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WSI News - Season Features

August, 2000.  With a fat lead, the Sox begin auditioning new players while waiting for big games yet to be played in September. 

Sox Summer Vacation

or, Annette and Frankie get a major league tryout!

by George Bova

Remember Jerry Reinsdorf, Ron Schueler, Jerry Manuel, and several others of the top Sox brass gathering at Comiskey Park to privately discuss team strategy prior to the July 31 deadline?  Schueler emerged from that meeting and announced, "We're going for it!"  He also said he felt the Sox already had what the team needed to go all the way.  Sox fans were left grasping at straws for what direction the team intended to take.

Three weeks later, we know.  They're taking a vacation.  That is, a vacation from competing for the American League pennant.  

Don't be mistaken.  This is not an idle vacation where the only thing accomplished is an improved golf swing and a week's worth of facial hair.  No, this vacation has a purpose.  The Sox intend to use the next two weeks to figure out exactly who will round out their playoff roster before the September 1 call ups.  

The parade of Sox wannabes has been centered on the Sox pitching staff where injuries have created a shortage of arms.  Acquiring more talent through trade is not a viable alternative now that the July 31 deadline has passed, so rookie unknowns is the chosen course.

Can the Sox afford to do this?  Yes, but not without creating even greater anxiety amongst Sox fans who are predisposed to fret over our setbacks, find dark linings in Sox victories, observe glasses as half-empty, and generally fear what disaster will befall us and our team next.  We are, after all, Sox fans and this is the only rational way to deal with our years of losing.

The Sox have by far the easiest schedule of any of the contending teams in the American League.  They also own the fattest lead in the league.  Our closest opponent, the Indians, have the toughest remaining schedule of the contenders.  It's hard to imagine the Sox blowing this many advantages to miss the playoffs.  Home field advantage is nice, but the real goal left to achieve between now and October 1 is making the playoffs, ready to succeed when we get there.  

Of course simply making the playoffs is not the goal of any true Sox fan.  We want it all.   Limping into the playoffs and getting quickly eliminated offers us no glory.  Fortunately, the playoffs don't start for another eight weeks, so the Sox really do have some time to kill IF they use is wisely.  It appears that is exactly what they intend to do.

That's what makes this stretch -- two solid weeks of playing the anemic Devil Rays and Orioles exclusively -- perhaps the most critical before the October playoffs begin.  When we emerge from this period, the playoff roster must be set.  If Schueler and Manuel don't know who their best players are by August 31, we are screwed come October.  

There are six rookie pitchers on the staff and with the exception of Kelly Wunsch, not one of them has more than 35 innings pitched in the major leagues.  Nobody knows for sure which of these guys (Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle, Lorenzo Barcelo, Rocky Biddle, or even Aaron Myette) has the stuff to make a contribution to the team in the playoffs.  There isn't room (or a need) for all of them on the postseason roster, so making a correct choice is critical to the Sox.

On September 1 the rosters expand to 40.  The Sox can hold tryouts for several more players who currently labor in the minor leagues.  However, those kids won't get their big shot at the parent club's roster until next March in Tucson.

What is going on right now is quite different.  The kids we currently fret over are literally auditioning for the Sox's postseason roster.  No more than nine pitchers are likely to get selected to that roster, so it's hard to imagine more than two of the young prospects getting selected.  If Cal Eldred comes back from the DL, perhaps only one will actually make the team.

Do you know which one to pick? I don't, and neither does Ron Schueler or Jerry Manuel.  But come August 31 they're going to have to choose, and that deadline is coming up very fast.  That's what makes the need for these tryouts critical.

With that decision having been made, the Sox can again focus on building momentum for the playoffs.  The whole month of September is available for slotting everyone into their new roles and getting them comfortable with the tasks they are responsible for achieving.  It's hard to imagine what the Sox did in August having much effect on the team's play in October, but it's not hard to expect September's play to be a harbinger of postseason readiness.  

Time is on our side.  Now if only we have the patience to let it work for us.

Go Sox!  Win it all!!!

George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.

Back to 2000 Champions!


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