1/26/2013 6:15 P.M. ET
White Sox feel fans' pain of tough finish
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
CHICAGO – Since 1996, the White Sox have nine second-place finishes, four third-place finishes, three division titles and one historic World Series crown in 2005.
According to one fan asking a question near the end of Saturday's SoxFest Town Hall Meeting at the Palmer House Hilton, those good but not-quite-good-enough finishes don't sit well with the White Sox fan base. General manager Rick Hahn, on the Town Hall hot seat for the first time as the man in charge, quickly echoed his agreement with that particular sentiment.
"There is simply no worse feeling that I have than watching another team celebrate at the end of the season," Hahn said. "In terms of everything you said, we're not trying to finish in second place. We're not trying to win 83 games and miss the playoffs."
It was 85 wins, a second-place finish and a playoff miss in 2012, with the White Sox concluding the season on a 4-11 slide and not finishing off a season in which they sat in first for 117 days. They held a two-game division lead over the Twins on Sept. 9, 2003, only to lose the AL Central by four games as another example of late-season struggles.
As manager Robin Ventura pointed out in his pointed response to the same question, making the playoffs isn't easy. And falling short just makes the White Sox want to go even harder after the prize in 2013.
"A lot of people might think it's easy but it's really not that easy. That's why it's 162 games and that's why you play," Ventura said. "I played for 16 years, and it's not that easy -- it never was. You never want to go home not making the playoffs.
"We're just as disappointed as anybody else. But again, I know there is no season that you prepare for that. Any time you're knocked down, you have to get back up and go. I'm not going to quit. I'm not quitting. I'm getting everybody ready to win this year and not worry about just falling down."
Could be big year for White Sox Mitchell
CHICAGO – Rick Hahn usually mentions Dewayne Wise and Jordan Danks when he talks about internal left-handed-hitting help for the White Sox, while also throwing in switch-hitting backup catcher Hector Gimenez.
But don't overlook Jared Mitchell, the team's top pick in the 2009 First-Year Player Draft, who received rave reviews for where he was offensively coming out of instructional leagues.
"The best news I have about Mitchell, and Robin can attest to this, too, is that after [assistant general manager] Buddy Bell returned from Instructional League this year, he wouldn't shut up about where Jared is and, 'We can't possibly consider moving this guy, because he's ready to bust loose,'" said Hahn during Saturday's SoxFest Town Hall meeting. "Guys who have been working with him since he arrived here on campus are starting to get that excitement in their voice.
"He has a ton of tools, and it was always a matter at first of how quickly that development would happen. Then it turned out to be how badly that injury would impact him. The injury now seems to be behind him and the swing is getting to the point where our guys are getting excited and hopefully this will be a big year for him."
Mitchell, 24, was a part-time baseball and football player when selected out of LSU, and then suffered a torn tendon in his left ankle during Spring Training in 2010 that cost him that season and hampered his play in '11. Mitchell told MLB.com in December that he feels improvement simply from pure repetition of what he has been learning.
White Sox expect unexpected from Pierzynski
CHICAGO – Aside from a potential Cactus League matchup, the White Sox won't face A.J. Pierzynski and his new Rangers team until April 30 in Texas. Count John Danks as one former Pierzynski teammate who isn't sure what to expect when facing the catcher.
"That will be different. We'll see how that goes," said Danks with a smile. "You never like throwing to a guy that caught you for six years. He's not going to see anything I'm throwing up there that will be new."
Pierzynski has never faced Danks. But he has gone 4-for-15 lifetime against Jake Peavy, 3-for-3 against Matt Lindstrom, 2-for-13 against Jesse Crain and 0-for-1 against Matt Thornton.
Morel making his way back after injury
CHICAGO -- Brent Morel told MLB.com at the end of November that his bothersome back, which hampered him all of the 2012 season, felt as good as it had in more than one year -- thanks to his work at Sparta Performance/Science in California. After manager Robin Ventura saw Morel hit recently, he was in agreement that the team's starting third baseman at the start of 2012 had made great strides.
"He looks different," said Ventura of Morel. "He looks great."
Morel still has to prove his back can handle the wear and tear of everyday play and more than likely will start the 2013 season with Triple-A Charlotte.
Third to first
Having high-character players is hugely important to the White Sox in assembling their roster. But it's not a determining factor. The cases of Bobby Jenks and A.J. Pierzynski, who both had "a few hiccups on their resume" as general manager Rick Hahn said and were great performers in Chicago, show the White Sox faith often is rewarded.
"In the end, the talent is going to carry the day. And I point that out because Kenny [Williams] did a nice job from Day 1," Hahn said. "We ask our amateur scouts -- our pro scouts -- to find out as much as they can about a guy's character and makeup and how they handle pressure and how they can handle playing in a big market like Chicago.
"That is part of the report. How is that guy going to adapt to the pressures of playing in a big market."
Pierzynski was an organizational staple for eight years in Chicago, while Jenks ranks second behind Bobby Thigpen on the franchise's all-time saves list. Both made major contributions to the 2005 World Series title.
• Hahn has no worries that the White Sox will be able to expand their payroll if the contending situation dictates within the season.
"Based on history, there's not been an instance during any season where we've been in the mix where we've gone to (White Sox chairman) Jerry (Reinsdorf) and said, 'This guy is available. He addresses a need. Here's what it's going to cost,' that he hasn't found a way to make it work," Hahn said. "The money is usually there when we need to talk."
• Saturday's seminar featuring Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede from the 2005 World Series champions not only reached full capacity but had a line waiting down the hallway from the Red Lacquer Room at the Palmer House Hilton.