I have been false-starting posts all winter as the Cubs and White Sox made and failed to make various moves, but every time I did, something derailed me, whether it was actual paying work, the mediocrity of the Bulls and the Bears (both the Wall Street version and the football verson)demanding my attention, or my newest obsession, a little column called Fantasy Fix, over at The Beachwood Reporter.
But, finally, someone is prodding me about getting started, and maybe that's all I needed.
There is too much ground to cover in one sitting, so let's begin by looking back at some fun we had last fall trying to predict the Sox and Cubs line-ups for this spring. In both cases, we assumed too many off-season moves. Not that we expected the moves to really happen, but as a fan, I guess you always hope for more off-season business than actually gets done.
Let's start with the Sox, and pick up the Cubs in the next post. Here's what we described back in November as a likely version of the Sox line-up:
3B Fields or Uribe
So, we didn't get Willy Taveras, who ended up in Cincinnati. Uribe, who had managed to stick around like a barnacle, is gone. Everyone else is in play. The most interesting conundrums are at second base and third base. At second, there's Getz, but also Jayson Nix, Brent Lillibridge, Wilson Betemit, even the awesomely powerful Gordon Beckham, who would move from his natural shortstop position. At third, Betemit and Dayan Viciedo are in the mix with Fields.
I like Beckham's and Viciedo's to make the opening day roster, but I don't know if both of them can. Maybe neither will. Beckham has been impressive but may just be getting a long look. He's been both patient and aggressive at the plate, though Ozzie still seems uncommitted. Viciedo is getting every chance to become another Cuban Missile, but seems one-dimensional so far--albeit that one dimension is a nice power stroke.
The outfield hasn't changed much, as Jerry Owens and DeWayne Wise probably will stick around, and challenge Brian Anderson in center field. CF is still a question mark for the Sox, but the question seems to become less emphatic each passing season that Anderson, Owens and whatever other speedster du jour is on the roster (now Wise) show up for spring training. Still, I really would have liked Taveras to be the answer.
Among pitchers, Jose Contreras surprisingly is still around and looking good this pring, and new signee Bartolo Colon introduces some interesting options, but the Sox will of course have to watch him closely. Clayton Richard, Jeff Marquez and Lance Broadway are getting a chance.
With all that in mind, here's my new look at the 2009 line-up and starters:
I like Owens to beat out Anderson in CF. I think despite appearances, 2B is Getz' job to lose, and that the Sox don't want to rush Beckham to the majors even if he's fantastic. Same with Viciedo. Fields was terrible during spring training 2008, but has been better this spring.
Among SPs, there are thorny decisions to be made. Three lefties starting? Also, Contreras was not expected to be a factor, and I think the Sox can't write off the World Series vet quite yet. I think Colon could make the roster as a project, maybe even starting out on the disabled list. Marquez has been good so far, and perhaps could still take a starter job that otherwise looks like it belongs to Richard. I think Aaron Poreda is bound for the farm, but will be on speed dial. Same with Carrasco.
So, how will these regulars do? Can they do their half of the job in trying to bring us our dream of a Windy City World Series? We admit last year may have been the rare time when that looked possible for a while. This year, the A.L. Central could really tighten up. The Sox proved last year that you can never count them out, even if you have to extend the season.
This year, I see some fading punch in this line-up, starting pitching with potential, some speed and good defense on the bench, and a bullpen with an increasingly shaky closer and a few other live arms. I think the Sox are good for second place, maybe 86-76, with a shot at first if Cleveland isn't good enough, the Twins are no better, and Detroit and Kansas City fall short in their seeming improvement. No Game 163 this year, for better or worse, and no chance at a Wild Card, which is permanently attached to the American League East.
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