Needless to say, the 2011 White Sox campaign was a bust. Adam Dunn and Alex Rios couldn’t hit to save their lives, Jake Peavy was once again an injury concern, and now former manager Ozzie Guillen was asking for more money while his team was 12 games out of first place. With two days left in the season, Ozzie packed his bags and Kenny Williams requested bench coach Joey Cora do the same. Once the season was officially over, it was announced hitting coach Greg Walker and third base coach Jeff Cox would no longer be with the organization. Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf went “all in” with their on-field acquisitions last year and it appears they may have to do the same this year with their coaching staff. The comment that stuck out to me most upon Ozzie Guillen’s departure was in reference to the White Sox coaching staff. Kenny Williams said “everyone in that coaching room is White Sox blood.” It almost has a Sopranos/Goodfellas feel to it. To keep it that way next year, look toward the Tampa Bay Rays bench and Dave Martinez.
As a player, Martinez was with the White Sox from 1995-1997. He hit over .300 twice with the team and had career highs in home runs and games played. He was capable of playing all three outfield positions and had a very good glove committing only six errors while patrolling the outfield over three years.
That is one of a few key selling points to bring Martinez to the White Sox. Defensive struggles plagued the team early in the year between the lax approach to fielding Alex Rios has, the bobbles made my Juan Pierre over the first two months of the year, and the almost recklessness at times that Carlos Quentin displayed. With Quentin down for the last three weeks of the year due to an injury sustained diving for a baseball, time was split out there between the speedy Alejandro de Aza, the beefy Dayan Viciedo, and Brent Lillibridge before he also went down with an injury. All three of Quentin’s replacements did a commendable job out there and it appears all three will have a spot on the roster next year. Will Carlos Quentin? Kenny Williams told the Chicago Tribune “the team is in a holding pattern,” which essentially means the team may not know which direction they want to go until Spring Training. The development of Viciedo, Flowers, and de Aza is certainly encouraging. With Brent Morel’s showing in September, it is sure he will be the team’s third baseman heading into spring. That should put Viciedo in right and de Aza in left assuming the team doesn’t re-sign Juan Pierre. This is where Davey Martinez comes into play. Cutting down on outfield errors is going to be a huge focus going into spring training. Between ten outfielders, Tampa Bay committed only ten outfield errors. The White Sox committed just 13 recorded errors, but any common fan knows who watched them knows improvements need to be made.
Another aspect of the game Martinez can aide is opponents stealing on the Sox. Teams stole 31 more bases on the Sox than they did the Rays. It is apparent AJ doesn’t have the strongest arm in the world and Tyler Flowers isn’t exactly much better, but pitchouts, delivery techniques, and keeping the runner guessing are some things the White Sox just couldn’t develop. With the possibility of pickoff master Mark Buehrle leaving, Chris Sale will get his shot at the rotation in 2012. It is absolutely necessary he develops a move similar to the other lefty in the rotation, John Danks. Danks’ move isn’t as deceptive as Buehrle’s, but it is deceptive enough to keep runners at bay.
Martinez is capable of handling players of all ages as well. The average age of the 2011 Tampa roster is 28 years old with the youngest player being 22 and the oldest being 37-year old Johnny Damon. The White Sox average age is just a year older at 29 with ages ranging from 22 to the 44-year old Omar Vizquel.
Most importantly, Martinez knows winning. Joe Maddon and the Rays have competed mightily against the American League East juggernauts. In fact, the Rays are playing in the ALDS today while the Red Sox are at home thanks to a remarkable September. Tampa even has a World Series appearance under their belt.
It is time for Martinez to step out of the shadows and into the spotlight. Kenny Williams will do everything he intended to do by hiring Martinez. He can mix with the young players and veterans easily. He can eliminate some of the incredibly frustrating fielding gaffes and would be base stealers. A fresh set of opinions that aren’t obscenity laden, and at times degrading, will be a breath of fresh air in what got to be a tense locker room toward Guillen’s final days. Most importantly, he can show the fans that he is still “all in” and isn’t rebuilding. He is merely rejuvenating an otherwise discouraged clubhouse. If Williams opts to go young or inexperienced, the team and fans may be all out for next year’s campaign.