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January 2012 Archives

Jake Peavy took to the airwaves not long ago to criticize Ozzie Guillen, still seemingly a safe target for criticism, given the way Ozzie left the team. If players need to blow off some steam regarding Ozzie's departure, they should be able to have at it this winter and early spring before it's time to get down to business again.

Or, at least that's the attitude I would have about anyone other than Peavy. The former Cy Young winner has pitched fewer than 40 games for the Sox over the last two and a half seasons. Has he earned the right to criticize a manager who brought a World Series and several winning seasons to Chicago?

Of course, the whole thing has started what looks to become a war of words with Ozzie.

Maybe Peavy is trying to step up and be a leader to a pitching staff that has lost its long-time leader-by-example, Mark Buehrle. There hasn't been much activity by the Sox this off-season--or at least not as much as there has been on the other side of town--but most of the moves than have been made have altered the make-up of the current pitching staff and the deeper reserve of arms:

--Buehrle left

--Sergio Santos was traded for Nestor Molina, a guy who seems like a younger version of himself.

--The Carlos Quentin deal brought four new pitchers, all probably destined for the minors--or at least we won't see any of them until the second half when the Sox are relegated to holding tryouts for 2013.

--John Danks got a $65 million contract that seems to position him has the ace of the staff and potential leader, perhaps a surprise given his horrible first half of 2011.

--Gavin Floyd--well, nothing has happened with Floyd yet, but don't be surprised.

We're looking at a probable rotation of Danks, Peavy, Floyd, Phil Humber and Chris Sale, with the possibility that Zach Stewart or Dylan Axelrod could force their way into the mix in spring training. Matt Thornton is the likely closer, with the remainder of the bullpen led by Jesse Crain and co-starring Will Ohman (ugh) and maybe Addison Reed.

In other words, there isn't much to get excited about. The best to hope for is that Danks proves 2011 was an anomaly and does become the new ace of the staff; that Peavy somehow starts close to 30 games, that Floyd finds a consistency he's always lacked; that Humber can recapture whatever he found in early 2011; and the Sale can continue to deliver on promise by making a seamless transition to from the bullpen. Meanwhile, let's hope Thornton can actually make himself a closer, something he already failed to do once.

Given the uncertainties, I don't blame Peavy for trying to step up. But, he still has a big job in front of him just trying to prove he can still pitch, let alone rally the troops. In fact, proving he can still pitch--rather than criticizing Ozzie--would be the best way to lead a rally. Maybe Peavy can finally make Kenny Williams look smart for betting him while on the DL in 2009, but time's running out.

Buehrle has never won a Cy Young, but he provided White Sox fans with many great memories over the years--a World Series; his perfect game; his first no-hitter; the Opening Day 2010 backward, between-the-legs flip to Paul Konerko to thrown a man out at first; the gem he threw in his final game with the Sox, a 2-1 victory Sept. 27, 2011 that the bullpen nearly lost for him.

One of my favorite Buehrle memories was my own bachelor party--a stunningly warm day in April 2006 when we had about 10 guys down at The Cell, already primed with several beers by the time the game started. Buehrle gave up three hits and two runs in the first inning, and it looked like an uncharacteristically long day for him, but the rest of the way it was typical Buehrle--he only have up two more hits and got us out of the park and on to the next bar in 2:10 as the Sox won 4-2 (This was also the game in which Tad Iguchi threw out a runner at first in the ninth by scooping the ball to Konerko as he was diving to the ground; Konerko accounted for all of the Sox runs, hitting a pair of two-run homers).

2006 otherwise wasn't great for the Sox or Buehrle. With a 12-13 record, it remains his only losing season. And of course, it's that consistency that the Sox will miss the most. That consistency was at the core of what made a leader of a guy who was by no means vocal.

Buehrle's departure was not really a surprise to anyone, though fans aware of Jerry Reinsdorf's legendary loyalty to his employees certainly believed there was a chance Reinsdorf would swoop in with a creative (if not financially competitive) offer, and a pep talk about Buehrle's true worth to the Sox.

But, it didn't happen, and what we're left with is Peavy trying to take his place--and getting off on the wrong foot.

I'm back after an extended off-season break. I spent more time away than I had planned, and a lot more happened with or White Sox and Cubs than I thought would happen this off-season--and there are still a few weeks left before pitchers and catchers report to spring training.

During the last several weeks, as I've been consumed by holiday activities and a busier-than-usual freelance writing schedule, I've been silently amassing opinions on what has amounted to an off-season of rebuilding for both teams.

Over the next several posts, I'll try to take a look at just about everything that has happened since Thanksgiving, but I might as well start not with the biggest news, but the most recent news--the Cubs' trade of Andrew Cashner.

This trade is probably my favorite move by the new regime so far--and I say this as a fan of Cashner, who thinks he'll overcome last season's shoulder injury to become a solid starter with a long career. When the Cubs traded Carlos Zambrano (more on that in a later post) earlier in the week, Cashner's spot in the Cubs rotation looked extremely solid. He was almost guaranteed to be the No. 3 starter, and was a Matt Garza trade away from possibly being the No. 2 starter.

But, trading Cashner for 21-year-old slugging first baseman Anthony Rizzo is a brilliantly aggressive move. Rizzo's future may be no more certain than Cashner's is, but at a time when Prince Fielder rumors were running rampant, Theo & Co. (or maybe I should start saying Jed Hoyer & Co.) rightly stuck to their rebuilding plan and their commitment to player development. This is something Jim Hendry never could accomplish, as he would always fall for a free agent first baseman rather than commit to a young promising one.

Pitching may win championships, and that is an area the front office will definitely have to start focusing on more, but having a first baseman he who hits for power AND average and is defensively sound is more important than having a good pitcher who plays only once every five days.

At best, Rizzo could turn out to be Rafael Palmeiro. (If so, let's hope he stays in Chicago says no to drugs). At worst, he could be Hee-Seop Choi. We just don't know yet, but I do like the fact that Epstein and Hoyer have been fairly obsessed with Rizzo.

Drafted by Boston, Rizzo was tone of the players Epstein had to trade (and supposedly really didn't want to trade, according to a recent Sports Illustrated story) to Hoyer in San Diego to get superstar first baseman Adrian Gonzalez. When the Padres recently acquired another young first baseman, Hoyer saw the Padres could now be open to moving Rizzo.

Rizzo will start in AAA, but depending on how Bryan LaHair--the first baseman of the brief near future--does, he could be up by mid-summer. The Cubs should be interesting to watch this year, possibly in the same way my six-year-old nephew's baseball team is interesting to watch. Mistakes will be made, frustration will be expected, and possibly a good deal of fun could be had as we get a glimpse at the promising future. Rizzo was acquired not for 2012, but for the rest of the decade.

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