Your Morning Phil: 17-21, Almora, Astros

Chicago White Sox manager Robin Ventura on Adam Dunn's 2-homer day.

Talking baseball while hoping the Bulls can avoid leaking talent in the off-season.

The White Sox have a new rallying cry, and it’s silly. Hey, we’re 17-21, look at us now!

That was the talk coming out of the clubhouse and the broadcast booth after Robin Ventura’s team took two of three in Minneapolis to get within four games of .500, which normally wouldn’t be seen as a great feat. But the Sox point out that this is the same record they had on this day a year ago, and they would go on to spend most of the season in first place.

So maybe this is exciting for some people who are invested in the team. But I think I’ll wait until they’ve won 13 of the next 14 to start booking my hotel reservations for their trips in August and September.

The 2012 White Sox did win 13 of 14 to improve to 30-22 and take over first place in the AL Central. That set the stage for an intriguing season, albeit one that ended with a late fade that left them out of the playoffs.

This team has the ability to go on a run, too. It has pitching, and when you have pitching you have a chance. But honestly, do you look at the lineup and see a team that can compete?

A lot of White Sox fans said they stayed away from U.S. Cellular Field last August and September because they never believed the Sox could hang with the Tigers. That might the dumbest thing I’ve ever heard said by a group of fans because the reality is this: Pro sports is all about winning, and when your team is in first place is when you should be out of the park/stadium/arena having fun.

Otherwise, why even bother?

But I digress. The bigger point here is that it is hard to see a lineup built around an aging Paul Konerko and lacking fresh legs and guys that get on base scoring enough runs to support Chris Sale, Jake Peavy, Jose Quintana and a strong, deep bullpen.

Somehow the White Sox outscored the Tigers a year ago, but that’s not happening this spring. Plus they’re watching the Indians and Royals run rings around their hitters.

The White Sox are on pace to score 580 runs. They’re last in the AL with a .236 batting average and – even worse – a .287 on-base percentage.

But to end this on a positive note, they are 17-21.

2. Remember Albert Almora? The Cubs’ first-round pick last June is almost all the way back after breaking his hamate bone in mid-March. He’s been playing center field and hitting in extended spring games in Arizona and should soon be assigned to the low-A Kane County Cougars. There’s no sign yet of Junior Lake, who suffered a stress fracture to the top rib on his right side in mid-March. Outfielder Reggie Golden, a second-round pick in 2010 recovering from two torn ligaments in his left knee, appears close to completing his recovery. He has a slash line of .250/.438/.470 in extended spring, according to “Arizona Phil’’ of The Cub Reporter, who tracks these things.  

3. Hiring Reid Ryan as president was a very smart move by the Houston Astros. Now they should make one more – finding a way to get Larry Dierker involved with the organization again. While the Astros have been doing good, smart things in reorganizing their baseball operations under Jeff Luhnow, who helped the Cardinals remain a model for scouting and player development, they had been practically daring fans to come to Minute Maid Park. While bringing back the rainbow uniforms of the 1970s and ‘80s, they have blown away many of the franchise’s traditions from previous ownership groups, with a move to the American League the No. 1 complaint.

George Postolos, who had been installed as club president as soon as Jim Crane took over, is all about innovation. He had little regard for the impact of guys like Dierker and Tal Smith. He practically swept aside his entire broadcast team last winter, leaving Dierker with no role other than pre- and post-game shows – which Dierker turned down, saying it was a job for beginners – and allowing the popular Jim Deshaies to come to Chicago without a serious attempt to keep him. Ryan, who is Nolan’s son, will immediately start fixing those wounds. It won’t hurt to have the Ryan name involved but Reid is hardly a nepotism hire. He’s a good baseball man in his right, learning the business while running the Round Rock Express and Corpus Christi Hooks, among other things, and he knows the Astros’ organization inside and out. He pitched at TCU and briefly in the Rangers’ organization. This is a move that will help Houston baseball, and Houston baseball needs a lot of help.

progers@tribune.com

Twitter@ChiTribRogers

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