Last season: 79-83 (3rd in AL Central, 16 GB)
2011 Playoffs: Did not qualify
Josh says: There are people in this world who do not like surprises. They want life to be predictable, habitual, controlled, and though life throws its curveballs, they still know that at 7:20 a.m., give or take 90 seconds, Smiling Mikey will be staring across the table as the bowl of Life cereal goes down the gullet.
For the poor Life-eating folks who are pro-White Sox, we’ll keep this preview in expected territory: Any discussion of the South Siders in 2012 begins with one Kenny Williams, General Manager and all-around Surprise Maestro. There isn’t another franchise in American pro sports where the GM has such a cult of “What in the Sam Hill is he doing next?” surrounding him, and now that Ozzie Guillen has left for Miami, Williams’ erraticism rules all at U.S. Cellular Field. The whole appeal of Robin Ventura, according to the beat writers, is his gritty calm, getting noogied by Nolan Ryan notwithstanding.
Maybe Kenny will blow it up! Maybe we’ll go for it all! The man let Jim Thome walk four balls at a time up to the goshdarned Twins for a paltry $1.5 million. He claimed Alex Rios off waivers and traded for Jake Peavy, with middling success. He gave up Daniel Hudson to rent Edwin Jackson. And he won a World Series with a staff led by Jose Contreras.
This offseason was no more scrutable than others. Carlos Quentin was sent to San Diego for a couple of maybe-but-no pitching prospects after Williams signed John Danks to a big extension as rumors swirled around Gavin Floyd, and after trading closer Sergio Santos, under team control through 2017, for a No. 4 pitching prospect.
Williams, after the Santos trade: “It is the start of a rebuilding. And you guys know I have not used that word in 12 years. But it is the start of a rebuilding. Now, is it the start of falling-domino rebuilding? No. Absolutely not.”
Best, then, that expectations are tempered for the 2012 season. Rebuilding without knocking over dominoes indicates a level of play close to last year, which shouldn’t be hard to maintain for a 79-win team that outperformed its run differential. Paul Konerko can still hit. A.J. Pierzynski will likely still have an almost-league-average bat coupled with terrible defense behind the plate. Danks, Floyd (if he’s not traded), a healthy Peavy and youngster Chris Sale could form a decent rotation, and the bullpen is okay. If everyone else does the same or a little better than last year, the Sox can win maybe 80 games if they’re lucky again, thanks to a bad division.
But! Yet! However! This team could surprise. In a good way, Life-eaters. No, it’s not likely that they keep up with the Tigers; but with two Wild Card spots and a couple of injuries to any or all of the Red Sox, Yankees, Rays, Angels and Rangers, the White Sox might be sitting there to take advantage. A playoff spot in 2012 would be a Big Surprise, and it would require Adam Dunn to be at least average, and certainly better than his .192/.292/.277 2011. More Big Ifs for the Pale Hose include long-touted prospects Dayan Viciedo (right field) and Tyler Flowers (catcher) producing, utilityman Brent Lillibridge giving them a similar line to his .845 2011 OPS in more at-bats, and the double-play combo of Alexei Ramirez and Gordon Beckham reverting to their rookie years, when both were above-average hitters.
Then Kenny Williams lands a Huge Surprise at the deadline, and you can Put It On The Board, YES, the White Sox have another unlikely shot at the Series.
Worth watching: If you have MLB.TV access, White Sox color guy Hawk Harrelson is the Greek idol of homerdom. No, he’s no Uecker or Scully, but he’s grumpy in a fun way and has catchphrases all the way to Kankakee. Lots of people hate him, naturally. If there is an Adam Dunn revival, The Cell is a home run hitter’s dream park; a vintage Dunn and age-defying Konerko would be one of the better 3-4’s in the American League.
Featured Image Credit: Associated Press