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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Sox Goals for 2002?

By Mark Liptak

The holidays are here and the temperatures are in the 20's, what better time to start thinking about the future. Whatís the old saying? "In the Spring a young manís thoughts turn to..... thatís right... baseball!"

With everything thatís gone on at the winter meetings and with the real possibility of labor unrest putting a serious dent in the 2002 season, I started to consider what the goals for the White Sox should be next year. Letís be optimistic and say that they will play a full season or at least enough to make it worthwhile. Letís also assume that the overall philosophy of team management isnít going to change.

What that means, friends and neighbors, is that the Sox prime concern is, ( letís be nice) , "fiscal responsibility."(Is that another way of saying that theyíre cheap? You be the judge!)

The way I see it is that the Sox should consider these five goals for 2002. Itís very possible that they can reach three or four of them, which by any reasonable standards would make the season a success.

Now letís get one thing straight right from the start. You wonít see "win a World Championship" among the goals. Thatís an impossibility. ESPNís Peter Gammons said it best from the winter meetings after the Yankees signed Jason Giambi, "thereís no longer ANY competitive balance in the American League. " Thatís another way of saying that short of a catastrophe, the Yankees are going to win the American League pennant. Even if something were to derail the Yankee juggernaut, the Mariners and the Aís (even without Giambi) are still better then the Sox.

Now that weíve set the ground rules, hereís what the Sox CAN do.....

1.) † Win at least, 82 games...

That would give the Sox three straight "winning" seasons. That doesnít sound like much does it? But look back at the last fifty years of Sox history and youíll see that the Sox having a winning record even a modest three years in a row, is pretty special.

The Sox won three years or more from 1990 through1994; 1981 through 1983, and from 1951 through 1967. Like Porky Pig said "thatís all folks!" (Trivia note: That stretch of winning seasons from 1951 through 1967, is the 3rd longest streak in MLB history. The 17 years in a row trails only the Baltimore Orioles and New York Yankees. The Oís had 18 straight winning years from 1968 - 1985, and the Yankees had 39 from 1926 - 1964.)

2.) Make the playoffs...

With Cleveland seemingly taking a step back and Minnesotaís second half collapse giving rise to questions about that club, the Sox look like theyíre in a good position to take the divisional crown and make the playoffs.

When Bill Walsh was head coach of the 49'ers he was asked about San Franciscoís seasonal goals. Walsh said the Niners always tried to make the post season because "once you get there, anything can happen." The point being that if you have a winning record, youíve got a shot to play in October.

For that to take place, the Sox have got to stay healthy and get some stability in their starting rotation. The hitting will take care of itself (after all this is the American League which is often confused with beer league softball, so scoring runs shouldnít be a problem!) The question is, if the Sox score seven runs, can they keep the opposition from scoring eight. Having a starting rotation that isnít changing every week will go a long way towards providing the stability thatís needed. (We wonít even talk about the atrocious defense, that doesnít seem to concern Jerry Manuel as evidenced by his famous quote in September "I donít care if we finish last in defense.")

3.) Win a playoff game (preferably at home!)...

Again this seems ridiculously easy except for one thing, the Sox currently have a home post season losing streak of nine in a row! They havenít won a post season home game since October 1, 1959, when they blew out the Dodgers 11-0 in Game #1 of the World Series. Since then the Sox dropped the remaining two home games to Los Angeles in 1959, both home games to the Orioles in 1983, three home games to the Blue Jays in 1993 and a pair of home games to the Mariners in 2000. (Trivia Note II: The MLB record for consecutive home post season losses is ten set by the Philadelphia Phillies) The combined Sox record in the post season since 1959 is 5-14!!!!!

In the 9th inning of Game #2 of the 2000 ALDS, Chris Berman doing the game on ESPN castigated Sox fans for leaving in droves with Seattle up 5-2. Berman said "Come on, these guys (the Sox) led the league in runs scored. Whereís everybody going? Just a poor showing on the part of the fans." What Berman didnít realize was that Sox fans know the way the team plays at home in October! Winning a home game in October may not sound like much but itís sure better then what theyíve done in the past.

4.) Win a playoff series...

This hasnít happened since 1917 when the Sox beat the Giants four games to two. Alas it probably wonít happen this time around either. At least if my picks of New York, Seattle and Oakland being the other playoff teams come to pass.

The Sox will probably have a worse record then the Yankees or Mariners so they would draw the 3rd seed. That means they wonít have home field advantage and depending on whom the wild card club is they could draw the Yankees in the 1st round.

So much for winning a playoff game at home, let alone winning a series!

5.) And last, but not least, finish with a better record then the Cubs.

Thatís not a lead pipe cinch. Overall the Cubs probably have a better, deeper and more experience starting staff then the Sox and the 3-4-5 combo of Sosa, McGriff and Alou are going to do damage.

The Cubs have also shown more of a willingness to pick up players when they are in contention then the Sox. That could add up to a few wins and could put the Sox behind the 8-ball in the race for best record in the city. Looking back over the past twenty years, the Sox have made the following moves in years when they were (at least on paper) in "contention"...

1981- picked up outfielder Jerry Turner and pitcher Jerry Koosman

1982- picked up pitchers Jim Kern, Warren Brusstar and Sparky Lyle

1983- picked up 2nd baseman Julio Cruz

1985- did nothing

1990- picked up outfielder Phil Bradley

1991- did nothing

1992- did nothing

1993- picked up pitcher Tim Belcher

1994- did nothing (at least through August 11th when the labor impasse forced a strike by the

players union)

1996- picked up pitcher Tony Castillo

2000- picked up catcher Charles Johnson and DH Harold Baines

Overall not very impressive is it? The Sox reluctance to get key players down the stretch really hurt them in 1991 and 1996.

In 1991 the Sox trailed the Twins by one game on July 31st (the trading deadline) and did nothing. It was at that point the Sox went into a major slump the next three weeks and basically fell out of contention.

Even worse was August 1996 as the Sox were blowing a 4 Ĺ game lead on the Orioles in the wild card chase. The bullpen you remember set a record (since broken) for most blown saves. The Sox got Tony Castillo who did very little. Roberto Hernandez and Tony Phillips then blasted management the following week in The Sporting News and proved to be prophets as the Sox fell apart. That collapse was the sowing of the first seeds that led to the "White Flag" trade in 1997.

As you can see besting the Cubs might not be as easy as it sounds.

Comments and question are always appreciated, feel free to e-mail me at mliptak1@ida.net.

Weíll be†talking to you soon!


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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