Offseason Swap Series: Chicago White Sox
By Matt Van Wormer
As all of us baseball fans prepare to endure the inevitable off season, one way we are going to try and feed your baseball fandom is with a weekly series with another blog from around the league. We start off with the Central Division foe, Chicago White Sox. Big changes are taking place on the south side of the Windy City and we caught up with James Fagan, who writes the White Sox Observer and asked him some questions that will give us some insight about what to expect from the White Sox in 2012.
DTTWLN? – 1. Ozzie Guillen is out and Robin Ventura is in. Two completely different men with what will surely be different managerial styles. Was Robin Ventura the right choice to replace Ozzie Guillen as the manager of the White Sox?
James: Well, if you wanted to tear down everything about the Ozzie Guillen regime, he seems like your guy. Friendly to advanced stats, deferential, demure, calculated, and not airing out personal grudges with the GM at the expense of the team. That said, I pretty much refuse to offer the endorsement of the candidacy of a guy with no coaching experience whatsoever on the strength of a collection of anecdotes about how he’s the greatest leader who ever led in the history of leadership.
Robin Ventura’s my favorite player of all-time, and he could be the most brilliant hire ever, but the insularity of their job search suggests that him being one of the cheapest ever was just as important.
DTTWLN? – 2. The 2011 season did not go as planned for the White Sox, as they hoped to contend for the Central Division title. What are the fans saying about 2011?
James – The 2007 White Sox were worse, but they have nothing on the 2011 squad for the most loathed team of the last 20 years. Expectations were ramped up sky-high even though it wasn’t a team with an extremely high ceiling, and some of the worst individual performances in baseball history harpooned the season while a typically active management group did little but snipe at each other.
Even the aesthetics were perfectly-lined up for this team to be particularly odious.
Alex Rios is just a reserved guy who never expresses much emotion besides concentrated bursts. He hit a walkoff home run in April 2010 and barely cracked a smirk. So when he’s late on every shallow pop-up and hitting .220, he just reads as not giving a crap.
Adam Dunn is a big, burly guy with a very unathletic-looking build, and most people don’t think he looks like a ballplayer at first sight. Top that off with the fact that he discussed how he never picks up a bat during the off-season, and you can understand why White Sox fans didn’t exactly sympathize with his struggles.
Worse than that, they were two of top-5 highest-paid players on the roster, a fact which Guillen used to justify them never losing playing time. Absolutely nothing about them connected with fans.
People hated this team.
DTTWLN? – 3. Last season, the White Sox added Adam Dunn to provide some power to the lineup and it didn’t have the returns that most would have hoped for. Will Dunn be able to turn things around?
James – The optimist White Sox fan says: “I refuse to believe that a guy who was an elite hitter for so many years in a row could just lose it overnight”
I would say: “I refuse to believe that 500 plate appearances worth of Dunn being late on every fastball and a reduced HR/fly ball rate doesn’t indicate that a lot of real decline occurred”
And some White Sox fans just say: “%$&# that fat piece of $#%&!”
He can adjust, he can do something to compensate for the loss of bat speed that looks to have occurred, but he’s not the same guy anymore. ‘League-average DH’ is the optimistic goal.
DTTWLN? – 4. The White Sox have a lot of decisions to make during this offseason with contracts being up and possibly looking to strengthen some areas. What are the big moves that the Sox need to make to contend in 2012?
James – Kenny Williams kind of ruled out any big moves coming, and frankly it’s not like they’re in the position to trade for improvements. The farm system is abysmal, and adding through free agency would mean exceeding the highest-budget in franchise history. If they’re making any trades, it’s shipping out Floyd, Quentin, or Danks for the sake of a fire sale.
DTTWLN? – 5. After finishing third in a very competitive division in 2011, what are the expectations of the White Sox for the 2012 season?
James – If they contend in 2012, it’ll be because Floyd, Danks and Peavy all throw over 180 IP with ERAs under 4.00, because Paul Konerko has one more good year in him, because Gordon Beckham stops swinging at pitches in the left-handed batter’s box, Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro de Aza build off their outstanding seasons in Triple-A, and Alex Rios and Adam Dunn aren’t wastes of life. It won’t be because of a player not currently on the 40-man roster.
There’s enough room for recovery here that contention in 2012 is possible, I just wouldn’t bet on it
Photo: Getty Images