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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Pitching Follies!

It'sís always very dangerous to make generalizations. They usually come back to haunt you. But the events over the past few days are making things pretty clear as to the state of the White Sox pitching staff. Itís time (no pun intended) to take a hard look at some things and to try to make some conclusions.

To begin with a large number of Sox fans, (and many here at WSI) have been stating in every way possible that it was ludicrous and worse, negligent, of the Sox organization to "assume" that all of the injured pitchers were going to come back and pitch like they did before getting hurt.

The Major Leagues are full of pitchers (Matt Morris, Kerry Wood, Jason Bere ect.) and players who had serious surgery. That list clearly shows it take longer, in some cases two years, before a player can regain the same speed, and movement on his pitches. The Cardinals had Morris pitch out of the bullpen in 2000 because they feared that too much too soon would cripple his development and his mind to the point where his career could be over. The results of this wisdom were obvious last season as Morris became the staff ace, an All Star and one of the top pitchers in the National League.

Compare this with the White Sox who were willing to risk an important season, perhaps a significant one in the future of the franchise in Chicago, on the cut up arms of Barcelo, Wunsch, Parque, Osuna, and Rauch. Not to mention Bob Howry who showed last year he wasnít right.

What you have now with less then two weeks to go is a staff that leads the majors in the worst ways possible, ERA and walks allowed, and letís not forget theyíve also made more errors then anybody else. Hmmmmm, letís see... walks, errors and pitchers getting hammered... not a recipe is it for even winning the weakest division in baseball.

For those out there who say "itís only Spring training it doesnít matter..." consider this. Was it simply chance that the Sox had the best Spring records in all of baseball in 1983 and 1993? Do those years mean anything to you?

Granted the air is thinner, the feel of the ball tougher and the ability to make a pitch break is harder in Arizona, but guess what, you think itís easy to pitch in band boxes like Baltimore, Boston, Minnesota and Tampa Bay? Do you expect these guys to suddenly turn it on when April hits. Do you think theyíll suddenly get five more miles on the fastball? And while we are on the subject, "light air" or not, the Aís have a staff ERA of under four.. Last I looked their "canít miss kids" ARE able to pitch in the desert.

People forget that the Sox pitching staff has been in shambles since July 15, 2000 when Cal Eldred walked off the Comiskey Park mound suffering from what team doctors called "a strain in his elbow, possibly a damaged ligament." they werenít even close to the mark on that one were they? Thatís a season and a half and what has the organization done in that time? When they needed pitching in 2000, they traded for a catcher and a DH. When pitchers were dropping like flies last season, the best they could do is get guys like Alan Embree and Bill Pulsipher. This past off season they trade three pitchers for one. One of the guys they traded, Sean Lowe sure would look good right now wouldnít he? Iím not saying they shouldnít have acquired Todd Ritchie, what Iím saying is they should have traded more of the "canít miss kids" instead of Lowe, since White Sox "canít miss kids" never CAN! (With the possible exception of Mark Buehrle and in my opinion, the jury is STILL out on him)

Letís face it, the Sox "canít miss kids" collectively havenít made anybody forget the Aís "canít miss kids" or the Astros or Angels or Mariners.

Things have reached the point where Jerry Manuel had this to say in the March 19th edition of the Chicago Tribune. It was in response to a question asking if the Sox needed to trade for some pitching."When a guy like Howry doesnít perform it puts a strain on us, to be honest. If heís not the guy he can be, he needs to get it worked out. We have to do what we have to do to get it fixed. If heís not right that puts a strain on us to dig a little deeper, so in that sense yes (a trade is advisable.")

Now multiply that "strain" by Barcelo, Parque, Wunsch and perhaps Osuna and you see what the Sox are facing. Think itís easy to pick up three or four pitchers with two weeks to go? Think Jerry Reinsdorf will open the checkbook so that it can happen?? And thatís not even the scariest part.

The scariest part is the guy who has to MAKE the trades, is the guy who brought you David Wells, and Sandy Alomar Junior. Heís the guy who traded for the WRONG player in the James Baldwin giveaway. Heís the guy who refused to deal Aaron Rowland for Cory Lidle and Bobby Howry for Eric Gagne. Heís the guy who gave guaranteed two year contract extensions to Osuna right before he blew out his arm, and to Howry despite the fact that he clearly had major troubles last year. That means even less money is going to be available to try to correct all the damage.

But maybe things will right themselves on their own, in the next two weeks. I mean it can happen canít it? Sure it can... like pigs can fly and the Cubs will win the National League pennant!

As always your comments, questions or thoughts are always appreciated. E-mail me at

Editor's Note: †Mark Liptak is an experienced sports journalist, holding several awards for both his electronic and print media work. †He has held numerous sports reporting positions for various TV and newspaper†organizations, including Director of Sports for KNOE-TV (Monroe, Louisiana)†and KPVI-TV (Pocatello, Idaho), and sports writer for the Idaho Falls Free Press, where his column "Lip Service" has appeared for for a number of years. †"Lip", his wife, and cats presently live in Chubbuck, Idaho, where they collectively comprise 100 percent of the Pocatello River Valley's long-time Sox Fan population. †

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