White Sox Decade of Disasters: Position players

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.
STARTERS
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.

  1. He did hit the longest homer in the history of U.S. Cellular Field.
  2. 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.)
BENCH
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!

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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duke

Not to sound like an idiot, but who are the absolutely obvious choices for all-decade in the middle infield? Those were the only two positions I couldn’t figure out…

conor

I’m guessing a majority of us would hand that over to “Juan Uribe” and “Tadahito Iguchi”. In my opinion, Iguchi is beyond any sort of arguement, and despite Profundo’s endless list of eternally irritating bad habits, he certainly earned his keep over the years. He’s also a member of the GREATEST CATCH EVER MADE CLUB with Derek Jeter, and is one of the few players we’ve had in the last ten years that can neither be described as “bland” or “colossally jerk-faced”.

duke

Yeah, Iguchi and Uribe were going to be my guesses, but again, it’s not like the case is so huge as to make it completely obvious.
Fair enough. Good article!

ceverettsdinosaurs

Offseason Over! We’ve acquired our DH! White Sox acquire Jason Botts (http://twitter.com/scottmerkin/status/6753250181)! Found this when I did a search for him: http://texasrangerbaseball.blogspot.com/2009/02/my-life-in-japan-jason-botts-story.html
Apparently they used to show a picture of Chewbacca on the jumbotron whenever he would come to bat in the minors of the Texas Rangers system (where he put up pretty good numbers). Also, the videos of him in Japan at the bottom of the second link are pretty funny…seems he was pretty popular there. He hit .254/.327/.423 in Japan after putting up tepid, at best, numbers in Texas (.230/.325/.344) However, he put up a .290/.395/.482 line throughout his minor league career.
Either we found our DH of the future or our AAA 1B for next year.

karko20

Jim – great topic. I’ve been a long time reader, but finally decided to register to comment on this topic. Although I agree with your selection of Erstad, I have an alternate for the position. My suggestion goes back to 2001. After having a lights-out Spring Training, Julio Ramirez was given the opening day CF job. He then proceeded to put up a BA of 0.081 with an OBP of 0.128, and I believe this was all in the lead-off spot. By mid-May, I think he was cut from the team.

rhythm

Wow, and here I thought I was a fan. I really don’t remember Julio Ramirez, which is odd since I was paying attention fairly closely in 2001 and generally pay attention to the outfielders.
Well done, karko20!

karko20

Thanks rhythm.
Interesting side story on this one. The Sox were on a road trip in Seattle in May 2001, and I happened to be staying at the same hotel as the Sox. Around 11pm, some of the players (Konerko, Graffanino, Durham, Kelly Wunsch) and even Herm Schneider and Kenny Williams show up in the hotel bar. One of my collleagues went over to Kenny and told him I was huge Sox fan. He drops by the table, I introduce myself, and I proceed to let him know I like what he has started to do as the new GM, but we really need to get Ramirez out of CF. Not sure he really wanted to hear my opinion, but he was a great guy and offered us up 4 tickets to the matinee game the next day, which we gladly took. And about 2-3 weeks later, Julio was gone.
And btw, I may have been wrong about opening day and Ramirez. After checking the whitesox.com site, it looks like Jose Valentin started the season in CF, but I think Julio quickly took over (and quickly lost) the starting job.

iowaoaks

Oh, man, Jim thanks. I can’t wait for the pitching staff.
This is a walk down memory lane, if memory lane is lined with the corpses of the dead.
The Canseco DH choice is fantastic. One of my worst memories of a visit to New Comiskey was with Canseco. Arriving late due to terrible traffic downtown. Horrible seats way up and way out. However, the evening was not a total loss as we we drank copious amounts of beer and booed the ever loving shit out of Canseco every time he came to bat.
I hated him then and hate him today.
Good memories.

knoxfire30

There are a lot better 1b/dh options, perez never played first except a handful of times and jose canseco was atleast adequate, what about guys like Brian Daubach, Jeff Liefer, and my favorite…..
HAROLD BAINES was freaking AWFUL in 2001 with the team and just below average in 2000.
I would add armando rios to the outfield list but thats not as good of a one as Baines.

knoxfire30

I just saw the cant be bad then good then bad, rule, and liefer actually did have one solid half for the sox.

conor

…Wait, what?

bigfun

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…
Isn’t this pretty much what happened with Swisher? I mean even if we want to give him the full whiner/bad clubhouse guy penalty, giving up on him after one obviously unlucky season and then giving him away to the Yankees for free speaks to the weaknesses of the front office, not Swisher as a player.

iowaoaks

Keep Swisher on there.
He’s a douche bag, a Yankee now (Yes, Yes, Yankee/douche bag -same thing, I know) and had a TERRIBLE year.
You gotta keep that steaming pile on the list.
Maybe his mom sees the list some how and then crys a lot. that would be good. you would be doing good then.

soxfan1

I’d like to nominate Rob Makoviak as CF or backup OF. He consistently misplayed balls hit over his head for the entire decade. He was acquired from the Pirates as a super-sub and never came clse to meeting expectations. I used to cringe every time I saw him in the starting lineup!

marshlands

This is a GREAT post. I’m digging down hard to try and think of ways to include the immortal Herb Perry, or even Brook Fordyce.
I feel like Josh Paul should be in consideration if only for his poor performance, “knowledge of catching”/”book writing”, and being on the sad, brutal end of Pierzynski’s ALCS sorcery.

arrow

Jim — Much as I love your blog, I have to say this kind of list bothers me. All of these guys are incomparably better baseball players than I (or probably anyone who posts comments here) ever was. I don’t mock a guy who was one of the 1,000 best ballplayers on earth at one time, just because he wasn’t one of the 500 best.

conor

So? Do you refrain from making fun of bad actors because they were good enough to find work in Hollywood and you weren’t? Never made fun of a terrible author or a president you like for the way they spoke because you didn’t have the experience, connections or funds to make a serious bid at the Oval Office?
Also, I don’t think Timo Perez was at any point in the top 1,000 players of all time. Ross Gload on the DL was more valuable in 05 than that guy.

conor

*Didn’t like.

arrow

I criticize bad actors, but I try not to mock them.
I didn’t mean to say 1,000 best of all time — I said 1,000 best “at one time”, which I meant as rhetorical shorthand for “good enough to be on a major league roster at a specific time”. Sorry for any confusion on that point.

iowaoaks

Don’t listen to him Jim.
This is great.

marshlands

I was under the impression that at least 60% of sports watching was for the LOLz. If you can’t laugh at sports, athletes, and especially your favorite team(s), what’s the damn point?

ricksch

I would have to say Andy Gonzalez wears the crown for his overall inepititude, but in terms of what each of these guy did for the Sox, it’s an unbeatable collection of zeroes.

LS_SoX_FN

i totally agree… andy gonzalez might be one of my all time favorite white sox just cause he makes me appreciate our current group of players so, so much more…
i will never forget that stretch where, not only could he not hit even the tiniest bit… but he airmailed every… single… throw to first… never seen anything like it since, and i hope i never do…