MLB Dream Bracket 2 Preview: 2005 White Sox vs. 1942 Monarchs
This is the second in our series of MLB Dream Bracket 2 previews, and I have to say I’m super bummed by the draw. (For a brief overview of this concept as a whole, check out this primer.) For any fan of baseball history, the foursome of the 1994 Montreal Expos and the three Negro League teams added into the Dream Bracket 2 were going to be the easy choice to pick up as a second team to root for.
Alas, the Pale Hose have drawn one of those four in the first round, and it’s a team loaded with amazing talents and fun personalities. The plus side is it’s an excuse to learn even more about some of these great, still historically-overlooked Negro League teams.
Here’s a brief overview of the matchup between the two historic sides. Check the MLB website today at 3 p.m. Central for results.
White Sox: Jose Contreras, Mark Buehrle, Jon Garland, Freddy Garcia, Orlando Hernandez
Monarchs: Satchel Paige, Hilton Smith, Booker McDaniels, Jack Matchett
We get to see the lead Chisox arms that in large part powered what is still an embarrassingly underappreciated 11-1 demolition of the rest of Major League Baseball. The quartet of Contreras, Buehrle, Garland, and Garcia were all in their primes in 2005, and the team’s ERA+ of 125 led all of baseball that year. In fact, it was the best such figure in the American League since the calendars had swapped over post-Y2K.
For the Monarchs, the name everyone will know is Paige. Personally, I have him as a top-three all-time pitcher, but 1942 is a little past his prime, coming in his age-36 season. Of course, this is a man who made his MLB debut at the age of 41 and still managed a 165 ERA+ over 72 ⅔ innings as a "rookie." The rest of the foursome are more than just throw-ins, too. Smith is a Hall-of-Famer who is historically overlooked (just like his opponents in the first round!). McDaniels sported a 1.76 runs against average in 1942, with Matchett being the only potential weak spot for the White Sox to pounce on.
Edge: Do you prefer the all-time ace or top-to-bottom greatness? In a seven-game series, an ace like Paige (who was used to throwing every other day, basically) might be able to go out there three if not four times. It will be interesting to see how the simulation handles that matter. Slight edge to the Monarchs.
White Sox: Luis Vizcaino, Damaso Marte, Dustin Hermanson, Cliff Politte, Neal Cotts, Bobby Jenks
Monarchs: Norris Phillips, Frank Bradley, Connie Johnson, Gread McKinnis, Jim LaMarque
The White Sox pen was its not-so-secret weapon in 2005, with their elite trio of Hermanson (34 saves), Politte, and Cotts combining for more than 180 innings of sub-2.00 ERA pitching. None of the names listed above had anything below a 120 ERA+, meaning that even the worst arm in the White Sox pen was 20% better than the rest of the league in terms of run suppression.
Comparatively, far less is known historically about the Monarchs bullpen, with several of the arms being journeyman, and only Connie Johnson (who played part of three seasons with the White Sox later in his career) really acting as any sort of weapon out of the pen. (McKinnis and LaMarque were solid pitchers, but 1942 was Gread’s worst season and LaMarque was not yet established at that point.)
Edge: This is a big edge to the White Sox, and it could well swing the series. If I were virtual Ozzie Guillén, I’d tell the team to just try to keep it close until late and see what happened from there.
White Sox: AJ Pierzynski, Paul Konerko, Tadahito Iguchi, Joe Crede, Juan Uribe
Monarchs: Joe Greene, Buck O’Neill, Herb Souell, Newt Allen, Jesse Williams
Konerko was the big bat for these Sox, with his 40 homers, 100 RBIs, and 136 OPS+ all leading the team with ease. Iguchi was my personal favorite, and it’s a shame he never really was able to match his 2005 output, when he finished fourth in the Rookie of the Year vote with a career-high 2.8 rWAR.
In the other dugout, O’Neill is the most famous name, but that’s due in large part to his role as a lifelong ambassador to the game. He was an excellent ballplayer too, though, and he’s surrounded by some great players here. Greene was an All-Star in `42, while Souell and Allen were consummate leaders, both of whom were in the middle of decade-plus long careers. Williams is the other stud here, though, a constant threat to hit .400 and a big-time performer when it mattered most. This is a great infield.
Edge: Almost the reverse of the rotation question. Two thousand and five Konerko may be the single best bat of the whole group of `em, but en masse, I’d lean towards the Monarchs.
White Sox: Scott Podsednik, Aaron Rowand, Jermaine Dye, Carl Everett
Monarchs: Ted Strong, Willard Brown, Bill Simms, Bonnie Serrell
The outfield was where the 2005 Sox offense made their bones. Dye was the best hitter of the bunch, with a 118 OPS+ and 31 long balls, but it was Rowand who was the most valuable cog, flying around the U.S. Cellular outfield with the kind of reckless abandon few have ever had. I still think WAR never truly understood Podsednik.
The outfield for the Monarchs ain’t shabby, either. The two question marks are Strong splitting his time between the Monarchs and the Harlem Globetrotters in 1942, and Simms, who was a bit of a journeyman throughout his career. But Willard Brown is one of the names you may recognize, thanks to a career that concluded with a plaque in Cooperstown, while Serrell was gangbusters in `42, breaking on to the scene with a .406 batting average and then going 10-for-18 in the Negro World Series. (Thanks to B-R Bullpen for much of the information used throughout this preview.)
Edge: This is the closest one yet. Draw.
White Sox: Chris Widger, Pablo Ozuna, Geoff Blum, Frank Thomas, Timo Perez, Willie Harris
Monarchs: Frank Duncan Jr., Hank Robinson, Johnnie Dawson, Frazier Robinson, Frank Duncan III, Willie Simms
Another strength of the `05 Sox was having 37-year-old Frank Thomas to deploy off the bench as needed. He’ll be a late-game, pinch-hitter supreme in this Dream Bracket 2, and it once again lends credence to the idea that if the White Sox can keep these games close, they should be able to make their moves late on and come out victorious.
For the Monarchs, Duncan is all you could ask for from a backup backstop, but the rest of the pieces are just that: pieces.
Edge: White Sox.
This is an early battle of juggernauts. I could easily see the team that wins here making a run to the quarterfinals or even beyond. One thing I noticed in Dream Bracket 1 was the Negro League players honestly weren’t as good as they should have been. On the one hand, it would be great to see that matter fixed before this second Dream Bracket; on the other hand, maybe that’s the route for the `05 White Sox to get out of the first round and head off another lengthy postseason run — hopefully one that gets a bit more attention this time around.