I'm watching the White Sox win the World Series. And I'm wondering, why aren't I more aggravated about this? Why aren't I mad or indignant or nauseated ... or something? Despite the fact that they're our divisional rival, and a deep suspicion that the Indians were "better" than the White Sox, whatever that means ... I'm not mad. Their win just doesn't inspire anger the way a Yankees win would have, or even a Twins win. (Yeah ... like that's ever going to happen.)
Maybe I still don't take Chicago seriously, even after 99 wins and a ring. Maybe I see that Kenny Williams tried to do as many "wrong" things as "right" things. Just as Theo Epstein tried mightily to acquire A-Rod and Contreras for the 2004 season, Williams reportedly spent a good part of the 2005 season futilely attempting to put together a trade for Ken Griffey, Jr. Yet the team that emerged was no fluke, and they have a legitimate claim on the title, "Best Team In Baseball."
Here's six things the White Sox did right:
1. They trusted their scouts, who told them that Contreras and Garcia, in particular, still had enormous ability and could overcome their problems. They believed in ability over intangibles, willing to take chances on Pierzynski and Jenks, despite trails of grumbling in their wakes.
2. At the same time, they created a highly policed clubhouse, where egos were not permitted to run wild. If they've truly created an environment where "clubhouse cancers" can thrive, then that has tremendous real value to the organization. The team-first attitude permeated all parts of the way Guillen ran the team, from calling out Frank Thomas to our next item ...
3. They ran their bullpen brilliantly, strategically and dispassionately, maximizing their chances to win. For one example, the closer routinely had other relievers warming up in the bullpen behind him -- because it was understood, on that team, that it isn't about the closer's feelings, or some distorted version of "respect" that requires a manager to sacrifice the team because of one guy's "role." It's about winning. What if I told you that Guillen had adoped "closer by committee" and rebranded it "smartball?" Hm, maybe he's not so dumb after all.
4. Somebody, somewhere, actually straightened out Contreras. I don't know or care who did it or how, but wow, I'd say that worked out pretty well.
5. Iguchi. I don't know if Williams was lucky or good on this one, but what a great signing.
6. The Podsednik trade. I know, it's crazy, it's so anti-saber ... but this was actually a Moneyball move. The Brewers are the ones who paid $8 million for some very orindary production out of Carlos Lee, and will do the same next season. The White Sox, meanwhile, got back the worst-hitting everyday left fielder in baseball -- but only paid $550,000 for him, and got stellar defense and baserunning in the bargain. Factoring in defense, Baseball Prospectus has Lee producing only 3 runs more than Podsednik.
I remember gloating about this trade -- about how stupid it was, about how stupid small-ball is, about how this is the greatest thing since the Twins signed pMVPcTM Shannon Stewart. But I missed it -- this was a sneaky salary dump, moving an expensive player at the peak of his trade value and getting back something of decent value in return. It takes guts for a GM to "sell high" on his best player -- notice how we still can't shut up about the Robbie Alomar trade -- but this is one of many cases when it was the right move.
What do you guys think? I'll be back to trash-talking by February, but for now, what can we give Chicago credit for?