Old news: On Vizquel, Jenks and Contreras

There’s still time for Omar Vizquel to change his mind, you know.
The rumored one-year deal to aquire the quadragenerian shortstop hasn’t been made official; MLB.com, the Trib and Sun-Times are all calling it varying degrees of “close.”
Back in 2004, all outlets were saying the same thing as the Sox and Vizquel worked toward a two-year deal.  The Trib’s headline read “close,” the Sun-Times’ version said “imminent.”  Then in came the Giants with an extra year, and Vizquel took off for San Francisco, leaving shortstop in the unreliable hands of Juan Uribe, and we know how that turned out.
Anyway, I went to the archives to see if there was any perceivable bad blood between the two parties.  Judging from Kenny Williams’ quotes in a Scot Gregor story from Nov. 16, 2004, nope.  While he was described as “shock,” he seemed to chalk it up to the business:

“It was obviously disappointing,” Williams said. “But the Giants saw fit to trump our offer and that put them over the top. That’s the bottom line.”

I imagine if Williams had any hard feelings, they were erased when he won a World Series ring. Vizquel is still looking for one.
(Also found while looking through the November 2004 archives — some Trib reader named J.J. making the argument for the Sox to acquire Alfonso Soriano.)
At any rate, I think we can assume that Vizquel won’t be getting a two-year deal at the last minute, so let’s proceed.
This move really isn’t a roster-changer. It could theoretically jeopardize Jayson Nix’s chances at making the 25-man roster, but that will depend more on what happens to the Sox’s third outfield position than anything else.  With at least three open positions still to fill (not counting backup catcher), the Sox already have at least one credible backup at every position except center field, which could easily be Alejandro De Aza’s role if he’s merely an emergency player and not needed in a platoon situation.
Vizquel shouldn’t see much time, anyway, if everything goes well.  His bat is nearly non-existant, but he makes up for it with amazingly durable defense.  42-year-olds shouldn’t be making more plays than the average shortstop, but all the numbers say he’s doing just that.
He’s really a sixth coach (or third, if you think Greg Walker and Jeff Cox make a negative impact and Harold Baines is comatose), with the organization likely hoping that he can become a mentor for Alexei Ramirez like he did for Elvis Andrus last year with the Texas Rangers.
Vizquel took to the role almost immediately.  Jeff Passan wrote an interesting story at the onset of spring training last year about their relationship:

Though, if you’ll allow Vizquel to hock a loogie on the lovefest, he’s not enamored of the way Andrus fields the ball. His legs are too spread out, Vizquel said, and he doesn’t bring the ball into his stomach the way Vizquel learned. He wants to mention these things, and then he thinks better of it, lest he undo years of instruction three days into his new camp. He’ll have plenty of opportunity to drop hints because neither shortstop is participating in this year’s World Baseball Classic.

And although Vizquel called the transition from starter to mentor “difficult,” he enjoyed it more as the season went on. From a Fort Worth Star-Telegram story on July 16:

“I don’t like to do it right after the play, but sometime [Andrus] comes up to me and asks,” Vizquel said. “That’s good, because then you use the time and don’t let it go by. He says, ‘How did you see it, and what can I do about it?'”

The good news is that Ramirez isn’t much of a work in progress.  He’s not 20 like Andrus, but a middle-of-his-prime 28.  Over the last two or three months of the season, he showed good range and made throws with conviction, working to erase the “lazy” first impression he set in April. It can’t hurt that he enters 2009 playing the same position in consecutive years for the first time in his major-league career.
The things that Ramirez needs help with aren’t particularly innate.  OK, being aggressive on the pivot may not be teachable, but taking throws from catcher and positioning — before and during the play, especially on relay throws — should be, as far as I know.  If anybody can help Ramirez with these things, it’s Vizquel. I’m sure Camp Cora helps, but Vizquel has logged more than 22,000 innings at short in his major-league career.  Cora had 226.
So there you go.  It’s unreasonable to consider Vizquel some sort of Shortstop Whisperer, but he’ll likely make the defense better somehow, even if only it’s when he plays.
Of course, that’s assuming that Vizquel actually signs with the Sox this time.  I don’t see why he wouldn’t — especially since he’ll have a manger that’ll still call him “kid,” even though said  manager is just three years older than Vizquel.
It would be nice to say that Bobby Jenks either solidified his status as the offseason scapegoat or severely hampered his trade value. But as Nick Swisher showed us last offseason, there’s no reason it can’t be both.
Jenks talked to Joe Cowley after the conditioning comments that Don Cooper made:

”Did I feel I was being picked on? No,” Jenks said in a phone interview. ”But I felt I was the easy scapegoat because I had struggled in the end with some nagging injuries. This organization, just like most in this game, tell you, ‘Come in, our door is open and tell us what’s on your mind.’ And when you do, they turn it around on you and make you feel bad. They’re playing on your own words. They want you to come in, be honest and then they turn it around.”

When Jenks fired back at Guillen’s criticism the first time, his response was warranted.  This time, Cooper didn’t single him out, so this is merely Jenks revisiting comments that are more than a month old. I don’t think it’s helping anybody.
Check out what Jose Contreras is up to:

Sanspo reported a few days ago that Contreras reached out to the Hanshin Tigers, who despite being in need of pitching, aren’t interested in his services. The Hanshin source quoted by Sanspo said that “it seems like he wants to play in Japan. We’ve already decided against it, but it’s not 100%,” later adding, “(Contreras) seems like he would be quite inexpensive, so there will probably be other teams that show interest.” […] The Contreras family is going to visit Japan next week, to look for Jose’s next employer and visit Kevin’s prospective high school. If Kevin does wind up attending high school in Fukuoka, the geographically close SoftBank Hawks and Hiroshima Carp would appear to be the most logical choices.

A couple initial reactions:
No. 1: Considering the difficulty Contreras had in adjusting to American culture, wouldn’t a move to Japan completely freak him out all over again?
No. 2: I’m guessing he wants his son to avoid the draft, so he can get into professional ball like his old man did, as a free agent.
No. 3: I wouldn’t’ve guessed his son’s name was “Kevin.”
Arizona Fall League:

  • Peoria 5, Phoenix 4
    • C.J. Retherford crushed a two-run, game-winning homer.  He added a walk to it.
    • Brent Morel singled twice and scored once.
    • Jordan Danks went 0-for-4 with a walk.
    • Sergio Santos allowed an unearned run on two hits over an inning of work, recording two strikeouts.

I’ll have a lot more on the championship game tomorrow, but if you want to get a head start, check out Larry’s recap of the month in the minors.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Unless Jenks called Cowley, I don’t see him revisiting anything. More like the reporter trying to stir the $&@! and succeeding.


isn’t this coop sort of singling bobby out?
”We’re asking Bobby to raise the bar. Bobby is a big dude that sometimes may look like he’s not in shape. He needs to raise the bar…”
i agree it’s not exactly malicious.


and i’m sure when joe was talking to bobby, he made that really clear.
you know cowley’s schtick.


bobby doesn’t seem too bright.


Here is some video of Retherford’s game-winning home run in the AFL Championship game: http://mlb.mlb.com/media/video.jsp?content_id=7137159


Oh good lord. I was a sophomore in high school. Please don’t hold that against me.