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The Unsavior Is Here

Let's get rid of the rote stuff first. You know, where you simply have to tweak the numbers, bring them up-to-date and move on. And so, after losing two of three to the Nationals and Royals each at home last week, the White Sox have now lost nine of their last ten series', accounting for a record of 8-22.

Forget about the ERAs of the starting pitchers or the bullpen. Not much has changed. Nor has their efficiency with men on base. Outside of a few home runs, there's no guarantee that this team can score regardless of how many men are on base with less than two outs.

On Sunday, down 2-0 in the bottom of the fifth with runners at first and third and no outs, a strikeout and double play left the Sox scoreless. Trying to break on top against the Royals on Saturday in the bottom of the first, the Sox had runners at second and third with one out and failed to capitalize. These are just two examples. Pathetic is a generous description.

So let's move ahead to the new kid at shortstop.

Tim Anderson, the Sox' top draft choice in 2013, made his debut at The Cell on Friday night. He's just 22 years old with 322 games of minor league experience spread over parts of four seasons. He's from Tuscaloosa, Alabama and played a couple of seasons of junior college ball, leading all JUCO hitters with a .495 mark before the Sox nabbed him with the 17th overall choice three years ago.

Anderson slapped a double past third base Friday night in his first big league at-bat and came around to score on Jose Abreu's base hit. He also singled in the sixth as the Sox subdued the Royals 7-5. However, the kid was hitless over the weekend, and the two double plays he hit into on Sunday helped doom the Sox by the final 3-1 count.

This franchise has a mixed bag when it comes to top draft choices. Last Thursday's pick was Zach Collins, a left-handed hitting catcher from the University of Miami who hit .358 last spring with 13 home runs and 53 RBIs, statistics which are difficult to transfer to a professional career. The Sox scouting department, however, assures us the kid can hit. Let's hope so because the White Sox have been dismally inadequate in the catching department since they decided not to re-sign A.J. Pierzynski after the 2012 season.

The Golden Age of White Sox top picks was 1987 to 1990, when they selected, in order, Jack McDowell, Robin Ventura, Frank Thomas and Alex Fernandez. Talk about nailing it!

However, like most things White Sox, the next four years featured an abrupt about face as Scott Ruffcorn, Eddie Pearson, Scott Christman and Mark Johnson were the top choices. Johnson played a few seasons as a backup catcher in the bigs, and Ruffcorn managed an 0-8 record with an ERA over eight in an abbreviated career. Pearson was most successful, tearing up the Korean and Mexican leagues after realizing that reaching the major leagues was a stretch.

Chris Sale obviously has worked out nicely after he was the team's No. 1 pick in 2010, while 2012's top choice Courtney Hawkins is limping along at Double-A Birmingham with a .213 batting average and a couple of homers.

So the focus now is on Anderson. To make room for him, the Sox released veteran Jimmy Rollins, not an unreasonable move since anyone watching could tell that Rollins' notable skills had long-ago diminished. Rollins left with a slash of .221/.295/.624. Now the only drama for him will develop when he's eligible for the Hall of Fame. With almost 2,500 hits, 231 homers and 470 stolen bases, he'll have a shot. Stay tuned.

Tyler Saladino had taken over as the Sox' everyday shortstop, but apparently general manager Rick Hahn felt that the team could benefit more from promoting Anderson, who was hitting .304 at Charlotte. And why not? It's not as though Saladino was about to lead the team out of its doldrums.

The move was somewhat similar to 2009 when the Sox were a few games under .500 with Josh Fields as the regular third baseman. Gordon Beckham, 2008's No. 1, was hitting .326 between stints at Birmingham and Charlotte before being summoned on June 4th to the South Side. It turned out to be a good move as Beckham hit .270 the rest of the season with 14 home runs and 63 RBI.

However, not even Beckham's solid performance could help the Sox escape a 79-83 record that season. The real bummer was that Beckham never approached those numbers again in parts of seven years with the Sox.

Another call-up of note occurred in 2010 with the arrival of Dayan Viciedo, the Cuban kid with a great smile and massive power who had already slugged 20 homers at Charlotte when the Sox beckoned on June 20th. At the time, the White Sox had a similar record at 34-34 to what they have now. Viciedo arrived as the team was in the midst of winning 15 of 16 games - they finished 88-74 - and Dayan closed out the year at .308 with five homers as he split time at third base with 43-year-old Omar Vizquel.

Viciedo, who at age 27 presently is having a big year in Japan, went on to hit 60 homers from 2012 to 2014, but he also greatly expanded his strike zone and rapidly fell out of favor with the Sox, who released him after the 2014 season.

Hahn was careful last week not to call Anderson a "savior" in order to take off some of the pressure on the kid. Almost exactly one year ago at The Cell on June 10th, the visiting Astros introduced 20-year-old shortstop Carlos Correa, who not only was Houston's top pick in 2012, but also the first selection overall. That's what a savior looks like. Before Correa left town, he had four hits, including his first home run, driving in three runs.

Watching the White Sox the past five weeks has been challenging, not to mention painful and frustrating. So the addition of Anderson at least adds a bit of intrigue to an otherwise boring and disappointing product. The kid can steal a base - he had 49 in Double-A last year - and his speed can be a much-needed commodity for this team. He's not a Correa, Francisco Lindor or Xander Bogaerts, but he just might be the best shot the White Sox have at this time.

One thing's for sure: the Sox can't be any worse with Anderson. And who knows? He might turn out to be one of those top picks who lives up to his elite reputation.


Former Bill Veeck bar buddy Roger Wallenstein is our White Sox correspondent. He welcomes your comments.

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