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Liriano Is Geico

Sorry, folks, but I just can't get too excited about the arrival of Francisco Liriano.

I also wouldn't have popped any corks had the White Sox obtained the services of Zach Greinke, who pitched well yesterday but lost his debut with the Angels.

If anyone accuses me of refusing to cop to the frenzy of the Trade Deadline, I plead guilty. That's because more often than not, these late-season acquisitions appear promising but fail to bear fruit.

The scenario dictates that a guy comes in for a couple of months, smashes some homers, drives in some runs, steals a few bases, or - as in Liriano's case - wins some games to put his team over the hump and into the postseason. A shot in the arm, if you will, for the dog days of summer.

Once the season ends, he gathers up his stuff and goes off to the highest bidder, which rarely is the team that negotiated the Trade Deadline deal.

Please understand that this is not an indictment of Sox GM Kenny Williams. I'm a person who has trouble swallowing when taking a hit on 12 when the dealer has a face card showing. Williams appears fearless. He is no stranger to pulling the trigger if he thinks he can improve the Sox either in the short- or long-term. He is not always successful, but the guy has moxy, and he's pretty smart.

But these much-publicized moves in recent White Sox history tend to bring in players far past their prime like Harold Baines (2000), Ken Griffey Jr. (2008) and Manny Ramirez (2010); old players like Geoff Blum (2005); or the occasional big name like Jake Peavy (2009), who is finally paying dividends - three years later.

Unfortunately, now that Jake has approached his previous form, the Sox must pay him $22 million to stick around the South Side in 2013.

Four years ago Griffey Jr.'s biggest contribution was throwing out Michael Cuddyer at home in the Sox's 1-0 playoff win against the Twins. And in 2005, Blum hit an anemic .200 over the season's final two months, but his 14th inning home run in Game 3 of the World Series propelled the Sox to a 7-5 win.

In these contexts one might argue that the Trade Deadline acquisitions were strokes of genius, at least in two very specific instances. But those teams might have been equally successful without either of them. (Griffey hit .260 with three homers in 41 games at the end of the '08 season.)

Liriano presents an interesting situation for the Sox. He no-hit our athletes in May, entering the game with an astronomical ERA of 9.13. In his last start a week ago, the Sox pounded him for seven runs in less than two innings.

However, after being demoted to the Twins' bullpen earlier this season, Frankie has improved in the past two months, posting a 4.05 ERA over 10 starts. He has fanned a hitter an inning in his seven-year career, but he also walks people. Like 55 in 100 innings this season. I don't know about you, but I absolutely despise bases on balls.

What Liriano represents is an insurance policy. (I wrote that right before Steve Stone said the same thing on last night's telecast.) Chances are the team will go to a six-man rotation, which means that the freshly-acquired lefthander will get 10 starts between now and the end of the season, as will Peavy, Chris Sale, Gavin Floyd, Jose Quintana and Philip Humber. If any of them stumbles badly or heads to the disabled list, the team still has five starters. If that isn't Allstate, then it's certainly Geico.

In addition, the team's brass and other observers seem nervous about Sale, who has thrown 124 innings this season after working just 71 a year ago. It also appears that the talented lefty is losing a tick or two off his fastball. Quintana never has worked more than 102 innings in a season.

So everyone can get an extra day's rest with the addition of Liriano. In this Age of Pitch Counts, that extra day could make the difference. The Sox also have the pitching guru Don Cooper, who will be invested with the chore of fixing Liriano.

Gone is cherubic Eduardo Escobar, the 23-year-old Venezuelan infielder whom I wrote about four months ago after seeing him in spring training. Word has it the kid was in tears in the clubhouse as Robin Ventura broke the news to him that he was headed to the Twins.

This came after he clubbed a couple of doubles in the Sox's 5-2 win Saturday night in Texas. One of my memories of his brief South Side career was the tenth inning pinch-hit on June 24 that gave the Sox a 1-0 win over Milwaukee. The kid was swarmed by his teammates, who had since called him a "little brother."

But hey, this isn't a game. It's a business, and Escobar was quickly dispatched by the Twins to Rochester, New York, home of the AAA Red Wings. Talk about a fall from grace!

Taking his place on the White Sox roster will be the much-traveled 31-year-old Ray Olmedo, who was called up from Charlotte on Sunday. Primarily a shortstop, Olmedo - he played with the Reds from 2003-06 - and Orlando Hudson will venture forth as the Sox' backup infielders.

Going back to the Trade Deadline (and it's not over yet; Tuesday is the last day to make a non-waiver deal), there's an argument that the best end-of-July deal the team ever made was the White Flag transaction in 1997 which received as much criticism as any transaction in recent memory.

The White Sox were just 3 1/2 games behind Cleveland at the end of July when general manager Ron Schueler sent closer Roberto Hernandez and his 27 saves along with starters Wilson Alvarez and Danny Darwin to the Giants for six prospects.

The tumult was virtually universal, including comments from then-third baseman Ventura that the Sox had given up on the season. The team was only 52-53 at the time, but the division was weak and the Sox were in the race. They split 56 games the rest of the way, so the absence of three pitching stalwarts didn't make much difference in terms of wins and losses.

However, of the six prospects Schueler obtained, reliever Keith Foulke went on to pitch six seasons in a Sox uniform, amassing 100 saves. And Bob Howry pitched parts of five seasons on the South Side as an effective reliever. They also got shortstop Mike Caruso, who hit .306 in 1998, though his 59 errors over two seasons sent him packing after the 1999 campaign.

The Sox were "sellers" in 1997. They're "buyers' today. A division championship is within reach. The addition of Kevin Youkilis was almost too good to be true, and Brett Myers has been flawless since he joined the Sox 10 days ago.

What will Francisco Liriano add? I'm not expecting much, but I hope he proves me and other naysayers wrong. It's those other 24 guys that I'm counting on, and so far they're been just short of amazing. If Liriano wants to join the fun, he's more than welcome.


Roger Wallenstein is our man on the White Sox beat. He welcomes your comments.

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Posted on Nov 26, 2021