As '10 closes, White Sox eye new run at title
With Dunn in fold and Konerko back, Chicago enters AL's elite
CHICAGO -- If Ken Williams has said it once, he's said it 1,000 times over the past seven seasons.
The White Sox could be described as a lot of things, but dull is never one of them.
It's a sentiment making an infinite amount of sense when considering the entertaining personalities from top to bottom within the organization -- not to mention players, coaches and a manager who know their way around a microphone or two. But never was this franchise adage more evident than during the 2010 campaign.
Manager Ozzie Guillen and Williams started January as friends, hit a personal impasse looking as if it would lead to one of them leaving the organization by the season's conclusion and then seemed to have reached a new understanding before the new year.
As a team, the White Sox went from huge underachievers in early June to American League Central favorites in the matter of 36 games, from trying to upgrade for a playoff push by pursuing a trade for Adam Dunn at the end of July to claiming Manny Ramirez off waivers at the end of August. Dunn stayed in Washington, Ramirez finished September with a total of two extra-base hits and two RBIs and the White Sox ended up watching postseason baseball from the comfort of their own homes.
Ultimately, that failure is how every season is judged under the Williams-Guillen regime. Winning the division stands as only the precursor of greater postseason goals to be accomplished. See the 2005 season for the ideal White Sox blueprint.
With this championship target in mind, the White Sox avoided the urge to go young this offseason, instead going all-in through free-agent additions of Dunn and Jesse Crain and bringing back organization staples Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski. Even after raising the 2011 payroll to a team-high $120 million, Williams might not be done yet.
"I'm excited," said White Sox pitching coach Don Cooper. "Two weeks ago, it wasn't close to the way it is right now. In two weeks, all things have changed to make us a much stronger team."
Here is a look at the Top 5 White Sox storylines from this past year.
Chris Sale makes Major League impact two months after being drafted
The 6-foot-6, 180-pound southpaw has a thin enough build where turning sideways looks as if it would make him disappear. But in the matter of three months, the 21-year-old Sale went from the 13th pick in the 2010 First-Year Player Draft to one of the White Sox September closers and announced himself as a talented force to be watched.
Sale fanned 32 batters over 23 1/3 innings and posted a 1.93 ERA, setting up a possible permanent move to closer for the 2011 season. He became the first White Sox pitcher to make his big league debut during the same year he was drafted since Alex Fernandez in 1990.
White Sox finish second in roller-coaster ride of a season
On June 8, the Tigers rallied for six runs in the seventh against eventual White Sox All-Star Matt Thornton and claimed a 7-2 victory at U.S. Cellular Field. The setback dropped the White Sox to a dismal 24-33 and 9 1/2 games out of first place, with Williams talking about wholesale changes to come. By the time the White Sox worked five games into the season's second half -- approximately five weeks later -- they built a 3 1/2-game lead through an improbable 28-8 run.
But their inability -- again -- to beat Minnesota, finishing with a 5-13 head-to-head record, and a 2-12 September plummet when the deficit was a mere 4 1/2 games left the White Sox watching the postseason from their couches for a second straight year despite 88 wins.
Jake Peavy suffers season-ending injury
For the intense competitor that Peavy is to leave a game without being pulled, something definitely has to be wrong. Such was the case in a home contest on July 6 against the Angels, when Peavy threw a second-inning pitch to Mike Napoli, grabbed at his right side and exited the field before Guillen and/or head athletic trainer Herm Schneider could get to the mound. The right-handed ace suffered a season-ending detached latissimus dorsi muscle in his right posterior shoulder and finished his first full AL campaign with a 7-6 record and a 4.63 ERA over 17 starts. Peavy is receiving high marks for his ongoing rehabilitation program and is targeting Opening Day for his return. Somewhere in late April or early May might be more realistic.
Personal relationship between Ozzie Guillen and Ken Williams strains
How deeply did the friendship between the White Sox leaders sour basically from SoxFest 2010 moving forward? Guillen released his middle son, Oney, from his job in the organization during Spring Training over controversial comments made concerning Williams and the organization posted on Twitter, despite those comments representing solely Oney's opinion.
In early June, a seemingly upset but measured Williams admitted to MLB.com how an evaluation process had to take place as the season progressed to see if the highly successful but spirited duo could continue working together. The White Sox actually talked to Florida about a potential trade for their manager, as acknowledged by White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf. But in asking for one of the Marlins' two top young players in return, that trade talk was over and done before it began and showed the White Sox had little intention of moving the face of their franchise. Williams and Guillen sat down to sort of a peace summit over dinner around Thanksgiving, and Williams explained at the Winter Meetings how he was done speaking on this matter. As Reinsdorf pointed out, these disagreements even occurred when the team was winning, and winning was the best cure for whatever ailed them.
White Sox go all-in pushing for a 2011 championship
Williams presented two plans to Reinsdorf in preparation for the 2011 season. Either go with the organization's young, impact-type players and trade off some veterans or go all-in and reach for the brass ring. Reinsdorf, who has seven championships between his White Sox and Bulls ownership tenures, chose the second option. The White Sox added Dunn as a left-handed power bat in the middle of the order, brought back attitude and grit behind the plate in Pierzynski and returned their captain and soul of the team in Konerko. The right-handed Crain provides a needed bullpen upgrade, and Williams still appears to be in search of another low-cost starter or another veteran reliever. The White Sox have positioned themselves with the Tigers and Twins at the top of the division and with the rest of the AL's elite squads.