CHICAGO -- One of the more disappointing years in recent Chicago White Sox memory also marked the end of some long-time eras on the South Side and there was no denying that all of it was related.
Ozzie Guillen and Mark Buehrle have both set sail to Miami following a season that began with high expectations, started off with a bang and then went south in a hurry. Even some things that were worth celebrating, like Juan Pierre’s midseason resurgence and Sergio Santos’ emergence as closer, were only short lived as both will be elsewhere next season.
Had the White Sox stepped up last season and played like the American League Central title contender they were expected to be, perhaps Guillen and Buehrle are back for 2012. They aren’t, though, and sifting through what happened revealed more hard times than good, of course.
5. The kids showed they can play: When everything had all but fallen apart and playoff hopes were just about dashed, Alejandro De Aza, Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers stepped up and delivered some impressive second-half showings. Flowers and De Aza actually outshined Viciedo. Not to be lost in the mix was a resurgent Brent Morel, who put on a power show in September while looking more assertive at the plate.
4. A.J. Pierzynski catches 1,000 innings: Despite a short stint on the disabled list, the villain of baseball still managed to reach the 1,000-innings caught plateau for the 10th consecutive season. Pierzynski wasn’t even supposed to be on the team but was retained after an 11th-hour contract offer. Repeating his 1,000-innings feat in what figures to be his last year on the South Side in 2012 won’t be easy with Tyler Flowers looking for playing time.
3. Opening Day eruption: The White Sox strolled into Cleveland on April 1 and when the first day was complete, their projected offensive juggernaut looked every bit the power it was supposed to be. The White Sox scored 15 runs, Adam Dunn looked like a stud and everybody was budgeting for playoff tickets in October. But there were signs that day that things would not be OK, like a shaky bullpen and the fact that the Indians scored 10 times themselves.
2. Konerko’s 2,000th hit: The team captain delivered yet another solid season for the White Sox and in late August he dished up a milestone with hit No. 2,000. The line-drive single against the Angels tied the game in the eighth inning, but in typical 2011 White Sox fashion, the Angels won it 5-4. It was textbook Konerko after the game: “It's cool. It falls in the category of something you'll enjoy more when you're done playing," he said.
1. Buehrle’s round numbers continue: Not even a six-man rotation for most of the season could stop Buehrle from an 11th season of 200 innings, 30 starts and double-digit victories. No other pitcher in baseball has a streak that long. In what ended up being his final season with the White Sox, Buehrle did some of his best pitching, going 18 consecutive starts without allowing more than three earned runs at one stretch.