2008 White Sox Key to Success: V-I-C-T-O-R-Y

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By The Soxman

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In 2005, Sox GM Kenny Williams indicated that he was changing the face of the White Sox from a bunch of “mashers” to a team that was focused on pitching and defense, with “a little power in the middle.”  One could argue that the 2005 White Sox really only had two proven sluggers in Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye.  Speed, pitching, defense and execution won them ballgames, but it didn’t win them the much coveted trophy that broke an 88 year curse on the south side of Chicago.  Attitude, passion, and pride are what put them over the top. A look at this morning’s standings may not show a positive result, but then again, some victories don’t always show in the standings.
 

The way the team rallied from a five run deficit to tie the game, the anger that Joe Crede and Orlando Cabrera demonstrated when horrible calls killed rallies, and the manner in which players congratulated each other in the dugout were reflective of an energy that was absent for much of the 2007 season. Enter your 2008 White Sox.  Like 2005, they are picked by very few to even place in the top two in their division, but perhaps that’s the way they like it.  It’s actually a lesson I learned from my first business professor in college: under promise and over deliver.  So let’s offer a season preview through the use of one beautiful and glorious word: VICTORY.
 
 

V is for Versatility 
 
Your 2008 White Sox have plenty of possible looks for a line-up on any given day, which will go a very long way in the event of an injury or for resting someone who just needs a day off. Nick Swisher is capable of playing any of the outfield positions and first base.

Alexei Ramirez is capable of playing any position except catcher.  Pablo Ozuna can play 2nd, 3Rd, and LF.  Brian Anderson and Carlos Quentin can play any of the outfield positions and they proved it in spring training.  Juan Uribe could shift back to shortstop if there is an injury to Orlando Cabrera.  Three pitchers in the bullpen are capable of closing and one, Nick Masset, can start in a pinch. 
 
Versatility gives managers plenty of options in ballgames and allows you to exploit weaknesses in the other team’s pitching staff.  In 2007, the White Sox were hung whenever there was an injury to a key player, which is why we had to suffer through 189 miserable ABs from utility man Andy Gonzales.
 
 

I is for Insane
 
Teams need to be a little crazy to win.  Team sports are the one place where insanity can be a good thing. The Three Stooges: Aaron Rowand, A.J. and Joe Crede’s crazy behavior defined the 2005 White Sox. In 2007, AJ and Crede were like Moe and Larry working with Shemp.  They were ok, but it wasn’t the same as when they had Curly.  Enter Nick Swisher.  Every manager he has ever played for has praised his passion and pride.  Yet, he brings comedy to the clubhouse and fights during every AB.  While his defensive talent is not close to that of old #33, he will throw his body around and rally his teammates just like Aaron used to. The same can be said for the fiery competitiveness of Orlando Cabrera.  We saw a glimpse of that on his hard slide into second yesterday in addition to his hard-nose hustle on every play. 
 
Another insane thing about Swisher and Cabrera: their ability to get on base.  With the exception of Jim Thome, working the count was something not often being served on the Sox 2007 offensive menu.

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C is for Consistency or Closer (but not Cubbies)
 
In all of major league baseball last season, few relief pitchers defined these “c” words better than Bobby Jenks. In 2007, Jenks retired 38 consecutive hitters to tie the American League record for most consecutive batters retired.  He finished the season with a 2.77 ERA and 40 saves to become one of the elite closers in baseball. Joining “Big Bobby” in the “c” department are free agent additions, Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel. Linebrink has been one of the most consistent set-up men in MLB from 2003 to 2007, and should share set-up duties with lefty Matt Thornton.
 
Still, “consistency” will also be something we MUST also have from our 3-4-5 starting pitchers if we are to challenge for a division or wildcard berth this season.  Gavin Floyd cannot stay consistently bad either.  He must shave at least a run and a half off of that ugly 6.59 career ERA.
 
T is for Timing
 
Producing timely hits, execution of fundamental plays and Carpe diem will be vital in the Sox quest for gold this year. Timing must improve for Joe Crede, Juan Uribe, and Alexei Ramirez, whose gapping swing will earn him an all you can eat buffet of junk pitches until he proves he can touch them. Uribe must cut down on his strikeouts, and Crede just needs to get the timing back that earned him a Silver Slugger Award in 2006. 
 
Timing must also be optimized my Brian Anderson, whose superb spring might make the Sox happy that no one wanted him in an off-season where he was actively shopped around.  A key injury to Jerry Owens and a slow start by Alexei Ramirez could be the open door to another chance at being a full-time player.  This could also be his last chance to prove he belongs in a major league uniform.  Most people are willing to give him that chance.

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O is for Outs!
 
The Sox have to stop giving easy ones to the other teams and make the key ones when they are in the field.  The secret will be defense, which should get a huge boost from the return of gold glover Joe Crede and the addition of Orlando Cabrera.  As I said in my spring preview, Juan Uribe’s cannon of an arm looks like a defensive force to be reckoned with at 2nd base. The Sox will no doubt be better at getting runners on base in 2008, and cannot take themselves out of big innings by failing to execute or by hitting into “tailor made” double plays.
 
R is for Runs
 
Runs of three varieties: the kind that are earned, the kind that are batted in, and the art of running itself. In 2007, the Sox hit 190 home runs, which ranked sixth in major league baseball and we’ve added slugger Nick Swisher and power prospect Carlos Quentin to the mix.  Sadly, we ranked 27th in runs batted in, and DEAD LAST in on-base percentage, meaning we rarely had anyone on base when we launched those bombs.  Both players know how to get on base, which should also translate to more runs scored.  As evident by our opening day hit parade, I think this will be one of our major bright spots in 2008.
 
The runs that are earned, as it applies to pitching, MUST go down if the Sox are to grind their way to glory this season.  The Sox ranked 24th out of 30 MLB teams last season with a 4.77 team ERA. A team built on pitching cannot repeat that performance and hope to be “running anywhere” but home in October. Running itself is also an area the White Sox need to improve upon but likely won’t.  The entire Sox running game will pretty much center around Jerry Owens, whose torn abductor could make him this season’s Scott Podsednik. 
 
Without Owens in the line-up, the Sox could very well be the slowest team in the majors, falling even further from their 78 stolen bases as a team, which ranked 20th in MLB in 2007.  How important is Jerry Owens?  First, Jerry Owens was responsible for 32 of those 78 steals. After him, the most viable stolen base threat is Orlando Cabrera.  In 638 ABs last season, he was able to get on steal just 20 bases.  Based on 2007 statistics, the rest of the projected line-up had a paltry 12 stolen bases and were caught stealing 20 times!  Speed kills, but lack of speed can kill an offensive rally quicker than a Konerko grounder to the shortstop with Thome on first.  
 
Y is for YEEEASSS!
 
If the White Sox can apply the VICTORY principle to the upcoming season, we will be hearing the Hawk scream “Yeeaaass” more than Meg Ryan did in the “fake it” diner scene in When Harry Met Sally.  “I’ll have what she’s having.” The Sox can and will impress.  We need to come out strong and bring the fight to other teams all season long.  Starting pitching will be the question mark, but offense will be the exclamation point on an exciting season ahead.  You can put that on the board.
 

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Comments

  1. paulmbanks says

    Sarah is going to call you out for stealing her bit…especially since you threw in the ‘C is not for Cubbies’ part. Overall, well done! but made much better by my awesome editing and revision. And you were right about the trade proposal I made on the phone, that would be a very bad trade for me. I greatly underestimated the trade value of both of you!

    Now that you completed this task, I no longer “have to go with my plan B. I was going to have you fight Glondor here in the fiery circle of death.” Love that commercial!

  2. Another thing I learned in my first college journalism class is that even THE GREATEST writers work is made better by having a second set of trusted eyes reviewing their work. Super heroes are no different. As far as Sarah Spain’s creativity goes, one could argue that she stole her “brought to you by the letter C” from Sesame Street. I’m also pretty confident the Cookie Monster would take issue with her “C is for cookie” parody. Besides, I chose to use a word, not a letter. Finally, I’m sure Sarah takes it as a greater compliment for a Super Hero to be inspired by her stunning mind and outstanding creativity rather than her hypnotically inviting eyes, and “cubbie kryptonite” good looks. Yeah trading us would be like waving a white flag on your web site’s positive growth. Much Respect- SM

  3. paulmbanks says

    Of course, I could never seriously trade you guys. That would be worse than when the Sox traded their closer, number two and four starter in Early August when they were just 3.5 games behind Cleveland in 1997.

    Soxman and Sarah Spain are like the ’86-’87 Fleer Michael Jordan rookie card I once owned, and used to bring to sports card shows as a kid. I would never seriously consider dealing it, but I always had it on display at my table cause I knew that would bring lots of attention.

  4. paulmbanks says

    And most importantly, I agree that the Cookie monster might not like the idea of C being for Cubbies. And that is one dude I would definitely not want to be on the badside of!

  5. The Statue of Harold Baines says

    Nick Swisher….YYYESSSSSSSSSSSSSSSS!

  6. Soxman's Stalker says

    I want to have Soxman’s children! There has to be a hot man under that mask. You write awesome and give great advice on your site. Awesome article!!!! GO SOX….

  7. Sox win by following my formula of VICTORY!!!! Great to get the monkey of our back. SM

  8. The Statue of Harold Baines says

    Steve Stone said the same thing on the score that you did….that Monday was a “moral victory”

  9. paulmbanks says

    I didnt know you were on ESPN 1000 on Tue..that’s awesome! what did you talk about?

  10. paulmbanks says

    I think we can tell who my favorite Sports Bank columnist will be..or at least the contributor that I’ll be paying the most attention to will be for the next few months!

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