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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Sizing up the 2002 Sox

The truly wonderful thing about the opening of baseball season is that it doesn't make any difference what happened last year. It doesn't even make any difference what happened in spring training.  When opening day arrives, every team is 0-0 and there is the possibility that every team can take
it all.

Of course only one team will be that lucky, and some teams are so weak that they don't stand a chance from the time the first pitch is thrown. There are those teams, however, that are lucky enough to be contenders at the start of the season, and to those teams comes the expectation of glory.

I've had a lot to say about the White Sox and what I think of their chances since the end of the 2001season. But like everyone else who has made any kind of observations about their chosen heroes, none of that makes any difference now. The season is beginning and the White Sox have 162 chances to prove their nay-sayers wrong.

It's a long season, and a lot can happen between now and September 29, when the Sox finish the the 2002 season in Minnesota. What has to happen for the Sox to win, though is pretty obvious.

First of all, the starting rotation has to jell. I still don't trust a rotation of Mark Buehrle, Todd Ritchie, Jon Garland, Danny Wright and Jon Rauch. Jim Parque has to come back, and he has to be far more effective than he's been in the past because I don't think both Wright and Rauch are ready for the rotation of a contending team. Jon Garland needs to show the potential that made him a number-one draft pick. We really can't afford to shuttle these guys between the rotation and long relief in the bullpen any more.

The bullpen needs to jell, too. Lorenzo Barcelo needs to find a way to get batters out as he recovers from his second arm surgery. Bob Howry needs to find his velocity and also a way to get batters out.  He just hasn't been doing that on a consistent basis this spring. We need somebody besides Antonio Osuna to be effective in middle relief. If Gary Glover can't make it as a set-up man, then Howry or somebody else needs to step up. Finally, closer Keith Foulke needs to do more than get saves. He needs to produce in non-save situations, and he needs to be effective in important games. He had trouble doing both last year. This has to improve.

The Sox have to find some way to beat the Twins. The Twins owned the Sox last year. It would have been a whole different division race had the Sox played against the Twins the same as they did against the Indians.

The Sox have to come out of the gate strong. No one expects them to go 14-29 again this year.  However, April and early May could prove crucial to the Sox hopes. By May 5, the Sox will face Seattle and Oakland six games each and Cleveland for seven games. However, they do catch some
breaks in their early schedule with three games against Kansas City, four against Baltimore, and six against Detroit. It is crucial that the Sox show they can compete with the contenders and that they beat up on the weak sisters.

Frank Thomas has to hit like he did in 2000. Frank is back to his old stance. Let's hope that doesn't mean he's going to hit like he did in 1999. So far he looks okay.

The Sox have to score runs in bunches. If the pitching staff is as weak as it appears, then we're going to have to score runs the same way as in spring training. Frank's bat could help that. One possible reason for all of those solo home runs was because everyone was trying to make up for Thomas's absence in the lineup.

Kenny Lofton and Ray Durham have to get on base. Their job is to set up Thomas, Ordonez, and Konerko. I've contended for years that Durham is a number-2 hitter. Now with Lofton in the lineup, his bat should be all that much better.

Jose Valentin has to play good defense at third base. This is asking a lot. It's not his natural position. If he can't do it, then Joe Crede needs to be summoned, Valentin moved to shortstop, and some kind of move made involving Durham or Clayton. Either one of these guys is expendable.

Lenny (aka Sox GM Kenny Williams) will have to make some smart deals if the Sox contend. This is not a team to get us beyond the first round of the playoffs as presently constituted. Smart trades do not consist of trading your number-four prospect for a guy who was going to be released in the
first place.

Jerry Reinsdorf has to open up his wallet to let those trades be made. If the young arms fizzle in the starting rotation, then veteran help will be needed.

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 necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at nsmf@aol.com.

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