For starters, Michigan clearly is the best four-loss college football team in the country. Okay, that statement stands as a bit of an exaggeration, but a classy individual such as Lloyd Carr, who did so much for Michigan's program and also was a credit to the NCAA coaching ranks, deserved to go out in exciting fashion, as the Wolverines won over Florida in the Capital One Bowl.
More importantly, the impressive New Year's wins from USC and Georgia proved to me that a NCAA playoff for what was once known as Division I now has become a necessity. Both of those teams are better than Ohio St.
But we are here to talk baseball, although the White Sox mailbag and the team have been on holiday hiatus for the past couple of weeks. So, let's open things up for questions, with a wish for a healthy and prosperous 2008 and a great thanks to everyone who has submitted questions over the past year. Keep those comments and inquiries coming.
Assuming he passes the physical, what are the plans for Alexei Ramirez?
-- Dawn, Chicago
I have yet to see Ramirez play in person, so it's hard to give a definitive answer as to what the future holds for him. But in researching Ramirez's past playing days in Cuba and talking to people who have watched him in action, it sounds as if Ramirez can play second, shortstop and even handle the job responsibilities in center field.
Don't look for Ramirez to take over in center on a full-time basis, and the White Sox already are set at shortstop with Orlando Cabrera. So, Ramirez provides manager Ozzie Guillen with another dynamic talent off the bench, as well as providing a challenge to Danny Richar at second.
This move seems to help the White Sox in both the present and the future. If the team and Cabrera are unable to agree upon a multi-year extension and Cabrera walks after the 2008 season, then they have an individual in Ramirez whose natural position is shortstop. Ramirez could then slide into the starting role, and his salary would be considered infinitely manageable over the next three or four years.
I've heard and read rumors the White Sox are listening to offers for Cabrera and Mark Buehrle. Is either one of them true?
-- Jeff, Chicago
No, and categorically no. Both Cabrera and Buehrle will be with the White Sox to start 2008, and in fact, I've been told the White Sox have not even been asked about Buehrle during this current offseason. That lack of interest is not a statement on Buehrle's ability, but instead speaks to Buehrle having a full no-trade clause next year and wanting to be in Chicago, as well as the White Sox having absolutely no intention of moving their recently re-signed staff ace.
I was wondering what the future holds for Andy Sisco? I remember how general manager Ken Williams was excited about the prospects of Sisco as a starter. He seems to flourish in this role at Triple-A. Could this guy be a dark horse?
-- John, Youngstown, Ohio
Pitchers such as Sisco, David Aardsma and even Nick Masset have not been spoken of much during this offseason, following their bullpen stint or stints in 2007. Sisco showed signs of improvement as a starter for Triple-A Charlotte at the end of last year, but he enters Spring Training well down the pecking order in regard to competition for the rotation.
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In fact, I would put Masset ahead of Sisco in the fifth starter's race -- a race that won't really leave the starting blocks if John Danks and Gavin Floyd perform as expected during Spring Training. When Sisco, among others, was not called to the Majors last September, pitching coach Don Cooper made it clear the team hadn't given up on the big left-hander. Cooper also pointed out how Sisco didn't take advantage of the given opportunities.
Barring a trade, Sisco will enter Spring Training pitching for a big league job. That job, of course, ultimately might not be with the White Sox.
What are the chances of the White Sox having this pitching rotation: Buehrle, Javier Vasquez, Jose Contreras, Danks, and Lance Broadway?
-- Tony, Chicago
Broadway really struck a chord with White Sox fans during his end-of-season performances, especially via his one final week start against the Royals. Comments sent to the mailbag focused on the right-hander's intensity and emotion shown on the mound during Broadway's six innings of shutout baseball featured against Kansas City.
By Broadway's admission, though, he enters Tucson behind Danks and Floyd in the rotation battle. I reiterate that there really might not be much of a battle to fill out this rotation, but that assertion doesn't preclude a change from coming during the season. Young mound talents such as Broadway, Masset, Gio Gonzalez and Jack Egbert might not break camp with the White Sox but could figure into the team's plans before the season is complete.
Why has Williams done nothing about the bullpen?
-- Rosa, Chicago
Williams targeted Scott Linebrink as the top relief upgrade on the open market and paid a premium price to lock him down with the White Sox. I would also expect a few outside bullpen challengers to be added through non-roster invites. Otherwise, it looks as if the team will be counting on Mike MacDougal and Matt Thornton to bounce back from rough 2007 showings and will look to Boone Logan and Ehren Wasserman to continue to develop with greater big league experience.
Do you think Williams will be looking at anyone on the Mitchell Report? By the way, I turned my cable off in July. A few weeks ago, I was so excited about the White Sox's offseason prospects that I might have turned it back on in the spring, but it's not looking good. Come on, Sox. Do something, or the Internet is next to go!
-- Don, Fort Madison, Iowa
Williams said recently that players mentioned on the Mitchell Report would be viewed on a case-by-case basis.
As for canceling cable, it's your money, Don, but it doesn't make any sense to me. I understand the passion involved with supporting a team, but I also believe there's absolutely nothing wrong with enjoying the game of baseball -- even when your team has fallen upon hard times. You missed a very intense and well-written last season of "The Sopranos," by the way, and the same can be said for "Entourage."
Don't make any hasty decisions about the Internet. What would life be like without e-mail and MLB.com?
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.