As Chicago dug itself out of snow drifts the envy of Breckenridge last month, the words “pitchers and catchers report” warmed everyone’s hearts, if not their toes, like a good cup of cocoa in front of the fire. For Sox fans, in particular, excitement has been steadily building after a pretty decent Hot Stove campaign. While the Red Sox and Phillies dominated market share in the headlines with the signings of Carl Crawford and Cliff Lee, the White Sox gave reason for optimism.
GM Kenny Williams once again proved that there’s no more important World Series than the one right in front of him. After another disappointing finish behind those pesky Twins (yes, they’re still the piranhas), the Sox resisted the temptation to rebuild. A collective sigh of relief permeated the Southside when the face of the franchise, Paul Konerko, was resigned for three more years. They solidified the DH hole that was big enough to drive a Mack Truck through, with Adam Dunn who coincidentally happens to be about as big as a Mack. In the process, they admitted that Ozzie’s vision of a hybrid, flexible line-up with a rotating DH was not all that practical. I guess that’s why we’ve never really seen it tried, least not with any success, in the almost 40 year history of the Designated Hitter.
The front office moved quickly to eliminate the nagging questions that surely would’ve come with Ozzie heading into the final year of his contract by extending him another year. In the process, they go through the Spring with a unified front for the Jerry-Kenny-Ozzie triumvirate, or at least the appearance of, which was painfully lacking last season. And we just found out last week that Jake Peavy might be back sooner than expected. Alexi Ramirez isn’t going anywhere anytime soon after inking a four-year extension which, along with Gordan Beckham, will give the Sox one of the best, and young, double play combinations in the Majors for the foreseeable future. And Matt Thornton’s two year extension solidifies the back end of the bull pen for now.
Most of all, the Sox have given fans hope because Chairman Reinsdorf has proven that whether he succeeds or not, he’s going to try to contend for as many World Series as possible with the remainder of whatever time he has left in his aging body. For the better part of the last 30 years, free agents didn’t consider this club, trades were made to reduce, not expand payroll and veterans like Fisk, McDowell, Fernandez, Alvarez, Guillen and Ventura left bewildered, confused, disgruntled or all the above.
But no longer, as the Sox should head into the season as the paper champion of the AL Central. I know that paper can come laced with lighter fluid and those piranhas will always be there with a Bic lighter. At least for now, though, Sox fans unlike their North Side brethren have reason for optimism as they experience the thaw of watching spring training.