[Part two in a series; read part one here.]
Like any large-scale effort with considerable personnel and financial backing, Chinese Democracy isn’t half bad. Actually, it’s exactly half bad, but the parts that are good are nothing short of awesome. Very little of this has much to do with the guy at the helm who closes once-a-decade TV appearances by declaring his latest step meant victory in some undefined “round one” but a whole lot to do with the bits of genius coaxed out of his stellar supporting cast.
None of this makes the wait and general blowhardery any more excusable, but sometimes if you look past words like “masterpiece,” “epic,” “heart,” and “grinder,” you might have to take stock and say that maybe, just maybe, not everything has been a total waste since the last trip to the top of the mountain. Chinese Democracy is not entirely intolerable, but more importantly neither is life on 35th Street:
8. “Scraped” / Held Up Without a Gun. Cy Young candidate John Danks for recurring Brandon McCarthy’s recurrent arm problems. Gavin Floyd for a soon-to-break Freddy Garcia. The most valuable player in the American League for an A-ball first base prospect. Alexei Ramirez signed out of nowhere and more than delivering for the team. We can laugh about Nick Swisher all we want, but the truth is Kenny Williams sees things the rest of us simply do not.
9. “Riad N’ the Bedouins” / Cue the Fireworks. Since Opening Day 2006, no team has hit more home runs than the Chicago White Sox. Not the vaunted Yankees, not the overhyped Cubs, not the overvalued Red Sox but our own Pale Hose. And as hollow and one-dimensional of an offensive attack as they may amount to, a shot into the outfield seats is always awesome. Always.
10. “Sorry” / Just Like Old Times. In 2007, the Sox had the option to trade both Mark Buerhle and Jermaine Dye and the chorus of small, annoying internet nobodies (including this one) screamed that both were not only finished, but that the Sox should be honored other teams would even consider dealing for either. For their patience in resigning the pair, Sox brass was rewarded with some of the finest seasons in both players’ careers in 2008. Shows how much bloggers know.
11. “I.R.S.” / Mr. Incredible. It was always well-known that Kenny Williams and Frank Thomas didn’t get along, and there were at least a few fans who didn’t weep when #35 was sent packing, but putting Jim Thome in his place has more than paid off. Not only is Thome a player you can actually root for, the big man also gave us one of the greatest moments in team history. Ever.
12. “Madagascar” / Takes One to Know One. The Chicago White Sox have won one playoff game since 2005; the twice-favored Chicago Cubs are 0-6 in the same timespan. This makes me smile.
13. “This I Love” / Joey Joe Joe Junior Shabadoo. Legendary bust Joe Borchard, now out of baseball, was traded to the Mariners for current power arm Matt Thornton and later replaced, in a roundabout way, by the aforementioned MVP. “I don’t want to have to fill Joe Borchard’s shoes,” Quentin said during his Stanford days. You didn’t, Carlos; that’s what Nick Swisher was for. (Zing!)
14. “Prostitute” / Ten Years Gone. We can complain about a lot of things (and we often do), but when it comes down to it things are pretty good on the South Side these days. Ninety wins in 2006, a playoff berth in 2008, and even in the worst days of 2007 the players were at least likable, unlike the losers and low-lifes of yore. If these are indeed the Chinese Democracy years of White Sox baseball, all signs point to something great lurking just around the corner.