01/27/2013 7:15 PM ET
SoxFest provides optimistic buzz
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
They made their way through the cold and the ice to the Palmer House Hilton in downtown Chicago this weekend to get Chris Sale's autograph. They wanted to hear stories about the 1983 team from Tony La Russa and Greg Luzinski and watch in pride as Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Aaron Rowand and Joe Crede reunited from the 2005 World Series champions.
There were a number of direct and even pointed questions thrown at general manager Rick Hahn and manager Robin Ventura, ranging from A.J. Pierzynski's departure to the need for another left-handed bat. But fans seemed highly entertained and fairly upbeat about the prospects for 2013.
Look no further than SoxFest '04 to see how good cheer is not always the watchword at this event.
"You know the great thing about our fan base is when they are upset, you know it. They pull no punches," said White Sox senior vice president, sales and marketing Brooks Boyer. "There's no love for the team, quote unquote, when something is bothering them.
"We had a major transaction here: A.J. is an eight-year player, a hero of the World Series, a likeable, fan favorite. But I think what Rick and Robin were able to do is explain why it made sense that he move on. He got a great contract. There's a lot of open communication here and there is a fan base that feels pretty good about the product."
Judging by the fans' reaction this weekend, the White Sox could pack hotel ballrooms simply by having members of the '83 and '05 teams in attendance and telling stories.
"From those two teams, the amazing thing is the personalities that are on there," Boyer said. "I sat through the '83 seminar. They did one each day and I sat through the one [Sunday] and just the stories they tell, when you think of who is up there. With Harold Baines, and Greg Luzinski and Tony LaRussa, Wimpy [Tom Paciorek] and Kitty [Ron Kittle], those are, with the exception of Harold, those are storytellers, they all have this memory of that team.
"It's like it has been documented and they know it and tell it. It's so engaging that their big personalities. I wasn't a White Sox fan in 1983, but just to sit here, it's just amazing.
"Then when the 2005 guys go out there, kids from today know the 2005 guys," Boyer said. "When you can put Crede and Rowand in the same room at any point and time, it's terrific. To add Paul and then the MVP, that panel in a couple of years when it has A.J. and Mark Buehrle on it will be standing room only."
Saturday's '05 session was beyond capacity at the Palmer House's Red Lacquer Room.
Alexei determined to deliver more production
CHICAGO -- The overall statistics indicate a 2012 drop in production for Alexei Ramirez.
Although he drove in 73, just four off of matching his single-season career high, and hit .336 with runners in scoring position, Ramirez dipped to a career-low with nine homers and his .265 average.
"I felt really good and comfortable defensively, but offensively, I could have done more," Ramirez said Sunday at SoxFest through translator and White Sox director of public relations Lou Hernandez. "I could have hit more home runs. I could have driven in more runs. I could have got more hits. I can say I could have done more.
"And this year is going to be different. I'm going to try to contribute more."
Part of Ramirez's slightly subpar season could be attributed to nagging soreness in his left wrist. The injury first arose at the end of July, when Ramirez collided with center fielder Alejandro De Aza on a Craig Gentry fly ball, and the pain lingered throughout the rest of the season.
Ramirez had his best month in August, hitting .290 with four homers and 13 RBIs, but knocked out only one homer with 11 RBIs over September and 10 at-bats in October. After his wrist healed three weeks into the offseason, Ramirez went back to work with a steely resolve.
"I'm preparing myself really hard for this coming year because I do feel that I could have done more last year," Ramirez said.
It was two years ago when Ramirez captured the Louisville Slugger Silver Slugger award for American League shortstops. Many view him as the AL's best fielding shortstop.
Talk is cheap at this point for Ramirez. In his sixth Major League season, he's approaching the campaign with the hunger of having something to prove.
"I feel like 2007. I feel like I just arrived," Ramirez said. "I feel like a rookie. I feel strong and I feel hungry to keep doing what I did when I got here and continue doing it this coming year.
"Every guy on the team is a leader. We are all responsible for being that type of a leader at our position and contributing."
Learning on the job, Ventura more comfortable
CHICAGO -- Robin Ventura always seems to look like a poker player with a perpetually good hand, who has the ability to keep the other players guessing as to what he has.
That quiet cool was on display this weekend at SoxFest, along with the White Sox manager's dry wit. But starting his second year at the helm, Ventura looked more comfortable in a position that he showed last year fit him well without any previous experience.
"Coming to this event, any answer I would answer, there was still a little bit of the unknown," said Ventura of his managerial change. "I could answer the question, but not having been privy to it before, there were question marks to it.
"Going through a year where a lot of stuff happened for me, personal things for our team, to injuries, to end of season and being in a pennant race and being an offseason where I know everybody, it is different."
Ventura still feels like a player in that he's starting anew for the '13 campaign.
"Going into Spring Training, it's getting back to the simple things all over again," Ventura said. "I know everyone is talking about the end of last year. For me, for us to get back to that point, there's a lot of work that has to go into getting back to that point.
"I don't want to look too far ahead. The thing that works best for me is to deal with what's in front of you and [general manager] Rick [Hahn]'s job is more moving on to the future so he can help me with that. I don't want to act like I know everything, because I don't. You're always learning."
Third to first
• One of the more humor-filled sessions of the weekend came Sunday during the "What's your favorite" seminar with Nate Jones, Hector Santiago, Tyler Flowers and John Danks. One young lady asked for each player's favorite reality show, to which Flowers replied, "Real Housewives of Miami," and then blamed it on a lack of televisions in his house and being forced to watch it with his wife.When another fan asked what player from history would be their choice to go deep against, Danks picked his friend and former teammate Mark Buehrle. Jones selected Babe Ruth, because then as he explained, "I can say, 'I got you, Babe.'" • Look for Alejandro De Aza to move to left field if Dewayne Wise or Jordan Danks are in the starting lineup. "If there's a preference, if he has the choice between left and center, if I bring in Jordan Danks or Wise, it would be left," White Sox manager Robin Ventura said of De Aza. "And those guys would rather be in center. It's a natural thing to move them there." Ventura also expressed pleasure in Dayan Viciedo's defensive development and mentioned again how people forget that Viciedo is only 23 and has moved from third to first to right to left since joining the White Sox in 2008. • Give Danks credit for his self-deprecating humor when asked to pick a White Sox Opening Day starter. "I know it's not going to be me," said Danks, who is battling back from August arthroscopic surgery. "I don't think it was going to be me if I'm healthy."