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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Buehrle Saves!
by Hal Vickery

The Sox are going nowhere. The Cubs are two games over .500 and acting like contenders in the NL Comedy Central. The Sox need to do something to get into the news. So what method have they chosen?

The answer is sad. They’ve chosen to look like clowns, both on the field and off.

On the field Friday, they lost a pair of football games to the Minnesota Vikings…or was that two baseball games to the Minnesota Twins? You couldn’t tell by the scores of 20-14 and 12-0.

Of course you can’t blame the entire team. The batting has actually come to life about two-and-a-half months too late, but at least it’s there. The starting pitching isn’t as rock solid as it once was, particularly Jose Contreras, who lately has looked more like Nardi Contreras on the mound.

Jon Garland, who is normally a model of consistency, gave up an even dozen runs (11 earned) Friday afternoon. After the ballpark was cleared and refilled with fans, folks got to see the man Kenny Williams coveted so much that he traded Freddy Garcia.

You might say Gavin Floyd was twice as good as Garland, or maybe that’s half as bad. Floyd only gave up half as many runs (although all were earned). He even lasted a couple of innings longer than Garland.

Okay, so Friday was an aberration with Garland, and Floyd was given a spot start. Still, you have to be concerned when the bullpen, the one thing Kenny Williams tried to bolster last winter, has looked less and less like firemen and more and more like arsonists.

We don’t need to go into all the gory details. A broad overview of their ERAs is sickening enough. Here are the figures through Saturday’s action:

Nick Masset………..7.34
Bobby Jenks……….3.28
David Aardsma…....6.40
Matt Thornton……...5.22
Boone Logan………5.63
Mike MacDougal…..6.23
Andrew Sisco……...8.36
Ryan Bukvich…...…4.38
Dewon Day………...6.75
Brett Prinz………….8.10

After the slaughter Saturday, the Sox turned to the one man who over the years has consistently been the stopper, and he did it again. Mark Buehrle, whose last start was sabotaged by the aforementioned bullpen, shut the Twins out for eight innings, not allowing a Twins runner to advance beyond second base and coaxing four double plays from them.

This is the kind of pitcher you’re looking for when things are going wrong. It’s the kind of pitcher you build a team around…unless your name is Prof. Chaos, who has apparently kidnapped Kenny Williams and started running the White Sox after an absence of three years. If you’re Prof. Chaos, you try your hardest to get rid of guys like this.

And this is precisely why the Sox look like clowns off the field. While Buehrle is just 6-4, his ERA is a sweet 3.02. He has regained the form he seemed to have lost during the second half of last season, which I’m convinced is the time that Prof. Chaos decided that Buehrle was expendable.

We’ve all followed the saga of the rumors. First Buehrle was about to be signed. Then in what appears to be factual, Buehrle asked for a no-trade clause in his contract. It was here that Prof. Chaos got his excuse. The Professor told us that the Sox didn’t want to set a precedent. That other pitchers (read Jon Garland), seeing Buehrle’s no-trade clause would be jealous and want one for themselves, and the Sox just couldn’t be put in that position.

Prof. Chaos has split Sox fandom on the subject. There are those who take his side. After all, we can get a lot for a pitcher of Buehrle’s caliber, they reason. Except…Buehrle has said that no matter what team he is traded to, he’ll exercise his free-agency rights. This means he is a rent-a-player, and is less likely to command the kind of players he would be worth in a trade where a team could have him for a few years.

On Saturday’s White Sox Weekly, host Chris Rongey had a heated exchange with a caller over the Buehrle situation. The caller made the mistake of saying that Buehrle was taking a pay cut. This clouded the issue briefly as Rongey pointed out that Buehrle would be making more money than this year.

What the caller meant was that Buehrle was taking a home-town discount. Once that was finally established, Rongey’s argument went something like this:

In the off-season, Buehrle’s market value was placed at the lower end of market value. This would mean he could command $14 million to $15 million. The Sox are offering Buehrle $56 million over four years, so he’s only losing a million dollars a year. “When you get to that kind of money, what’s a million dollars?” asked Rongey.

Well, it is a million dollars a year, and Buehrle was originally asking for five years. So that’s $5 million he’s giving up, not $4 million. Then there is the $15 million he’s gambling on by not taking the fifth year, betting that he’ll be worth at least that much at age 33. So really we’re looking at a possible $20 million that Buehrle could be giving up, and that is significant.

But Prof. Chaos is nothing if not steadfast. He wouldn’t budge on the no-trade clause. He figures the Sox gave up enough by offering him four years instead of the usual three.

Now the latest rumor comes from ESPN’s so-called baseball expert Buster Olney who reports that the usual “source familiar with the negotiations” has said that Buehrle’s side has come back with a counter offer to the no-trade clause.

According to the “source familiar with the negotiations” (meaning take it for whatever it’s worth – Olney could be pulling this out of the end of his alimentary canal), Buehrle has made a counter offer that drops the no-trade clause and instead give Buehrle the four years and $56 million, and a $17 million player option for 2012 if he is traded.

According to Olney’s source the Sox have turned down Buehrle’s offer, and are still taking on suitors for a trade.

I could be sticking my foot in my mouth here, but that wouldn’t be unusual. I’ve been wrong before, but to me this whole farce is boneheaded on the part of the White Sox in general, and Prof. Chaos in particular.

We thought that Prof. Chaos had disappeared when the Sox brought home a World Series Championship, but we were wrong. Prof. Chaos is back, apparently with a feeling of invincibility because of that championship. We’ve seen this before. It’s called Jerry Krause Syndrome.

Its symptoms include a huge buildup of the ego, and the spouting of such nonsense as “Players don’t win championships. Organizations win championships.” This is followed by the complete disappearance of the ability to build anything except mediocre teams.

We can only hope that Prof. Chaos releases Kenny Williams and goes back into hiding.

Buehrle Signs!

Naturally just hours after the preceding column was completed, the Sox announced that Mark Buehrle was signed to a four-year contract extension. As I write this, the details of the extension have not been announced.

There are a few things that the events of the past few days might have shown:

Scenario 1: Buster Olney’s “sources close to the negotiations” were the same as Tailgunner Joe was relying on last week who apparently didn’t know what they were talking about.

Scenario 2: Buster Olney’s sources were right and the Sox and/or Buehrle had a change of heart.

Scenario 3: Kenny Williams broke free of the ropes that Prof. Chaos had bound him with, overcame the Professor, and got the deal done that he wanted to do months ago before he was kidnapped.

I’m going with Scenario 3.

______________________________________________________________________

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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