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Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Yankee Practicality for Our Sox?

by George Bova

What to explain how Sox Fans should feel about their 2009 Sox?  The questions about this team are many and the possible answers even tougher to contemplate.  There aren't many satisfying answers that's for sure.  Let's start what ought to be obvious to most any Sox Fan.

The Championship team has faded.

The Sox have been slow to turn their back on the ballplayers that made Chicago's baseball fans champions for the first time since the Wilson Administration.  The core of the line up still features the very same heroes that made 2005 the undisputed greatest in Chicago baseball history in 88 years.  Paul Konerko is still here but he is older.  Jermaine Dye is still here but he is older.  A.J. Pierzynski is still here but he is older.  Jim Thome?  He wasn't here back in 2005 but his age definitely makes him past his prime, too.

Squeezing an extra year of performance from these aging past stars -- and satisfying the fans' wishes to keep the connection to the glory they brought the South Side -- certainly has made sense on many levels.  You don't have to be a Sox Fan of a certain age to remember the dark period of 1995-1999 when the Sox and their fans were all but divorced because of the lingering anger following the players' strike.  The emotional punch of this dark era is over and forgotten by any Sox Fan worthy of the championship status it now includes.

The connection to the glory is important for practical reasons, too.  If the Sox have become a major presence both in and around Chicago and the wider world, credit the new willingness of the Sox to keep valuable players, players like staff ace Mark Buehrle whose demands for an extended contract would never have been agreed to by the Old Sox.

If the Sox struggle now, it's because collectively these same players simply haven't (so far) delivered in 2009 as they have in the glory years past.  They delivered just enough to push the Sox to the 2008 division championship but can they manage it one more time?  So far, not nearly enough. 

The Young Stars are the best hope.

What can't be easily dismissed is how important the contributions of the younger Sox players became to the 2008 Sox division crown.  It was young hurlers Gavin Floyd and John Danks delivering the key pitching performances down the stretch to edge-out the Twins last September.  It was MVP-caliber efforts of young slugger Carlos Quentin that propelled the offense through most of the first five months of the season and it was his loss in the line up after a freak September injury that opened the door for the Twins to catch up and make it a horse race to the finish.

The young Sox are key to this team.  Regardless of whether Bartolo Colon and Jose Contreras pull through, the team is sunk without Danks and Floyd pitching quality innings in the rotation.  Regardless of how much the newly-returned (and  rejuvenated) Scott Podsednik contributes, the team's fate is obviously most closely tied to the continued growth and contributions of Alexei Ramirez, Chris Getz and Josh Fields (along with the return to form of again-injured Carlos Quentin).

The Sox are below .500 not because of the contributions of these young ballplayers but largely in spite of their contributions.  The future is bright for the Sox and Sox Fans if they continue to develop.

The wait and see attitude is dead.

I've written repeatedly about the difference between the Old Sox and the New Sox but 2009 offers yet another terrific example of how much has changed the last 6+ years on the South Side.  The Sox have needed help and the Sox front office has made practical moves to address them.  More pitching, more offensive punch and a plan for filling holes caused by injuries has been a constant need on the South Side, but a willingness to make the moves hasn't always been there.  Most Sox Fans can remember (but would rather forget) the period when GM Ron Schueler spent most of his time making excuses for why key moves weren't ever completed protesting how his faxes weren't ever returned.  Most Sox Fans can also remember (but clinch their teeth with disgust) the same period when managers like Gene Lamont and Terry Bevington would compliantly go along with the lack of action from the front office.  Their silence in the face of mediocrity was deafening.

Ozzie Guillen would never be confused with either of those two managers.  If current Sox GM Kenny Williams is aggressive seeking deals, you can bet he has learned -- as every Sox Fan has learned, too -- that Guillen won't sit by and stay silent as his team fails and help never arrives.  It was Guillen as a manager with just one season's worth of major league experience at the conclusion of the 2004 season publicly calling out the lack of talent on his pitching staff and boldly declaring the only solution was to get better pitchers before the 2005 season. 

Would Bevington or Lamont have ever done that?  The chances of that ever happening matches the number of championships those two ever won on the South Side.  We Sox Fans today are richer for the relentless pursuit of getting better and never being satisfied enough with waiting to see what happens.

Yankee Practicality for the South Side?

So what to do?  Might I suggest a practical approach? 

If getting better ballplayers were as simple as picking ripe fruit off a tree, the Sox could shop the local Jewel-Osco and pay for everything they need without ever visiting an orchard or growing their own.  The truth is that talent is scarce and availability incredibly tight as few teams will part with anything they value in their own championship quest.  Sometimes the ripest fruit won't budge.  Kenny Williams could bring a whole wheel barrow filled with cash to the San Diego Padres and he still couldn't get the pitcher he wants.  Jake Peavy likes beating up on the Lilliputians of the National League so the Sox are stuck.  The practical solution is go to Plan B... or invent a Plan B real fast!

With over one-third of the season played, the Sox can't get over .500 but -- Eureka! -- only Detroit in the entire division has managed as much either!  Right now any A.L. Central ballclub that gets more wins than losses punches their own ticket for a chance at post-season glory.  The Sox are playing with horrible inconsistency and yet they can't be counted out.  The practical solution is to keep grinding out wins as best as possible and keep shaking trees for any possible deals that might fall into Kenny Williams' lap.  The trading deadline is six weeks away and they're likely to seal the fate of this ballclub one way or another.  If the division title is still there to be grabbed, make the deal.

What might count as the greatest practical expression of the hopes and dreams of revolutionary thinking started with a handful of unlikely New England patriots as oddly-matched as defense attorneys (John Adams), rum runners (John Hancock) and a collection of farmers (the Minutemen of Massachusetts) who were just practical enough (and pissed off enough) to make the British Parliament regret ever attempting to tax those who built their own New World of opportunity without any help at all from anyone but themselves.  Yankee practicality shunned Old World ostentatiousness with the lasting virtue embodied in one simple question:  "Does it work?"  Soon enough their revolution spread across all 13 American colonies and the wider world to this very day.

The Old Sox suffered from failing to seize opportunities.  The New Sox have thrived seizing the opportunities as they present themselves.  A practical approach any Yankee would recognize has made the winning difference.  If the 2009 division title is there to be seized, make it happen.

Can Yankee practicality be applied to these New Sox?  I plan to find out shortly as the wife, family and I move to western Connecticut.  I'll be happy to report back here.

George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.  You can write George at

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