Members of '05 team out for one more run
Core of World Series-winning club could be gone soon
CHICAGO -- And then there were five.
That small total represents the remaining players from the 2005 World Series championship team on the current White Sox roster. With Paul Konerko, Freddy Garcia and A.J. Pierzynski playing under the walk-away year of their respective contracts, and closer Bobby Jenks and ace-hurler Mark Buehrle facing free agency in 2012, this 2010 season could represent the last hurrah together for this special group.
"I'm hoping we can hold on a little bit longer and make one more good run deep into the playoffs," said Konerko, the White Sox team captain, entering his 12th season on the South Side of Chicago and the fifth year of his five-year, $60 million deal agreed to after the championship run. "It's dwindling down, but with sports and baseball, that's the way it goes."
"Hopefully not, but who knows," said Garcia, when asked if he thought this would be the last season to have a significant bunch together from the White Sox championship team. "It just feels good to be here."
Garcia, 33, started and won the fourth and final game of the World Series sweep over Houston, working seven scoreless innings. Before the game even began, Garcia all but guaranteed to his teammates that the White Sox would not need to go to a fifth game to lock down their first championship in nine decades with him on the mound.
The big right-hander actually departed Chicago following the 2006 season in a trade that sent Garcia to Philadelphia and brought back Gavin Floyd, who is a key member in the '10 starting rotation. Other key players from '05, such as center fielder Aaron Rowand, the heart and soul of this memorable title team, were gone shortly after the World Series parade through downtown Chicago, with Rowand also moved in a trade to the Phillies, which pushed Jim Thome into the White Sox lineup.
Slowly but surely, the 38 individuals who played a role in the 110-victory effort were reduced to the five still standing. Those contributions ranged from seldom-used reserves such as Jamie Burke, Raul Casanova, Kevin Walker and David Sanders to frontline performers such as Buehrle, Konerko, Pierzynski, Garcia and Jenks, a rookie, at the time, who had appeared in 32 games and saved just six during the 2005 regular season, but recorded the final three outs of the historic World Series-clinching victory.
Jermaine Dye and Jose Contreras were the last to leave off of this illustrious list. But in the mind of general manager Ken Williams, the architect of the 2005 champions, nothing short of winning another World Series title is acceptable. So keeping the roster fluid, with an influx of needed improvements, trumps the sentimentality of keeping the players who forever will have a place in the franchise's lore.
"You don't want to see guys leave who you've played with for a long time," Pierzynski said. "But it's part of business. Decisions are made that are best for the team and who am I to say one way or another."
"To play in one place that long where the team is going after it every year, it's not the case in every organization," Konerko said. "I don't take that lightly."
Much like the 2005 championship formula, this year's group will base success on a tremendous pitching staff from top to bottom and an apparently more versatile offense. Manager Ozzie Guillen and his coaching staff hope the station-to-station, home run-based baseball featured so frequently in the hitter-friendly environs of U.S. Cellular Field will be replaced by a more aggressive style of on-field action.
In 2005, the White Sox scored 741 runs. That total marked their third lowest total of the decade, standing ahead of only dismal sub.-500 showings from '07 (693) and '09 (724). The White Sox yielded just 645 runs in '05, their only total below 700 in the past 10 years.
Minnesota and the White Sox look to be the American League Central favorites, on paper, as Spring Training's outset sits just two weeks away. That division title would just be a starting point for a South Side group of five who already have experienced the glory of winning a baseball title in Chicago.
"We would like to get back there," said Buehrle, whose four-year, $56-million deal expires after 2011. "Then, people will remember this year like they remember 2005."
"It's time we put on one more big show," said Jenks with a smile.
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.