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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

State of the Sox: 2008

by George Bova

With SoxFest now in our rearview mirror, it is time to begin an earnest assessment of prospects for the White Sox franchise this coming season. Pitchers and catchers report shortly and the games count in just ten weeks!

Granted, we at WSI admit to a bias when discussing the Sox, but at least we're honest about our bias. We're also honest about the imperfection of our own opinions which is only 1000-times more genuine than the double-talk and flat-out whoppers told by Chicago's biggest sports mediots when defending their own demented view of the world. I won't hold up my viewpoint as infallible but I can comfortably state my opinions contain far more reason than anything the Tribune's Phil Rogers recently asserted, devoting a column to analyze the off-season by counting any loss of a player with major league playing time a "+1" for the acquiring team and the loss of any similar player a "-1" without any regard to any demonstrated talent -- and more often lack of talent -- in his assessment. This is the same guy who called a pitcher with seven major league wins a "proven workhorse" so any unbiased observer really ought to consider the source.

Furthermore we at WSI aren't charging you for these opinions which ought not count against their perceived credibility. After all, Rogers' Tribune editor Dan McGrath actually expects people to pay to read Rogers' "+1/-1" uber-analysis. This is the same guy who called Kenny Williams "despicable" because he trusted Brian Anderson to become the Sox' 2006 centerfielder when the next-best alternative proved he wasn't even good enough to earn the position for the 86-loss Diamondbacks. Again, any unbiased observer really ought to consider the source. As for biased observers, you can count on Tribune publisher Ann Marie Lipinski to keep these two bozos employed... at least until Sam Zell inevitably acts to jettison their self-made mess and spins off the newspaper. Nice knowing all of you!

The 2008 Starting Rotation

Not that any intelligent Sox Fan needs this point made for them, but the fortune of the team pretty much rests upon the health and effectiveness of the five pitchers that stand on the bump 6+ innings each day. The pitching rotation simply didn't perform as well in 2006 or 2007 as it did in 2005. Whether the Sox win 70, 80, 90, or 100 games depends more than anything else on the effectiveness of Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Javier Vazquez, and the best two of John Danks, Gavin Floyd, and somebody emerging out of the weeds.

This is the weakest Sox starting rotation since 2004 when Scott Schoeneweis and Jason Grilli were offered the chance to be embarassments every fourth and fifth day. We all know how that season turned out.

WSI's Rogers-esque uber-analysis: They're all going to be traded... unless Kenny re-signs them first!

The 2008 Everyday Line Up

Not that any intelligent Sox Fan needed this point made for them, but the pitching staff has never won a game the Sox offense did provide for them. Nobody wins unless somebody scores! Offense counts far more than those reciting the "pitching and defense" cliche can ever know. That's why improving the 2008 line up is so critical.

Unfortunately Kenny Williams has proven a slow learner when it comes to not repeating mistakes. The new logjam at shortstop is eerily reminiscent of the one the Sox GM created at the same position in 2001 by re-signing Jose Valentin and then trading for Royce Clayton. Uribe might be able to help at second base, but this sounds as half-baked as Williams once hoping Valentin could help in centerfield.

Over two years after trading Aaron Rowand, the search continues for somebody to play centerfield while also capable of hitting major league pitching, too. This is a very short list of ballplayers, much shorter than the universe filled with slow-footed first base/DH-type hitters which is precisely what Williams got in trade for Rowand: Jim Thome. It's nice to have an everyday DH, but Williams equating filling one position (DH) with filling the other (CF) shows a real lack of insight for judging what constitutes fair value.

Acquiring Nick Swisher can be counted on to help what was the hopelessly broken top of the Sox batting order. It's more of a long shot he'll become the everyday answer in centerfield, too. Josh Fields look like the real deal at third base and perhaps this makes Joe Crede attractive trade bait. Hope springs eternal but this team's line up is looking older and older.

WSI's Rogers-esque uber-analysis: It's despicable how lousy Darin Erstad, Scott Podsednik and Tadahito Iguchi became!

The 2008 Bullpen

Last year's bullpen was the unmitigated disaster that ultimately caused the Sox to lose 90 games. The '08 Sox have nowhere to go but up, and to his credit Kenny Williams went to work to make the Sox bullpen better. All the worst offenders are gone, but chronic head cases like Mike MacDougal still lurk. Newly-acquired Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel are worthy of being trusted to get the game to closer Boby Jenks, but all bullpens are by definition comprised of pitchers flawed in some way that prevents them from becoming starters. For most of them, effectiveness is a fleeting attribute. Let's pray for improvement and trust it can't get worse than 2007. Intelligent Sox Fans are smart enough not to become overly-optimistic just because new names are on the roster to replace last year's losers.

WSI's Rogers-esque uber-analysis: If this was the North Side, I would be predicting a World Series appearance!

The 2008 Field Staff

Nobody seems quite so divisive to Sox Fans as Ozzie Guillen. Whether you love him or hate him often is determined by whether you believe your 20/20 hindsight to make a managerial move is superior to Ozzie's 20/20 foresight. Speaking for myself I believe most managers do more harm than good to their own team. The Sox ballplayers aren't little leaguers and how you motivate them an entirely different art than what any arm-chair manager can ever understand. A good manager gets the most out of his team mostly by staying out of their way. Ozzie does this better than most managers if for no other reason than because so few of his ballplayers have any idea what he is talking about... regardless of whether he says it in English or Spanish! If the Sox in the clubhouse like Ozzie, who am I to argue?

Razor Shines is gone and with him a lot of rumors of clubhouse intrigue. Joey Cora stays at bench coach and thus won't be waving them in from third base -- probably a good thing. Harold Baines will keep patting baserunners on the butt and waving to the fans at first base -- probably a good thing, too. Hitting coach Greg Walker returns as everyone's favorite scapegoat. Whether he is still employed next September is more a measure of Ozzie's control of his clubhouse than Walker's acumen to teach major league hitters how to hit.

WSI's Rogers-esque uber-analysis: If Ozzie kicked dirt and threw tantrums, I would dismiss him as nothing but a clown... unlike Lovable Lou, of course.

The 2008 Front Office

There is more to being a GM than completing trades and there is more to being GM than finding talent. If Williams opens himself to criticism (including the criticism I've made above), it can never be criticism for sitting on his hands and pretending everything will work out. Kenny Williams gives a full effort. Let's not underestimate how much courage this takes. Williams works in a city where one of the two big daily newspapers employs nothing but a spiteful troll, and the other paper employs an attention-seeking jerk staking ridiculous positions (Brandon McCarthy a "proven workhorse"?) if only so Chicagoans will remember what a dope he is if not a junior version of a troll himself. Williams has guts and I'll take him as our GM over any of the recent gutless wonders who've wandered through town... especially the ones on the North Side, each given free passes by the Chicago sports mediots for 99 years of complete futility.

Who the city's sports mediots have never given a free pass to is Jerry Reinsdorf, the Chicago owner to bring the city seven of its last eight world championships. It was just last month that Dan McGrath accused Jerry Reinsdorf of being tight-fisted even as Scott Skiles was being relieved of his Bulls' head coaching job. How long will McGrath keep repeating this tired old cliche? Here's guessing he'll keep up the cliches for as long as Paul Sullivan keeps railing about Frank Thomas, Dave van Dyck keeps gushing about the glory of a 94-year old pile of paint-caked iron that has never hosted a world champion ballclub, or Teddy Greenstein complains about Sox Park advertising signage while giving a pass to similar intrusions on the other side of town. McGrath's sycophants won't shut up until their boss is dumped. It's already half-past due.

WSI's Rogers-esque uber-analysis: It's DESPICABLE that a "future proven workhorse" of the caliber of Gio Gonzalez should be traded for an OBP guy like Nick Swisher!

The 2008 Ballpark

The silence has been deafening over the lack of complaints surrounding what even we at WSI routinely used to call the Ball Mall. Sox Fans simply don't complain about this subject anymore except to note what further improvements they would like to see. Equally deafening has been the silence by the media to note this sea change of attitude. True to themselves as the mediots they are, we're instead treated to reports (like the ones from this year's SoxFest) about Sox Fans complaining to the GM about the roster. In the past I could more easily excuse this pathetic variety of yellow journalism as Randolph Hearst years ago proved how effective such tactics are for selling newspapers. However the truth is the newspapers are losing circulation -- and advertisers -- at a rate that is absolutely frightening to anyone still drawing their paycheck from such enterprise. Why would anyone pay to read this crap? It's a question Sam Zell will answer for himself if Ann Marie Lipinski and Dan McGrath are too stupid to not stop doing what they're doing now: needlessly pissing off their audience. (In the case of the Sun-Times, it's already too late.)

WSI's Rogers-esque uber-analysis: The Sox moved their press box and I'm mad. If the pressroom's deli tray ever gets cut back, watch out!

The 2008 Sox Fan Base

What can be said about Chicago's baseball fans who fixate on winning? Let's add it up.

Yes they're impatient, but as character flaws go isn't impatience a virtue compared to the high-comedy Chicago's baseball loser fans have patiently embraced for 100 years? Being a sucker is no virtue.

Yes they're opinionated, but as character flaws go isn't this a virtue compared to the mindless blathering of those who sincerely believe results don't count as long as you have good time watching mediocrity? Since when is being vapid a virtue?

Yes they're scrappy and argumentative, but as character flaws go isn't this a virtue compared to going along with whatever the majority opinion would dictate they conform to? Sheepishness is no virtue. Furthermore whatever sheepish Sox Fans ever existed long ago parted ways with the South Side's team to join their soul-mates and fellow travelers believing the deceit, half-truths, and flat-out whoppers being spun elsewhere in town. If somehow baseball games were won on the sheer ignorance of group-think, these sheepish fools would have more championships than the New York Yankees.

Our Sox won a world championship in 2005. It was a life-long quest for nearly every Sox Fan, including me. It's a damned shame we're greedy enough to want another.

I suspect we'll want three championships after we've won two, too. There are worse character flaws to be avoided.

WSI's Rogers-esque uber-analysis: These Sox Fans are the biggest threat to my job security. And you wonder why I fear them?

George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive. You can write George at

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