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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Blame Game!
by Hal Vickery

Itís been a long and not very successful season for the Chicago White Sox, and some of the more vocal fans are laying blame on the most obvious target, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen.† Some of the more inane comments have compared the Sox record this year with that of Gen. Disarray (aka former Sox skipper Jerry Manuel).†

Is this a valid comparison to make?† Only if you consider what each manager had to work with.† Gen. Disarray manage to finish 86-76 last year.† This was with the services of Frank Thomas and Magglio OrdoŮez for the entire season.† †

In 2004 OrdoŮez and Thomas both went down with injuries before the season was half over.† Yet under Guillen, the Sox finished with a record of 83-79.† Thatís three games worse without the Soxí two best hitters for over half the season.† †

Whether or not the Sox could have overtaken the Twins is a matter of conjecture.† Itís hard to know if Thomas and OrdoŮez could have made a ten-game difference.† However, itís pretty obvious that the Sox would most likely have finished better 86-76 with the two sluggers in the lineup.†

Was Guillenís year a success?† By the standard that Sox fans should live by, the answer is an emphatic no.† Thatís because the standard is to at least win the American League championship, and that didnít happen in 2004. †

However, when you look at the injury factor, and the players who were used to replace Thomas and OrdoŮez in the lineup after they went down, to say that Guillen is a bad manager is simply unfair.† †

With the pair of sluggers in the lineup, the Sox were playing winning ball and looked like contenders.† Once they went down, everyone should have known that it was just a matter of time before the Sox would collapse.†

Joe Torre couldnít have prevented this from happening.† Tony LaRussa couldnít have prevented it.† Letís be even more emphatic.† Had Joe McCarthy and Miller Huggins combined forces with Casey Stengel to run the 2004 White Sox, they couldnít have prevented this team from dropping out of contention with the players that were left.†

Play-by-play announcer Hawk Harrelson has attributed the very fact that the Sox finished above .500 to Ozzie Guillen, going so far as to call their performance a tribute to him.† Thatís the other extreme.†

As in most such cases, the truth probably lies somewhere in the middle.† It is impossible to say that the Sox wouldnít have finished with 83 wins with another manager.† Itís impossible to say they wouldnít have done better.† †

Did Guillen make mistakes?† Sure he did.† So does Joe Torre.† Did Guillen make rookie mistakes?† Sure he did.† So does every rookie manager.† Did those mistakes keep the Sox from overtaking the Twins?† No.† †

What did keep the Sox from overtaking the Twins were the key injuries already discussed along with several other factors over which Guillen had no control.† Foremost among those was the fact that this club never had a fifth starter.† Danny Wright was coming off a 2003 season spent mostly on the disabled list.† Once he went down, there was no one in the organization who was ready to pitch at the major league level.† Kenny Williams has said that a pitcher is top priority.†

In addition, the 2004 White Sox were a slow-moving ball club that relied on power.† Guillen and Kenny Williams both say they want to fix that.† Emphasis has been placed on guys who can bunt and steal bases.† Hereís hoping that the Sox will be looking for some players who can get on base in order to have steal or be bunted along.† The Sox donít need any more players who hit .220 with on-base percentages under .300. †Weíve all seen enough of that.†

The Sox are going to have to address several issues this off-season:† offensive balance, a fifth starter, consistent defense, and an upgrade of the bullpen.† The Sox have holes to fill in right field, third base, shortstop, catcher, and in the bullpen.† †

If they somehow manage to fill those holes within whatever budget constraints The Chairman puts on his GM in the name of ďfiscal responsibility,Ē then the Sox might overtake the Twins and up-and-coming teams like the Indians and possibly the Tigers.† It could be a long winter.†

--------

†Fans of the Sox and of WSI, and the three of you (Hi, mom!) who are fans of this column should check out the current issue of the online magazine, Mudville Magazine.† It features extensive quotes from some guy named Vickery along with Scott Reifert of the Sox, Peter Elliott, author-photographer who put together the terrific book Park Life, and Dr. David Fletcher, who has spearheaded the drive to have Buck Weaver reinstated by Major League Baseball.†

Peter Schilling, Jr. is the author of the piece, and he does an excellent job of conveying what it is like to be a Sox fan.† Schilling did get off-track.† He seems to want to believe in curses and apparently thinks the Sox would get more attention if somehow one could be fabricated and fed to the media.† One ďcurseĒ in this town is one too many, let alone having two!†

He also didnít seem to understand that H. Vickeryís law is tongue in cheek.† However, considering that on one of the message boards here at WSI, one contributor flat out told me that I actually believe in it (because, I suppose, he thinks he can read my mind), I guess I can see where he might not understand that point, especially since the column he quoted came several weeks after the telephone interview he had with me.†

Other than that, I can heartily recommend that you read it.† You might just see yourself or people you know.† You can view the article at www.mudvillemagazine.com .


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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