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I had considered doing an All-Decade Team until I actually starting putting one together and realized that there were zero debates. Right field was as close as it got, but Jermaine Dye’s one extra season, plus that award that escapes my mind — something value something — gives him a clear edge over Magglio Ordonez.
Passing on the Obvious Guy Making Obvious Decisions route, I had a different idea when, over at South Side Sox, Rob talked about scoring Jerry Owens’ locker nameplate at the White Sox clubhouse sale, a purchase of which I am completely and utterly jealous.
If I were able to attend the clubhouse sale, I might be the guy who you’ll see at The Cell in a few years and think, “Who the hell would buy a Betemit jersey?” which was also on sale.
(That actually wouldn’t be me, but you’ll see why in a bit.)
Anyway, it became evident that the All-Irony Team would provide a much more fertile ground for debate. We’re talking about creating a 25-man roster of players who are most fondly remembered for things they wouldn’t be proud of.
A couple of guidelines I used:
No. 1: They had to get significant playing time. September call-ups don’t count, nor do temporary mop-up guys. That would be a “least-talented player” list. They had to be around for a few months and deployed often enough to build up a rapport.
No. 2: They couldn’t be bad, then good or vice versa. That would be a “worst season” list, and that’s just simple math. No…
No. 3: There has to be some je ne sais quoi. Basically, something else has to come to mind besides a guy’s triple-slash line — something that might cause you to start a sentence with either a “Haaaaa…” or “Oh, that [expletive] guy…”
No. 4: I can be swayed. If you think there’s some injustice, present your case.
That said, here’s what the position players look like.
Catcher: Ben Davis.
The baggage acquired in the Freddy Garcia trade, Davis managed to be a typical low-OBP, decent-SLG catcher for the Sox in 2004. He became best known for drawing a $1 million salary for the 2005 team despite never spending a day on the major-league roster. I wonder if he got a ring.
First base: Timo Perez.
Paul Konerko’s kung-fu grip on first hasn’t allowed many guys to make any kind of impression behind him, and the one guy who did — Ross Gload — was solid.
Therefore, Timo slips in thanks to his legendary performance on June 1, 2005. For some reason, Ozzie Guillen started Perez at first base. He hadn’t played there since 1999, hadn’t broken in his mitt, and when he predictably didn’t catch a throw from A.J. Pierzynski, it led to two unearned runs and, eventually, a White Sox loss.
This was the one case in which Timo didn’t let anybody down — everybody was too confused by him starting at first to be upset with his general fetidness.
Second base: D’Angelo Jimenez
No White Sox player made mental mistakes at a greater rate than Jimenez, whose inexcusable blunders in the field and on the basepaths turned the clubhouse against him and forced the Sox to give Roberto Alomar’s corpse a shot.
Shortstop: Royce Clayton
Clayton taught Sox fans an important lesson about errors. In an overreaction to Jose Valentin’s 36 errors at short for the division-winning 2000 White Sox, the Sox acquired Clayton to replace Valentin. Clayton made only 12 errors over his two years in a White Sox uniform, which also matched his total of hits. I don’t know if you’ll ever see a player carry a sub-.100 batting average and sub-.300 OPS deep into May with so much confidence.
Third base: Andy Gonzalez
The reason I wouldn’t buy a Betemit jersey is because Gonzalez is the real deal. He’ s the worst player to receive 200+ plate appearances in most of our lifetimes, and while he played numerous positions, he played the most innings at the hot corner and made his mark by committing three errors in one inning.
Left field: Jerry Owens
A poor man’s Scott Podsednik, Owens’ sunny-side-up personality couldn’t have been more mismatched with his actual production and prospects.
Center field: Darin Erstad
Erstad was a mediocre ballplayer who might’ve been a decent center fielder had he not gotten hurt every time he played there over the four years prior to joining the Sox. He delivered exactly what was expected of him, and wouldn’t have been noteworthy except for the way the media responded to his presence.
At first, they praised him for having a “Midwestern work ethic” and being an “adept handler of the bat.” Even when his batting average languished in the .150s, Hawk Harrelson gushed about how happy he was to have Erstad around.
Toward the end of his easily foreseeable injury-marred season, Erstad was labled as “uptight.”
Erstad is also part of a legacy of Kenny Williams getting his man, one that includes Ken Griffey Jr., Juan Pierre and Scott Linebrink, to name a few.
Right field: Joe Borchard
Had Perez not been able to play first — at least for this team — Borchard would be riding the pine for two reasons.
- He did hit the longest homer in the history of U.S. Cellular Field.
- He was traded for Matt Thornton, which made him more useful than a lot of better bad players.
But when you set a record for the largest signing bonus, proceed to not come close to earning any of it, and set a joke template for the Sox drafting better football players than baseball players, that’s too strong to ignore.
Designated hitter: Jose Canseco
Frank Thomas and Jim Thome look like Hall of Famers. Carl Everett has a ring. That leaves Canseco, who never played a major-league game against after the Soxlet him go in 2001.
He wasn’t bad — he was adequate. But it’s still funny in hindsight, and ironic in its own way. Canseco claimed that he was blackballed by MLB, and the only team that gave him a sound endorsement at the time was the one that became known for trashing its outgoing players.
(Full disclosure: I own a Canseco #31 jersey, and it’s a conversation-starter.)
Backup catcher: Sandy Alomar Jr.
He wasn’t as bad as some backup catchers in the A.J. Pierzynski era, but what’s remarkable about Alomar is that he was just about washed up when the Sox traded him to Colorado in 2001, and they proceeded to acquire him two more times over the next five years.
Honorable mention to Toby Hall, the crying-on-the-inside kind of clown.
Backup corner infielder: Wilson Betemit
The immediacy of his failure is remarkable. Any hope that he could play shortstop was eviscerated after one spring training game. His ability to play third evaporated almost as quickly, as he committed four errors in eight chances. Also gone: Any hope that the Sox received something of value for Nick Swisher.
Backup middle infielder: Brent Lillibridge
He doesn’t have much competition — the Sox have had a solid run of non-embarrassing infielders — but he managed to accrue 112 plate appearances in 2009, which is enough to make the cut. Especially since he made a run at the record of the most PAs without an RBI.
Fourth outfielder: Swisher
Dirty Thirty. Show the Swagger. Swishalicious. Hip bumps. What the hell happened.
If these Sox weren’t carrying around 12 pitchers — they have to with the rotation — I would’ve included Brian Anderson. Three years from now, you’re still going to see Anderson jerseys, both No. 32 and No. 44, floating around The Cell, and you’re going to be baffled.
Coming tomorrow, barring a trade, the pitching staff!