Mike Nadel: 2008 White Sox -- success or failure?

Mike Nadel

Sooner or later, a ballclub has to be in the lead. It can't keep having to rally in games, in series, in weeks, in seasons. It catches up to a team, as it finally caught up to the White Sox.

Less than a week after working overtime to win their division, the Sox bowed out of the postseason Monday night. Just days after Chicago fans harbored hope for a Windy City World Series - however crazy such thoughts might have been - baseball here has entered hibernation.

"We got every last ounce out of this team that we could," Sox captain Paul Konerko said after his club's 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay let the Rays win the series three games to one. "We just ran out of gas."

Yep, by the time the Sox arrived at their fifth elimination game in eight days, the arrow was pointing below "E," the little orange gas-tank light was flashing and the 2008 Soxmobile was sputtering uphill.

"We rode the emotion as far as we could," Jim Thome said. "We had nothing left."

After winning the NL Central and then going 0-3 in the playoffs, the Cubs are viewed as abject failures, chokers and disgraces to humanity. After the White Sox won the AL Central and then went 1-3 in the playoffs, what can we say about them?

Pretty much the same things they're saying about themselves:

They did better than most predicted. They worked hard to overcome significant hardship, including injuries to Carlos Quentin, Joe Crede, Jose Contreras and Scott Linebrink. They refused to quit, a characteristic once expected of all athletes but one now considered special. They are proud of their division title but sad they fell far short of their ultimate goal.

In other words, a success-or-failure verdict depends upon the judge.

"I feel proud of my ballplayers," Ozzie Guillen said. "We played hard. We went through a lot of tough times. But we didn't do the thing we wanted to do. Happy? No. Satisfied? No. I wanted to be in longer."

For every player who exceeded expectations (Quentin, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Alexei Ramirez, DeWayne Wise) there was one who underachieved significantly (Javier Vazquez, Nick Swisher, Konerko, Contreras, Crede). That they went into the year looking like a third-place team but ended up with 89 victories failed to impress GM Ken Williams.

"I'm a black-and-white kind of guy," he said. "Either you win it or you don't, so we get back to work."

He has a lot of work ahead of him.  

For long stretches, Konerko, Thome and Jermaine Dye looked old. Ken Griffey Jr. - who, like Thome, IS old - did precious little after arriving at the trading deadline.

Does Williams look to trade Konerko or maybe even Dye before their production goes down? Griffey made a plea to return - "I'm not retiring!" - but it's hard to imagine him coming back. The same is true of shortstop Orlando Cabrera, whose selfishness and inconsistency pretty much guaranteed his South Side stay would be one-and-done.

Guillen singled out Clayton Richard as a pitcher ready to blossom. If the young left-hander can join Floyd, Danks and Mark Buehrle in the rotation, do the White Sox simply pay off Contreras and set him free? What does Williams do with Vazquez, who failed repeatedly when the team needed him most?

Who's at third base next year? The Sox were so unimpressed with one-time hot prospect Josh Fields that they never played him after Crede got hurt, turning instead to career mediocrity Juan Uribe. Center field remains a mystery.

Taking one last look back at 2008, the Sox were never boring. Guillen was as bombastic as ever, most notably when he challenged his hitters and his GM in the same June 1 post-game tirade. A.J. Pierzynski was the same love-him-or-hate-him character. There were plenty of late-game comebacks as well as ninth-inning collapses. Cabrera's brashness in challenging Rays reliever Grant Balfour - and then striking out on three pitches - typified much about this club.

"If we didn't have those injuries at the end, maybe we could have made some more noise because we'd have won the division earlier and wouldn't have been spent by the time we got to October," Konerko said. "But all in all, when I look back on this year, I think we went exactly how far we were supposed to go."

The White Sox lived on the edge for as long as they could until the Rays shoved them off the precipice. Given the way this team seems to do everything, don't expect the climb back up to be easy.

Mike Nadel ( is the Chicago sports columnist for GateHouse News Service. Read his blog, The Baldest Truth, at