White Sox live a 'nightmare' in '07
Chicago underachieves just two seasons after world title
CHICAGO -- Call the performance by the 2007 White Sox gravely disappointing. Call the effort by Ozzie Guillen's crew one of the clearest examples of underachievement in franchise history, stemming from the extremely high expectations entering the season.
Then again, this year-long swoon simply can be referred to as "a nightmare," basically because those exact words were used previously by White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf.
But call this season the beginning of a trend or the start of a White Sox plummet into the American League's second tier, and the members of this team quickly present clear-cut dissenting opinions.
"All I can tell you is we are going into the offseason with the same mind-set we always have," White Sox general manager Ken Williams said. "That's to try to put together a team we can see winning a championship."
"You have to go by what the front office says, what Ozzie and the GM says," White Sox right fielder Jermaine Dye added. "They say they are going to get this team back to winning form, and we have to believe in it."
Williams figured to have a busy offseason ahead of him leading into 2008, but not for the reasons now on his agenda. Mark Buehrle, Tadahito Iguchi and Dye all were set to become free agents, but long before the intense November and December negotiations could begin, the White Sox agreed to terms in-season on a four-year deal with Buehrle and a two-year deal with an option for Dye (Iguchi was traded to the Phillies).
Two key pieces back in place, but many important decisions still need to be made. They aren't so much contractual issues, although the White Sox have to decide upon a $3.5 million option on outfielder Darin Erstad and a $5 million option on shortstop Juan Uribe.
Instead, they are decisions centering on how to shape the 2008 White Sox. For example, simply by looking at the first half of the 2005 World Series championship season, it's clear the offense functions at its optimum level with speed and on-base potential placed in front of the potent middle made up of Jim Thome, Paul Konerko and Dye.
Assuming Scott Podsednik's time in Chicago has come to an end, the White Sox have to decide if Jerry Owens showed enough with his 30 stolen bases and .267 average to anchor the leadoff slot. How will Owens' spot be affected by a healthy Joe Crede returning to third, meaning Josh Fields moves to left, and will Torii Hunter or Aaron Rowand be anchoring center?
After a season in which the White Sox offense stunningly ranked at the bottom of the American League in average and runs scored from April through September, changes appear to be needed.
"Well, we won as a team, and we are losing as a team," Williams said. "It's been a collective effort. If you would have told me that, particularly on our offensive side, our numbers would be where they were ... Considering we brought back the same core, that we would be where we are now from where they were last year, I would have called you the craziest man in baseball. But it is what it is."
"If we stayed in it early on and enabled Kenny to make deadline deals, who knows what would have happened," White Sox hitting coach Greg Walker added. "We missed the first couple of months of the season [offensively], I really believe it."
|WHITE SOX SECOND-HALF TOP PERFORMANCES|
7/26 CWS 4, DET 3 -- Dash to victory
Josh Fields sacrifice bunt in the bottom of the ninth is thrown into right field, allowing Scott Podsednik to score all the way from first.
7/31: CWS 16, NYY 3 --Dye crashes A-Rods party
Jermaine Dye catches a liner off the bat of Alex Rodriguez as he crashes into the right-field padding at Yankee Stadium.
8/8: CWS 6, CLE 4 -- Lucky 13 for Uribe
Juan Uribe drills a two-run homer in the bottom of the 13th inning for a fireworks-inducing win over the Indians.
8/12: SEA 6, CWS 0 -- Easy as 1-2-3
Bobby Jenks retired the Mariners in order in the ninth, tying the all-time mark of 41 straight outs.
9/16: CWS 9, LAA 7 --Thomes big bang
Jim Thomes 500th home run comes in dramatic fashion, a two-run, walk-off shot in the bottom of the ninth.
The past offseason was spent by Williams altering a bullpen that had fallen on hard times during the 2006 season, after serving as an impenetrable force in the White Sox championship run. That plan featured Williams assembling high-octane arms such as David Aardsma, Andrew Sisco and Nick Masset to join the hard-throwing trio of closer Bobby Jenks and setup men Mike MacDougal and Matt Thornton.
That plan didn't work, to put it mildly. Williams ended the season with a group of relievers who featured different looks, including the sidearm styles of Ehren Wasserman and Mike Myers. This group staying in place or adding a few veteran pieces to the puzzle stands as another quandary to be figured out by Williams and his front office staff.
Even one of the White Sox steady starting pitchers could be moved in order to quickly turn around this year's shortcomings. These intertwining calls all are designed to avoid another forgettable season like 2007.
Call it painful or call it hard to watch. With Williams and Guillen at the helm, they intend for 2007 soon to be referred to as a one-year aberration.
"Of course, we have some holes to fill, but I think the core group is still good enough to get us back to the playoffs again," Dye said. "Nobody expected us to be like this, but it even happens to good teams. We just have to look at this year as a year where we understand the things we did wrong and not let them pile up on each other like we let them do this year."
"It's the most miserable summer I've had since 1982," added Williams, trying to force out a smile. "I might never go into another season in this chair with a certain amount of comfort that things are going to work because you put the pieces together right. This is baseball, and you just don't know. I would be lying to you if I told you that some of the things happening this year were going to happen."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.