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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

No Ownership Imagination!
by Hal Vickery

Lots of people have tried to dissect the disaster that the Sox 2004 season has turned out to be.  The answer really is pretty simple.  Injuries took out the two best players on this club before the season was half over and there were too many holes on the roster to compensate for it. 

This should send a message to Kenny Williams, and more importantly to The Chairman.  You can’t try to make it to the postseason with a roster that is full of holes and a payroll that is little better than that of a medium market club. 

The Sox are in the third largest market in the country.  They now are part owners of the cable TV network that will be airing a hundred of their games in 2005.  Only their collapse after the injuries to Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordoñez prevented them from drawing well over 2 million fans this year.   

The problem is that the ownership of this club has no imagination.  They have never gotten it, although The Chairman has paid lip service to a fact of life for years.  Sox fans come out if they have a winner to cheer for.  When the Sox were battling for first place with the Twins, they were on a pace to beat the 2 million-fan barrier.  Now they will fall short again because they just didn’t have the guns to overcome injuries to Thomas and Ordoñez. 

The Chairman still doesn’t get the old adage, you have to spend money to make money.  Put a team on the field that isn’t full of holes and is capable of contending, and the fans will come out. 

The key is to spend that money wisely.  We’ve seen enough of the Robbie Alomars and Carl Everetts of the world.  We need players who have a chance to be difference makers, not some worn-out retreads. 

The Sox’ direct competition for fans is now spending in excess of $90 million on their payroll.  They have made it to the second round of playoffs, something the Sox have never done.  They will probably make it to the playoffs this year, something we can’t do while playing in the weakest division in baseball. 

Once again the fans demonstrated what we’ve been saying in this column since its inception:  Put a winner on the field, and Sox fans will come out. 

The thing The Chairman still has to learn is that to have a winner, you have to have depth and balance.  The 2004 Sox were built around a bunch of slow-footed sluggers and mediocre pitchers.   

The 2005 Sox need to be balanced.  It’s not an either or situation.  It’s not a choice between “small ball” and sluggers.  A good team has some of both.  The Sox this year don’t.  They need strong pitching.  Jon Garland right now is no better than a fifth starter.  Jose Contreras is at best a number four.  Jason Grilli is not the answer, despite recent comments by Kenny Williams, who remains just one move (or non-move) away from re-earning the title Prof. Chaos

People have pointed to the Sox defense as being “not that bad.”  I went to the Twins game last Monday.  They made our defense look sick.  The defense needs to be upgraded. 

As we’ve mentioned a couple of times in this column, we’ve been watching the Kane County Cougars all season.  They are part of the A’s farm system.  It was fun watching them play.  They are taught to think about situational hitting.  They played decent defense most of the time.  (In fact they have a third baseman from the Chicago suburbs named Vasili Spanos who could develop into a terrific third baseman.)  They won’t promote a position player until his walks-to-at bats ratio is 1:10.  They had terrific pitching, although few of their pitchers made it above the high 80s on the radar gun. 

They played well enough to make it to the final game of the Midwest League Championship Series.  The A’s have been in the thick of their division races for years now.  Still, they have talent that good in their low-level Class A team. 

Perhaps the Sox need to quit ridiculing Billy Beane and start looking at what he does right.  One of those things is to actually use the minor leagues to teach the A’s prospects how to play the game properly.  The A’s consistently put out a well balanced club for a reason.  The Sox don’t for a reason.  It’s time to take a hard look at both reasons and act accordingly. 

--------

 We were listening to the radio Saturday and happened to catch a commercial on Chuck Schaden’s “Those Were the Days” old-time radio program for an outfit that makes picture frames.  They were describing some memorabilia that a client had them make a display for featuring an autographed ball, game ticket, and photograph they had received from a prominent member of the Chicago White Sox. 

What member of the club earned such admiration that they had such a display made?  None other than Sox organist Nancy Faust. 

Are you listening, Brooks Boyer?


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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