I have to admit, it took me a while to write this, because I love Joe Crede. Not in that way, silly, but in almost every other way that involves a modern-day baseball fan. When Crede first arrived with the White Sox, in 2000, he was a ballyhooed two-time minor-league Most Valuable Player, and statheads wanted him to succeed, because his stats suggested he would succeed. He had an undeniable upper-cut swing, however — the scouts were dubious about him making it in the majors — and he spent two years shuttling between the Sox and AAA before he arrived to stay in 2003. Even in 2004, however, he struggled, batting a humble .239, and although it’s commonly forgotten, he was shopped early in 2005 for the Oakland Athletics’ Eric Chavez, whom many Sox fans insisted the team simply had to have to complete a championship roster.

The funny thing about that is, what player turned out to be more essential to the Sox’ 2005 World Series win than Crede?

The playoffs and World Series are when third basemen typically shine, because at that point, at the climax of the season, batters’ timing is so keen they can rip the ball, and the so-called “hot corner” becomes hotter than ever. Crede fielded a spectacular third base all through that postseason — for instance saving Jose Contreras with several stabs in the first game of the World Series — while hitting the go-ahead homer in that game, after a game-ending RBI double in the second game of the American League Championship Series against the Los Angeles Angels, and driving in the tying and game-winning runs in the Game 5 ALCS clincher. And who can forget how he cued the Sox’ comeback in the third game of the World Series with a homer off Houston Astros’ ace Roy Oswalt? Long before then, I had fully adopted Crede, so that I greeted each new round of heroics with the line, “That’s my boy!” My daughters took to calling him their brother.

All that said, Sox General Manager Kenny Williams was right to let Joe go to sign with the Minnesota Twins this off-season. Not because Crede was represented by agent Scott Boras, a longtime fly in the ointment to Williams and Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf, but because it simply made sense in the current baseball monetary environment. Crede had suffered through back troubles requiring surgery the last couple of seasons. That doesn’t mean he should be put out to pasture — he may yet excel — but with Josh Fields in the wings, even as a vastly inferior fielder, all baseball common sense suggested the Sox should let someone else take the risk with Crede and go with the younger, cheaper Fields. Even the touted spring annual Baseball Prospectus, working from nothing but statistical probability, predicted Fields will have a better season this year than Crede (20 homers, 61 RBIs, and a .236 batting average to 12 H, 44 RBIs, and .241).

So so long and may the baseball gods bless, Joe. It was enough that Williams and Sox manager Ozzie Guillen both refused to jump on Boras and insisted Crede had helped give them and the Sox championship rings in 2005. I hope you don’t kill us with the Twins this year, but if so, god love ya. You’ll always be my boy.

 Art: Tony Fitzpatrick, Joe Crede of Chicago