Thursday, October 27, 2005

World Champions in...Chicago?

Disjointed thoughts about the 2005 World Series Champions, the Chicago White Sox, written at various intervals while watching post-game interviews and highlights...

-What a fantastic closing game to what was surely the most closely contested World Series sweep of all time. A six run differential over four games is not a lot, but as they had done the entire postseason, the White Sox got the big hits when they needed to, and got consistently good pitching and defense. Freddy Garcia really could not have been better for Chicago, striking guys out whenever he put them on, and Politte and Jenks scraped out of jams as well. The big kudos tonight have to go to Chicago's defense, Juan Uribe in particular. His greatest assets are his range and arm strength, and he showed them both with great aplomb on the last two outs of the game, two outs that will live forever in this city's memory. Rowand and Podsednik also shined, showing how advantageous it is to have two rangy centerfield type players in the outfield.

-There was an air of inevitability through the whole game, even when the excellent Brandon Backe mowed through hitter after hitter. As well as the White Sox pitched, the inevitability had more to do with Houston's feeble bats in Games 3 and 4. It shouldn't be that surprising, given that they finished near the bottom of the National League in runs scored, and was the reason they were 15 games under .500 at one point during the season. In this series they left an astounding number of runners on base, and in the end, it was their downfall.

-This will go down as one of the most memorable World Series for me, because it actually happened where I lived! Though I'm no White Sox fan, it's joyous to see this city I love celebrate its first baseball championship since around when my grandparents were born.

-I'm just pulling this out of the air, but I'm willing to bet this is the first title won by a team with minorities at the general manager and manager posts. Congratulations to Kenny Williams and Ozzie Guillen, as well as Jerry Reinsdorf, for finally breaking the "old boys" network.

-How many different heroes did the White Sox have in each of these postseason games? It seemed like a new one every night. One had the feeling that whomever drove in the game-winning run in Game 4 would get the MVP. Tonight it happened to be Dye. In my opinion, Joe Crede contributed the most to this team in the World Series with his bat and glove, and Freddy Garcia delivered the best pitching. On a night when going to the bullpen early would have been fatal, Garcia delivered like the workhorse he is. Postseason aside, the most valuable member of this team is Paul Konerko. For an offense to work on so thin a margin for error, it needs one player who is able to deliver big home runs and runs driven in. Look no further than Game 2 of the World Series and Games 3 and 4 of the ALCS for proof of Konerko's value. They'd be crazy not to re-sign him.

-Ultimately, this was a championship team built around run prevention rather than run creation, and all the credit should go to Kenny Williams for building a superior staff of pitchers and defenders at a very low price. They could have used another bat to be sure, but who's to argue with these results? In the type of market with mega teams like the New Yorks and Bostons and LAs shelling out major dollars for superstars, the White Sox built a rotation of solid pitchers who excelled at throwing strikes, and put in a relatively cheap team behind them that could field better than anyone else. This was a true Moneyball team--Williams recognized that defense could be had cheaply, and with a pitching staff this good, having a superior defense combined with an adequate offense was much better than an adequate defense and a superior offense. Just ask the Red Sox and Yankees.

So will future champions look more and more like the '05 White Sox and less like the '04 Red Sox? My money says yes, given that Cleveland and Oakland are constructed very similarly, are young, and have very capable GMs. It would not suprise me in the slightest to see the Athletics and Indians duking it out for AL supremacy over the next half of this decade. In the National League, Florida and Milwaukee could be built to win in this way, although admittedly are a couple more pieces away from being truly in the run prevention mold. What about the bloated teams? I reckon they'll keep on signing older free agents to ridiculous contracts. Sign enough of them, and you just may have the '04 Red Sox. But for teams with limited market share, the 2005 Chicago White Sox are a model example of how to build a championship baseball team.

-This title was richly deserved both for the team and the city that waited for so long. The 2005 White Sox will go down in history as turning in one of the best postseason runs in history; only the 1998 Yankees and 1976 Reds can match them. Though this team obviously was not as dominant as those two, it's fitting that they won the way they had all season--by doing just enough.

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