July 2009

Yes America, the White Sox are Alive and Well

It’s been a terrific month for White Sox Nation. Just a couple of weeks after President Obama showed his Sox Pride by wearing his favorite team’s jacket in full view of the world at the All-Star Game in St. Louis, Mark Buehrle forced the national sports media to recognize the Pale Hose once again with his perfect game this afternoon.

What makes today so special, aside from the rare perfecto, is that it was Buehrle. He’s a true White Sox hero who is destined to have his No. 56 retired and perhaps a statue built in his honor on the outfield concourse. He’s been all we could have asked for–a terrific guy, a great teammate, and an intense competitor. He’s this generation’s Billy Pierce and more.
The gem capped off a great week of baseball on the South Side with the Sox taking 3-out-4 in an exciting four-game series. I don’t want to jinx it, but I’m a believer in this team. As usual, we’ve been overlooked, but there just may be some magic in the air as my friend Kevin Sullivan so enthusiastically pointed out to our Sox posse after Buehrle’s masterpiece. Speaking of magic, words aren’t enough to describe DeWayne Wise’s miraculous catch.
Chew on this: Ironically, during Buehrle’s first no-hitter, the same umpire–Eric Cooper–was behind the plate. And what’s his ump number? 56. Also, both of the Buehrle no-no’s were pitched in exactly 2 hours and three minutes. Hard to believe.
Note of the day: As a New Yorker spending the week in Chicago, I had planned on attending today’s game. But reality got in the way and I attended the funeral of an uncle instead. I’ve never seen a no-hitter, not to mention a perfect game, in person. This could have been the day, but I guess it wasn’t in the cards. The important thing is that Buehrle accomplished the feat–and the Sox won. On to Detroit!

A Good Night to be a Sox Fan

What could be better on a night in July than sitting at the Cell with thousands of other Sox fans, watching a thrilling come-from-victory against the defending AL champs? Not much. And thank you Carlos Torres.

I’ve spent a lot of time over the years envious of the Twins and their piranha-like lineup. Well, I’m envious no more. With the return of  Quentin, Pods doing his Rickey Henderson imitation and the insertion of Beckham at third, this is a terrific lineup. It’s not only productive and balanced–but a whole lot of fun to watch.
Note of the day: A couple of future major leaguers had outstanding performances last night. Playing centerfield and leading off for Class AA Birmingham, John Danks’ younger brother Jordan went 2-for-4 with a double and a run scored in the Barons’ 3-2 triumph over Montgomery. He’s batting .292. This year’s No. 1 draft pick Jared Mitchell, who just joined Class A Kannapolis a couple of weeks ago, is hitting .500. Last night, in the Intimidators’ 5-2 win over Augusta, he went 2-for-3 with a run scored. He was also in centerfield.

Who is Carlos Torres and Can He Make Us Forget About Last Night?

We all know by now that John Danks will miss his regular start tonight because of a blister and subsequent circulatory problems. The hope is that it’s not serious and he’ll be ready for his next turn.

To the rescue is 26-year-old righthander Carlos Torres. He has virtually come out of nowhere to lead the International League with a 2.20 ERA and to rank second in K’s (96) along with eight wins and a nod to pitch in the AAA All-Star Game. The 2004 15th round pick out of Kansas State was promoted yesterday from Charlotte, replacing Aaron Poreda on the 25-man roster.
Truth is, after last night’s blown opportunity to take two in a row from the Rays, we need Mr. Torres to pitch well tonight and give us a chance to win. He doesn’t have to do a Roy Halladay imitation, he just has to do well enough to give the offense and a rested bullpen the chance to redeem themselves.
Note of the Day: Another three-hit game for Gordon “The Natural” Beckham. His average is up to .304 despite the disappointing start. Rookie of the Year?

The Life of Brian (and Josh)

Regretfully, it is pretty clear that two of the Sox past No. 1 draft picks are at a crossroads with Brian Anderson getting sent down to AAA Charlotte and Josh Fields continuing to struggle after being relegated to bench duty.

Ozzie has indicated that he’s been getting a great deal of criticism from fans for Anderson’s demotion, even enduring “racist” talk as a result of the Sox keeping DeWayne Wise instead. In my opinion, such talk is absolute foolishness. Anderson has been given every chance in the world to succeed and, simply put, he’s failed as a major league hitter. Think about it, this is the fourth season he’s had the chance to seize the starting centerfield job and fizzled out. Perhaps a change of scenery is the last option for him to stick as a bonafide major leaguer.
As far as Josh is concerned, it seemed he had turned the corner. He recovered from last year’s injury, admirably volunteered to get defensive help from Joey Cora during the off-season and had a stellar spring. But this season has been a disaster for Fields, who is now playing sparingly. Last night as the DH against the lefty, he went 0-for-3 with three K’s. I wouldn’t be surprised if he were demoted or traded before the July 31 deadline. He, too, probably would benefit from new surroundings.
There are no guarantees in baseball, but it’s a good bet that we’ll have different results from our last three picks–Poreda, Beckham and Jared Mitchell, who has gotten off to a good start at Kannapolis.
Notes of the day:  Kudos to AJ for throwing out the two runners in last night’s 4-3 win. And note to Bobby Jenks: I love exciting baseball, but as far as I’m concerned you don’t have to make it THAT exciting.

Broom Deprived

My maiden 2009 voyage to the Cell was far from what I had hoped with the 10-2 drubbing by the O’s–which wiped out the prospect of a sweep. That said, after living among Yankee, Red Sox and Met fans in the New York area, it was a pleasure to be with my peeps–more than 32,000 of them. And, of course, we did win two out of three.

Now we see where the Sox are in the big picture with the next 18 games against the Rays (4 at home), Tigers (4 on the road), Twins (3 on the road), Yankees (4 at home) and Angels (3 at home).
My mantra? Take one game at a time or else the thought is too overwhelming.
Note of the day: A lot of buzz on Chicago sports talk radio about including Beckham in a trade for Roy Halladay. Doc would look great in a Sox uniform, but GBeck is a special player. It’s so tempting to consider it, especially with the schedule in front of us, but it would hurt to lose The Natural.

“Me” in the House–and Looking for the Sweep vs. the O’s

Living in the New York area, I have to settle for watching the Sox on the Extra Innings package and on MLB.com, reading all the Chicago papers online and following many of the Sox websites.

But today I’ll be at the Cell–the first time seeing the Sox in person since I spent about a week in spring training. I’ll be attending with college friend Mike Griffin, another Sox fanatic, who was with me during the glorious 2005 postseason. I’ll be at the Cell on Thursday as well–with boyhood friend Gary Marks, a tried and true Sox fan who was also with me in ’05.
Note of the day: With his 3-for-4 performance yesterday, Gordon Beckham enters today’s game with a .296 BA. Pretty impressive after the sub-par start.

Best Part of Last Night? It was a Team Effort

It was a terrific start to the second half at the Cell last night. Apart from Linebrink and Thornton giving up five runs in their two innings of work, which I suppose could be expected after the All-Star layoff, there wasn’t much to be unhappy about. Well, Wise’s 0-for-5 wasn’t exactly stellar and we did make a couple of errors, but those were blips in the big picture.

The story really can be told by looking at the box score. Thome’s two homers and record seven RBI was certainly the highlight, but it was a real team effort offensively with the 12 runs and 13 hits. It’s something that we’ve come to expect recently–and will need down the stretch. 
Look at this: 
–Pods was 3-for-3, scored three runs and walked twice
–Alexei came through with two sacrifice flies and a walk
–Dye had a hit, an RBI and a walk 
–Thome blasted the grand slam, added a three-run shot with 7 RBI and walked to boot
–Konerko connected for two hits, including a homer 
–AJ contributed to the attack with a base hit. 
–Getz knocked out two hits and walked 
–Beckham had two hits, scored two runs, drew a walk and drove in a run
Let’s do it again tonight.

Be Still My Heart

The President of the United States wears a Sox jacket to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the All-Star Game in St. Louis. Our prayers have been answered.

Thank you President Obama.
PS–And Buehrle pitches a perfect inning in his hometown.

5 Things to Ponder Heading into the All-Star Break

Food for thought for White Sox fans:

1. “Q” — What will be the fate of Carlos Quentin in the season’s second half? Will he come back at all? If he does, will he be the player he was a year ago before the freak injury? If he comes back as the dangerous hitter we all know and love, winning the division will be a whole lot easier.

2. Pods and the Kids —
Will Pods continue his Superman act? Will Beckham, Getz and Nix continue to approve as we expect? The four of them will be key factors down the stretch as they beautifully balance the lineup with their speed and energy.

3. What is up Kenny Williams sleeve? — We all know he works 24/7 to make the Sox better–the reason he is one of the best general managers in the game. Will he pull off a big deal? Will he bring up a phenom or two from Charlotte or Birmingham? Will he make a so-called minor trade like he did recently with Tony Pena or with Geoff Blum in ’05? Stay tuned, because what he does could have a huge effect on our fortunes.

4. The Schedule — It’s probably best for all of us to take one game at a time because we have a tough second-half schedule ahead of us. If we stay in the middle of things until then, the 11-game road stretch from August 24 thru September 3 when we play Boston, New York, Minnesota and the makeup game against the Cubs could tell the tale. After that, we come home for a four-game wrap-around series against the Red Sox. Like I said, let’s take one game at a time.

5. Fields, Anderson, Wise — If “Q” comes back somebody has to go. Who will it be? Word is that Ozzie might want to keep both Anderson and Wise to have the flexibility to spell Quentin in the late innings. But who will be the first base backup if Fields is gone? Nix? There are undoubtedly other options that Williams and the Sox brass are discussing.

Enjoy the break and let’s look forward to the Baltimore series next weekend.

I’m Spent

The good guys held on tonight in the House that Corey Koskie Built with the 8-7 squeaker.
I had my usual 9th inning anxiety that always happens when we play in Minny regardless of the score, with visions of Denard Span tripling in the tying and winning runs. Thank goodness for all of us he hit into the double play–something he rarely does.
Kudos to Floyd, despite the Crede homers. He handled the M & M boys beautifully. And how about the bottom of our order? Nix, Beckham and Anderson were 7-13, four runs scored and two RBI. Thome’s bases clearing double was a sight to behold, especially in the Dome.
We’re still alive to win the series with Buehrle on the mound. Wouldn’t that make tomorrow night’s dinner taste better heading into the All-Star Game?
Stay tuned.