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WHITESOXINTERACTIVE.COM. Totally Biased Coverage of the Chicago White Sox!

A Good Decade 

By Mark Liptak 

They say time flies. Well it’s hard for me to believe but an entire decade’s worth of White Sox baseball has come and gone. It seems like yesterday the Sox opened the 2000 season at Texas and now they’ve closed the 2009 season at Detroit.

Overall it was a good decade filled with winning seasons, a World Championship, historic individual moments, great attendance and thanks to U.S. Cellular Company, money to renovate a sterile stadium and turn it into a beautiful place to watch baseball.

Of course it wouldn’t be the White Sox without missed opportunities (2003, 2006), freak injuries (Cal Eldred 2000. Frank Thomas 2001, 2004. Magglio Ordonez 2004), bad trades (David Wells, Todd Ritchie, Nick Swisher, Javy Vazquez) and some of the most bizarre things to happen to any team (Can you say ten straight losses in Oakland? Ten straight in Toronto…the House of Horrors known as the Metrodome where the Sox have lost 20 of 27 games.)

But given the fact that for the first time since 1917 the White Sox stood on the top of the baseball mountain and made the postseason three times, I think the majority of fans will look back on this decade with fondness, warts and all.

First a look at some numbers, significant events, than a look in capsule form for each season.

BY THE DECADE:

Wins: 855 (through 9-30, missing final three games of 2009 season)

Losses: 763 (through 9-30, missing final three games of 2009 season)

Home Record: 467-344 .575 (through the end of the 2009 season)

Road Record: 388-419 .480 (through 9-30, missing final three games of 2009 season)

Average Record For Decade:  85.5 – 76.3 (through 9-30, missing final three games of 2009 season)

Winning Seasons: 7 (2000, 2001, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2008) * That’s the most winning seasons in a decade since the 1960’s when the Sox had eight from 1960-1967.

Losing Seasons: 2 (2007, 2009)

.500 Seasons: 1 (2002)

Playoff Appearances: 3 (2000, 2005, 2008) All divisional championships. One World Series Championship / 2005. *That’s the most in franchise history for a single decade. Previous mark was two, set twice from 1900-1909 and 1910-1919.

Playoff Record: 12-7 (2000: 0-3, 2005: 11-1, 2008 1-3) Home Playoff Record: 6-4 Road Playoff Record: 6-3. 

Managers: 2 (Jerry Manuel 2000-2003, Ozzie Guillen (2004-2009) *That’s the fewest managers in a decade in franchise history.

All Star Selections: 25 compiled by 16 players * Mark Buehrle (4 appearances), Paul Konerko (3), Magglio Ordonez (3), Bobby Jenks (2), Esteban Loaiza (2), James Baldwin (1), Jose Contreras (1), Joe Crede (1), Ray Durham (1), Jermaine Dye (1), Carl Everett (1), Jon Garland (1), A.J. Pierzynski (1), Scott Podsednik (1), Carlos Quentin (1), Jim Thome (1)   

Awards:

Silver Slugger : Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez -2000, Magglio Ordonez – 2002, Joe Crede, Jermaine Dye – 2006, Carlos Quentin - 2008. 

The Sporting News All Star Team: Magglio Ordonez - 2000, Magglio Ordonez – 2003, Paul Konerko – 2004, Joe Crede, Jermaine Dye – 2006.

All Rookie Team: Tadahito Iguchi – 2005, Alexei Ramirez – 2008. 

Manager Of The Year: Ozzie Guillen – 2005. 

A.L. Player Of The Month: Paul Konerko June 2002, Magglio Ordonez July 2003.

A.L. Pitcher Of The Month: James Baldwin May 2000, Cal Eldred June 2000, Esteban Loaiza April 2003, Mark Buehrle May 2004, Jon Garland April 2005, Mark Buehrle May 2005, Jose Contreras September 2005, Jose Contreras April 2006.

A.L. Player Of The Week:  27 times a White Sox player won this award in the decade. 

Significant Events:

4/27/00 – Jose Valentin hits for a “natural” cycle in a win against Baltimore. He gets a single, double, triple, home run- in that order.

7/4/00 – Ray Durham and Jose Valentin lead off the game at Kansas City with back to back home runs. The first time that’s happened for the Sox since 1937.

7/14/00 – Frank Thomas sets the club record for RBI’s with 1,117 breaking Luke Appling’s mark.

9/24/00 – The Sox win the Central Division and finish the season with 95 wins, tops in the A.L.

7/10/01 – Magglio Ordonez homers off the Cubs Jon Lieber at the All Star Game in Seattle.

5/10/02 – The Sox get embarrassed 19-0 in a loss to the Angels. It ties for the worst beating in franchise history.

1/31/03 – The White Sox sell naming rights to Comiskey Park to U.S. Cellular Company.

 

7/15/03 – The White Sox host the All Star Game. Esteban Loaiza of the White Sox is the A.L. starting pitcher for it.

7/30/03 – Jose Valentin hits three home runs in a game at Kansas City.

8/1/03 – The White Sox franchise wins their 8,000 game as they blast Seattle 12-1 at Safeco Field.

11/4/04 – Ozzie Guillen is named field manager replacing Jerry Manuel.

6/15/04 – Carlos Lee hits in his 28th straight game, setting the franchise record.

8/23/05 – The Sox Freddy Garcia throws a complete game one hitter and loses to the Twins 1-0 at the Metrodome.

9/29/05 – The White Sox go ‘wire to wire’ and win the Central Division with a league best 99 wins.

10/26/05 – The White Sox win the World Series, sweeping the Houston Astros in four games.

10/28/05 – Approximately two million fans turn out for the World Series Championship Parade, the largest outpouring of support for a sporting title in Chicago history.

7/9/06 – The White Sox beat the Red Sox 6-5 in 19 innings at U.S. Cellular Field. It takes 6:19 to play, second longest in franchise history.

7/11/06 – Ozzie Guillen and seven of his players are part of the A.L. All Star Team in Pittsburgh.

9/24/06 – The White Sox end the home portion of their schedule and draw 2,957,411 fans for the season, setting the franchise record.

4/18/07 – Mark Buehrle throws a no hitter against the Texas Rangers at U.S. Cellular Field.

8/12/07 – Bobby Jenks retires his 41st consecutive hitter, tying for that time, the all time major league record.

9/16/07 – Jim Thome hits his 500th career home run in the last of the 9th inning against the Angels. It wins the game.

8/14/08 – The White Sox hit four consecutive home runs in the 6th inning of a 9-2 win over Kansas City.

9/30/08 – In a tie breaking game to decide the Central Division, the Sox beat Minnesota 1-0 to go on to the playoff for the 3rd time in nine seasons with 89 wins.

5/21/09 – Minnesota blasts the White Sox 20-1 tying the franchise record for the worst loss in history.

7/7/09 – Paul Konerko hits three home runs in a game against Cleveland at U.S. Cellular Field.

7/23/09 – Mark Buehrle throws a perfect game against Tampa at U.S. Cellular Field.

7/28/09 – Mark Buehrle sets the all time major league record by retiring 45 consecutive hitters.

Year By Year:

2000: 95-67 1ST Place – The slogan was “the kids can play…” but so could the veterans and the young veterans! Bolstered by a completely one sided deal that netted the White Sox Cal Eldred and Jose Valentin, the team blasted out of the gate, setting a record for the most runs scored in April. They hit home runs (nine guys in double figures – 216 as a team), stole bases (five guys with at least 13 – 119 as a team) and did everything needed to win games.  A seven game road trip to Cleveland and New York in June saw the Sox sweep the two best teams in the league. Some of those games were won by scores like 11-4, 12-3 and 17-4. Just when it seemed this team was ready to become a serious threat for the World Series, injuries started to happen. Eldred missed everything after mid July with an elbow injury, James Baldwin missed a month…two more pitchers Jim Parque and Mike Sirotka basically saw their careers ended with injuries in the final few weeks of the regular season. The Sox pitching staff was blown apart and the team were swept out by Seattle in the American League Divisional Series. Frank Thomas would finish 2nd in the MVP race to the A’s Jason Giambi, who later admitted to a grand jury that he was using steroids at the time.

2001: 83-79 3RD Place – Kenny Williams was the new G.M. and the Sox were the consensus pick to at least win the division. But what the experts didn’t realize was how beat up the entire Sox pitching staff was. The injuries in 2000, coupled with former G.M. Ron Schueler doing nothing about it at the trade deadline caused more stress on those who remained. In the off season there were more surgeries and more injuries to bullpen mainstays like Bob Howry, Bill Simas and Kelly Wunsch.  The Sox stumbled out of the gate. Frank Thomas was lost for the season in April diving for a ball and tearing his tricep. David Wells, Williams’ first major acquisition was lost for the year in June with a back injury. The Sox dropped to 15 games under at one point. However to their credit they did something that other Sox teams with more talent never did…they came back to post a winning season. They became only the second team in MLB history to do so after being 15 under. One positive to the season was that because of injuries, Mark Buehrle, a late round draft pick that started his career in the bullpen, was moved into the starting rotation in spring training. It was because the Sox had no other healthy bodies to pitch. It was the start of a great career.

2002: 81-81 2ND Place – This season was perfectly mediocre in just about all aspects. The Sox were never able to play consistent baseball over a long period of time and issues with the pitching staff were still at the forefront. A May game in Anaheim saw the Angels hand the Sox what was then the worst loss in franchise history beating them 19-0. The big off season deal that netted the Sox Todd Richie was a disaster and an injury ended his career. Still, heading into the final weekend, the Sox had a winning record; they only needed to win one game at the Metrodome to guarantee it. Naturally they lost all three games and Mark Buehrle lost his chance for his 20th win of the season. He’s never come closer to that benchmark in his career. 

2003: 86-76 2ND Place – This was a frustrating season and a wasted opportunity. Despite pitching issues again (the 5th starters were 3-11), with 18 games left, the Sox were two games up on Minnesota and had a good shot to return to the playoffs. Enter Jose Paniagua. Manager Jerry Manuel put the recently signed veteran pitcher into the 9th inning of the second game of a big four game set with the Twins at U.S. Cellular Field. The Sox won the game taking that two game lead, but Paniagua blew up. He allowed four runs, screaming at the home plate umpire, made an obscene gesture towards him and was released by Kenny Williams right afterwards. The Twins felt the Sox were coming apart at the seams and they were right. They won the last two games of the series to even the race, and then won 11 of the next 12 after that, sweeping the Sox right out of the House of Horrors to win the division by four games. Sox fans were stunned; Kenny Williams was perplexed and decided a managerial change needed to be made. Goodbye Manual, hello Ozzie Guillen. Esteban Loaiza, a free agent spring invitee, finished 2nd in the Cy Young race with 21 wins and led the league in strikeouts. He also started the All Star Game, held that July at U.S. Cellular Field.

2004: 83-79 2ND Place – Ozzie Guillen was hired in part because of his passion for the game and the organization. At least he didn’t look like he was falling asleep in the dugout like his predecessor. The Sox themselves adopted Ozzie’s ways and at least looked like they were playing hard. They were in first place at the All Star Break but couldn’t survive devastating injuries to Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas, originally suffered in the first half of the season.  Ordonez had his knee wrecked when Willie Harris slammed into him in May at Cleveland chasing a pop into short right field. He came back for a few games later in the year at Texas but the knee didn’t respond and he was through for the year, off to Europe for experimental surgery and done as a member of the White Sox. Thomas hurt his foot in Miami when the Sox were playing the Marlins. He tried to play through it since no one was sure exactly what was wrong but the pain only got worse and it was found to be serious. He too was shut down for the year. No team in baseball could survive the loss of their two best hitters but the Sox again to their credit, at least had a winning season.

2005: 99-63 1ST Place – No one could have predicted this. The White Sox were in first place after Opening Day. The White Sox were in first place at Memorial Day. The White Sox were in first place on the 4th of July. The White Sox were in first place on Labor Day. The White Sox were in first place at the end of the season. They went wire to wire, surviving one of the greatest pushes in MLB history by the Indians after August 1st.  They clinched the division the final week at Detroit. In the ALDS they swept Boston away (much to the chagrin of ESPN’s resident whale Chris Berman) in three. They beat the Angels in five for the American League pennant, thanks to A.J. Pierzynski’s remarkable play and four straight complete games by the starting pitchers. In the World Series sweep, everything went the Sox way, from Scott Podsednik’s game winning home run in game #2, to Geoff Blum’s 14th inning home run that was the difference in the longest World Series game in history to the nail biting 1-0 clincher. The Sox 11-1 post season run was among the greatest post season performances in MLB history. The White Sox were World Champions for the first time since 1917 and two million or so of their closest friends celebrated the parade that ran through the neighborhoods and ended up downtown. 

2006: 90-72 3RD Place – The White Sox were the pick to repeat as champions. They added Javy Vasquez and Jim Thome over the winter and were strong everywhere. They started out the 2006 season like they were on a mission, 20-8 by early May…57 wins by the All Star Break capped by a 19 inning win over the Red Sox.  Ozzie Guillen managed the A.L. squad to an All Star win with seven members of his team on it. But when the Sox returned, something was wrong. They lost 10 of 12 out of the break and went into a funk. Clutch hits were no longer coming, the bullpen was coughing up late leads, and players looked lethargic. The “home run or nothing” offense was in full bloom as the Sox couldn’t score runs any other way. They actually had a losing record in the second half of the year and struggled just to get to the 90 win mark. That was still an accomplishment but given the talent and the expectations, 2006 was a real disappointment to everyone involved with the franchise.

2007: 72-90 4TH Place – This turned out to be the worst White Sox season in almost 20 years. If it could go wrong, it did in 2007. There were injuries, slumps that lasted for months among the middle of the order hitters and most importantly a bullpen implosion fueled by miscalculation on the part of Kenny Williams. Williams decided in the off season to change the dynamic of his bullpen, which slumped from 2005 to 2006. He decided the way to go was to bring in a bunch of hard throwing pitchers who would, in theory, overpower hitters in the late innings.  The White Sox welcomed pitchers like Nick Masset, Boone Logan, David Aardsma, Andy Sisco and call up’s Dewon Day and Ryan Bukvich.  The problem was, these guys all had spotty track records in the minor leagues, major leagues or both and while they threw hard they couldn’t throw strikes. End result, one of the worst bullpens in baseball and the first major miscalculation by Williams. At least by the middle of June, with the Sox having lost 17 of 22 at one point, including a sweep by the Cubs, fans knew it was over.  The only good news to come out of this disaster was the Sox getting a high draft pick which turned out to be Gordon Beckham.

2008: 89-74 1ST Place – It was a year of redemption after the disaster in 2007 but it was a rocky road to the top. The Sox were relying so much on the ‘home run or nothing’ offense that Ozzie Guillen in May, after a dismal showing in Tampa, called out Kenny Williams saying that Williams had to “make changes” because this team couldn’t win as is. Needless to say, Kenny wasn’t pleased…you also had the ‘blow up doll’ controversy in Toronto. On the field the starting pitching was better, the bullpen, even with second half injuries, was light years ahead of 2007 and youngsters like Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, Gavin Floyd and John Danks were simply great. The division looked to be the White Sox’ to lose and lose it they almost did. They blew a series to Minnesota the final week which put the Twins in the driver’s seat…but then a funny thing happened. Minnesota lost 2 of 3 to Kansas City which opened the door…and the Sox stepped through it.   They won against Cleveland the final Sunday, beat Detroit in a make- up game that Monday and then in the first tie-breaker game for a postseason slot in franchise history, shut out the Twins 1-0 becoming the first team to beat three different opponents in three consecutive days in MLB history. The Sox were Division Champions. Their shortcomings were quickly exposed in the ALDS by Tampa and they were ousted in four games, but despite the streakiness, it was a satisfying season.  

2009: It was a disappointing way to end the decade as the White Sox were never able to get consistently good play and ended up with a mediocre record. The talent was in short supply when the season opened as Kenny Williams uncharacteristically wasn’t an aggressive player in the off season market and it showed as the Sox stumbled out of the gate and were seven games under at one point towards the middle of May. Kenny tried to reshape the roster on the fly, starting to import talent that helped the club but it wasn’t enough and too much time had slipped away. The Sox defense was awful, situational hitting was practically nonexistent, the middle of the order went into deep hitting slumps for long stretches and the lack of any quality starting pitching at the back end of the rotation doomed the team in a very mediocre division. Some injuries didn’t help, especially the foot injury to Carlos Quentin but even had the Sox stayed completely healthy, you just got the sense that the chemistry wasn’t there. It just wasn’t going to happen. The Sox would tease you and play well for short stretches especially against the best clubs in the league, then turn around and go into a funk and lose games to the worst teams around. It was simply that kind of year.

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And so the dawn of a new decade lies ahead. Like in 1969, 1979, 1989 and 1999, the Sox enter the decade with perhaps more questions than answers. One difference though from those time frames is Kenny Williams. Williams hates losing to the marrow of his bones and with two losing seasons in the last three years, his decisions are being questioned by fans and the media. Kenny is not the type to take any criticism lying down, justified or not. That’s not his nature… especially when that criticism is of the White Sox.

If he gets the support financially from ownership you can bet he’ll continue to be as aggressive as ever to win another championship in the next ten years. It’ll be interesting to see how it plays out, that’s for sure.

 

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If you have any questions, opinions, comments or criticisms of the following story, feel free to contact me at mliptak1@msn.com


Editor's Note:  Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work.  He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana) and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years.  "Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population.  

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