White Sox season in review
Chicago sweeps World Series to win first title since 1917
On Oct. 26, 2005, at Minute Maid Park in Houston, the Chicago White Sox made history.
Pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro's slow roller over the mound was fielded by shortstop Juan Uribe, who threw out Palmeiro by half a step at first base. The final out of the 1-0 victory completed the White Sox four-game sweep of Houston and brought Chicago its first World Series title since 1917. It also was the team's fifth eight-game winning streak of the season and certainly its most significant.
The final game seemed very apropos, considering how the White Sox won this season -- with pitching, defense, manufacturing no more runs than were absolutely needed and having a strong belief in themselves. As catcher A.J. Pierzynski pointed out, the White Sox opened the season with a 1-0 victory and opened the second half of the season with a 1-0 victory. So, a 1-0 victory to close out 2005 seemed very fitting.
A celebration that is still taking place one week later was also warranted by an event of this magnitude.
Record: 99-63, first in the American League Central; beat Boston in the Division Series, 3-0; beat the Angels in the American League Championship Series, 4-1; beat Houston in the World Series, 4-0.
Defining moment: It could be argued that the offseason was the time that truly shaped the White Sox, when general manager Ken Williams put the championship team together. But the three-game sweep of Cleveland at Jacobs Field to end the regular season seemed to change the team back from a solid group to a team that could take on all challengers. Not only were the White Sox playing the style of ball that put them in first place, but they also exorcised the final-month demons brought on by the Indians' late charge.
What went right: Anything and everything. The White Sox had the best starting pitching in the American League, and their bullpen came close to matching that success. The team also had the ability to manufacture runs and play airtight defense, making for an unbeatable combination. Players such as Dustin Hermanson and Neal Cotts had the years of their careers, while Bobby Jenks, a mid-season callup, closed out the AL Central title, the Division Series and the World Series victories. Simply put, it was an historic 2005 season.
What went wrong: Hmmm ... Basically, nothing. It's hard to find fault when a team wins 110 games, in total, and captures its first World Series title since 1917. There were some lean times in August and early September, when the White Sox watched their 15-game lead in the American League Central slip to 1 1/2 games over the Indians. But that stretch simply made the White Sox stronger and more focused down the stretch. Orlando "El Duque" Hernandez struggled on the mound and with his health during the second half of the season, but he certainly had no problems pitching out of the bullpen during the playoffs. Simply put, it's hard to find fault with a team that wins a championship while leading from wire to wire.
Biggest surprise: Williams added nine or 10 new faces to the existing lineup, and somehow this group immediately meshed into a championship team. But if there was one area that clearly achieved above expectations, it would be the bullpen. Hermanson set a career high with 34 saves, after saving 22 combined previously in his career. When Hermanson's back became an issue, the hard-throwing Jenks stepped in and became the first rookie since Todd Worrell to close in the World Series. Cotts emerged as a closer of the future, while Cliff Politte was steady, and at times spectacular, as a setup man.
Average: Scott Podsednik, .290
Doubles: Aaron Rowand, 30
Triples: Tadahito Iguchi, 6
Home runs: Paul Konerko, 40
Runs: Paul Konerko, 98
RBIs: Paul Konerko, 100
Stolen bases: Scott Podsednik, 59
Wins: Jon Garland, 18
Losses: Jon Garland, 10
ERA (starter): Mark Buehrle, 3.12
ERA (reliever): Neal Cotts, 1.94 (min. 10 appearances)
Saves: Dustin Hermanson, 34
FORECAST FOR 2006
Lineup: One of the best things in regard to the 2005 White Sox is that most of the team is signed and ready for 2006. Of course, the pieces that may need to be replaced are extremely significant. Paul Konerko is the galvanizing force of this team, both on and off the field, but is certain to explore the open market during the offseason. Frank Thomas has been the face of the franchise for the past 15 years, but will only be brought back if the latest fracture of his left navicular heals and if he agrees to a lower-salaried deal. Carl Everett, who stepped in for Thomas at designated hitter, had his contract bought out for $500,000. The White Sox also could be looking to add another speed guy at the top of the lineup.
Rotation: Mark Buehrle, Jose Contreras and Freddy Garcia return to anchor one of the best starting five in all of baseball. Jon Garland is arbitration eligible but is expected to return. The main question on the table is how the fifth starter's spot will play out. Will it be Hernandez, or will he go to the bullpen? Brandon McCarthy seems to be an option that will be tough to leave out, after the rookie posted a 3-1 record and 1.69 ERA over his last seven games.
Bullpen: The relievers come back completely intact, with another year of valuable experience for young hurlers such as Jenks and Cotts. Williams knew prior to 2005 that championships are won with pitching and defense, so the White Sox general manger certainly will be looking to upgrade his staff in any way possible.
Biggest need: As manager Ozzie Guillen said repeatedly during the postseason, if it's not broke, then don't fix it. There's no doubt the White Sox will be greatly challenged in 2006, especially with a young Indians squad taking another step toward the postseason. But Guillen stressed again Tuesday at a press conference to honor the White Sox at City Hall in Chicago that he doesn't want superstars. So, while the White Sox would look to add more speed and pitching, they start with the character and determination of the possible addition.
Prospect to watch: Young standouts such as McCarthy and outfielder Brian Anderson made their presence felt during the 2005 campaign, with both figuring prominently in the team's plans for 2006. But keep an eye on Chris Young, a five-tool outfielder who excelled at Double-A Birmingham this past season. Young has the potential to be a 30-home run, 30-stolen base player at the Major League level and was labeled by Guillen as the most improved offensive player at Spring Training last March.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.