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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Deadline Dancing with Kenny!
by Hal Vickery

As this is being written, it is less than twenty-four hours since Kenny Williams made his one pre-deadline trade.  To be frank the trade is a puzzler, at least on the surface.  Why would anyone trade Esteban Loaiza, who is having a bad year, to the Yankees for Jose Contreras, who is having a worse year? 

Dave Wills probably gave the best answer on his post-game show.  The rationale is the same as when Williams traded Keith Foulke for Billy Koch.  Like Foulke at the time of that trade, Loaiza’s contract is up at the end of the season, and like Koch at the time of that trade, Contreras is tied up through the end of next season. 

We can only hope the similarities end there.  Koch was coming off what many perceived as a dynamite season.  Contreras is in the middle of a season in which his ERA has been flirting with 6.00.  This is not a good omen, considering what happened to Koch after the deal.  He blew up when he donned Sox pinstripes.  

There is no room for Contreras to blow up.  However, if he should, Williams will have to hope that next year he finds a sucker…er…team like the Marlins who are willing to gamble on a failure.  Sox fans have to hope that the history of Williams’s pitcher-for-pitcher deals doesn’t repeat itself. 

Look at the record:   

Mike Sirotka for David Wells.  One could say that Williams got the better of the deal that cost Jays GM Gord Ash his job since Sirotka has never pitched in the major leagues since the deal.  However, Wells was a pain in the derriere during his tenure with the Sox, and his ultimate trip to the DL was a merciful end to a sad episode. 

Todd Ritchie for Kip Wells, Josh Fogg, and Sean Lowe.  No one could even claim that Williams knew what he was doing when he made this trade, one criticized immediately afterwards in this column.  At least Williams learned (we hope!) that you don’t trade three arms for Todd Ritchie or any pitcher of his ilk.  Ritchie was an unmitigated disaster before, like David Wells, he ended up on the DL. 

Keith Foulke for Billy Koch.  Foulke is still closing games.  Koch is now with the Marlins less than two years after the deal.  Koch spent part of last year on the DL.  Are we seeing a pattern emerging here? 

Maybe this trade will break the mold, but on the surface at least, it appears that Williams’ Achilles heel is exchanging pitchers.   

That being said, there wasn’t much that Williams could do to patch the hemorrhaging.  The Sox as of this writing are in the midst of a seven game losing streak which has taken them farther from first place than they were at the time of the infamous White Flag Trade.  The loss of Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordoñez has just created too many holes, and the Sox farm system has been laid bare by Williams’ previous attempts over the past two seasons to win now. 

To put it bluntly, Kenny Williams gambled and lost.  Willie Harris may never get it.  A few weeks ago, Sox hitting instructor Greg Walker noted that Harris may appear cocky, but he actually lacks self-confidence.  Players who lack self confidence have problems succeeding in the major leagues. 

People were praising Williams for picking up Juan Uribe in the spring when he was tearing up the league.  We’ve now seen what happens to spring phenoms when they go once around the league.  As Ozzie Guillen put it last June, “If you’re a .250 hitter, you’re going to be a .250 hiiter.”

It all averages out. 

Jose Valentin continues to be streaky.  He also continues to age.  His contract is up at the end of the season.  After his play last week, I wonder if anyone in the Sox front office wants him around next year. 

The three-headed monster behind the plate that was created when Miguel Olivo was traded for Freddy Garcia has been about as productive as any group of three third-string catchers could hope to be. 

Finally, there is right field.  Joe Borchard and Timo Perez are not and never will be Magglio Ordoñez.  Borchard could be the perfect example of the AAAA player:  too good for AAA, not good enough for the bigs. 

So just look at Jose Contreras as being the only remedy available to patch what is very likely a fatal wound.  And for those experts who thought the Sox should trade Ordoñez and find a way to get rid of Thomas, there’s an old adage you need to learn:  “Be careful what you ask for.  You might just get it.” 

-------

I want to apologize to both readers of this column for last week’s suggestion that Williams deal for a starting pitcher.  It was made under the assumption that the Sox would continue playing the small ball they had started playing (yet again) for the two games preceding the writing of the column. 

Obviously the Sox offense has a two-game attention span, because no sooner had I submitted the column, they went back to swinging for the fences for the next six games.  It is now obvious that these guys just don’t get it. 

If that is the case, I think the best thing Ozzie Guillen can do after the season is over is go to Kenny Williams and ask him to blow up this group. 

They haven’t gotten it done in the last four seasons.  It would be fatal to think this group is ever going to do what it takes to win.  There is no reason to even hope that they will finally get it based on their performance last week.


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!

Have a Thought about
Deadline Dancing with Kenny?

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