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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Empty Sox Farm?
by Hal Vickery

Random thoughts:

● After taking last week off to work on my motherís income taxes, Iím happy to report that spring training has officially begun. It started off with some bad news. Joe Crede, who is coming back from back surgery, was hit in the hand on a pitch from Mike MacDougall. The good news is that Crede returned to the batting cage Saturday, and appeared to be unaffected by the injury.

● You know the farm system is in terrible shape when the club has to put out articles telling the fans that the ďcupboards [are] not bare.Ē Yes, that was the actual headline of an article appearing on the official White Sox web site.

In the article, Sox farm director Alan Regier at least admitted that the farm system was not ďexceptional.Ē However he did express confidence that it soon would be.

At least writer Scott Merkin tempered Regierís optimism with a little reality, noting that in the entire farm system, only middle infielder Chris Getz appears to be ready for a major league call-up sometime this season. Merkin particularly noted the dearth of catching in the system.

Unfortunately the article goes downhill from there, deteriorating into a discussion of how Mark Buehrle was drafted in the 38th round and turned out to be a star, and how sometimes the best talent comes from unexpected sources.

Yes, that does happen sometimes. But a lot more times, it is the higher end prospects who develop into a clubís starters. The Sox have traded away a bunch of them.

This is not to say that the trades were a bad idea. I liked them. But the result of making the parent club stronger was a net decrease in the number of prospects in the farm system. Thatís to be expected, and thatís fine with me. Sox fans just need to be aware that somehow the Sox are going to need to restock the farm system, either through judicious scouting or through trades that would more than likely weaken the major league squad.

There wonít be very many players coming up from the minors in the near future. Thatís a fact, and no amount of talk about 38th round draft picks developing into stars will change it.

● Itís good to hear that Ozzie Guillen seems impressed with Gavin Floyd this spring. Floyd is the only alternative the Sox have right now as a fifth starter, and he sure didnít look ready last year. Guillen has announced the Sox starting rotation for this season: Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, John Danks, Jose Contreras, and Floyd.

On paper this would seem to be the weakest group of starters the Sox have had since those years in the early part of the decade when Williams was forced to bring up a different minor leaguer every couple of weeks to act as fifth starter because the previous attempt resulted in some poor AAA pitcher getting shelled.

The Sox are pinning a lot of their hopes on the bullpen. Everybody, including myself, thinks the pen is much stronger this year than it was in 2007. Iím not going to forget the fact that everybody thought last year that the bullpen for 2007 was going to be much stronger than it was in 2006. Bullpens are an ephemeral thing. You think youíve got it figured out, and it just turns to smoke before your very eyes.

Letís hope Williams has it figured out this year.

● The Sox are scheduled to play an intrasquad game on Monday. Thatís a sure sign that spring is here. When the intrasquad games start, real exhibition games (pardon the oxymoron) are soon to follow.

Of course it would be nice if the weather would cooperate with that feeling of spring in the air. After a high near 40 and rain Monday, the precipitation is supposed to turn into (what else?) more snow overnight and into Tuesday.

Well, at least itís also supposed to be windyÖ.

●I guess there is good news, though. Baseball season starts in five weeks. We just all need to hang on to that. Just think, only five weeks before fans can travel to Cleveland and sit in the stands in their parkas trying to stay warm while the summer game is being played in March.

To those intrepid souls, I say, ďYouíre better than I am. Iíll wait until April.Ē

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

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