Perfect! The Sox ended their season by giving up 2 runs in the top of the 9th, and lost 3-2 to the Toronto Blue Jays. Sox finish the seasoned 79-83, or at least 20 wins less than everyone expected.
Ozzie Guillen left after Monday’s game. Hitting coach Greg Walker is out after Wednesday’s season finale. Walker got a lot of blame for the Sox demise, but not enough credit for all the good things he did. The heated argument he reportedly had with GM Ken Williams was most likely the last straw, but with a new manager coming to Chicago, he probably wasn’t long for the job anyhow. Walker is a good man, and hitting instructor. I wish him all the best.
Now let’s go over my thoughts on the direction the Sox might take.
Manager: I thought Buddy Bell would be the man, with Charlotte Knights skipper Joe McEwing as his bench coach. Couple years down the road, McEwing would take over. With Bell saying he doesn’t want to manage anymore, that idea is kaput. Williams says a candidate may come from one of the teams in the playoffs, so he may not make a decision until after the World Series. That would appear to eliminate Sandy Alomar Jr, and maybe even Dave Martinez. Could Tony La Russa be the man? One Sun Times columnist believes that could be so, while one doesn’t. Me, I don’t see it happening. I think it’ll be Martinez. The Sox are not afraid of going with a guy who has never managed. Ozzie Guillen turned out to be a pretty good skipper.
Catcher: I would make it an open competition between AJ Pierzynski and Tyler Flowers. Pierzynski has some good years left, but is it logical to keep him around a team that may, or may not, contend for a year or two. The pitching staff may consist of a bunch of young guys, and I think it would make sense to have Flowers grow along with them. The other option is to start the season with Pierzynski, and deal him midseason. Pierzynski has a no trade clause, so that could become a problem. 2012 is the last year of his contract, and his salary is a very reasonable 6 million dollars.
1st base: Paul Konerko is going nowhere. His leadership alone is invaluable to the Sox.
2nd base: Gordon Beckham. His bat hasn’t developed as fast as most thought it would, but his glove will one day be made of gold. He made some plays this year that most 2nd baseman could only dream of making. His range is outstanding, and he has 3rd baseman’s arm at 2nd. I guarantee that his bat will come around. He is the future leader of the Sox.
Shortstop: Alexei Ramirez. The man is just getting better.
3rd base: Brent Morel. Another man who could win a gold glove some day. Adrian Beltre may have something to say about that though. Let’s hope Morel’s offensive output in September isn’t a mirage, because he will counted on more next season.
Centerfield: This is a tough one. Alex Rios makes a ton of money and that normally takes precedence, but Alejandro De Aza should be given a shot at his job. I would actually try to move Rios. With 3 more years at over 12 million per, he would be a tough sell to any club. Now don’t punch your screen, but what about a Rios for John Lackey deal. Lackey actually makes more salary than Rios, but the money could be worked out. Lackey doesn’t shine when the spotlight is on him, like it is in Boston. In Anaheim, he was the ace, and pitched in many key games for the Halos. If he goes to a place where he can just pitch, he will be a winner again. Rios is an up and down guy, who made many mistakes this year in the outfield and with the bat. In reality, his contract makes him virtually immovable.
Left Field: De Aza, if Rios is in center. I am also not against giving Jordan Danks or Brandon Short a shot. Brent Lillibridge should also be given a long look. He has done more than enough to warrant an opportunity to start.
Right Field: The Tank, Dayan Viciedo. He is gonna do some damage in that Sox lineup.
John Danks: He is going in to his walk year. The Sox need to get an extension or he has to be moved. Either this off-season or July.
Gavin Floyd: Why is he always mentioned as trade bait? He is under contract for another 2 years. If he is traded, and Danks leaves after 2012, they are down 2 pitchers.
Jake Peavy: He is unmovable. No team will take on his salary. I think he’ll win 15 or more games next year.
Chris Sale: The man was good in the pen, he will be even better as a starter. He has the ability to win a lot of games.
Zach Stewart: He looks like he could be a keeper. As the 4th or 5th starter, the pressure will be minimal. Nice guy to have at the back end of the rotation.
Phil Humber: Who is he? The guy who pitched so well in the 1st half, or the one who lost his stuff in the 2nd? If he’s the first half guy, the Sox will have a loaded rotation.
Dylan Axelrod or Charles Leesman: Axelrod may not be 100% ready, but he is close. Leesman is a crafty lefty in Birmingham, who could force the Sox’ hand in March.
Bullpen: Leave it how it is. This is a good group that was overworked in 2011.
DH: Adam Dunn. What else can you do. I wouldn’t expect him to hit .159 with 177 strike outs again. The Sox should monitor his training regimen every day this offseason. If he follows Allen Thomas program, he will come back looking like an adonis.
Other Notes: I would resign Buehrle, if the money is right, for 2 years and an option. That may muddle up the rotation, but it also gives the Sox some valuable trade chips. I expect Carlos Quentin to be traded. I don’t like it, but he does have considerable value. Juan Pierre won’t be back, but I bet he’ll flirt with going back to Miami. Omar Vizquel is also a goner. He will keep playing somewhere though. Ramon Castro is done in Chicago, unless the Sox deal Pierzynski, or Flowers chokes in the spring.
There you go, my opinions. I do think Ken Williams will remake this roster. This year should have been better, and nobody affiliated with the Sox organization is happy. What should have been a playoff team is headed home. Sad! Stupid! Reality!
As far as I’m concerned, it’s already 2012 to me.