On the other hand, I often insist to anyone listening there is nothing more entertaing than bad sports teams, with the possible exception of the terrible cars my friends and I used to drive or certain moments of seasons three through seven of The Simpsons. Bad sports teams give a frame of reference; bad sports teams remind us there are more important things in life than James Baldwin’s earned run average; bad sports teams illustrate the value of good sports teams.
But in who, among these forgettable sqauds of the 00s’ lesser half, can we find such value? Where will future generations find the seeds of future dynasties—and where will they find the ruins of a once-mighty franchise?
It almost seems unfair to lump 2002 in this crowd. For starters, in those fading days of the post-strike hangover, a .500 White Sox squad was considered fairly strong. For another, they still finished seven games ahead of the third-place Indians. Magglio Ordonez socked 38 home runs; Paul Konerko hit over .300; Frank Thomas settled nicely into the old man DH comfort zone later dominated by Jim Thome.
Even reading the list of that year’s bust prospects brings a chuckle to even the most hardened observer: Joe Borchard; Miguel Olivo; Willie Harris; Rocky Biddle; Matt Ginter; Jeff Liefer.
But as with the 2000 team that crumbled before it, these Sox again couldn’t pitch to save their lives, with the notable exception of first-time All-Star and emerging staff ace Mark Buehrle and soon-to-be-traded-for-Lord-help-us Billy-Koch closer Keith Foulke. And hey, look at that: Jose Valentin juuuust missed the 20/20 club, hitting 25 home runs to his 19 errors.
But look a little closer, and the club’s true value presents itself. Buehrle develops as a legitimately good pitcher. Paulie can hit for real power in the middle of the order. Valentin has to move off of third, but this kid Joe Crede looks ready for the big time. Kenny Lofton has a Cubs team to help fulfill its destiny, but maybe this Rowand guy can step in. Harris might not be a starter, but maybe he can pinch-hit if need be. Let’s see what kind of extra prospects Oakland might throw in for Foulke.
And it’s all suddenly so clear: 2002 wasn’t about 2002, at least not right away. In the end, 2002 was the farm team for 2005. Fantastic.
On Saturday, July 21, 2007, for reasons too awesome, idiotic and tremendous to explain in this space, some friends and I were in Indianapolis for the weekend. That week’s Fox Saturday Baseball game featured the Good Guys at Boston, with young Kason Gabbard taking the hill for the BoSox against John Danks.
At the start of the seventh inning, with the Red Sox up 4-1, we left our hotel to walk the 0.4 miles to Victory Field to catch an Indianapolis Indians-Toledo Mud Hens game. Upon finding our seats, it was now the top of the eighth in Boston. BoSox 11, ChiSox 1.
Ehren Wassermann gave up three runs to five batters. Boone Logan’s entire outing consisted of walking J.D. Drew with the bases loaded. Dewon Day, coming on with two outs in relief of Logan, walked Manny Ramirez and Jason Varitek on 19 pitches before coughing up an RBI single to Coco Crisp and a bases-clearing single to Eric Hinske, who had singled off of Wassermann to start the inning and strolled into home courtesy of Logan. Julio Lugo, mercifully, struck out swinging to end the inning.
This was not atypical. We laughed, shrugged, and passively observed that, were it not for Wassermann, Day, and Logan, the day was not so bad. Upon reflection, one could probably say the same for the entire year. . . but that would overlook the fantastic contributions of Juan Uribe, Ryan Bukvich, Nick Massett, David Aardsma, Mike Myers, Andrew Sisco, Mike MacDougal, Jose Contreras, Scott Pods, Jerry O, Grindy McGrinderstad, Luis Terrerro, Andy Gonzalez’ epic four-error game with three coming in the third inning alone . . . you know, I’ll just stop there.
Was it all bad? Of course not. Buehrle’s no-hitter, Jim’s 500th, Bobby’s 41-inning lawnmower ride, Javy’s totally unnecessary awesomness. Good stuff right there. But, you know, really bad stuff everywhere else.
It’s probably still too soon to contextualize beyond what’s already been written, but we can absolutely say the following:
a) they stank
b) they were supposed to, even when we tried to delude ourselves into thinking otherwise
So it’s hard to get mad, except when Scott Podsednik falls on his face, giving Carl Crawford the easiest inside-the-park home run of his career, then asks for a multi-year deal. The gleefully spiteful move would be to let Pods walk and put Crawford in his place. But they can’t. They have Alex Rios for that.
The Winner: 2002, winning on an errant Andy Gonzalez throw sailing into the stands behind first, allowing ray-Ray (having made it to to third on 12 pitches out of the zone) to score. Game over. Decade over. Sox win!