It’s easy for all of us to sit back, watch games, watch manager decisions and insist that we would do things differently, read: better. Thankfully that will never become a reality for any of us. We’re not as smart as we think we are, which is why we aren’t pulling down 6 and 7 figures to trot, waddle or even run (if you’ve got some sort of Pete Rose thing going on) out to the mound. Let’s pretend for a minute that I did know how to run a team. Then let’s pretend you’d ask me how I would set up my 2012 White Sox lineup if I did. Thanks for asking, allow me to explain.
The starting rotation is easy, as I think there are 5 choices available and that is mighty convenient as there are 5 slots. Danks, Floyd, Peavy, Sale and Humber. A case could perhaps be made for Ian Stewart and he just might have plans to make that case during Spring Training but short of absolute dominance I don’t see myself being swayed. This isn’t a terrible starting five by any stretch with the caveats that we don’t know for sure how Sale will adjust to the transition from the bullpen and that Jake Peavy is a perpetual injury risk at this point.
AJ Pierzynski is our catcher. However Tyler Flowers is finally emerging as a capable one too. For years we heard about Flowers and his hit tool but how his skills as a backstop were lacking and there were questions about his ability to handle a pitching staff. Perhaps too much focus was given to the latter issues while in the minors because since his arrival in the bigs he hasn’t shown us a whole lot of consistency with the bat, but from what I’ve seen the defensive end of it is looking decent. AJ’s playing time took a hit last season despite an inconsistent back-up situation that saw Castro go down with injury, some Flowers appearances and even a Donny Lucy sighting or two (way to go Donny!). I’d like to see that trend continue. AJ will get the bulk of the ABs with a goodish amount of Flowers mixed in. A straight platoon is probably not the route to go as AJ actually hit lefties better in 2011 than righties. Using specific matchups and just making sure that AJ stays rested, I give Tyler Flowers enough at-bats to sink or swim. With a careful eye, of course, on not letting that sink get too low before shifting the bat out of his hands.
First base is not a question. Until time finally wears him out, Paul Konerko is our man. I have no problem with some days off to DH and depending on if Adam Dunn is officially washed up or not he can fill in there. Otherwise Viciedo can take some throws and Lillibridge is available as a fill-in if necessary.
I’d like to give Gordon Beckham one more chance. A chance I feel he’s earned through his defensive ability over the last season. He made some excellent plays and gave us what I thought was one of the best defensive up-the-middle infields in the AL last season. He is still only 25 but with the clear downward path his hitting has been taking I’m perfectly willing to cut him loose should this season not be a reversal.
Not to knock on Brent Morel, but he’s our third baseman because there is nobody else. We have a hard time finding third baseman and when they stick we love them. Morel did finish the season strong and we can hope that it’s evidence of figuring something out more than just “having a good month.”
As far as balance SS is our strongest position. Alexei is near the top of the league defensively and provides a steady punch on the offensive end as well. After taking a little bit to settle into making the routine plays, he’s relaxed and has the ability to make not only make the easy plays, but make the difficult plays look easy as well.
Now for where things get a different look. Juan Pierre was our left fielder and lead-off man and was questionable at both. He looked the part, though, and that was enough for a lot of people, including the brass. Mitt Romney looks like a president but I’m not going to run out and vote for him even if he does have a better arm than Juan. This season I’d like to upgrade both sides of the ball and let Alejandro De Aza have a chance play every day. I have some questions about his ability to be productive day in and day out but I think he’s certainly earned the opportunity to try.
Alex Rios is not a bad baseball player. Wait, wait, don’t laugh. He plays a…somewhat serviceable center field and has some pop potential in his bat. When I was in grade school there would regularly be notations on my report cards or notes sent home from teachers that told my mother, “Matt is not working up to his potential.” I would like to see Robin Ventura send some sort of notice to Mrs. Rios and let her know that Alex is jakin’ it. You regularly get the feeling that if he cared, he’d be better. Alex put up a .284/.334/.457 line in 2010 but 2011 came nowhere near that and I think his ceiling is actually even higher. He is also pulling down 15 mil a year, which doesn’t sit well with the folks who have to watch him walk around out there. De Aza can play CF, sliding him over and plugging newly acquired Kosuke Fukudome in left wouldn’t be a bad play if we continue to get a “just enough to pass” type of effort out of Alex Rios.
Right field gets me excited. Not in the sort of way that may come up in therapy later, but in the potential there. Dayan Viciedo is in a position to really blow some folks away with his talent. In a short sample both in 2010 and 2011 he’s shown an improvement in plate discipline, which was laughable in his first MLB stint, and I don’t see his power going anywhere. What particularly catches my eye is his opposite field power, the ball simply jumps off his bat into the right field gap. Put it in the right spot and even Paulie can come around and score on those. Defensively he’s unproven and in all likelihood going to be a liability, but I spent enough time cringing at Carlos Quentin (sorry, ladies) out there that I think it will be ok.
The bullpen is such a crazy place that I’m going to pretend I don’t have to worry about it for the purposes of this exercise. Addison Reed might close, Thornton may close, heck even Jesse Crain could close. Until I see some folks throw I don’t think I can assume anything, which leaves us with just one roster spot left: Designated Hitter. Adam Dunn gets a chance to redeem himself. He’ll never fully redeem himself, we’ll always have 2011 and his performance will always make us die a little inside. It’s possible for him to turn that into a fluke season, though. Some time, that’s all I give him. If it’s clear he’s going to continue struggling he’s got to sit or be cut loose. I don’t care what he’s making, you can’t pay a player to make your team worse. Not a good business model.
So there is my team, my 2012 Chicago White Sox. I don’t think I’m outrageous, I don’t think I’m asking too much. Robin has a lot of work in front of him, he can only win with the hand he’s been dealt, but it’s not impossible.