Part of a series
Cliff Politte was drafted by the St. Louis Cardinals in the 54th round of the 1995 Draft. He was able to slip that far because of his slight stature. He's listed at 5'11", but he's closer to 5'9", not exactly the prototypical height for dominant pitcher. One thing Cliff could do, however, was throw hard. He has always had a very good fastball, despite his size.
During his time in the Cardinals system, Cliff was used exclusively as a starter, making his major league debut in 1998. After 8 unimpressive starts, the Cardinals shipped him to Philidelphia. In Philly, Cliff established himself as a nice bullpen arm, posting ERAs of 3.66 and 2.42 in his first two full seasons in the majors.
In 2002, Politte was traded to Toronto for Dan Plesac. After a solid second half, Toronto felt like they could entrust Cliff with the closer's role. Politte struggled with the pressure of the 9th inning, having his worst season since establishing himself as a big leaguer.
The Sox signed Politte before the '04 season. He showed flashes of greatness, but largely was a league average reliever in '04. He missed about a month late in the year with a burst appendix, but returned to throw in the last weekend of the season. This act, more than his pitching, may have accounted for his new contract in '05.
The Sox had an option on Politte in '05, but they chose to sign him to a two year extension instead. -- At the time, I was upset that the Sox wasted some guaranteed money in '06 on a guy who looked like a league average reliever -- Politte went on to be one of the best relievers in baseball in '05. Now, they've got Politte locked up for next season, when he would be due to make more than $2.5M(less than the total value of his contract) on the open market. Just another case of prudent decision making by the White Sox front office.