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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Optimism about 2002

Wow!  When I wrote about my doubts concerning this year's club, I had no idea how much controversy the column would stir up.  I've been accused of being a pessimist about the Sox.  I've been told to look for more than the negatives.  Someone has even challenged me to come up with ten things to be optimistic about this year. 

I don't know if I can do it.  I never write with an outline.  My ravings all come off the top of my head (under where my Sox cap is perched), so I don't know as I'm writing this if I'll even come up with ten ideas, but I do agree that there are reasons to be optimistic about the Sox chances in 2002.  Here are some of them:

Reason #1:  Frank Thomas.  He's back, and his history is that when he comes back from an injury, he tears up the league.  History has a way of repeating itself, and we can all hope that Frank has an MVP-type year, just as he did in 2000.

Reason #2:  The Minnesota Twins.  Yes, I know they were a doubt last week, but there is also room for optimism here, too.  The Twins went into the toilet during the last half of 2002, blowing a big lead and barely finishing second.  They're still a young team, and if they follow the trend of the young Sox of recent history, they might have achieved a peak last year and could just experience a decline, just as the Sox did in 2001.

Reason #3:  Pitching.  Sure the pitching staff is riddled with  injuries, and that is cause for concern.  But the Sox are up to their necks in pitching prospects, and there is no reason to think that one or two of those young arms won't achieve a breakthrough in 2002.

Reason #4:  Offense.  The Sox have built up on speed.  With Thomas back and Ray Durham moved out of the leadoff spot, the Sox could just experience an offensive surge similar to 2000.

Reason #5.  Royce Clayton's bat.  Does anyone really believe he will start off as badly as he did in 2001?  If Clayton hits his average, we'll be fine.

Reason #6:  Harold Baines and Julio Ramirez.  There is no reason to believe that they will be on the 25-man roster when the season begins in April.  That alone should improve the offense over what it was last spring.

Reason #7:  Jerry Manuel.  Two points of view can be argued regarding his naming of his opening-day lineup before February.  I gave one of them last week.  The other is that with the lineup pretty much set going into spring training, everyone on the club will know what his role is and will be able to concentrate on that during spring training.

Reason #8:  Pulled hamstrings.  At least this year's injuries aren't pitchers' shoulders and elbows!

Reason #9:  The Cleveland Indians.  They've dismantled the team, and Detroit and Kansas City haven't improved.  To paraphrase Rev. Watkins from The Score regarding a team that wears cuddly blue, "The [Sox] don't have to get any better.  The other teams just have to get a little bit worse."  For the most part they have.

Reason #10:  The fans.  If the Sox get off to a good start, the fans generally figure it out by late May and start showing up at the games.  Last year's attendance after a division title changed little from the previous year, but that is mainly because the Sox stank up the American League through April and May.  If the Sox get off to a good start, attendance should improve over 2001, just as it did when the Sox won the division in 2000.

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A correction:  In last week's column I said the Twins have owned the Sox for two years.  My thinking was clouded in that the Sox lost every game against the Twins that I attended in 2000.  The actual record was 7-5.  I still can justify what I say, I think, by pointing out that the Sox won the division and the Twins were nowhere close.  The Sox should have won a lot more than seven games against them.


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 necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle.  You can write Hal at nsmf@aol.com.
 

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