By Stephon Johnson / @StephonJohnson8
If you were anywhere near a sports website, a sports cable channel or sports social media this month, you heard that a Chicago baseball team won the 2016 World Series already.
I’m kidding, of course, but the recent wheeling and dealing by Theo Epstein and company have positioned a Chicago baseball team to possibly experience its first World Series victory since 1908.
Some of you might be thinking that a Chicago baseball team already won the World Series 10 years ago and you would be right. But if you’re not a White Sox fan, you could be forgiven considering that not much was made out of the championship team’s 10th anniversary outside of team and fan circles.
Ten years ago this past October, the White Sox were on top of the baseball world. They swept the Houston Astros in the World Series and lived the cliché of good pitching and timely hitting. It was the organization’s first championship in 88 years.
So why aren’t they spoken of in the same lore as the Boston Red Sox who won their first ring in 86 years the season before? Start with some East Coast bias, sprinkle in a little “playing on the South Side of Chicago” and add the team itself not exactly being a juggernaut (and not sustaining success in the years afterward) and you have your answer.
When you look at the roster for the White Sox in 2005, you’re struck by two things: 1) the amount of decent to very good, but not great players outside of a past-his-prime Frank Thomas and 2) how most of the players were at the perfect age to make the most on-field impact. Pitchers tend to make their mark between their mid 20s and early 30s and outside of Orlando Hernandez (age 39), the rest of the White Sox’s starting rotation (Mark Buehrle, Freddy Garcia, Jon Garland and Jose Contreras) were between the ages of 25 and 33 in 2005.
As for the players, the starting lineup were all between the ages of 26 (Juan Uribe) and 34 (Carl “Jurassic Park” Everett): an everyday player’s prime production years. That starting lineup – which included Paul Konerko, Tadahito Iguchi, Joe Crede, Scott Posednik, Aaron Rowand, Jermaine Dye and the aforementioned Uribe and Everett – didn’t have a single guy who played less than 128 games in 2005. So not only was every starting player in their prime production years, but they were a surprisingly healthy team for most of the season as well. And yet, the White Sox were below league average offensively with a collective slash line of .262/.322/.425, middle of the road in team strikeouts and runs per game, below average in walks and below average with runners in scoring position.
The White Sox’s batting lineup was propped up by the team’s pitching, which was fourth in team earned run average, sixth in least amount of walks per nine innings and fourth in WHIP.
But pitching that type of pitching and winning by the hairs of your chin was unremarkable in 2005. The White Sox were unremarkable in almost every way and a lot of it isn’t their fault.
Considering the era this team played in, it shouldn’t surprise anyone that Konerko had one of the quietest .283/.375/.534, 40 home run seasons that Major League Baseball had seen. His homer tally tied him for eighth on the list that year with the Cincinnati Reds’ Adam Dunn (Atlanta’s Andruw Jones led baseball with 51). His 100 runs batted in wasn’t even a blip in a year where David Ortiz accumulated 148 of those. This was the season after Rafael Palmeiro told us he didn’t do steroids (“…period.”) and Mark McGwire wasn’t there to talk about the past. After the shine of the Red Sox breaking the so-called Curse of the Bambino, it was right back to steroids talk, right back to wagging fingers at Barry Bonds and right back to talking about the Red Sox vs. Yankees (and no one else).
So the team from the South Side continued to be their unremarkable selves and win 99 games during the regular season taking the American League Central Division title. Naturally, Chicago faced the defending champion Red Sox in the American League Division Series.
And they swept them.
The two defining moments from that series came in Game 2 and Game 3 respectively. Aided by a key error by Boston’s second baseman Tony Graffanino, Chicago’s five-run fifth inning sealed a Game 2 victory. In Game 3, with the Red Sox loading the bases with no one out in the sixth, El Duque didn’t allow a single run, ending with a strikeout of Johnny Damon for the third out.
Chicago then moved on to the American League Championship Series against the the- Anaheim Angels (who had a historic title run themselves in 2002, which is still talked about more than the ’05 White Sox). Not much needs to be said here other than this… oh, all four of Chicago’s victories in the series were complete games pitched by Buehrle, Garland, Garcia and Contreras.
The World Series was unremarkable in its own right outside of two moments as well: Scott Posednik’s walk-off home run in Game 2 and Geoff Blum’s pinch-hit home run in the top of the 14th inning in Game 3. Who was the MVP of the World Series? Jermaine Dye who hit .438/.526/.688 with a home run and three runs batted in. Dye didn’t have the big moment, like Posednik and Blum did, but he got the job done when it was his turn to work.
Dye was the perfect summation of the 2005 Chicago White Sox. They were a consistently good and balanced team, that flew under people’s radar (despite winning so many games) and still isn’t acknowledged for the champions that they are.
But let’s give credit to White Sox fans about all else. It says something about a team’s supporters when they don’t raise a stink about an accomplishment not being recognized nationally. White Sox fans seem to be comfortable with their position and perfectly fine with celebrating their team’s milestone amongst themselves. However, considering the amount of love the other “Sawx” got after 2004 and the celebration of the Marlins’ upset over the mighty Yanks in 2003, the 2005 White Sox deserve their just due outside of Chicago.
But I guess the rest of America is still waiting on the Cubs in 2016.
Writer. Reporter. New Yorker.
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