Coming into Tuscon, Arizona in mid-February, the White Sox may have been the only believers that a playoff chase was in reach. They were coming off a disappointing year on almost all levels.
Many of their offensive stars had put up career lows in many statistical categories, their starting pitching was a mess, and their bullpen was worse than anyone could have imagined.
General Manager Kenny Williams has never been one to stand still, and with a team that performed the way it did last season, no one expected him to.
In his first order of business, Williams made a move that many White Sox fans had been dreading by re-signing infielder Juan Uribe. Uribe has been a hitter that has frustrated White Sox fans for his poor technique up at the plate and low batting average and OBP.
The next day he traded Jon Garland, coming off his worst year in his career, to Anaheim for gold-glove shortstop Orlando Cabrera.
In his continuation of making unpopular moves, he designated the oft-injured Scott Podsednik for assignment, which ultimately led to his release.
Then he looked to revamp the bullpen with big name free agents by signing Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel.
He then rolled the dice on another oft-injured highly touted prospect named Carlos Quentin in trading for him and sending first base prospect Chris Carter to Arizona. (Carter was later involved in the Dan Haren deal.)
And in one final move, Williams traded top prospects Gio Gonzalez, Ryan Sweeney, and Fautino De Los Santos to Oakland for Nick Swisher.
All of these moves have had a significant impact on the White Sox throughout the 2008 season. But the team that Kenny Williams had in mind looked extraordinarily different than the team currently taking the field for the past few months.
Injuries to Jerry Owens and Josh Fields gave guys like Juan Uribe and Carlos Quentin a chance to shine on the '08 White Sox big league roster.
Uribe has kept up the hot corner at third base while Joe Crede's annual back injury has kept him out of the line-up for an extended period of time, and it looks as if Crede may not see the field for the rest of the year.Uribe is hitting .283 since June and has played Crede like defense that even Crede himself was lacking this year.
Carlos Quentin compiled 36 HR and 100 RBI behind a .288 BA and .398 OBP before fracturing his own wrist while in an at bat vs. Cleveland a week ago. Another stat of Quentin's that jumps out is that he nearly had as many walks as he did strikeouts (66 BB to 80 K's). Quentin was not only the surprise of the year, but may have been the MVP if it weren't for the injury that will cause him to most likely miss the rest of the season.
A move that went unnoticed by many was the signing of Cuban star Alexei Ramirez. The White Sox weren't sure where Ramirez would play and began the year in center field.
The 26-year-old quickly turned heads with his play at second base and soon became the team's starting second baseman. Alexi struggled early hitting only .154 in April. But he improved with the greater amount of at-bats he had, and has complied a .301 BA with 16 HR and 39 Extra-Base Hits.
Orlando Cabrera brought the expectations of a player who can do it on both sides of the ball. He has so far had 159 hits to this point of the season with a .276 BA and .329 OBP. He has had 12 errors out in the field, one more than his gold-glove season last year.
But White Sox fans have felt for the entire year that Cabrera just isn't a fit on the south-side, and it is pretty apparent that he will not be returning for 09.
From his feuds with Ozzie Guillen to the quiet Jermaine Dye, his act has shown Chicago why he has been around with multiple teams over the last few years, even with his talent and stats. He rumored to have called the press box on more than one occasion to try and get errors he committed changed to hits
Nick Swisher was another player who had comfort issues early on, but he's come around for the White Sox and become one of the most entertaining guys on the team. From his TV appearances to interviews before and after games, Swisher is one of us.
He is only batting .228 but his .343 OBP is due to his great eye that has led to 78 BB's this season. His numbers were actually better before the All-Star break, but it seems now that he gets the hits in clutch situations and has been a flexible fielder who has played in the infield and outfield.
And the bullpen was in need of revamping and adding two set-up men were just what the Sox needed to build a bridge to Bobby Jenks.
Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel have brought stability to the bullpen that last year was a blown save waiting to happen. Before Linebrink's injury this year, the Sox bullpen was the best in the league, and even since, the numbers back that they are still one of the tops in the league.
Fans were once again calling for the head of General Manager Kenny Williams, similar to the way they were before the '05 season, which saw slugger Carlos Lee dealt from the Sox for Scott Podsednik. While Lee has gone on to be a great player, would the Sox have that championship trophy without Podsednik at the top of the line-up?
The addition of Ken Griffey Jr. at the trade deadline has filled out this teams transactions from last year, and these guys will attempt to get the south-siders into the playoffs and bring home a championship.
Once again, Kenny Williams deserves the benefit of the doubt next off-season, before we place judgement on what moves he made. Because once again, he's proved a lot of people wrong, including myself.