Sharp Words For Big Hurt

One week after expressing anger about the way the White Sox were handling his pending free-agent status, shortstop Jose Valentin was a happy man on Nov. 5. The veteran shortstop was informed that the organization picked up the $5 million club option on his contract for next season, bringing him back for a fifth year on the South Side.

"It's something I was fighting to get this situation done," Valentin said from his home in Puerto Rico. "I wish I could have gotten two years instead of the one, but I'm glad both sides agreed. I'm really looking forward to playing with the Sox again."

Even more so now that it appears the nucleus from last season's team is coming back.

Frank Thomas exercised his $6 million option for next season, and the Sox picked up the $4 million option for pitcher Esteban Loaiza on Oct. 31.

Catcher Sandy Alomar Jr. has said that he expects to have a deal with the Sox completed very soon, and his brother, second baseman Roberto Alomar, said he and the team had been talking.

That was all good news for Valentin, as well as reason to come back.

"The team that showed up late in the year is going to be pretty good," Valentin said. "It was a short time together, but we really got along. I'll take my chances with this group."

The 34-year-old switch-hitter batted just .237 in 2003 but had 28 home runs. He is known to be a leader in the clubhouse.

Not only was Valentin excited about rejoining the core group of last season, he also said he likes the idea of Ozzie Guillen being the manager.

"I played against Ozzie for a few years, and if he's the same type of manager that he was a player, it's a good thing," Valentin said. "You see how [Kansas City manager] Tony Pena is? It's like he's the clown of the team. Ozzie's the same type of guy."

But even in Puerto Rico, Valentin had already gotten word Thomas and Guillen were having their problems.

Right after being named manager, Guillen went on the attack as far as Thomas was concerned.

"He's a big plus on the team," Guillen said of Thomas. "I'm sorry, but Frank's going to play my way. If he doesn't like it... he was a great teammate.

"I hear a lot of negative things. I love Frank. I want Frank here. He is a great player. But I want Frank to be a great player in the clubhouse. I want Frank to respect 24 players and 24 players to respect Frank. We've got rules for 25 guys.

"Frank is Frank. I'm going to need Frank to get where I want to get, and I think Frank is going to need me to get what he wants to get. I have a championship ring. When he does something [wrong] on the field, he's not only disrespecting the team, he's disrespecting himself. Frank doesn't always run the bases. If he doesn't run the bases, he might not get another at-bat and we might fight."

Valentin said that he hoped the situation would take care of itself.

"I don't know what happened when they played together," Valentin said. "I've heard stories, but Ozzie's the manager now. [Thomas] needs to do whatever he says. We need a guy to step in front of a guy like [Thomas] and tell him how it is."

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