Friday, December 08, 2006

Thoughts on '07 and Beyond: Defending Kenny Williams

After the Freddy Garcia trade yesterday and the apparent deal/no-deal with the Astros, Kenny Williams has taken a lot of flak from both the media and the fans. Writers like Rick Morrissey are calling KW and Reinsdorf cheap; I've heard fans say the Sox are wavin' the White Flag as they did in '97, but I don't think that's necessarily the case.

Yes, I will admit that I expected more for Freddy Garcia, but I think the onus for such high expectations came from the fans themselves, maybe a package of Milledge and Humber was a ridiculous pipe dream. I think we (myself, definitely included) got greedy when we saw the fat contracts getting tossed about; we figured Freddy is a proven pitcher and better than nearly all those jokers getting paid, so we should get a ridiculous package for him. We failed to realize that the fact Freddy would only be under control for one year could be a big time deal-breaker. It's one thing to give up a chunk of the farm for a player that you'll have signed for a few years, it's another thing to get the player for a year and then have nothing to show for it afterwards. Ask the Astros how the Randy Johnson trade worked out for them. Before you point out that we did the same thing for Freddy when he was with the Mariners, keep in mind we had Ozzie who had close ties with him, so the Sox had a the inside track to re-sign him.

I think Kenny's move was more of a lateral move with an eye to the future, than anything else. I really don't mind such a move. I'm even border-line in favor of that type of move as long as we're not taking a step back in '07. If you project McCarthy to put up similar number to what Freddy would have given us (which is a modest projection) we look as good as last year, and I mean as good as we looked coming into the season not when we ended it. Look at it from the organization's view; they thought they had themselves a team capable of winning 100 games and getting back to the World Series. Unfortunately, the Sox couldn't come close to replicating '05's pitching brilliance and they ran into two ridiculously good teams in the Twins and Tigers along the way. I don't think KW has weakened the squad we had in '06, so on paper they look pretty damn good, once again. If you subscribe to the thinking that last year's pitching was an anamoly, which I do, then the Sox can do no worse than improve. As much as we've dumped on Buehrle over the past year (thanks James, for leading the charge), he's been too damn consistent and too damn good over the years to suck it up again. I fully expect him and most of the rotation to rebound to some degree and that's not just because I'm a Sox fan.

The Sox are still in a good position for next year and in pretty good shape for '08. The Sox are only now starting to set themselves up for beyond '08. Think about it; the Sox are a veteran heavy team. If you think Joe Thome's back is creaky now, wait til the '09 season begins; Paulie, Iguchi, and Jose are no spring chickens either; Dye, Crede, Buehrle, and Garland could very well bolt during free agency. If Kenny didn't make any moves for the future, there would be a huge drop-off come '09. What if Kenny puts all his chips in for this two, three year span and inexplicably the Sox DON'T win another championship? Crazier things have happened, and afterall the baseball post-season is pretty much a crap-shoot. If Kenny did put all his chips in now and ignored the (now somewhat less) baren farm system, imagine where the team would be in '09 or '10. We'd be Cubs bad; we could even be Kansas City bad. It's one thing if the Sox pull off two more World Series titles and then crash and burn a la the Bulls, but those title are by no means even close to being guarenteed; we don't have a Michael Jordan that could almost single handedly lead us to the promised land. If the Sox come out empty handed and then crash and burn, all the goodwill and support that was earned in '05 would go right down the crapper. The Sox would once again be the second team in the second city.

Kenny deserves credit, not reprimand for trying to make the South Siders winners over the long term. Kenny has the prescience to build not only a top flight team, but also start building a top flight future for our team.

As The Cheat aptly put it, "Why are we holding 12 games from '05, 75% of which were against BAD offenses, in higher regard than the more recent 159 games from '06 that resulted in a third place finish?" As I said before, I think the rotation will bounce back, but beyond next year, I don't know. The rotation does have some mileage on it, so it's hard to project them properly.

Maybe Kenny could have waited a little while longer to explore a couple other deals for Freddy; I could see giving him some flak for that, but I say don't lump him among the other bad GM's in the league just yet. Hold judgement. See how the '07 season turns out, and keep in mind some of the absolute fleecings he's pulled (Freddy Garcia, Jenks, Thome, Dye, etc.). Before calling Reinsdorf cheap, wait and see if he reinvests some of that money he saved by offering Buehrle or Crede an extension, and keep in mind the way he opened the purse strings for Paulie and Thome the year before. Before bemoaning the Sox management as a whole, wait and see, don't overreact and remember these are the guys that brought us our first championship in close to 100 years. I know in the sports world, it's what have you done for me lately, but I still count that '05 championship as a pretty recent event.


Blogger Matt R. Horon said...

It's unfortunate that most of the criticism being heaped upon KW and the Sox from the media and crazed message boards fanantics obscures more legitmate complaints about how this offseason has transpired.

It isn't that the Sox are "cheap", or that they didn't get enough for Garcia: the problem is that aren't being creative enough.

The easiest way to upgrade the 2006 White Sox is to fix LF. Scott Podsednik is nothing more than a AAAA player, barely worthy of roster spot. Instead of realizing this and cutting him free, the Sox have resigned him for 2.9 million and apparently he is the de facto starter in LF. The logic is that the Sox need a "leadoff hitter" and that Pods is that man.

The Sox already have a suitable leadoff hitter on the roster in Tadahito Iguchi. The White Sox could have plugged Iguchi into the leadoff spot, put Ross Gload in LF as the worst case backup plan, and gotten better production while having 3 million more dollars to spend on a usefull player.

I was a big fan of the moves KW made last offseason because I felt they were creative and addressed the problems that needed to be addressed, notably the fact that the DH position needed a kick in the ass. Their was talk that a new sort of statistical thinking, led by Wilder, had helped argue for the Thome trade.

I thought the Sox were on the cusp of their own Sabermetrics revolution.

And then they sign Scott Podsednik and apparently have penciled him in as the starting LF and leadoff hitter.

I just don't get it.

12/08/2006 12:43 PM  
Blogger Jeeves said...

I fulle agree. I'm still waiting on Kenny to find a suitable left fielder and a back-up catcher. I have faith that he'll do it, but I'm starting to get worried.

12/08/2006 5:56 PM  
Blogger Jeeves said...

And welcome Matt! Hope to see you around here a bit.

12/08/2006 5:56 PM  
Blogger UCLASoxFan said...

Toby Hall for back up catcher. If he gets non-tendered, we need to jump on him. We saved some dough on the Freddy trade, might as well spend it.

12/12/2006 11:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

New statistical way of thinking led by Wilder? Are you high? Wilder is a former player and scout and the furtherest thing from a statistics guy.

1/10/2007 12:07 PM  

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