FanHouse continues its 2009 MLB Preview with a look at the Chicago White Sox.
The expectations for the Chicago White Sox weren't very high in 2008. The team was coming off of a dismal 72-90 performance in 2007, following up two consecutive 90-win seasons and they'd lost perhaps their most consistent starter in Jon Garland in a trade for Orlando Cabrera. They also acquired Nick Swisher from the Oakland Athletics, hoping he would be the glue that held the team together.
Somewhere in between, general manager Kenny Williams traded for some kid named Carlos Quentin and signed a Cuban defector named Alexei Ramirez, who looked like he had a 15-foot tapeworm inside his stomach. Williams also entrusted the back-end of the rotation to two unproven youngsters named Gavin Floyd and John Danks. Then, somehow, someway, all four of the unknowns went on to have huge seasons and lead the White Sox to a division title on the very last day of the season. Cabrera and Swisher? One played fine but sparred with his teammates, and the other one kind of just sucked and sulked a lot.
Now a year later the Sox find themselves in a similar situation, having said goodbye to a few regulars without any major acquisitions, and are having another youth movement. Will lightning strike twice in Chicago?
In:Bartolo Colon, SP (free agency); Brent Lillibridge, IF (trade); Wilson Betemit, IF (trade); Jayson Nix, IF (trade); Jeff Marquez, SP (trade); Dayan Viciedo, 3B (free agency)
Out: Javier Vazquez, SP (trade); Nick Swisher, OF/1B (trade); Orlando Cabrera, SS (free agency); Joe Crede, 3B (free agency); Juan Uribe, IF (free agency); Horacio Ramirez, RP (free agency); Ken Griffey Jr., OF (free agency)
New Leaders Emerge
The strength of the White Sox's powerful lineup since 2005 has always centered around Jermaine Dye, Jim Thome, and Paul Konerko. That all changed last season with the emergence of both Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez. While Thome and Konerko battled injury and age, Quentin was a legitimate MVP candidate before a broken wrist ended his season early, and Ramirez picked up where CQ left off in September, leading the team to the playoffs. The question this year is whether or not the two youngsters can repeat their performances. Quentin can expect a bit of a drop in his power numbers as his wrist heals, so whether or not Ramirez regresses could be a huge factor in where this team finishes in the AL Central.
Jerry Owens Chris Getz Jayson Nix Gordon Beckham
When a team parts ways with a pitcher who consistently contributes over 200 innings and around 15 wins year in and year out, and then replaces that pitcher with Bartolo Colon, who hasn't contributed to anything but the destruction of clubhouse buffet tables the last few years, there are plenty of reasons to worry. Combine that with the fact that Jose Contreras is coming back from a blown achilles (though he is way ahead of schedule in his recovery) and there could be problems. The fail-safe plan? Three unproven arms in Clayton Richard, Jeff Marquez, and Aaron Poreda. Will any of them be the John Danks or Gavin Floyd of 2009? They better be or the White Sox can forget about a repeat performance.
Ozzie, Ozzie, Ozzie, Oy, Oy, Oy
While he hasn't done anything controversial yet this spring, let's just remember that it's only March 6. Ozzie Guillen has plenty of time to stir up some controversy, and there's no doubt that he will. In fact, Ozzie's brilliance/idiocy may end up being the lone bright spot for White Sox fans this season should the team stumble out of the gate and a complete dismantling of the roster ensues.
Why You Should Watch: Because if you don't, President Barack Obama will freeze your stimulus check, and you won't be able to give your own money to China. Plus, there's always Ozzie's antics to keep you entertained, and Alexei Ramirez, who has every chance to develop into one of the most exciting players in all of baseball. There's also this: When a Sox player hits a home run at U.S. Cellular Field they set off fireworks, and who doesn't love fireworks?
What Defines Success: When you're a reigning division champion that got knocked out of the playoffs after winning only one game in the postseason, I suppose anything less than a second straight trip to the playoffs has to be considered a failure. The White Sox being able to pull it off again seems like a longshot, but then again, nobody expected them to do it last year.Related Links