The city of Detroit got the better of Chicago twice on Sunday as the Bears and White Sox, together in mediocrity, both lost by 10 to their Detroit counterparts. Of course, a 10-run loss in baseball is significantly more embarrassing than a 10-point loss in football. And so ends the 2007 season for the White Sox.
Might I interject here that the way Bears quarterbacks have struggled all season, a Josh Fields for Devin Hester trade between the Sox and Bears might work out for both sides.
Fields can bring his athletic frame and college-tested arm (at Oklahoma State he threw for a school record 55 touchdowns and set a Cotton Bowl record with 307 passing yards in 2004) to solidify the Bears' air attack.
Hester, meanwhile, can add the "speed factor" Ozzie Guillen so frequently talks about-and probably put up an OBP at least as good as Juan Uribe's. Heck, throw Bobby Jenks in to take John Tait's spot on the offensive line and the Bears come out looking really good. But I digress.
In a lot of ways, Sunday's season finale was a microcosm for all that went wrong with the Sox in '07. Jose Contreras struggled, the offense stalled and the bullpen put the game out of reach. (Oh, and of course Scott Podsednik, in what was likely his last game as a Sox, misplayed a catchable ball in left field. I know Fields is bad out there, but how could he ever be much worse than Pods?)
The 13-3 drubbing, ended by a Toby Hall whiff, gave the Sox their first 90-loss season since 1989 and officially put to bed a nightmare summer that could precipitate many on-field changes.
Of course there were three very bright spots this year: Mark Buehrle's no-hitter in April, Bobby Jenks' record-tying 41st consecutive batter retired in August and Jim Thome's 500th homerun earlier this month. Congratulations are in order to all of them on excellent performances. But a look up and down the team's final stat page is about as pretty as a strung-out Gary Busey.
Thome led the team with a .275 average, 35 homers and 96 RBIs. Other than that, the fact the .231-hitting Luis Terrero was third on the club in OBP says just about all you need to know about this team's offensive potency or lack thereof.
The string of shockingly unproductive relief pitchers, from Andy Sisco to Brett Prinz to Mike Myers, has been well-documented. The corps' collective 5.49 ERA took much of the wind out of good seasons by Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, Jon Garland and Jenks, who still managed to record an impressive 40 saves. And of course injuries, some expected some unexpected, ravaged the roster from April onward.
So where the heck do the Sox go from here? The standard line is that this is going to be an "interesting winter" with "a lot of changes."
But will it?
Six of the Sox starters-AJ Pierzynski, Thome, Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Fields and a rehabbed Joe Crede-are all pretty much locks to return in '08. Danny Richar will probably be back at second base. That leaves only center fielder Jerry Owens and shortstop Juan Uribe on the bubble for '08-and both have received votes of confidence at various times over the past month.
So where exactly is this team, which is more than just a tweak or two away from having a serious offense, going to improve? Where are they going to find a better lead off hitter and shortstop? Will they look to an overpriced and thin free agent market, find no one better, and stick with Uribe and Owens?
Surely there will be changes to the bullpen, and a trade of one or both of Garland and Contreras is likely. But might a rebuilding year-a taboo subject for GM Ken Williams-benefit this organization more than a middling "go for it" charge?
Now we'll see what Ken Williams has up his sleeve. If the answer to any of the questions that plague this franchise is "more of the same," it's going to be a long winter, and a disappointing 2008.