By Scoop Jackson
Page 2

Remember Geoff Blum? Didn't think so. But of all of the trade deadline moves made last July 31, Blum's was the one that had major impact. Oh, he only hit .200 in 31 games for the White Sox. But when Ozzie Guillen put him in Game 3 of the World Series and Blum hit a 14th-inning home run … well, let it be written that the White Sox might not have won the World Series without Geoff Blum.

This deadline, the White Sox did nothing. No big moves, nothing small. Instead, Ken Williams, the general manager who went from insane to genius in less than three years, decided that doing nothing will translate into forward movement.

And of all the trades that went down, his non-moves might be the most important in baseball. Because for the next two months -- 58 games -- the White Sox have to use what they got to get what they want. Making what Williams did -- or didn't do -- as important as the Yankees getting Bobby Abreu or the Rangers getting Carlos Lee.

But what was Williams supposed to do? What?

Leading up to the trading deadline there were stories in the Chicago papers with headlines that read "How To Shrink Sox's Troubles" and "Slope Growing Slippery" next to photos of Ken Williams inside of a radar scope with the on-target caption "Zip On The Radar."

Unlike any other GM, Williams had to make a decision based on confidence and swagger as much as he did trying to solve the external issues that were staring his team in the face: shaky pitching and inconsistent hitting.

Get a big name in a trade, he's sending a message that the team he assembled to begin the season isn't one that he believes in. Do nothing and he runs the risk of July's sub-.500 record turning into the rest of the season. Which -- especially if you look at how the Sox played in the second half of last year when they let a 15-game lead shrink to 1 ½ games -- is a not-so-promising premise for a team that a month ago, according to most analysts, was better than last year's team.

Panic?

Yes, panic … but don't let anyone see what panic looks like. Keep panic still. Maintain immobilarity.

They say stats don't lie. And stats -- especially when you're the defending World Series champions -- have the tendency to make people panic. Especially MLB GMs.

The Sox are 5-11 since the All-Star break and finished 10-15 in July.

In less than three weeks, from 2 games out of the AL Central lead to 7 1/2 games out.

Ninth in the AL in ERA (13th in July, with a 5.64 ERA).

All-Star pitcher Mark Buehrle's ERA is 11.47 over his last five starts.

Starter Javier Vazquez's ERA is 7.16 since June 1 and opponents are hitting .347 off him after 75 pitches.

Closer Bobby Jenks has an un-Mariano-like 3.78 ERA.

The winning percentage since manager Ozzie Guillen's league-imposed sensitivity training: .469. And most important: The stat of 0. As in even in games, as in 0 games out ... but not in. The number represents the distance (through Monday) between the White Sox making the playoffs and not making it at all. The White Sox' 62-42 record is even with 61-41 record of the Yankees, leaving the teams tied for the wild card (the Twins are 61-43). And not only do the Yanks now have Abreu, they will get either Hideki Matsui or Gary Sheffield back (maybe both) for the stretch run leading into September.

Panic?

Yes… only if you consider "as is" a panic move.

By doing nothing, Williams showed belief in what he did over the winter. By doing nothing he showed that the White Sox will not miss Aaron Rowand (who was traded to the Phillies in the Jim Thome deal) in center field, El Duque (who was traded to Arizona in the Javier Vazquez deal) in the bullpen, Blum off the bench or Frank Thomas as a pain in the organization's ass. By doing nothing, he showed that he believes Ozzie will find that "magic" again and get his players to overachieve. By doing nothing, Williams believes this squad has what it takes to repeat as champs.

"The reason Kenny didn't do anything is that he couldn't make a decision on where he needed help the most," said a Sox fan outside the Off The Track breakfast spot underneath the EL on Wells. "On the mound or at the plate? He needed both but could only choose one."

Soriano or Zito? Can't have both. Didn't get either.

Tejada or Maddux? Can't have both. Didn't get one.

Or as WPWX radio jock Leon Rogers stated, "Williams had to think about trading for someone just so another team didn't get a chance to get better. That's why Abreu to the Yanks is so serious to the Sox. He should have made a move so that one of teams he has to go through doesn't improve. … Just don't let a player that you could have put on your roster come back and haunt you and be the reason you didn't make it back to the World Series … or the playoffs for that matter."

In an interview with Bruce Levine on ESPN 1000 last week, Williams used the words "aggressive" and "irresponsible" to differentiate between the heaven and hell that all of a sudden came with defending a crown. "You have to stay with your convictions," he said. "All last year did was fuel the fire."

Which might explain why the team in most desperate need to make a move didn't. Might explain why Williams didn't panic … when everyone else in the city is.

"We have intentions of making the playoffs and winning another World Series," Williams told Levine. "Despite how we've played the last eight, nine games, the glass is half full."

The empty half represents the reality that the White Sox' battle to defend world supremacy has left them closer to the third-place Twins in the Central than the team that has become the 2006 version of the 2005 White Sox, the league-leading Tigers.

But panic moves are for desperate men in Williams' mind, I guess. Why do something unnecessary when all you have to do is wait for your pitching staff to come around and your bats to wake up?

So what if his bullpen is giving up runs like Jose Canseco gave up teammates? So what that in the last two games in the recent series against the Tigers (where the White Sox were only 4 ½ games out going in) his 1 through 4 hitters went 0-for-29? So what that in the last 12 games Thome has only two RBI, both solo home runs?

Kenny Williams instead will look at the fact that Thome has 33 home runs and that his OPS (1.027) is still one of the highest in the league. Or that Jermaine Dye has 29 home runs and an equally impressive OPS (1.030).

Panic? Please.

Kenny Williams will be the first to tell you that no move was the best move. This time. That thinking big doesn't always result in big results. That "belief" is sometimes stronger than strategy. That there is a fine line between aggressiveness and irresponsibility.

And even if his White Sox don't make it back this year -- if they don't win the wild-card race or win the World Series -- Williams would do the same thing again next year if the situation is the same. He'd hold his ground and tell you that panicking in baseball is overrated … unless, of course, Geoff Blum became available again.

Scoop Jackson is a national columnist for Page 2 and a contributor to ESPN The Magazine. He has a weekly segment on "Cold Pizza" and is a regular forum guest on "Rome Is Burning." He resides in Chicago. Sound off to Scoop and Page 2 here.




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