The White Sox may not play any differently, but they'll certainly have a different look. They've got a new-look manager, Tony La Russa of Tony La Russa Uses Hair Spray fame. "If I'd known what people were going to say to me in the clubhouse, I never would have done that ad," says La Russa, a tough guy in his seventh year as Chicago manager. Then there's the new, slimline roster, which no longer resembles a bunch of piano movers. Banished were those 270-pounders, pitcher LaMarr Hoyt (to San Diego) and DH Greg Luzinski (to high school coaching).
Where's the beef? In relief. Former Expo Bob James, a 6'4", 230-pound bearded righthander, is a formidable sight just standing on the mound. "If they're intimidated, so much the better," says James, "but it's not intentional. I'm throwing the ball to the catcher, not the hitter." That hasn't always been easy. In the minors, James averaged almost a walk an inning. He finally gained some control in '83, and last year he was effective enough to win six games and save 10. The question now is whether his fastball has enough movement to make him the big-time short reliever Chicago has needed for five years.
There is a miniroster of other new faces: Daryl Boston, a go-get-'em rookie centerfielder who will push Rudy Law and his pouting and poor arm into part-time service as a leftfielder; pitcher Tim Lollar (11-13), who was acquired from San Diego in the Hoyt deal; Ozzie Guillen, a rookie from Venezuela in the mold of former White Sox shortstops Luis Aparicio and Chico Carrasquel; and Guillen's countryman Luis Salazar, the talented ex-Padre who can double at third base or centerfield.
Whether leftfielder Ron Kittle, catcher Carlton Fisk and second baseman Julio Cruz, among others, will look like their old selves remains a question. Kittle, the 1983 Rookie of the Year, hit for power in '84 (32 homers, 74 runs batted in) but suffered a late-season slump that left him with the fourth-lowest average (.215) of any regular in the league. This year he'll play leftfield only against some lefthanded pitchers and DH the rest of the time. Kittle watchers are debating whether DH-ing will keep him fresh for a whole season or give him too much time to think. Fisk hit .231 and played in only 102 games last season while suffering from a pulled stomach muscle. After undergoing off-season foot surgery, Cruz didn't even play his first spring-training game until March 25. He must improve considerably on his anemic (.222, 14 steals, 18 errors) 1984 season to keep his job. It may also be put-up-or-shut-up time for starters Britt Burns (4-12), Richard Dotson (14-15) and Floyd Bannister (14-11).
The 1984 White Sox didn't look that bad. They won 25 fewer games than the '83 division champs and dropped from first to fifth, but rightfielder Harold Baines (.304, 29, 94) and first baseman Greg Walker (.294, 24, 75) hit with the best, and Tom Seaver (15-11) ran his career win total to 288. For all the questions surrounding the 1985 team, Seaver's quest for 300 wins will be worth watching in the worst of times.