The World Champion Chicago White Sox officially kissed the World Series Championship Trophy goodbye last night. With Chicago’s 14-1 loss, coupled with Minnesota’s 8-1 win, the Southsiders were officially eliminated from postseason play. Chicago has never made the playoffs in back to back seasons in the team’s history. Rather than whine about this year’s team, I’ll lift my glass once again to the 2005 Chicago White Sox, how sweet it was! It is kind of ironic that the picture above shows the Big Hurt kissing the trophy. Frank Thomas, arguably the greatest player in White Sox history, was discarded like yesterday’s news. Thomas caught on with the Oakland A’s who are just about to clinch the AL West and a playoff spot, thanks in large part to Frank’s offensive contributions as the team’s DH.

In a Post-Mortem I was asked to identify three things that went wrong this year…
1) Ever playing Rob Mackowiak in centerfield. The White Sox traded last year’s starting centerfielder Aaron Rowand to the Phillies in exchange for DH Jim Thome. Also they traded CF prospect Chris Young, along with El Duque, & Luis Vizcaino to the D*Backs for starting pitcher Javier Vazquez. Then there was the deal with another centerfield hopeful Jerry Owens, he decided he’d had enough of winterball, and went home, leaving Brian Anderson as the only centerfield option on the roster. But GM Kenny Williams went out and solidified the bench by picking up outfielder Rob Mackowiak and infielder Alex Cintron. Mackowiak is a good backup corner outfielder and can play 2B & 3B in a jam, but he cannot play CF! Yet time after time Manager Ozzie Guillen marched Rob out to center, and time after time he cost the team games with his poor play in centerfield. Don’t get me wrong, Brian Anderson is not an All Star, but at least he can catch the ball, he’s a very good outfielder. Anderson got off to a very slow start, but picked it up after the All Star break and shouldn’t have missed a game in the second half. Also to a much lesser degree Alex Cintron shouldn’t have started a game in the 2nd half unless Juan Uribe or Tadahito Iguchi were injured. This was a young ballclub, and you gotta go with the horses who brung you.
2) Not replacing aces of 2005’s bullpen Dustin Hermanson (2.04 ERA with 34 saves), Cliff Politte (2.00 ERA in 68 games), & Luis Vizcaino (3.73 ERA in 70 innings) was a critical error. Damaso Marte was traded to the Bucs for Rob Mackowiak, but he was replaced when the Sox sent outfielder Joe Borchard to the Mariners for a dependable portsider Matt Thornton. Like I said earlier Vizcaino was packaged off to Arizona. Politte had no velocity in spring training and it never returned, making him very hittable. Hermanson had a bad back all season long. Neal Cotts slumped back into 2004 when he had a 5.65 ERA, 5.20 in 2006, a nifty 1.94 ERA in 2005. BIG BAD Bobby Jenks was THE MAN in the bullpen saving 40 of 44 opportunities. In fairness Mike MacDougal was picked up from KC and was lights out, but he might have gotten here a little too late. Also David Riske was acquired from the Red Sox, but wasn’t effective. Another ineffective relief pitcher this year was Brandon McCarthy (4.88 ERA with a 3-7 record), his stuff seems much better suited to starting.
3) Mark Buehrle! What happened to Mark Buehrle? Last year he was one of the most consistent pitchers in baseball, this year he’s one of the biggest question marks. Last season he was 16-8 with a 3.12 ERA in 236 2/3 innings of work, this year he’s got a 4.99 ERA and a record of 12-13 in 204 innings on the bump. Buehrle won his first three decisions of the year and it looked like the same old same old. Then on May 14th it happened, the wheels seemed to fall off, Mark allowed seven first inning runs to the Minnesota Twins, and although he went on to get the win in that ballgame, he was never the same. And then there were some pre-Independence Day fireworks at Wrigley Field against the Cubs, the lefthander allowed 11 runs on 13 hits over five innings. His record before that start was 9-4, but he went on to lose his next five decisions. Before this year he was likened to former Oakland A’s pitcher Catfish Hunter, although Hunter threw with his righthand there were a lot of similarities between the two workhorses. They both took the hill when scheduled and didn’t leave the game till there was a W posted.

Besides these three reasons there is the hunger factor, along with the fact that most of these 2006 White Sox players are really nice guys, not to mention three of the best teams in baseball happen to be in the AL Central (only two can make the playoffs).

HUNGER: Watching the Detroit Tigers & Minnesota Twins play ball this year brought me back to the 2005 Chicago White Sox. Last year there was a different hero everyday, and that’s how it is with this season’s Tigers & Twins. This year’s Sox team sometimes seemed as though they were waiting for Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye, or Paul Konerko to carry the team, rather than doing the little things to win a ballgame. Despite the fact that Chicago’s offense scored a lot of runs, they had slow runners clogging the basepaths, struck out a lot, and didn’t do well with moving runners along or sacrificing, they did hit a lot of home runs.

NICE GUYS DON’T MAKE THE PLAYOFFS: Everyone talked about the White Sox team chemistry, but something was missing, perhaps an element of bad. The only prick on this year’s team was A.J. Pierzynski. There didn’t seem to be anybody to step up and take charge when needed. All season long there didn’t seem to be a sense of urgency. This year’s team didn’t have Frank Thomas, Carl Everett, nor Orlando Hernandez (none of whom would blend into the background).

TIGERS, TWINS, & WHITE SOX IN THE AL CENTRAL: Besides the AL Central having three of the best teams in baseball, it also has one of the worst teams – the KC Royals. So these three top feeders had the benefit of playing more games against the hapless Royals. This is the first time the Wildcard team will come out of the AL Central, we’ll see how the division holds up in post season play. Last year of course the Good Guys won it all. And this year’s team had a pretty good year, with 87 wins so far, the highest attendance total in team history, and 52 home sellouts (topping 2005’s record of 18) by almost triple. So there is a lot to look forward to for my Chicago White Sox.


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