Friday, December 23, 2005


One last time, we lifelong White Sox fans pause to remember that the 2005 Chicago White Sox are now immortal, like Da Bears and Jordan's six teams. Barring another miracle, Mark, Freddy, Jon, Jose, Orlando, Bobby, Dustin, Cliff, Neil, Damaso, Luis, AJ, Chris, Paul, Tadahito, Juan, Joe, Pablo, Willie, Scott, Aaron, Jermaine, Carl, Frank, Timo, Geoff, and Ross, you'll all be remembered as long as there is baseball in Bridgeport.

Goodbye, Orlando, Damaso, Luis, Aaron, and Geoff, you're gone now, on to new teams as part of the annual retooling. Adios also to Timo and Willie, victims of the windshield of salary escalation and their own performance. Farewell (probably) to Frank Thomas, the brightest star in a century-plus of ChiSox baseball.

Hellos to Javier, Rob, and Jim, and also to Brandon and Brian (although we've met quite a bit before), the reinforcements brought in.

Here's hoping you, too, can become part of the new panorama.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Javier Self a Merry Little Christmas

Item: White Sox reportedly trade El Duque, Luis Vizcaino, and Chris Young for Javier Vazquez and a lot of cash. This deal is still unannounced last I checked due to physical exams and, possibly, MLB needing to approve the cash part. (When is the last time the commissioner didn't?)

Javier Vazquez displaces El Duque and Brandon McCarthy as the supposed fifth starter in the rotation, at least for now. The deal placed a lot of pressure on Jose Contreras and Jon Garland to come to terms on an extension, keeping the pitching staff together. At last report, Contreras is the most likely to cave first. When the music stops, whoever doesn't sit in Chair Number Five gets traded, and not necessarily to a favorable ballpark (How about Tampa Bay, Jon? Or Texas more your style?)

Vazquez, obviously, is the ex-Expo phenom who suffered an epic collapse in 2004 in the second half of the season as a Yankee and then turned in a pedestrian effort in 2005 for the D-Backs. The question for Vazquez is how much of his performance suffered from the combination of substandard defensive teams and uninspired coaching. Those won't be problems with the White Sox. His propensity for giving up fly balls in worrisome in the Cell, of course. But he is certainly an upgrade over El Duque in what's-left ability and in health status, and while overpaid, as a back of the rotation starter he's a very good pitcher.

Vizcaino and El Duque were roster filler at this point in their careers for the White Sox. Vizcaino's role was essentially mop-up relief, and El Duque's healthy history means he can't be projected to put up 200 innings ever again. Certainly El Duque served an important role in the 2005 team, but you can't get all sentimental and assume he'd do it again.

Giving up Chris Young may turn out to be prohibitively expensive. "May". Young turned in a monster power season as a youngster at Birmingham, a park which kills home run hitters. His 26 homers probably repesent about 25% fewer than he'd have hit if the Barons played in a neutral ballpark. One problem for Young was contact -- he strikes out a lot -- and maybe the White Sox have become a little gunshy since the Borchard experiment, but still, a five-tool outfielder with that kind of pop could turn out to be a real find. If Young shows he can hit for average and play center field, the White Sox may regret the trade. If he ends up a .260-hitting corner outfielder with power and 60 walks a year (Carlos Lee), they won't, really. You can't compare Young to Jeremy Reed statistically because they are so different, but I remember the gnashing of teeth over Reed's being traded for Garcia, which resembled the gnashing over Young last week. I doubt any White Sox fans regret that deal now after Garcia's duel with Backe in the championship clincher; if they do, well, I suggest they should re-examine what they think is important in a baseball season.

Further, if the White Sox use the little auction they're having to lock in Contreras and if he can maintain his improvment, and if they can flip Garland's incredible season into a star position player like Blalock or Tejada or a handful of high-level prospects, the White Sox may never miss Young.

If they don't, another possibility is this gives the White Sox more than an excuse to put McCarthy in the Charlotte pantry long enough to set his career money clock back one more year and a five-deep rotation that could be among the most feared in baseball history. That alone may be the key to the deal, in the long run.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Crystal Ball

The White Sox 2006 roster should be capable of defending the division title, although the division will be tougher than its was. The long term prognosis is really ugly, I think. Because of idiotic teams like the Mets and Blue Jays raising the going rate for pitching mediocrity to almost ten million dollars and, by inference, skyrocketing the price of quality pitching, the White Sox' rotation will simply be too expensive to keep together beyond 2006-7.
Kenny's core strategy, assembling dominant starting pitchers at relative bargain prices, is not sustainable.

Black Betsy will want to point out that trading pitching prospects by the basket doesn't help this situation, and he's partially right; the problem (and you can ask any Texas Ranger fan to confirm this) is that from 10 Gios and Haigwoods, you have an even chance of getting one Freddy Garcia, and you need a handful to play the 2005 White Sox' game.

As for the rest of the division, the Indians' offseason depends on Millwood, I think, as they've struck out badly in everything since the Byrd signing. I don't see that they've gotten either better or worse. In any case, the Indians are basically as good as the White Sox, although if they'd just fix their corner positions they'd dominate. The problem is, as smart as Shapiro is, he has a blind spot, and doesn't get that Aaron Boone is a terrible ballplayer.

When I first saw that the Twins got Castillo, I shuddered. Castillo is a massive upgrade over everybody the Twinks have played at second for years, probably since Knoblauch. They are working on their third base hole, and probably plan to replace Jones with the gimpy guy (Kubel?), and allegedly are looking for one of the old broken down guys (Thomas, Piazza) to replace Matt LeCroy at DH. (How did HE get through waivers?) There is, though, a case for believing that Castillo will decline sharply in Minnesota, that being that he's basically an infield singles hitter, and that the FieldTurf may turn a lot of his slow rollers into outs. I'm not holding my breath.

The Tigers continue their steady march toward mediocrity, and have reached the point they can be a real pain in the neck to the contending teams, but not the point they can contend. Polanco and Shelton and Bonderman are good players, but the team is weighed down by several ridiculous has-beens with gigantic contracts. They continued to add to their collection of misfit toys with Kenny "Assault and Battery" Rogers.

I revel in the Royals' badness, their continuing penance (in my book) for their decade dominating the old A.L. West partly through the cheap trick of an unplayable ballfield that confused and disoriented visiting teams and gave them dozens of cheap victories over visitors that would have crushed them on grass. (Don't believe me? Check out the Royal record in the first games of home series from 1975-1990..)

Kings of the Mountain

A quick roster analysis for the 2006 defending World Series champions... A few NRIs to be named later could upset the applecart a bit, especially at the back end of the bullpen.


  • Locks (11): Paul Konerko, Tadahito Iguchi, Juan Uribe, Joe Crede, Scott Podsednik, Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, A. J. Pierzynski, Chris Widger, Rob Mackowiak, Pablo Ozuna
  • Likely (1): Brian Anderson
  • Questionable (4): Timo Perez, Willie Harris, Joe Borchard, Ross Gload
  • Possible (3): Chris Young, Jerry Owens, Chris Stewart
  • Long Shots (2): Casey Rogowski, Pedro Lopez

As everybody points out, we don't know how many pitchers they'll carry, probably 12 as a baseline, which squeezes out Willie Harris and, probably, Timo Perez. The "questionable" list doesn't include anybody with minor-league options left. One advantage to carrying a Jerry Owens on the roster is he can be optioned regularly as part of the pitching load balancing act.

On paper, the offense has returned to the level it was at in 2004.


  • Locks (8): Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras, Neal Cotts, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Dustin Hermanson, Bobby Jenks, Cliff Politte,
  • Likely (3): Orlando Hernandez, Brandon McCarthy, Luis Vizcaino
  • Possible (3): Jon Adkins, Jeff Bajenaru, Arnie Munoz
  • Long Shots (4): Felix Diaz, Charlie Haeger, Paulino Reynoso, Sean Tracey

The likelies here are all pending possible trades.


Near the end of the winter meetings, the White Sox traded Damaso Marte back to the Pirates for lefthanded-hitting supersub Rob Mackowiak. A good deal, as long as the White Sox aren't forced to over-use Mackowiak.

Marte had worn out his welcome over the last two years, both with marginal pitching (all those walks) and, reportedly, off-the-field hissy fits. As a second lefthanded reliever (I hesistate to use the words "setup man" with the White Sox, whose bullpen use is more creative than that), Marte was likely to see 40-60 innings again, making him a brutally expensive player. Trading him back to the organization the White Sox obtained him from brought an interesting, unique player.

Mackowiak is nominally a third baseman, but has seen 232 games in right, 167 at third, 110 in center, 59 at second, 46 in left, and even 5 at first base. His defensive statistics look below-average but acceptable in center and at second, and average at the other positions. This makes him acceptably versatile (being suitable for six positions in the lineup), and therefore one heck of a bench player.

As a hitter, he's also one heck of a bench player, and could fill in as an interim regular without crippling the team, but he's basically a lefthanded Joe Crede. This makes him an upgrade in terms of both versatility and effectiveness over the past Sox bench players, and provides effective insurance that the White Sox lacked in 2005.

One comment often made about the 2005 Series champs was how lucky they'd been, but the real luck was that the serious injuries they did suffer to key players (Frank Thomas, El Duque) were covered adequately in places the team had some depth. Injuries to Podsednik and Crede, neither offensive dynamos, weren't adequately covered, contributing to the late-August, early-September doldrums, because the 2005 bench simply wasn't all that hot. The 2006 bench is already looking better, as Mackowiak is a better ballplayer than any of the 2005 crew.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Tomorrow Never Knows

Frank Thomas was refused arbitration yesterday, almost certaining ending his long White Sox career. Predicatably, as it always happens with older athletes who refuse to quit, Frank is angry, bitter, and resentful. Always optimistic, Frank expects to be healthy next year and contribute significantly -- like he did ten years ago, when he wasn't 38 years old.

I think the truth is Frank thinks he needs 500 homers to lock in his Hall Of Fame credentials. Because of the twin negatives of DH-ness and an injury-riddled last half of his career, many observers feel that Frank falls just short of a Hall of Fame career. I suspect Frank believes that and is still looking for some more counting numbers.

The problem is, if he puts up some mediocre numbers, he'll damage people's memories, and be remembered by the HOF voters as an old, slow slugger. I think he'd do better to hang them up, and spend the next five years quietly reminding the world how he wasn't chemically assisted during his tenure, and should be judged that way, being the elder statesman he has earned the right to be.

It's always disappointing when a premier athlete overstays his time, like a great actor taking a bit part on a TV show. Or think of the train wreck that was Life With Lucy (Lucille Ball) trying to recapture that magic from the 1950s. That's what I think of a 38-year-old Frank Thomas bouncing around the hotel selling himself as healthy and ready to contribute. Sure, it's possible he'll put up some nice numbers and be healthy for a full year. It's also possible he'll get elected the next Nevada senator. Just don't bet on either.

If Frank doesn't want to become part of the Minnie Minoso post-retirement PR machine for the White Sox quite yet, and somebody wants to pay him several million bucks not to, I'm fine with that. But let's be realistic, the odds are, he'll break something else and that will be that.