Even With an Iron Fist. . .

Chinese Democracy Starts NowTomorrow, Guns N’ Roses’ somewhat terrible, partially not too bad Chinese Democracy album will go on sale 17 years after the previous outings, Use Your Illusion I and Use Your Illusion II. The album’s tale has already been told, streamed, leaked and speculated upon at too great a length to make it worth rehashing here (not to mention this is a baseball site), but the idea that a brilliant, eccentric mastermind and his cabal of advisers, experts, assistants, flunkies and hangers-on have hinted at the great follow-up to a widely-acknowledged masterpiece just seems to resonate here at the 35th Street offices.

Experiments that don’t live up to the hype? A possible genius overselling his work to his eager public while hiding his moves in secrecy? Legendary infighting? Tantrums? A revolving door of role players? Speculation that never comes through and a sequel that doesn’t quite deliver as promised? Guns N’ Roses were (and still are) a staple of the background music here on 35th, and we’ve waited for follow-up to the GnR masterpiece almost as eagerly as we’ve waited for the follow-up to the South Side masterpiece. And yet for all the reports of what’s going on behind the scenes and all the chest-puffing about how awesome the end result will be, what we’re left with is at best a mixed bag and at worst a complete disaster.

Ladies and gentlemen, presenting the Chinese Democracy of White Sox baseball:

1. “Chinese Democracy” / Paul Konerko to the Angels for Scot Shields and Chone Figgins. The hot rumor since 2006 and still gathering steam, people seem to forget that Konerko has no-trade protection and that Chone Figgins 2008 is not really the same guy the Sox could have used two years ago. Or last year. Or this year. Or next year.

2. “Shackler’s Revenge” / Plan D. Darrin Erstad. Rob Mackowiak. Nick Swisher. Ken Griffey, Jr. Jerry Owens. Five men. Three seasons. Zero centerfielders.

3. “Better” / Javier Vazquez. On SportsCenter the night of the trade for Vazquez, ESPN declared the 2006 White Sox to have the best rotation of all time. That best rotation of all time went on to post a 4.63 ERA, including a May 14 outing where Mark Buehrle set a record by giving up 7 runs in the first inning and still getting the win.

4. “Street of Dreams” / Torii Hunter. You do you beat a five-year, $90 million offer? With five years and $91 million, obviously. Jesus.

5. “If the World” / Brandon McCarthy. In 2006, McCarthy could absolutely, positively, in no way ever be traded, ever, not in a million years, even for Alfonso Soriano whose bat could and baserunning could have gone a long way undoing the lame outings of the best rotation of all time. Since later being traded, McCarthy now owns a 4.73 ERA in 123.7 innings pitched across two seasons for the Texas Rangers. No one will argue that John Danks was a great return from Texas, but no one would argue that the Sox had a better shot at going the distance with Soriano in 2006 than with Danks in 2008.

6. “There Was a Time” / Joe Crede. Guillén added about Crede: “He just has to worry about himself first. I’d like to have him back, but that’s not my choice.” – September 14, 2008. “I have all the confidence that a healthy Josh Fields will give us what we need at third base,” Williams said. – October 30, 2008.

7. “Catcher in the Rye” / We Can’t Get No Relief. Ryan Bukvich. Boone Logan. Mike MacDougal. Jeff Nelson. Dewon Day. David Aardsma. Andrew Cisco. Cliff Politte. Neal Cotts. Agustin Montero. David Riske. Mike Myers. Bret Prinz. Sean Tracey. Horacio Ramirez. Ehren Wassermann. Esteban Loaiza. You have to hope the same scouts who saw the potential in the likes of John Danks, Bobby Jenks et al could at least assemble something resembling a decent bullpen again. But they can’t. Or they don’t. Or they simply won’t. And we pass the time either waiting for what’s next or cringing when it happens.

[Continued in part two.]

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