January 26, 2010
Either somebody tricked Ozzie Guillen into believing the White Sox are moving to the NL Central and thus don't need a designated hitter, or he's been persuaded it's 2002 all over again.
Guillen told reporters on Monday that the White Sox won't bring back slugger Jim Thome(notes) and instead will use a rotation that includes Andruw Jones(notes), Mark Kotsay(notes) and Omar Vizquel(notes).
Guillen's rationale? Jones, Kotsay and Vizquel could grab a glove or mitt and play defense. All Thome can do is swing a bat and whatever that might be worth, it won't be worth Thome's or the Sox's time, says Guillen.
"It came down to getting enough at-bats,'' Guillen explained. "I don't want a season where Jim sits three or four days in a row and the media comes up to him and asks, 'You're not playing ...' This thing will become a soap opera."
Remember, remember, the 25th of January.
Thome turns 40 in August and — even though he finished the '09 season in the National League with the Dodgers — his days on defense are over. So Guillen has a point about roster flexibility. And it's great, I guess, that general manager Ken Williams is giving the manager meaningful input on how the roster is composed in the first place.
But someone needed to nudge Ozzie in the ribs to remind him that Thome was the team's best offensive player in 2009. And now, in 2010, the White Sox have just made him fully available to the two other top contenders in their own division.
The Twins and Tigers, along with the Rays in the AL East, have been sniffing around Thome — who was going to give his old club the right of first refusal.
Foolishly, they have refused his services despite Thome leading the White Sox in on-base and slugging percentage in '09. The White Sox finished with 79 victories because they also finished near the bottom in runs scored in the AL. Getting rid of Thome doesn't improve their biggest weakness.
So, the White Sox are counting on career seasons from Mark Teahen(notes) and Alex Rios(notes), and rebound from Carlos Quentin(notes), to make up for Thome's loss. On the off-chance all of that happens, they've still given their opponents a free shot to get better.
And did he forget that two seasons ago, the White Sox and Twins needed 163 games to decide the AL Central? Chicago beat the Twins 1-0 on the last day of the regular season thanks in part to a solo home run by ... James Howard Thome.
Guillen seems to be worried about managing the nine road interleague games, when DHs become nothing but well-paid pinch hitters.
What about the other 95 percent of the time when the White Sox struggle to score runs in AL parks?
Thome's replacements don't inspire much confidence.
Kotsay played well for the White Sox last year and would seem to be a good bench guy — in the National League. His defensive metrics have gone way south the past two seasons, though. He's never been Thome with the bat, either. His resemblance to actor Stephen Baldwin neither hurts nor helps.
Vizquel is a wonder at almost 43 years old, but if Guillen actually ever uses him as a designated hitter, Ozzie needs to be put down.
It looks to me like the White Sox could use a power lefty bat in their lineup.
Know of any on the market?