Ryan: so who will be good on the sox next year?
Steve: haha who knows
Steve: hopefully Rowand can keep it up
Steve: Thomas will probably miss the first few weeks of the season
Ryan: so your outfield is dye podsednik and rowand?
Ryan: you've got an outfield full of the second best outfielders on a team
Steve: I guess we're using the Twins model
Steve: we even have the white guy with the weird last name
Steve: Jermaine Dye should start going by J.C. Dye or something
Ryan: our outfield is stewart hunter and ford.... very normal last names
Ryan: with jones on the bench, playing dh
Ryan: he should... but only if he becomes a mediocre middle reliever
Steve: I'm not ruling out the Sox might try that
I haven't posted anything on my own since the fantasy basketball story (my team ended up winning and now I'm in first by myself) so I figured it was time to follow up Ryan's Twins preview with my own on the White Sox, the Twins most hated nemesis, even though we Sox fans hate the Cubs much more. Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams were hard at work this off-season, for better or for worse. Most of the core of the 2000 Division Champ team is gone now, but that was also a team that could consistently win you about 84 games a year, and we all know that's not enough. So maybe it was time after all to shake things up. Ozzie even brought all of his old cronies back and gave them jobs, with Tim Raines as 1st base coach, Joey Cora as 3rd base coach, Greg Walker as the hitting coach, and Harold Baines as the mysterious bench coach. All the Sox need to do now as sign Ellis Burks as a free agent and get Lance Johnson, Robin Ventura, and Carlton Fisk jobs sweeping floors or something and we have the 1993 team running the show. Just for the record, win or lose, I'm still glad the Sox are like DMX and not Ja Rule.
Right now though, I'll breakdown your 2005 Chicagooooo White Sox (As Gene Honda would say), position by position. Oh and here's a prediction by our other contributor.....
Kevin: The White Sox will win the division, I bet Ryan's life on it
Starting Pitcher – What's this? The White Sox have 5 starting pitchers? I don't believe it. I'm really going to miss the Felix Diaz/Neal Cotts/David Sanders/Jim Abbott?/Mike Porzio/My Great-Uncle Tom/Jeff Bajenaru/Jason Grilli combo I got to witness every 5 days last year. The Sox starters could be pretty solid this year, as long as everyone stays healthy. I can honestly say I'm cautiously optimistic, which is saying a lot for a South Sider.
Mark Buehrle has been the on and off ace of the Sox staff since 2001, and he has been decent at getting the job done, which isn't saying too much for an ace. But he's at least consistent, so I'll take that over Esteban Loaiza, who decided to go back to vintage Esteban last year, shave his goatee, and now is going to suffer as a member of the Washington Nationals.
Freddy Garcia went from one of my least favorite pitchers in baseball after the 2000 ALDS to one of my favorites because of 3 things: He got traded to the White Sox, I pitched my only perfect game in video game history with him a few months ago, and he's dating Ozzie Guillen's daughter, which is why he's on the Sox. I still can't wait for this exchange on the mound:
Ozzie: Alright Freddy I'm gonna pull you because you're pitching like crap today
Freddy: Fine, I guess I'll just go back in the clubhouse and NAIL YOUR DAUGHTER!
Next up we have Jon Garland, the supposed phenom that was supposed to be the White Sox answer to Kerry Wood when he was called up in 2000. Needless to say, it never panned out, but he's just good enough to be a 4th starter in the majors with his 4.something ERA and .500 W-L record. It's amazing though how many guys the Sox got rid of in the past 5 years but decided to stick with Garland. He's only 25, so I guess he can still have a breakout year, but I'm skeptical
Finally we have the former Yankees and Cuban Refugees, Jose Contreras and "El Duce" Orlando Hernandez. Both of these guys were thought to be lost at sea at sometime, but I really hope they stop celebrating being alive and start pitching like they could wind up in Castro's torture chamber by June if they don't produce. Contreras and El Duce claim to be 33 and 35, respectively, but I think they are probably much older and I'm praying they don't break down like anything made by DaimlerChrysler in the middle of the season.
Relief Pitcher - I'll start with the one highlight of the bullpen. Shingo Takatsu. I love watching this guy pitch. I've never seen hitters get so angry so often when they strike out on his total junk changeup that he throws. If you haven't seen this guy pitch, you're missing out because he can vary the speed of his pitches by about 25 mph, and it drives hitters insane.
The rest of the bullpen is pretty much composed of AAA pitchers that really want to start but aren't nearly good enough and Dustin Hermanson, who I'll always remember for giving up the technical record breaking 67th home run to Mark McGwire back in 1998 (because Sosa hit 66). So you make your own conclusions on how I feel about that acquisition. Besides Cliff Politte, who's a veteran and always good for a 7-run outing every now and then, I think its a crapshoot who will be in the bullpen come April and who will be starting for the Charlotte Knights after looking at the Spring Training roster. As the summer wears on, I'm sure I'll be complaining about them.
Infield – Alright! Now it's time to talk offense. Before I begin, I just want to let everyone know that my big problem with this year's version of OzzieBall, which will focus on speed and contact more on hitting home runs, is U.S. Cellular Field. After the roof over the upper deck was added to the Cell last year, the wind patterns inside the stadium actually were changed by it and balls starting flying out of the stadium like it was Wrigley Field, except you didn't have to be worried about being killed by falling concrete, drinking Old Style, and pissing in a trough. But my question is if you're going to play in the #2 home run stadium from 2004 (after Wrigley of course), wouldn't you want to have a bunch of sluggers? Argh....well let's get to the infield.
1st Base - Paul Konerko. I'm really glad that the Sox decided to not ship him to Arizona as it was rumored. If anything, I would have really missed the music they play when he comes up to bat. He had the beginning of Metallica's "Battery" perfectly timed out so the lighting fast metal part would kick in right after he stepped into the batter's box. I do have a problem with how he can sometimes be vocal with the media and cause rifts in the clubhouse, but since Ryan likes to talk about team cancers, the White Sox have so much that one more guy really isn't going to make it worse than it is, and some team needs to always be the bad guy in baseball movies. AAA legend Ross Gload will probably make the team as his decent backup.
2nd Base - Tadahito Iguchi. The Japanese sensation hit well over .300 last season and 24 home runs in Japan and they signed him despite both the Yankees and Red Sox being interested. I don't know how he'll do in the states, but HE'S NOT WILLIE HARRIS! Willie of course, is taking it like a man and crying that he'll win the job in spring training anyways. It's hard to type right now because of how hard I'm laughing over that thought.
Shortstop - Juan Uribe. Uribe finally returns to his natural position after platooning with Harris for some unknown reason and backing up Jose Valentin last season. The husky supposedly 25 year old infielder hit .283 with 23 HR and 74 RBI, and I think he can really fill his spot as a stable SS for the Sox for years to come, as long as he lays off the deep dish pizza.
3rd Base - Joe Crede. Another prospect that never quite got over the hump. He's the only 3B on the roster so I guess this is who we got. My dad is a big fan of his. Last year he said, "I hope the Sox make some blockbuster trade and just package Crede along with the deal, just to get him out of here." If he goes down with an injury.....uhh
Catcher - A.J. Pierzynski - "The clubhouse cancer" as Ryan called him (he's only like 1 or 2 cells compared to the Frank Thomas, Paul Konerko, Carl Everett, and Willie Harris tumors) had a very productive year last year and is a major improvement over Sandy Alomar Jr. Ben Davis is a more than capable backup too, and was a huge surprise with his production after being packaged with Freddy Garcia last year. Hopefully we won't have any Jamie Burke sightings this year.
Designated Hitter - Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt, the White Sox Legend, the Crybaby. Call him what you want, but I grew up watching this guy and I'm hoping he can put up a few more above average seasons to ensure his spot in Cooperstown. In this age of steroids, the Hurt never really got much bigger and better, and he's still built the same way he was when he played tight end for Auburn, plus some late 30's ass fat of course. Before going down with his foot injury last year, he was leading the American League with 18 home runs. He might not be ready for opening day, and the more than adequate Carl Everett will most likely take his place until he comes back, as both a hitter and a head case.
Outfield – New Look this season. I'm going to miss Maggs and C-Lee and all their home runs in the park formerly known as Comiskey, but maybe it really is time to move on, especially since it looks like Ordonez's knee injury is much more serious than it seems. Oh well, I guess that's the end of Maggs' hilarious "brin pesssi and see you at ballpar" commercials that I still don't really know what they were for to this day. On to the present....
Center Field - Aaron Rowand. This guy really impressed me last year. I remember looking at his physique in the past and wondering why he didn't hit more home runs, and it turned out that it was just a matter of the game slowing down for him. Now he kind of reminds me of a poor man's Jim Edmonds. He can hit, run, and field very effectively and I'm hoping his new contract doesn't make him like a lazy NBA player.
Right Field - Jermaine Dye. I've always been a fan of his since his days in Kansas City, and I think this was a good signing and the fans should warm up to him very fast considering his history of hot starts. He also promised on ESPN Radio 1000 that he will take the Sox to a championship, which is pretty bold since we're talking about a team that hasn't won a title since 1917 or even a pennant since 1959. At least he's positive, unlike his fan base. Ironically, I actually traded him to Kevin along with Moises Alou (now on his Giants) in our fantasy league last year for Magglio Ordonez in a very stupid trade.
Left Field - Scott Podsednik. He stole 70 stolen bases for the Brewers last year. The White Sox traded one of my favorite players and one of the best Cub Killers out there, Carlos Lee, for him. He better produce. At least Lee gets to play the Cubs 19 times a year now.
The backup outfielders are Carl Everett, the Mr. T of baseball, Timo Perez, and Joe Borchard (if he makes the team). Since I love crazy dysfunctional players, how can I not love Carl Everett? I can't wait for his first meltdown. Who's he going to punch? What's he going to throw? The possibilities are endless. He has got be more emotionally unstable than my ex-girlfriend. Moving on, Timo....haha cool name. Joe Borchard walked away from the starting QB position at Stanford a few years ago to be a pretty crappy major league/AAA player. He is, however, the best young QB in Chicago and could probably start for the Bears.
The Lineups I would use (because I have no idea what Ozzie is thinking):
2B Iguchi (Uribe or Rowand if it turns out he sucks)
DH Thomas (This could be Everett too)
SS Uribe (or Iguchi)
That's a pretty stacked lineup if you ask me, and the rotation I mentioned above is decent too. As always, the team chemistry scares the hell out of me, but if these guys can get it together, their talent level should be able to carry them to the Central title. Let's not forget that this team won 83 games last year and were in first until Ordonez and Thomas went down. Those guys may not be around this year either, but at least they had the off-season to prepare by picking up Podsednik, Pierzynski, Dye, and Iguchi. These guys won't hit 40 HR's, but they're very capable of producing runs. Sorry Ryan, I think when fans turn on their TV's this fall to watch the playoffs, they'll be watching an AL Central champ that has players they've actually heard of (because there's a good chance it can be the Tigers).