The White Sox weren’t afraid to shake things up in the off-season, and neither should the Phillies.
It’s been extremely difficult to watch the Championship Series. For one, the Astros edged the Phils by one game in the Wild Card, and second, two of the four teams – the Padres and Braves – don’t have anything on our hometown nine.
It’s been even more difficult watching the White Sox charge to within one game of the World Series. Why? The Southsiders have essentially been the American League version of the Phillies for the past few seasons, and are now one step ahead in their quest for a championship.
In 2004, both squads finished second but out of the running for the pennant. The Phils went 86-76 and the White Sox went 83-79, both considered underachieving campaigns.
Like the Phils, the White Sox had assembled a core they believed they could not win without, including outfielder Magglio Ordonez, a lifetime .298 hitter, and Carlos Lee, coming off a year in which he hit .305, 99 RBIs and 31 homers. In addition, both teams have former superstar sluggers in Frank Thomas and Jim Thome, and it’s likely the Phils won’t be able to shake Thome free, just as Thomas has been lingering around Chicago forever.
Last winter, the White Sox cut ties with the free agent Ordonez by letting him walk to Detroit. They continued to gut their outfield by trading Lee to the Brewers for Scott Podsednik, coming off a sophomore slump in his second season with the Brewers.
The White Sox signed Jermaine Dye to fill out the outfield, Tadahito Iguchi for second base, and signed catcher A.J. Pierzynski to a cheap one-year deal.
The payoffs have been huge, especially in the outfield. Podsednik gave them just the speed presence they needed at the top of the lineup, and Dye matched Lee’s performance in 2004 with 31 homers in pull hitter-friendly U.S. Cellular Field.
Think about the White Sox pitching staff before the season. Was it much better than the Phils? Not really. Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland, Jose Contreras and Orlando Hernandez represented a concern three through five. Indeed, like the White Sox, the Phils may be forced to bring back basically the same pitching staff next season due to a scarcity of arms on the market.
In the bullpen, they got creative when Shingo Takatsu flopped, all because they made a savvy signing with Dustin Hermanson, who was converted to closer in May and delivered 34 saves for the AL Central Champs (Vicente Padilla anyone?)
These weren’t necessarily moves to do anything other than shake things up a bit. Lee and Ordonez, like Bobby Abreu and Pat Burrell, had become the face of underachieving and the team believed a change had to be made. They were also good economic moves that yielded great all-around production by making the initial sacrifice of high-priced offense.
Leave a memo on the desk of the vacant general manager’s office: the White Sox are worth emulating.