For about the last six months, I (and certainly a large number of other White Sox fans) have considered the third base job on the South Side to be all but given to Josh Fields.
While I didn't expect Joe Crede (who started at third base from 2003 to early 2007) to have been traded by now, I certainly didn't expect GM Kenny Williams to come out and flatly state that Crede would start over Fields if he can't find a trade by the end of the spring.
As Hawk Harrelson would say, "dadgummit!"
I understand Williams not wanting to give up Crede for a bag of baseballs, but starting him over your obvious third baseman of the future who's one of the few good young talents in the organization?
You're off your rocker on this one, Kenny. Don't go out and trade for Todd Ritchie next.
Fields appeared in 100 games last year and over his 373 at-bats smacked 23 home runs. That was his rookie season.
I'm a firm believer that Fields, the White Sox first-round pick out of Oklahoma State in 2003, has the potential to hit 35 home runs and be another force in a lineup that already has guys like Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, and Nick Swisher.
He's only 25, but I feel he's already proven himself as a power hitter at the big league level. Yes, his batting average was .244, but along with those 23 home runs he had 67 RBI.
Fields needs to work on his hitting against righties. But against lefties he was a monster last year, hitting .321 with 11 home runs over 106 at-bats.
When you have lefties like Fransisco Liriano, C.C. Sabathia, Dontrelle Willis, Kenny Rogers, and Nate Robertson in the division, he's a very valuable commodity to have.
And, let me repeat, he's only 25. He's the future.
Crede's the past.
Nobody's denying the contribution Crede has made to the White Sox organization. Down the stretch in 2005, Crede came up with the plays and hits that kept the White Sox from suffering what would have been the biggest collapse in MLB history.
While Konerko and Dye won the ALCS and World Series MVP awards, ask any White Sox fan and they'll tell you that Crede was the playoff MVP.
From his walk-off double in Game 2 of the ALCS to his game-winning single in Game 5. From his home run off Wandy Rodriguez in Game 1 of the World Series, to his spectacular defense evoking memories of Brooks Robinson in the same game, to his blast off Roy Oswalt in Game 3—Crede was amazing in October.
He followed that up in 2006 by putting up the best offensive season of his career, hitting .283 with 30 home runs and 94 RBI.
He furthered his status as the most clutch player in White Sox history by hitting two game-tying grand slams. He won the silver slugger that year as a third baseman, in a league in which Alex Rodriguez plays third base, too.
The big concern for Sox fans after 2006 was whether or not Crede was going to sign a long-term extension. He didn't.
Then 2007 came, and so did the back problems.
Crede had opted against back surgery in the offseason, and that decision came back to cost him most of 2007 and possibly his career with the White Sox.
Crede played in just 47 games before going on the disabled list for good in early June. When he went on the DL, he was hitting .216 with just four homers and 22 RBI—numbers that would make the 2004 Crede cringe.
Fields came in for Crede, played well, and the writing looked to be on the wall—Crede, of course, would be traded.
Of course, his trade value was nil in the offseason, despite the glowing reports coming from agent Scott Boras.
He hasn't experienced any injury problems this spring, but he's hit poorly, diminishing his trade value even further.
Granted, Fields hasn't hit much better. But he's not the one on the market.
Unless you're in Crede's situation, you take spring training with a grain of salt. After all, Jolbert Cabrera leads all hitters with 10 RBI. Abraham Nunez led all hitters in home runs a few years back.
If Crede doesn't hit well and his trade value remains at zero, then why not keep him as a late-inning defensive replacement? It's a known fact that Crede's defense is superior to that of Fields (and most third basemen in the league, too).
Plus, there's almost no chance Crede is back with the Sox in 2009. Williams has a record of not dealing with Boras' clients.
So even if Crede does do well, Fields will be at the hot corner in 2009. Sending Fields to AAA could seriously stunt his growth.
It's not that I want Crede gone.
I just want Fields to start.