Friday, May 14, 2004

The Rivalry

They are separated by a game in the standings and they open a three game series tonight. The Twins and White Sox are quickly becoming one of the most heated rivalries in baseball. Only it's not really a rivalry yet. A rivalry would involve each club getting the best of the other at some point. Up until this point it has been all Twins which burns at the very center of the White Sox franchise. After all they are supposed to be the last remaining big market team in the central division. The last two seasons the division was theirs for the taking and they choked.

What is different this year is the manager. His name is Ozzie Guillen and he is the polar opposite of the fired Jerry Manual. He is head strong, inexperienced, at times obnoxious and perhaps just what his team needs. Then again he could be the match under the powder keg that just needs a spark to explode.

These White Sox are still filled with high priced, no defense players who are stars but have never shown the ability to play together for a whole season. The Big Hurt is also the big cry baby who goes away when his team needs him most. Paul Konerko is inconsistent and Jose Valentine is the most erratic shortstop in the league.

What really hurts the Sox is their lack of pitching. Last year it was a problem and this year there is less depth with the loss of Bartolo Colon. So far they have been saved by the surprising performance of Scott Shoeneweis who has 3 wins and 3.49 ERA. With Esteban Loiza still pitching like as if it were last year, the always reliable Mark Buehrle and the realization of talent by Jon Garland, they have been able to field a reliable rotation so far this year. The likelihood of all those guys keeping it up is slim though. When that happens they will be forced to rely once again on young starters and a shaky bullpen, where Billy Koch or whomever else they trot out for the ninth has been far from certain in the closer role.

Who ever said this coming series with the White Sox was one of the biggest of the year had it all wrong. The Twins have more depth than them and are unlikely to experience the same drop off as the White Sox. On the contrary the Twins with returning players can only get better thus leaving the White Sox in the dark yet again. Until the White Sox are able to step to the plate and win the division they do not deserve any more respect that that.