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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Sox Fans' Roller Coaster

What a ride 2003 has been!

The roller coaster ride continues: 

•  It’s hard to believe that it has been only a year since Kenny Williams watch as GM of the Sox appeared to be an utter catastrophe.  That just goes to show how quickly things can change in baseball. 

A year ago Todd Ritchie was on the DL, and it was obvious that the Williams had been snookered by the Pirates into giving up at least two good arms for less than one.  Now the praise for Williams acquisition of Scott Sullivan from the Reds is unanimous.  The trade is being lauded as the move that will put the Sox over the top in their quest for an AL Central Division title. 

You have to give credit to Williams for trying.  I don’t think any of his critics ever said otherwise, but the problem is that so many of his big deals have failed.  Even the two big acquisitions before the 2003 season haven’t really panned out.  With Billy Koch on the DL after pitching poorly for most of the spring and summer while Keith Foulke has racked up eight wins and thirty-three saves with the A’s (as this is written), that deal so far has been another major disaster.  The recent acquisitions of the two Scotts (Schoeneweis and Sullivan) have been necessitated these trades. 

Similarly the trade that brought Bartolo Colon sent Rocky Biddle and his 30 saves (up to now) to the Expos.  Colon has had what can charitably be called a sub-par year.  It hasn’t been a disaster, but I don’t think Williams was bargaining on getting a .500 pitcher in the deal. 

Fortunately, that was offset by the emergence of Esteban Loaiza from non-roster invitee in spring training to ace of the pitching staff through August.  It turns out that Loaiza’s sub-.500 lifetime record can be at least partially explained by the fact that the Blue Jays never allowed him to throw that wicked cutter of his in games, even though he continued to practice throwing it.  The Sox deserve praise for letting him pitch his way. 

Add to that the earlier trades for Roberto Alomar and Carl Everett, and the Sox have suddenly emerged as the team to beat in the AL Central. 

•  Of course that begs the question, “Well, what took them so long?”  If you’ve been reading this column for any length of time, you can answer that question without any prompting. 

Although Gen. Disarray has toned down his tinkering a bit, he still has no instinct when it comes to handling his pitching staff.  Even in a winning streak, he still manages to somehow screw up.  Take last Wednesday’s game against the Angels. 

Loaiza did not have his best stuff, but had held the Angels to just one run while the Sox had scored four.  When he came out in the top of the seventh, Loaiza quickly gave up three singles, the last driving in a walk, and then walked the next batter to load the bases.  This put the tying run on second and the lead run on first.  It was then that Gen. Disarray finally decided that it was time to pull Loaiza. 

Fortunately Damaso Marte was perfect.  After a sacrifice fly to make the score 4-3 and another fly out put the tying run on third base, Marte struck out Scott Spezio looking to end the inning.  Anything less than perfection by Marte, and Loaiza would have been looking at best at a no-decision. 

•  I’d like to say that I’m optimistic about the Sox chances at this point, but the best I can do is say I’m cautiously optimistic.  There are two things that bother me right now:  the Sox’ remaining schedule and their road record. 

After their 1-5 record on their last road trip against Anaheim and Texas, you just have to wonder how they’re going to do in their six-game trip against the Yankees and the Tigers.  I almost said, “especially the Tigers,” since the Sox are the only team in the American League that the Tigers are playing as much as .500 ball against.   

After facing the Red Sox for two games, the Indians for three and the Twins for four games on their next homestand, the Sox then travel to Boston for three and to the Twinkiedome for another three.  Then it’s home for the last time to play the Royals and Yankees for three games each.  They finish the season with four games in Kansas City.   

That’s a tough schedule against tough teams for the most part.  And most of their road games are against tough teams, or at least teams the Sox have struggled against this year. 

Meanwhile, the defending division champions from Minnesota have a much easier schedule.  They next go on the road for three games each against the Angels and Rangers.  Then they turn around and face the same two teams for three games each at home.  After their four games at The Cell, they head to Cleveland for four more games. 

Next they host the Sox for three and then stay at home for three more games against the Tigers and two against the Indians.  While the Sox and Royals battle it out in Kansas City, the Twins are ending their season in Detroit. 

The Royals also have it easier than the Sox for the last month of the season.  This week they start a six-game homestand, three games against the Rangers and three against the Angels.  They next hit the road for three games in Texas before coming home for a makeup interleague game against Arizona.  Then it’s off to Anaheim for three more games.   

After that, the schedule gets a lot easier, except for their games against the White Sox (or so we hope).  After a three-game homestand against the Indians, the Royals travel to Detroit for four games and to Cleveland for three games before coming to The Cell for three.  The Royals finish the season at home, facing the Tigers for three before their final Series against the Sox. 

Looking at the schedule, it kind of makes you wish, Jerry Manuel had spent a lot less time tinkering in April, May, and June, and a lot more time on winning games. 

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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