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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Finally--The Games Count!
by Hal Vickery

Finally the games will count!† Itís what weíve all been longing for since the we watched the Diamondbacks took it to the Yankees all the way back in October.† Baseball is back!†

This is the time of year all kinds of columns are devoted to predictions, but that wonít happen here.† Iíve already embarrassed myself too many times and paid out too many donations of $2.00 to fellow members of the White Sox message board on AOL to make these kinds of things public anymore.†

Okay, I predicted that the Sox will finish first in the AL Central and go 90-72.† You dragged it out of me.† But thatís as far as I go.†

Besides, there are just too many question marks on this club to have any kind of firm basis to make predictions.† There are as many questions unanswered at the end of spring training than there are at the end of an episode of a daytime soap opera, and the question marks start with the manager.†

Ozzie Guillen has been like a breath of fresh air after a half-dozen seasons of Gen. Disarray.† Híe run a camp that stressed fundamentals if all the quotes are to be believed, and heís kept the club loose.† Tucson became Camp Ozzie for six weeks or so.†

But now Guillen will have to show what he can do when a championship is on the line.† Exhibitions are one thing.† Now every move he makes counts.† Some were quick to predict disaster the moment Guillen was hired.† I think that if he has the horses, Ozzie can be a great manager.†

Thatís the second question, though.† With the inaction of the Sox since the departure of all of their free agents after last season, do the Sox actually have the ability to win a weak division, and if they do, can they advance?†

I really donít know at this point, but Iím far more pessimistic about this than I am about the manager.† The Sox starting rotation is a huge question mark, except for the exclamation point that is Mark Buehrle.† Now that heís settled in with a long-term contract, Buehrle should be fine.† Beyond that, who knows?†

Can Esteban Loaiza repeat, or has the league figured out his cutter?† Will Jon Garland finally have his breakout year?† (If I were making predictions, this would be the third consecutive year Iíd be predicting that he will.).† Scott Schoeneweis?† His spring performance was abysmal.† Was it because he was working on new pitches, or was it because he can only go through the batting order once before the other team figures him out?† Was Danny Wrightís spring training a promise of good things to come, or will he continue to have control problems.†

Then there is the bullpen.† Can Billy Koch compensate for a loss in velocity by learning to control his pitches, or will he be slapped around like he was last year?† Can Shingo Takatsu beat major league hitters with an 80 mph fastball?† Whatís wrong with Kelly Wunsch?† Can he come back?† Will the bullpen crew be able to hold a lead, assuming our starters actually hold down the opposition?†

You would hope that there would be fewer questions about the everyday players, but thatís just not the case.† The biggest question mark is first baseman Paul Konerko.† Will he be able to put together two good half-seasons in the same full season, or will he look like the guy who slumped miserably between the 2002 and 2003 All-Star Games?†

Can Willie Harris hit major league pitching?† Will Jose Valentin slow down at age 35?† Will he be ever be able to hit left handed pitchers?† Was it really a virus that hurt Joe Credeís offensive numbers last year?† †

Will Carlos Lee flourish if heís not protecting Frank Thomas?† Will Thomas be a decent cleanup hitter?† Will Magglio OrdoŮez ground into fewer double plays in the three hole?† Is Aaron Rowand really an everyday centerfielder?†

For the answers to these and other questions tune in Monday for another exciting and gut-wrenching season of ďDays of Our White Sox.Ē


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 hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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Baines the Bench Coach?

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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