So, let's get right to this week's round of questions, with the drive to the playoffs now shifting into high gear for a number of division races that look as if they will go down to the season's final week before being decided. Actually, that statement pretty much covers every playoff contender except for the Angels, who are a lock in the AL West.
How could the White Sox have no pitchers in the All-Star Game?
-- Adam, Park Forest, IL
Some people seem to perceive this slight as a lack of respect for what the White Sox accomplished in the first half of the season. Others who have e-mailed me believe it will serve as a driving force or rallying cry for the team during the remaining two months. I don't believe either fact to be true.
As Jermaine Dye mentioned during the week of Final Vote campaigning, players understand there are oversights every year with the All-Star Game. Between fan voting, player voting and managerial selections, a handful of deserving individuals always are going to be overlooked. It just so happens this 2008 distinction went to Dye and White Sox pitchers such as John Danks and Scott Linebrink, among other qualified candidates in the AL.
Look at the lack of the White Sox All-Star pitchers in the following way, if you will, Adam. Their staff was so good as a unit that it was hard to pick one pitcher over another. Ultimately, it is this staff's effectiveness that will dictate whether the South Siders are playing baseball into October.
If Jose Contreras continues to struggle, would the White Sox give Clayton Richard or Lance Broadway a shot in the rotation?
-- Jimmy, Kenosha, Wisc.
Richard, the one-time University of Michigan quarterback (who of you out there didn't see that reference coming), will join the White Sox today to take Adam Russell's spot on the roster. In my opinion, the southpaw will get a chance to start before the non-waiver trade deadline, although it looks as if Nick Masset will get the call in place of Contreras on Tuesday.
The 2008 season has been an impressive one for Richard, who has taken that step up to Major League prospect status, with his 6-0 showing in six starts for Triple-A Charlotte. I've been told by numerous baseball people, though, how the jump from Triple-A to the Majors is the toughest one to make at any stage of your playing career, so it will be interesting to see how Richard's work plays out at U.S. Cellular. But Ken Williams certainly is not above looking within to help fill team needs.
See 'Bobby Jenks in 2005.'
Who is your vote for White Sox Most Valuable Player of the first half?
-- Adam, Wheaton, IL
In my White Sox Midterm Report, I picked Carlos Quentin.
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A case also could be made for Linebrink, who became such an impenetrable force as the eighth-inning bridge to closer Bobby Jenks. And Dye was as dangerous as anyone in the AL during the month leading up to the All-Star break.
Quentin gets the nod, though, for serving as the significant offensive presence early in the season when the rest of the White Sox bats were a bit inconsistent, bordering on dormant at times.
A lot of teams are picking up excellent starting pitchers like CC Sabathia, Rich Harden, and now Joe Blanton. Contreras has been off at times and we seem to have done well without Paul Konerko. I was thinking of a trade by sending those two over to the Los Angeles Angels for Jered Weaver. Your opinion?
-- Mike, Tinley Park, IL
Konerko has full no-trade rights, so he won't be going anywhere. The White Sox captain also will play an important role during the season's second half for Ozzie Guillen's crew, in my estimation. Contreras doesn't exactly have a great deal of trade value presently, and the Angels are not trading Weaver, especially not to one of their prime challengers. Most trades now will involve teams out of contention, looking for top young players in return.
Your idea in looking for another veteran starting pitcher is not a bad one, Mike. I asked Guillen yesterday if he could count on Contreras the rest of the way, as the White Sox need all five solid starters to succeed, without the presence of a clear-cut ace. Guillen said he could count on Jose if healthy, and believes he will bounce back from his recent rough stretch. I'm guessing the White Sox might try to hedge their bets a bit in this case.
Do the White Sox have any interest in signing Freddy Garcia? He was a fantastic pitcher for the White Sox.
-- Lucas, Rochester, Ind.
From what Guillen told the media on Friday, it doesn't sound like Garcia will be ready to compete until September -- if he's ready at all this season. Remember, I'm just repeating what Guillen told us, after he spent time with Garcia during the All-Star break. The White Sox don't have any interest in bringing back Garcia, an integral part of the 2005 World Series run.
Can Joe Crede win the Comeback Player of the Year award due to the fact that he was out last year?
-- Kevin, Ft. Wayne, Ind.
All MLB.com writers had to submit a ballot of their midseason award winners for a global story, and I picked Crede as my AL Comeback Player. The third baseman went from having worries about walking after his back surgery last year to being a highly productive part of a first-place team. I can't think of a stronger candidate.
By the way, I picked Josh Hamilton as my midseason AL MVP, Joe Nathan for Cy Young and Ron Gardenhire as Manager of the Year.
I have noticed that A.J. Pierzynski has dropped a ton of weight this season. He looks more like a center fielder than a catcher. So how soon can we expect him in the 30/30 or 20/20 club?
-- Robb, Romeoville, IL
Pierzynski has nine career stolen bases in 23 attempts over parts of 11 big league seasons, so I don't see him joining the 10/10 club, let alone 30/30, any time soon. Here's an interesting side note: Pierzynski was 1-for-8 in stolen base attempts in 2001, exemplifying the well-known aggressiveness of the Twins.
All kidding aside, Pierzynski came into Spring Training between 15 to 20 pounds lighter, telling us how he wanted to focus on being in better shape as he got older, while maintaining the same heavy workload. It's a good lesson for older non-players to follow, as well.
Pierzynski's hard work during the offseason has paid off in the form of a truly outstanding all-around season for the White Sox catcher. And Robb, you can see a difference in Pierzynski running the bases: going from first to third, turning a single into a double, etc.
Before I get the instant e-mails in response to my last comment, pointing out Pierzynski getting thrown out at the plate in Sunday's loss, he was nailed by one of the AL's best arms in Jose Guillen. Many faster runners would have lost that showdown, as well.
Here in Michigan, everyone is talking about the Tigers' torrid June. Now that the Tigers are .500, everyone is already hyped for the Tigers' postseason. However, I don't want to be hasty. What do you think the Tigers' chances are, as an outside source?
-- Michael, Grosse Pointe, Mich.
Following their disastrous first week of the season, I said the Tigers were done. I'm not changing my opinion, but Detroit does have nine games remaining against the White Sox -- three at home and six in Chicago. If they win seven or more of those against the South Siders, they would certainly have a chance to overtake them.
For what it's worth, the White Sox players and coaching staff still consider Detroit a viable postseason possibility. They also believe Michigan football is a lock to trounce Notre Dame this season.
OK, that last comment represents my opinion and nobody else's. But believe me, this particular result will come to fruition.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.