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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Enjoy Every Minute
by Hal Vickery

Iíve come out of hibernation to gripe.† The past week has been a bad one for me for numerous reasons, but the play of the White Sox is the straw that has broken the camelís back.†

Granted, I picked the Sox this year to finish in a battle for the AL Central cellar with the Royals, so I was pleasantly surprised when the bullpen started the year like world beaters.† †

I predicted that a starting rotation of Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, Jose Contreras, John Danks, and Gavin Floyd would have four question marks.† I was partially right.† Vazquez proved this year that when the going gets tough, he gets going for the hills.† Buehrle has been less consistent than in past years.† Contreras got hurt.† The big surprise for me, though were Danks and Floyd who proved beyond a shadow of a doubt that they are major league pitchers.†

I thought the wheels would fall off when Joe Crede and Carlos Quentin ended up on the disabled list, but somehow the Sox hung on.† Well, they did until last week.† Then not only did the wheels fall off, but the engine fell out, the doors came off, and the gasoline tank caught fire and exploded.†

At this point there are several players I donít care if I ever see in a Sox uniform again.† †

Leading the list is the aforementioned Javier Vazquez.† In 2006 with the Sox in a pennant race, Vazquez struggled to get past the fourth inning, making fans wonder what Kenny Williams ever saw in him.† Last year, though, Vazquez looked brilliant with a 15-8 record and a 3.74 ERA.† It was enough to convince fans that this was the real Javy.† They were wrong.† Vazquez pitches well when there is no pressure.† When there is pressure he blows up.† When the pressure is on the last week of the season, he shrugs it off by saying the worst that can happen is that when the regular season is over, heís back with his family in Puerto Rico.† As far as Iím concerned he can stay there forever.†

In the bullpen I hope I never see faces of Boone Logan and Ehren Wasserman again.† They may be nice guys, and they may have ďlive armsĒ (a favorite phrase of Kenny Williams that I never ever want to hear again), but they canít pitch worth a damn.† If they gave out an Arsenist of the Year award for relief pitchers, these guys would be top contenders.†

Iím tired of hitters like Juan Uribe who swing at everything.† Maybe Ozzie Guillen likes him because heís another player who never saw a pitch he couldnít swing at.† Still, itís nice to have a guy who could come in and play third base when Joe Crede went down.† Iím wavering on this guy, but if he didnít come back, I wouldnít cry.†

On the other hand, the act of the team captain Paul Konerko has gotten tiresome.† This is a guy who can go into season-long slumps.† Heís a head case.† I started getting sick of his act several years ago when after a spectacular spring hitting anything that was thrown at him, Ken Harrelson announced that he had changed his stance.† He promptly went into a long slump.† He may be the captain, but as far as Iím concerned, he can go away and never come back.†

Iíd say that my number two guy behind Javy Vazquez to go and never darken our door again is Nick Swisher.† Swisher was highly touted.† However, he pulled a Konerko and went into a long slump.† Unlike Konerko who started coming out of his slump just before he ended up on the DL, Swisher never came out of his, and then had the audacity to gripe about being benched.† I guess you could say itís good that he wants to play.† It would also be nice if he indicated that he could hit.†

Finally there is Ken Griffey, Jr.† Griffey is one of the greatest players Iíve ever seen, and Iíve seen Ted Williams, Willie Mays, Jackie Robinson, Mickey Mantle, and a host of others in my fifty-plus years of following the game.† Unfortunately the time of his greatness is past.† Griffey is a shadow of himself.† Kenny Williams has been after him for years.† Maybe thereís a reason the Reds made him available this year.† Maybe it was because he is through.† He certainly canít play centerfield, which is unfortunate because Brian Anderson would play better defense and contribute just about as much offense.† Griffey was brought in for the stretch drive.† Some of his defensive misplays have led to important losses.† With the bullpen going south the past month or so, Nick Masset looks like he would have been a lot more valuable than Griffey has been.†

As this is written, the Sox could still take the division.† Hereís hoping that they somehow manage to pry their hands away from their own throats and make a miraculous comeback.† Whether they do or not, Kenny Williams needs to make some important personnel decisions.


I received a call last week from a Chicago Tribune reporter who is writing a story about the Cubs and Sox from the angle of what advice Sox fans would give to Cubs fans.† The story is supposed to appear in Monday morningís edition.†

Iím the first to admit that I wasted almost forty years of my life rooting for the Cubs as my second team.† I can attribute this transgression to the fact that when I was a kid, both teamsí home games were televised on WGN-TV, and at the age of five, I was not as discerning as I have since come to be.†

Old habits are hard to break, but the Sox were always my first love.† When I became involved in a now defunct fan club and then with the Windy City Sox Fans, the Sox began taking up more and more of my life.† The Cubs were going nowhere under Tribune ownership, and I trusted Jerry Reinsdorf more than the corporate ownership of the North Side team.† This was obviously before the White Flag Trade.†

So I dumped the Cubs and spent my time following the Sox exclusively.† Ultimately my decision paid off with that precious 2005 World Series Championship.†

Which leads to the Tribune reporterís question:† ďWhat advice would you give to Cubs fans if they win it all.Ē† †

My response was simple.† ďEnjoy every minute.† Take in everything.Ē† †

What I neglected to say was this:† ďBecause this is Chicago and youíll never see it again in your lifetime.Ē†

People were all over Hank Steinbrenner last week for suggesting that the divisions be eliminated.† The implication was that it would help the Yankees appear in the playoffs.† Steinbrenner was rightly criticized in one respect, but in another respect, he showed the difference between New York and Chicago fans.†

New York fans expect to win.† They spend the money to do it.† If they donít, they blame the players, the ownership, and anyone else they perceive as getting in the way of their goal of taking all the marbles.†

Chicago fans arenít like that.† Just four years ago, occasional threads would pop up in the message boards here with titles like, ďWould you settle for twenty years in last place if the Sox won it all?Ē† An alarming number of respondents would answer, ďYes.Ē†

That is a loser mentality.† After eighty-seven years of being kept from the promised land, a lot of Sox fans were ready to take whatever crumbs were thrown at them.† And Sox fans are the ones who George Bova has rightly pointed out here are the ones who hate to lose.† One can only imagine the responses Cubs fans would give to the same question.†

Thatís why this yearís apparent choke by the Sox is particularly galling to me.† My response to those polls was always, ďI want a dynasty.Ē† Unfortunately within two years of winning 99 games, we ended up losing 90.† This may be the last hope for the core of the team that won it all in 2005.†

And thatís more than sad.† It hurts.† It especially hurts when a team like Minnesota, a team that looks a lot like the Sox teams I grew up with as a kid have managed psych the Sox into a classic choke.† †

There is a reason Ozzie Guillen praises the Twins.† They play solid fundamental baseball, something the Sox are sadly unable to do.† Maybe if we looked at pitchers instead of live arms,† maybe if we looked at guys who can play defense, and maybe if we looked at people who can bunt, hit and run, and have generally good bat control, we could beat the Twins.†

Iím tired of playing for the three run homer when weíre close and the five run homer when we fall behind.† I want a Sox team that is fundamentally sound.† I want a team with strong defense and a balanced offense.† I want a team with a minor league system that stresses a style of play and only promotes players who fit well in that style.†

It may take time for this to happen, but it needs to.† The Twins have an organizational philosophy that has developed in response to an owner who can only be called a tightwad.† I donít necessarily want Jerry Reinsdorf to cut off the cash spigot, but it would be nice to have a farm system that is able to actually produce players who become solid major leaguers.†

That can only come if you have a consistent philosophy that originates with the parent club and filters down to Rookie League.† Everybody needs to be on the same page.† This hasnít happened in twenty-five years of the current ownership.† It needs to happen soon.


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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