Rogers: 10 years ago, White Sox had historic run
Chicago swept World Series, posted 11-1 postseason record after 99-win season
Only two teams in history have ever led the regular season from wire to wire, topped their league in victories and swept the World Series. The first of those were the 1927 Yankees, behind Babe Ruth and Lou Gehrig. The other?
Well, they wrapped up their tour de force championship 10 years ago Monday. And White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf has rarely stopped smiling about his baseball franchise since then.
Reinsdorf had presided over six NBA championships when Michael Jordan led his Bulls. But none of those title runs compared to the Chicago White Sox 2005 World Series sweep of the Astros, which concluded one of the most dominant postseason runs in baseball history.
A week after Freddy Garcia and relievers Cliff Politte, Neal Cotts and Bobby Jenks pitched the Sox to a 1-0 victory in Game 4, Reinsdorf called then-Commissioner Bud Selig, as if he was looking for confirmation that he had not just dreamed up the 99-win season and the World Series parade.
"I talked to Jerry, and you know what he told me?'' Selig asked. "He said, 'I don't believe it. I still can't believe it.' I said, 'Well Jerry, you'd better believe it, because it happened.'"
While few had seen those White Sox coming, there was absolutely nothing fluky about their championship. Reinsdorf, general manager Ken Williams, manager Ozzie Guillen and the scouts and coaches in one of baseball's most stable organizations had quietly constructed a roster that for a season and half was the best in baseball.
Between Opening Day 2005, and the All-Star Game in 2006, the White Sox were 156-94. But somehow the fizz escaped in the second half of '06, and the Sox haven't been able to sustain a run since then. But give Guillen and his players credit for making the most of the moment when they were in it.
They finished the 2005 postseason with a run differential of +33, the biggest in history until the Red Sox sailed to a championship in 2007. Chicago's 11-1 record matched the 1999 Yankees as the second-best ever, behind only Cincinnati's Big Red Machine's 7-0 in 1976.
Like this year's Mets, the White Sox surrounded a solid core of position players -- led by Paul Konerko, Jermaine Dye, Joe Crede and A.J.Pierzynski -- with a starting rotation capable of smothering the opposition.
Terry Collins' Mets have put together a rotation ERA of 2.65 during their 7-2 run to the World Series, winning their last five games. The 2005 White Sox went 11-1 in the postseason against the Red Sox, Angels and Astros, with Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle, Garcia and Jon Garland compiling a 2.84 ERA.
In the League Championship Series against the Angels, all four starters threw a complete game, working 44 1/3 of 45 innings. That's a run you probably will never see again as managers turn to their relievers earlier and earlier in games.
"With the experience I've had in the playoffs, whether I was managing or playing, I've never seen four horses like that come out of the gate and [pitch] so well,'' Angels manager Mike Scioscia said. "You might have to go back to Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, that group with the Dodgers or the group Baltimore had in 1966. These guys pitched tremendous baseball.''
Guillen also played a set lineup in the ALCS: Scott Podsednik, left field; Tadahito Iguchi, second base; Dye, right field; Konerko, first base; Carl Everett, designated hitter; Aaron Rowand, center field; Pierzynski, catcher; Crede, third base, and Juan Uribe, shortstop. Guillen's only substitution was to use Pablo Ozuna as a pinch-runner in Games 1 and 2, so including starters and the bullpen, he beat the Angels using only 15 of his 25 players.
Konerko was named the ALCS MVP, but he pointed to the pitching.
"Those guys were the horses, and I was just along for the ride,'' Konerko said. "Really, we all were.''
While the White Sox swept Houston in the World Series, they outscored the Astros by only six runs, the lowest differential ever in a Series sweep. Podsednik, who hadn't homered in 568 regular-season plate appearances, hit a walk-off home run in Game 2. And midseason acquisition Geoff Blum hit the game-winning homer in the 14th inning of Game 3, putting Garcia in a position to go for the sweep at Minute Maid Park.
Contreras, who like Garcia had been acquired in a midseason trade by Williams in 2004, entered the postseason after winning his last eight starts to finish the second half 11-2 with a 2.96 ERA. Guillen used him as his No. 1 starter in the AL Division Series against the Red Sox and stuck with him in that spot for the ALCS and World Series, even though the Sox had time to shuffle their rotation however they wanted.
Because they played only one game more than the minimum, the White Sox had three days off between the end of the ALDS and the ALCS and a five-day break before the start of the World Series. Nothing bothered these guys. Not then.
It was their time, and they made the best of every moment.
When it was all over, Guillen rode through the streets of Chicago on top of a double-decker bus, with a Venezuelan flag wrapped around his shoulders. At the victory celebration, Konerko presented Reinsdorf with the ball that was in his glove when he took a throw from Uribe and stepped on first for the final out.
It was a loving gesture that added a bow to the best October of Reinsdorf's life, one that sometimes seems like it happened yesterday for White Sox fans. Ten years have passed but the thrill remains. That's the way it's supposed to be when your team wins the last game of the year.