View Full Version : Black-and-blue Sox need to be patient(long)

07-23-2001, 06:30 AM
This is a nice article.
Patience also applies to Sox fans.

My apologies if somebody already posted it.

They've gone from the toast of Chicago to just plain toast.

The White Sox, in case you'd forgotten about last year's AL Central darlings, have been more than replaced by the Minnesota Twins. The Sox are finished. Done. Toast. Burned badly by so many injuries that you begin to suspect Toronto general manager Gord Ash somehow put a curse on them after the Mike Sirotka trade.

But the rest of the American League had better hope it's a curse and a powerful one indeed. That might be all that can keep this team from coming back with a vengeance. Think last season was a one-year aberration? Think again. It's this year.

Ash still is waiting for Sirotka's first regular-season pitch in a Blue Jays uniform. But he's got nothing on what has White Sox GM Kenny Williams cooling his heels.

David Wells' likely surgery has guaranteed that neither principal in that disputed offseason trade will be on a major league mound the rest of this year. But Boomer's aching back makes it a six-pack for the Sox. We're not talking about a power lunch at David's place.

Wells is the sixth White Sox pitcher to go out for the season, after Cal Eldred, Jim Parque, Antonio Osuna, Lorenzo Barcelo and Kelly Wunsch.

You can stop right there. Don't even move on to Frank Thomas missing all but 68 at-bats of his season. This year is over for the Sox. Forget about it. If somebody wants to give up something for Jose Canseco, good. If a bidder miraculously appears for Royce Clayton, hallelujah.

Pitcher James Baldwin keeps getting ground up in the rumor mill, but keeping him probably is a good idea. After all, he celebrated his 30th birthday Sunday and over-30 types are becoming rare on this roster. This isn't the time to be moving folks out of Comiskey Park by the busload. By this time next year, the South Side of Chicago could be home to a runaway train.

The White Sox and Oakland A's have walked side-by-side the past season and a half, jumping into the 2000 playoffs, surging onto everyone's hot list for 2001, then stumbling to the brink of standings oblivion.

While the A's are in better position for this year a run at the AL wild card still is likely the White Sox have the edge for 2002 and beyond. Oakland has to sweat over Jason Giambi's future, just part of the small-market exercise the A's will face almost annually with the superb talent they develop.

Payroll isn't an issue in Chicago, especially if the Sox opt for a $1.25 million buyout over Wells' $10 million option for next year. The current payroll is only in the $65 million neighborhood and about $25 million of that is on the disabled list.

That's more than enough to forget about. Especially when there's so much else to remember.

Remember that 80% of the starting lineup on many days is under 30. Only Jose Valentin, part-timers Sandy Alomar and Herbert Perry, plus Canseco qualify as ancient by White Sox standards. This time next year, figure on the only 30-and-overs being Valentin, Thomas and second baseman Ray Durham, who'll have his 30th birthday in November.

Remember that Baldwin isn't the old man of the rotation only because Sean Lowe 108 days older than Baldwin is plugging Wells' spot for now. But inevitably, 21-year-old Jon Garland will force the issue, joining Mark Buehrle, Rocky Biddle and Kip Wells. Biddle is the old man of that foursome, having turned 25 in May. Among the relievers, only lefty specialist Alan Embree is over 30.

Remember that the White Sox are young but accomplished. Garland, Buehrle, Biddle and Kip Wells have a 3.71 ERA this season with 223 strikeouts and 111 walks. Valentin is the only hitter over 30 who can crack the current top five on the team in hits, total bases, doubles, homers or RBI.

Remember that this is a team figuring out the fundamentals at an early age. The White Sox are third in the league in home runs, but next to last in striking out and grounding into double plays. They have the most sacrifice bunts in the league. Magglio Ordonez has become an All-Star Game regular. Paul Konerko and Carlos Lee have established themselves as big-time hitters.

Remember that more help is on the way. Jeff Liefer, another serious power guy, is easing into the lineup playing first base, third base and the outfield. Third baseman of the future Joe Crede is nearly ready at Triple-A. Joe Borchard is learning how to play center field at Double-A.

It's easy to understand why Williams was kicking back at the Futures Game last week, where Borchard was the DH for the U.S. team. You need to understand that kicking back at the ballpark isn't a Kenny Williams kind of thing.

"People don't usually like to sit with me during games," the first-year GM admits. But he was relaxed in Seattle, hiding out in a luxury suite from the inquisitions about what players he might or might not trade.

He's a rookie GM for a team playing nearly 100 percentage points worse than last year. Not to worry. He knows what he has, most of which he's going to keep. He knows an outfield maybe as early as next year of Lee, Borchard and Ordonez from left to right won't dominate ESPN's Web Gems.

"Looks like we're turning into an offensive team," Williams says with a detectable twinkle and without a hint of apology.

But don't translate that into "bash at all costs." Because there is one glaring statistical deficiency that has become a focus for the entire organization. The White Sox are last in the AL in on-base percentage, the very stat that Williams is demanding be stressed from Comiskey to rookie ball.

"It's all about on-base percentage," Williams says. "That's the most important number in our game."

That's exactly where Thomas, a four-time AL leader in the category, is missed most. Don't think it's a coincidence that with Thomas sidelined, the on-base numbers of Ordonez, Lee and Konerko have leveled off after improving every previous season. Thomas' habits rub off, plus they help put the other batters in better hitting situations.

Patience is a virtue. It needs to be the White Sox's virtue. It needs to be their fans' virtue. It needs to be Williams' virtue.

It will be rewarded.

E-mail Paul White at pwhite@usatoday.com


07-23-2001, 09:01 AM
Well thought out article. However, to win a WS, we must be solid defensively up the middle. I'd say we need:

maybe a CF - let's see if Rowand or Borchard are capable defensively there
A power starting pitcher - we have a lot of control guys, most of whom will be solid "#2 starters"
Lefty set-up reliever - perhaps can be filled from the minors.

I don't see how we improve these positions by standing pat. And, yes, it may require trading konerko or lee; we might have to trade some of our pitching; - tough medicine, but maybe necessary.

07-23-2001, 09:47 AM
A power starting pitcher - we have a lot of control guys, most of whom will be solid "#2 starters"

Well, we have Jon Rauch in the minors who can run it up to around 96 and Danny Wright, another pitcher built in the power pitcher style.