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Tuesday, December 10

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Cubs in Five

by Jeff Webber

...is experiencing technical difficulties. Back next week to gloat about the Sox sweep.

Sox in Five

Trade Bait
by Steve Gozdecki

Well, if there was any question as to the status of your 2007 Chicago White Sox coming into this weekend, getting swept at home by the Cubs pretty well clinches the team's status as also-rans. To some extent it's a relief, as this team has aged in a hurry and does not currently have the talent down on the farm to build hopes that a quick patching job via the free agent market is all it will take to get this team into the hunt for 2008. Instead, it's time to strip this ball club to the bone and bring in whatever young talent you can, especially position-player talent. At this point, the word "untouchable" should not be on Kenny Williams' lips — herewith, the four players most likely to be moved, some speculation on where they could end up, and a final thought on what Kenny can do if he really wants to get cuh-razy.

One: Trade a Starting Pitcher
It's all but certain that left-handed starting pitcher Mark Buehrle will be traded within the month — he's effective, he's durable, he's relatively young, and he's due to hit the jackpot in the free agent market this winter. He likely has the highest trade value of any of the obvious candidates to be moved, and may bring in a very nice haul if his new team can sign him to a contract extension during the trade talks. Because you can never have enough starting pitching, Buehrle could end up with any one of the contenders outside of the AL Central, with Boston, both New York teams and Atlanta among the front-runners. It's sad to see yet another homegrown player leave — but then, the next Reinsdorf-era White Sox star to play his entire career in a Sox uniform will be the first.

Two: Trade Jermaine Dye
The Sox are keeping free-agent-to-be Jermaine Dye on the active roster despite his right quadriceps injury in order to maximize his trade value. Still, I'd expect Dye to have more appeal to an American League team since his defense out in right field has deteriorated to the point that he might be better served DH-ing, which limits his potential destinations. Yankees? Braves? Diamondbacks?

Three: Trade Tadahito Iguchi
Something tells me Kenny will be sending mass spam emails to all 29 of his counterparts in an attempt to move the Gooch, and getting very few replies. Though he's an impending free agent, with so little interest in him Iguchi may remain with the club 'til season's end. And with demand for his services down after a lousy '07, it's not impossible that he'll be re-signed to an incentive-laden deal.

Four: Heck, Trade Another Starting Pitcher
Jose Contreras to the Mets? Javy Vazquez to anyone who will take him? Jon Garland to one of the teams pursuing Buehrle? With each of these guys signed beyond this season to the tune of $10 million or so per year, it's not inconceivable that one of them could follow (or even precede) Buehrle on his way out of town to slash the budget.

Five: And While We're At It, Explore the Value of These Guys
Question: does a rebuilding team need both Paul Konerko and Jim Thome making the big bucks? Does it need a closer? (Bobby Jenks may have the highest trade value of anyone on this team based on his combination of skills and years of service before he becomes eligible for free agency.) Anyone need a fourth outfielder like Scott Podsednik or the veteran toughness (heh) of a Darin Erstad? A surly, left-handed-hitting catcher like A.J. Pierzynski? In all honesty, it's hard to envision any one of these guys besides Jenks or Konerko playing a key role on the next playoff-contending White Sox squad, so if Kenny wants to get rad he'll consider any and all possibilities.

Fire in Five

Fired
by Steve Gillies

One: The Gold Cup Was Awesome, Too Bad I Don't Have Much Room
The US beat Canada in a thriller and then defeated Mexico 2-1 in a classic of a final in front of a sold-out Soldier Field crowd with largely Mexican support. Although the support was mostly Mexican it was a largely festive and friendly crowd. The US played well at times, finished miserably on a few occasions, had some bad lapses in defense, and benefited from two very questionable referee decisions, one against Canada, one against Mexico. Winning in that fashion isn't going to do much for our popularity in the region, but on the bright side, we came from behind to win the final, something I can't remember us doing in a long time. And we played as attacking a game as I've ever seen against Mexico. Also, most importantly, a lot of young players got exposed to big games and a tournament setting. I was planning on doing a "Gold Cup in Five" this week, and the tournament really deserved it, but I had to go with the abbreviated version since there was some pretty major news with the Fire this week.

Two: The Chan Got Canned
Fire President/CEO John Guppy made what must have been a very tough decision and relieved coach Dave Sarachan of his duties. Sarachan is only the second coach to ever helm the Fire, and the team had some good moments under him, including winning its only ever Supporter's Shield, the award for having the best regular season record in MLS. Sarachan is by all accounts a genuine nice guy and has the soccer credentials to land on his feet. I certainly wish him well, not that he needs it. As he told the Luis Arroyave of the Chicago Tribune in my favorite Sarachan quote that didn't involve managing the game, "I'm an Ivy League graduate and coached in the World Cup [as an assistant]... I'll find work in the next few months. I have too good of a resume not to find something."

Three: Was It The Right Call?
The team has been in freefall for most of the season, going 1-6-1 in its last eight games, the non-losses coming against the league's weakest teams. The decision came while Sarachan was campaigning with one hand tied behind his back due to injuries and the delayed arrival of his marquee player, Cuahtemoc Blanco. So some are viewing it was harsh.

It's worth noting there had been a significant fan pressure for Sarachan's removal (well, significant for MLS — which means one sign, some grouching on messageboards, and a few well-worded emails). I think the pressure speaks well of the fans. Over the years they've grown to demand a certain standard of level of quality, attacking soccer and this year's team, even when winning, rarely looked capable of meeting that standard. For that reason, I think it was the right move. Whether it was the right move or not doesn't matter anymore, though. What matters is that the ramifications of the decision are handled by John Guppy and the team in the right way. That means making a good decision about his replacement and also dealing with a playing staff that was apparently very loyal to Sarachan.

Four: The Players' Reaction
There had always been a lot of speculation about senior players lacking confidence in Sarachan's coaching abilities. It was reported as part of the reason for his dismissal. So it was surprising that Chris Armas, generally a pretty reserved guy, publicly criticized the decision. It was shocking when CJ Brown, someone who at times seemed very frustrated with management during the Sarachan regime, also followed suit. Players don't get any more senior that those two. So clearly Guppy has a little bit of diplomacy to do. Publicly he's handled it the right way, not reacting to the comments other than to praise the players for their loyalty to the coach. And if there are players that went to John Guppy asking for Sarachan's sacking, it's vital that the locker room doesn't get divided in the fallout.

Five: Who's Next?
But of course the biggest question in all of this is who will be the next coach. Currently, Assistant Coach Denis Hamlett is at the helm on an interim basis. Hamlett has been with the Fire since the beginning, but the general feeling on him is that if he were head coach material, he'd have already been one by now. Ideally, Sarachan wouldn't have been fired without a replacement ready. That it coincided with US Assistant Coach and Fire legend Peter Nowak being in Chicago for the Gold Cup had many fans hopeful. But coaching the Olympic team and helping Bob Bradley with the full National Team is keeping Nowak busy. Another Fire legend whose name is being thrown around is Frank Klopas. He could make a good coach, but with only experience in indoor soccer (a very different beast) on his resume, it would be a risky appointment. Other names in the mix are New England Assistant Coach Paul Mariner (if you can't beat them, steal from them), and Juan Carlos Osorio from Colombian club Millonarios (who might fit in well with Blanco). John Guppy has said he'll appoint someone full time before July is over. However, we've heard overly-optimistic timetables from Guppy before with the stadium name, the uniform sponsor and the Salas signing. Any similar delay or uncertainty in the coaching decision could cripple the team for years to come.

Sky in Five

Hope for Indie Culture
by Anne Elizabeth Moore

One: Pre-Game Buzz
As we headed into the June 23rd home game, the Sky was ranked fourth in the eastern conference, with six wins as compared to the New York Liberty's seven, the Indiana Fever's nine and the Detroit Shock's 10. We were slated to play the Washington Mystics, last-ranked team in the conference, who had managed to win two games — neither against the Sky.

The crowd — and there was a bit of one — was excited. Playful, eager, talkative. It could be the evening's halftime entertainment, Keke (Akeelah and the Bee) Palmer, who kicked off a concert series that will eventually bring her to every WNBA venue across the country. (OK, it's a promotional campaign for her upcoming album So Uncool, but it's also sort of like those '80s mall tours, but way, way awesomer.) But it's more likely just the game. The Stacy Dales Fan Club had a new sign: Catherine. Awesome! Also, a handmade Arminite price sign has sprung up. Go fans! More to the point, Candice "The Gum Chewer" Dupree in recent days had raised her point average to 19.2 per game, and had bolstered her average blocks now to 1.7, two trends that helped name her the conference's Player of the Week last week. (A point I forgot to mention last week due to Sky in Five Point #4.)

Regardless, fans were cheering 20 minutes before official play started. Forget the beauty of the sport and the thrill of competition: winning for those 20 minutes seemed to be about who was having the most fun.

Two: Game 13
Chastity Melvin started us out at the tipoff but the Mystics came out impassioned. So despite an emerging Dominique "The Beast" Canty/Armintie "The Athlete" Price superhero teamup, a shining steal by Melvin, and an egregious personal foul by Stacey "Moral Center" Dales that sent fourth-year Mystics vet Nakia Sanford crashing face-first to the floor, the Sky never pulled far out of a 10 point gap. A final score of 86 to 99 — the gap was made worse in the final moments of the game when the only strategy the Sky could come up with was "give the ball to The Gum Chewer." Well guess what? The other team was onto it — and the crowd wasn't having much fun anymore.

Three: It's a Beautiful Thing, to Watch Girls Get Angry
The June 19 home game was slightly less deflating against the at-the-time 7-and-3 Sacramento Monarchs, who held the best record in the Western Conference and boasted two former locals: Chicago's Yolanda Griffith and former Sky player Chelsea Newton. Griffith immediately got the ire of our team up with a bone-crushing foul that left Price smooshed on the floor — bitch — although the freethrow The Athlete took for it brought the Sky back into the lead. Several brilliant shots by Dupree snuck through the back door of the Monarch's defense, but their defense is not what they're known for; they're an offensive team, and a patient one. Still, the Sky's been learning from each and every mistake this year, and even if they take a severe beating, there's a great sense they are just noting the opponent's weak spots for later. Point distances were rarely more than a few, and turnovers remained pretty equal for both teams. The Sky was falling down on the charity line, earning their dead-last division stat in free throw percentages, but the final score — 54 to 52 — was well-earned, and kept us at a .500 average win ratio. I was watching from the comfort of my own home, due to Sky in Five Point #4, and was delighted to hear last year's Sky member Nikki McCray — now providing "color" for WTTW's broadcasts — announce that "If the season ended right now, the Sky would be in the playoffs."

Four: There's Still Hope for Indie Culture
My reader (my former business partner Dan Sinker) may have heard already that independent culture was dealt a blow this week when our magazine Punk Planet, the paper of record for independent art, music, politics and culture, closed up shop. Still, the Chicago Sky remains one of six independently owned teams in the WNBA. The rest of the world may be linked to giant megacorporate multinationals, but the Chicago Sky remain independent, and totally capable of kicking your ass. Don't you forget it.

Five: All-Stars
June 23rd was also the last night of voting for the All-Star Game on July 15th, and the Sky had five players in the running: Candice "The Gum Chewer" Dupree, Chastity "Look Under the Washington Mystics" Melvin, Stacy "Moral Center" Dales, Katye "Sunshine"* Christensen and Dominique "The Beast" Canty. Look for them when they announce the All-Stars!

*Please note that I did not make up this nickname. It was provided in the press materials given all us professional sports writers, and while I'd far prefer something like "Pulverizin'!" or "GRAAAAR," this one does seem to suit her strangely upbeat and friendly basketballing style.

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Comments

rofimike / June 26, 2007 10:36 AM

Why are we trading for prospects when we don't trust out scouting system?

It's not like you're planting seeds and if you wait long enough you're guaranteed tomatoes.

Steve / June 26, 2007 11:01 AM

Mike, the Sox don't (and shouldn't) trust their scouts as far as the draft is concerned. But prospects and draftees are two very different things -- the type of prospects the Sox would be dealing for actually have a minor league track record/developmental time put in (AA and AAA players), as well as tons of information and projections available on them from independent sources.

And -- teams that are in the playoff chase rarely trade away major league talent.

 

About the Author(s)

Steve Gozdecki has been a White Sox fan his entire life, with the exception of an ill-advised flirtation with the 1984 Cubs in the days when his town wasn't wired for cable. Because he swears by the work of the "baseball outsiders," who believe that statistical analysis trumps old truisms like subjective evaluation and team chemistry, he found himself pleasantly surprised when the Sox won it all last year. Each week through the season, Steve will bring you five crucial talking points you can use the next time someone says, "Hey, how 'bout them Sox?" Send comments to sox@gapersblock.com.

Steve Gillies has been a Fire fan since he stood in a torrential downpour while the Fire beat New England 6-0 and he realized watching American soccer games in person was a lot better than watching European football matches on television. Each week he'll give you five things to talk about if you happen to get cornered by one of those soccer people at a party. Send comments to fire@gapersblock.com.

Anne Elizabeth Moore didn't go to professional blogging school or anything like some of these sports writers today, but she's been nominated for more comics awards. That's gotta mean something.

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