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WSI's FLYINGSOCK.COM.  Chicago White Sox coverage with totally biased attitude!

Clues to the '02 Sox

by George Bova

“I look at this club and we are going to have some pretty significant additions to next year’s club.”

--Sox GM Kenny Williams, October, 2001

Whatever else you can say about Kenny Williams, Sox Fans, be sure to credit him with a strong sense of reality, too. Among all the disasters to befall the rookie GM his first eleven months on the job, Williams is man enough to admit the grade he gives himself is an “F”. Can’t argue with that, can we Sox Fans?

First was the embarrassment of wandering aimlessly around hotel lobbies trying to get a private audience with Alex Rodriguez. Then came the acquisition of Antonio Osuna who Williams then signed to a three-year contract extension only to learn days later he had a torn labrum. Who can forget the mother of all embarrassments, mistaking Jon Berry with Jeff Barry--a mistake made to the very man who was passed over for Kenny Williams’ job? Oh yeah, this season has been an unmitigated disaster for Kenny.

Did the acquisition of Julio Ramirez improve the club? Not back in April and May when the club could sure have used Jeff Abbott’s bat while the new centerfielder batted .067.

Did the acquisition of minor league catcher Miguel Olivo improve the team’s prospects for the future? Perhaps, but we sure missed Chad Bradford when everyone in the bullpen was pulling up lame or getting drafted into the starting rotation.

Did the acquisition of David Wells help the team? No, unless you count the positive influence he has been credited for by no less than new staff ace Mark Buehrle. Certainly Wells contributed more this season than his “shouldergate” opposite, Mike Sirotka, did for Toronto. Future seasons will likely tell a different tale.

What about Royce Clayton? Even Kenny Williams admits Clayton was acquired strictly to be turned around and traded again. It turns out nobody was willing to make a deal with the Sox. Apparently the other general managers aren’t as stupid as our guy. If they had wanted Clayton, they could have dealt directly with Texas. Given this fact, the best Williams could have expected was equal value from other teams, which raises the question, “Why do this in the first place?”

Whatever the case, Clayton was abysmal for the first two months of the season, came alive in August when Williams himself made comments indicating Clayton wouldn’t be back, and finally pushed his season batting average to above his career average, .263.  For fewer errors, the Sox got a guy who turns fewer double-plays, and can’t be counted on to bat higher than #8 in the line up. Discounting the avalanche of reports of trouble in his clubhouse demeanor (both attributed directly and indirectly to Clayton), he delivered mixed results (at best) for our 2001 Sox.

What to make of Williams’ statement that “significant additions” will be made to next year’s club?  For Sox Fans conditioned by 85 years of waiting, there is good reason to fear what Williams will do next.  Lord knows this franchise has no history of improving itself except by chance.  Now Kenny wants us to believe the club will be improved by design?  Sox Fans, that’s a hard one to swallow.

It doesn’t look good until you consider the alternative: standing pat.  Can the Chicago White Sox honestly expect to repeat the feat of winning 95 games last year by simply fielding again the 2001 team that won 83 games, albeit after stumbling to a 14-29 start?

Can we expect young staff ace Mark Buehrle to lead our pitching staff on a championship-caliber club?   If he does, it will be the first time since the Braves did it with youngsters like Glavine and Smoltz.

Can we expect the injured Frank Thomas to return to the form that made him our generation's Ted Williams for eight consecutive seasons in the 90’s?  If he does he’ll have to avoid the form of 1998-99 that made him the biggest goat on the team this side of Jaime Navarro.

Are all these pitchers returning from shoulder surgery, Parque, Barcelo, and Wunsch, (to name just three), to be expected to return to 2000 form their first season back.  To do so would defy conventional wisdom and medical science.

Most of all, should we expect the 2002 Sox to simply regain the 200 runs scored which were lost by the 2001 versus the championship club that preceded them?  A twenty percent decline is no fluke; it's a problem.  By standing pat we’re about to start a centerfielder, a shortstop, and a catcher who made it nearly impossible for the 2001 team to ever turn over the line up.  Sox Fans rightly regard the bottom of their order as a sinkhole.

There is no way we Sox Fans should expect the 2002 team to approach the level of success achieved by the 2000 club, let alone dream they will bring us a world championship, unless significant additions are made to the 2001 club.  To think otherwise is to deny reality.  Give Kenny Williams credit.  He understands this much.

Is Kenny Williams the guy to fix the holes and deliver the promise made by Sox management following the 2000 championship, embodied in the ill-fated 2001 marketing campaign, “It’s Time!”?  For Sox Fans, that’s the toughest question of all to ponder.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.  You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

More features from George Bova here!

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