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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

The Elusive "Point C"

I have to say I've defended the current ownership of the Sox in the past.  Compared to some owners in my lifetime, the combination of Eddie Einhorn and Jerry Reinsdorf has been much more successful.  After all the White Sox do have a record over .500 since 1981, and they have made it to the post-season three times.

Several things led to this change in my attitude.  They began with the firing of Larry Himes.  It wasn't so much the firing of Himes that began to irritate me.  Himes, like so many of the bigwigs in Reinsdorf's fiefdom wasn't a "people person."  He made some rather dumb arbitrary rules such as dress codes for players that were out of date by the late 1960's.  However, Himes also took a horrible team, and with judicious use of his first round draft picks managed to build a contender. 

Still, his firing didn't bother me all that much.  What happened when Reinsdorf named his replacement, though, planted the seeds of discontent in this fan.  Remember what Reinsdorf said?  "Larry Himes has gotten us from Point A to Point B.  I feel that Ron Schueler is the man who will lead us to Point C."

Things looked promising for Schueler when the Sox made it to the American
League Championship Series in 1993.  Although they were knocked out by
the Blue Jays, fans were looking forward to an more experienced team
overcoming that obstacle and making it to the World Series in 1994.

And that's where Reinsdorf made his second move that enraged fans.  I was
heavily involved in communicating on various baseball message boards in
1994, and the overwhelming sentiment in the players' strike that year was anti-player.  The one group of fans where that wasn't the case were fans of the Sox.  They knew that Reinsdorf was the leader of the hawk faction of the owners, and they held him personally responsible for costing us a trip to the World Series.  If anyone was to blame for the Sox not making it to Point C in 1994, it was Reinsdorf himself.

We all remember the collapse of 1995, and the subsequent wandering in the
desert under Terry Bevington which climaxed with the "White Flag Trade" of 1997.  Many have praised the White Flag trade, if only because it gave us
Keith Foulke.  The reasoning is that the Sox were a game under .500 when
the trade was made, and that they played .500 ball afterwards, so there was no way they were going to catch Cleveland.

However, all this does to me is raise the issue of the lack of accountability.  Robin Ventura had just returned from his horrible injury not long before the trade.  This should have made the middle of the Sox lineup very strong, considering it consisted of Frank Thomas, Albert Belle, Ventura, and Harold Baines.  Yet this group only had a few games to play together before Baines was traded away.

The other point that shows a lack of accountability is that apologists for the trade point to the .500 record afterwards.  But after the trade, in addition to Baines, Alex Fernandez, Danny Darwin, and Roberto Hernandez were also gone.  That's 40% of your starting roation plus your closer.  Think they could have finished a lot better than .500 with them?

Well, maybe not, and this brings up another matter of accountability.  It
was obvious in 1996 that Terry Bevington had issues as a manager.  The fact that he didn't know how to handle the media was the least of his problems.  Even more important to the Sox collapse in September of 1996
was that Bevington burned out his bullpen.  It was obvious that he was in
over his head, but Schueler kept him on, and we were treated to such exhibitions as Bevington motioning to the bullpen for the lefty who wasn't
there.  If anyone was accountable for the lack of success of the Sox in 1997, it was Bevington, who the players thought was a joke, Schueler, who stubbornly refused to fire him, and Reinsdorf who allowed it to happen.

It was during these years that attendance at Comiskey Park dropped from
over 2.5 million fans a season to well under 2 million fans.  Fans were tired of the strike, tired of incompetent managers, tired of trades that seemed to say that the team wouldn't play to win. 

It is to Schueler's credit that he stocked the farm system with young arms
before he left, but it is also noteworthy that of those pitchers, only Mark Buehrle and Tanyon Sturtze have been highly successful at the major league level thus far, and Sturtze is doing his pitching for the Devil Rays. 

We've already detailed the woes of the Sox pitching staff for which no one
seems to be responsible, at least if you ask the White Sox.  There is another legacy of Schueler's tenure as GM that still hangs over the club like the Sword of Damocles:  defense.

Or should I say "lack of defense"?  Schueler was good at stocking up on
pitching.  However, when it came to position players, the Sox have, since
Schuler received his mandate to take the club to Point C, been overloaded
with 1B/OF/DH types, most of whom think a glove is something you wear to keep your hand warm.  Just think Paul Konerko/Frank Thomas/Jeff
Liefer/Carlos Lee, and you get the idea. 

As a result of this lack of emphasis on defense, the Sox have consistently
been in the bottom half of the American League in defense for years.  It
doesn't help when their own manager, Jerry Manuel, says, "I really don't care if we finish last in defense."  In order to win, you have to score more runs than your opponents.  One way to do that is to keep the other team from scoring.  You don't do that by dropping the ball, throwing wildly, missing the cutoff man, etc., things that Sox fans have been seeing on a daily basis for about a decade.

There are sins of omission, too.  How long has it been since the Sox had a
left-handed power hitter in the middle of the lineup?  Say, "Since we traded Robin Ventura," and you win a cigar.  Yet nothing is done to alleviate this situation.  Jeff Liefer might help, except his natural defensive position is DH.  Liefer is the kind of player managers used to say, "play three positions, none of them well."

These kinds of omissions go back for years in this organization.  Remember
"Rent-a-Rightfielder"?  Remember all those years in the '90s when we had
four good starters and no fifth starter?  Remember how Albert Belle was
signed when we really needed another starting pitcher?

The list goes on and on.  Put all together it makes a glaring indictment of this organization and how it is run.  Yet no one is accountable.  No wonder the fans don't show up except on opening day and the Cubs series!  Yet if you ask the Sox why we're in trouble as the 2002 season starts, and they'll tell you, "Because we can't hire players if the fans don't come." 

So I guess there is accountability.  You're at fault.  I'm at fault.  We're all at fault.  That is, all except those running the Chicago White Sox.  They're completely blameless.

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 necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at nsmf@aol.com.

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