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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Buehrle and the World Baseball Classic
by Hal Vickery

Itís the middle of winter, although warmer than normal, and news of the Sox has been pretty much reduced to the signing of bench players and a minor league contract or two. This isnít necessarily a bad thing because it gives us a chance to concentrate on the Bears as they enter post-season play, something younger fans may only have heard about from their elders.

Where I teach it is also the season for semester exams, so Iíve been devoting a lot of time to putting those together and figuring out second quarter grades. This hasnít given me a whole lot of time to ponder the intricacies of baseball or to ponder the deeper meaning of winning the World Series for the first time in eighty-eight years.

What I have had time for is to reflect briefly on a couple of things, and this weekís column is a result of that somewhat shallow pondering.

One thing Iíve thought about in the past and have been thinking more about since it has actually happened to the Sox is the question, ďExactly how long is a team the World Champions?Ē

No doubt during the 2006 season weíll be hearing a lot about ďyour 2006 World Champion Chicago White Sox.Ē (I can hear Gene Honda saying that right now.) It reminds me of my thoughts whenever the previous yearís World Series, or even losers since they are the AL champions, come to town.

Iíve consistently maintained that the World Championship is for a specific year and that the next season is completely independent of the previous one. Thus, the 2005 World Series champions will never play again. The season is retired. The 2006 Sox are not the World Series Champions because the 2006 World Series hasnít been played.

I think part of this attitude has to do with the fact that the Sox have never been in this position in my lifetime, but it may go deeper than that. I still remember the first time I saw a picture of somebody from the 1921 Cleveland Indians sporting a uniform that said, ďWorld Champions.Ē I soon found out the Indians wore that uniform the entire 1921 season, even as they were finishing second to the first great Yankees team.

No, those Indians in 1921 didnít win a thing. And neither have the 2006 White Sox. So they are not the World Champions.

About the best you might be able to give them is that they are defending the World Series championship. Iíve always had a little less trouble with that for some reason. But for me the bragging rights end when pitchers and catchers report.

I know Iím going to raise the hackles of our esteemed leader here, George Bova, but I just have to say it. With all the players dropping out and with Cuba not being allowed to play, the so-called World Baseball Classic should just be trashed. It just wasnít a good idea to begin with.

I think the part that bothers me the most is that teams are being broken up during spring training. Thatís not necessarily a bad thing for position players, but I think there may be a whole lot of problems with pitchers that werenít considered by Commissioner Budlight when he came up with this plan.

The tournament is scheduled to begin in early march, a couple of weeks after pitchers and catchers report. Pitchers are to be limited to a relatively low pitch count, but the limit that I saw was something in the area of sixty pitches.

The problem I have with that is that most starting pitchers go a maximum of three innings early in spring training. Thatís in the thirty to fifty pitch range, quite a bit below the maximum Iíve seen. This is one reason I was so glad to see that Mark Buehrle decided not to pitch in the WBC. He threw extra innings last year in the post season. He doesnít need extra wear and tear in spring training when he is supposed to be gradually working his way back into form.

The WBC was a knee-jerk reaction to baseball being dropped as an Olympic sport. It was the wrong reaction. Let the players keep their normal procedure for working up to the regular season. If youíre so set on having a tournament, interrupt the season and do it in June or July and in cities that are too cold to host games in March. Give everyone a chance to see the greatest players in the world.

But of course they wonít do that. After all, you can draw larger crowds in March than in spring training, but to interrupt the season would mean a shorter schedule (unless you want to finish the World Series around Christmas) and less revenue to the owners who made Budlight the Commissioner of Baseball.

There is another reason I havenít been thinking a lot about baseball lately. A good friend of mine from the Windy City Sox Fans, Jan Bryk, is going in for surgery Monday morning. She has already been through a course of chemotherapy, and we hope the surgery will be the final step in her recovery.

Best wishes to you Jan. You can be sure our thoughts and prayers are with you.


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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