Opening Day is finally here for the two-time defending American League champion Texas Rangers. Ron Washington's club will be facing off against the Chicago White Sox -- who have undergone some changes this offseason.
We've heard all about the Rangers and their offseason -- and if you checked out our round table discussion and MLB predictions, you'd know expectations in '12 for the Rangers are sky high. To help preview the White Sox, and what we can expect from them this year, we've brought in Ricky O'Donnell from SB Nation Chicago.
What are the expectations surrounding the White Sox this year?
I would say even the most optimistic fans had to feel a real sense of dread when the Tigers inked Prince Fielder. If the Sox had a chance of sneaking into the playoffs, it probably disappeared after that signing. You can make a case for the Sox finishing above .500, but even in an everything-goes-reasonably-right scenario it's hard to see them winning more games than Detroit. The American League is obviously also very top heavy, so the Sox grabbing one of those wildcard slots seems almost more unrealistic.
I think the general expectation is that they'll be around .500. Losing your best pitcher (Mark Buehrle) and second most productive hitter (Carlos Quentin) from a 79 win team is never a good sign, but they have exciting young replacements in Chris Sale and Dayan Viciedo. There's also (presumably) no way Adam Dunn and Alex Rios can be as terrible as last year. I don't think anyone expects the White Sox to really challenge for the division, but they should at least stay in contention for a while, barring the Tigers getting off to a blazing start.
What do you think of new manager Robin Ventura? Is he the right man to replace Ozzie Guillen? How much different will their in-game management be?
I wasn't high on the Ventura hiring, but I also would have preferred Ozzie Guillen won his power struggle with GM Kenny Williams instead of the other way around. Williams was seriously considering making first baseman Paul Konerko player-manager. He's bad and maybe insane. After the Sox signed Ventura, I saw a lot of positive tweets and Facebook statuses from, let's say, less than enlightened fans. Ventura was beloved as a player here in the early '90s, and I assume that popularity factored into about 95% of the decision. They're hoping to sell some tickets off the novelty of Ventura as manager.
Only catch: at last check, his most related experience was as a high school hitting coach. So yeah. Not exactly a great resume. Because of that, we don't know what to expect at all. So far, I'm pretty bummed by his decision to hit Brent Moral second.
What players do you expect will have very good years for Chicago in 2012? Do you expect any player(s) to break out?
I'd love to see Alexei Ramirez have a career-defining season. It always seems like he's on the cusp of breaking out, but really hasn't yet. Viciedo is another great candidate, as the Sox are gonna need *someone* to drive in runs. Might as well be him.
The White Sox have been ranked dead last in most team prospect rankings. Does that add to expectations for the 2012 season, knowing that the minors, as they currently stand, won't be sending much impact talent to Chicago in the near future?
The minors are hopeless. This is why Williams deserved to be fired: he's built a team with virtually no chance at contending, and there are zero reinforcements on the way. The Sox are in dire need of young talent, and their farm system is about as desolate as any team in the league. It's sort of a hopeless situation.
If the White Sox falter this year, will it be the end of the Kenny Williams era?