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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Freddy Fallout!
by Hal Vickery

You would have thought that the Sox had a fire sale at last week’s Winter Meetings. That was the reaction from fans and the Chicago Tribune alike. Fans cried bloody murder and the Cubs propaganda arm talked about general manager Kenny Williams starting a youth movement.

What caused all of the brouhaha? The fact that Williams traded a veteran pitcher, Freddy Garcia, for a couple of kids, right hander Gavin Floyd and lefty Gio Gonzalez, of course.

In the past few days I’ve heard this called a salary dump, a youth movement, a return to Williams’ former not-so-secret identity as Prof. Chaos, and a business move. No one has actually taken the time to seriously analyze what Williams was doing. So let’s cut through the rhetoric and analyze this trade.

To begin with few if any have mentioned the fact that as early as SoxFest 2006 (and perhaps even earlier), Williams said that he would be trading one of his 2006 starting rotation to make room in the 2007 rotation for Brandon McCarthy who spent the season in the bullpen, much as Mark Buehrle did during the 2000 season. This trade does exactly that.

Williams has also said that he wants to build not just for now but also for the long term. Williams wants a dynasty, or short of that at least a playoff contender, for years to come. He just got himself two young arms to help fulfill that goal.

Before the trade there were a number of posts on the WSI message boards discussing the fact that if McCarthy is to be a starter, he needs to do that in 2007, either with the big club or in Charlotte. Now we know it will be with the big club.

In addition, Garcia has just one year left on his contract, and with the Cubs throwing money at Ted Lilly, whose picture is in the dictionary next to the word “mediocrity,” the price of quality pitchers like Garcia just went up to astronomical proportions.

Given the fact that Garcia seems to have lost his fastball and that he will be turning thirty-three in 2008, it does make sense to get rid of him now, when they can at least get some young arms in exchange.

So why are Sox fans so appalled by this trade?

I think a lot of it has to do with past history. We’ve all seen Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf go on his frugality binges. With the price of pitching being driven up by the Cubs and others, more than one person, both in the sports media and here at WSI, speculation is running rampant that Reinsdorf is planning one again on sticking his finger in the hole in the dike when the water is flowing over the top.

In other words, as Tribune writer Mark Gonzales suggested, the Sox will go on a youth movement by 2009. That may be the way Ron Schueler operated, and I firmly believe Jerry Reinsdorf truly does listen and follow the plans set by his general managers, but I don’t think that’s the way Kenny Williams operates.

A lot of it also has to do with the fact that Garcia was a seventeen game winner in 2006. Not only that, but he came close to pitching no-hitters a couple of times in the last month of the season. That makes him awfully hard to give up, especially for a minor leaguer and a guy who posted an ERA of 7.29 with the Phillies in 2006.

There is something else that galls a lot of fans, and his name is Javier Vazquez, he of the 11-12 record and 4.84 ERA in 2006. You remember Vazquez. He’s the guy who couldn’t get past the fifth inning without being shelled. He’s the guy who people wanted to go bye-bye, preferably on a rail, covered with tar and feathers.

Heck, my first reaction was, “Garcia?!? He’s the wrong guy! Vazquez is the one who needs to go!”

But I do see what Williams is doing. If you can get rid of one starter and build for the future, it’s not a bad thing. However, Williams may be doing exactly the wrong thing for 2007. There is a strong suspicion on people’s minds that Williams felt that the Sox should have won with the team he put together for 2006, and the way it appears now, that with the exception of some pitching, that’s the team he’s going to go with in 2007.

So we’ve seen Scott Podsednik re-signed for one year. In addition there has been no indication that Williams is going to do anything about the situation in centerfield, where Brian Anderson had a terrible first half, and who seems to be a close second to Vazquez in the mob’s cries for tar and feathers. Juan Uribe appears to be the choice at shortstop, despite a poor offensive showing that coincided with Anderson’s.

Sox fans are not patient types, despite an eighty-eight year World Series drought. Now that they’ve seen what it’s like to be champions, they won’t settle for less.

Sox fans are also pretty critical of management. If they don’t think management is going in the right direction, they speak not only with their mouths but also with their wallets. If Williams few actions, and even more inaction, results in another third place finish, then Williams may be forced to work with a smaller budget.

Kenny Williams is walking a tightrope without a net, but he’s done that since day one. He knows what the consequences are for failure. He also knows the rewards for success, and he’s the first Sox general manager to experience that since Harry Grabiner did in 1917. I’m sure he likes that feeling and wants to duplicate it.

So even though we may think it was the wrong deal, or at least the wrong person traded, I think we all need to sit back, take a deep breath, and let Kenny Williams do his thing. It turned out to be magical once. There is no reason to believe he can’t do it again.

Last week the Windy City Sox Fans had their annual holiday party, featuring guests Billy Pierce and Moose Skowron.

It was also the culmination of our annual raffle which raised a little over $4000 for Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities, earmarked for Chidren’s Memorial Hospital. To all of you who purchased raffle tickets, a huge thank you.

The holiday party is also the collection date for toys in the club’s annual toy drive for Children’s Memorial. We delivered an estimated $3000 worth of toys Saturday.

In a few weeks, the club’s finance committee will be meeting to determine how much our donation will be to CBCC. Right now it appears that it will be a record for the eleven year’s of the club’s existence.

Sometime after Christmas the club will be starting its 2007 membership drive. If you love Sox baseball and would like to help a worthy cause, I urge that you consider joining for 2007. If all goes well, that will be the year the club passes the $100,000 milestone in its donations to CBCC. Look here for details on how to join.

______________________________________________________________________

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.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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