White Sox need new manager, new approach
The door of Ozzie Guillen's office was shut tight the last two days of the season, his belongings waiting to be packed and shipped south to the Florida Marlins.
The biggest question now for the White Sox after a tumultuous and stressful season (79-83) is this: who will be the manager next season?
''No matter who comes in, it's going to be quieter,'' team leader and first baseman Paul Konerko said.
The change will, no doubt, be a welcome one for general manager Ken Williams, whose relationship with Guillen was fractured beyond repair.
The two former teammates, who led the White Sox to the 2005 World Series title as manager-GM, couldn't mend their differences, even though owner Jerry Reinsdorf told them to do just that for the sake of the team.
Instead Guillen, with a year left on his deal, didn't get the contract extension he began talking about at the end of August when Chicago was still within striking distance of the AL Central lead. So Chicago released him from his contract and got two minor league prospects from the Marlins as compensation.
Williams said his list of potential successors is short. He has identified a preferred candidate, and he's already started working on what will be the biggest move of the offseason.
Speculative candidates are Sandy Alomar Jr., who was just named the Cleveland Indians bench coach for next season. As a catcher, Alomar was signed three different times by the White Sox as a free agent and also reacquired in a trade. Another is Tampa Rays bench coach Dave Martinez, who played for both the White Sox and Cubs.
Guillen's replacement and the new White Sox hitting coach will share one challenge: how to get Adam Dunn to hit again.
Although he didn't have enough plate appearances to officially qualify for the lowest batting average in modern major league baseball history, Dunn still had one of the worst seasons ever by a big leaguer: a .159 average in 496 plate appearances with just 11 homers and 42 RBIs while striking out a team-record 177 times. All after Williams and the White Sox gave him a four-year $56 million contract to be the power hitter and run producer he had been all of his career in the NL.
Dunn didn't take BP during last offseason and never figured out the DH role or the stable of AL pitchers. Throw in a sub-par season from Alex Rios (.227, 13, 44) and the middle of the White Sox's order was hamstrung, saved by a great season from Konerko (.300, 31, 105).
After finding a manager, Williams also must decide whether to bring back durable lefty Mark Buehrle, who has pitched at least 200 innings every season since 2001. Buehrle (13-9), who will become a free agent, has been a franchise pitcher for the White Sox with 161 victories, including a no-hitter and perfect game.
Buehrle said he'd like to return but wasn't sure which direction the White Sox would go. Veteran left fielder and leadoff hitter Juan Pierre (.279, 27 steals) also can be a free agent.
Jake Peavy went 7-7 in 18 starts after a rare surgery to repair a muscle in the back of his shoulder. Lefty John Danks finished 8-12 after losing his first eight decisions and is arbitration eligible, along with right fielder Carlos Quentin (.254, 24, 77). Quentin, who made the All-Star team, played only one game the final month after injuring his shoulder.
Gavin Floyd was 12-13 but didn't win the final month. Hard-throwing lefty setup reliever Chris Sale was 2-2 with a 2.79 ERA and could move to the rotation next season. Phil Humber, who made the team out of spring training, had a strong first half and struggled in the second while finishing 9-9. Converted infielder Sergio Santos took over the closer's role from Matt Thornton and finished with 30 saves. And Jesse Crain (8-3, 2.62) was solid out of the bullpen in his first season with Chicago.
Second baseman Gordon Beckham played well in the field but struggled with a .230 average, and Brent Morel emerged as the starter at third base. Catcher A.J. Pierzynski, a holdover from the 2005 World Series winner with Konerko and Buehrle, caught 1,000 innings for the 10th straight season while batting .287, despite having his wrist broken by a pitch in August.
A budding star could by 22-year-old Dayan Viciedo, who batted .255 in 29 games as a callup and can play first and the outfield.
The White Sox's $127 million budget is expected to be reduced. They've missed the playoffs three straight seasons since winning the division in 2008.
''I guess the good thing in what you say is that from '08 to this year we have been in position to win. The bad thing is we haven't been able to bring it home,'' Williams said.
''This is a year in which I go into the offseason thinking moreso of us having to take a step back. And the reason I have to is that I can't reasonably project where some of the guys have fallen off this year, how they'll come back.''
Williams said the White Sox could pay more attention to who they already have in their system and forgo the signing of a marquee free agent or making a big trade.
''That might be a departure from who and what we've been,'' Williams said.
But that's already happened with Guillen leaving after a memorable tenure that often featured headlines for what he had to say.
Konerko was around for all of Guillen's managerial stay in Chicago and described the era as a little nuts but also enjoyable and successful.
''This organization has been around for over 100 years, and I feel like I've been right in the middle of the wildest, craziest time of this organization in its existence,'' Konerko said. ''Yeah, it's been crazy. It's never been boring.''