I had the TV on yesterday, and I heard a commercial for the NFL Pro-Bowl. For some reason, this made me think of the Action Packed football cards from the early-mid 90s and how they included little subsets for the All-Madden team. The All-Madden team was a roster that former Raider coach and longtime broadcaster John Madden created each season from 1984-2001. He also created the All-Millenium and Super Bowl team. This is how Madden described how he created the team: "What does it mean to be 'All-Madden'? It's a whole range of things. For defensive linemen and linebackers, it's about Jack Youngblood playing with a busted leg, Lawrence Taylor wreaking havoc on the offense and Reggie White making the other guy wish he put a little more in the collection plate at church. It's about a guy who's got a dirty uniform, mud on his face and grass in the ear hole of his helmet."
It wasn't always about who was the best player (although a lot of times the best players were chosen), but it was about who he thought fit his standards the best. Former Bears WR Tom Waddle was a member of the team in 1991, even though he only had 599 yards that year.
So it got me thinking who would be on my All-KenWo team and what rules would I have about my selection of players.
My first rule is that all members have had to been a member of the White Sox for at least parts of 3 seasons. Unfortunately, this means some of my favorites like Albert Belle, Danny Tartabull and Tony Phillips would have to be ruled ineligible.
Rule number 2 is that I have to pick a complete roster (25 men), but I have to fill it out like a regular MLB roster. I need to select players who played the position I chose them for (Jermaine Dye can't be my Center Fielder, my bullpen can't be 6 closers, my bench can't be guys that were everyday guys).
My final rule is that I must have seen them play. As much as I hear about how great Billy Pierce was, I never witnessed any of it first hand. So it would be unfair to pick him for my All-KenWo team having never enjoyed his work. All of my players have to be from 1983-Present.
Now that the rules were set it was time to fill out my roster.
Carlton Fisk- Catcher: I couldn't pass up a chance to have a Hall of Famer controlling the staff. Even at 37 years old, the original Pudge, hit 37 homers and stole 17 bases. Throw in his leadership and amazing worth ethic, it was evident that Fisk had to be on the team. Unfortunately, AJ and Karko are out.
Frank Thomas- First Base: There was no question that the Big Hurt would be on the team, the only question was where would he play? I chose to put him at first base. Frank is the club leader in most every offensive category and has his name thrown around with the likes of Ted Williams and Mel Ott. He is probably the greatest player I will ever see.
Scott Fletcher- Second Base: I always enjoyed how Scott Fletcher played the game. I think he is the only guy that people would say is a "grinder" or "bulldog" that I actually liked. He was just a real gritty player who came through with big hits and wasn't afraid of anything even though he was a small guy. Ray Durham and Tadahito Iguchi received a lot of consideration but in the end I chose Fletcher.
Jose Valentin- Shortstop: Valentin was my guy in the early 2000s. He played 5 years with the Sox, never hitting less than 25 homers in a season. His batting average suffered, as did his reputation as a guy that committed too many errors but if you needed a big hit during the time he played here, Valentin was the guy I wanted at the plate. If you are a believer WAR, Valentin also put up impressive numbers in that category. One of my favorite Valentin moments was a home run vs. the Cubs where he gave the "Sammy signal".
Robin Ventura- Third Base: Ventura was an outstanding third baseman and also did his fair share of hitting for the Southsiders. Watching him come in on slow swinging bunts, bare handing the ball and firing to first as he fell down will be the play I always remember Ventura perfecting. I am not as huge of a Ventura fan as others are, but there is nobody even close to considering at third base instead of him.
Ron Kittle- Left Field: Obviously my favorite player of all time would make the All-KenWo Team. As a youngster, the one thing I appreciated more than anything else were long, high, far home runs- and nobody hit them like Ron Kittle. Watching him hit roof shots at Old Comiskey are still some of my greatest memories. Unfortunately, Ivan Calderon and Carlos Lee are left off of my roster.
Lance Johnson- Center Field: The 1-Dog Lance Johnson was an exciting player to watch. He could run down almost anything in the outfield, he could steal a ton of bases and he led the American League in triples for four straight seasons in a White Sox uniform. He also led the AL in hits in 1995, then the NL in 1996.
Magglio Ordonez- Right Field: It was awesome seeing Magglio come up with the Sox in 1997 and develop into one of the best hitters in baseball. Between 1999-2003, Maggs never hit less than .301/.349/.510, 29 homers, 99 RBI. He was a pure hitter, who was so much fun to watch. He could line hits over the 2nd baseman's head or bomb homers 420 to left field. He wasn't always the prettiest right fielder, but his offense more than made up for it. Unfortunately, Magglio's inclusion means Jermaine Dye is on the outside and looking in.
Harold Baines- Designated Hitter: Harold Baines was a professional hitter and an obvious choice for the roster. Harold would always put up 20+ homers, 90+ RBI and a .290 average. He would also come up with huge hits, and like I said in the Hall of Fame post, anyone who doesn't believe in "clutch" never saw Harold Baines play. I chose to put him at DH and Frank at 1B so I could include Ordonez on the team over Konerko.
1. Lance Johnson CF
2. Magglio Ordonez RF
3. Harold Baines DH
4. Frank Thomas 1B
5. Robin Ventura 3b
6. Ron Kittle LF
7. Jose Valentin SS
8. Carlton Fisk C
9. Scott Fletcher 2B
Warren Newson OF: Jim recently wrote this article about the Deacon. He got on at an amazing rate and also wasn't afraid to come through with big hits.
Norberto 'Paco' Martin IF: I think Hawk got the term "cutting and slashing" from Martin who was never afraid to take a hard swing at just about anything. It usually meant good things for the Sox, especially in 1996 as he hit .350 in 140 ABs.
Jerry Hairston OF: Hairston was the Ultimate White Sox pinch hitter. He was huge for the 1983 White Sox hitting .294/.397/.500 in a pinch hitting role for the division champs.
Craig Grebeck IF: The Little Hurt was a good bench player and probably should have gotten more opportunities in the lineup over the course of his White Sox tenure. I remember seeing Ozzie and Grebeck go back to back off of Nolan Ryan. Unbelievable.
Ron Karkovice C: Ok, some would say I cheated here, but Karkovice was indeed Fisk's backup for more than 3 seasons so he gets backup catcher duties. Since Ramon Castro hasn't yet begun his 3rd season on the Sox I really didn't have any other choice. Unless you count Mark Johnson as a choice.
LaMarr Hoyt: His career was short lived due to off field issues, but nobody was as dominant as LaMarr was for the Sox in 1983. He won 24 games and led the league in WHIP. He was the Cy Young winner that year and also led the league with 19 wins in 1982. Hoyt was as dominant as they came for those couple of seasons.
Jose Contreras: The only stretch that may have been more dominating than Hoyt's was, happened to be from Contreras. From mid 2005-mid 2006, there was not a better pitcher in baseball. Fortunately, this streak carried the White Sox right on through a World Series championship. He ended his Sox career with a 55-56 record, but that 2005 team was falling apart and Contreras lifted them all up and delivered us the only Championship we have ever seen.
Freddy Garcia: You didn't think I would forget about my guy Freddy did you? Garcia was also a major part of that 2005 staff, winning the World Series clinching game 4, 1-0. He also won 17 games in 2006 and was a major piece to the puzzle in 2010, as he rounded out the rotation quite nicely. Freddy never hesitated to win the Big Game for the Sox, hence the nickname Big Game Freddy.
Mark Buehrle: Buehrle has been more consistent than anyone the White Sox have had on the hill. Every year you can mark him down for 200+ innings, double digit victories and usually an ERA in the 3's. He also has thrown a no hitter and a perfect game and was a World Champion. Can't ask for much more than that.
Alex Fernandez: I'm going to go ahead and give Alex the call for the 5th spot in the rotation. He had a great motion in my opinion, won a lot of games for the mid 90s Sox and was a key part in the success of the '93 and '94 teams. Unfortunately, including Alex means I couldn't include Wilson Alvarez, Mike Sirotka, Jon Garland or Jack McDowell.
Bobby Thigpen: Back in my glory little league days they used to call me Thiggy, because I could bring the heat. Thigpen could definitely do that. He also saved a then record 57 games in 1990 and is still the Sox all time saves leader. He beats out Roberto Hernandez and Bobby Jenks for the closer duties.
Damaso Marte: Marte was money in the bank out of the pen for the Sox in 03 and 04, and was still pretty decent in 2005 before everyone turned on him. I got your back Damaso, take your spot on the All-KenWo team.
Scott Radinsky: "Rad" was also a fireballing lefty in the early 90s, posting big numbers in 91 and 92. He was probably the closest thing to Matt Thornton, until Matt Thornton.
Matt Thornton: Speaking of Thornton, here he is. I am not afraid to use 3 lefties out of the pen. There really wasn't too many righties to choose from once I eliminated Jenks and Hernandez from contention.
Keith Foulke: Foulke didn't take over closer duties until 2000, giving him almost 3 years of service as a set up man. He did a pretty bang up job for the Sox, only once putting up an ERA over 3.00 in 5 full seasons.
Donn Pall: I always liked "Pope" Pall. He wasn't the best pitcher but did a solid job for the White Sox from 88-91. Others were better short term (Barry Jones, Bobby Howry, Cliff Politte) but they didn't have the consistent success that the Pope had for multiple seasons.
Who would you have chosen?