Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Life at the top

No one can guarantee that the White Sox will win another World Series in the next few years, but they certainly are setting themselves up to dominate the AL Central for the foreseeable future.
While the rest of the division is standing pat or making marginal improvements, Chicago has gone out and bolstered their championship roster with big names.
Jim Thome was added in a trade with the Phillies last month. Today, the White Sox added Javier Vazquez to their starting rotation in a trade with Arizona.
The largest price they paid? Aaron Rowand to Philadelphia and Orlando Hernandez to Arizona.
Did I mention they kept free agent slugger Paul Konerko, too?
While the Tigers keep attempting to crawl out of the muck of previous regimes' bad management, and the Indians, Twins and Royals are handcuffed with extremely limited finances, the White Sox have gone out and made the few bold brushstrokes that will ensure "Chicago" will be the name at the top of the AL Central standing for most of 2006 and possibly 2007.
There is a catch. Sooner or later, Thome's contract will be an albatross as he gets older and more injury-prone. Sooner or later, all these big names and big contracts will take their toll, and toward the end of the decade, Chicago will likely have to do some payroll-trimming.
But heck, if they get another world championship or two out of this cast of characters and go down in history as the "team of the 2000s," they will have gotten their use out of them.
The good jobs Cleveland and Minnesota have done in building up their farm systems should keep some semblance of competitive balance in the division. In other words, Chicago probably won't be able to pencil themselves in as division champs on April 1, as the Indians did so often in the '90s.
But the White Sox have the most resources in the division, and they have the rings, which means a predictable bump in attendance and merchandise sales. So while the rest of the division, sans Detroit, is dealing in "Monopoly" money, the White Sox will consistently have the ammo to go out and make meaningful acquisitions. And that will probably be the difference maker come September and October.
If you are a fan of the Indians, Twins, Tigers or Royals, be thankful for the wild card. It might be your team's only chance at the postseason for the time being.

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