After shortstop Juan Uribe threw out pinch-hitter Orlando Palmeiro for the final out of the four-game sweep of Houston in late October, there was manager Ozzie Guillen hugging his three sons in the Minute Maid Field visiting dugout as the team went crazy on the field. And it was Paul Konerko who brought tears to Jerry Reinsdorf's eyes when he presented the White Sox chairman with the baseball from said final out of the World Series at the victory parade in downtown Chicago, attended by close to two million people.
The White Sox family had a very successful 2005 season.
Foreshadowing of a change to this happy family and the White Sox outfield situation, past, present and future, simply check out the moment after the exciting finish to Game 2 of the World Series. There was left fielder Scott Podsednik rounding first base, yelling while pumping his fist in the air, after hitting an improbable walk-off home run against Houston closer Brad Lidge to give the White Sox a 2-0 Series advantage.
At the same moment, Aaron Rowand and Brian Anderson were the first two over the fence in front of the White Sox dugout at U.S. Cellular Field, hugging and celebrating following the blast. Little did the players know at the time that the World Series would signal a temporary end to Rowand's direct association with the White Sox and the introduction of Anderson to a more prominent role within the group.
Rowand was traded to Philadelphia, just days before Thanksgiving, for slugging designated hitter Jim Thome. Rowand's grinder style of baseball and superlative defense in center would be moving to the National League. It seemed to be a cruel twist of fate for a player who truly embodied the spirit surrounding the championship effort, such a cruel twist that Guillen couldn't even bring himself to call Rowand immediately after the trade.
In order to continue moving forward, even though the White Sox find themselves at the top with the 2006 season approaching, general manager Ken Williams believed improvements had to be made. The outfield was a deep area within the organization, and Rowand's trade value was at its highest. A left-handed power bat to protect Konerko was a top priority, and thus, the White Sox outfield will have a new look for 2006.
"We are going to miss Aaron on the field and off the field," said Guillen, speaking of the move recently at SoxFest. "He's one of my favorite players. But I feel comfortable having [Anderson] play there."
Anderson, who turns 24 in March, currently stands as the frontrunner for the center field job. Jerry Owens, a fleet-footed youngster in the Otis Nixon mold, is waiting in the wings if Anderson falters. Rob Mackowiak, who plays pretty much anywhere but pitcher and catcher, also could see significant time in the middle of the outfield.
But the White Sox lineup will be at its best if Mackowiak comes off the bench in a semi-regular role. Anderson has been a great success at the Minor League level since the White Sox used the 15th pick overall to select the University of Arizona outfielder in the 2003 First-Year Player Draft. He has a .301 average over 936 career at-bats, with 30 home runs and 20 stolen bases, and a confident level of bravado that doesn't approach cockiness.
The potential exists within Anderson for him to increase both those home run and stolen base totals as he matures. Guillen certainly doesn't expect Anderson to carry the team, or even the outfield, for that matter. His expectations for the prodigy are fairly simple.
"If this kid catches the ball, he's ready right now," Guillen said. "I expect him to play the best defense possible.
"He will carry this team [in the future]. If we wait for Brian to carry this team now to win this thing, then we have a problem."
Guillen quickly added that Anderson's offensive impact could take place sooner than later at the Major League level, even hitting ninth in the order. Both of Anderson's big-league home runs came during a game at Safeco Field on Aug. 26, and they both came against Felix Hernandez. Guillen credited Hernandez with possessing some of the best raw pitching talent his team witnessed during the entire 2005 campaign.
Having veterans around Anderson such as Podsednik and World Series MVP Jermaine Dye can only help his adjustment. Both Dye -- whose 31 home runs topped all right fielders in 2006 -- and Podsednik are coming off offseason hernia surgeries. Podsednik actually had two repaired, a problem that hampered his baserunning down the home stretch.
"It affected me quite a bit, but I did what I could at the time," Podsednik said. "I'm feeling great now. I'm glad it's over and behind me, and I'm doing all I can to get these suckers (his legs) back under me.
"I'm close to 100 percent and I'll be ready to go April 1," Podsednik added.
Neither the injuries nor the newfound postseason power stroke will alter Podsednik's approach of simply trying to get on base and score runs at the top of the order. If Podsednik does come through with another walk-off home run in 2006, the celebration will have to go on without Rowand.
Change is a necessary part of the game, even for the defending World Series champion.
"The problem is that I'm going to continually be searching to make the team better," said Williams, who previously has mentioned he was close to calling up Anderson at the end of 2004 because of his great composure and demeanor. "We had a big need and it was twice as big when we made the Thome deal because we didn't know where Paulie would end up.
"That deal had to be made. But what also has to be done is to extend that window of opportunity to win, you have to follow the pattern other successful organizations have had.
"When you have an impact type of young player, you have to push that young player or players into action not at a time when you are rebuilding," Williams added. "You want to bring him in while you are winning, so they can grow from the bottom of the order up and develop."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues or its clubs.