Say goodbye to the Black Sox

All hail Ozzie Guillen and his 2005 Chicago White Sox. Not just because they took the World Series in a four-game sweep. And not just because they hadn’t won anything truly important in 88 years – though I will admit that is a really long time – but because they’re the best thing to happen to the game of baseball in over twenty years.

The ’05 White Sox represent both the past and the future of baseball. They are a breath of clean, fresh air in the smog-filled, polluted atmosphere that Major League Baseball had become in the last decade. They are both cleanser and solvent.

Let me explain.

The baseball that you had been watching and cheering on and passionately following these last ten plus years wasn’t really baseball. It was just grown men, being paid like kings, downing steroids and scientifically created protein supplements, all in the “effort” to hit a very small ball over a fence. That, basically, was it. Yes, games were won and titles were claimed. But, in the end, the games and titles were fingered by thieves, tricksters.

From a fabric of lies and deceit, momentary heroes created a cloth that we now know was nothing but illusion. And this year, thanks to Canseco and the Congressional investigations/scandal that his (rather lousy) book eventually produced, this illusion was called out for what it was: a shame.

But now, let’s get back to those White Sox. Because it is in those White Sox that lies the hope and the future of Major League Baseball.

The White Sox play baseball. This may read simple. It is not. It is profound. Because the White Sox play baseball like baseball is supposed to be played. They pitch, they field, they hit, they run. And they do it all well and with precision. And they do it as a team.

Proof: the White Sox won the ’05 World Series without a single household sports name on their team.

Their most recognizable face and voice was that of their manager, the charming quote-machine that is Ozzie Guillen.

Yes, they played small ball. But more importantly, they played smart ball. They bunted, they stole, they hit-and-ran, they sacrificed.

There, that is the word. They sacrificed.

Day in, day out, the White Sox did the things in baseball that were supposedly outdated and out of fashion. They got a runner on – and it didn’t matter how they got that runner on, they just did. Then they laid down a bunt. Then they moved the runner over. And then they got the runner home. For the White Sox, it was that simple. They did the things that everyone in baseball had forgotten how to do. And they did those things exceptionally well.

Game four of the World Series proved this. In the ninth inning, with the game and the Series still on the line, it was the defense of Juan Uribe that allowed the White Sox to close the book. The defense, not the offense. Not the three-run homer that every team in MLB had come to so desperately rely on this past decade plus. Uribe made two consecutive plays that gave the South Side of Chicago its first championship in nearly nine decades. And he made the plays in that workman-like fashion that makes the ’05 White Sox so unique.

The ’05 White Sox were a team of nobodies that nobody wanted. Scott Podsednik, Juan Uribe, A.J. Pierzynksi, Jermaine Dye, Jose Contreras, El Duque. Castoffs. Throwaways. Only the White Sox sought them out, pulled them together and gave them a place to play, to shine. And only the White Sox are the 2005 MLB champs.

Guillen and his ’05 Sox embodied the way that the game of baseball has been played and taught for over a century. They were history, past and present. For baseball, at its best, is a precise, chess-like effort that matches wit against wit. At its best, it is an agile, challenging sport that most falter at and look like fools as they attempt to succeed.

It is only recently that baseball had been turned into a slugfest, a yawn of brawn and might. Guillen and his ’05 White Sox deserve their moment in the spotlight and the introspection that their championship run has brought to the game and its fans. And they deserve credit for returning baseball back to the game that so many of us remember it being when we were younger, a game that was played with a bat and a ball and a glove. Nothing more, nothing less.