Valentin: "I'm Not Too Happy"

Shortstop Jose Valentin is not happy with the White Sox. The veteran switch-hitter was told by the team just after the season ended that they weren't going to pick up his $5 million club option for 2004, but still wanted him back. They kicked around a two-year deal with Valentin and told the 34-year-old that the plan was to keep the team intact if players would cooperate and take less money.

Valentin agreed. And since telling the organization that he would take less money, phone calls haven't been returned, and he hasn't heard from anyone in the organization. Valentin said that second baseman Robbie Alomar is also "in the same situation as me."

"I'm not too happy with them right now," Valentin said last week. "They told us some things and now can't even return calls. I don't know what's going on. I don't know if I'm coming back or not. They probably want to see what's up with [free agent pitcher Bartolo] Colon, but I heard they took the offer for him off the table on [Monday, October 28].

"I know they're trying to get something done with [pitcher Mark] Buehrle and [outfielder] Carlos Lee, but I'm not going to wait. I'm going to grab an opportunity. I'm not going to wait too long and lose an opportunity with someone that wants me. I need to know. They either want me or they don't."

General manager Ken Williams has been doing a delicate juggling act since the regular season ended. Forget the fact that Williams still has to decide on a manager for next season.

He made promises to critical veteran players to keep the team intact if they would take less money, but with Colon scoffing at a reported three-year, $36 million deal, the most important piece of the puzzle is missing.

They got an answer from Frank Thomas on Thursday when the veteran slugger exercised his $6 million option for next season.

Valentin believes that Williams could be gambling with other players, however, and it's a game that Valentin might not want to take part in.

"When we were talking, we weren't too far away [from a deal]," Valentin said. "I agreed to take less money, but now I don't know what's going to happen. What if I would take a little less money, but he doesn't get other players back and I'm stuck with a rebuilding team, on top of signing for less money?

"And I'm not just talking about Bartolo. We can still go far without Bartolo. We might be able to get two decent pitchers with the money they were going to give Bartolo, and our offense can score runs."

On the Sox's side of things, Valentin might not be in their plans at all if they start to see that keeping the team together will not be possible. His batting average has slipped in each of his four seasons on the South Side, going from .273 in 2000 to .258 in '01, .249 in '02 and then .237 this season. But getting 25-plus homers from the shortstop each season is something that can't be ignored, especially in the AL where power-hitting shortstops are the trend.

Valentin's struggles against left-handed pitchers are still a problem, but the leadership and fire he brings to the clubhouse can't be measured in statistics and numbers.

"It will be sad if I have to leave," Valentin said. "My last four years have been the best of my career. To have to learn a new team would be tough. I don't want to start all over again. But it's not about helping the team right now. It's about helping myself. Not money, but being able to play and win.

"I want to win, first of all. I'm sure I could go and just get money, but I want to win. I want to stay in Chicago and go back to a team that's competing. I don't want to go to a team and be a teacher or whatever. This will be my 11th season, and I want a ring on my fingers. To be a teacher, I'll wait to retire to do that.

"I'm not staying with a team that's going young. I talked to Robbie and he's in the same situation ... it has to be the right money and situation."

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