Out with the old, in with the new.
Over the course of the next month or two, we will be previewing the Yankees’ competition in the American League. To do this, I will interview one blog for each team in the league.
Today we’ll take a look at the Chicago White Sox. I was able to interview Anders Johanson of Southside Showdown.
1. In 2011, the White Sox went finished 79-83, 16 games back from the 1st place Tigers. What do you think the team could have done a better job at? What do you think was a definite strength of the 2011 ChiSox?
I feel like the 2010-2011 offseason encouraged Sox fans to set the bar unreasonably high as far as expectations go. I won’t lie, I was one of thos guys. We brought back Konerko and Pierzynski, we signed Dunn, all signs pointed to Peavy being healthy, everything looked good on paper. The problem with baseball, though, is that the game isn’t played on paper. It’s played on the field. Dunn was a shocking disappointment, Rios was terrible, the starting pitching wasn’t there, the bullpen was spotty, there were a handful of consistent players, and the three basic aspects of the game (offense, defense, and pitching) didn’t all work at the same time. The offense would be great for a few weeks while the defense and the pitching couldn’t keep us in a game. Defense and pitching were there when the offense couldn’t score runs. For a team to do well all three aspects need to function at the same time. That never happened in 2011.
With that much going wrong on a team it’s hard to pick a definite strength. We saw the versatility of Brent Lillibridge, the second coming of Joe Crede in Brent Morel, the emergence of Alejandro De Aza, and another good year out of Konerko. The 2011 Tigers got to a point in the season where they could just smell the playoffs and nothing was going to stop them from getting there. Not the Twins, not the White Sox, not the 1927 Yankees.
2. Towards the end of September, the White Sox released Ozzie Guillen from his duties as manager. How different do you think the team will be without the presence of Ozzie Guillen? What do you think the new manager, Robin Ventura brings to the table?
From what I’ve read it seems like Ozzie was the source of a lot of tension in the White Sox locker room. A character like that is entertaining for a little while but after a certain point it just gets repetitive and even annoying. It was a good run with him as Sox manager but the honeymoon had to come to an end at some point – you can’t live off of 2005 forever. I wish him and Mark Buehrle all the best in Miami.
I’m looking forward to have Robin Ventura in the dugout, if not just for the fact that it brings a fresh brain to the managerial position. Ventura flew under the radar of literally everyone except Kenny Williams so when he was hired it was a big surprise. After a week or two it started to sink in and make sense. Even though the Sox are supposedly rebuilding/retooling there are enough veterans on the team for Ventura to breathe a little bit. Robin has never managed before so the naivety might be frustrating for the first two or three months. It’s tough to predict how a manager will manage. Everyone thought Mike Quade was going to save the Cubs last year and that was a train wreck. We’ll just have to wait and see on this one.
3. Just days after GM Kenny Williams said the team was in full-blown rebuilding mode, he extended John Danks to a 5 year / $65MM contract, despite trading away Carlos Quentin and Sergio Santos. How do you feel about the White Sox seemingly strange offseason?
Kenny Williams’ offseason plan is usually clear by this point. I can’t quite figure out what he’s going for in 2012. Maybe he has some master plan that nobody but him can see? I’m hoping that’s the case because we gave up a lot this offseason and didn’t get much in return. Quentin to the Padres was a salary dump, letting Buehrle go was a risk, and trading Sergio Santos and Jason Frasor killed our bullpen. Chris Sale is going to move to the rotation and Dayan Viciedo will now be our everyday right fielder so this season will be an adjustment for both of them. It’s the Danks extension that throws the whole rebuilding thing out the window. Danks’ 2011 season (8-12, 4.33 ERA) didn’t earn the money he received. There was talk that Williams was shopping both Danks and Gavin Floyd but his asking price was way too high. Apparently his solution to that is to give a lot of money to a mediocre left-hander in hopes that said lefty somehow becomes Randy Johnson? If you’re going to rebuild then rebuild. That means dealing Danks, Floyd, and whoever else so that the team can start fresh.
4. What is the general confidence level in the team moving forward, both in the short-term and long-term?
Right now it’s difficult to say. I think the fanbase is equal parts excited and terrified for both short-term and long-term. The Sox at a major league level will still be competitive because it’s not like Kenny completely cleaned house this offseason. The minor leagues – which I’ll get to in a moment – are what bother me the most. There are two or three guys who are major league ready and then everyone else is still years off.
5. How do you feel about the current state of the White Sox’ prospects, and minor-league system? Are there any prospects that you think could have an impact on the 2012 team?
The Sox are quite weak in the farm system. A couple years ago I would’ve been more confident in the kids we have down in the minors but right now even our Top 10 list isn’t that impressive. Nestor Molina, the pitcher we got from Toronto for Sergio Santos, looks to be our number one prospect and a guy who could potentially be in the starting rotation a year or two from now. Two other pitchers to watch out for who are ready to make an impact are Dylan Axelrod and Addison Reed. Both guys were September call-ups in 2011 and have a ton of upside. They’ll be good replacements for Sale and Santos.
6. Lastly, how do you project the team will do in 2012?
As I said earlier this game is played on the field and not on paper. That being said, on paper we look decent. Obviously we lost a good bit of power, a solid starting pitcher, and some arms out of the bullpen. With the big move the Tigers made to pick up Fielder they’re the clear favorite in the Central so hopefully the Sox can finish second or third. I’d like to be optimistic and give a huge “anything less than first is a waste” speech but second place is honestly what we’re shooting for this season. A record above .500 and good baseball in August and September should take us there. First place would be a pleasant surprise, though.