White Sox have style all their own
Small ball and hard work rule the day for champions
HOUSTON -- Winners in baseball, as in any other walk of life, are often flattered by imitation. Someone had to be the first soccer-style kicker in football, try the first sky hook in basketball, or wear the first beehive hairdo on the Sunset Strip.Good luck trying to imitate the newest World Series champions. Two things set apart the Chicago White Sox. One is their multiple personality. They didn't do things any particular way, but whatever way was called for. They were neither vanilla nor chocolate, but Neapolitan. Two, Ozzie Guillen's managerial style. He managed by the seat of his pants. If he managed by the book, it was a Mad Magazine anthology. And good luck turning that into a mold. An exciting night of baseball ending in Chicago's 1-0 victory in Wednesday night's Game 4 of the World Series only reinforced the perception that these are exciting times for the game. The White Sox are the sixth different World Series winner in six years. Furthermore, following Boston's accomplishment last year, this is the first time that two different teams have swept consecutive Fall Classics. Those six alternating champions reflect distinctive styles -- the Yankees, the Diamondbacks, the Angels, the Marlins, and the two colors of Sox. The Whites now rule. They set the trends. On third thought, these White Sox did have a distinguishing characteristic: Interrupting this personality-driven era, they lacked a true marquee player. Paul Konerko had the biggest power numbers, and drew the biggest postgame media crowds thirsting for good quotes. A.J. Pierzynski certainly was the most entertaining. The latest proof of that was Pierzynski doing a clubhouse duet with Steve Perry following the Game 4 clincher. Prince Pierzynski also announced that his mates will "party like it's 1917." But there certainly were no above-the-title names. Just a bunch of agate entries, all contributing their share, even if their contributions were rarely requested. "Every time we take the field," Guillen said, "I know we got the best players on the field because they show up here every day. And ... they did it, they make it happen." Good heavens, just scan the key moments of four World Series games ... Joe Crede's glove to Scott Podsednik's home run to Geoff Blum's home run to Willie Harris scoring the title-winning run. The White Sox were like the proverbial carrot to Houston -- always within reach, but unreachable. On any given night, the Sox did what was needed, and little more. Their only formula was to wing it. Even the opponents had to applaud the way they were beaten. Craig Biggio hated the losing part. But he could appreciate having to give it up to a team whose philosophy extends beyond playing for the three-run homer. "From a fan's perspective, they've been great games," said Biggio. "[The White Sox] are a solid team; they play the game the right way. "A lot of these games could have went the other way." Yes, because the Astros also played the game the right way (though for four days in October, not as right as the White Sox did). Chicago won 22 games during the regular season while scoring three runs or fewer. Astounding? To the hulking Red Sox and Yankees, yes -- each did that only nine times. But not to the Astros, 20-time winners under those circumstances.
But here's the impressive part: The White Sox planned to win games using that style. It was integral to general manager Ken Williams' vision, and part of his sales pitch to the players who could help him realize it."I knew we were good," said World Series MVP Jermaine Dye, "and [didn't have an] overpowering offense, but an offense that is going to score at least four or five runs and let our pitchers go out there and keep us in the ballgame." This isn't supposed to happen these days. Not in the offense-minded American League. With 200 home runs, the White Sox certainly didn't completely go banjo. The 1959 White Sox were a genuine Go-Go band, with a total of 97 homers. But Williams made sure to outfit Guillen with slump-proof parts that could shoulder the burden, the pitching and fielding bounties able to ride out offensive droughts. Interestingly, the lack of a headlining slugger also led to an absolute lack of self-importance in their clubhouse. While the Yankees clubhouse includes those proverbial roommates Aura and Mystique, the Sox rallied around something else that also sounds like a starlet -- Modesty. "We don't have any egos on this team," Dye said. "I think that was what was really special about this club. Everybody got along with each other and everybody just wanted to win and go out there and do whatever." Whatever. In the mouth of a jaded teenager, a careless sentiment implying disinterest. But in the White Sox dugout, that was the irascible attitude that carried them to the top of baseball's mountain. Try imitating that.
Tom Singer is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.