Inside-Out Sox Exchange

By Soxman and Paul M. Banks

In a role reversal, our South Side super hero Soxman grabs the interview reigns to lead this week’s Sox exchange, as Paul M. Banks has been completely consumed by the three P’s…Play-offs, Politics, and Pitching (for his local softball team)

In this week’s exchange, our sports media dynamic duo discuss the AL Central race this young season, the CF conundrum, and a new piece called “Maybe or Mirage.”  What is it?  Read and find out.
SM: Well I guess you can say two weeks into the 2009 MLB season, it’s pretty easy to see exactly why so many experts had a hard time predicting the AL Central.  Three teams are tied for first place and the Cleveland Indians are the only team that is obviously struggling.  As I said on opening day, every team in this division has question marks and thus far, as we both agreed, the Royals are much improved. 

The secret to the Sox pulling ahead of the bunch will be consistency.  While Sunday’s offensive “broiling” of the Rays was great, the Sox entered Sunday’s game in a fashion reflective of 2008.  They were hitting .218 with runners in scoring position.  With our starting pitching looking fairly solid thus far, it appears as though we must improve this number if we are going to repeat as AL Central Champs.  Your thoughts?

PMB: First off, I’d like to say thank you for the introduction and taking the lead in this exchange as I’ve been ridiculously busy this week. We’ve had two exceptionally positive developments early this season: the Indians getting off to a very slow start as you pointed out. Last year they had a wretched beginning and never quite recovered. If they don’t kick it into high gear soon, they could be talking about 2010 by June.

Secondly, Paul Konerko (.341, .388 OBP, 11 RBI) is off to a great start: exactly what he needed after such an off year in ’08. Perhaps you were right about Paulie taking his strong finish down the stretch of last season to then carry it into the start of 2009? Jermaine Dye (.370, .388 OBP, 9 RBI) and  Carlos Quentin (.426 OBP, 7 HR, 13 RBI) are joining him in having phenomenal Aprils too.

I have to agree with you that clutch hitting will be the key. I get sick of Sox fans complaining to me “we’re just too reliant on the home run again, like last year.” There’s nothing wrong with homers…when you’ve got guys on base. The “table setters” at the top of the order in ’07 weren’t able to put out the proverbial plates, dishes and silverware so the “big-boppers” in the heart of the order could feast. And that’s why 90 losses occurred. If we get hits and draw walks at the top of the order (so far Brent Lillibridge leading-off  is clearly not the answer) then we’ll continue to have series just like the one concluded Sunday- one pitch away from sweeping four at Tampa Bay. Seriously, where was this offense last October at the Trop?

Speaking of Soxtober, I just want to throw in a mention that the White Sox had the opportunity to visit the White House today and Barack told me he wants to see them back there soon- as World Series Champions. 

SM: Among other things, part of the reason for the offensive inconsistency was the lack of a lead-off hitter (leading to Lillibridge obtaining that opportunity) and a somewhat unsettled position in CF.  With Dewayne Wise out 6-8 weeks, it appears as though Brian Anderson has been awarded full-time starting CF duties until he proves he cannot handle them.  Jerry Owens has also been re-called from AAA but appears to be nothing more than a pinch runner at this point.  Making things interesting the Sox re-signed 2005 WS hero Scott Podsednik to a minor league deal. 

The Sun-Times also resurrected the Aaron Rowand rumors last week, and The Washington Nationals floated a rumor that the Sox may have interest in bringing back Willie Harris.  To make things even more interesting, there have been other rumblings the Sox could call up Gordon Beckham and move Alexei to CF.  What do you see as the most likely scenario?

PMB: DeWayne Wise (up until 08) was a career minor leaguer for a reason, I don’t expect him to really augment his game when he returns. He earned the job simply because as the Dave Matthews Band once put it, “they’ll make the best of what’s around.”

I saw Owens go hitless (and remain hitless on the young season) in AAA the night before Easter, when I was in Charlotte. He has speed, but nothing close to the tools necessary to become a consistent major league hitter.

“Mr. Anderson” (cue the voice of the Matrix villain) is on what his 17th chance? 18th chance? I’d like to know when we can officially give up on him and maybe trade him while there’s still has some value. He’s a great defender, he’ll have to continue showing increased patience at the plate, because this is plan A.

Can Gordon Beckham make the jump directly from AA? Some of his towering homers in spring training make that seem plausible. Then again, it’s spring trainin, and owning Cactus League pitchers is a far cry from tearing up Scott Baker or Cliff Lee during the middle of an August pennant race.

In summation, White Sox centerfielders are starting to remind me of Bears Quarterbacks (prior to the Jay Cutler signing) or Bulls low-post players. There’s obviously no blue chip stock in the portfolio, so the best thing you can do is take your collection of junk bonds, and rotate them in a way that you could try to maximize your return.  



SM: Ok so as the Sportsbank is trying to keep postings shorter, we will close out with a new section on the Sox Exchange.  Maybe or Mirage, where we hit 5 quick points on the White Sox and offer our opinion whether it is a sign of things to come or something likely to fade quickly.  Remember, no answer can be longer than 20 words!  Let’s play ball…
Scott Podsednik will play CF for the White Sox in 2009.
SM:  Mirage.  From 2005 to 2007, Pods played only 10 of 330 games in CF for the Sox.
PMB: Mirage. The Sox player with the all-time hottest wife is washed up. This acquisition is 2008 Loaiza signing version 2.0

Alexei Ramirez will suffer the sophomore jinx.
SM: Maybe.  He’s getting nothing but breaking balls and swinging at everything.  Pitchers adjusted.  He needs to as well.
PMB: Maybe. I thought his seeing more time further down the order would relieve pressure and loosen him up, wrong on both counts.

Brian Anderson remains the everyday 2009 CF.
SM: Maybe.  What other choices are there?  He’s still a free swinger but is also walking (.429 OBP).  Defense is always solid. 
PMB: Maybe. He’s turning into our Shawon Dunston, numerous chances to fall short of years of high expectations.

Mike MacDougal will turn things around.
SM: Mirage.  A 12.46 ERA and a 3.23 WHIP.  He’s pitching scared and likely needs a change of scenery.
PMB: MIRAGE. I was genuinely angry that he was granted a roster spot coming out of Glendale

The Nick Swisher Trade was a Bust.
SM: Maybe.  He’s back.  Evaluate the trade by also looking what we gave up to get him in 2008.  Ugh.
PMB: Maybe, well actually a huge certainty. Maybe he just didn’t fit in well with Ozzie and the Sox clubhouse?

Soxman, great job with this new feature! I could see this becoming a regular staple here on the Sox Exchange.