Siberian Baseball

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Chicago White Sox (99-63, .611, 1st in AL Central)

Oh, Christ does this peek-in suck.

It honestly took more self-control to call my buddy who is a rabid Sox fan to congratulate him after the World Series than it took to quit a pack a day cigarette habit after five years. No joke.

Just pulling up their web site and seeing the World Champions wallpaper makes me ill. But this isn't about me, it's about baseball and I'll find the inner strength to do this for the good of the game. (Even if there is a special place in hell for White Sox fans...)

The top addition to the White Sox is a simple lack of subtraction. While they did a great job of holding together a talented, young team, the biggest coup for the Sox was retaining Paul Konerko at first base. While the breaks continue to go Chicago's way, this one just makes me shake my head and hand it to them. I guess all the pre-draft analysis paid off here. While I'm not sure how Konerko ranked on the standardized tests, if anyone stood up in the draft war room and said, "Great bat and I think this kid is really loyal." he should be given a raise and an extra hot dog at every home game.

Despite all conventional wisdom, a stellar contract year and post-season and a position that even the most hard-core of White Sox fans would have failed to find fault with him bolting town for more cash, Konerko stayed and signed a five-year deal. How this happened, I will never know. The White Sox had the one man in all of pro sports who would choose team, city and loyalty over cash. Had they not won, it would probably been another story, but it is what it is and the Sox are stacked.

Take last year's team, drop no one of note (save for Aaron Rowland in center) and add Jim Thome, Javier Vazquez (for Orlando Hernandez, Luis Vizcaino and Chris Young), and Rob Mackowiak for Damaso Marte for a ball of batting practice balls (no bag) and a case of David sunflower seeds (salted, not BBQ).

Thome is the big splash, but look at Mackowiak as well. Hell, look at the depth chart and check how many times that human spelling error appears. Yeah, that helps plug holes when you have a utility man that versatile. The jury is out on Thome who hit .207 in an injury-shortened 2005. A Peoria boy, Thome will be 36 this season and I'll be curious to see how he adapts to his role as DH. Some guys have had a hard time making the switch without playing in the field and keeping that rhythm. The other thing worth nothing is that his numbers haven't exactly sparkled in the past three seasons, either.

Working backwards from 2004 to 2002, Thome has hit.274, .266 and .304 and struck out 144, 182 and 139 times in those seasons. The good news is that he drove in 105, 131 and 118 RBI in those years as well and had decent walk numbers, but it does show a decline.

Not to put him in the same category, but Sammy Sosa saw a similar slip before he fell off the table. Just worth noting - I think the Thome is a good guy and I like him on a personal level, but aging sluggers switching leagues aren't the safest bets, especially coming off a 59-game season last year.

I don't know enough Brian Anderson to form a solid opinion worth reading, so I won't throw out garbage from someone else's column, but I think putting a rookie in center with no real solid backup plan is risky. Granted, the Cell's center field isn't like Yankee Stadium's, but it's no bandbox like Houston, either. Not sure if this would have been the Sox first option, but guess they had to take the Thome deal, regardless.

The pitching staff is still solid, but the bullpen needs help. Hermanson is on borrowed time and Jenks needs to stay focused and adjust as teams get a read on him. Don't believe me? Go ask Hideo Nomo how things went in his sophomore season. In Jenks' favor, is the fact that relievers won't be seen as often by the hitters. While a sophomore starter sees batters 3 and 4 times a game, Jenks may see the individual batters that often in a season.

Starters are solid and safe in their contracts, so they should be happy and loose. Plenty of arms to go around, too, should someone get hurt.

I'm going to hold my tongue on a few other issues for the most part, but I honestly and without a degree of the animosity that is the hallmark of my relationship with the White Sox, feel that the Sox pulled it all together last year to win.

Do not take that the wrong way - they were a very talented team with solid pitching and a small-ball philosophy that fit perfectly in the year of the drug test when some moderate sluggers shrunk from the stat boxes. They played great baseball in the fall and refused to give up when Cleveland came roaring back into the race late in the summer. They held off the Indians and destroyed everyone in the post season and that is evident to anyone who watched any of the playoffs.

The White Sox got sterling performances when they needed them and unlikely heroes like Geoff Blum and Orlando Hernandez, but even so, their win wasn't a fluke.

However, in order to repeat they need to keep a tight leash on clubhouse chemistry and losing Carl Everett was a great step to that end. However, with Ozzie Guillen and AJ Pierzynski in the clubhouse it's still a threat. I can't get a read on Guillen, who has a cult-like following after the win, but he seems to walk a fine line between Forrest Gump and Machiavelli.

Is he running his mouth to take pressure off the team? Or is that a happy accident as a result of a manager who rips players like A-Rod and threatens former center fielders with gay sex? I honestly have no idea what is going on, but the more that he's the story, the less is written about his team and that can't hurt over a long season.

As for AJ, he's been bounced from Minneapolis and San Francisco for attitude problems that tore at the locker rooms. While Barry Bonds is probably a bigger problem, his bat makes all the apologies for him. Maybe AJ is on the Dennis Rodman track of coming to Chicago and learning to play a team game and shut up a bit more. Regardless, he's someone who should be watched this season just in case.

In all, it's a solid club that comes back more loaded than last year. Even if there are personal problems, this team still has the horses to repeat, and they have a scary rotation reporting right now. That said, Sox fans best pray for the same breaks this year as it'd be pretty hard to imagine a team staying that happy and healthy for two straight playoff runs.

Chicago White Sox

C: Pierzynski; Widger
1B: Konerko; Thome; Gload
2B: Iguchi; Ozuna; Mackowiak
SS: Uribe; Ozuna
3B: Crede; Mackowiak; Ozuna
LF: Podsednik; Borchard; Mackowiak
CF: Anderson; Owens; Borchard; Mackowiak
RF: Dye; Borchard; Mackowiak
DH: Thome
SP: Buehrle; Garcia; Vazquez; Contreras; Garland; McCarthy
CP: ?
RP: Cotts; Politte; Jenks; Sanders; Bajenaru; Hermanson



Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home