Against my better judgement, I am going to begin to discuss: Next Season. Ugh, that hurt to say with 15 games remaining in this season, but in order to remain upbeat & positive with this season’s failure still stinking up the room…a stench lingering like a pile of crap that your dog has left for you to discover, that you hadn’t yet…As such is my mania (baseball, not the crap),
I will start with,
The Everyday Lineup:
First Base: Paul Konerko must return, and must retire a member of the Chicago White Sox. Period and end of story, this is a no-brainer. Money and length of new deal will need to be fair, but what we appear to have is a marriage that should stand the test of time. Suitors will be many after an MVPesque season by PK, and the White Sox MUST be loyal and committed (and smart) enough to keep “that loving feeling” going for at least 3 more years. After witnessing PK’s resurgence this season, it is obvious that he can still be counted on to be a highly productive offensive player. Projected in batting order: 4
Second Base: Gordon Beckham had a solid return to form after an absolutely miserable and puzzling 3 month Sophomore Slump. This kid could be the next Derek Jeter as long as we don’t screw him up. Surround him with talent, and let him grow into a great ballplayer, don’t burden him with too much pressure to produce at levels too far above where his current development will allow him to flourish. No need to rush this…patience, and he could be something special. Projected in batting order: 8
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez continues to do his thing. This second full season at short has been exponentially more productive than his first in terms of defensive growth. His bat is just as effective. Give me .280 with 20 & 70 every season from my shortstop, and as long as he catches the ball…nobody should ever complain. He could be an all-star if he ever figures out how to start hitting in April instead of waiting to warm up with the weather in June. Projected in batting order: 7
3rd base: Here is where we could really improve as a team. I support an Omar Vizquel/Brent Morel platoon here. Omar proved invaluable to the turnaround of the 2010 season. Anchored the infield defensively, and has surprised most of us with his ability to continue to rack up hits offensively. His steady defensive prowess is a wonderful asset to have as he can back-up at SS and 2B as well. Morel seems to be as advertised after succeeding at each level on his Minor League assent to the Majors. He looks every bit as ready to contribute to the big club as Beckham did in his first season. Having Omar to ease him into the lineup as a mentor will prove invaluable to his future development. No need to throw him into the deep end to learn to swim, as Josh Fields, and Mark Teahen have shown us in recent years, that this approach is a recipe for drowning, not learning how to play the hot corner. Morel’s bat looks MLB-ready, which was a bonus most of us weren’t anticipating. Projected in batting order: 2 (if Vizquel) or 7 (if Morel)
Catcher: I have flip-flopped on this subject throughout this “walk year” of AJ Pierzynski’s contract. After an awful first half of the season, I wished him well, and greener pastures. But, after he has proven once again, his intangibles, and a real noticeable improvement to a better brand of defensive play, I now feel that AJP must also return. I honestly can not see another player that I would rather be “the rock” of our team. The fact that he is so hated by most outside of the White Sox locker room, to me is the simple proof that he must be doing his job, and doing it well. If he were lousy, the opposing fans wouldn’t bother to boo, the boos would be much louder from our own fans. The fact that his bat has returned, was the clincher for me, he can still swing it. And if a smarter situational baseball mind exists in the game, I’d like to see it. I’m still not exactly sure what this guy has…but he most certainly has “IT”. Another 2 years, maybe with an option for a 3rd should do the trick. Projected in batting order: 6
Left field: With another year remaining on Juan Pierre’s deal, I see no good reason that he doesn’t return as our everyday LF, and leadoff man. With so much made of his weak throwing arm, I did not see it in evidence that it ever cost us a game. Maybe a few extra bases here and there, but the runs he saved by covering more ground, and getting to more balls than any Left fielder in recent memory in a White Sox uniform made me forget Scott Podsednik 50 times over. Slappy’s speed is an absolutely disruptive force, and his durability and professional team demeanor make him an absolute asset to this team. If he could just get better at his directional bunting, he’d easily be the .300 hitter he was very close to being this season. I bet he was thrown out at first by a step or less 100 times. Projected in batting order: 1
Center field: Here’s where it gets tricky. I like Alex Rios in CF, he has done a better job defensively than any recent Sox player has, but I can’t let go of the hopeful idea that our hidden gem in Jared Mitchell is coming up next season. Had he not been injured at the end of Spring, he may have made an appearance already to get an early taste of the big league experience. For some reason, I am convinced that this kid will be counted on to make a large contribution to the club as early as next season, like Austin Jackson has for Detroit. I see him playing CF, and batting at the bottom of the order, giving us an additional speed threat to compliment Pierre, Rios, and Alexei. IF he is healed from the bum ankle that kept him out for the entire season that is. Projected in batting order: 3 (if Rios) or 9 (if Mitchell)
Right field: Yes, this a big question mark. If my hunch is correct on Mitchell, then Rios easily slides over to upgrade this problem area for us. Carlos Quentin is not a good defender. He tries, but I just don’t prefer him out there with better options defensively available. His communication does not appear to be the best, and it is evident each time there is a ball in the gap where there is nearly a collision with Rios because nobody seems to be talking to the other. I could be wrong about this, but that is what I have observed as a problem area. Projected in batting order: 3 (if Rios) 5 (if Quentin)
Designated Hitter: Up for grabs as far as I am concerned. The rotating DH experiment was a mixed bag in 2010, with mostly the bag being empty where production was concerned. I sincerely hope that we do not see a repeat performance of this Ozzie gimmick. The concept I understood, but the execution and overall outcome by the players relied on to carry it out was paltry at best. If Carlos Quentin is desired to be a part of this team again next season, I would hope that it would be in this role. He has all of the tools to excel at this position, and the additional wear & tear of playing the field should keep him healthy and a pure focus on honing his craft of attempting to hit the stitches off of the baseball. I have a sneaking suspicion however that KW will make a controversial move to retain the services of Manny Ramirez. If the money is right, that deal could easily get done, and I feel like it would be the best idea that he’s had in recent memory. It would certainly not be popular, but that has never scared the man in the past. Moving Quentin (contingent upon receiving a decent value in return) would signal that 2008 was a lighting caught in a bottle event for CQ, and that it was unlikely to ever be repeated. I love the idea of having ManRam as a big stick in our lineup. His power is feared, and his approach at the plate is fundamentally as sound as any in the game. I believe he can still be highly productive (power numbers & OBP), more so than the younger Quentin…but cost may prohibit this deal from getting done. I will be most interested to see how this position plays out over the off-season. Projected in batting order: 5 (if Quentin or M.Ramirez).
In my next posts, I will take stabs at Starting Pitching, Bullpen, and The Bench.