Time goes by like pouring rain:
The White Sox wisely traded Javier Vazquez to the Braves a year too early rather than two years too late, but so far they have received 220 pitiful major-league at-bats in return. Brent Lillibridge is 27 and may have a ceiling only as a utility infielder, but he has yet to approach competency even at that. His career .551 OPS may explain Omar Vizquel’s presence. Tyler Flowers is 25 and had been A.J. Pierzynski’s heir apparent at catcher, but his .220, 121-strikeout 2010 at AAA casts doubts, and in 27 big-league at-bats, he’s fanned 13 times. No doubt that Ozzie Guillen has been impressed. If Lillibridge and Flowers falter, there are two more prospects — infielder Jon Gilmore and Santos Rodriguez — on the way. Elvis Andrus and Neftali Feliz for Mark Teixaira the trade is not.
I feel I’m knocking on heaven’s door: Pitcher Anthony Carter was mediocre in 43 starts over two years in high Class A, so the White Sox made him a reliever and promoted him to Class AA. Suddenly, his strikeout rate spiked and a promotion beckoned. The White Sox have openings in their bullpen — how much more Tony Pena could any manager take? –and if Carter doesn’t start in the majors, he’ll get there soon.
What is this man doing here? With apologies to Juan Pierre. It’s admirable, in a sense, that Omar Vizquel plays on at age 43 going on 44; not so flattering that he might be the best utility infielder the White Sox can get. Put it this way: Vizquel reached the majors four years after his manager did as a 21-year-old, and his manager has been retired for 11 years now. Vizquel ceased havig much offensive value half a decade ago, and he’s not even a decent pinch-runner any more (11 for 18 stealing last year). He’s only 201 hits away from 3,000, which is a great testament, but like Jamie Moyer and 300 wins, you don’t want Vizquel reaching that milestone with your team.
Outlook: The White Sox think they can win the AL Central in 2011, and why not? Each of their opponents is having problems with its best player. The White Sox aren’t even sure they have a best player. Paul Konerko? Good luck repeating 2010 at age 35. Adam Dunn? He won’t even play the field. Gordon Beckham? Not off his 2010. Alexis Rios? Not with his .791 OPS in 2010.
The Sox have collected name brands cast off, mostly for salary purposes, and mixed them with their own name-brand prospects (Chris Sale, Beckham) and those acquired in trades (John Danks, Carlos Quentin).
It’s an interesting team, and it may be enough if Sale can be the ace in bullpen (he can) and Jake Peavy can stay healthy (less of a sure thing). There’s plenty of starting pitching (Peavy, Edwin Jackson, Mark Buerhle, Gavin Floyd, Danks) and no team will have a better 1-2 lefty bullpen than Sale and Matt Thornton.
The key will be one of their two young third basemen (Brent Morel or Dayan Viciedo) cutting down their high strikeout rates to supply power, and Beckham rebounding after a bad 2010 — the Sox will need to offset the probable decline from Konerko.
Poke fun at Ozzie Guillen all you want, and it’s easy to do, but he’s had five winning seasons, two division titles and a world championship in seven years. This year will be six in eight.
Remember when: The White Sox went 88 years between world championships and 46 years between AL pennants until they won in 2005. The 1959 Sox won 94 games and were known as the Go-Go Sox, even though only two of their players ever went. They stole 113 base as a team (Luis Aparacio had 56, Jim Landis 20); by comparison the 2010 Sox stole 160. A look back at the 1959 White Sox: