There are so many key moments, and clutch performances that contributed to securing the first World Series Championship in 88 years for the Chicago White Sox in 2005. Not too many to list, but for today’s thought, I find myself reflecting on some very good defense (they say it wins championships), and some extremely clutch swings, that without all of it, who knows what might never have been…In the middle of an off-season where the White Sox have replaced a young, up and coming future star at 3rd Base, as the Sox brass had decided that Mark Teahen was a guy that we obviously had to have as our next third baseman for the forseeable future, I see other familiar faces from the White Sox ’05 club that are either still looking to extend careers, or others that have found new homes. One of my absolute favorites, Joe Crede, still fighting his balky back ailments, is looking for yet another team to give him a chance to prove that he can stay healthy and be productive. No better glove man has anchored the Hot Corner for my Sox since Robin Ventura. I really, really, really hope GM Kenny Williams knows what he is doing on this call to bring in Teahen who has up to this point in his young career been anything special like Crede absolutely was, and rookie Gordon Beckham was looking like he could be. Time will tell, but rest assured that the bar is already set high, and expectations not met early will make it an uphill climb for Mr. Teahen with the South Side faithful. I trust in our management, but I feel like I am very much in the minority on that idea.
It is also interesting to hear that Juan Uribe, who was as clutch defensively as any player could possibly be at the largest moment(s) in the decisive Game 4 clincher in the ’05 Series, will continue his string with the Giants, who think enough of his glove to most likely move another up and coming young star in Pablo Sandoval to first base, to allow Uribe to anchor third. The White Sox had used Uribe at the Hot Corner as well when Crede’s back had again failed him, and he did amazingly well considering that Shortstop was his natural (favorite) position. As a Free Agent, Uribe could have easily returned to the Sox for the same money (or less) than Teahen was awarded, and with less question marks. With Juan, you knew exactly what you were going to get, flashes of brilliance, and a huge (“you can’t walk me”) all or nothing swing. Plus glove, average bat, but with plenty of pop, and a team/fan favorite. Sure, there were lapses of losing interest at times that would draw the ire of Ozzie, but when we needed it most, who could ever forget those two ninth inning gems to deliver the grail?
A better catch you will not find, in World Series history, or otherwise. Absolute disregard for personal safety, and straight clutch. The fact that they keep showing that lame (by comparison) Derek Jeter grab ad nauseum, chaps my ass every time I see it. East Coast bias is the only logical reason that Uribe’s far superior baseball play never got any run.
And, of course, who could ever forget “the clincher”? I remember it like it was yesterday…Palmeiro bounces one over Big Bobby’s head (you could barely slip a piece of paper under that awkward “vertical” that Jenks used for that one), and I literally said aloud “OH NO” because I knew in a 1-0 game, any baserunner could spell doom with a single swing of the next at-bat. But just then, almost out of nowhere, Uribe swoops in, snatches it up, and fires a bee-bee to Pauly…Plameiro runs through first wife the “safe” sign, but we get him in a real “bang-banger”…27th out of the 11th win, and WE DID IT!!!
Now, we’ll see how our defense responds this season, because brother it couldn’t get much worse than it was last year. Hopefully the youngsters that we have in place will respond to the challenges like our old heroes once did.
Switching gears to a more offensive minded focus, we recently bid adieu to an additional 2 key members of the ’05 Championship squad. Gone (although not 100% officially, since they have yet to sign with different teams, but it’s not looking good for a return) are Jermaine Dye, and Scott Podsednik. The World Series MVP, and the catalyst who set the table for the majority of the ’05 season. Dye was a solid performer throughout his career in Chicago, and by all accounts was an even more solid citizen and club-house leader who chose to let his daily preparation and on-field play do his talking for him. Leading by example is what JD did, and he was highly respected by all around him. He rebounded from a near career-ending injury while with Oakland, to reinvent himself with the Sox, and flirt with League MVP status. It’s looking like he’ll be replaced in his familiar Right Field, by another young up and coming slugger who has had his own brush with MVP-caliber seasons, by powerful Carlos Quentin. An intense gamer who, if he can stay healthy, should amply replace the production we have come to expect annually from JD. A casualty of a too large salary in a tough market for a club that (like most) has resorted to tightening the payroll belt. The biggest surprise is the replacement of our speedy leadoff “table-setter” (and not to mention one of the biggest unlikely surprise walk-off homers in WS history), who is coming off a career-best season offensively where he was summoned out of a forced pre-mature retirement from his couch at home, to joining the Sox last season in late May to eventually leading the team in batting. What looked like a shoe-in to come back to anchor the top of the lineup was one Scotty Pods. But alas, the temptation of what might be had via the Free Agent market, was too much for the Sox and the Podsednik camp to overcome, as the two sides were never even close in terms of dollars and number of contract years to be offered or considered to be acceptable common ground. Pods asked, Kenny passed, and quickly moved on to different options.
And with the signing of one Juan Pierre, a proto-typical lead-off/base stealing menace in his own right, the Scott Podsednik era (part 2) was all but officially over. The staunch fans did wail, and it was not a popular announcement that seemed more like a punch in the gut than a smart baseball move, but nevertheless we moved on and turned the page on yet another popular fan favorite that helped to deliver the goods in ’05. Will the new/different faces ultimately provide the same pinnacle of success? Will they be able to do it with the flair, and the professionalism, and the gritty determination typified by our South Side Grinders? Again, only time will tell, but with change often comes pain. The question is: is it the “growing ” kind that eventually bares the sweetest fruit, or will it be the “real/sharp” kind that beckons regret and second-guessing? Either way, and without a doubt, the boys will be missed. Joltin’ Joe “Clutch” Crede, Juan “never saw a pitch I didn’t like” Uribe, Jermaine “Mr. Class” (JD 4 MVP) Dye, and straight plain Scotty Pods…best of luck old friends, and will look forward to seeing you again. And they can never take away what you were all such a huge part of…gone? Yes. Forgotten? NEVER.