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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Ozzie Hustlin' Sox Doubters

by
Guy Bacci

Your mind is not playing tricks on you. That was indeed Paul Konerko stealing second base in the first game of the season in Kansas City two weeks ago. And that was the real Frank Thomas -- all 35 years of him -- attempting to swipe second base last Wednesday. Believe what you see. The Good Guys in Black are hustling around the diamond, no longer taking one base at a time. The slumbering Sox they are no more.

If you believe the brilliant minds on Baseball Tonight, then you believe your team is one of the most pitiful defensive teams in the history of the planet. Worse even than the prehistoric cavemen teams, who played with odd-shaped rocks and no gloves. Iíd like to hear Harold Reynolds explain how the horrid Sox defense managed to save Jon Garland in New York despite Garland allowing a career-high seven walks. Hey Harold, did you happen to see Miguel Olivo fire a laser to second base to nab a stunned Hideki Matsui? Or Joe Crede make a miraculous play on Derek Jeterís slow grounder to escape a bases-loaded jam?†††

These are not your older brotherís White Sox. Thereís an energy on the field thatís been missing in recent years. Instead of playing it safe, these Sox push the issue. At times, theyíve run themselves out of innings, but more often than not, their aggressive style has caused havoc for opposing defenses. New York catcher John Flaherty looked dumbfounded and humiliated as Sox runners flew around the base paths while he nonchalantly retrieved a wild throw during the Sox 9-3 win April 9th. Kansas City looked like a Little League team trying to chase down the aggressive Sox, throwing the ball away on several occasions during the sweep last week.

The anti-Ozzie crowd (if there still is one) will say the Sox aggressiveness is going to catch up to them. Theyíll say Carlos Lee should not be bunting, Frank Thomas should not be stealing, Jon Garland should not be throwing 119 pitches. The flaw with any anti-Ozzie sentiment is that there is no alternative. Jerry Manuel was conservative and played it by the book, and we know where it got him. Cito Gaston would have done much the same thing if he had been hired. Maybe Ozzieís style will haunt this team down the road, but for now, I say keep it up, because itís a heck of a lot more fun to watch.

How unbelievable refreshing to hear pitching coach Don Cooper say the Sox are worried about winning games now -- pitch count be damned -- and will worry about consequences later. Mark Buehrle was allowed to toss over 120 pitches in New York. And why not? Give Buehrle a rest later in the season when we donít need him as much. Letís get out to a good start so we can relax a little in July, instead of trying to fight our way back into the race, as weíve done for the past three years.

The different attitude is not just on the field. The Sox are reportedly close to resigning Magglio Ordonez, which comes as a surprise considering Maggs was nearly traded in the off-season. Thereís a small camp that believes signing Magglio would be a mistake. I can understand their arguments: Itís easy to find productive outfielders, the Sox have a bunch of young outfielders in the minors, and the money could be better spent on a rare shortstop like Edgar Renteria. But seriously, can we guarantee Jeremy Reed, Ryan Sweeney and Brian Anderson will all become stars? And isnít the book just about closed on Joe Borchard? The fact is, a hitter like Magglio is a once-a-generation find. Magglio is this decadeís Frank Thomas. On top of that, heís become a fan favorite. Itís a no-brainer. And if the Sox feel Magglioís contract is hindering them in the future, there will always be a team like the Yankees or Red Sox willing to take him and his $15 million salary off our hands.

Despite all the differences in Sox Land, some things will never change. Such as Billy Koch sucking, Jose Valentin bobbling, and Frank Thomas blabbering. Koch is awful, and I wish the Sox would commit to a new closer, maybe the flame-throwing Cliff Politte (who canít seem to last more than an inning anyway). During a spring training broadcast on WGN, Kenny Williams said he gave up on Koch too quickly last season, and he wouldnít make the same mistake this season. Thatís a scary thought. Iím begging Williams to give up on Koch right now.

Valentin continues to give Baseball Tonight fodder. They spent an entire segment demonstrating why Valentin wasnít able to turn a crucial double play during a loss against New York. Thereís no doubt Jose will lose several games for the Sox this season with his errant throws and hole-filled glove. But worse than Joseís errors is Frank Thomasí insistence on complaining about his salary. Thomas fans better enjoy the next season or two, because heís long gone after his current contract expires. He was recently quoted as saying that paydays have become a ďlittle disappointing.Ē That must be really tough, opening your check and seeing only five figures. If itís such a bummer, Frank, Iíd be happy to trade paychecks with you. One glance at my paycheck, and you might start feeling better about yourself.

Negatives aside, thereís something special going on. The Sox are 7-4 despite Joe Crede batting .184, Frank Thomas batting .229, Esteban Loaiza posting a 6.00 ERA and the bullpen blowing two huge leads. If the Sox can win despite themselves, what canít they do? A few more weeks of this, and I might have to get excited.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back.† He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player.† His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay).† Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

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