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Hoge’s White Sox Mailbag: When Is A Slump No Longer A Slump?

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Brent Morel

Brent Morel (Photo Credit: Getty Images, By: Christian Petersen)

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By Adam Hoge-

(CBS) I get it. We’re a month into the season and the questions you have about the White Sox are pretty much the same ones you had at the beginning of April.

Some have been answered — namely the pitching questions — and White Sox fans hope those are permanent answers (especially Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn and Alex Rios). Otherwise, you’re still wondering if Brent Morel and Gordon Beckham will ever figure it out and if not, will they ever get sent back to Charlotte?

Naturally, that question will continue to appear in this mailbag until Beckham, Morel or the White Sox provide some answers, but in the meantime, I’ll continue to push you to come up with more unique questions, even if it elicits sarcastic responses like this one (all questions are left unedited):

who has the 2nd best hair on the team? – fitz_my_cube

The answer to this question is obvious: Matt Thornton. If you don’t dig that Tom Hanks “Castaway” look then there is something wrong with you. And no, there is not a Wilson volleyball in his locker, although I wouldn’t object if there was.

Hell, even my own co-workers jumped in on the fun:

who’s the better dancer, Beckham or Morel? – @McKnight670

We both know the answer to this question is you, Connor.

What in the hell is wrong with John Danks? #mailbagfodder #fixhimAdam- @MattSpiegel670

I realize this was only a half-serious question, but Spiegs, you know I can’t resist John Danks talk.

Spiegel and I were actually sitting together Friday night at U.S. Cellular Field (the one in Chicago, not Seattle) when I said John Danks will never be more than a No. 3 starter. This was right before the left-hander gave up the bases-clearing double to Darnell McDonald that blew the game open. Spiegel responded by saying he’s more of a No. 2, to which I replied, “Not on a playoff team.”

I think that’s really the best way to put it. Danks is a more than capable American League starter, but I think we can all agree he’s not going to be the White Sox’s ace. And if you’re a team that is serious about contending, he’s probably nothing more than your No. 3.

The idea of Danks being an ace started in 2008 when he finished the year with a 3.32 ERA and pitched a gem in the White Sox’s one-game playoff against the Minnesota Twins. Since then, however, his WHIP has increased every year expect for 2010 and walks have really become a problem. In five starts this year, Danks’ WHIP is 1.516, the highest since his rookie campaign in 2007 (1.540 in 139 innings pitched).

Suddenly a five-year veteran, I think we know what Danks is: a solid, reliable middle of the rotation starter.

Now, back to Chuck Noland:

soooo is Thornton the closer going forward? – @NeneDoesIt

This question comes on the heels of Thornton pitching 1.1 innings Sunday and getting his first save of the season. Ventura went with Thornton instead of giving Hector Santiago his first opportunity since blowing a save in Oakland last Wednesday.

I still think Santiago is the closer though. It’s hard to trust Robin Ventura on anything (especially the closer situation), but he said after the game that Santiago will “still be in there in the ninth” and he just liked Thornton’s “body of work” against Dustin Pedroia, Adrian Gonzalez and David Ortiz. Indeed, Pedroia is now 0-for-4 against Thornton, Gonzalez is 0-for-6, and Ortiz is 3-for-11 with all three hits being singles.

The matchups were certainly there and Ventura deserves credit for giving the team the best chance to finish off the game. That said, are you going down a slippery slope by not trusting your rookie closer against some of the best hitters in baseball?

OK, now your weekly dose of Beckham/Morel questions:

This is a team that we believe should contend. A team that may have been absolutely dismantled by scouts, but should contend if everyone just does their part, right? So far, some good things are happening: Paulie is himself, Donkey looks to be on pace for a productive year, AJ and Rios have been a nice surprise, and the pitching staff (with the exception of John Danks and his walks) has looked marvelous. But you still have to look at Beckham, Morel, and Viciedo. The strikeout to at bat ratio for all three has been almost unbearable, and Morel is – dare I say it – a hazard in the field. If these guys can produce how we “think” they should, contention is a possibility. But honestly, how much longer can all three of them be considered “slumping”? Thanks. -  Shane Riordan

Well, in the case of Viciedo, I think it’s only fair to continue to give him a chance. Let’s not forget he posted a .840 OPS in 38 games and 104 at-bats in 2010. Last year, the OPS dipped to .641 in 29 games, but he was right in the middle of the Ozzie-Kenny tug-of-war so I’m willing to give him a pass. So far he’s struggling, but he’s still shown signs of power and if he can figure it out before the whether gets nice, Viciedo could still be dangerous this year. He’s also been better than expected in left field.

As for Morel, his September results are starting to look more like the exception than the rule and you bring up a great point with his defense. He already has three errors and there are at least a couple of other plays that were questionable. His fielding percentage is down to .936 from .953 last season and he’s only been involved in one double play so far. I wouldn’t call Morel and liability in the field by any means, but if his defense slips, it will be much easier to sit him on the bench.

As for Beckham…

will beckham ever be sent down? – @BradT313

I addressed this a couple weeks ago and you may remember, June 4 is the date to watch. After that, he’ll have to clear revocable waivers before being sent down and considering he’s still only 25, someone will take a flyer on him if he gets put on waivers.

But I’m starting to come completely around the idea of sending Beckham down. The cynics will say, “But what’s that going to do to his confidence?” to which I respond, how will sending him down possibly make things worse?

The biggest concern might be what happens if Beckham struggles in Triple-A. He loses almost all value if you can’t bring him back up.

The other problem with sending Beckham down is that there’s almost no one to bring up. Tyler Kuhn probably isn’t ready and Ozzie Martinez and Ray Olmedo are struggling mightily in Triple-A. Dan Johnson and Dallas McPherson don’t play second base, but can play third, although McPherson is on the 7-day disabled list. The best option would probably be to bring up Johnson and use him as your utility guy, starting Lillibridge at second.

I’m OK with that. This might be Beckham’s last chance to get right. I have no problem with Beckham getting a stint in Charlotte. His value is minimal right now as it is.

why is Robin so obsessed with bunting, and is there anyway to convince him to stop wasting outs  – @dgajewski

You might be surprised to know that the White Sox only have seven sacrifice bunts this season, 11th in Major League Baseball, but first in the American League. This, of course, does not include sacrifice bunts attempted, which is 10 for the White Sox. But even that stat doesn’t include other bunt attempts that are not successful (Morel’s ugly suicide/non-suicide squeeze in Oakland) or even bunt hits (De Aza has one — the only one on the team).

I tend to side with those that consider bunts wasted outs, especially considering the White Sox  are struggling to get hits with runners in scoring position. There are a few situations in which I’m OK with bunting, but overall, I agree. Bunt less.

How can the SOX be contenders thought the season to get a chance at that 2nd wildcard spot. THey surprised me so far. – @Akschnarr82

That is the ceiling I painted in the White Sox verdict I delivered before the season began. I mentioned that Dunn and Rios would be at least a little better, which would slightly improve the White Sox from the 79 wins they posted last season. But in order for them to get to the 86 I predicted, they need more production from the bottom of the order and they need to figure out a reliable No. 2 hitter. Without that, they’ll likely linger around .500 all season and if the pitching starts to falter, things will get even worse.

adam hoge Hoges White Sox Mailbag: When Is A Slump No Longer A Slump?

Adam Hoge

Adam is the Sports Content Producer for CBSChicago.com and specializes in coverage of the Bears, White Sox and college sports. He was born and raised in Lincoln Park and attended St. Ignatius College Prep before going off to the University of Wisconsin-Madison where he earned a Journalism degree. Follow him on Twitter @AdamHogeCBS and read more of his columns here.

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