Long time fans of the Chicago White Sox are used to seeing the South Siders go into a bit of a slump in the second half, which occasionally brings about a dramatic finish for the AL Central.
In 2005, when they won the world series, they almost got caught by the Indians.
In 2008, we can all remember the nail-biter ending that brought the season to a close, with John Danks pitching a gem, and Jim Thome driving in the only run needed to vault the Sox into the post season.
However, the last thing any Sox fan wants to see right now is a repeat of 2007, where they only won 72 games, and weren't even a thought for the postseason race.
With the AL Central still looking mostly wide open, and plenty of the season left to go, one has to wonder what the White Sox can do to get themselves back into the thick of the race.
What is to be done about the fifth rotation spot? How can the Sox get some offensive consistency? What about the return of Brian Anderson?
Here are just a few (among many) options that might work out for The South Siders.
1. Fill the Fifth Rotation Spot with someone other than Jose Contreras.
Yes, his recovery from the torn Achilles was miraculous, but there has been nothing noteworthy about his pitching, except that it's been terrible.
I believe just as much as anyone else that Jose Contreras deserved a shot at the fifth rotation spot, especially given his speedy recovery, but the season is underway, and Contreras simply doesn't have what he used to.
What is likely frustrating for the Sox is that it's difficult to figure out what is holding him back. He lost the weight, made a great recovery, and even seems to have all of his stuff in tact. Whatever the case, however, Jose is not fit to be a starter any longer, and he may never get back to that status.
The Fix: Don't give it to Lance Broadway. The only team he was really able to tangle up was the Royals of yesteryear, and now that they've gone away, Broadway has little in his favor. Digging up a free agent seems highly unlikely,
Clayton Richard seems to be the only option for the short term, but why not give Aaron Poreda a shot? The kid might be ready.
2. The Kids Can Play, So Let Them!...Sometimes.
Youthful talent like Wilson Betemit, Brent Lillibridge, and Jayson Nix has made a big break into the White Sox offensive line up this year, and each brings along a good amount of utility range with them, making it difficult to let any of them go at this point.
However, there is a reason that the big boys get paid the big money, and some of them are showing it this year.
For instance: Paul Konerko is batting .303, with an On-Base Percentage of .351, three home runs and 10 doubles. Not bad.
Brent Lillibridge, on the other hand, is batting .154 with an On Base Percentage of of .247, no home runs and two doubles. That's troubling.
Nix and Betemit are a bit better off, hitting .300 and .257 respectively, with a combined two homers and six doubles. Nix actually leads the team in On Base Percentage, at .375.
The Fix: Brian Anderson would be a good one. Lillibridge has done well defensively while filling in positions, but doesn't have the offensive spark that Anderson does.
Keep Betemit and Nix around to give guys a spell, and keep everyone as fresh as possible, but it needs to be done sparingly, so everyone can get into a groove, and this offense can click on a daily basis.
3. Shake up the Line up a bit more.
If there is one thing I've always wanted to see, it's a batting order that mixes things in really, really well. It's hard to do, obviously, and even harder to define what that is, but here's a thought.
Speed gets you aboard. A high average hitter gets him over. A power man gets him in.
When hitting fails, a speedster can help by stealing bags. Between the Sox average lineup, they've stolen 16 bases. That's not a ton, but it definitely says that they can make plays for the bases. If timely hitting is going to be a problem, then the speed needs to get something done.
The Fix: Mix speed and power in such a way that you're always given a chance to make a play. Here's just one of many potential batting orders that might do wonders for the White Sox, with an explanation of each spot.
Note: The batting order, theoretically, would work this way: Leadoff man, set-up man, power hitter, repeat. There is no clean up.
1. Chris Getz: Has an average of .256, which is about par for the course for the Sox line up. Also has three stolen bases, and the potential to have plenty more. He's quick, youthful, talented, and does best batting leadoff.
2. A.J. Pierzynski: Has an average of .289, and you need a high average in the two spot. He doesn't have great speed, but he's got enough, and he's done well out of the two spot before.
3. Carlos Quentin: His average is dropping a bit, down at .235, but lets face it. When this guy is on, he's on, and he's as powerful as anyone in the league. He already has eight homers and 18 RBI.
4. Alexei Ramirez: Now, I know that traditionally, the fourth man in the lineup is called the "Clean Up" hitter, and is just meant to be a big power guy, but this is a new batting order, resetting every third batter. Alexei has it all, though; he's fast, already has six stolen bags, and he can hit the ball a mile. Essentially, it makes him the second leadoff hitter.
5. Paul Konerko: Paulie becomes the second set up hitter, for his impressive .303 average and .351 OBP. Also, he can hit for power or average, and while he's not overly fast, he is a very timely hitter.
6. Jermaine Dye: JD moves into the second power spot, batting .283, with 7 home runs and 17 RBI. Also, he isn't the fastest guy in the world, but he's fast enough to get around.
7. Brian Anderson/Scott Podsednik: We don't know who will be here when Anderson gets healthy, but either option is good. Podsednik can still steal 20 or 30 bases a year, and Anderson has already stolen two. Pods has a .273 average, and Anderson is hitting .288. Both would be great options for the third lead off spot.
8. Josh Fields: Fields started off on a hot streak, but has definitely settled down. Still, he's shown he can play small ball and get base hits when necessary, and has a decent mix of speed and power, perfect for the third set up role.
9. Jim Thome: Normally, this would be considered an insult, but Thome would be the anchor of the line up at the ninth spot in this batting order. He'd be the final power hitter, with his six home runs and 18 RBI.
It may not be a perfect idea, but it's definitely worth a try, and sets the Sox up with a mix of speed and power every cycle through the batting order. And obviously, I'd never complain about seeing one of my ideas used by Ozzie Guillen.
4. Play Ozzieball.
The White Sox "Win or Die Trying" attitude needs to make a come back this year. If all else fails, nothing works better to fix a broken baseball team like a change of attitude.
The Fix: Ozzie, you're my man for this one. Get the players to play with that Win or Die mentality like you always have. It's always been a blast to watch.
The Sox rest at a record of 15-18 as I write this, sitting in fourth place in the tough, gritty AL Central. Their series starting tomorrow against the Blue Jays is a crucial one, as first place in the Central is always just one hot streak away.
Could the White Sox catch the first place Royals, who are at 18-16, before the next week begins?
That's the best thing about baseball. Anything could happen.