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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Missing Reed & Olivo!

by
Guy Bacci
 

 

I felt like I had been sucker-punched in the gut. After watching a satisfying victory over the Cubs on a lazy Sunday afternoon, I flipped to ESPN to indulge in the savory highlights. But before I could thoroughly bask in the glory of another triumph over the Northsiders, I was jolted out of my seat. Crawling across the bottom of the screen was the news that Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Reed had been shipped to Seattle for Freddy Garcia.

 

My gratifying afternoon was suddenly turned upside down.

 

How was I supposed to react to this news? The Sox had acquired the most coveted pitcher on the market—a horse who would most definitely lead them to a division title and possibly beyond. But they had also lost two future All-Stars ... in exchange for a rent-a-pitcher. The gamble was extreme. If Garcia failed to live up to expectations and bolted after the season, the trade would be an ugly blotch on Sox history. We’re talking Sammy Sosa-for-George Bell ugly. 

 

There’s a now-famous quote from Kenny Williams that may define his career as White Sox GM: “If the question is 'Will I sacrifice a little bit of our future for present glory?' the answer is yes. But if the question is also 'Would I do something stupid?' the answer is ... maybe.”

 

Phase One: Panic. I was overwhelmed by the sick feeling that Williams had finally done the stupid thing he predicted he would do. If it had been Joe Borchard and Jon Rauch, I would have been slightly stunned, but not shocked. If it had been Olivo or Reed packaged together with a few low-level prospects, I would have stood and applauded. But Olivo and Reed?

 

Phase Two: Log on to WSI—my own personal Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. DON’T PANIC. As expected, there was already an enormous thread about the trade. The majority of posters seemed to be pleased with the deal, although there were a few strong objectors.

 

Phase Three: Look at the bright side. Garcia is essential if the Sox hope to get anywhere in the post-season. Before adding Garcia, the Sox had enough talent to win the Central, but not a play-off series. Garcia gives them a chance, which is all you can really ask for if you’re not the Yankees.

 

Interestingly enough, the Sox players seemed to be similarly torn. The clubhouse was stunned at the loss of Olivo, but reservedly pleased about acquiring Garcia. Even Mark Buehrle, who preferred to pitch to Sandy Alomar, was vocal about Olivo’s departure. The question left lingering in my mind was: Am I happy about this trade?

 

There’s no doubt everyone will miss Olivo’s sweet demeanor and smiling face. Most likely we’ll miss his cannon behind home plate too. Olivo struck me as the type of talent who should play 130 games a year, but he wasn’t getting nearly as much action as I anticipated he would this season. Was that because of his supposed game-calling weakness? Was there something else about Olivo the Sox didn’t like?

 

As much as I hate to see Miguel go, I’m even more disturbed by the loss of Reed. The Sox organization is continually more impressed by “tools” and physique than what a player actually accomplishes on the field. Hence the muscle-bound Borchard was highly protected during trade talks, while the light-hitting Reed was tossed aside.

 

Older Sox fans, who are tired of waiting for the future, have shrugged off the loss of the organization’s number-one prospect. In most cases, I would agree with their sentiment, but not when it comes to Reed. He has amazing plate discipline at a young age; he hits the ball to all fields; he is savvy on the bases. He’s an on-base machine, much more so than past Sox prospects Jeff Abbott, Joe Crede and even Magglio Ordonez. As a matter of fact, it can be argued that Reed was the best Sox prospect since Frank Thomas.

 

For those who want to put a positive spin on the trade and compare Reed to a player like Abbott (who was a phenomenal minor-league hitter but a horrible bust in the majors) consider this: In his last season at Triple-A, Abbott walked 41 times in 465 at bats and hit 11 homers. Reed walked 70 times in 464 at bats last season and hit 11 homers. This season, with a bad wrist, Reed has already walked 36 times in 264 at bats and hit eight homers. In addition, Reed rarely strikes out and has speed on the bases.

 

What makes the Garcia deal hard to swallow is that Williams was able to acquire Bartolo Colon for much less. I’d like to think that there’s a method to Williams’ madness, but this is the same guy who nearly lost Jon Garland for the pricey Darin Erstad. When you consider that Olivo and Reed would have been cheap pieces to the puzzle for years to come, you’re left wondering what the hell Williams was thinking.

 

“You've got to be able to dream,” Williams said. “If we're going to give that shot to our fans and give that shot to our players, we need to let them know that this is part of who we are and that we're going to keep going after it. As long as I'm sitting in this chair, we're going for it.”

 

As a Sox fan, you have to love that attitude. There’s no doubt Williams wants to win. Much like the well-sculpted sluggers in the White Sox lineup, Williams is always swinging for the fences: David Wells, Todd Ritchie, Billy Koch, Darin Erstad (almost), Bartolo Colon, Robbie Alomar, Carl Everett, Scott Sullivan. The list is staggering.

 

It’s ironic that Williams is clinging to Borchard, because he runs a team like Borchard swings a bat: Take a big hack and hope you smash one out. The problem is, there’s always the potential for the big whiff. If you examine Williams’ track record, Colon is his only homerun—he obtained a stud pitcher for a full season without losing much in the deal. But previously, he went down swinging on Ritchie and Koch. For all the manic moves Williams has made, he’s yet to field a play-off team. So do we give him credit for trying, or roast him for failing? Had Williams been a little conservative in the past and retained Kip Wells, the Sox may not have had fifth-starter nightmares for the past two years. But conservative is simply not Williams’ style.

 

In the end, the Garcia-Olivo-Reed trade will make or break Williams’ legacy with the Sox. His gambling ways have reached new heights, and we’re about to find out if our ballsy GM will be rewarded, or plunge from a thousand feet. Williams seems to be banking an awful lot on Garcia’s friendship with Ozzie Guillen. But remember, Robbie Alomar said he would re-sign if Guillen was hired as manager. Funny how that didn’t work out.

 

There are only two events that will make this deal a success: 1) Garcia leads the Sox to the World Series in 2004, or 2) Garcia re-signs and stays with the Sox during his peak years. If the Sox get bounced in the first round this season, and Garcia jets to the Yankees in 2005, Williams will have another huge blemish on his resume. But if Garcia is a piece to an eventual championship, Williams will be the savior Chicago has been waiting for.

 

So am I happy about this trade? I won’t know for a while. The dice are still rolling.


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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