October 26, 2005

Another Season in the Books

Congratulations to the Chicago White Sox and their fans.

Aside from the Yankees, there is no team in baseball I root against harder than the White Sox, but they are deserving champions. Not only did they play well all season, sprinting out of the gates and holding on to their division lead in the face of a late-season charge from the Indians, they did so despite almost no one giving them a chance prior to the season.

Hell, I predicted Chicago would finish third in the division, and all they did was win an AL-leading 99 games, go 11-1 in the postseason, and take home the franchise's first World Series since 1917. General manager Kenny Williams deserves credit for going into the offseason with a plan to overhaul the roster, following through with that plan, and having it work to perfection. And manager Ozzie Guillen deserves credit for pulling the right strings all season long.

In watching the Astros get completely shut down by the White Sox for the final 15 innings of the World Series, I couldn't help but think of the Twins. The Twins' disappointing season was defined by a punchless offense that couldn't support an outstanding pitching staff, and in particular a frustrating inability to come up with hits in key spots.

In the end the Astros, like the Twins, had plenty of pitching but simply couldn't put any runs on the board when it mattered. Meanwhile, the White Sox had pitching as good as any team in baseball and were able to get hits to drop when they needed them most. While the thought of the Twins competing with the reigning champs and the rapidly improving Indians in 2006 is intimidating, watching the White Sox blitz through the postseason in the manner they did does give me some hope.

I see no reason why the Twins can't become the same type of team, with great pitching and timely hitting. That feels odd to say, since for several years it was the Twins that other teams were trying to emulate, but certainly the 2005 White Sox are the model the Twins should be shooting for going forward.

Chicago won this season because they pitched and played defense, and their lineup provided enough offense to win close games. The difference between the disappointing season the Twins had in 2005 and a Chicago-like run in 2006 is really not all that huge. While watching another AL Central team take home the championship was disappointing, watching how they did it was encouraging.

Today begins an offseason of uncertainty and change for the Twins. I have confidence that the team will be better in 2006, but the question is whether or not their improvement will be enough to get them into the playoffs. And from there, the question is whether or not they will get the hits to drop and make the plays in the spots that matter.

Chicago did just that and now their fans -- and the following outstanding White Sox blogs -- are celebrating:

- South Side Sox
- Exile in Wrigleyville
- Black Betsy

Go check em out. It's been a long time coming.

Today at The Hardball Times:
- A Pennant Flies in Chicago (by Dave Studeman)

Today's Picks (130-110, +$2,085):
Virginia Tech -13.5 (-110) over Boston College

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