2005 Baseball Preview
By Benjy Lipsman in News on Apr 4, 2005 2:20PM
Like the tulips beginning to poke from the dirt and construction cones sprouting along the roads, the annual optimism of opening day symbolize the coming of spring in Chicago. The Cubs and White Sox both open their seasons today, fans hoping the substantial changes each team made during the off-season will pay off with a World Series title come October. Will they? Chicagoist will give a quick summary of the changes, some points of interest and our predictions for the 2005 season.
Chicago White Sox
The 2004 season saw the White Sox go 83-79 and finish 2nd in the AL Central, despite losing some big bats (Magglio Ordonez, Frank Thomas) for substantial portions of the season and getting almost no production from their #5 starter spot in the rotation. However after underachieving for the past couple years, Sox GM Kenny Williams decided to go in another direction. In addition to not re-signing Maggio Ordonez, the Sox traded slugger Carlos Lee to Milwaukee for speedster Scott Podsednik and added Jermaine Dye as a free agent. The Sox will have mid-season acquisitions Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras all season, and signed Orlando Hernandez this winter. The big question is whether the move from a power team to one built on speed, defense and pitching will get the Sox over the hump or set them back further in the AL Central.
Jermaine Dye - OF
Tadahito Iguchi - 2B
Scott Podsednik - OF
A.J. Pierzynski - C
Orlando Hernandez - SP
Magglio Ordonez - OF
Carlos Lee - OF
Jose Valentin - SS
What's New for Fans: The White Sox unveil the latest round of upgrades to U.S. Cellular Field, including the new FUNdamentals section above the left field concourse, the Scout seating behind homeplate and the replacement of blue seats with traditional green seating throughout the park.
Chicagoist's Prediction: Pitching vastly improves with top-to-bottom solid rotation. Move to make Sox offense more balanced and bolster their defense mean they win more low-scoring and close games. The AL Central is going to be very tight this year, with Minnesota declining a little, Detroit improving and Cleveland's young core maturing. Only the Royals will likely be out of the race entering September.
Final record: 89-73, first in AL Central.
The season began with incredible optimism following a 2003 season that saw the Cubs come within 5 outs of the World Series. But the Cardinals ran away with the NL Central crown and the Cubs collapsed at the end of the season, falling just short of making the playoffs. Anti-Sosa sentiments grew during the off season due to his primadonna behavior and suspicion that steroids boosted his performance in past seasons. The Cubs ended up shipping him off to Baltimore, but the focus on moving Sosa meant the Cubs did little else to address their needs, particularly their need for a closer. Maybe Joe Borowski is healthy enough to regain that role, but he begins the year on the DL with a broken hand.
Jeromy Burnitz - OF
Jerry Hariston, Jr. - 2B/OF
Sammy Sosa - OF
Moises Alou - OF
Matt Clement - SP
What's New for Fans: The Cubs have an entirely new broadcast crew for TV this season, with Len Kasper and Bob Brenly replacing Steve Stone and Chip Caray. Kasper and Brenley will be interacting with fans on their own WGN-TV Baseball Blog throughout the season.
Chicagoist's Prediction: Pitching is the big wild card with this team. If Mark Prior and Kerry Woods stay healthy, this team should have the best rotation in baseball. But who will be their closer? Playoff success may depend on finding an answer. Nomar will have a big year -- feeding off the fans' embrace and looking to earn a big, multi-year deal. However, the Cardinals have the best 3-4-5 hitters in baseball and a rotation that has 5 possible 15-game winners, adding All Star Mark Mulder to last year's 105-win team.
Final record: 94-68, second in NL Central/Wild Card winner.