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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Creative Kenny?

by
Guy Bacci

When White Sox fans were hoping to hear some noise this off-season, they weren’t talking about a giant sucking sound. But after getting the news of work-horse starter Freddy Garcia’s short Sox career coming to an end, the silence from the South Side Hot Stove was replaced with groans of disapproval.

Not so much because Garcia was considered invaluable. Sure, he ate a ton of innings, but he ate a lot of other things, too, and seemed to be constantly out of shape as a result. Yes, he won games and nearly tossed a pair of no-hitters during his brief stint with the Sox. But base runners were learning to abuse his slow delivery and swipe bags at will. His ERA reached a career-high 4.53 last season.

Still, though, The Chief was 40-21 in a Sox uniform while averaging over 200 innings per 30 starts. Those facts are nothing to scoff at. Hence, Sox fans were expecting grand returns from trading Garcia, even with only one year remaining on his contract. In combination with another starter or relief pitcher, the anticipation was for a new lead-off hitter or an experienced centerfielder—two items high on many Sox fans’ Christmas lists.

Instead, the Sox got two young, unproven arms: Gavin Floyd, who projects to be (possibly) another Jon Garland, and Gio Gonzalez, who the Sox thought so highly of the last time, they were willing to part with him for Jim Thome.

So what’s going on here? Surely, this is the start of a grand scheme by the wizard Kenny Williams. The GM will spin off the kids to acquire a Carl Crawford or someone of high impact. Right?

Not so fast.

It seems we’re back to pre-World Series mentality, just two years removed from the championship. It seems the market has once again gotten out of hand, and Jerry Reinsdorf is still the shrewd businessman we know him to be. That means no pricey, long-term contracts for pitchers. That means Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland could soon be following Garcia out the door.

Phil Rogers quotes a scout as recently saying, “You're seeing the price for pitching jump, and people are asking me if this is just a cycle. I don't think it is. I think quality pitchers are just going to get more valuable, more expensive. It is shocking how few good pitchers there are in the minor leagues.”

With that forecast, Williams is back in “creative” mode. The Sox will attempt to cultivate a new rotation that can be effective and cheap, but likely not successful for a few years. Much like the championship ’05 rotation was made up of homegrown faces and savvy trade acquisitions, Williams will build from a similar blueprint down the road.

While that might be great in a few years, Sox fans are wondering what happened to their potential dynasty. It may be admirable for Williams to keep the team young and affordable, but when you’ve stacked together such a powerful rotation, shouldn’t you ride it out until the end? Isn’t that worth a few years of pain after the ride is over?

“We are in a position that allows us to remain equally competitive in our chances to win a championship for the 2007 season and again set ourselves up for a sustained future,” Williams claims.

Kenny is trying to have the best of both worlds, as he did in ’05 when he got rid of slugger Carlos Lee and added unheralded Scott Podsednik. But exchanging veteran pitchers for rookies is a different gamble entirely. Your future becomes uncertain, and your present becomes equally uncertain.

If the market for pitching is indeed going to remain overpriced, Williams will have to hope a couple of his youngsters live up to the hype, while swinging more tricky trades in future seasons. Clearly, Kenny has a lot of confidence in himself. You can’t be a GM without it.

Confidence aside, it’s sad to see another piece of the championship team shipped away. Not for sentimental reasons, but because it signals a return to normalcy. And normalcy for Sox fans means half-empty April home games and waiting for Brandon McCarthy and Gavin Floyd to become major-league starters.

Unless Williams has another trick up his sleeve, Sox fans will enter 2007 like they have entered so many other seasons before: with a lot of hope but little certainty.


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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