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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Pitching Riches!

by
Guy Bacci

The cruel irony of watching Brandon McCarthy dazzle in Spring Training is that heís a year too late. Such is the fate of Soxdomóduring a season in which the GM obtains five quality major-league arms, a rookie phenom shows up, causing fans to question the veteran rotation. Had Mr. McCarthy been around in í03 or í04, he may have helped the club reach the post-season, or at the very least, spared Sox fans from the everlasting nightmare of Arnie Munoz tossing softballs in Olympic Stadium.

Instead, the astonishingly poised 21-year-old will be baffling Double- or Triple-A batters while Jose Contreras gets lit up like a Christmas tree in the cozy confines of U.S. Cellular Field. All the while, Sox fans will wonder what theyíve done to deserve such misfortune.

On the bright side, McCarthy is an invaluable insurance policy, something that has been notably absent on the Southside in recent years. Depth is crucial to success over a long season. Not only do the Sox suddenly have depth in their rotation, they have depth in the bullpen and depth on the bench. And thatís without a healthy Frank Thomas.

The new roster is one of the reasons why ticket sales are up and Sox fans seem more excited than they have in a while. Nobody is denying that the Twins are still the favorites in the Central, and the Sox could turn out to be the fourth-best team in the division. But they could also turn out to be the best, and thatís what has fans intrigued.

Most importantly, the Sox appear to be a more likeable team for a variety of reasons:

1. Ozzieís settled in.

Jerry Manuel and his inability to communicate with players is a distant memory. Ozzie is well-liked, creating positive vibes throughout the organization. Sox players are on record as saying this yearís team has had more chemistry during Spring Training than in past seasons.

2. International flare.

Watching Shingo and Tadahito play the game with joy and respect has been a pleasure. Toss in El Duque and Contreras, and the Sox suddenly have one of the more global teams in the league.

3. So long K Jose.

Jose Valentin made a lasting impression in many ways, and Sox fans wonít ever forget his clutch three-run homers or heroics against the Cubs. But those constant strikeouts and pathetic swings against left-handed pitchers had to go.

4. No more power outages.

The likes of Magglio Ordonez, Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko and Carlos Lee treated Sox fans to one of the most powerful teams in baseball history over the past few seasons. But the end result was an underachieving ball club. Sox fans have had their fill of homers. Theyíre going to enjoy some speed and clutch hitting for a change. Scott Podsednikís bunts and Tadahito Iguchiís sweet stroke to right field have been the highlights of Tucson.

5. AJ and attitude.

Itíll be nice to have at least one trash-talker for a change. Mix in a foul-mouthed skipper, and the Sox have come a long way from Gandhi Ball.

6. Steroid free.

I donít know how Frank Thomas managed to swing a video conference for the congressional hearing, but it was a great stroke of luck. Sox fans already know Thomas is clean, but the public may not. If Thomas had been sitting alongside Jose Canseco and Mark McGwire, he may have been mislabeled as one of the accused. Instead, most media reports didnít even bother including him as part of the fiasco, and thatís a good thing.

7. Brandon McCarthy.

Oh yeah, then thereís this guy. Heíll get a shot at some point in í05, and it should be interesting to watch. Listening to Jeff Brantley and Steve Stone on the ESPN broadcast last Tuesday, youíd think McCarthy was the next Tom Seaver. After starting the broadcast with non-stop chatter about the reigning MVP Vlad Guerrero, the crew shifted their focus to the young Sox pitcher and didnít stop talking about him, even innings after he had left the game. It was almost creepy listening to a national broadcast treat the Angels as an afterthought and gush over the Sox. (Speaking of the Angels, when they changed their name, why did they stop at Los Angeles? Why not just return to their roots and encompass the entire state of California? Or heck, how about the entire country? Or the planet? Or the galaxy? The Milky Way Galaxy Angels of Planet Earth near Los Angeles in Anaheim. The marketing possibilities are endless.)

The continuing fall from grace for former stars like McGwire and Canseco has baseball fans wanting to look to the future and forget about the past. The future for Sox fans is just a couple weeks away, featuring a brand new club and a different style of play. The experiment may blow up in Kenny Williamsí face, but no matter how it ends up, itíll be fascinating to watch.

Itís time to put Cansecoís book on the shelf and get back to the game. And donít forget to pre-order your McCarthy jersey.


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.

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