The Fall of Another Leadoff Hitter: Chicago White Sox Lose Jerry Owens
During one of the most memorable runs in Chicago sports history, Scott Podsednik led off and played left field for nearly 130 games while the White Sox marched towards the first World Series title the city of Chicago had seen in 88 years.
That year, "Scotty Pods" batted .290 with a .351 on-base percentage. He also placed second, behind Chone Figgins, for total steals in the American League with 59.
Since then, during the '06 and '07 seasons, he batted roughly .250 with a .310 on-base percentage. However, the most stunning figure is that he played a total of 201 games over those two seasons.
Last season specifically, he was limited to 62 games due to a adductor problem. He received less than 215 at-bats.
Most of those lost at-bats were lost to the next leadoff hitter of the Chicago White Sox, Jerry Owens.
However, with his first full season in a Sox uniform on the horizon, Jerry Owens has placed himself on the 15-Day Disabled List. He suffers from the exact same injury that limited the World Series hero, Podsednik, to just 62 games a year ago.
White Sox officials say that there is a possibility that Owens might be available for the Sox home opener on April 7th.
But who wants to risk that?
They promised that the Podsednik thing was no big deal as well. We all saw how that ended. He was back on the field in less than a month—then back on the DL within weeks.
However, Owens' future health is the least of the concerns at this particular time and juncture. With Opening Day less than one week away, who will be leading off for the '08 White Sox?
Ozzie Guillen has already come out to say that Pablo Ozuna will be getting the nod, both at second base and leading off, because of his above .300 average against the Cleveland Indians' C.C. Sabathia.
But then who?
Nick Swisher? Swisher did have a .381 on-base percentage last season. And that is what a leadoff hitter is supposed to do: get on base.
However, Swisher does not have the speed that most people look for when they look at the photo-typical leadoff man. With that mindset, Ozzie might as well have Jim Thome and his career .400 on-base percentage leading off.
Orlando Cabrera? O-Cab had a .345 on-base percentage with 20 stolen bases last season. Now we are getting somewhere. However, Cabrera is still a career .273 hitter.
Or how about Pablo Ozuna? Ozuna's speed is exactly what managers look for on the base paths. When he gets on base, he makes the man on the mound nervous. Maybe I should say "if he gets on base." Ozuna has a career .322 on-base percentage.
With no real internal options, does Kenny Williams start looking elsewhere?
Juan Pierre is the stereotypical leadoff hitter who is on the out and out with the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Ryan Freel, who is out of a starting job in Cincinnati, has the speed and the "Grinder Spirit" that Williams loves so much in his players.
Or maybe this is Kenny's actual incentive to start actively pursuing Brian Roberts. Roberts would solve the current second base logjam, in addition to solving the White Sox leadoff problem for the next two years.
One last option is Coco Crisp. He does not have a starting job in Boston, and he was brought up in the AL Central.
With six days before the Sox set foot in "The Jake" for the start of their season, even more questions exist for the White Sox than when they broke camp for Spring Training.
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