The Tribune's White Sox beat writer answers reader questions throughout the season. This week, finishing better than the Cubs, hiring Steve Stone permanently and a whole bunch about the farm system.

Mark, I hate myself for even considering this, but a look at the A L Central schedule coupled with the Tigers and Indians' poor play makes me stupidly consider that the Sox could still win the division. Should any of us dare to let this cross our minds? --Dan Bowman, Marlette, Mich.

Dan, it crossed the minds of the Sox's coaching staff to push Jose Contreras' next start to Seattle, so don't feel so crazy about your thoughts.

Here is my annual question. Is there any possibility that the White Sox will move the fences further back for next year? The pitchers could give up a few more fly ball outs and the Sox might take advantage of the improved team speed next year. I think doubles and triples are a lot more exciting than cheap home runs. Just a thought. --Tom McLean, Ft. Myers, Fla.

I can see the fences moved back only in a few spots, but not far enough to make a significant difference.

Hey Mark, I hear all these names bandied about and none of them can compare with the All-Star outfield the Sox managed to lose. --Cliff Zeider, Port St. Joe, Fla.

Cliff, true. But the combined salaries of Carlos Lee and Magglio Ordonez would burden the rest of the Sox's payroll.

Why can't Jack Egbert be more than a No. 5 starter? I am sure Buehrle wasn't projected to be more than a No. 5 based on his stuff, but as Glavine showed winning 300 games in his career, is that it's knowing how to pitch that counts. Egbert's stats are just as good as Gio Gonzalez's and Egbert is just 24. Why can't he be a No. 1 or 2 starter? --Grant, Warrenville

Grant, I guess Egbert could be another John Burkett, who never threw over 91 mph but found a way to win 22 games in 1993.

Mark, my thanks for being a consistent calming influence on my tendency to get "fed up" with this 2007 season. Many of us have been disappointed with the list of injured over the past two years that prevents the team from reaching its potential. Pods, Thome and Erstad are only the top of this list. What, if any, changes in off-season conditioning do you anticipate the front-office insisting upon? --Hank Balikov, Moorestown, N.J.

It's become a young man's game around the majors, and teams hate paying players on the DL, especially those with a history of injuries. The Sox had good fortune with health the previous two seasons, which is why trainer Herm Schneider won an award from Baseball Prospectus. I don't think the injuries have anything to do with the training staff's methods. But you can guarantee there will be more scrutiny on off-season maintenance and conditioning, as well as identifying players in free agency and trades with no health issues.

Now that JD has finally hit his stride, will Ozzie ever make the wise decision to move Thome down in the order? Thome is not a very good No. 3 hitter and is viewed by this non-bandwagon Sox fan as a rally-killer. --C.J., Chicago

It might be time, given that Jermaine's average and production is rising and Jim's batting average is sinking.

I just read the D-Backs signed Eric Byrnes to a 3 year, $30 million extension. What a shame. I really would have loved to see him in a Sox uniform next year, and that isn't a terrible price for someone with his numbers. I honestly don't want to see Dye back too terribly bad, but do you have any thoughts on a plan B as his replacement now that Byrnes isn't up for grabs? --Tyson Shroyer, Peoria

I think the Sox will take a long look at re-signing Jermaine, given how the market exploded last winter and how Jermaine expressed a desire to stay and take a hometown discount.

Do you think it's possible that the Sox will finish with a better record than the Cubs? --Bill B., Bensenville

It's possible but highly improbable.

Mark, I think people need to relearn the basics of trading. It has changed so much. One writer to your mailbag asks if the Sox got enough for Iguchi. Another complains that we should have traded Dye and asks what good are prospects who are three years out. That's a good question I guess, but the real question is what Kenny does with the Dye money, assuming that he is not resigned. You alluded to that in Iguchi's case. People want instant gratfication. So do I, but in today's environment, you have to wait until the dust clears. A trade might look terrible in isolation, but result in a stronger club due to a related deal (think Pods for Lee). It's frustrating to a fan, but that's reality these days. It's not just player for player. Length and amount of contracts, structure of the lineup and club overall, free agent market, the club's short and long term needs. All of these things play a part. Does that make sense? --Greg, Chicago