For the third consecutive season, we are proud to introduce the Deadspin Baseball Season Previews. Yes, baseball is awfully close now; it's spring training, after all.
Every weekday until the start of the season, a different writer will preview his/her team. We asked a gaggle of writers, from the Web, from print, from books, to tell us, in as many or as little words as they need, Where Their Team Stands. This is not meant to be factual, or dispassionate, or even logical: We just asked them to riff on why they love their team so much, or what their team means to them, or whatever.
Today: The Chicago White Sox. Your author is Claire Zulkey.
Claire Zulkey brings it daily at Zulkey.com. Her words are after the jump.
Well, the Sox are not celebrating their 100th anniversary of being World-Series-free, nor are any of their high-profile players starting off the year mired in the steroid scandal, so I would say they're already ahead of the metaphorical game. But the literal game? Well.
On a personal note, I didn't get the chance to follow my team as closely last year as I normally would have, which meant giving up some personal satisfaction in Jim Thome's 500th home run, Mark Buerhle's no-hitter or Bobby Jenks' tying the record for retiring 41 consecutive batters. Other than those highlights, though, I didn't miss much. But I have no excuses this season, and if I'm a true Sox fan I'm not about to stay away just because the team might not look as good as it did in 2005. Due to my mental absence last season, in addition to my own thoughts on the season, I've recruited a few friends and loved ones to assist with the prospectus, to make this ChiSox outlook as comprehensive and crabby as possible.
Last season the offense seemed pitiful despite some of the big bats in the lineup. Now, the acquisition of Nick Swisher and Orlando Cabrera plus Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez means that we might not look as sad against lefties like C.C. Sabathia (who I've come to expect on opening day the way I expect the weather to bring about much glove-muffled clapping.) Plus, Pablo Ozuna no longer has that broken leg, and as much as I liked Tadahito Iguchi, he'd have a higher percentage than him if he started at second base. If given a chance, too, Jerry Owens could be a decent leadoff man, plus we need another base stealer with Scott Podsednik gone.
"All things considered, the offense should be improved, but, as my Dad always said, winning is 80% pitching," says my dad, Ed Zulkey. "In 2005, we had four really solid starters and, for most of the year a great bullpen. Last year, the starting was erratic and the bullpen was the worst in baseball, except for Jenks. This year, it should be improved with the acquisition of Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel. The key will be the starters. Last year Buerle was uncertain if he would be traded and now has security. Javier Vazquez looks good. Jose Contreras, our ace in '05 and first half of '06 was awful last year and he needs to return to his old ways when he won three post-season games. Then, we will start two young guys, John Danks and Gavin Floyd, who must contribute, but there are good arms available. This is all very iffy, but it is for almost all teams today." With the Sox considering Bartolo Colon, I think fans would rather look towards some fresh untested talent than a vet who's nearly out of gas, because we have been there and done that, David Wells.
Currently only nine players of the original 2005 team remain, although I'm not one to reminisce about the old times just for old times' sake. That's fine for going through the photo album but it's not practical when it comes to dealing with the season at hand. Jon Garland seems like he'll be missed personally by the organization but if the team is lucky with the new pitchers his absence won't be too painful. Joe Crede will definitely be missed but hopefully a trade can give Josh Fields more chances to live up to his potential. Mark Buerhle, who is the heart and soul of the team is still there as well as the big guy, Bobby Jenks, and my would-be husband, Paul Konerko.
"Despite your devotion to Paulie, I believe the Sox will try to trade him if the opportunity arises," says my dad's friend Randy (the two of them like to call each other after Sox games and hash out what the score should have been.) "They need another starting pitcher and the Angels have that in Ervin Santana. I am worried about going with Danks and Floyd, not to mention what we get out of Contreas. Also, Crede will be traded, most likely, for pitching. Swisher can't be an everyday centerfielder, so trading Konerko opens first base up for Nick to play. Maybe the Sox get Chone Figgins from the Angels along with Santana. Figgins brings speed, plus he can play center field."
Williams' trades or lack thereof will only seem genius or idiotic with time. "They didn't get Torii Hunter, which is probably a blessing in disguise, 'cause he's aging and overrated and plays for those damn Twins whose fans always have this giant, Scandinavian smug and pleasant condescension that drives me nuts," says my friend Joe Drogos, who has only lived out of state when he hasn't lived on the South Side. "I'm much more hurt that they didn't get Rowand back. I actually spent a lot of time writing a letter to the editor when he got traded. He, Buerhle, Jenks, Thome, A.J. Pierzynski, and Konerko could form a fan-favorite hall-of-fame, especially in Bridgeport. Instead, they got this knock-off Rowand, Nick Swisher, whose very name (and hairstyle ) suggests something considerably less manly than Thome's "I'm your dad who works at the Peoria Caterpillar plant and stars in the company 16-inch team on weekends" look.
We got a couple middle-relievers, but I just want Buerhle to have a few seasons where the team is hitting behind him, the relievers are winning the games he's setting up, and he's taking crossbow practice in the bullpen during off days. Let's give this pudgy bastard the success he deserves, you know?"
I'm can't predict whether the Sox, with the moves they've made, have any hope in the postseason and my ever-gloomy South Sideness also leads me to be cautiously pessimistic, especially with the Tiger and Indians looking good once again. But it felt like last season was full of missed opportunities and a team that did not add up to the sum of its parts. It does seem like Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf are trying, and I just want that to translate to the field. Plus, Ozzie Guillen seems to be promising that he'll be meaner, more loud and foul-mouthed than last season, which at the very least would add up to more excitement. As my friend Leonard Pierce says, "I feel like this could be a pretty good year for the boys. So many bizarre trades that make no sense have been made, I think something good has gotta happen — the last time Kenny made this many goofball trades was in '05 when we won it all."
Well, I don't know about that, but if it's a rebuilding season, I'm fine with that as long as it doesn't feel like the team has given up by the time summer rolls around.