Chicago White Sox: Silver Lining for a Season That Hasn't Even Started
I can't wait to see the White Sox in the playoffs—in 2020.
With the news of eating champion Prince Fielder signing a massive deal (nine years for $214 million) with the Detroit Tigers, Sox fans have surely conceded that the division isn't winnable.
How can a chronically underachieving bunch like the White Sox compete with a team like the Tigers, who not only boast the league's best pitcher (Justin Verlander) combined with two of the most elite hitters in the game in Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder?
The answer is simple: They can't and they probably won't.
But for all you diehard fans like me who will still watch the games regardless, here's some silver lining to a season already pronounced to be over.
U.S. Cellular Field Will Probably Be Empty
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How much do you think that guy bought a ticket for? Regardless, the Sox are probably not going to have many standing-room-only games.
Plus, the food is flat-out delicious. Have you ever tried the Corn Elotes with the special seasonings? It's out of this world.
Whether it's eating a Polish sausage with grilled onions in less than three bites or cracking salty peanuts throughout the duration of the game, the concessions never disappoint.
I wish I could say the same thing about the product on the field.
I probably just lost half my audience by leading my piece off with this slide. For the rest of you, thanks for staying. Don't worry, actual baseball analysis is on the way. Turn the page.
Chris Sale: Transitioning to the Starting Rotation
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Chris Sale is just like me: tall, lanky and possesses the ability to throw a knee-bending breaking ball. All joking aside, this guy has the potential to be a top-of-the-line starter.
Last year, Sale was filthy out of the bullpen, owning a 2.79 ERA while striking out 79 guys in 71 innings. Pretty good stuff from the herky-jerky southpaw dealer.
But with praise comes concern.
Concern 1: Can the left-hander excel at his new role?
When Sale was given the opportunity to close at the beginning of the season, he fell flat on his face and couldn't find the strike zone. Starters need to conserve pitches and get the ball over the plate. It's pretty simple.
Concern 2: Can Sale stay healthy for the duration of the season?
The same "herky-jerkyness" that deceives opposing hitters may also take a toll on the youngster's left elbow. I hope I don't have to hear about any visits to Dr. James Andrews over Sale's career, but it wouldn't surprise me. A motion like Sale's isn't exactly a healthy and natural movement for the human arm. Be on the lookout.
Nonetheless, Sale's upside is so great. His stuff is filthy. If he can develop some type of changeup to complement his power fastball/slider combo, he can a force on the mound for years to come.
Dayan Viciedo: The Cuban Tank Will Destroy His Opponents
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He's a 22-year-old kid with one of the quickest, liveliest bats I've seen in a while.
We've only seen glimpses of the kid at the professional level: Hitting .282 with six HRs and 19 RBIs over the course of 206 ABs. It's a very small sample size, but he's got the attitude that I like to see in young hitters.
For young hitters, making the proper adjustments is probably the most difficult part of the gig. Viciedo understands that hitting is much more than just picking up the bat and hitting that circular object as it explodes toward your body. Hitting is a constant chess match between pitcher and hitter. He understands this simple, but often overlooked, idea.
The organization obviously thinks that the young slugger is ready to be a force, letting two-time All Star Carlos Quentin go to San Diego for some fringe pitching prospects and financial flexibility.
Who knows—maybe some of this new-found flexibility will the team go after Viciedo's buddy Yoennis Cespedes? Then again, I don't necessarily think handing out millions of dollars to players we've only seen on YouTube is a fantastic idea.
The Classics: Ozzie, Buerhle and Paulie
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Well, this is awkward. Ozzie and Buerhle's runaway to South Florida leaving Paulie by his lonesome must have slipped my mind.
Paul Konerko is the face of an organization that desperately needs his leadership and professionalism. Number 14 epitomizes everything the organization is not: classy and consistent.
White Sox fans should revere the man for all the time he's put into this city. Whether it's been watching him slug meaningful homers or making his slow trot around the bases, it has truly been a pleasure and a treat to watch him play.
Honestly, it wouldn't shock me if he is inducted into Cooperstown some day. He'll need a couple more solid seasons and a group of friendly writers, but his enshrinement is surely plausible.
For now, let's enjoy the .290-.300 BA with 28 HRs and 97 RBIs the man will surely put up this upcoming season.
Kenny Williams: Will He Continue to Baffle the Baseball World
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Perhaps the most shocking thing Kenny Williams could do this upcoming season is do something understandable.
Time and time again, the World Series-winning GM has puzzled the sports world with mind-boggling acquisition after mind-boggling acquisition.
When the Sox fall out of contention, he'll surely make some type of move that makes baseball fans scratch their heads.
You gotta take the good with the bad when it comes to Williams. Over the years, he's made his good deals (trading Danks for McCarthy, Loaiza for Contreras) and his bad ones. For the sake of my word count, I'm not including any of Kenny's specific blunders. Cough—Todd Ritchie, Nick Swisher, David Wells and tons of other players that will only make me sad. Sorry, I couldn't resist.
Jeez, I'm so pessimistic.
Robin Ventura: There's a New Sheriff in Town
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Being a youngster when Ventura patrolled the infield for my beloved White Sox, I don't really remember him at his prime. But, he seems like a nice guy. His hiring seemed like a necessary transition from loud and distracted to calm and collective.
His lack of managerial experience would concern me if this team had any chance of actually making noise. Too bad. In all seriousness, Ventura and the team will go through the growing pains together. That sounds way too cheesy, but it's true.
So while we will miss the erratic and completely inappropriate behavior Ozzie constantly displayed, Ventura will be a good fit in the long run.
Expectations can't be that high that there's a world of pressure, so give him time to warm up and get comfortable.
Addison Reed and 1000 MPH Heater
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I exaggerated a little bit to grab your attention. Sue me. The hurler does throw very hard, possessing a killer fastball/slider combination that obviously made Sergio Santos expendable to Kenny Williams. I agree with him on that standpoint.
Relief pitching is all about catching lightning in a bottle—Santos was great, but definitely tailed off towards the end of the season (4.22 ERA in the second half). Williams, aware of Reed's upside but at a fraction of the cost, turned Santos into a solid pitching prospect in Nestor Molina.
A dependable, elite closer is only necessary if you have a contender. Why not take the chance that Molina's crazy minor league numbers (148 K:16 BB with a .997 WHIP) actually translate to success in the show?
In a couple months, Reed will win the closing job and bewildered White Sox fans will not be fretting over the loss of a converted in-fielder.
Dunn Breaking the All-Time Strikeout Record
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I'm kidding, but I wonder what the plaque would look like for such an award? A huge donut? A special strike-out motion from umpires called the Big Donkey Ring-up? I'm open to suggestions.
How gutsy would it be to lay a $100 prop bet on Dunn being the 2012 HR Champion? Vegas is paying 30-1.
Optimistic, but Probably Far-Fetched, Possibilities
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Here's a shrivel of optimism:
1. Gordon Beckham hits .320 and becomes the team's three hitter, earning his first all-star bid.
2. Brent Morel keeps up his power stroke he displayed in September (nine HRs) and wins the Home Run Derby.
3. Alejandro De Aza actually becomes a consistent major league outfielder. There's got to be a reason he's 27 and has only appeared in 140 major league games.
4. Tyler Flowers figures out how to hit and not strike out more than a third of the time so Williams doesn't have to bring AJ on for another year of free cheese on the basepaths.
5. Alex Rios forgets to show up to spring training and the team somehow gets out of paying his atrocious contract.
6. The team makes me eat my words and they actually play quality baseball. Who knows—maybe they'll win the division? I've been watching way too much Major League. Hey, but at least the White Sox are currently tied for first place.