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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Frigid Hot Stove?

by Guy Bacci

If youíre banking on the White Sox Hot Stove to heat you up this winter, prepare to suffer from frostbite. Temperatures have dropped to below freezing on the Southside, where management has failed to re-sign any free agents, cutting loose Carl Everett, Roberto Alomar, Tony Graffanino and Scott Sullivan. Bartolo Colon and Tom Gordon are also goners, but since they were offered arbitration, the Sox will get a few compensatory draft picks in return.

Thatís a small consolation to a team that is being shown up by its Northshore neighbors. Seemingly out of nowhere, the Cubs are suddenly big-spenders, opening the vault for Latroy Hawkins and Derrek Lee, with Ivan Rodriguez or Javy Lopez possibly next on the list. Amazingly, the Cubs seem to be realizing something the Sox have failed to: When a window of opportunity presents itself, carpe frigginí diem. The Cubs have a solid young pitching staff and an aging star in Sammy Sosa. Kerry Wood is signed through 2004, and thereís no guarantee heíll be back beyond that, so why not try to win it all right now?

Unless youíre the Yankees or Red Sox, you never know when your window is going to close. The White Sox seemingly had a huge window open last season with three potential aces on their pitching staff. All the more reason fans were stunned when the Sox failed to add a few more veterans before the í03 season, and then stuck with their lame-duck manager as the season started to fall apart. Across town, the Cubs spent big bucks on a proven winner to manage their club, while the ownership on the Southside refused to eat Jerry Manuelís salary mid-season.

Now the big question is, what will the Sox brass do to salvage this off-season? There are other smaller questions that should be asked too: Why was Williams so convinced he could re-sign Colon? The rest of us knew back in January that Colon wouldnít be spending more than one season in a Sox uniform. Also, why was Williams convinced he had a verbal agreement with Robbie Alomar for one year at $3 million? A recent front-page WSI article criticized the Sox for being a team that tries to work around agents. I donít think itís unreasonable for management to want to discuss options with players while their agents arenít around, but a GM should be savvy enough to know that whatever the player says doesnít amount to a hill of beans. The agents run the show, so why even bother getting into details with the players?

Williams approached Colon at the end of last season, urging him to have his agent get a deal done. Colonís response was, ďDonít worry about it.Ē Sounds like a brush-off. Now Alomar is claiming Williams was ďunprofessionalĒ when discussing a contract with him in the clubhouse. Williams claims it was a casual conversation, which I tend to believe. Most likely, Williams did not have any malicious intentions, but since the whining Alomar has called him out, Williams should probably chalk it up to a lesson learned. Sweet talk might work when seeking a date, but not when signing a Major League baseball player. You have to give Williams credit for trying to woo players with a tight budget, but letís face it, his tactics arenít working.

My concern is not that the Sox lost all their free agents. Colon is going to be overpaid by the Angels. Gordonís arm could fall off with the Yankees, a la Antonio Osuna. Graffanino was a nice player, but utterly replaceable. Everett really impressed me during his stint with the Sox, but thereís no place for him on the Sox, especially at his price tag. Alomar is a head case who has batted .262 the past two seasons.††

My concern is that Williams spent so much time focused on his free agents, he missed the boat on other players. Why were the Sox such a late entry in the Eddie Guardado sweepstakes? Why werenít they involved in the Latroy Hawkins discussions? Hawkins was one of the best bullpen options on the market. Stealing him away could have bolstered the Sox while weakening the Twins. It would have been the perfect slap-in-the-face signing. Instead, the Sox were focusing on the Colon, Everett, Sullivan, Gordon pipedreams and came away with nothing.

Luckily, thereís still plenty of time to make a splash, but the early signs arenít promising. Sidney Ponson reportedly wants too much money. Ditto Kevin Millwood and Greg Maddux. This could mean Williams will have to deal more prospects to acquire another pitcher, which isnít appealing considering how much young talent was lost last season in the half-hearted attempt to reach the play-offs. Itís starting to feel like the golden opportunity of í03 is long gone, and the Dark Ages are right around the corner.

The Winter Meetings are here giving Williams a chance to give us some hope. The Hot Stove is icing over on 35th Street. Someone better light a match before we all freeze to death.


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back.† He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player.† His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay).† Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

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