- Baseball in the Garden of Eden, A Book ReviewPosted 774 days ago
Reflections On the White Sox
- Updated: February 20, 2009
2008 was an odd year in the AL Central. A lot of people–this commentator included– thought that the Tigers had the division won before pitchers and catchers even reported to camp. Oops. They ended up in last place. And while it took an extra game, the Chicago White Sox were your AL Central champs. Cue the cliche: that’s why they play the games.
But even though the Sox made the postseason, White Sox GM Ken Williams still made significant changes to the team during the offseason. He sent Javy Vazquez & Boone Logan to the Braves for Tyler Flowers, Brent Lillibridge and 2 other prospects. He also dealt Nick Swisher to the Yanks for Wilson Betemit, Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez. The trades were kind of like the White Sox own ‘stimulus package’. It stimulated their farm system, saved themselves $40+ million and got rid of 3 players that neither Sox fans nor manager Ozzie Guillen seemed to like.
The Sox also signed Cuban player Dayan Viciedo, making 3 the total number of Cuban players on the team. Alexei Ramirez was quite the find for GM Ken Williams a year ago, and Jose Contreras was an essential part of the 2005 World Series Championship team. Williams is hoping the 19-year old Viciedo can be a power bat for years to come. Here in Chicago we can’t wait to find out if he is as good as some of the hype.
As for 2009, the White Sox should be in the mix for the Central title. They are hoping that Paul Konerko returns to form after his worst season as a Sox in 2008. He had a hand injury that affected him most of the season, but his power did return toward year’s end. They also need Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez to duplicate their amazing 2008 seasons, and they’re counting on one more season of power-hitting from Jermaine Dye and Jim Thome. Ramirez is sliding over to shortstop in ’09 and the Sox also said goodbye to 3B Joe Crede, so the left side of the infield will be all new.
The trade of Vazquez means that John Danks and Gavin Floyd have to be as good or better than their career years of 2008. Mark Buehrle and some combination of Clayton Richard, Jeff Marquez and Bartolo Colon round out the rotation. Colon was the only other free agent signing for the Sox.
The bullpen will be a strength, although closer Bobby Jenks is no longer blowing away hitters as he was a few years ago. Jenks still saved 30 games in 34 opportunities, but he struck out just 38 in over 60 innings. That makes it 2 years in a row his K totals have dipped, a red flag for a power-pitcher.
Spring training will feature 2 key battles for starting roles: 2B and CF. Chris Getz, Jayson Nix and Brent Lillibridge will vie for the 2B job. Jerry Owens, Brian Anderson and Dewayne Wise will fight for CF, although that may end up as a platoon. 3B should belong to Josh Fields, but Viciedo could possibly win the job. Until those 3 positions are settled it’s difficult to tell what the starting lineup will look like. But the meat will be Ramirez, Quentin, Dye, Thome, Konerko and Pierzynski.
The optimist in me says the Sox offense could be explosive and they will win 90 games. More likely is the 86-88 win range, and I’m not sure that will be good enough to win the division. It should be an exciting year of baseball on the South side of Chicago. Let the season begin!
You can read more from Matt, aka The Zoner, over at Zoner Sports by clicking the link provided.