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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Wide Open!

by George Bova

Nearly a third of the 2008 season is in the books and nobody in the American League-- nobody! -- is in better position for earning post-season play than the Chicago White Sox.

Eureka! Our Chicago White Sox, a team hard-pressed to get much of any ink in its own hometown dailies, has entered the backstretch leading every other horse. It's a long season, but there can be no doubt these Sox have earned far more respect than they've been given.

The heart of the order remains the great mystery of these Sox, simultaneous slumps impacting the performance of all three boppers: Konerko, Thome, and Dye. Is it just another example of hot and cold hitting and nothing that couldn't be expected to work itself out amongst three veteran hitters? Or is it symptomatic of a far more serious problem: three veterans on decline after many successful seasons? Maybe it's just weeks of playing baseball in sub-normal temperatures? Please let it be nothing more than sub-normal playing temperatures. The Sox can't hope to replace these three guys between now and September.

Carlos Quentin has made up most of the slack, a brilliant acquisitioin by GM Kenny Williams, completely overlooked by the city's sports mediots too busy fawning over the fate of former messiah flamethrowers relegated to the bullpen and newest savior imported from Japan. Most of the headlines regarding Williams' off-season has involved one-sided nonsense by the likes of Phil "Second City" Rogers obsessed with explaining to Lovable Loser fans why it wasn't so bad getting swept by the Arizona Diamondbacks, who in turn were swept by Colorado, themselves swept by Boston. To hear "Second City" tell it, the Sox are the real losers since Javier Vazquez isn't as good a pitcher as Chris Young will someday become as a centerfielder -- never mind his Sosa-like 141 strikeouts. It helps if you consider the lame track record of the source: Rogers never saw anything wrong with Sosa's outrageous strikeout totals either and routinely reaches premature-flight inside his shorts over "future proven workhorses" like Brandon McCarthy.

While the heart of the order stumbles the pitching staff has been brilliant, including the once-infamous bullpen. Vazquez has stepped into the #1 role, helping teammate Mark Buehrle overcome what so far has been a very rough stretch -- just ask that space heater he destroyed. Jose Contreras looks focused and on-task once again. The improbable contributions of Gavin Floyd has been a revelation. He is only 25 years-old and anyone currently fretting over the poor status of the Sox farm system needs to answer for how much new talent turns over -- both inside the Sox farm system and across all of Major League Baseball generally -- every 2-3 years. Yes, we're looking straight at Second City Rogers again, a man who never formed an opinion that Baseball America didn't regurgitate on his behalf.

The minor leagues are for development; the majors are for winning. And next year's minor league talent is currently playing high school and college ball, plus or minus 3 years. Somebody at the Tribune please draw Phil Rogers a picture. Use crayon if necessary.

Twelve saves by closer Bobby Jenks is matched neatly by twelve holds by Scott Linebrink. The staff's 3.40 ERA is second-best in the league. This is the sort of performance that lands teams in the post-season.

Sox Fans rightly never expected a team with this many losses could hope to contend in what figured to be a highly-competitive American League Central Division. The 2006 Sox were in many ways superior to their world champion predecessors but the division caught up to them in a way the 2005 team never needed to match. 2007 became a bit of a joke once the Sox Disabled List began resembling an out-patient ward for all of the South Side talent. The future of the 2008 Sox looks bright precisely based on the fate already known about these three previous Sox teams.

The 2008 Sox are 12-7 inside the division. The overwhelming bulk of the season will be played against Cleveland, Minnesota, Detroit and Kansas City. Beating these teams consistently is the surest path towards the post-season, and this Sox team -- unlike the previous two teams -- is doing just that!

If one other distinguishing characteristic of this Sox team can already be identified, it's a serious commitment to winning. A losing streak early this month wasn't accepted in the clubhouse as just another day at the office, nor was it treated with the typical point a finger and find a scapegoat attitude either. Instead the Sox got themselves some inflatable dolls and (presumably) challenged everyone to approach the bat rack with a fresh attitude -- or risk having nothing but the inflatables as girlfriends for the foreseeable future.

Now what Sox Fan could ever argue with logic like that?

The Sox are winners, at least winners enough to make this wide-open division theirs to lose. As May turns to June, that's about as much as any totally biased Sox Fan could hope for.

Keep winning, White Sox. Chicago's proud of you... at least the Chicagoans who matter.

Better lucky than good.


George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive. You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com

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