Column: Basepath facelifts

By Jeff Feyerer

“What don’t you like about yourself?”

When this question was posed to Chicago Cubs’ general manager Jim Hendry and Chicago White Sox boss Kenny Williams this off-season, both had the same resounding answer.

Everything.

Falling below expectations is no longer an option for Hendry or Williams.

As a result, the Chicago ball clubs went under the knife and will enter the 2005 season with two of the biggest face-lifts this side of Nip/Tuck.

On the South Side, Williams and manager Ozzie Guillen are building a team less around power, an odd strategy considering they live in homer haven U.S. Cellular Field.

Guillen believes speed, defense and pitching are going to win games for the White Sox, like they did for the Marlins, when he was their third base coach two years ago.

He now has the personnel to get it done.

Gone are outfield staples Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez. In are speedster Scott Podsednik and the solid, if healthy, Jermaine Dye.

Longtime shortstop Jose Valentin is out. Just like he was after American League pitchers threw him a curveball.

Utility man Juan Uribe becomes entrenched as the everyday shortstop and Japanese second baseman Tadahito Iguchi brings his stellar glove, fleet feet and All-Star numbers to America in hopes of replicating Shingo Takatsu’s successful transition.

Some are very critical of Williams and the way he has changed the team.

Fans need to understand the Sox weren’t going anywhere swatting the balls out of the park.

Even resigning Ordonez would have been an expensive risk, considering the severity of the knee injury he suffered last year.

And it’s not as if the Sox will suffer a power outage.

Remember, this is a team that hit a club record 242 home runs with Ordonez and Frank Thomas out most of the year.

In all honesty, I couldn’t be happier.

He took Lee, Ordonez and the limited cap space given by Jerry Reinsdorf and turned it into Dye, Podsednik, starter Orlando Hernandez, catcher A.J.Pierzynski and relievers Luis Vizcaino and Dustin Hermanson.

Williams filled every necessary hole and has given the White Sox their best chance to overtake the Twins and win the AL Central since 2000.

Over at Wrigley Field, a change in attitude had to be made.

I don’t see any way the Cubs expected to compete in 2005 with Sammy Sosa and Moises Alou still on their roster.

Both may be veterans that have had illustrious careers, but they failed to bring leadership in the locker room.

The two All-Stars spent more time worrying about their position in the batting order, what announcers were saying, their next contracts and finding time to urinate on their hands.

Not seeing Chicago flooded with Sosa jerseys will be weird and as much as many may see it as the loss of a Chicago icon, I see it as a blessing in disguise.

Yeah, the Cubs got the equivalent of a can of beef stew and a couple Damon Berryhill baseball cards for Sosa, but the trade will clear the air of animosity in the clubhouse and allow everyone to relax.

With Sosa and Alou gone, players like Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Greg Maddux, Nomar Garciaparra, Derek Lee and the newly acquired Jeromy Burnitz can provide the leadership that was lacking.

The only other thing holding the Cubs back from overtaking the Cardinals in the NL Central is the injury bug.

Somehow the Cubs managed to pull close in the playoff race despite almost everyone on the team spending time on the disabled list, but that cannot happen again. In order to win, the Cubs need to be healthy.

Will these changes lead to big things on both sides of town?

Fans will begin to see with pitchers and catchers reporting to camp this week.

It’s evident on both sides of town: Hendry and Williams hold the same opinion about their respective offseason moves.

With as much success as they’ve had living up to expectations recently, it’s worth a shot.

Or at least a face-lift.