by Mike DePilla
Tuesday, September 1, 2009
Bill Melton put it best in last night's Comcast postgame show. When asked by Chuck Garfien why Nick Blackburn, who came into last night's game 0-5 with an 8.22 ERA in his last 8 starts, was able to so thoroughly dominate the Sox, Beltin' Bill said "Well look, with this White Sox team right now, there's no offense there."
Of course, the Sox pitiful 4-1 loss to the Twins was overshadowed by the surprising last minute trade of slugger Jim Thome to the Los Angeles Dodgers and Jose Contreras to the Colorado Rockies. The return on both trades isn't really all that important (pitcher Brandon Hynick, who threw a 7-inning perfect game in the minors a few months ago, may be worth watching; infielder Justin Fuller won't be), but the message is: out with the old, in with the new.
Thome's departure will give Ozzie Guillen more line up flexibility for the last month of the season, and I'd expect him to use that new found flexibility to get a good look at prospect Tyler Flowers, who highlights the list of September call ups. Flowers, a 6'4", 245 lb. catcher, has flat out raked in the minors, posting a .297/.423/.516 line across Double-A and Triple-A this summer.
AJ Pierzynski is firmly entrenched as the Sox catcher, and is not going to want to give up playing time, even if the Sox are out of the race. But he and Flowers could rotate between DH and catcher for the rest of the year, giving Pierzynski at bats without wearing out his knees and giving Flowers, whose defense is very suspect, a chance to prove himself with the glove and the bat.
Here's an example of a drastically different line up the Sox could field if desired, starting tonight:
As frustrated as I have been with the Sox one-dimensional offense over the past few seasons, I had a genuine feeling of sadness last night about Thome leaving the team. He is a great guy, a future Hall-of-Famer, and I'm going to miss him a lot. It's not impossible that Kenny Williams will re-sign him to DH in 2010, depending on what happens to Konerko and Dye. But if this is it, best of luck to ya, big man.
Contreras might surprise a few people in the National League, where ERAs shrink, as Jerry Seinfeld would say, "like a frightened turtle." Obviously he'll be no Cliff Lee, but he could give the Rockies some solid innings down the stretch. Here in Chicago, he'll always be remembered for his unbelievable stretch from mid 2005 to mid 2006 in which he dominated the American League and, in the process, brought the first championship trophy in 88 years to the city.
In the end, his recent struggles will be completely forgotten in his positive legacy.
As for the Sox, there's a tremendous sadness and disappointment about this team. Last night I couldn't get that Scottish bagpipe funeral song out of my head. It kept playing over and over as I read about the trades and thought about the team. It really does feel like a funeral.
But the future still looks bright. And that's good, because it takes sunshine for Flowers to blossom.
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