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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

 

Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Going for it!

by George Bova

On Friday the White Sox announced they are serious about making a full effort to achieve for Chicago its second world baseball championship in 90+ years.  Trading away reliever Nick Masset and infielder Danny Richar, the Sox are squarely focused on what might be accomplished this October by adding one of the game's greatest hitters of the present era. 

The Sox, and specifically GM Kenny Williams, have been chasing Ken Griffey, Jr. for a long, long time.  This isn't the first time his name has been linked to trade rumors involving the Sox.  There isn't anything unique about coveting another team's ballplayer but never being able to swing a trade or cough up the cash to sign him.  Sox history is filled precisely with exactly these sorts of situations. 

No, what makes this situation so unique and so noteworthy is that the White Sox completed the deal, not for a small piece of the puzzle but a major one.  These aren't the Old Sox nearly every Sox Fan over age 20 would recognize.  This is something very different.

For most of the post Go-Go era of Sox baseball, mere franchise survival was the goal.  The ballclub nearly relocated to Milwaukee, then Seattle and next Denver in the space of just eleven years between 1970 and 1980.   Talented ballplayers wearing Sox pinstripes were most noteworthy for what value they might bring the ballclub when traded away, not for any meager hope Sox Fans might hold for their team to compete for a championship.  Goose Gossage entered the Hall of Fame last week wearing Yankee pinstripes, not Sox ones, because Bill Veeck couldn't afford to keep him.  Bucky Dent hit his famous playoff dinger for New York, too, because the Sox couldn't afford to keep him either.  The Sox were a farm club for every other major league team looking for talent better than what any AA or AAA team roster could ever hold.  A "memorable" year like 1972 meant the Sox only finished 5.5 games off the pace of even sniffing postseason glory.

Thankfully this era of mere Sox survival ended soon after Jerry Reinsdorf bought the team.  But even after several high-profile free agent signings (including perhaps the biggest in franchise history, signing Carlton Fisk in 1981), the Sox settled into the role of getting by with whatever the chairman deemed franchise payroll could afford.  Teams of the late-80's were better known for the young (and cheap) talent the Sox utilized.  Not until 1991, when New Comiskey Park opened, did the White Sox make what appeared a full effort to finally reach "Point C" that Reinsdorf himself claimed was the franchise goal. 

So what's the difference today from what the Sox have been doing since the early-90's?  As it turns out, plenty.

The Sox won the division in 1993 and figured to repeat in 1994 before the players' strike ended the season.  But the highest-profile acquisition the Sox ever made at the trade deadline was for a #2/#3 pitcher the likes of Tim Belcher.  If the Sox were occasional buyers at the trade deadline, they were more notorious for being sellers.  A series of "white flag" trades in the summer of 1997 made a name for the Chicago baseball reporter who coined the phrase, but the most significant consequence was to flatten fan support for the team at least two subsequent seasons.

GM Ron Schueler simply didn't have the nose for digging deep and rooting out the final puzzle pieces that fans in places like New York, Boston and L.A. take for granted in their annual quests to share in their team's drive for post-season glory.  His acquisition of Charles Johnson and Harold Baines at the trading deadline in 2000 is most noteworthy because it did nothing to address a pitching staff that already had suffered several key injuries to the starting rotation and would prove the ballclub's weakest component the remainder of the year.  Meanwhile he waxed on and on about all the sunshine and rainbows coming the Sox way in future seasons with his long list of prospects still under development. 

The championship drought lasted 88 years and doubtlessly would still be growing if Schueler were permitted to continue his quest for the pot of gold always one year distant at the end of his rainbow.  Aaron Rowand alone of all Schueler's minor leaguers from 2000 played any significant role on the 25-man roster of the 2005 Glorious South Side Championship team.

Ken Griffey isn't the same ballplayer who terrorized both leagues in the 1990's.  He isn't the ballplayer who figures to lead the offensive attack of the 2008 White Sox either.  What Griffey is is the ballplayer that adds the offensive threat that the Sox entered the season last April figuring Paul Konerko would provide, but now know too well is likely not ever to produce this year.  And while adding another pitcher, whether a starter or reliever, would certainly have boosted the ballclub's roster further still, it's a plain fact no pitcher can have an everyday impact on the team's performance like a position player can.

Ken Griffey will be in the line up everyday in August and September.  He fills the most-obvious need the White Sox never figured to need to fill:  the missing production of Konerko. 

The Sox of old would simply have made do, perhaps called up a minor leaguer for an extended look, and prayed everything held together long enough to see the team into the postseason.  Needless to say, it rarely worked.  The championship drought didn't end for 88 years.  

It's a new attitude that surrounds the White Sox.  It's an attitude that mediocrity isn't good enough, that having "the best overall record of any team in the 90's", as Ron Schueler and others in the front office often trumpeted, is a hollow accomplishment without the championship hardware to back it up.

The Sox are going for it. 

Whether it works out for another championship is yet to be determined and many Sox Fans as always remain skeptical.  But isn't the difference already demonstrated worth something, too?

There is no doubt in my mind it is.  The Old Sox -- the ones of 88 years and waiting -- are dead.  They won't be missed.


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

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