very happy.
How long until my Mom realizes there’s a new third base coach?
This is a big one for me. My mom goes to baseball games for two reasons: 1. to spend time with family and friends, and 2. to watch third base coaches. ("Why do they even draw the lines for them to stand in if they are never in them?") Jeff Cox was the most third basiest third base coach in the MLB - charging after foul balls, getting into an "athletic" stance, being shaped like a plum. For my Mom, a White Sox game was like having Bruce Springsteen perform in your hometown bar. Every game she was treated to greatness. I have no idea what new third base coach, Joe McEwing, will be like, but I do know he has big, albeit literally small and misshapen, shoes to fill. I give my Mom three innings before she realizes Cox is gone.
Can the two Cubans garner nicknames unassociated with violent weaponry?
I have this weird, irrational fascination with the idea of having basically the entire Cuban National Team as our roster. I wanted Aroldis Chapman. I prayed for Yoenes Cespedes. I have dreams about Jose Abreu. I would even be all for signing fat, old Jose Contreras to a long-term deal. Needless to say, I’m kind of a fan of Viciedo and Ramirez.
What’s not to like about these two free-swinging Cubans? Simply put, they have the Bo-Factor. This season, look for Viciedo to move up the Bo-Factor rankings, while Ramirez should continue to break-away from the pack. I have a sense that Viciedo is still hiding some Swagg. If he gets confident, watch out world.
Who wants to stand out in right field with me, dressed like our favorite Cuba Gooding Jr characters, waving the Cuban flag? We could call our zone (Ron) Kittle Havana! Nobody…okay next question.
Pictured: a good time.
Can De Aza take hold of the leadoff spot so we never have to talk about it again?
(On my knees, begging.)
When Joe Cowley writes a column and Ozzie isn’t around to be in it, does it make any buzz?
Here’s a scenario: Cowley gets frustrated that no one participates in his Twitter T-shirt giveaways anymore, writes an absurd column comparing Paul Konerko to Hitler, nobody notices it, Cowley goes insane, moves to Miami, stalks Ozzie, discovers blow, Scarface.
What will Robin Ventura be like as a manager?
This, the most pressing question. With no real previous experience to examine, I turn to Ventura’s most pressure-filled moment, treading the tracks of The Ryan Express, for a few ideas.
Okay, there’s really nothing to take away from this. But watching Ventura offer himself into a headlock and get repeatedly bludgeoned by the strikeout king never gets old. Most impressive, the way Ventura’s hair endured it all, the part stayed strong.
Here’s to a happening 2012!