White Sox lose more than just a pitcher

December, 7, 2011
12/07/11
6:48
PM CT
Padilla By Doug Padilla
ESPNChicago.com
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DALLAS -- Mark Buehrle was a 38th-round draft pick, who couldn’t throw a fastball through a wet paper bag and had struggled to make his high school baseball team.

And don’t think he isn’t acutely aware of all of it, even after all of his major league success.

He joked this season that he would rather have a reporter’s throwing arm. “It probably works better,” he said.

So guys like this can be replaced right? How do you fill this void?

“I’m not sure you do,” general manager Kenny Williams said shortly after Buehrle departed with a four-year, $58 million deal with the Miami Marlins. “I think you respect what he’s meant both on the field and off the field and you accept it. For me to stand here and say that somebody will take that mantle and be Mark Buehrle, well Mark Buehrle is Mark Buehrle. He is a unique person.”

[+] EnlargeOzzie Guillen  and Mark Buehrle
Ron Vesely/MLB Photos/Getty ImagesMark Buehrle has left Chicago, but the legacy he created with the White Sox remains.

Williams will tell that to anybody who listens, even to the people that just took away one of his favorite players.

“I just told the Marlins ownership, ‘You got one hell of a pitcher, but let me tell you, you got a better person. You have a humble person. You have a person that no matter how much money or success he’s had over the years he is still the first person out to catch the first pitch from a fan,’” Williams said. “I expounded from there as to his virtues, and not only his but his wife’s. They are good people. You don’t completely replace good people. He will always be a part of the White Sox’s family.”

Except he’s not part of the White Sox’s team for the first time since 2000.

His self-described weak arm made him an All-Star, delivered a no-hitter and a perfect game and helped the White Sox to win a World Series.

But there was so much more about Buehrle. He was active in the community, he was a solid easy-going influence in the clubhouse and he had a way of telling it like it is.

Buehrle started a World Series game in 2005, but didn’t get the win. Instead, he ended up recording a save in Game 3 when a duel with the Houston Astros went 14 innings. They won the title the following day.

The departure of Buehrle isn’t just a blow to the rotation, it’s the loss of a player who has become engrained in the fabric of a club that has been around over a century.

"My thoughts are that it is a tough, sad day for White Sox,” captain Paul Konerko told the Daily Herald. “No way to spin this any other way. Just try to get over it and move on.”

Buehrle truly wanted to stay with the White Sox, but the team's horrible season in 2011, some hefty unmovable contracts on the books and this winter’s payroll reduction prevented it. When the Marlins offered Buehrle his $58 million deal, his agent came to the White Sox to see if they could match it.

They couldn’t of course. Williams admitted that the club, including chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, had come to terms with Buehrle’s departure about two weeks ago when interest in the left-hander swelled.

“They have been as forthcoming and as professional as you can possibly ask for,” Williams said of Buehrle and his agent Jeff Berry. “They came to us and told us exactly what he had in front of him and we simply said congratulations and we wish you well. Thank you. You will forever be in our hearts. There’s nothing we can do about it.”

If Williams is true to his word and decides to not alter the pitching staff, the White Sox still have a solid rotation. It would consist of John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Phil Humber and Chris Sale.

But that doesn’t make this an easier pill to swallow.

“Two words probably best sum it up: It sucks,” Williams said.

Doug Padilla

Chicago White Sox beat reporter
Doug joined ESPN Chicago in July 2010 and covers the Chicago White Sox for ESPNChicago.com and ESPN Radio 1000.

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TEAM LEADERS

BA LEADER
Conor Gillaspie
BA HR RBI R
.306 5 46 46
OTHER LEADERS
HRJ. Abreu 32
RBIJ. Abreu 90
RJ. Abreu 66
OPSJ. Abreu .955
WC. Sale 10
ERAC. Sale 2.12
SOC. Sale 158