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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

The Chairman speaks...

...and Manuel stays safe.

Last week it looked as if Gen. Disarray’s job might be on the line.  His tactics were being questioned on the Sox pre-game and post-game shows by Bill Melton.  The Chicago Tribune’s headline writers had GM Kenny Williams issuing an ultimatum to the general, that if the Sox failed to perform in the current home stand, the general would be replaced. 

But then the tables turned.  In a radio interview on WMVP, The Chairman cut the GM’s legs right out from under him, if he was indeed hinting at replacing the general.  The Chairman put the blame squarely on the shoulders of the players and strongly suggested that if the Sox failed to perform in the next few days, players would be traded. 

To Sox fans who are already gun shy from The Chairman’s previous actions, this sounded like an early warning that White Flag II was in the offing.  To the more cynical members of that group, this pronouncement pretty much confirmed that The Chairman is indeed too cheap to pay two managers for more than a year.  To the really cynical, it meant that The Chairman will probably keep Gen. Disarray around for the entire 2004 season to work off every cent of that contract. 

Things went from bad to worse when the Sox came out and stank up the joint for several innings in their rain-delayed series opener against the Tigers.  That loss put the Sox under .500 for the season series against Detroit, and despite the late-innings comeback, fans just couldn’t believe that it had come to this. 

Some would find the Sox recovery from that loss to be a mixed blessing.  On one hand, it proved that the Sox had not given up.  A good sign of that was their comeback after Nate Cornejo had no-hit them for 62/3 innings.  On the other hand, for those who believed the rumors of the general’s upcoming firing, every win means one more nail is being pried out of his coffin. 

With the major league trading deadline less than two weeks away, the big question is, will the Sox be buying, selling, or standing pat.  Williams continues to say that he believes in this team as it is constituted, but he has to be worried about the continuing struggles of his prize trade acquisition Bartolo Colon.  With Danny Wright exiled to Charlotte, replaced by Mike Porzio, the Sox pitching staff looks a lot weaker now than it did a couple of months ago. 

One would think that Williams would be looking for starting pitching help, especially now that the offense is starting to pick up.  Paul Konerko appears to be coming out of his year-long funk, although now that Frank Thomas has been relegated to the DH slot again, his hitting has tailed off.  Still, with the number 1 or 2 spot (depending on how you look at Colon) in doubt, and with the number 5 spot still not producing, starting pitching would seem to be a priority. 

The problem with starting pitching, however, is that everyone in contention wants more of it, and only teams named the New York Yankees ever seem to have enough of it.  It would seem that what will probably happen is that the Sox brain trust will have to figure out exactly what is wrong with Colon and try to work around or through it. 

This means that, at best, the Sox will probably stand pat, since Williams is satisfied with the offense as currently constituted. 

But then there is the wild card.  Six years ago The Chairman declared in the aftermath of the White Flag Trade that at 3.5 games back, the second-place Sox were never going to catch the first-place Indians.  With less than two weeks before the trading deadline, the Sox were in third place, seven games behind the Royals.   

The Sox play the Royals on July 29-31.  It would seem that they face two challenges before that series is over.  First they will have to mop up the remaining games of this home stand against the Tigers and Indians.  Next they must at least split in Toronto and then win their brief three-game home stand vs. the Devil Rays. 

That much could stave off White Flag II pending the outcome of the first game or two of the series in Kansas City. 

If the Sox fail, Williams will be placed in a very uncomfortable position.  His trades over the past couple of years have pretty much mortgaged the future of the Sox in a bid to win now.  He has been handcuffed in any bid to really build a contender by unrealistic budget constraints based on past attendance rather than a policy of spending to draw the fans to the ballpark.   

The Sox’ terrible first half has been in great part due to the failure of two key acquisitions, Colon and Billy Koch to perform up to expectations.  It has further been hindered by the managing philosophy of Gen. Disarray, who seems to think that it is good to rest his regulars in three-game series that are bracketed by days off, sitting players on the bench when they start to get hot, and in general looking like a little league manager. 

The Chairman has definitely handcuffed Williams in dealing with the general, so the only possibility other than the Sox going deep into October would seem to be White Flag II.   

The only thing separating the Sox from another dismantling is the players somehow overcoming their own weaknesses and the monkey wrenches thrown at them by the general.  The clock is ticking.  By July 31 we’ll know if the 2003 season will blow up in our faces.


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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