White Sox 2012 Preview

It’s time again for America’s past, past-time to start up: Baseball. So in preparation of opening day, your Stew Over Editor-in-Chief, Dave, and I decided to exchange some emails about our favorite baseball team, the Chicago White Sox, and the upcoming season. Enjoy the most pessimistic outlook on a sports team you’ll probably ever read!

Oh Ozzie, you were such a de-light.

Kevin: Alright Dave, the 2012 baseball season is about to start tomorrow, six seasons (six!) removed from the unforgettable 2005 World Series Championship season. 2005 is ALMOST as bad is 1908, right? Let’s review what happened since we last saw this team take the field:

                      Key Losses: Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin, Mark Buehrle, Juan Pierre and Ozzie Guillen

Really I think only Santos is a “key” loss here in terms of baseball. Obviously Buehrle and Ozzie meant much more from a franchise/marketing perspective, but Buehrle isn’t All-Star caliber anymore and Ozzie wore out his welcome and essentially literally quit on the team and demanded a trade to the god-awful sports city of Miami before the season actually ended.

                      Key Additions: Umm… Kosuke Fukudome? Robin Ventura?

Fukudome is obviously the next bench guy next to Lillibridge, primed and ready for the inevitable Rios collapse. And Ventura…well, who knows how he’ll do as a manager since he’s got no experience.

So…what the hell is the plan here? What is Kenny Williams doing? Are we in a rebuild mode? An “all-in” mode? Somewhere in between? Given the moves at the end of last year and through this off-season, I seriously have no idea. You trade a guy like Santos, a lock down closer on a cheap contract, which seems to indicate that you’re raising the white flag for a rebuild year. You let your most popular player, or at worst second most popular behind Konerko, walk. And you bring in a manager without any experience. All signs point to “this team is winning 60 games, hopefully we can get some nice prospects at the trade deadline and contend in 2015.” But then you resign John Danks? You don’t try and trade your most valuable pieces (Konerko/Danks/Floyd/A.J.)? I just don’t get it.

One of the few bright spots last year, can Paulie have another great season?

Dave: Yes, it certainly appears that we will be in for a long summer on the South Side. Since you jumped out of the gate with a 60 win prediction, I’ll be the optimist of the two of us and say they have a chance to go 81-81. They can’t possibly be as bad offensively next year, right? Dunn has shown some life in Spring training (I know it’s only Spring training) and hopefully they’ll get bounce back years from Alexi and Beckham. If I had to pick one break out player on this roster, I’d actually pick Dunn. People are expecting absolutely nothing from him this year and if he bats .250 with 35 home runs that will be a minor miracle. Who do you see, if anyone, having a breakout season?

In terms of the key losses I’d site Buehrle as key even for his on field skills. Yes, he’s not an All Star but I think he’ll be hard to replace in the rotation regardless. Despite that, I do think it was wise to not re-sign him. It would have cost them a lot and they needed that spot to open up for the great Chris Sale as starting pitcher experiment. No matter how terrible they are I’ll still watch to see if he can become a top of the line starter. Also, I know Ozzie quit on the team but I wasn’t as ready as you were to push him out the door. It is beyond me how he lost the battle against Kenny Williams. All those years of trading away talent to win now has come back to bite the Sox hard as, if reports are to believed, they have the worst minor league system “by a mile,” and the major league club is saddled with terrible long term contracts.

The Sox will miss Mark's durability. I'll miss the reasonably paced baseball.

Speaking of those contracts, I think the Sox are forced to roll with the hand they have. Dunn, Peavy, and Rios are eating up the majority of the salary and a team like the Sox could probably afford one of these mistakes but they can’t afford all three. I’m with you on the overall plan though, I have no clue what’s going on. The Santos trade was baffling to me, especially combined with the Danks deal. As you said, I somewhat understand trading Santos if the theory is that they won’t be competitive for the next three years, but then why sign a guy for that exact period for big money? Unless they were convinced they would be absolutely terrible without him (if your prediction comes true they’ll be terrible with him anyway). It seems they don’t want to fully commit to rebuilding so they’re hoping they can have a return to form from their big contacts and their young guys play up to their potential.

Clearly they need to wait out these big contracts and hope their young talent at the Major League level produces. I don’t think you can expect much of anything from Ventura because he’s a first time manager and in reality, the team stinks. Their division is pretty decent too with the Tigers being a favorite in the American League and both the Indians and Royals as popular surprise picks. Do you buy the Indians or the Royals as making some noise this year? Personally, I see the Tigers winning something obscene like 95 games.

On the plus side Adam Dunn can't be worse than last year, right?

The Sox best case scenario is the big contracts return to the form that got them paid while the new guys play up to potential. The rotation is in decent shape and their bullpen is still solid. Regardless, I think we’re both hoping Derrick Rose gets healthy, and fast, so that we can follow the Bulls long into the summer. I haven’t been this pessimistic about a Sox team in over ten years. It’s really a shame too as with the Cubs in the gutter the Sox could have made a serious run at taking over the city. As it is, they’ll probably go back to being completely irrelevant.

Kevin: 60 wins wasn’t my real prediction, more just wondering if that’s how Kenny feels because of his off season moves. I’m torn on what to predict – do I go with my brain and predict 75-78 wins and probably 4th in the division behind Det/Cle and Minn? Or do I go with my heart and predict 85-88 wins and a season-long run for that last wildcard spot (remember there are two now, so no more winning the division to get to the playoffs). As you say, they can’t possibly be as bad offensively this year as they were last year. They won 79 games with guys having some career-worst years. You gotta figure if Dunn, Rios and Beckham have average years you get a few more wins. If Peavy stays healthy that’s a couple of wins too. Of course the problem is the White Sox are relying heavily on some young guys that may or may not be ready. Brent Morel has shown flashes but can he be consistent all season? De Aza is the same way. And then what can we expect out of Viciedo, who’s essentially Dunn without the decent ability to draw walks?

So end of the day I’m predicting 77 wins. I think they take a small step back. Some guys will be bounce back years, but they’re still relying too much on unproven youth and a new manager trying to figure everything out. Pretty tough recipe to cook when you’ve got Detroit and that crazy line-up to deal with, and Cleveland, which has plenty of talent but just needs to put it all together. I also refuse to believe that Minn ends up worse than the Sox for two consecutive seasons (63 wins last year!).

Chris Sale should be one of the few positives on the South Side this summer.

My guy to have a break out year is Chris Sale. I think he’s going to be pretty dominant for a “rookie” starter. Double digit wins, sub 3.30 era and 160+ strike outs. He’s got the stuff, now it’s learning situations and hitter tendencies. With a catcher like A.J. and a pitching coach like Cooper I think he’ll have plenty of help. If Floyd can get any sort of consistency (not likely) they’d have one of the better rotations in the American League. Lots of if’s though, including health, which makes me very hesitant to expect too much.

We could go on a long rant about the Ozzie situation. Suffice it to say that I would have preferred both of them gone. As you correctly note, Kenny has basically ruined the farm system in his bid to keep the team competitive on an annual basis. That’s a great idea in theory, but unfortunately in this span we’ve gotten 2 division wins and a 2nd place finish (though in fairness 2006 we won 90 games and somehow managed to come in third). I was just tired of Ozzie’s schtick. Again, it’s a fine idea in theory to steal the headlines from your team’s crappy play, but that doesn’t excuse the fact that his teams just didn’t win.

Will Fielder be enough to help the Tigers win the World Series?

How about the rest of baseball? What’s your World Series prediction? I’m going Phillies/Tigers. Tigers are pretty well stocked with pitching and hitting, especially now with Fielder. The Phillies need to float above water until Howard comes back, but Holliday/Hamels and Palpabon are three of the best pitchers in baseball. They should be fine and primed for a late season run.

Dave: I totally forgot about the second wild card. I personally think that’s a great move by the MLB.  More teams in it mean more excitement for more cities.  In addition, winning your division means a lot more now as well so hopefully we’ll have less wild card teams coming from nowhere to win.  Of course that also probably means the Yankees have a better shot at winning so maybe I should rethink my enthusiasm.

Regardless I’d be thrilled if the White Sox were at all in the hunt this summer.  However, I think you said it best; there are a lot of IFs on this team. Detroit is a dominant team and I think a lot of the teams in the division have less question marks.

My World Series prediction is terribly boring. Yankees over Phillies in six games. This is the year of the dynasty. Kentucky, Yankees, Heat. We can pretty much just ignore sports for the next five years.

Let’s end this with the refrain we’ll hear across Chicago all summer:

When does football start?

All Chicago fans are looking forward to seeing what Cutler can do with a real WR



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