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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Good Enough Line up?

by George Bova

When it comes to credible news sources in the Chicago sports media (not an oxymoron, but damned close), the Sun Times' Joe Cowley rises to the level of whale excrement. He is known as Tailgunner Joe around WSI for asking leading questions of Sox ballplayers suffering from bruised egos, then running sensational reports with the quotes he went trolling for. Mike Sirotka, Willie Harris, and of course Tailgunner Joe's all-time favorite patsy, Frank Thomas.

There aren't many professions where somebody of Tailgunner Joes's low level of intellect could make a living outsmarting somebody else, but kudos to Joe for finding one of the few that pays: being smarter than a dumb jock.

Yes, it's only natural for most Sox Fans to dismiss the credibility of Tailgunner Joe's recent and breathless report about secret dealings between the White Sox and Phillies to bring back Aaron Rowand, the everyday centerfielder from the 2005 champion team.

Maybe it's true, maybe it isn't. I won't speculate one way or another. If you want speculation I suggest visiting the Sun Times because they pay Tailgunner Joe to speculate (and you pay to have it delivered to your door), so go there if you think he has any insights at all to share. I wouldn't bet on it.

What all the Rowand-to-the-Sox speculation can't mask is the undeniable truth about building a champion team. You can never be too good.

It's true that the 2006 everyday Sox line up produced better offensive numbers than the 2005 Sox line up that helped win a championship. It's also true Rowand's offensive contributions were greater in 2005 than was his rookie replacement Brian Anderson's in 2006. And it's easy to suggest that Aaron Rowand was the missing ingredient to the 2006 championship that never happened, simply because he is the one and only everyday champion Sox ballplayer who wasn't playing for the 2006 squad that failed to repeat. Some might rightly claim this, but I sure wouldn't.

The shortfall in 2006 revolved around a tired pitching staff, not a lack of offensive punch. The Twins and Tigers were both better teams in 2006 than 2005, too.

So it's easy to dismiss those who would want Rowand back. After all, he is rightly a fan favorite, as are virtually all the Sox ballplayers from 2005, and I'm one Sox Fan who personally would mind if the City of Chicago created a massive Grant Park monument to the City's first baseball championship team in over four generations, featuring life-sized bronze statues for Rowand and everyone else on the 25-man roster. They deserve it!

So while I would honor Rowand (and the Sox) with a monument, I still wouldn't think he is the guy to fix what the Sox (and every other team in baseball) need the most: more quality pitching.

But the notion that the everyday Sox line up couldn't use some sprucing up is patented nonsense, too. Here's where I part company with those who would serve up the 2007 everyday positions to all the incumbents from 2006.

The 2006 Sox line up was weak at the top, and weak at the bottom, too. It was a line up most noteworthy for not doing the little things that their manager professes to expect of them. It isn't far-fetched to suggest we may have already seen the best season we'll ever get from Scott Podsednik and Juan Uribe. It's not far-fetched to wonder whether the 2006 Sox got the best season, ultimately squandered, from DH Jim Thome that we can ever hope he produces on the South Side, too. Dye has stayed healthy and Konerko has avoided the worst of his batting slumps that any Sox Fan remembers reached Wrath of God biblical proportions pre-2005.

It's not far-fetched at all to suggest the 2007 Sox could have a tough time getting all the offensive production they actually did get in 2005 and 2006.

It's not that the Sox can't afford to let Juan Uribe play every day, and it's not that the Sox can't afford to let Brian Anderson play every day either. But the notion that the Sox can afford to let Juan Uribe and Brian Anderson play everyday -- anchoring the bottom of the order like a lead weight inside a helium balloon -- is definitely something to give any fretful Sox Fan a moment's pause.

How much risk in the everyday line up are Sox Fans willing to take?

A championship-caliber team never gives anyone on the team indefinite chances to succeed. The best ballplayers thrive in the competitive environment. No higher compliment can be extended to Jon Garland's championship pedigree for succeeding beyond anyone's expectations in 2005 -- but only after his mediocre performance in 2004 pushed him into the #5 pitching slot to open the 2005 season, a roster spot that placed him just one lousy start away from being relegated to the Sox bullpen. He didn't fold. To the contrary, Jon Garland excelled. And that's what made him -- and the Sox -- champions.

Brian Anderson shouldn't expect any quarter. Nor should Uribe. Nor should Podsednik. And to the extent Kenny Williams and the Sox don't offer any quarter, the 2007 White Sox can be expected to excel.

Championships are won one day at a time and the season starts in just three weeks.

Too much is never enough.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive. You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

More features from George Bova here!

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