No spring breaks for Sox’ players
BY JOE COWLEY firstname.lastname@example.org March 15, 2012 9:24PM
Updated: April 19, 2012 8:21AM
GOODYEAR, Ariz. — Pull a veteran player aside in either camp, and the answer has been the same.
It’s not the new Cubs culture or the way the White Sox conduct business; it’s about both teams coming off disappointing seasons and having new managers and coaches.
Country-club treatment? Not even close. Those days are gone.
Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said that calling this year’s spring training a boot camp was “kind of a strong word,’’ but he admitted there has “definitely been more attention to detail.’’
Cubs pitcher Ryan Dempster had a similar view last week, praising the competition that has been stressed, whether it’s in a March Madness-style bunting tournament or just the every-day fight for starting spots on the 25-man roster.
That’s what you get with first-time big-league managers.
Robin Ventura and Dale Sveum are not only trying to get their teams ready for the start of the regular season in three weeks, but they’re trying to put a thumbprint on a new way of doing things.
It’s the result of failure.
Both organizations had a certain amount of success under the previous regimes, the Sox more than the Cubs, considering they raised the trophy in 2005. With postseason success comes a longer leash in spring training.
“Obviously, the players come and go,’’ Konerko said. “I mean myself and A.J. [Pierzynski], we’re going to be gone here at some point. But the people that head up the team, they have a much better chance of being here a lot longer than us. So they should expect to see a certain way of people going about their business.
“And when you have success as a team on a major scale, whether it’s winning the division, making the World Series or winning the World Series, yeah, it kind of buys you some freedoms. That’s the same in almost every workplace in the world. You go out and do the job, and no one says anything if you have little quirks on how you want to get your work in.
“When it all comes crashing down, it doesn’t work and you’re not doing the job, then, hey, man, they’re going to batten down the hatches. I certainly don’t take offense to it. If you didn’t see it coming, then you weren’t paying attention. That’s the way it works.’’
But get away from the field and take the elevator up a floor to the front offices, and that’s where the difference between the way the Cubs and Sox are doing business can be felt.
For the Cubs, it’s very businesslike. It’s almost like watching surgery. General manager Jed Hoyer is the anesthesiologist, Theo Epstein is the surgeon and Sveum is the bald, tatted-up rehab specialist, waiting outside to beat your body up on the road to recovery.
It has a white-glove feel to it. Clean, very little mess.
The Sox’ front office seems to be more on a crusade. Decisions are random, confusing at times. More from the heart. Almost a “we’ll show you who’s smarter’’ mentality.
Then again, players such as Konerko aren’t really concerned with front-office mentalities at this point. They don’t dictate the workload of mid-March days.
“We lost the liberties we had when we didn’t get it done as a team,’’ Konerko said. “I’m not saying they’re overdoing it with us. It’s right on for what we’ve earned.’’