The 2010 White Sox represent a fairly significant makeover from the “homer first, win later” club of 2009. While only four players remain from the 2005 World Champion team, their make-up is similar: Good pitching, speed at the top of the line-up, no truly identified DH (remember Frank Thomas was hurt most of 2005), and a lot of question marks.
While most sports experts offer the courteous “the White Sox could win the AL Central in 2010,” no one is expecting them to. Sports Illustrated picked the Sox to finish third behind Minnesota and Detroit. As Sox fans, we love to prove people wrong.
Before milling down the magic numbers and bathing in the ponds of the postseason, White Sox fans should know that we will have a long and arduous road ahead. Yet, victory can and SHOULD be ours if these 10 keys unlock the right doors.
1. Ozzie Ball! This popular phrase among southsiders, is the synonym of “small ball” or national league play to the common baseball fan. The White Sox offensive execution, or lack thereof, was offensive in 2009 and should have been “executed” for treason. Get em on, get em over, get em in!
2. Speed baby! I’m not talking about the Sandra Bullock movie either. Remember when Ozzie said he was going to show fans the style of play to expect in 2010 by watching spring training closely? Well, the White Sox stole 37 bases this spring, tied for first among all AL teams. Juan Pierre will set the pace for this new offensive attack. The regular 2009 line-up had plow horses in the middle and only 3 players capable of stealing a base. The regular 2010 line-up should only have 3 people NOT capable of stealing a base.
3. Double Play. Among the most critical of elements to look for early in the season is how Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham gel in the middle of the infield. In 2009 Alexei Ramirez’s defense ranked in the lower quadrant of starting shortstops. Beckham will be adjusting to his third position in his two-year tenure with the White Sox. The talent is there; let’s hope the melding is as well.
4. Target Field cannot be the Metrodome. The White Sox should hope that their record against the Twins on the road is left in the Metrodome, where their winning percentage was worse than former White Sox outfielder Brian Anderson’s on-base percentage the past three seasons. Yes, it’s that bad.
5. Come Back Player of the Year. The White Sox need to have one player (or more) considered for it. There are plenty of candidates: Andruw Jones, Jake Peavy, Freddy Garcia, Scott Linebrink, Alex Rios, etc., etc., etc. Translation: The White Sox have plenty of players who were either injured or vastly underperformed in 2009.
6. Mess with the Bull(pen) and Get the Horns. Williams, Santos, Linebrink, Pena, Putz, Thornton, and Jenks need to stick it to opposing team’s rallies to ensure our starters are not over-worked as the season progresses. Outfielder turned pitcher Sergio Santos is an intriguing arm in the pen. Baseball America ranks his fastball the best among all Sox farmhands. A natural shortstop, his presence on the Sox roster as a reliever gives Ozzie some interesting flexibility, especially during interleague play.
7. Don’t let Twitter divide you! The past drama between the White Sox and the “Guillens” over the Sox skipper having a Twitter account may have been blown out of proportion, or it might fester all season as a tropical depression waiting to turn into a category five hurricane. Focus on the game and the players, not the drama about your kids on “bring your child to work day.”
8. Power can still put the lights out…of the competition. The White sox still have plenty of thunder potential in their line-up. The HR is an important weapon in baseball and for the Sox to be successful in 2010, they need to homer enough to let the other team know they can. Playing half our games at the launching pad known as U.S. Cellular Field, should do the trick.
In closing, for those who think that the White Sox have too many question marks to win in 2010, I leave you with this.
The White Sox projected opening day line-up will have five players making their opening day debut on the Southside. The last time that happened? 2005. The First Grinder Rule of this season: Anything can happen.Follow paulmbanks