CSN Chicago: What a steal . . . for the White Sox

800652.jpg

CSN Chicago: What a steal . . . for the White Sox

By Chuck Garfein
CSN Chicago

If someone would have told you on Opening Day that on June 24 the White Sox would acquire Kevin Youkilis from the Red Sox for Brent Lillibridge, Zach Stewart and a big wad of cash, you would have probably questioned that persons mental health.

No offense to Lillibridge, Stewart and the 5.6 million the White Sox will receive to pay the rest of Youks salary in 2012, but on paper this is a steal, a heist, a downright burglary at Fenway Park.

If MLB isnt investigating this, somebody might want to contact the FBI.

The White Sox traded a utility man batting .175 and a pitcher just recently sent to the minors with a 6.00 ERA in return for a truck load of money plus a guy who is a Boston legend, a clubhouse leader and an actual, major-league third baseman, which until 4 p.m. Sunday the White Sox did not even possess.

The critics out there (I believe there are four of them -- not including the Tigers, Indians and Royals who I understand are calling a private investigator at this very moment), will point to Youkilis declining numbers the last three seasons and say that he doesnt have much left in the tank.

That might be correct, but have you seen the production the White Sox have been getting at third base? Collectively theyve batted .167, the worst offensive position in the majors. There are currently 19 National League pitchers with at least 20 at-bats who are hitting for a higher average. Just the mere presence of a living, breathing Kevin Youkilis in the lineup is a vast improvement.

Worst-case scenerio? The trade is a wash.

Best-case scenerio? He helps lead the White Sox to a division title, maybe more.

Youkilis, an All-Star as recently as last season, is having the worst year of his career. He missed 22 games with a lower-back strain. His average has dropped from .253 to .233 in June. He clashed with Red Sox manager Bobby Valentine before rookie Will Middlebrooks stole his job at third base.

His stock could not have been any lower. So the White Sox pounced.

Hes an on-base percentage guy, another guy that is not afraid to get a big hit, White Sox general manager Kenny Williams said. We just thought at this time it was necessary to make the trade and necessary to do it sooner rather than later.

Youkilis will take over third base from Orlando Hudson who has batted just .170 since signing with the White Sox last month. What does Hudson think about the deal? Just a hunch, but I believe hes fine with it.

If I was a GM, Id make the same trade, Hudson said. Im not the best third baseman over there, plus Im not swinging the bat well, so definitely Id make the same trade.

So would Paul Konerko.

There is no way we are not a better team with Kevin Youkilis, Konerko told reporters. He is just too good of a player and has been through all the wars and is still relatively a young guy (hes 33). We just have to keep him on the field. If that is the case, it could be one of the bigger steals of the season.

In past years, Williams traded for big-name stars like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Manny Ramirez while both were coasting towards the end of their careers. They didnt have any fire left, mainly fumes.

But judging by what Williams heard when he spoke to his new third baseman on the phone Sunday, Youkilis is apparently a man on a mission.

He has a little edge to him, which I like, Williams said.

Asked to elaborate, Williams answered, I cant tell you exactly what he said, but he wants to come in and he wants to prove some people wrong.

The White Sox are in Boston for a four-game series July 16-19. Youkilis will be there.

The playoffs begin the first weekend in October. Well see if the White Sox are there, too.

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

MLB may make rule changes for '18 season

PHOENIX - Major League Baseball intends to push forward with the process that could lead to possible rule changes involving the strike zone, installation of pitch clocks and limits on trips to the pitcher's mound. While baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred expressed hope the ongoing process would lead to an agreement, he said clubs would reserve the right to act unilaterally, consistent with the rule-change provision of the sport's labor contract.

Union head Tony Clark said last weekend he did not foresee players agreeing to proposed changes for 2017. Under baseball's collective bargaining agreement, management can alter playing rules only with agreement from the union - unless it gives one year notice. With the one year of notice, management can make changes on its own.

"Unfortunately it now appears that there really won't be any meaningful change for the 2017 season due to a lack of cooperation from the MLBPA," Manfred said Tuesday during a news conference. "I've tried to be clear that our game is fundamentally sound, that it does not need to be fixed as some people have suggested, and I think last season was the kind of demonstration of the potential of our league to captivate the nation and of the game's unique place in American culture."

Yet, he also added: "I believe it's a mistake to stick our head in the sand and ignore the fact that our game has changed and continues to change."

Manfred said while he prefers an agreement, "I'm also not willing to walk away." He said he will send a letter to the union in the coming days and plans to continue dialogue with Clark and others in hopes of reaching agreement.

Clark met with Cactus League teams last week, five at a time over Thursday, Friday and Saturday, before departing Monday for Florida to visit each Grapefruit League club - and proposed rules changes were a topic.

"I have great respect for the labor relations process, and I have a pretty good track record for getting things done with the MLBPA," Manfred said. "I have to admit, however, that I am disappointed that we could not even get the MLBPA to agree to modest rule changes like limits on trips to the mound that have little effect on the competitive character of the game."

Clark saw talks differently.

"Unless your definition of `cooperation' is blanket approval, I don't agree that we've failed to cooperate with the commissioner's office on these issues," he wrote in an email to The Associated Press. "Two years ago we negotiated pace of play protocols that had an immediate and positive impact. Last year we took a step backward in some ways, and this offseason we've been in regular contact with MLB and with our members to get a better handle on why that happened. I would be surprised if those discussions with MLB don't continue, notwithstanding today's comments about implementation. As I've said, fundamental changes to the game are going to be an uphill battle, but the lines of communication should remain open."

Clark added "my understanding is that MLB wants to continue with the replay changes (2-minute limit) and the no-pitch intentional walks and the pace of game warning/fine adjustments."

Manfred said he didn't want to share specifics of his priorities for alterations.

"There's a variety of changes that can be undertaken," Manfred said. "I'm committed to the idea that we have a set of proposals out there and we continue to discuss those proposals in private."

MLB has studied whether to restore the lower edge of the strike zone from just beneath the kneecap to its pre-1996 level - at the top of the kneecap. Management would like to install 20-second pitch clocks in an attempt to speed the pace of play - they have been used at Triple-A and Double-A for the past two seasons.

Players also have been against limiting mound meetings. The least controversial change appears to be allowing a team to call for an intentional walk without the pitcher having to throw pitches. In addition, MLB likely can alter some video review rules without the union's agreement- such as shortening the time a manager has to call for a review.

"Most of this stuff that they were talking about I don't think it would have been a major adjustment for us," Royals manager Ned Yost said.

Manfred said starting runners on second base in extra innings sounds unlikely to be implemented in the majors. The change will be experimented with during the World Baseball Classic and perhaps at some short-season Class A leagues. Manfred said it was a special-purpose rule "beneficial in developmental leagues."

Manfred also said Tuesday that a renovated Wrigley Field would be a great choice to host an All-Star Game and Las Vegas could be a "viable market for us."

"I don't think that the presence of legalized gambling in Las Vegas should necessarily disqualify that market as a potential major league city," Manfred said.

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Massarotti: '0% chance Ortiz comes out of retirement'

Tony Massarotti in the Cumberland Farms lounge believes there is 0% chance David Ortiz comes out of retirement.