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Original Issue

1 Chicago White Sox Good young arms plus scary veteran bats add up to a team to be reckoned with

Lefthander Mark Buehrle caused a bit of concern in the White Sox
organization during the off-season when he turned to Cardinals
general manager Walt Jocketty at a banquet and told him that he
would love St. Louis to acquire him. When the comment made it
into the Chicago newspapers, White Sox general manager Kenny
Williams expressed disappointment in Buehrle, whose 3.29 ERA was
the lowest among American League lefties last year. That in turn
prompted the 22-year-old Buehrle to quickly make it clear that
he wasn't looking to leave. "C'mon, I was kidding," he said. "I
grew up a Cards fan, but I love Chicago. It was a joke."

On the first day of spring training Buehrle arrived at his
locker and found a Cardinals cap waiting for him. That too was a
gag, by his teammates, which is a positive sign for the White
Sox. Their clubhouse wasn't exactly Comedy Central last season,
with finger-pointing among the players and an alarming number of
injuries, including Frank Thomas's torn right triceps. The big
injury ended the Big Hurt's season after just 20 games and
effectively ended Chicago's too.

The dark mood has been lifted, at least temporarily. Thomas has
declared himself to be healthy and capable of putting up the
kind of numbers to which the Sox have become accustomed,
something along the lines of his 43 homers, 143 RBIs and .328
batting average of 2000. It also helps that David Wells, the
outspoken pitcher who accused Thomas of being unwilling to play
in pain (before it was discovered that the pain was from the
torn triceps), is gone. Wells accomplished the nearly
impossible, making the often surly Thomas seem like a
sympathetic figure.

Thomas will never lead the league in smiles, but he understands
the importance of making sure that the Sox clubhouse is as
cheerful a place as it was when Chicago won the American League
Central two years ago. "I'm going to do what I can to be a much
happier person," he says. "In this clubhouse we can't have any
nagging or complaining."

If Thomas is back to his old, slugging self, he will combine
with first baseman Paul Konerko and underrated rightfielder
Magglio Ordonez to give the White Sox a potent middle of the
batting order. Manager Jerry Manuel believes that the free-agent
signing of centerfielder Kenny Lofton, 34, will create even more
RBI opportunities, though Williams hedged his bet by signing
Lofton to a one-year, incentive-laden contract.

Lofton is clearly no longer the player who set an Indians team
record with 75 steals in 1998. Age and injuries slowed him down
to 16 thefts in 24 attempts last year, but he can still run down
balls in the gaps. Along with second baseman Ray Durham, the No.
2 hitter, he will help energize the offense. "I've never been on
a team with this much speed," says the 6'5", 270-pound Thomas.
"I told Konerko we're the only two guys on the team who won't
have a green light to run."

The run production should be high enough to ensure that
Chicago's young, promising pitching staff doesn't feel too much
of a burden. Buehrle won 16 games in his first full year, and
righthander Jon Garland, 22, is a candidate for that kind of
breakthrough season this year. Righthander Todd Ritchie, 30, won
11 games for the Pirates last year, and with the better run
support he can expect from the White Sox, he should add several
more wins to that total. With Keith Foulke, who saved 42 games
last season, settled into the closer's role, Chicago has good
reason to feel that it can reclaim the division title from
Cleveland. To do so, it will have to keep Thomas healthy--and
the clubhouse happy--all year. --Phil Taylor

COLOR PHOTO: STEPHEN GREEN Buehrle says that his wish to play for his hometown Cards was a joke and that Chicago is his kind of town.


Frank Thomas remains the major leagues' active career leader in
on-base percentage, at .438, though it has fallen .014 since the
end of the 1997 season.

an opposing team's scout sizes up the White Sox

"This is a very explosive offensive club, and that's what's
going to get it done in the AL Central.... Kenny Lofton played
well in spring training. I've seen a new fire. Every once in a
while a guy needs a change of scenery. The game seems to be fun
for him again. He quit running the last year or two, but Jerry
Manuel will cajole him and give him the green light. I could see
Lofton hitting .300 and stealing 40 bases.... Paul Konerko has
become a tremendous hitter. He handles every pitch in every
location and hits for power and average. Magglio Ordonez is the
same.... The Indians made a very good decision in getting rid of
Sandy Alomar. His tools have deteriorated. He's the most
overrated guy I've ever seen in terms of leadership and calling
games. He doesn't catch it or throw it well, and he's done
offensively.... Chicago's defense will be bad. First base is
average at best, Ray Durham's O.K. but inconsistent, Carlos Lee
is a train wreck, and Ordonez is average. Lofton takes bad
routes and angles on the ball. He'll be on the highlight reel
jumping over the wall, but he plays deep because he doesn't
trust himself.... Jim Parque's stuff isn't back yet [after arm
surgery last May], and that's a real concern. His fastball is
81, 82. It should be 87, 88.... Todd Ritchie has a heavy sinker,
a hard slider and a good feel for his change. He's a notoriously
slow starter, though. He started 0-8 last year and was 8-8 at
one point.... Keith Foulke might be the most underrated closer
in the game. He throws 90-94, and his change is a knockout-type

projected roster with 2001 statistics


CF Kenny Lofton[1] L 128 .261 14 66 16
2B Ray Durham S-R 68 .267 20 65 23
DH Frank Thomas R 25 .221 4 10 0
RF Magglio Ordonez R 30 .305 31 113 25
1B Paul Konerko R 77 .282 32 99 1
LF Carlos Lee R 105 .269 24 84 17
3B Jose Valentin S-R 121 .258 28 68 9
C Sandy Alomar Jr. R 284 .245 4 21 1
SS Royce Clayton R 249 .263 9 60 10


OF Aaron Rowand R 281 .293 4 20 5
IF Tony Graffanino R 327 .303 2 15 4


RH Mark Buehrle 23 16 8 6.9 1.07 3.29
RH Todd Ritchie[1] 66 11 15 6.3 1.27 4.47
LH Jim Parque 132 0 3 5.6 1.64 8.04
RH Jon Garland 118 6 7 5.2 1.52 3.69
RH Danny Wright 183 5 3 5.3 1.76 5.70


RH Keith Foulke 28 4 9 42 0.98 2.33
RH Bobby Howry 162 4 5 5 1.46 4.69
LH Kelly Wunsch 253 2 1 0 1.34 7.66

[1]New acquisition (R) Rookie B-T: Bats-throws IPS: Innings
pitched per start

WHIP: Walks plus hits per inning pitched
PVR: Player Value Ranking (explanation on page 154)

Jerry Manuel
fifth season with Chicago

2001 record
third in AL Central

with defensive ratings

Golden Glover


Good Leather


Iron Hands