After winning the AL Central Division against all odds in 2008, the Chicago White Sox enter the 2009 season with equally dim odds by most experts to repeat.
The projections never liked the White Sox so I'm not entirely surprised.
They weren't even supposed to compete in 2005, let alone win a World Series.
Last season, while everyone was crowning the Detroit Tigers as the champions, I calmly thought Chicago could have a chance if both John Danks and Gavin Floyd took the next big step. It was asking a lot at the time and they did step up.
The funny thing was that the people you thought you could count on stepped down (Nick Swisher and Javier Vazquez).
And don't forget about Spanish Jesus. Nobody saw that coming except general manager Kenny Williams. (I realize he was born in Bellflower, Calif., but I don't care.)
The offense sputtered for most of the season outside of TCQ and newcomer Alexei Ramirez with first baseman Paul Konerko slumping the entire year and having Juan Uribe fill in for the oft-injured Joe Crede at third base.
This year shouldn't be any different than last year so I don't know why any expert would pick them to finish dead last as so many have. I realize that 2008 was a wild season but all the pieces remain intact and it was the younger players that carried this team for the most part anyway.
The most hilarious commentary of the offseason was provided by the MLB Network's panel of "experts". I want to say it was Harold Reynolds that said it (go figure) but it was something to the effect of saying that the White Sox significantly regressed as a team because of all the defections that took place via free agency and trades.
He even went on to be specific, naming Ken Griffey, Jr., Nick Swisher, Orlando Cabrera and Javier Vazquez as those who have made the team worse off by leaving or getting traded.
Javy Vazquez wouldn't have even pitched in the ALCS if they got that far and Swisher was already benched in favor of AAAA-all star DeWayne Wise. Griffey barely looked like anything more than a designated hitter outside of the one catch and throw in the closing game of the regular season. He didn't have a spot anywhere on this team outside of maybe a fourth outfielder.
Cabrera is the only person you could feasibly say hurt the team by his departure but that's only from a statistical perspective because everything I heard or read about the guy suggested that he was a selfish pain in the ass.
But even then, Chicago already had plans to move Ramirez over to his natural position (shortstop). All in all, these weren't "losses" and I'm just happy to have received anything of value for any of them. (Cabrera pulled in draft picks from the Oakland A's and trades of Vazquez and Swisher netted a future catcher and a possible fifth starter at some point.)
In reality, the White Sox were trimming fat from both a talent and payroll perspective.
The thing I would knock on the team for is not going out and securing a leadoff hitter.
Jerry Owens doesn't appear to have what it takes to hold down anything but an extra outfield spot as his sub-.200 average and zero stolen bases indicate.
There is simply no way Wise can hold the spot for an entire season, either.
So what are they left with? Not much.
First, they need a center fielder, or at least some sort of platoon with either Owens or Wise coupled with Brian Anderson. But even if that's the final answer, Anderson isn't a leadoff hitter, so then what?
It seems like too much pressure to have any of the new kids on the block leading off and I still have no idea who the second baseman will be, although my guess is Chris Getz. But even if Getz wins the job he couldn't bat leadoff against lefties anyway.
I've read stories suggested Ramirez in the leadoff spot but I that would be similar to having the same problem the Chicago Cubs have with Alphonso Soriano.
The only idea I have is the same one I had three months ago, trade for Juan Pierre and make the Los Angeles Dodgers eat his contract. It's not a dramatic improvement but at least it's a true major league baseball player.
Besides, Scott Podsednik had similar stats when he came here.
Other than that the lineup should be solid top to bottom even if Konerko doesn't rebound and Jim Thome continues to regress.
The real key to the season is the same as it was in 2008: Can two unknown commodities contribute positively?
I'm looking at you Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon.
If either one of these two deliver, Chicago will be neck and neck with the Minnesota Twins all season long.
Photo Credit: Wikimedia.com
- Friday, March 13, 2009
- Posted by Anonymous at 1:15 PM