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View Full Version : Sox set to sell hope—again


Jerry_Manuel
09-24-2002, 02:40 PM
I'll just post it for the lazy people who don't want to sign up.

Oh, brother.

They're doing it to us again.

As the last grains of sand slide out of baseball's hourglass, the White Sox are doing what comes naturally this time of the year. They are playing better than they have all year.

It has been their trademark in the Jerry Manuel era. They have played better after Aug. 15 than they had previously in four of the last five seasons, the one not so tiny exception coming in 2000.

Why do Manuel teams finish strong?

"Maybe it just takes me that long to figure things out," Manuel says.

Good to see the man of many beards hasn't lost his sense of humor. Even many of the non-sociopaths at Comiskey Park turned sour somewhere along the line in 2001 and '02, in particular season ticket-holders who bought into the team after it won 95 games and a Central Division title in 2000.

You can't blame them if they feel like the Lenape Indians when they did business with Dutch Governor Peter Minuit, who gave them duffel cloth, kettles, axes, hoes, awls and assorted beads and trinkets worth $24 for Manhattan Island.

But, hey, according to investment wizard Peter Lynch, if the Lenapes could have earned 8 percent return annually from 1626 forward they would be worth $20 trillion by now. Who among us knows what a Magglio Ordonez bobblehead will bring on eBay in another 376 years?

Considered favorites both springs, the White Sox have stayed within five games of first place for exactly 98 days over the last two seasons, none of those coming later than June 22. However—and hide your wallet, here comes the sales pitch—the Sox suddenly have won 20 of their last 28.

Not only are they saving a little face by winning, but they're doing it with a bunch of Charlotte Knights and the occasional Birmingham Baron.

"There are some gamers out there," general manager Ken Williams says.

While club Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf formally has put Williams and Manuel on notice that "everything will be evaluated after the season," he should be able to convince himself all is not lost. Not with Joe Crede at third base. Not with Aaron Rowand in center field. Not with Miguel Olivo behind the plate. Not with Super Joe Borchard about to force his way into a crowded outfield.

Two months ago, before the late-July purge that ended Williams' failed attempt to improve the 2000 nucleus with a group of 30-somethings, it seemed there was only one advertising slogan that might stir up interest in the 2003 Sox: "Under new management."

In the end, that may be what it takes. Before Chicago truly embraces the South Siders again, Reinsdorf might have to surrender to public opinion and sell. But fresh legs like the two that carried Borchard around the bases on his inside-the-park homer at Kansas City always bring fresh hope.

Don't be surprised if the '03 campaign is "The kids can really play."

Or maybe, "Really, these kids can play."

Easy punch lines aside, this wave of young talent could provide a nice ride. It was collected though classic diversionary tactics.

For years the White Sox hyped their stable of minor-league pitchers while keeping rival organizations from realizing the ultimate goal was to develop a core of intriguing position players. Or maybe the guys in the farm department didn't want anyone to know how good these guys were for fear Williams would trade them for John Candelaria and Al Oliver.

Who cares how it happened? The point is the Sox may just have enough talented youngsters to compete—albeit in baseball's lamest division—with a payroll that's unlikely to go beyond $50 million.

In Olivo, they should have their best catcher since Carlton Fisk. In Crede, they have a right-handed-hitting Robin Ventura, an above-average fielder who has hit 34 homers and driven in 95 runs this year. In Borchard, they have a confident young slugger who is so gifted he could be Jim Miller's backup. Don't laugh, he once came off the Stanford bench to throw five touchdowns against UCLA.

Then there are imports D'Angelo Jimenez and Willie Harris, who have flashed playmaker ability. As an added bonus, the Sox have regained the good vibes they had back in 1999 and the first half of 2000.

The tenor around Comiskey changed for the worse after the arrival of Charles Johnson and Harold Baines in late 2000 and grew edgy when Williams—faced with the daunting task of improving a good team and eager to make a splash for Reinsdorf—added David Wells and Royce Clayton. The locker room was transformed from clubhouse to workplace.

But this time around, Williams seems to get it. There's a good thing in the making and he's going to do his best not to get in the way of the fun. Now if only he can pull a Cal Eldred out of his hat.