Wednesday, March 5, 2008
30 Teams in 30 Days: Chicago White Sox
A look back: The season started well enough for the White Sox, with Mark Buehrle firing a no-hitter in April and Bobby Jenks tying the American League record for consecutive batters retired. That was all the positives on the South Side last year, as the White Sox finished fourth in the AL Central, just two years after winning the World Series. The division isn’t getting any easier, and the Pale Hose isn’t getting any better. It might be a long year for the Sox.
Positives on the field: The White Sox have some solid hitters that can mash the ball when they get a chance. Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye and Nick Swisher were all good for 20 or more home runs a season ago. In the American League, offense rules, and the White Sox certainly have enough of it to compete.
On the pitching side, Buerhle and Jenks return to anchor each end of the game. Jenks will have help from Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink, who should give Chicago a bullpen that can hold on to any lead its power hitters give them. The White Sox are dangerous if the bullpen can make it a six or seven-inning game most nights.
Positives off the field: Sam Zell doesn’t own the White Sox. What can I say, baseball tradition is important to me.
Negatives off the field: Ken Harrelson is still employed by the White Sox as a broadcaster. There aren’t too many people who could do worse than him. Plus, Ozzie Guillen and Jay Mariotti might fight again. Actually, that might be positive.
Negatives on the field: The White Sox can’t pitch that well, other than Buerhle. Jon Garland is gone, John Danks is very young and likely a year away and I wouldn’t trust Javier Vazquez and Jose Contreras as high-end starters on any major league team. Basically, outside of Buerhle, there’s not a starter the White Sox have that I’d want in 2008.
The Sox can’t hit for average all that well either. Orlando Cabrera is decent, but the rest of the order is all power, no average. That means the Sox will either score runs in bunches or get shut out. There will be no in-between. Plus, the power hitters are starting to age. Thome is 37, Dye is 34 and happy 32nd birthday, Paul Konerko. (Seriously, today’s his birthday.) If they drop off due to age, the White Sox will come apart in a hurry.
Outlook: Chicago can score, but the Sox don’t look like they can prevent scoring. The bullpen should be ready to hold leads, but they will be useless if the White Sox starters can’t pitch well enough to get those leads in the first place. Expect the White Sox to play a lot of slugfests this season, never a good sign. The South Siders have lost a lot of ground, and didn’t have much to begin with.
Projected finish: 5th in AL Central. Season opener is March 31 at Progressive Field against Cleveland. White Sox home opener is April 7 at U.S. Cellular Field against Minnesota.
Spring base: Tucson Electric Park, Tucson, Ariz. The team shares the stadium with the Arizona Diamondbacks, and plays games in both Tucson and Phoenix. The White Sox are actively looking to move their base to Glendale, a Phoenix suburb.
Fan of the team?: Check out South Side Sox, a White Sox fan community.
Come back tomorrow: The road trip heads further northwest to the Twin Cities and visits the 2006 AL Central champion Minnesota Twins.
My time is up. You've all been great. Enjoy Sugarland.