Home finale an adieu for Dye, Pods?
Outfielders may have played in final home game for Sox
CHICAGO -- If Sunday's 8-4 White Sox victory over the Tigers was the last home game played at U.S. Cellular Field for Jermaine Dye, then it ended a bit uneventfully.
Dye, who started as the designated hitter in the 2009 home finale, grounded out to shortstop on a 3-2 pitch from Fernando Rodney during his team's four-run uprising in the eighth. Two innings earlier, Dye singled home Gordon Beckham as part of a three-run rally to lend some support to Daniel Hudson's first Major League victory.
But the South Siders' starting right fielder for the past five seasons, who arrived in Chicago as a free-agent bargain before the opening of the memorable 2005 campaign, didn't need a big finish to reinforce his value to the team. His actions on the field already have spoken volumes.
"I've had a lot of good baseball players, good people. Dye is in my top two favorite players I ever managed," said White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen. "I never managed a better guy, a better player. I hope it's not the end for us."
With his 164 career home runs since joining the White Sox -- including 44 during his stellar season in 2006 -- Dye ranks seventh on the franchise's all-time list. He's hard-working, no-fuss and the consummate leader-by-example in the clubhouse.
Here is the only problem for Dye. A mutual option of $12 million exists for the 2010 campaign, with a $1 million buyout, and Dye's worst half of production as part of the White Sox has come during the second half of 2009. The 35-year-old hit just .150 in his past 29 games and has three home runs and 11 RBIs in his past 40.
These second-half struggles don't have Dye worried about general manager Ken Williams' perception of his ability when it comes time to make the call on the option.
"Kenny knows who I am, knows what type of person I am and knows what kind of hitter I am. I don't think it will affect it at all," Dye said. "He knows the game.
"Guys go through spurts where they struggle. Some guys have worse struggles than me in the second half and full-year struggles. It's just, for whatever reason, we'll see what happens and hopefully I'll be coming back."
More tough decisions than Dye will have to be made by the White Sox brass, as they prepare to turn around their fortunes in 2010. Scott Podsednik, who was sitting on his couch in Texas at the open of the 2009 campaign, continued his amazing comeback on Sunday with two hits -- including an RBI triple in the sixth.
Podsednik, 33, is hitting .344 in September and leads the team with 158 hits. He sits second behind Dye (77 runs scored) with 74 runs scored.
Leadoff hitters are a premium commodity in all of Major League Baseball, and the Angels' Chone Figgins figures to be a marquee name in this particular category. Podsednik could prove to be a most successful free-agent alternative, potentially with the White Sox, if the sides can agree on contractual demands and his outfield fit moving forward.
"I'd like to come back, but who knows," said Podsednik. "You just have to wait and see what happens."
"Do we want him back? Yes," said Guillen. "Is he going to come back? I don't know. I think Podsednik did something we never thought he was going to do, come back and have the year he had."
Change is inevitable, even on the best of teams. As White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko pointed out, there were a handful of new players on the 2006 roster after the White Sox won the World Series title in 2005.
Even with that possibility for change in mind, Dye didn't think about Sunday being his last White Sox home game before or during the contest.
"Sure, maybe driving to the airport or getting on the plane, I may start thinking of some things," said Dye. "Other than that, I've enjoyed my five years here, and if this is my last time going out on this field as a home guy, then I had a great time here and enjoyed it, won a World Series, the fans were great. Everything about Chicago is awesome. It's been a great town."
"A very special man in my heart," said Guillen of Dye. "My family, his family. I never saw a better pro than that kid. Never. I hope he comes back. If not, he knows he's got a friend in baseball. He made my life very easy."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.