Carlos Lee was pretty good.
But as Hawk Harrelson laid out in the eighth inning of the White Sox win over the Texas Rangers on May 17, 2005, the trade that sent Lee to the Milwaukee Brewers in December 2004 was more like a 4-for-1 than the 2-for-1 swap it went down as in the transaction log.
The White Sox got Scott Podsednik and Luis Vizcaino from the Brew Crew in exchange for El Caballo. But they saved a good deal of money, too. Lee made $8 million in 2005. Podsednik and Vizcaino made $2 million combined. The $6 million in savings was spent on a pair of free agents. Orlando Hernandez and A.J. Pierzynski made a combined $5.75 million that season.
“When you can go out and get Podsednik, Vizcaino, El Duque and A.J. Pierzynski,” Harrelson said on that night's broadcast, “you’ve got to do it.”
It takes only a little more than a microsecond for White Sox fans to recall the postseason heroics Hernandez, Podsednik and Pierzynski turned in en route to the World Series championship in October. But the value went well beyond those few weeks. Those were seven-month additions for the 2005 season.
Obviously, Lee was a valuable hitter, and he kept on being one of those in Milwaukee, and later when he played for the Rangers and the Houston Astros. After leaving the White Sox, he played another eight seasons, made three All-Star teams and hit 206 home runs. In 2005 alone, he hit 32 home runs and drove in 114 runs for the Brewers, winning a Silver Slugger and finishing in the top 20 in NL MVP voting.
Keeping Lee in the middle of the White Sox order would have been nice. But they found their replacement power hitter four days earlier when they signed Jermaine Dye. With Dye set to take over Lee’s spot in the middle of the lineup, the White Sox had the luxury of addressing a need, acquiring Podsednik to be that stereotypical leadoff man and provide an incredible burst of speed. He stole 70 bases for the Brewers in 2004 and 59 more for the White Sox in 2005.
Vizcaino helped shore up the ‘pen. Hernandez gave the White Sox a fifth starter with playoff experience. They found their catcher for the better part of the next decade in Pierzynski.
Lee was a great player for the White Sox. But he couldn’t fill all those holes by himself.
Had it not resulted in a world championship, perhaps it wouldn’t have been considered the same kind of smart move it looks like 15 years later. Even Kenny Williams couldn’t have foreseen that Hernandez would turn in a relief performance for the ages against the Boston Red Sox in the ALDS. He couldn’t have foreseen that Pierzynski would almost single-handedly win Game 2 of the ALCS by running to first base on what was probably a strikeout. He couldn’t have foreseen Podsednik, of all people, hitting a walk-off homer in Game 2 of the World Series.
But he made it for the same reason any move is made: to put his team in a better position to win a championship. And because that’s what happened, trading Lee ended up a brilliant move.
— As discussed often during #SoxRewind, Jon Garland was sensational to start the season, and this game was no different. He went seven innings and gave up just two runs, bringing his ERA on the year to this point to 2.41. This was his eighth win in eight starts, a season-opening steak that ended in his next outing. But as good as Garland was in general, he was even better on the South Side. This was his fourth start at U.S. Cellular Field in 2005, and in those four starts, he allowed just six runs in 31 innings for a 1.74 ERA.
— Garland did his best work by getting out of what could have easily snowballed into a nasty top of the sixth inning. After walking the leadoff hitter and hitting the next guy, he gave up an RBI double to Mark Teixeira that not only brought the Rangers within a run but kept two runners in scoring position. How’d Garland dance out of it? With back-to-back strikeouts of Hank Blalock and Alfonso Soriano and getting Kevin Mench — who hit a game-winning homer the night before — to pop out to end the inning. I’ve talked about Garland pulling Houdinis before, but this was a pivotal one in a one-run game.
— I wrote last week about May 2005 being Pierzynski’s most powerful month in a White Sox uniform. He broke out of an early season slump and hit seven homers and put together a .557 slugging percentage with a .903 OPS in May. The sixth-inning bomb he hit into the visiting bullpen in this game sent a mildly tenuous one-run advantage to a far more comfortable three-run edge.
— Is it too late to join the Pod Squad?
Since you been gone
While #SoxRewind is extensive, it doesn’t include all 162 regular-season contests, meaning we’re going to be skipping over some games. So what’d we miss since last time?
May 14, 2005: The White Sox had a 5-2 lead on the Orioles, but the visitors from Maryland put up a three spot in the fourth and another crooked number with four runs in the seventh. Freddy Garcia was tagged for seven runs, the second most he gave up in a start in 2005. White Sox lose, 9-6, fall to 27-10.
May 15, 2005: The bats couldn’t do much damage against Erik Bedard, the White Sox only getting two runs and five hits against the Canadian lefty. White Sox lose, 6-2, fall to 27-11.
May 16, 2005: The White Sox went up 4-1 in the first, only for Hernandez to cough up five more runs over the next two innings. But the South Siders rallied, and Tadahito Iguchi homered to tie the game in the bottom of the eighth, only for Mench to hit a game-winning home run off Damaso Marte in the ninth. White Sox lose, 7-6, fall to 27-12.
#SoxRewind rolls on Friday, when you can catch the May 24, 2005, game against the Angels, starting at 4 p.m. on NBC Sports Chicago. Mark Buehrle goes nine innings but doesn’t earn the complete game when things spiral into extras, where Iguchi comes through in the clutch.
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