The Book of Mike

"This is no junior college. This is the notorious University of Miami.” -- Marlins starter Dontrelle Willis, after getting knocked around for six runs in 2 1/3 innings by the Canes.

Wednesday, July 28, 2004

Raise the White Flag - the Sox are done

It’s over.  Raise the white flag.  Trade the prospects.  Do what you did in 1997.  Sure, it may feel like the White Sox are close to a division title and possibly even a wild card berth into the playoffs, but it’s all a mirage.

If you’ve watched any Sox games lately, you’ve seen that they’re flat.  A big part of this is surely due to the fact that offensive leaders Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordonez are not part of the lineup.  Both are on the disabled list.  Take the two biggest boppers out of any lineup, and that team is going to struggle.  Well, that’s where the Sox are now, and they’re not likely to get that turned around anytime soon.

This is that tempting time of year when a lot of teams that really aren’t think that they might be contenders.  Before the Sox think that they are contenders though, I hope they take a step back.  What are they contenders for really - to win their division, to win the wild card?

Quite honestly, I think the answer is none of the above.  Sure, the Sox might drag this out a bit, like last year, and make us all think for awhile that they might win the Central.  But are they really going to get past the Yankees, Red Sox and/or Angels and A’s in the playoffs.  I highly doubt it for many reasons.

Besides, the price they’d have to pay to be in contention is too great.  They’re already going to lose Magglio Ordonez in the offseason to free agency.  Whoever they get there – barring a major miracle – will be a major downgrade.  The Sox are also now thin at catcher for the time being, since they traded away Miguel Olivo in the quest to obtain Freddy Garcia (also losing Jeremy Reed in the deal). 

Like in year’s past, the Sox farm system is filled with potential arms and corner men (in the infield and the outfield).  Many baseball types will tell you that championship teams are built up the middle.  Look at the Marlins last year: solid defensively with Ivan Rodriguez, Alex Gonzalez, Luis Castillo, and Juan Pierre – plus they got solid offensive contributions from all four players.  The Sox just don’t have that kind of talent – not at the major league level in reality, or even at the minor league level in terms of potential.

So it’s time to trade.  Trade anyone and everyone that you can.  Get some quality for the starting pitchers that the team has.  Mark Buerhle has some value on the open market, and it increasingly seems likely that the Sox won’t be able to sign him when he’s eligible for free agency.  Plus, the overuse he was subjected to in the early part of his career surely means that he will continue to be come less and less effective over the coming years. 

Some team might even be willing to take on Esteban Loiaza.  Yes, Esteban was a great pickup for the Sox last year and came out of nowhere to win the Cy Young.  He’s not going to win it this year though, and if the Kenny Williams can pick up a prospect or two in exchange for him, I hope they do it.  Esteban’s best days are likely behind him too.

There’s still one more starter that another team might want – and that’s Freddy Garcia.  Sure, the Sox are unlikely to trade him now that he’s just signed an extension (and another team might not want to take him on since he’s owed $27 million for the three years that follow this season).  But if they can trade him, I would.  The Angels might be in the market for a starter like Garcia, who has some playoff experience.  And in return the Sox might be able to pick up a guy like Casey Kotchman or Dallas McPherson or another one of the Angels higher echelon prospects.

It’s time for the Sox to give up on the 2004 season.  Hopefully they can recognize that and get some prospects for some of their aging talent before the trade deadline consumes us this weekend. 

Whether the same holds true for the Marlins or not remains to be seen.  How the remainder of the series with the Phillies goes this weekend will determine much of that.


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