Wednesday, September 06, 2006

A Cloud For Every Silver Lining

The White Sox blew it last night. Going against a winless, rookie pitcher with an ERA over 5.00, the Sox somehow wasted a remarkable performance by Javier Vazquez, lost to the Red Sox 1-0, and fell two games behind the Twins in the loss column. To make matters worse, Johan Santana demonstrated once again that he is by far the best pitcher on the planet today. If the Sox do manage to stay in this race through the final weekend of the season, they'll still have to overcome the fact that one game in their three game series with the Twins is a guaranteed Sox loss. Maybe they'll get lucky and it won't be Santana's turn in the rotation.

But look, in the sky, it's a bird, it's a plane, it's a silver lining. Actually, it's Ryan Sweeney, who after going 2 for 3 in his big league debut, is now Ozzie Guillen's favorite ballplayer ever. Not only did Sweeney go 2 for 3, but he moved up on a pitch in the dirt, taking what proved to be a meaningless base when Captain Konerko hit into his 417,576,693 double play of the season. This quickly became Guillen's favorite play in baseball history. Guillen promised that Sweeney would start somewhere Wednesday, after watching his Tuesday night performance.

Fixing the Sox' offensive problems will start at the top of the lineup. Scott Podsednik is no longer the answer, and everyone sees it. I wish I believed Sweeney was the answer. I wish he could take over left field and the lead off spot and solidify those two positions. But this is a guy PECOTA projects as having a .313 on base percentage as a big leaguer this year. Heck, Pods has gotten on at a .331 clip this year. Plus, Sweeney's projection is 60 points lower than another left handed hitting option who Ozzie has ignored as a solution in left field all season long: Rob Mackowiak. Even at AAA, Sweeney had a .350 on-base percentage, lower than what Mackowiak has done in the bigs.

I do think Sweeney offers a slight upgrade over Brian Anderson offensively. But right now, defensively Sweeney is a slightly above average corner outfielder. Anderson is an outstanding defensive center fielder. Is that a trade off you're willing to make for a slight offensive upgrade? If so, then why is everyone opposed to Mackowiak's presence in center? We've all seen how his corner outfield skills translate to center. I think Anderson helps this team more than Sweeney would at the bottom of the every day line-up.

Ryan Sweeney is barely old enough to drink, and may have some upside. But right now, Sweeney should be the White Sox' sixth outfielder. He's not the answer to any of the Sox' problems. Beyond hoping that one or two more members of the staff remember how to pitch, Ozzie needs to be focusing on finding guys who can consistently get on base at the top of the order. Making Pablo Ozuna the right handed half of a platoon is a nice start. But Sweeney is not the answer as the left handed counterpart. Ozzie says Sweeney reminds him of himself. It may not be a bad comparison. I just hope Ozzie remembers he had a lifetime .287 on-base percentage.


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