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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Line up of Fear?
by Hal Vickery

We can only hope that Kenny Williams has something more up his sleeve than what he has shown so far. Otherwise the summer of 2005 is going to be one of the longest on record.

The deal that sent Carlos Lee to the Milwaukee Brewers for Scott Podsednik, Luis Vizcaino, and a player to be named later can only be described as one-sided unless it is the precursor to a bigger deal in which the Sox pick up something to replace the black hole that should be the fifth starter’s spot.

So far Williams has replaced the injured Magglio Ordoñez with the fragile Jermaine Dye, who has not played a full season since 2001, and slugger Lee with the banjo hitting Podsednik, who last year might as well have been swinging a banjo with his less-than-stellar .313 on base percentage.

The only thing that makes the Dye signing palatable is the fact that the future of Ordoñez is still in doubt, unless there is an owner or GM who is willing to believe Scott Boras’s story that a workout scheduled for last week’s winter meetings was canceled because he and his client feared a “media circus.” Dye is still a better alternative than the tandem of Joe Borchard and Timo Perez that replaced Ordoñez after his injury last season.

Granted, Dye can be a heck of an acquisition…if he can somehow return to his 2000-2001 form, but that’s asking a lot. Guys like Dye who suffer from repeated injuries often don’t regain their previous statistical levels at the age of 31. However, this is exactly what he must do in order to adequately replace Ordoñez.

After the 2004 season Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen let it be known that they were tired of the home run or nothing offense the Sox have been saddled with for several years. The Sox, they assured us would be going after guys who could get on base and put the Sox into a position to score. High on base percentage and base stealing abilities were going to be priorities.

They might have achieved part of that with the acquisition of Podsednik. It depends on whether he plays as he did in 2003 or as he did in 2004. In 2003 he hit .314 and had an OBP of .379. His 95 strike outs were a bit high, but he did walk 56 times. Importantly, he stole 43 bases. However, in 2004 most of those numbers dropped, as his batting average fell to .244 and his OBP to a terrible .313, while his strikeouts increased to 105. The only number that improved was stolen bases, which rose to 70.

The Sox have definitely gotten rid of their home run or nothing offense. With the loss of Ordoñez, Lee, and Jose Valentin, they have lost a potential 100 homers and replaced them with a potential 40. They have acquired speed but questionable ability to get on the bases.

One can only think that in trying to refashion their club, the Sox have once again gone overboard. They’ve replaced Ordoñez, who was above average both offensively and defensively with Dye who has not had a good offensive season in three years and is below average on defense. In replacing Lee with Podsednik, they probably improved themselves somewhat defensively, but unless he can get on first base, they’ve lost a lot of offensive production.

We’ve been saying for as long as we can remember that the Sox need to somehow build a balanced club. They need solid pitching, defense, and a balanced offense with guys who can get on base along with guys who can drive them in.

The Sox of the past few years have improved on defense to where they are at least adequate. However, they have still not addressed the fifth starter issue, which we were told from the last out of the 2004 season would be a top priority. As it stands now, every fifth game is still a probable loss.

The offense has been changed, but those changes could come back and bite Guillen, who pushed for this type of club, and Williams, who seems to be granting Ozzie’s wishes, in the rear end. If Guillen’s hunch that Frank Thomas will start the season on the bench, the Sox starting lineup will be some combination of Podsednik, Aaron Rowand, Carl Everett, Paul Konerko, Dye, Juan Uribe, Joe Crede, Willie Harris, and Ben Davis/Jamie Burke.

This is not a lineup that will strike fear into the hearts of the AL Central, let along the league. Unless Williams isn’t through dealing, it’s going to be a long summer.


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.

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