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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Another Lineup hole to fill!
by Hal Vickery

In the wake of the second trip of Magglio Ordoñez to the disabled list for up to eight weeks, the White Sox went on a winning streak this week and reached the 10-games-over-.500 plateau for the first time this season.  This has already led to statements about the 2004 season being “magical.” 

I really do hate to be the one who puts a damper on things, but I have to.  There is no such thing as magic, John Sebastian and the Lovin’ Spoonful notwithstanding.  Let’s take a hard look at reality here. 

The Sox have lost their number 3 and number 4 hitters, most likely through at least mid-September.  That means the “magic” is going to have to continue for at least another two months.  That kind of magic is highly unlikely. 

This means that Sox GM Kenny Williams (who quickly lost the title of Prof. Chaos within two hours after having it bestowed upon him last week by making the Carl Everett deal) really needs to make another trade. 

There has been some debate about what kind of player Williams needs to trade for.  Some people who follow the club have pointed out that Scott Schoeneweis has been extremely uneven, that Jon Garland still lacks the consistency everyone would like him to have, and that Esteban Loaiza’s own “magic” has apparently worn off for the duration.  Their conclusion is that the Sox need another starting pitcher to shore things up in that department. 

Just as many knowledgeable people look at the loss of Ordoñez and Thomas and say, “You have to do something to replace the loss of hitting.”  Williams took care of part of that problem when he brought back Carl Everett from the Expos in exchange for Jon Rauch and Gary Majewski.  However, those supporting the addition of another hitter ask a pertinent question:  “Do you really think Joe Borchard is the answer?” 

After listening to both sides of the issue, about all one can do is waffle.  That is a huge hole in the Sox lineup, and the Sox have gotten as far as they have with a potent offense.  As the offense goes, so go the Sox.  Their longest losing streaks have come not from the failure of their pitching, but by a power outage. 

On the other hand, if the goal is in fact to go as far as possible in the playoffs, then a deal for a front-line pitcher makes a whole lot more sense.  In the post-season, it is usually the club with the dominant pitching staff that wins, not the team with the big thumpers.  Thus, they argue, the Sox need to go after a frontline starter. 

Assuming Williams can’t go after both, what should he do? 

I think the answer is obvious, but that’s because I grew up in the ‘50s watching the Go-Go Sox.  Williams has to go after a frontline pitcher.  Schoeneweis should go to the bullpen, and if he doesn’t appreciate going to the post-season in that roll, then he should be shown the door as part of the deal. 

The Sox have enough hitting to take the AL Central.  With another starter, and again, he needs to be the best one available, the Sox have a far better chance of advancing in the playoffs. 

I think that too many people are discounting Borchard, too.  He has hit well enough at AAA Charlotte, to deserve a legitimate shot, and this should be his chance to get it.  It’s time to find out if this guy – he’s certainly no longer a kid – can hold his own, especially with the possibility that Ordoñez will be playing elsewhere next year. 

Another thing to remember is that Joe Crede seems to be a second-half hitter.  His bat has started to come alive after the All-Star Break.  The same thing happened last year.  That alone can help fill the void of losing Ordoñez.   

Finally, and most importantly, is that the Sox hitters finally seem to have gotten the message that if they rely solely on the home run, they’re not going anywhere.  The Sox pulled back ahead of Minnesota with a balanced attack.  Sure it included the home run, but it also included bunting and the use of the hit-and-run. 

As long as the Sox players remember this (and in the past they’ve had very short memories about this sort of thing), they will be just fine offensively.  

So if Kenny Williams is going to make a trade before Saturday, he needs to be thinking about pitching.  That’s what will carry the Sox the farthest.   

As for “magic”, leave that to Marshall Brodine.  The Sox will win with a combination of pitching and a balanced offense.


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.

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