Sox could manufacture excitement
Club hopes speed, aggressiveness can complement long ball
GLENDALE, Ariz. -- Nobody in Major League Baseball can argue with the true impact of a home run.
It's still the quickest way to put runs on the board, without waiting for someone else's assistance to score.
And nobody can argue with the success of the Chicago White Sox in 2008.
Even with a wide array of injuries and a few non-medical related clubhouse issues, the White Sox outlasted Minnesota for the American League Central title. Nonetheless, the 2009 version of the South Siders, who reported in full to Spring Training at Camelback Ranch on Thursday, figure to be a bit more of an exciting team on the field with less of a reliance on the long ball.
"We got to the playoffs, so it was a nice year, but it wasn't a fun team to watch," White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf told MLB.com of his 2008 team on Thursday, shortly after Guillen addressed his 2009 squad for the first time.
"Last year's team was a tough team to watch because it was so dependent on the home run," Reinsdorf said. "It was frustrating. I think this year's team is going to be much more versatile and fun to watch."
Guillen pointed out to the media how the 2009 version of the White Sox hasn't exactly undergone drastic alterations from 2008. Center field, second base and third base are the only spots where new starters will emerge, with Alexei Ramirez sliding over from second to shortstop.
Those new starters, though, should provide the White Sox an added dimension beyond the long ball. Of course, the White Sox won't survive without that home run power, especially not with 81 games at U.S. Cellular Field, but the addition of Brent Lillibridge, Jerry Owens and Josh Fields, purely as examples, will give Guillen more space to maneuver as a manager.
"Our 2008 team wasn't a team that Ozzie could really manage or do things with during the game," Reinsdorf said. "[White Sox television play-by-play announcer] Hawk [Harrelson] liked to say the only thing Ozzie could do was change pitchers. It might be a slight exaggeration."
"As a manager, you have to make an adjustment to what kind of ballclub you have," Guillen said. "This year, we will have more speed."
A White Sox squad with more speed should be able to complement the long ball power in place and possibly make the 2009 version even stronger and more complete on offense and behind a strong pitching staff. At the very least, it just might be a more consistently entertaining group to watch over the 162-game ledger.
"I like watching a team that can manufacture runs," Reinsdorf said. "The fact is, you can't hit every day, but you can play defense and manufacture runs. If you have guys who can run, they also are normally good defensive players. We were not a particularly good defensive team in 2008. We had good pitching."
"You can't complain about what we did last year because we won the division," Guillen said. "But I'm pretty excited about the ballclub this year because we can do a lot of things. As I told the players, our season starts today, not April 6. It starts today, and we have to go for it."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.