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updated: 4/22/2012 8:16 AM

White Sox' humble Philip Humber achieves baseball immortality

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  • White Sox starting pitcher Phil Humber stops in view of the scoreboard Saturday after pitching a perfect game.

      White Sox starting pitcher Phil Humber stops in view of the scoreboard Saturday after pitching a perfect game.
    Associated Press

  • What the Boston Red Sox have accomplished with Fenway Park, which celebrated its 100th anniversary Friday in a special ceremony, is a good blueprint for the Cubs and Wrigley Field, says baseball columnist Matt Spiegel. Boston has been able to generate more revenue and put it back into the team, a formula that could help the Cubs.

      What the Boston Red Sox have accomplished with Fenway Park, which celebrated its 100th anniversary Friday in a special ceremony, is a good blueprint for the Cubs and Wrigley Field, says baseball columnist Matt Spiegel. Boston has been able to generate more revenue and put it back into the team, a formula that could help the Cubs.
    Associated Press

  • Baseball columnist Matt Spiegel says he appreciates the demeanor that Robin Ventura brings to the White Sox, but he sure hopes Ventura will stop using Brent Morel as a No. 2 hitting in the lineup.

      Baseball columnist Matt Spiegel says he appreciates the demeanor that Robin Ventura brings to the White Sox, but he sure hopes Ventura will stop using Brent Morel as a No. 2 hitting in the lineup.
    Associated Press

 
 

Summer Sundays at my house in the 1970s meant waking up and co-opting the Sports section from Dad as quickly as possible.

The baseball details were there, you see. You got full triple-crown stats for every full timer in the leagues (before I realized OBP was essential). There were recaps and box scores from Saturday's games. But there was also the Sunday notes column: tidbits from the locals, and perhaps around the league.

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I read it slowly, carefully, repeatedly. Thanks to the Herald for letting me flip the script and give this a try.

Humber real diamond in the rough:

Philip Humber talked with me on The Score last year, early in what was easily the best year of his career. He spoke of being humbled through 6 years of failure, and how long it took him to stop trying to pitch to the expectations of his past. He was an absolute college stud and a top-5 draft pick. During Saturday's game, Fox scrolled through some of the other right-handed pitchers taken in that 2004 draft. There, one pick before Humber at No. 3 was the man no one should try to be.

"I'm not Justin Verlander," Humber said last year, and by then it was obvious that he had changed some things on the field to give himself a more realistic chance to be successful. "Stop trying to throw high fastballs right by major-league hitters in obvious spots in the count. Your 93-94 isn't good enough. Nail down your command, avoiding baserunners whenever possible. Develop and count on the secondary and tertiary pitches. Hit the corners of the zone, but make sure they're strikes. Trust your fielders and don't think you have to blow every one away."

It's simple baseball humility and maturity. Humber probably won't ever be a top 2 or 3 starter on a big-league team; those spots are reserved for the kind of arm he thought he had. But a dependable, smart, healthy Philip Humber could pitch in this game a long, long time. Start there, and who knows what can happen?

Perfection, apparently.

Preservation and winning:

Fenway Park turned 100 this weekend, and Friday's romantic celebration was a chance to take stock of what that ballpark has become.

It's what the Ricketts family dreams for Wrigley Field of course, and what Mayor Rahm Emanuel seems to be willing to help them achieve.

What Boston got in modernizing Fenway (new income from seemingly annual additions of seats, bars and attractions) became an essential part of their plan and success. A bleacher bar = a $15 million outfielder for three years. Green Monster seats may have paid for a No. 1 starter, even if retroactively.

And every dollar earned within the park is one less to ask from the taxpayers. Mayor Rahm reportedly will help the Cubs massage the thorny issue of funding the renovation fiscally and politically, as the initial attempts last year were quickly rebuffed.

History -- like Wrigley's and Fenway's -- should be salvaged and amplified upon. It doesn't have to be (see Yankee Stadium's destruction and rebirth across the street), but if it's feasible to augment the past, go for it. There's no reason you can't sell tradition and romance, side by side with winning. One does not negate the other. Of course, management must never, ever, even in an obvious rebuilding year, allow a roster spot to be affected by the desire to sell the past.

That's why you have every right to be frustrated with the $3 million, crumbling eighth-inning guy on the DL right now.

Manager tracker

What can you learn about a manager in his first two weeks on the job? We had nothing schematic to go on with Robin Ventura, and really just fragments personally.

What the White Sox have asked of him is virtually unprecedented in the recent history of the game. We've seen instant managers pulled from broadcasting such as Bob Brenly and Larry Dierker, from the front office like A.J. Hinch, or just this year from the roving minors coaching ranks with the Cardinals and Mike Matheny.

Never has a volunteer high school coach gone from raking the varsity infield to a big-league dugout.

Some early returns:

Ventura has indeed proven to be the anti-Ozzie as advertised, with a relentless, boring calm that will stand to keep drama at bay.

He's happy to let Don Cooper control all things pitching, even if that means arguing with umpires to the point of ejection. He should have been more aggressive in getting on the field to shield Cooper from further embarrassment that night.

We've already seen Ventura order the ninth-inning sacrifice down 1 run. He's patient, most notably with the disastrous start of Brent Morel in the 2-hole. In an aside about Morel's strengths and why Ventura is sticking with Morel, the manager mentioned Morel's bunting ability, another nod to old-school run manufacturing in the face of modern theories.

I can appreciate Ventura's demeanor and his sense of "baseball time" as opposed to "fan time," but the 2-hole situation needs to be dealt with quickly. There are a few imperfect options, be it A.J. Pierzynski necessitating a left-handed shuffle, or my pet idea of Dayan Viciedo to simply put a more productive bat toward the top.

Choose something Robin, anything, and put Morel out of his uncomfortable misery.

On other issues, I'll keep waiting and give him some room to grow.

•Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM, and The Score's "Hit and Run" at 9 a.m. Sundays with his Daily Herald colleague, Barry Rozner. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670. Matt thinks a runner trying to score from first on a double into the gap is the most exciting play in baseball.

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