(Chicago Black Sox General Manager Vic Caleca is driving north on Torrence Avenue in Calumet City, IL, behind the wheel of South Side Towing truck CC 29. He’s towing a black 2038 Jeep Cherokee towards South Side’s impound lot. It’s a Sunday morning, traffic is light, and Caleca appears lost in thought when his phone rings. He sees the call is from Sox owner Vinnie Vitale, and he answers it.)
Vic Caleca: Vinnie! How’s it going?
Caleca (sighs): So everyone keeps telling me. Vinnie … we’ve got a winning record, for once; we’re only three games out of first, for God’s sake. We even have a double-digit positive run differential … what the hell are you worried about?
Vinnie: Money, Vic. Money.
Caleca: We’re $41 million under budget. Why are you worried about money?
Vinnie: Well, not money per se, but salary cap money. My accountant, “Fingers” Valdacci, tells me we’re on track to be over the salary cap next season. So, I worry. What the hell are you doing with my money, Vic?
Caleca: Oh for God’s sake, Vinnie. We’re on track to be over the cap if we make an offer to every guy who’s up for arbitration – which we won’t, by the way – and if Wareham doesn’t opt out. But given the year he’s having, I’m afraid he will opt out and I actually don’t want him to anymore.
Caleca: When we offered him the two years, we figured that would be more appealing than a straight up one-year rental. But I stuck the opt out in there figuring he’d like having the control … but to tell you the truth, Vinnie, I never imagined he’d be this good. I figured he'd be OK, and we'd be ready to move on. But he and Simpson are the straws that stir the drink at the top of that lineup.
Vinnie: Yeah, yeah. They’re the frickin’ belles of the ball up there, but we cannot be over the cap, Vic.
Vinnie "Talkin' Leads To Doin' Vitale
Vinnie: If we are, you’ll be pullin’ night shifts on the Dan Ryan all next season …
(A horn blares in the next lane as a car blows through an intersection on a stale yellow light)
Vinnie: Hey … you drivin’?
Caleca: Yep. I hooked an SUV and we're headed over to Cal City Impound One.
Vinnie: Outstanding. Money on wheels!
Caleca: Jesus, Vinnie. You’re obsessed.
Vinnie: When it comes to revenue streams, you bet. What do you obsess over, Vic?
Caleca: Right now? Hao Hang.
Vinnie: What now?
Caleca: Our outfield prospect in AA … well, AAA now. He’s just killin’ it.
Vinnie: Oh yeah. I read something about all those awards he’s got piling up. Whaddaya think – fruit basket?
Caleca (laughs): Man, if it isn’t money with you, it’s fruit baskets. Well, sure, Vinnie. Who doesn’t like a fruit basket?
Vinnie: Yeah. Let’s get that done. Have McDougall get on that.
Vinnie: Sure. That’s what I said, ain’t it?
Caleca: Not even close, but I’ll have him order something. But hey, Vinnie? I gotta tell you – I’ve got a hankering for Hang.
Vinnie: Jesus. That sounds like a felony waiting to happen.
Caleca: No, no. Not like that. I mean I want to bring Hang up to the Sox, maybe after the All-Star break. Or maybe before if he gets the … well, hang … of playing right.
Vinnie: He’s just a kid, right?
Caleca: He ain’t no kid, Vinnie. He’s just killing the ball. He’s ready. He’s hungry. We put him in right opposite Reyes, the way Fernando’s playing, we’re gonna pound some baseballs.
Vinnie: Yeah. You guys thought Lorenzo was gonna pound some baseballs, too, but he doesn’t even hit his weight.
Caleca: Different deal, Vinnie. His name’s Lorenzen, by the way …
Vinnie: His name ain’t even mud the way he hits.
Caleca: Well, he’s still great in the field. Here’s the deal – we can afford one dead spot in the lineup if it means elite fielding, but I don’t like giving away two spots. That’s just too much. And Manny Cleide ... well, he's playing like Lorenzen.
I’ve even been exploring trade possibilities …
Vinnie: You what?
Caleca: Well, just doing some talking …
Vinnie: Since when do you have permission to trade?
Caleca (sounds hurt): Well, I wouldn’t actually do anything if you didn’t clear it, Vinnie.
Vinnie: I don’t like it. Talkin’ leads to doin’. Just stop.
Caleca (resigned): Well, none of it went anywhere, anyway. They either weren’t interested in what we were offering …
Vinnie: And what were we offering?
Caleca: Well, Budding, mostly. Vinnie, we still have three first basemen … plus one we stashed down in Carolina. I just thought maybe we could find an outfield prospect we could trade for and …
Vinnie (exasperated): Yeah, yeah. And nobody was interested?
Caleca: Well, one guy wanted Moelling, instead.
Vinnie (explodes): WHAT?
Caleca: Relax, relax. We’re not doing that.
Vinnie: This is why I don’t like you talkin’ to these guys about trading … who knows what crazy ass thing might come out? You spent two seasons piecing that rotation together and then you’d blow it up with one dumb ass move.
Caleca (exasperated, too, now): What part of ‘We’re not doing that’ did you not understand? Those words too big?
Vinnie (grousing now): Ok, ok. So we’re doing Hang, instead.
Caleca: Right. We’re gonna do Hang instead.
Vinnie: Because you’ve got a hankering for Hang …
Vinnie: You are one weird ass dude, Caleca.
Caleca: Hey. Mom had me tested …
Vinnie: I just bet she did. Ok, ok. No trading Moelling. No trading Wattson. If you’ve got a hankering for Hang, go do that and let’s see how it works.
Vinnie: And you keep that payroll under control next season.
Vinnie: And don’t forget the fruit.
Caleca: I’ll get McGuffin right on it!
[Conversation and recording end]
(Cut to the Carolina Flight clubhouse the next day. Tammy Wilkins, the team’s promotions secretary, is recording video of bewildered prospect Hao Hang standing in front of his new locker – which is stuffed full of fruit baskets).
Hao Hang (running his hand through his hair): What the hell? That is a shitload of fruit!
Tammy Wilkins: Is there a tower of pears? If there is, that’s a very good sign. Vinnie only sends Towers of Pears to very special people!
Hang (Digging through his locker, grabbing a cellophane-wrapped basket, reading the attached card): Harry and David’s authentic ‘Tower of Pears.’ (Grins, and yells across the clubhouse:) Hey Hector … Hector Reyes … you ever get a Tower of Pears?
Hang (digs out a pear and flips it to Reyes): Well damn it, Hector. You’re special in my book. Have a pear!
Reyes (catches pear, takes a bite. Then peers at Hang’s fruit-stuffed locker): Goddamn, man. Looks to me like somebody’s got a hankering for Hang!
Emilio Lugo (first baseman passes by, overhears Reyes): Jesus. That sounds like a felony in the making ...