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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Sox Mess!

by
Guy Bacci
 

Such is the state of White Sox baseball that off-seasons have become nearly as intriguing as regular seasons. So Sox fans will eagerly shelve away this lousy 2004 campaign, which finally ended in Kansas City, and look forward to another roller-coaster winter, where Kenny Williams is sure to set the Hot Stove ablaze.

 

Let’s just hope he doesn’t burn down the house.

 

Or, maybe burning down the house is precisely what needs to happen.

 

Who knows anymore what direction the Sox are headed in, or where they even should be headed, for that matter. There have been so many stray comments emitted from Williams and Ozzie Guillen that Sox fans are left scratching their heads and wondering if either the GM or the manager have any clue how to proceed.

 

From Guillen, we’ve simultaneously heard praise and harsh criticism for young second baseman Willie Harris. We’ve heard Guillen claim he wants to restructure the lineup with fresh faces, yet we’ve heard him handing out ’05 starting jobs to Juan Uribe, Ben Davis and Ross Gload.

 

Further complicating the matter, Williams has targeted “pitching” as his main off-season priority, while concurrently suggesting Jason Grilli (rocked on Saturday for six runs against the Royals) could suffice as the team’s fifth starter. Williams has also stated that he wants his team to stop constantly swinging for the fences, while quickly pointing out that U.S. Cellular is a homer-friendly ballpark that the Sox must conform to.

 

Baffled yet?

 

Compounding the problem is that Sox fans have no idea how to gauge the real status of Magglio Ordonez. Williams has waffled on that issue, too. Ordonez was reportedly miffed when Williams publicly stated that Magglio wasn’t healing as expected. Williams suddenly backtracked, reporting that Ordonez was, actually, coming along just fine.

 

Let’s face it, the Sox are a mess—it’s enough to make you want to clean house all over again, bring in a new GM with a fresh philosophy, along with a manager who has some experience. And while we’re dreaming, an owner who doesn’t mind spending a few bucks.

 

If you want to enflame your envy, just look at the Anaheim Angles, whose owner, Arte Moreno, forked over truckloads of money to nab several big-name free agents. Moreno was rewarded on Saturday with a division title. (Rumor has it that Moreno is planning on cutting salary next year, but at least he emptied his pockets for one season—that’s one season more than current Sox ownership has ever committed to.)

 

The Houston Astros are another team to be jealous of—don’t they remind you of the ’03 White Sox? A team that had high hopes and all the talent in the world, only to drop far behind at the start of the season. Amazingly, the Astros dumped their lame-duck manager and turned their season around. They are likely winners of the NL Wild Card, to the chagrin of our pals up north. If Sox management wasn’t so stubborn and cheap, maybe Jerry Manuel would have been canned in ’03; maybe a fiery manager could have inspired that talented group to reach the playoffs.

 

Maybe, maybe, maybe. That’s all Sox fans ever have. A few what ifs, a handful of maybes, and wait ‘til next year.

 

Next year, as it turns out, is not looking so pretty. Juan Uribe at shortstop? Ross Gload at first base? Does that mean Konerko gets traded? Must we deal with Crede for another year? Is Harris the second baseman, or isn’t he? Grilli the fifth starter?

 

Headache-inducing questions, all of them. Worst of all, it’s unclear as to the type of player Guillen is really looking for. Sox fans would love to hear that Williams is going to seek high-OBP players who know how to draw a walk. But he’s never said that. Heck, he traded away a prospect (Jeremy Reed) who has a tremendous eye, in favor of a prospect who solely swings from his heels (Joe Borchard). Meanwhile, Guillen keeps focusing on speed and defense, but neither speed nor defense was a huge problem for the Sox this year. When you consider Aaron Rowand, Harris, Uribe, Carlos Lee and a healthy Ordonez, the Sox have decent wheels in the lineup.

 

What they don’t have is a bullpen, a fifth starter, or an infield that can hit their collective weight.

 

Adding to the agony is that local headlines are officially up for grabs. No longer are the Cubs so loveable. Shockingly, Cub fans have acted downright Southside-ish as they watched their whiny ball club deteriorate down the stretch. There were more boos in Wrigley Field this season than in the past twenty years combined. Northsiders and the media have shared a growing dislike for the complainin’ Cubbies.

 

Yet all Sox fans can do is sigh. How sweet would a Southside play-off appearance have been in a year when all the focus was on the Cubs’ assured trip to the World Series? After so many years of Frank Thomas and Jerry Reinsdorf being labeled as enemies of Chicago, what if the Sox had become the cool team to root for, and the Cubs had become the bad guys?

 

What if. So many what ifs.

 


Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back.  He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player.  His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay).  Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at guybacci@yahoo.com.

More features from Guy Bacci here!

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