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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Buehrle Dealin'!

Spring training musings at the halfway point of camp…. 

Just when you think you’ve heard everything department:  After Mark Buehrle and the Sox failed to come to an agreement on a deal that could have (if buyouts are included) netted the young lefty $27 million over the next five years) Sox fans were quick to call in sportstalk radio programs to urge that the Sox grant Buehrle his wish and ship him off to St. Louis ASAP. 

The more rational among the callers and talk show hosts noted that at worst Buehrle was shortsighted.  No one said it, but the sentiment was simply, “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.”  They rightly note that there are no guarantees in life, and that Buehrle could injure his arm or walk in front of a bread truck tomorrow and his career would be over. 

After getting hit on the shoulder in Japan last fall, Buehrle should be aware of the risks involved in pitching.  Buehrle may still be at the age at which he thinks he is invincible, and the fact that he walked away with just a bruise after that incident might at least subconsciously confirm that to him. 

However, there could be other factors involved.  According to people who know far better than I, Buehrle’s mechanics are excellent.  This means he runs a lot lower risk of shoulder and elbow injuries than a lot of other pitchers.  There is a good chance that Buehrle is aware of this. 

Then there is the actual money involved.  When all was said and done, all Buehrle was guaranteed over the five years of the contract the Sox offered was $11.5 million, much less than half of the $27-million figure that was played up by the media (and the Sox).  Buehrle has to figure that when he becomes eligible for arbitration next year, he can, barring injury, make more over the rest of his tenure with the Sox than $11.5 million.  

The key words though, are “barring injury.”  That is a huge gamble on Buehrle’s part. 

The thing to keep in mind is that none of this has anything to do with Buehrle’s supposed desire to pitch in his old home town of St. Louis.  At least Sox fans who call in sportstalk radio are consistent, though.  They would love to see Frank Thomas traded for shooting off his mouth, too.   

In Buehrle’s case, though, the big thing they seem to forget is that he is under contract to the White Sox for the next four years, regardless of his desires.  That is an important thing to keep in mind.  Buehrle isn’t going anywhere unless he really cleans up in arbitration.  Then the Sox might decide that they can’t afford to keep him any longer and trade him then. 

If that is the scenario that develops, that means that Buehrle will by then be considered one of the top pitchers in the game, and the Sox should be able to pick up anything from help at the major league level to a boatload of prospects, or perhaps both. 

Giddy as a Cubs fan department:  Is it just me, or does this look like a really good year for the Sox?  So far it looks as if Frank Thomas’s time under the tutelage of Walt Hriniak has paid off.  He is killing the ball.  Catching is suspect to be sure, but other areas of concern don’t really bother me.  I actually like Jose Valentin at shortstop, and I like the way he and D’Angelo Jimenez look as a double play combination.  Aaron Rowand should be fine in centerfield with Joe Borchard waiting in the wings.   

The Sox can hit, and this year they have the pitching to go with it.  I can’t say enough (so I’ll just keep doing so until he proves me wrong) that this is going to be Jon Garland’s breakout year.  The tenderness in Danny Wright’s elbow is still a concern, but Esteban Loaiza seems to be ready to fill in for him.   

The only real concern is what happens if Wright’s problems linger into April.  Neither Gil Heredia nor Jon Rauch are pitching well enough to earn the number five spot in the rotation.  And that is a problem.

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 not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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