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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

More Sox Mediocrity!

Welcome to the new-look 2002 White Sox. Of course what makes them new is absolutely nothing. Instead what we Sox Fans are about to be treated to is the same thing we've come to expect for 84+ years: mediocrity.

To hear owner Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams tell it, our Sox are just a few healthy arms and a rejuvenated Frank Thomas away from another division championship. Given the backward direction taken by Cleveland and Minnesota, and the continued status of Kansas City and Detroit as lilliputians of the American League, maybe the Sox truly can win the 2002 division crown.

As Sox Fans, we've always been more willing to accept dumb-luck, just as long as it means another Sox victory. Hell, even Jaime Navarro won 27 games for us. That was luck for sure!

So now Sox senior management points to the strong play of the team the second-half of last season. Here, they claim, is the proof of how close we truly are to success. They would have us believe that those first six weeks of the 2001 season were the abberrant part of the season, and a return to the championship 2000 form is ours to have in 2002.

What Reinsdorf and Williams fail to realize (or do realize, but hope we won't), is the abberrant season wasn't 2001, it was 2000! The Sox front office has mastered the art of keeping the ballclub in a perpetual state .500. Those 95 wins achieved by the 2000 team are what was unusual!

Sox Fans aren't dumb. All of us knew what the team's weaknesses were following the 2000 season. We needed a #1 starter to anchor the staff, a centerfielder who could bat higher than ninth in the order, and a catcher to replace free agent Charles Johnson. If the Sox fixed even two of these three weaknesses, we're probably repeat champions of the division in 2001.

Instead of fixing these weaknesses, Williams signs an over-the-hill (and injury-prone) Sandy Alomar, and trades for a staff ace with a bad back that can't finish the season. Williams did nothing to fill the centerfield hole except pray minor leaguer Julio Ramirez could hit major league pitching (a complete failure), and play Jose Valentin out of position, succeeding only in pulling his hamstring. Chris Singleton won his job back by default!

So now it's winter again, and what is Sox management feeding us for 2002? More of the same. Centerfield is still as weak as ever, but Williams has no plans for fixing it. The plan appears to be let Aaron Rowand and Chris Singleton keep the spot warm while Joe Borchard gets another season of minor league seasoning. Never mind Borchard is better suited as a corner outfielder. Catcher is a bigger mess than ever, with Alomar still owed another season's salary and nothing but Miguel Olivo and his corked bat in the minor leagues to offer hope for the future.

Former #1 starter David Wells isn't considered top-flight material anymore, but no effort has been made to find a new staff ace. 23 year-old Mark Buehrle is supposed to lead a staff no older than he is. The infield is a bigger mess than ever. Veteran Herbert Perry was shown the door, but the Sox have nobody they trust to fill the job full-time except maybe Jose Valentin, again playing out of position because Kenny Williams' year-long quest to trade Royce Clayton (and his $4.5 million salary) still hasn't reached paydirt. Meanwhile Ray Durham remains the only possible choice at second base, because he's the only player with legitimate lead-off man credentials anywhere in the organization.

Sure, everything might fall into place for the 2002 Sox. Buehrle is capable of winning twenty games. Frank Thomas is always an MVP threat. Sandy Alomar might coax one more good season from his surgically-repaired knees. Chris Singleton might solve what nine previous seasons in professional baseball could not fix: the giant hole in his swing. Joe Borchard might be the next Mickey Mantle and Joe Crede might be the next everyday thirdbasemen--just like he might have been back in 1998, 1999, 2000, and 2001.

Monkeys might fly out of my butt, too.

George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.

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