(Black Sox GM Vic Caleca is leaning back in the desk chair in his room at the Calumet City, IL, Motel 6 with his legs crossed and feet up on the desk in front of him. His iPhone rings. He sees that it’s Sox owner Vinnie Vitale, and he answers the call.)
Vic Caleca (brightly): Good morning, Vinnie!
Vinnie Vitale: So, I’ve got a question for you, Vic.
Vinnie: Do I resemble an ATM to you?
Caleca: Ummm …
Vinnie: ‘Cause I was lookin’ in my bathroom mirror this morning, as I am wont to do, and I did not find a little slot where you could insert your bank card or a touch screen where you could tell me to dispense TENS OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS …
Caleca: This is about the Simpson signing, isn’t it?
Vinnie: Damn right it is. Correct me if I’m wrong, but in our last little tête-à-tête did you not say something to the effect that you were going to save my hard-earned money?
Vinnie: Oh, here we go …
Caleca: … that I also said that I was looking for offense and that I might spend a boatload of your money. I did both!
Vinnie (sighs): OK, you’re gonna need to walk me through this. Mark Simpson is a first baseman, is he not?
Caleca: Yes, he most certainly is.
Vinnie: And do we not have first basemen coming out of our butts?
Caleca (laughs): Well, I’m not sure I would put it that way, but, yeah. We have first basemen.
Vinnie: Good first basemen.
Caleca: Yep. Good - but not good like Simpson.
Vinnie: How so, pray tell?
Caleca: Well, in a bunch of ways, Vinnie. Let’s take defense first: Simpson can actually field his position. If a ball is hit down the line, he has a shot at actually snaring it. If a ball is hit in the hole between first and second, Mark actually has some range and can go it. Our other first basemen are all granite statues out there – rooted in place.
Vinnie: Tell me we’re spending $70-plus million on more than a first baseman’s mitt.
Caleca: Of course we are. I told you he has several qualities that make him a good fit for us.
Vinnie: Start listin’ ‘em.
Caleca: Ok. For one thing, you’re building that lovely new pitcher-friendly park in Cal City for us, which is great. But one thing that stadium will do, we think, is depress batting average and home run power. So, suddenly, a player’s plate discipline – his “eye,” takes on more importance because he can get on base through walks as well as hits.
Vinnie: And you’re telling me that Simpson has a good eye?
Caleca: No. I’m telling you Simpson has a great eye. One of the best. His on base percentage is north of .390 and, some years, flirts with .400. So, maybe we bat someone like Luis González at leadoff – he gets on base a lot, too – and follow him with Simpson and, well, we’ve set the table for our power guys to bring ‘em in.
Vinnie: I thought you said we won’t be hitting home runs …
Caleca: Jesus, Vinnie. You know baseball better than that. We may not hit quite as many home runs, but we’ll still hit some. And, we’re emphasizing guys with gap power who can take advantage of those big outfields to pick up doubles and triples. And, by the way, Simpson hits the gaps and he also has a nice home run bat. There’s lots of ways to score runs, and he helps us with all of them.
Vinnie: So what are we gonna do with a guy like Lugo? You guys put out some cockamamie thing that said you thought he was almost our “hitter of the year.” You just screwed him outta his job.
Black Sox owner Vinnie "The ATM" Vitale
Vinnie: Yeah? Well, what about Rutledge?
Caleca: OK. Maybe we trade Rutledge …
Vinnie: Hey, you know what I said about you and trading …
Caleca: Oh, I know. You’re still pissed about the Gonzáles and Bure trade.
Vinnie: Damn right I am.
Caleca: OK, well hear me out for a second here. When I came in, was our bullpen not a shambolic mess?
Vinnie: Yes it was. And it was last year, too.
Caleca: Fine, point taken. But take a look at it now … on paper, anyway, we look pretty decent. Our scouts grade Gonzáles out at a 65 and Bret Richards, our manager …
Vinnie: Damn it, I told you last time I know who Bret Richards is.
Caleca: OK, OK. Anyway, Bret wants to use Gonzáles as our closer. We got Bure, who grades at a 55/55 as a setup; we got Archer, who grades at a 55/65 as a setup; we got Frits Brinson, who grades as a 55/60 as a middle guy; and we got Alfonzo – who grades at 45/50 and who closed for us last year – as a middle or long guy; and we got Diaz, who grades as 45/50 as our mopup guy.
Vinnie: Well …
Caleca: Aw, c’mon, Vinnie. That doesn’t look too bad as a bullpen, does it? Plus we got that Cliff Reus kid in Carolina who looks good, and we got Sosa who’s a blue chip prospect in Beloit, and we got another blue chipper with Salgado in Grand Junction and …
Vinnie: OK, OK. But you still let Timo Dooley get away.
Caleca (sighs): Yeah, I did. But you know what? I never liked Dooley as a prospect – his potential grades always looked good, but he didn’t exactly chew up Single A or AA. He was OK, but …
Vinnie: Yeah, well, all these guys you’re listing off, they’re just numbers, too, until they produce.
Luis 'Viper' Gonzáles
Vinnie: Yeah, well, we’ll see.
Caleca: Geez, Vinnie. You know, when I read that league profile they sent around about you, it said you were “lenient” and “generous.”
Vinnie: Well, don’t believe everything you read. And I am generous – I didn’t put you on weekend overnight tow shifts. Just week nights.
Caleca: Yeah, you’re a regular Mother Teresa. Anyway, I want to explore a trade or two.
Vinnie: I don’t know that I trust your judgment on that, Caleca.
Caleca: Well, I’ll run anything by you, and maybe I can come up with a college of coaches type arrangement to help me figure some things out …
Vinnie: Jesus, Caleca. I am not sending you back to college.
Caleca: No, I’m not going to college. I just mean maybe I can get some advice from other coaches on trade possibilities to help ease your mind.
Vinnie: I don’t know …
Caleca: Vinnie …
Vinnie: OK, you get one shot at a trade. If I don’t like it, we yank that privilege for good and we put you on weekend Dan Ryan duty …
Caleca (sighs): Whatever, Vinnie. I’m just trying to help your team here.
Vinnie: And spend my money. Vinnie the ATM. That’s what I am to you.
Caleca (mutters): Well, Vinnie the something that starts with A, that’s for sure.
Vinnie: What’s that?
Caleca: I said it’s a beautiful day and you have a great one!
Vinnie: Yeah, that’s what I thought you said. Later, Caleca.
Caleca (sounding relieved): Yeah, later, Vinnie.
[Call and recording end]