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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Swisher? A Good Deal!
by Hal Vickery

You have to admit that following the machinations of Kenny Williams during the off-season is certainly not a task that should be assigned to the faint-hearted. Take this fall and winter, for example. How many complaints did you hear from Sox fans that Williams didn’t make any deals or sign any free agents by the end of the annual winter meetings?

A quick perusal of the WSI message boards would have shown that a sizable percentage of Sox fans figured that nothing at all was going to happen and that the Sox were doomed to finish in fifth place in the American League Central division behind the Kansas City Royals.

First there were the men that got away. Torii Hunter almost signed with the Sox, but then received an offer he couldn’t refuse from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim which is in Orange County in the State of California. Then there was former Sox centerfielder Aaron Rowand, who if you listen to some on the WSI message boards (or for that matter White Sox Weekly on WSCR) is just this side of the second coming. Rowand has said that the negotiations never really started. According to Rowand, the Sox never even made a serious offer.

Then came signing of reliever Scott Linebrink for $19 million over four years. “My God!” people cried. “What is he thinking paying that kind of money for a non-closer? Has he lost his mind?” And I have to admit, I thought the price for LInebrink was a bit too high. I still do, but then again, it’s Jerry Reinsdorf’s money, and if he’s cool with it, I won’t question that as long as that doesn’t prevent Williams from spending the money necessary to fill other holes in the roster.

Up until last week, the most controversial deal was the trade Williams made that sent Jon Garland to the Angels for shortstop Orlando Cabrera. The Sox shored up the middle of their defense at the expense of a veteran starting pitcher.

But this week’s deal really set off the pessimistic wing of Sox fandom. If the WSI message boards were telephones, they’d be ringing off the hook. This trade has netted a total of 855 posts as of 3:45 a.m. Sunday.

The Sox filled yet another gaping hole by acquiring Nick Swisher from the Oakland Athletics in exchange for outfielder Ryan Sweeney and minor league pitchers Gio Gonzalez and Fautina De Los Santos. All three players were considered to be among the top prospects in the Sox farm system.

The reaction from the fans was predictable. Judging from many of the comments I’ve heard and read, a lot of Sox fans think someone should be drawing up the Williams’ commitment papers.

Don’t count me among those. It was a good deal. Williams wants to win, and he wants to win now. This is a step towards winning, and if it costs prospects, so be it. Williams knows that it’s a high risk deal. Gonzalez and De Los Santos appear to be can’t miss pitching prospects. The problem is that the Sox are week in pitching, and that is what seems to be the major problem Sox fans have with this deal.

Pitching is my concern, too, but it’s not future pitching. It’s pitching in 2008. In particular it’s starting pitching. Jose Contreras will turn 37 during the 2007 season. Assuming he’s not using the same medications as other older pitchers have been accused of using, Contreras’ career should be on the decline.

Javier Vazquez finally showed brilliance last year, but it was on a team that never was in contention. When the Sox were contenders in 2006, Vazquez wasn’t there for them, at least beyond the fourth inning.

John Danks could be a very good pitcher. As a rookie in 2007, Danks obviously tired in the process of pitching more innings than in any previous season in his career. That’s understandable, and he should improve.

I just wish I knew what to make of Gavin Floyd. He’s one of those “live arms” that Williams loves to draft or trade for. The problem is that a live arm isn’t everything. You have to know how to pitch, and Floyd has yet to show that he can do that.

So while I heartily endorse this latest trade, I still would like to see a veteran starter join this club. I’d feel a lot more secure about the Sox’ chances of contending this season if that happened. Let’s hope Kenny Williams feels the same way.It is with sadness that I report that former Sox reliever Gerry Staley passed away last Wednesday of natural causes. Staley and Omar “Turk” Lown anchored the bullpen of the 1959 American League pennant winners.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

Staley and Lown shared closer duties (although the term hadn’t been invented yet) that year. In ’59 Staley, working exclusively from the bullpen by that point in his career, compiled a record of 8-5 with 14 saves and a 2.24 earned run average in 67 appearances. During the World Series against the Los Angeles Dodgers, Staley pitched 8⅓ innings with a 2.16 ERA.

In my mind’s eye I can still see Staley coming in in relief and throwing the first pitch to Vic Power of the Indians. Power hit the ball to shortstop Luis Aparicio who stepped on second and threw to first to clinch the pennant for the Sox. You can read an account of that game and hear the television call of the bottom of the ninth inning here at WSI.

Rest in peace, Gerry.

______________________________________________________________________

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
Swisher? A Good Deal!

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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