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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Repeat the Feat?
by Hal Vickery

Some thoughts as the old year goes out and the new year comes inÖ.

ēDoes anybody need any more confirmation that Kenny Williams is looking to repeat in 2006 after the signing of Jon Garland? Wednesdayís signing has just about guaranteed that the Sox once again will have the strongest starting rotation in the American League.

Signing Garland after his breakout year was important. Garland, despite being arbitration eligible, just turned twenty-six in September. He is entering what should be the prime of his career. If his prime is anywhere near his 2005 performance, then itís a good thing the Sox have in signed for three more years.

Right now, if Kenny Williams makes no further deals, the Sox could place any of the following pitchers in the starting rotation: Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Garland, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, and Brandon McCarthy. Of these, the only starter the Sox donít have locked in past the 2006 season is Contreras.

There are no guarantees in baseball, however. Even though the Sox no longer have Orlando Hernandez and his chronic arm problems to worry about, there is always the risk of injury. McCarthy, especially during his call-up the last half of the 2005 season, showed why the Sox think heís going to be something special.

Still, if youíre Kenny Williams, you have to be thinking that one of the front five might come down with an injury or falter in some other way. So, despite the fact that Contreras is on the last year of his deal originally made with the Yankees, donít expect to see him dealt by Williams. Instead, look for Williams to either start McCarthy in the minors again or have him in the bullpen as insurance.

(Now watch Williams do just the oppositeÖ.)

ē Something Iím a lot surer of as 2005 comes to the end is that there can never be another season like this in my lifetime. For one thing, Iíll be turning fifty-six in March, and I donít expect to live anywhere near another eighty-eight years. So even if I live to a ripe old age, and the Sox never win another World Series, I wonít live to see anything like 2005.

It was amazing to read the dedications on the message boards here to deceased family members who had never seen the Sox win a World Series during their lifetimes. My dad was born just days after the end of the 1919 World Series, so he was born after the last World Series Champion before this year. He died ten years ago in May. My grandfather, born in 1889, saw the last World Series champion team when he was twenty-eight. This year he would have been 116 years old. Thatís how long it has been.

So there is no way I will ever see anything like 2005 in my lifetime. The generations that have passed between champions guarantees that.

ē Some optimists think that this might just be the start of the White Sox taking Chicago, a town the club once owned, back. You have to admit, it sure looked like half the state of Illinois was either watching the victory parade or at the rally downtown back in October.

Certainly this was the year that the Sox won back the part of the fan base that has deserted them over the past decade or two. Then there were the bandwagon jumpers, those people who love to back a winner. Theyíve come into the fold.

But Jerry Reinsdorf if nothing else is a smart man. He has said all along that winning will bring back the fans, but he has also been careful to add that the only way the Sox will keep them is to remain competitive for years to come.

Thatís why it was so important that Kenny Williams not stand pat with 2005ís winning team. The Sox need to put together several seasons in which they not only make the playoffs but also advance in them. Another World Series Championship couldnít hurt.

If they can do that, then the Sox might just own Chicago.

ē Itís amazing what winning can do to perception of a team. During the entire post-season we kept hearing from the media about every other team except the Sox. They even managed to create the impression that somehow the Sox managed to steal the American League pennant from the Angels because of one heads-up play.

Now that itís all over, and even Sports Illustrated managed to snub the Sox after the Series by not featuring them on their cover, suddenly the Sox are starting to get their props from the media. The Association Press made the Soxí World Series Championhip their top sports story of 2005. Even ESPN has had to note that Kenny Williamsí deals this off-season have strengthened the team to make them an even more formidable opponent for their beloved Red Sox and Yankees in 2006. Maybe the thought is finally setting in that perhaps that 99 in the wins column wasnít a fluke, and that the Sox had exactly the type of team it takes to win a pennant in the post-steroid era.

A few diehards of the eastern establishment media still have pooh-poohed the Sox, but they are being recognized by anyone with an IQ higher than that of a carrot (i.e. just about anyone who isnít a preppy/yuppie Cubs fan) for the blowhards that they are.

ē Even the pro-Cubs Chicago media are having trouble making news out of anything coming from the North Side these days. Itís hard to ignore the re-signing of Paul Konerko and Jon Garland. Itís even harder to ignore the signing of Jim Thome.

Somehow the acquisition of Juan Pierre, Bobby Howry, and Scott Eyre, and rumors of trades that just donít seem to come off are starting to lose their luster. Suddenly the Cubs losing isnít so lovable anymore when the other team in town, the ugly stepchild, turned out to be Cinderella.

The Cute and Cuddlies may still have a large fan base, but selling a ballpark and a neighborhood can only go so far when the team across town has won it all. People like winners. Thatís all that need be said.

ē So as the pages of the calendar change from 2005 to 2006, the Sox find themselves in the catbird seat. They are a strong team that has gotten even stronger. They have won it all and look as if they can do it again.

What more is their to say except, Happy New Year, and may your 2006 be just as enjoyable as your 2005!


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!

Have a Thought about
Repeat the Feat?

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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