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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Big Deal Sox!
by Hal Vickery

One other thing about getting older (to continue along last week’s theme): time really starts to fly as you age. A few years ago I was taking a graduate course at Illinois State University and had a lunchtime conversation with a couple of students in their early twenties. They were talking about how long the school year seemed all the way back when they were kids. My response was, “When you get to be my age? Six minutes.”

It may not be that bad, but it is true. To me the bicentennial wasn’t that long ago. Imagine my shock when I realized that it was thirty years ago. That was the year Bill Veeck bought the Sox and kept them in Chicago. It was the year he got rid of Forster, Gossage, Dent, and Chuck Tanner among others. It was the year I moved from Northwest Indiana back to Illinois.

Lee and I celebrated our first wedding anniversary that year. So there were a few good things to counteract the Sox disaster on the field.

If thirty years ago doesn’t seem to be that long ago, you can imagine how short this off-season seemed. It seems like just days ago that the Sox were celebrating their World Series sweep of the Astros in Minute Maid Park and then came home to that tumultuous welcome at the victory parade and rally.

But that was five months ago, and now a new season is about to begin. It’s always a great thing to say that, but it’s even more fun to say, “A new season is about to begin with the Sox as defending World Series Champions.”

Think about it. No one has been able to say that in eighty-eight years. To put that into perspective, on the day I’m writing this, my mother is celebrating her eighty-seventh birthday. My grandparents were both twenty-nine years old when Sox fans could last say that.

So this year is really a big deal for Sox fans, and from all indications Sox fans realize this. The Sox have sold a record number of season ticket plans. Their pre-season ticket sales are at a record high. Even with the construction on the Ryan, they are still expecting to sell in the neighborhood of 2.8 million seats in 2006.

I think that figure might be pessimistic, depending on how the Sox play in 2006. If the sox play at the same level they did last year, those remaining seats, even the upper-deck reserved seats, could be the most sought-after tickets in Chicago. If the Sox look anything like they’re going to repeat, they could draw around 3 million fans this year.

I’d love to turn this column into a preview column for the 2006 season, but those are a bit overdone. There are probably already threads about that on the site’s message boards, and I’m sure one of out other columnists will write one of those columns either this week or next.

Still, I will say that I like a lot of what Kenny Williams has done this season. You have to love the trade for Jim Thome, not just for his ability but for his clubhouse presence. Is there any player in the game who has anything bad to say about Thome? If there is, I haven’t heard him.

Replacing Orlando Hernandez with Javier Vazquez was a great move. Although El Duque’s performance in game three of the ALDS against the Red Sox may have been the highlight of the post-season, he spent enough time on the DL to cause concern that this year would bring more of the same. The Sox now have six pitchers capable of starting. Considering the time spent by Freddy Garcia and Vazquez in the WBC this spring, and the wear and tear on arms from playing until October 26 last year, six pitchers capable of starting is a good thing.

Rob Mackowiak and Alex Cintron should bolster the bench. I like both of them a lot better than Timo Perez or Geoff Blum.

About the only thing that concerns me about Williams’ off-season dealings what we had to give up to get Thome. Aaron Rowand was a known commodity. Brian Anderson is not. There has to be a little concern about putting a rookie in centerfield when you’re the defending World Series champions. However, right now, at least in my mind, the emphasis is on the word little.

There should be some concern for the bullpen, too. It appears that the only way to overcome Dustin Hermanson’s back problems is by putting him on the disabled list to start the season. Once he goes on the DL, there is no telling if he will ever pitch again. I have yet to see if his problems could be corrected by surgery, so this has to be listed as a career-threatening injury. Compounding that is the fact that Bobby Jenks hasn’t looked all that good this spring.

But Scott Reifert had it right in his blog, and it is something all of us need to remember as fans. The Sox are coming off a shorter than normal off-season, so their preparation for the new season is a month behind normal. In addition to that, pitching statistics in Arizona have always looked bad for the Sox. Finally, after the intensity of the post-season, it must be pretty hard to get the adrenaline going in Tucson.

We’ll know more about the Sox pitching, not to mention offense and defense, when they travel to Atlanta late in the week.


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.

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