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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Trading Pitchers!

Who is Kenny dealing, and what is he getting in return?

Lenny (aka White Sox GM Kenny Williams) is at it again. Last year with just a few moves he turned the Sox from a 95-win team into a team that barely cleared .500. Now it seems that just dropping thousand pound bombs isn't good enough in his move to destroy the White Sox. Williams has dropped a daisy cutter which could very well have destroyed his pitching staff.

It's not so much that he's trading pitchers. It's who he is trading or wants to trade. On Wednesday, Williams almost traded Chris Singleton and Jon Garland along with a couple of minor leaguers for Angels centerfielder Darrin Erstad. On the surface this doesn't seem like too bad a deal. Garland was very inconsistent in 2000, and Singleton almost lost his job in 2001 after Sox management told him to be less intense in his playing. (Now there's a novel idea!)

The problem with this deal is threefold:

1) Singleton is probably the best defensive player on a lousy defensive team. He was also the most consistent hitter in the lineup once Jerry Manuel decided to play him nearly every day.

2) Garland last year was still inconsistent, but his numbers show what kind of pitcher he will soon become. True he had just a 6-7 record, but he also had an ERA of 3.69. How many 21-year-old pitchers can you think of who have 3.69 ERAs? Garland celebrated his twenty-second birthday in late September. This guy is going to be a great pitcher, barring the usual torn labrum that most Sox pitchers seem to have.

3) Darrin Erstad is coming off an injury. Word has it that he has an arthritic knee. Darrin Erstad is also one year away from free agency. So essentially what Lenny wanted to do was trade a future star for a rent-a-player.

The angels (both in heaven and in Anaheim) must have been smiling on Lenny, though, because in a move that left a lot of people scratching their heads, Anaheim's upper management nixed the deal. The only thing that seems possible here is that Erstad's physical condition might be such that the trade would be voided, and the Angels didn't want to look as bad as Lenny did after the David Wells for Mike Sirotka fiasco last year.

After a close shave like that, you'd think that Lenny would stop and think about what he was doing. Garland is the real deal, and trading him would have hurt the Sox in the long run. But we don't call our GM Lenny for nothing! No, he was back just a day later dropping his daisy cutter.

In a move that defies all logic, Lenny picked up Todd Ritchie from the Pittsburgh Pirates. At first glance it sounds like a good deal. Ritchie at age 30 is an experienced starter, something the Sox have been desperate for. But let's take a closer look. In order to acquire Ritchie Lenny gave up not one, not two, but three(!) pitchers: Kip Wells, Sean Lowe, and Josh Fogg.

Wells was nothing if not inconsistent in both 2000 and 2001. He still has a shot at being a decent pitcher, but that's highly speculative at this point in his career. Lowe was in the Lenny's doghouse from early in the 2001 season when Lenny sent him to AAA Charlotte for no apparent reason. Williams says Lowe was having trouble getting movement on his fastball. Lowe complained. That, of course, is the kiss of death. Fogg is 25 now, and was brought up in September after a brilliant season at AA Birmingham. He posted a 2.03 ERA in 11 relief appearances. The only supposed negative is that he can't throw in the mid-90's. Of course, neither can Greg Maddux, but that's another story.

In 2001 Ritchie started the season with eight consecutive losses before finishing at 11-15 with a 4.47 ERA. During his 11-7 stretch that finished his season he posted an ERA of 4.11. According to "Baseball Prospectus" Ritchie has a laser straight fastball. He also has trouble getting his other pitches over the plate. The Sox are billing him as their number two starter. This makes sense since "Baseball Prospectus" rates him as a third or fourth starter at best. The funny thing about this is that "BP's" description of Ritchie's normal fastball is that it perfectly describes the reason Lenny gave for sending Lowe to the minors last year.

Now, I'll grant you that the Sox need help in their starting rotation. I'll grant you that Wells may never pan out as a top starter. I'll also grant you that Fogg is still only a prospect at age 25. I'll even grant you that someone else on the Sox staff (Barcelo? Biddle?) might step up and take the swing role that Lowe had
last year. I have no trouble with a trade for Ritchie.

What does bother me, though, is that the Sox traded three players on their 40-man roster for a guy who is AT BEST a third starter! Not just three players, either. Three PITCHERS for ONE! This is the kind of deal that
should get you a Roger Clemens, or a Randy Johnson, or a Greg Maddux.

But in Lenny's world three pitchers get you Todd Ritchie.

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 Buster T. Beagle. The views expressed by Hal are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, wife Lee, or Buster T. Beagle.

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