Ozzie's DH plan a hot topic at SoxFest
Manager will start season without a primary designated hitter
CHICAGO -- The question from the crowd at the Town Hall meeting during Day 1 of SoxFest dealt with the team's present desire to go without one primary designated hitter.
General manager Ken Williams, on stage in the Red Lacquer Room at the Palmer House Hilton with Ozzie Guillen and the television broadcast team of Ken "Hawk" Harrelson and Steve Stone, quickly pointed to his manager for the answer, drawing a laugh from the fans. After all, it's Guillen who has elected to go with the DH-by-committee.
"You know who my DH is going to be?" said Guillen with a mischievous smile. "It's going to be whoever is the DH for that game."
Guillen's definitive response doesn't remove the DH slot from standing as an ongoing topic of conversation. During a meeting with a group of Chicago media later Friday evening, Williams produced a list of possible candidates from his back pocket.
When asked to share the names on the list, Williams quipped that the media already knows who is on there.
"Take all the left-handed hitters that have a little pop, and that is the list," he Williams with a laugh.
That list would include Jim Thome, who remains a topic of conversation for the White Sox. On Thursday afternoon, Guillen mentioned his eternal respect for the potential Hall of Fame slugger and how it was a privilege to manage him, but that the DH-by-committee gives him greater flexibility. It also allows Guillen to carry 12 pitchers, which he prefers.
By the time Guillen made an appearance on Chicago Tribune Live on Thursday evening, he had changed his tune slightly, mentioning how he had just talked to Thome and planned to discuss the options for both sides with Williams. As mentioned by Guillen at Friday's Town Hall meeting, those extensive discussions took place earlier in the day.
Although the DH-by-committee seems to be a hot-button issue among fans, it was not a major topic during Friday's 45-minute question-and-answer session. Bringing back Greg Walker as hitting coach really stood as the only moment of minor acrimony, aside from one fan's critique of the team's lack of success when it came to first-round Draft picks during this past decade but prior to when Gordon Beckham arrived in 2008.
One fan actually had a sheet with researched numbers on the team's offense from 2009 when approaching the microphone to question Guillen and Williams about Walker. Both men didn't need to see that sheet, although Guillen asked his son, Oney, to take it for later perusal.
Guillen and Williams agreed that Walker is providing the right information when it comes to having hitters as prepared as possible, and they lauded the hard work he put in and the job he was doing. Williams is not a fan of job turnover, as he said from the dais, but a change would be made if Williams and Guillen felt that their message no longer was being disseminated by any of the coaches. Guillen brought up the departures of Tim Raines and Razor Shines from past coaching staffs as examples.
Whether Walker, who has strong support from his White Sox charges, will be working with a clear-cut choice for DH, such as Thome, remains to be seen. Williams admitted on Friday that there's always one more move to be made and he never stops trying to improve the club, but he also supported Guillen's DH concept.
"I'm resigned to the feeling that Ozzie is sold on wanting to do it this way," Williams said. "Is it a little different for me not to have that left-handed power guy in the middle of the lineup? Yeah.
"But when I hear his plan and how he plans to match up ... whether it's power right-handers or soft-tossing right-handers, soft-throwing left-handers, or giving [Juan] Pierre some time off and fitting [Andruw] Jones out there, or giving Pierre a day off to DH and [Omar] Vizquel getting in the lineup, getting Paulie [Konerko] off his feet, or he might want to go back-to-back [in the lineup] with Pierre and Vizquel.
"There are a lot of different things he's talked to me about, and it's interesting to me. It's not too different from what the Angels have done the last few years, the last number of years."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.