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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Good Things about 2004
by Hal Vickery

As the Sox season sputters to an ignominious end, and the nerves of Sox fans fray with each additional loss, maybe we can find a few good things to have come out of the train wreck that is the 2004 season.  Maybe…. 

One thing we saw is that while the heart of the lineup was still in tact, Ozzie Guillen was able put together a winning record between April and June.  This is something that Gen. Disarray was unable to do between 2001 and 2003.  In fact, the one season in which the general’s record was better than mediocre, 2000, that was exactly what the Sox did.   

Unfortunately for the general, the lesson he learned from that experience was that April through June is not important, and that that was the time to experiment with various lineups.  Guillen’s philosophy was the antithesis of this, and the Sox for the first time in years looked like a contender before August. 

Some might consider this a bad thing, but that’s in the eyes of the beholder:  Kenny Williams finally learned how many holes there are in this club.  Those holes are due to players who cannot get on base to set up the club’s big guns, players who can’t execute fundamental baseball, players who don’t know anything about situational hitting, etc. 

Guillen came close last week to calling several of his players dummies.  He finally stated in public what several of us have been saying for several years.  These guys don’t have baseball sense.  Kenny Williams, formerly known as Prof. Chaos, has been echoing Ozzie’s sentiments lately.  One can hope that this will lead to the Sox acquiring players who actually do have some baseball smarts, who can execute, and who know what to do in any given situation. 

If anything, this is an indictment of the Sox scouting and minor league coaching.  How many players have we seen come up through the Sox farm system and succeed in recent years?  Are their scouts who look at these players in high school and college that bad, or are these good players who are inadequately coached in the Sox organization? 

It has been a long time since the cronyism that was a part of the Sox minor league coaching staff a few years ago has been discussed.  Back then, it seemed that the number one criterion for getting a coaching job with the Sox was to be an old buddy of the General Manager.  Perhaps we’re reaping the “benefits” of that system now.  If that’s the case, perhaps the Sox need to address it and make changes. 

A couple of years ago a source told me that one of the Sox low minor league affiliates had been performing terribly, so bad in fact that several community leaders complained to Williams about the situation.  As a result, that club was stocked with some of the Sox better players and suddenly their record improved tremendously.   

The question, of course, is “at what cost?”  In particular, did this move to placate angry community members disrupt the player development?  One of the basic tenets of minor league ball is that won-lost records are secondary to player development.  Perhaps by looking down to the minor leagues and seeing no one on the way to fill the holes on the parent club is a good thing.  Perhaps the Sox will address the shambles of their minor league system and take this opportunity to build one that actually produces players who can make it in the major leagues. 

The failures of the Jon Rauches, Joe Borchards, Joe Credes, and others this year show a minor league system that is apparently substandard.  Something must be done to address this, and it needs to be done now.   

If these problem still exists and it is recognized and dealt with, it will be a definite plus for the White Sox 

--------

One of the best things to come out of the 2004 season, though, hasn’t happened on the field, where you actually have to strain to find anything good (as the preceding portion of this column so aptly demonstrates).  Instead, the best good thing to come out of the season is the return from exile of White Sox organist Nancy Faust. 

Under the “leadership” of former marketing director Rob Gallas, Nancy’s role with the club diminished to the point where most of the “sound effects” during Sox at bats were pre-recorded.  Gallas seemed to be trying to replace her with an embarrassment named Joe Stephen, who became the Sox “DJ.”  This plan fizzled when Stephen incurred the wrath of an opposing pitcher for playing inappropriate music and was let go. 

The music became so loud that you couldn’t carry on a conversation with the person next to you without shouting.  On the other hand, when Nancy was allowed to play, mostly in the hour before game time, and during opponents’ at bats, the volume was turned down so low that she was nearly inaudible. 

Fortunately this has seemed to change.  Nancy seems to be playing more during Sox at bats, particularly in trying to egg Sox fans on when the offense gets men on base.  The volume in now loud enough where she can be heard “loud and clear” taunting opposing batters with her musical puns.   

If this is a preview of Nancy’s future role with the Sox, we enthusiastically support this expanded role, and hope Brooks Boyer can find even more ways to employ the creativity and wit of the person who is widely regarded as the best organist in baseball.


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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