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Normally, I wait until after a player has officially found work elsewhere before I serve up the eulogy. I’m making an exception for Jermaine Dye.
For one, he’s had a rough winter — at least as rough as somebody who feels insulted by annual salaries worth more than my job pays over a lifetime. It’s easy to knock him for poor strategy, and I’ve done my fair share.
And also, it’s going to be confined to print, anyway. I received the proof copy of White Sox Outsider 2010. Once I make a couple of tweaks — probably as soon as tomorrow — it’ll be ready for sale. I may as well give potential customers an idea of what’s inside this book (which will be $19.95).
Jermaine Dye probably should have been an Arizona Diamondback.
After he agreed to a two-year, $10.15 million deal with the Chicago White Sox in December of 2004, the D-Backs came calling multiple times over the course of the day. The fourth and final time, the Diamondbacks added $1 million to the Sox’s offer. Most others in Dye’s place would have accepted the higher offer, especially when considering that Dye and his family live in the Phoenix area. Most people watching would have understood.
Look at Omar Vizquel. Vizquel nearly signed a two-year contract in the range of $9 million earlier in that offseason. At the last minute, the San Francisco Giants swooped in and offered him the third year he desired. That changed his mind, he took the Giants’ offer, leaving Kenny Williams stunned. Williams certainly didn’t hold it against him – he signed Vizquel to a one year, $1.3 million contract five years later.
Dye hadn’t played a game for the Sox, and he hadn’t signed any paperwork. There was nothing stopping him from accepting the Diamondbacks’ advances, but for whatever reason, Dye felt like he had to uphold his oral agreement.
So Jermaine Dye signed with the White Sox, and in the process, irrevocably altered the history of the franchise.
“What if Dye signed with the Diamondbacks?” is the second greatest “What if?” question in franchise history, and the answer to the question probably isn’t a good one.
Only the White Sox brass knows what would have happened if Dye took the higher offer, but one possibility has the Sox signing Richard Hidalgo. They were considered comparable players at the time. Dye at his peak was better than Hidalgo, but Dye hadn’t fully recovered from his knee injury, so both sides posed a great risk.
Dye signed with the Sox on Dec. 9; Hidalgo joined the Texas Rangers three days later for one year and $5 million, which was $1 million more than Dye’s 2005 salary.
It’s probably a good bet that Hidalgo doesn’t fill Magglio Ordonez’s shoes. Hidalgo hit .221/.289/.416 in 88 games with Texas, and he never played in the big leagues again, bouncing between Japan and independent baseball. He was last seen in playing in the Venezuelan Winter League in 2009.
The Sox don’t win the World Series with Hidalgo dragging them down. Maybe they don’t even make the playoffs. That season, only Dye and Paul Konerko had truly above-average seasons at the plate. Take Dye out of the equation, and for all anybody knows, that vaunted 35-19 record in one-run games could be inverted. If that happens, that controversial Carlos Lee trade doesn’t look too special, and Williams is in a bit of trouble.
Fortunately, we’ll never have to know the answer to that question, because Jermaine Dye became the only World Series MVP in White Sox history. He hit .438 in the Fall Classic. He bounced that single back through the box against Brad Lidge, pumping his fist while Willie Harris scored from third, driving in the only run in that decisive Game 4. There’s no universe in which Richard Hidalgo does that.
Dye then followed up his unprecedented 2005 with a career year in 2006. He hit .315 with 44 homers and 120 RBI, earning a spot on the All-Star team and a Silver Slugger. Hidalgo wouldn’t have done that.
The rest of his career, from 2007 to 2009, wasn’t as rosy. He had two great halves, two good halves, and two disastrous ones. He was good for extra-base hits on both ends – producing them on offense, allowing them on defense. Leg problems diminished Dye’s range to the point where his corner became the place where triples went to start families.
Sometimes, he outwardly expressed confusion and disappointment. He wondered aloud why the Sox renegotiated Mark Buehrle’s contract in the middle of 2007 when he was told no mid-season deals were in the works. He clashed with Orlando Cabrera in the dugout in 2008 when Cabrera distracted him by stealing third in a game against the Royals, even though the steal came with one out and put Dye in an easier RBI position (Dye ended up striking out, which was probably the root of the frustration). He wasn’t exactly supportive of the Alex Rios acquisition, either.
However he may have expressed displeasure, it wasn’t enough to irk Ozzie Guillen, who called Dye one of the two best players he ever managed. Dye was a member of the veteran core that ran the clubhouse; now it is two members weaker with both him and Jim Thome out of the picture.
Barring a Milton Bradley-esque explosion, it’s hard to think of a way Dye’s Sox career could have ended on a lower note. He finished 2009 hitting .179/.293/.297 after the All-Star break, and his tailspin was one of the chief reasons why the Sox missed the playoffs.
Still, in his last home game against Detroit on Sept. 28, Sox fans gave him a standing ovation. No matter how little he hit, no other response was appropriate. The only World Series MVP in franchise history gets 88 years of leeway.
Especially when the only World Series MVP in franchise history could have – and should have – never played for the franchise to begin with.
 “He’s Mr. Integrity,” Chicago Sun-Times, Feb. 27, 2005.
 “What if the 1919 White Sox won the World Series fair and square?” is the first one, and I’m willing to wager that nothing will ever top it.
 “Williams in no mood for Dye’s frustration,” Chicago Tribune, July 18, 2007
 “’Good guys finish last,’” Chicago Tribune, July 10, 2008
 “Dye has mixed fellings on move,” Chicago Tribune, Aug. 11, 2009
 “Was this final Sox home game for Dye, Podsednik?” Daily Herald, Sept. 28, 2009.