Commentary - The Real March Madness

When people use the phrase "March Madness" the first things that come to mind are basketball, brackets and Cinderella teams. This March though, White Sox Spring Training has been as muddled as anything in sports.

Madness is the only way to sum up the string of events that have taken place in Tucson. White Sox spring training has had its share of Cinderella's, upsets, and crazy events. If Dick Vitale was broadcasting the Sox games this spring he would have come up with more catch phrases then he has in the previous ten years.

Need some Cinderella's this spring? Look no further than Tucson where underdogs have been fighting boldly for roster spots. Who could foresee Aaron Miles holding a .300 batting average for the majority of the spring and a rather high 61 at-bats? Miles, an undersized 26-year-old second baseman, may have only been in Double-A last year, but this spring manager Jerry Manuel is likening Miles to David Eckstein. The Cinderella slipper fits and Miles is wearing it.

It doesn't end there either. Josh Stewart, a 24-year-old lefty starter, was dominating in Birmingham last year, but a shot at the big league roster looked slim in 2003. Stewart apparently didn't know this, because he has been blazing through spring training lineups. Stewart has posted a 2.05 ERA in 6 games, which has given him attention and a spot. Incumbent 5th starter Jon Rauch was sent down after he lost his control, and Dan Wright, a 14 game winner, went down with a swollen elbow, these events have opened the doors for Stewart--Its upset city, baby!

Kelly Wunsch has provided more madness than Bryce Drew did in 1998. When camp opened Wunsch was being looked at as the odd man out in the Sox pen. Jerry Manuel, even openly questioned Wunsch's chances of securing a spot in the bullpen. Wunsch was un-phased. Wunsch has in fact been the best reliever this spring, holding opponents to zero runs in 10.2 innings. Wunsch has also created a stir off the field. Wunsch organized a movement in the Sox clubhouse to refuse steroid testing. Had the 16 White Sox players gone through with the plan, there would have been an increased likelihood of mandatory testing in the future. Wunsch's move created a rift throughout the league. The latest quote from Manuel on Wunsch, "It would be very difficult to leave him off the staff with the experience he has and the way he's been pitching"—it's March madness, baby!

There was plenty more madness in Spring Training. Frank Thomas sent Tucson ablaze with his rants of the White Sox. Thomas also said he was going to surprise some people this year. So far, Thomas is on the right track, posting a .400+ average.

It seems as if Mark Buehrle and the White Sox went through a couple hundred rounds of contract negotiations only to come up empty.

Aaron Rowand started playing baseball again after his dirt bike injury.

Free agent pick up Esteban Loaiza, has proved himself to be valuable by posting a 3-2 record and a 2.80 ERA.

And the most maddening thing of all this spring, more maddening than the injuries, rifts and Cinderella's, the hitless wonder Jason Dellaero is batting .500 (granted, in two at bats). The odds of his inconceivable start can only be compared to a 16-seed knocking off a one-seed--Unbelievable, baby!

How will this incredible madness come to an end? Will Aaron Miles be playing second sometime this season? Will Josh Stewart be a rookie of the year contender? Will Jason Dellaero tear apart big league pitching? All of the above may seem like unattainable endings but, with the way March has gone so far for the Sox, nothing is impossible.

Sox Hardball Top Stories