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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Reacquire Roberto?

by
Guy Bacci
 

Most sane people have already stuck a fork in the 2004 White Sox. Which means Kenny Williams’ recent acquisition of Robbie Alomar confirms what many people have thought for a long time: Williams is not a sane person.

 

There’s no question Kenny is a little off his rocker, but Sox fans have known that for a long time. Williams sometimes turns his madness into brilliance, such as when he obtained Bartolo Colon, or Damaso Marte and Shingo Takatsu. But the latest twist in the Sox soap opera of ’04 is borderline comical. With the Sox six games behind and fading fast, looking much more like a third-place team than a division contender, Williams acquired an over-the-hill second baseman to inspire his lackluster club.

 

Is this some kind of joke? Carl Everett and Alomar back again? Didn’t these two players fail to get the Sox into the post-season last year? How are they supposed to make any difference now, with the team’s two best sluggers on the DL?

 

Only Williams could begin to answer those questions. The rest of us are left scratching our heads and penciling out the ’05 roster. We knew this season was wiped out when Torii Hunter bowled over Jamie Burke during a humiliating sweep at The Cell. That’s the final image that will be etched into our minds from 2004.

 

Imagine for a moment that you are in Hawk Harrelson’s shoes. You’ve spent the majority of the season sticking your neck out in a battle with Jay Mariotti, willing to take the abuse from people who think you should keep your mouth shut. You’ve been called all sorts of nasty names, but you keep on fighting, because you believe your team is getting a raw deal in the media. In the end, your effort seems worthy—you’ve been rewarded with large crowds and plenty of Sox Pride.

 

But then comes a turning point, courtesy of Hunter’s aggressive play at home plate, and the team that you’ve spent so much time defending doesn’t respond. Instead of fighting back, they cower in the corner, talking about what an aggressive play it was and how they wish they could be more like the Twins.

 

Wish being the appropriate verb. Keep on wishin’.

 

Now you can understand the intensity in Hawk’s voice when the incident occurred, and his insistency that The Play sent the Sox spiraling into a seven-game losing streak. And much like Hawk, Sox fans have been sticking their necks out too. During a year when the town has been drenched in Cubbie love, Sox fans have stuck by their team, vocally upset about unfair media coverage, packing The Cell for the first time since ’94, embracing Sox Pride like some kind of religion.

 

And how are they rewarded? With a team that doesn’t want to be bothered with a little skirmish. With a team that, instead of using their bullpen’s wildness to plunk Torii Hunter on the thigh, is too busy walking in the winning run on four different occasions. Seriously, walking in the winning run? Four times? How pathetic can it get?

 

In defense of skipper Ozzie Guillen, he’s without his two best hitters. And if the Sox had brawled with the Twins, there would have been suspensions, and maybe even injuries, neither of which Ozzie’s club can afford. But I argue that a tussle would have been well worth it, to wake up a slumbering team and show a little fight. A few fisticuffs would inspire this group much more so than adding Roberto Alomar. Doesn’t anyone remember how the 2000 brawl with the Tigers bonded that club together?

 

Instead, Ozzie played it safe, while Sox players praised Hunter’s aggressive play. Okay, sure, it was an aggressive play. We’d love to see the Sox play more like that. Which is exactly why the Sox should have responded with a little chin music, to prove that they could be just like the Twins. Instead, what they proved was that they’re on all fours while the Twins whip their behinds.

 

Pouring salt in the wound, the Cubs pulled off a marvelous trade involving four teams to acquire Nomar Garciaparra. How did the Cubs manage to give up nothing for Nomar, while the Sox sold the farm for Freddy Garcia and Carl Everett? Cubbie love is back in full force, and Sox Pride is a distant memory.

 

I remember how badly I didn’t want Magglio to be traded for Nomar last winter. Funny how things change. It’s a shame it didn’t happen. The Sox would be in much better shape if it had, and Nomar wouldn’t be on the Cubs. Just another nasty turn of fate in what has turned out to be another sad season on the Southside.

 

Yet Williams, in his madness, refuses to give up. It’s a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, Sox fans love his win-at-all-costs attitude. It’s been a long time since that kind of mentality permeated the Southside. The downside is that Williams’ approach might be tearing apart the future of the team. One of Williams’ flaws is that he gets stuck on certain players. Alomar and Everett are two of those players. Joe Borchard is another. Williams has affection for grinders and muscular power hitters, but he doesn’t seem to care much about guys who can get on base. I’d argue that the Sox should have traded Brochard and Joe Crede for Garcia instead of Miguel Olivo and Jeremy Reed.

 

There is some good news, though. Williams took a worthy gamble at the trading deadline, shipping away one-year wonder Esteban Loaiza for an intriguing project in Jose Contreras. If Contreras can gain some consistency, the Sox may enter Spring Training in ’05 with their best rotation since the days of McDowell, Fernandez and Alvarez. Toss in a couple of offensive acquisitions, and the Sox could look better on paper than they have in a long time.

 

Of course, they’ve looked great on paper the past few years and have nothing to show for it. Now, with Ordonez and Thomas out of the lineup, they look ugly on paper and on the field. Jose Valentin and Crede are hovering around .230. Willie Harris, Timo Perez and Sandy Alomar are around .250. That’s more than half the lineup, and it doesn’t even address Juan Uribe’s slump and Carlos Lee’s streakiness. Compounding the problem is a bullpen that doesn’t have a reliable arm outside of Shingo Takatsu.

 

With the ship sinking, we find out who is going to jump and who is going to drown. This is when Sox faithful quibble amongst themselves about what it means to be a true fan. Does a true fan never give up, believe the team always has a chance? Or does a true fan look at things realistically and vocally complain about the direction of the franchise? I suppose the answer lies somewhere in between. Of course I will keep watching and cheering, hoping that a miracle can happen. But something within the philosophy of this organization needs to change. While I love Williams’ focus on the starting rotation, I wish he’d mix up the offense a little more.

 

Most importantly though, I wish our team would show some fight. The next time a division rival unnecessarily mows down our catcher, let’s see some retaliation. Because frankly, I’m tired of being the Twins’ female dog.

 

And Hawk Harrelson is too.


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.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

Have a Thought about
Reacquire Roberto?

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