A brisk autumn breeze has come through the Windy City and again, both Chicago teams won’t be playing in October. The Cub’s season went chilly after the All-Star Break, while the White Sox tried to stay in the hunt before the Band-Aids and Elmer’s Glue of a team fell apart. Chicago has embraced the much anticipated Bears’ season and oddly rewarded with a 2-0 record to start; while the Blackhawks start clearing the cob-webs off the United Center and the Bulls start looking forward to a new season with a new enemy in the Eastern Conference.
Baseball is my first love and as a devout White Sox fan, this season leaves a sour taste that makes me yearn for the GM’s meetings and anxiously anticipate the start of Spring Training and how the 2011 White Sox will look.
This season can be best described as a roller coaster, only to come to sputtering and crashing halt two weeks before the end of the regular season. This team, at best could be called inconsistent. I have other choice words though it leaves this fan looking at this offseason and next year as though the ice is cracking.
The team has holes everywhere: the corner infields, the catcher, the outfield, a DH, that bullpen and possibly the starting rotation. I’ve often called this team Swiss cheese, though that was more in reference to their sloppy and insufferable offensive production. The most important moves out of the gate that have to be made are resigning, the team’s MVP – Paul Konerko and catcher AJ Pierzynski. Konerko had his best offensive season this year and has carried the team all year; while I don’t expect him to put up the same kind of numbers next year, he’s the team’s captain and clubhouse leader. While AJ’s season can be summed up as disappointing, he’s the best available catcher. Ramon Castro is best served in a limited capacity and Tyler Flowers apparently needs steroids to be good, too bad we’re in the post steroid era.
That takes care of two of the possible seven or eight holes that team has; Teahen isn’t an everyday player, so he should be relegated to the bench or traded away because Lillibridge is more versatile and cheaper. No one expected Omar Vizquel to perform as he did this year, and I don’t think anyone can count on him performing as well next year. I’d consider another bench spot for him. The White Sox have desperately missed the defense that Crede provided, if it wasn’t for his back, as well as the offensive reliability he offered. I don’t know what the kid Morel can do but right now, anything’s better than Teahen.
What about the DH? While Ozzie has a job as long as he wants it, this was a huge misstep. I know I’m not the biggest Jim Thome fan, mostly because of the injury liability, but the power was missed desperately. I wouldn’t mind Manny sticking around to provide some pop in the lineup.
When I mentioned the outfield, I’m singling out Carlos Quentin. He’s a head-case and injury liability in the batter’s box while an utter disaster in the outfield. He strikes out too much and doesn’t slug enough. Andruw Jones started well out of the gates, but the American League wasn’t good to him; though he may end up sticking around because of his glove.
Here’s where things get interesting. At the beginning of the ’09 campaign, both pitchers Gavin Floyd and John Danks were offered multiyear extensions: Floyd signed, Danks didn’t. This may still prove to be beneficial. Gavin’s season looks to be over after exiting with some pain in back of his shoulder – Gavin’s most valuable asset right now is his cheap multiyear deal. He’s an odd duck to say the least and I prefer to send him to the pitcher’s paradise that is the NL West, though right now, I don’t know what the White Sox could get back for him. Reward Danks’ tenacity and reliability with a fair contract that will lock him up long term. As Buehrle finishes his career, they need another veteran lefty to anchor the rotation, and there’s no better option than Danks.
Now for the elephant in the room: the bullpen. This has been a disaster for years. Inconsistencies abound but as my father has pointed out, if those pitchers so good, they’d be starters. It’s hard to generalize that about bullpen pitchers but middle relief across MLB is hard because of the drop off is so far from quality starter to adequate middle relief help. The bridge from the starter to the closers is so weak that even the closer can’t be counted on for day-to-day duties. This could be Jenks’ last season with the club, though who can do it as well? Here’s something to consider, Peavy has that wicked arm motion, and the more pitches he throws, the hard it is on his arm. Go the Kerry Wood path and make him a closer. He’s mentality and attitude suggests him thriving under the pressure of a save and he loves the spotlight and attention. However, I don’t know how long it will take him to warm up or whether he would want to make that move. I love the prospect of a starting rotation of Buehrle, Jackson, Danks, Peavy, and whoever – but the White Sox need help desperately in the pen and where it will come from, has yet to be determined. Pena is a quality pitcher, and has stepped up every opportunity to have earned himself a spot as a starter and putting Garcia in the pen makes sense due to his history with injuries.
It’s a long road, but every journey starts with a single step. Let’s hope Ken Williams can start them out on the right foot.