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Let the Grinder Era end today!

Listening to the local news stations last night, the prevailing theme seemed to be that the White Sox hit bottom Wednesday afternoon in Minnesota. I've seen a 99 win team lose 8 in a row, and thought the Sox over-underachieved their way to a .500 record thus far, so I wasn't buying it.

A night later, they've lost their second starting (whether they would have started on 29 other teams is immaterial. They were starting here) outfielder, and have now lost all 3 of their "speedy" lead-off guys. Darin Erstad will probably be back at some point this season, as will Scott Podsednik. To which all I have to say is WHY?

We all knew they were both going to end up on the DL this season. It was just a question of when and for how long. We all know they're going to be hurt next season. And next year they'll be another year older, another year slower, another surgery later, and we'll still be reading about "two fleet-footed, adept handlers of the bat sitting at the top of [a] potent offensive attack."

Tonight should be the end of the Grinder Era. No longer should the White Sox, a franchise which has sat near the top of the league payroll list in recent years, trot out players of inferior talent but superior effort in an attempt to achieve more team balance. It's time for Kenny Williams to admit that the core of his team is too one-dimensional, and cannot be offset by adding seemingly complimentary one-dimensional players. The Sox need talent, plain and simple, 3-tool, 4-tool, 5-tool players, gap hitters who play plus defense and can steal a bag here and there.

Unfortunately for us, there will be no quick fix. The Sox have just 2 of the first 100 draft picks in next Thursday's MLB draft. They can't afford the bad PR and drop in a attendance that would surely accompany a 10-year anniversary White-Flag sale. They need a change at the top, a change in philosophy, which may have already happened. Kenny has juggled the minor league and amateur scouts and has vowed to take a more hands on approach with this year's draft.

It appears that Jerry Owens, who was removed late in Charlotte's game, will take Erstad's spot on the roster tomorrow. Normally, that would be a move that would upset me since Owens is a low-ceilinged future 4th outfielder who should only be counted on to backup in center field. But with the Sox looking a youth movement square in the face, I see no harm in see what the kid can do. He is, after all, the oldest of the Sox outfield options. If he doesn't prove that he can handle a back-up role in his time here, he'll likely never amount to anything.

What I fear is that Owens was chosen because he is seen as a "lead-off hitter," as if that was a position required by major league rules to be filled rather than simply the first batter in the lineup. The good news is that he seems to have adjusted to International League pitching in his second season, and has begun to walk at an above average clip for the first time in his career. He may have a future in a reserve role on a good club. On these White Sox, however, he should get as many at-bats as possible during his time on the roster to properly evaluate his future role with the team.

When Erstad and Podsednik come back, and the Sox are double digit games back, they should be let go. Whether that means through trade for a C- prospect, or an unceremonious DFA, I don't care. They should be done with the current club. They're not a part of our future, so they shouldn't be a part of our present.

In addition...

  • Mackowiak should be relegated to 5th outfielder duties, or traded to a contending team looking for a (formerly) versatile bench piece.
  • Cintron appears to be done following his off-season surgery, or at least doesn't appear to be an upgrade over the mediocre Andy Gonzalez.
  • The trio of prospects in Charlotte should receive their season long call-ups.
    • Let Fields get some at-bats in LF, in addition to DHing and playing some 3rd base.
    • Let Sweeney and Anderson platoon in CF/LF with Owens.
    • And let them all play when Jermaine Dye is eventually traded away (I envision JD as one of only two unloading trades the Sox make during the season.)
I know the Sox brass will be unable to stomach the inevitable box office drop off that would surely follow wholesale changes such as this. The key to avoiding such a drop off may lie in offering Buehrle the contract that he desires, while trading only Dye and some role players at the deadline. Joe Crede and one of the other 4 starters (in addition to the return for Dye) could then be used in the off-season to help fill the '08 roster with more versatile players.

Whatever the route the Sox take, the next 6th months will determine the long-term health of the franchise.

* * * * *

This was supposed to be a recap, but the future is much more interesting to talk about than is the present.

  • Buehrle pitched great
  • Offense hasn't scored in 15 innings
  • Before injuring himself, Erstad singlehandedly killed biggest scoring opportunity, making two outs in only two pitches
  • Jim has a more proper recap.