Sox should study history to avoid Twins’ long slide from champs to doormats

By Jeremy Werner

It’s hard to believe that less than two years ago the Chicago White Sox went on an incredible postseason tear en route to sweeping the Houston Astros, giving the White Sox their first World Series title in 88 years.

Through Sunday, the White Sox are in last place in the American League Central; yes, even behind the should-be Triple-A franchise Kansas City Royals. The Sox trail the division-leading Cleveland Indians by 22 games and are in a battle royale with Tampa Bay, Florida and Pittsburgh for the unpopular title of worst team in baseball.

So, two years removed from a World Series title the Sox have gone from the blueprint of success to the butt of all Cubs fans jokes (live it up while you can, North Siders).

Putting the Sox extremely quick fall from grace into historical perspective it turns out the White Sox rapid decline is one of the quickest downfalls in recent history.

The one team that can claim to be more disappointing after a World Series victory is the Florida Marlins.

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    After winning the 1997 World Series following a 92-70 season, the Marlins won only 54 games in 1998 and 64 games in 1999.

    But after winning the World Series, the Marlins went through an infamous “fire sale” through trading or allowing their best players to walk in free agency due to tight financial constraints.

    These included pitchers Kevin Brown, Alex Fernandez and Robb Nen along with hitters Moises Alou, Bobby Bonilla and Devon White.

    Florida even traded superstar Gary Sheffield early in the 1998 season.

    The Marlins made even more drastic financial cuts in 1999. The Marlins’ team payroll decreased from $48 million in 1997 to $33 million in 1998 to a paltry $15 million in 1999.

    Unlike the Marlins, the Sox had plenty of money to spend after their World Series victory.

    The Sox increased their payroll from $75 million to $103 million in 2006 and $108 million this season, adding Jim Thome and Javier Vazquez and re-signing Paul Konerko and Jon Garland to expensive extensions.

    To put it into perspective, by winning 64 games in 1999 with a payroll of $15 million, the Marlins paid roughly $243,000 per win.

    In contrast, if the White Sox continue on their demoralizing pace they will win 69 games and are paying nearly $1.57 million per victory.

    A team the Sox more closely resemble is the Minnesota Twins of the early 1990s.

    After winning the World Series in 1991, the Twins won 90 games but failed to make the playoffs in 1992.

    In 1993, however, the Twins took a hard dive in the win column, finishing 71-91 beginning a decade at or near the bottom of the American

    League. Minnesota was unable to make the playoffs until 2002 when they won the AL Central.

    Heading into the 2006 All-Star break, the Sox were 57-31, trailing the World Series-bound Detroit Tigers by two games.

    Since then, the Sox have won 93 and lost 122 games.

    Anyone who’s paid attention knows how this happened: an offense that ranks last or near last in the league in almost every statistical category, inconsistency from the big run producers, Jose Contreras and a bullpen that has more trouble sealing the deal than the 40-year-old virgin.

    Injuries have also depleted the White Sox lineup, especially to World Series heroes Scott Podsednik and Joe Crede.

    The Sox have not found adequate replacements from the minor leagues to replace Podsednik’s electricity at the top of the lineup and Crede’s glove and clutch hitting.

    The Sox dealt some of their biggest prospects following the 2005 World Series in an effort to repeat.

    Only a few prospects, highlighted by Josh Fields, have made even a minor positive impact for the Sox.

    Kenny Williams faces an uphill battle to turn this team around.

    The Sox have a good nucleus with Thome, Konerko and Dye in the middle of the lineup.

    The rotation is still one of the better staffs in the league with Mark Buehrle, Garland and Vazquez anchoring and John Danks showing flashes of being a solid starter.

    And Bobby Jenks is one of the best closers in the majors.

    What the Sox need to bring back is the “grinders.” The players who get on base for the big bats, sacrifice bunt, steal bases or throw a scoreless seventh or eighth inning.

    Ozzie Guillen is not the problem. He led the Sox to the World Series with the “grinder” attitude.

    He only needs the player personnel to buy into and execute the fundamentals.

    We will see if Williams can retool so the Sox can escape the fate of the Twins during the 1990s.

    Jeremy Werner is a junior in Communications. He can be reached at [email protected].