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Reader Mail
May 8, 2002

With a flood of e-mail pouring in, this edition of Foul Territory will answer questions and comments from the readers.  Dave from Western Springs, IL, had this to say in response to my statement a couple weeks ago when I claimed that the White Sox lineup, 1 through 9, is the best in at least a decade:

Nice column on the three upstart squads -  absent the grammar errors.  Your analysis is right on, in my humble opinion. 

However, and you knew there was a however, I take exception to your Notes section asking if there has been a better 1 through 9 lineup than the Chisox in the last 10 years.

My answer is yes - EVERY Year.  And probably more than one squad each year.    How about the Mariners last year and the Yankees winning all those World Series with a #9 hitter being the MVP.  How about the Indians with Manny, Thome, Belle, Alomar. Vizquel, their weakest, is better than Clayton. The rest of those guys smoke the little boys in black and white.  The Sox lineup absent Thomas and Mags consists of some pesky sub .300 hitters with either speed or power ( but only both by one player,  the much maligned and enigmatic El Caballo).  The catching duties are shared by two mediocre offensive players.  The shortstop  is a .250 hitter with little power and little speed.  Third base, a traditional classic power-RBI spot, is anchored by a player who wouldn't know what a .275 average or 100 RBI is - he has never accomplished either. In fact he is a carreer .247 hitter.  He bats six in the lineup , for crying out loud.  And the  first baseman, the #5 hitter,  is a Karros or Ziele clone who has never seen the North side of .300 or 100 RBI.  

Your analysis of the 'overachieving' upstart squads correctly noted that it is really early.  Your comment regarding the chisox suggests, when it comes to hometown heroes off to a torrid start, your heart controls the keyboard.  As the Pirates and Expos cool off, expect the same to happen to the 10th to 15th best offensive squad in the majors - even though they live in your own backyard.
First of all, yes, my comment was quite simply wrong and misstated.  I should have said that no lineup has been HOTTER during such a stretch of games (which could still be contested I suppose).  Implying that there have been no better lineups in the long run was a bad move, but the Pale Hose can still hit.  In response to Dave's comments, he made some good points and brought up some good teams over the past 10 years.  Let's take a look at how the '02 White Sox compare.

First, here's a quick rundown of the typical White Sox lineup this year:
CF K. Lofton
2B R. Durham
DH F. Thomas
RF M. Ordonez
1B P. Konerko
3B Jose Valentin
LF C. Lee
C S. Alomar/M. Johnson
SS R. Clayton

Our reader brings up the powerful Indians team of the '90s.  1995 was their most dominant, so let's take a look at that lineup (from Game 3 of the World Series):
CF K. Lofton
SS O. Vizquel
2B C. Baerga
LF A. Belle
DH E. Murray
3B J. Thome
RF M. Ramirez
1B P. Sorrento
C S. Alomar/T. Pena

A comparison:
1. Obviously, the '95 Lofton, in his prime, gets the nod.  Adv: Indians
2. Vizquel is solid in the #2 slot, but Durham can do more with the bat.  Adv. Sox
3. Baerga had a decent year but still not close to the Big Hurt.  Adv. Sox
4. Ordonez is an All-Star for many years to come but it doesn't get much better than Albert Belle in his prime.  Adv. Indians
5. Murray had a nice run in '95 but was winding down and wasn't quite the threat that Konerko is today.  Adv. Sox
6. No contest here.  Thome in '95 was still hitting for average (.314) and beginning to find his power stroke (25 HRs).  Adv. Indians
7. "El Caballo" has potential, but Manny in '95 was meeting his potential and putting up big numbers across the board.  Adv. Indians
8. Sorrento is a below average 1B who hit .235 in '95, but his 25 HRs is heads and tails above Alomar or Mark Johnson.  Adv. Indians
9. While Clayton is the more prototypical #9 hitter, his low batting average costs him here.  Adv. Indians

It looks like the Indians of the mid '90s had much more punch than the current Chicago White Sox.  On a side note, receiving just a handful of ABs during the '95 season for the Indians were Jeromy Burnitz and Brian Giles.  As for the Yankees over the past decade, it's tough to find a lineup that measures up to either of these teams.  Looking at the '98 Yanks who won 114 regular season games, they were consistently playing the likes of Scott Brosius, Chad Curtis, Tino Martinez, and Darryl Strawberry.  The reason the Yankees were so many rings can be answered with pitchers named Wells, Cone, Pettitte, El Duque, Rivera, Nelson, Clemens, etc.

What about the lineup for the 116 win '01 Mariners?  Their lineup changed frequently but generally included Ichiro, McLemore, E. Martinez, Olerud, B. Boone, Cameron, S. Javier, D. Bell, and D. Wilson.  There are a few good names here but guys like Boone and McLemore had career years.  Nevertheless, their career years are why their lineup was stacked from top to bottom.  I would rather have the White Sox's lineup than this one but I can understand an argument for both.  The deciding factor for me is trying to imagine this year's White Sox lineup coupled with the pitching of Garcia, Sele, Moyer, Rhodes, Nelson, and Sasaki.  I'm thinking they could have won about, oh, say 116 games.  Hmmm, let's call it a draw.

Thanks to everyone for the comments.  Keep them coming.  I will try to answer them all and any interesting emails will find their way into a future column.