September 2009

Sox-wise and Otherwise

As the raindrops deluged Progressive Field and the Sox-Tribe game was postponed, I had no other choice but to turn my attention to the AL Central pennant race as much as it hurts not to be in the middle of it.

After the Twins 10-inning victory in Game 1 of the doubleheader, I was convinced they would win the nightcap and create a tie for the division lead. But it didn’t happen and the Tigers now have a cautiously comfortable two-game lead. A win tonight would pretty much give them the title and, of course, a win tonight and tomorrow would clinch it.

If Detroit does go into the weekend series with the Sox still needing to clinch, it would be nice if the Sox rose to the occasion and, as foreign as it may seem, help out the Twins. Not because it’s the Twins, but rather it would give the South Siders something to play for and the fans something to root for.

Torres, Buehrle take hill in twinbill

It will be Carlos Torres vs. Fausto Carmona and Mark Buehrle vs. Justin Masterton in tonight’s traditional doubleheader in Cleveland…If you’re like me, you’ll be focusing on Gordon Beckham and his quest for Rookie of the Year honors. I’d love him to really break out over the final five games.

Danks, Beckham, JV Overpower Tribe

It’s been a couple days of firsts for the Sox. On Sunday, rookie righty Daniel Hudson won his first major league game and last night, in his 90th start, John Danks pitched the first complete game of his career. Danks was superb, giving up only a run and three hits with seven K’s in the 6-1 triumph over the Tribe in Cleveland.

Offensively, it was Gordon Beckham and the Junior Varsity that did the damage. Beckham, hoping to make a final surge toward the AL Rookie of the Year award, was 2 for 5, including his 27th double, and had three RBI. He’s now hitting .272 with 63 RBI–all of it since his call-up on June 4.

Beckham’s performance wasn’t a surprise, but the production of the bench players replacing the likes of Pods, A.J., Alexei and Jermaine, was. DeWayne Wise was 2 for 4 with an RBI; Josh Fields was 2 for 4 with a walk and a run scored; Tyler Flowers was 1 for 3 with a walk and a run scored; and Brent Lillibridge was 2 for 3 with a walk, run scored and an RBI.

Eliminated or not, a win is a win. Five more and we’re a .500 ballclub.      

Big Day for Sox and Daniel Hudson

We all know that it’s been a season to forget on the South Side, but our spirits were raised a bit this afternoon with the South Siders’ 8-4 triumph over the first-place Tigers. Today’s win and the series victory showed there is still some life in the Sox with six games left in this lost season. It just could be that the troops took Ozzie’s Saturday tirade to heart.

The game also represented an important milestone in the career of rookie Daniel Hudson. The 2008 fifth-round draft choice, who started the season in low A ball, gained his first major league victory by giving up only two runs on three hits in six innings of work. Offensively, Carlos Quentin and Gordon Beckham led the way. Quentin hit his second three-run homer in as many days and Beckham went 2 for 4 with an RBI and two runs scored.
The Sox could still reach the .500 mark by sweeping the Indians and Tigers, but we all know that’s a longshot. Hopefully, though, we’ll end the season on a positive note to give the club some confidence that things will be better in 2010.

In Defense of Ozzie

Unfortunately, last night’s blown 5-0 lead and eventual 12-5 loss to the Tigers was pretty typical of how things have gone for the Sox this season. 

While Freddy Garcia, coasting with a five-run lead through four, wasn’t exactly smacked around he coughed up the lead nonetheless and left with the score tied 5-5. After that, it was the bullpen and a non-existent offense that did us in.
Apparently Ozzie walked into the clubhouse after the game and found some players, after the “embarrassing” loss, watching football. Much of Ozzie’s tirade is not suitable for a family blog, but he basically made the point that the Sox might be eliminated, but the season isn’t over for him.
There were 36,000 fans in the stands and many more watching from afar that expected the Sox to give a good effort. They would have thoroughly enjoyed the South Siders play the role of the spoiler as the third best team in the A.L. Central, eliminated or not. But it seems that the dismal performance didn’t have as much effect on the players as it did the unhappy fans. Count me as one.
Equally as disappointing is that Sox captain Paul Konerko agreed with Ozzie, but said he didn’t see players watching television. What? He didn’t see them? I don’t think Yankee captain Derek Jeter would have been oblivious to what was going on much less have stood for his teammates accepting the loss so easily. I’m a Konerko fan, but this isn’t leadership.
The fans, at least this fan, has never doubted where Ozzie’s heart is–he’s all about winning and playing the right way. But he can’t do it alone. The leaders in the clubhouse, like Paulie, have to show the way as well.
Maybe they should call Jeter for advice.

Peavy, GBeck and Thornton Give 2010 Preview

Forget that the Sox were eliminated from the AL Central race last night. It was fun again at the Cell this evening as three keys to the team’s potential 2010 success rose to the occasion as the South Siders shut out the Tigers, 2-0, despite collecting just two hits.

Jake Peavy, now 2-0 in a Sox uniform, was magnificent in seven scoreless innings of work, giving up only six hits while striking out eight. Gordon Beckham, hoping that a surge in the remaining games will put him over the top in the  AL Rookie of the year race, hit the two-run homer that stood up as the winning margin. And Matt Thornton, who may emerge as the club’s closer next season, hurled an impressive ninth for his second save of the season.
Happy times have been few and far between lately for the Good Guys. Pennant race or no pennant race it was a sight for sore eyes to see the Sox congratulating themselves on the field and to witness the blasting of fireworks after the game. It’s not close to the feeling we had a year ago when we won the division in the one-game playoff vs. the Twins, but we’ll take what we can get. And the Sox can also derive some satisfaction from knowing they played the spoilers, as the Tigers lead over Minnesota was cut to two games.
Fan of the day: It’s always a treat to discover a White Sox fan in the New York area among all of the Yankees, Mets and Red Sox rooters. A big welcome to Matt Kaplan, who is the newest follower of Art of the Pale Hose. How did he become a Sox fan? He’s either a genius or has very smart parents–or maybe it’s both. Matt, keep rooting for the South Siders. We need your support.

The Silver (and Black) Lining

No matter how bad things get, you can always find a silver lining. With the Sox officially eliminated from playoff contention after last night’s Tigers victory, let’s pick ourselves off the mat and look at some positives:

* Remember July 23. Mark Buehrle’s perfect game and DeWayne Wise’s spectacular catch to save it.

* Sox fans got a glimpse of a hopeful future in rookies Gordon Beckham, Chris Getz, Daniel Hudson and Jayson Nix.

* We saw 2005 World Series heroes Scott Podsednik and Freddy Garcia return from oblivion. Pods was better than ever as the club’s igniter from the leadoff spot and Garcia showed he can still pitch in the major leagues after an injury and a horrible spring with the Mets.

* The Sox faithful enjoyed a terrific year from A.J. Pierzynski, who has been above .300 despite carrying the load behind the plate.

* We have a lot to look forward to in regard to next year’s starting pitching with Jake Peavy, Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks. It’s too earlier to predict the fifth starter, but you have to think both Garcia and Hudson have a shot.

* It’s not unrealistic to think that some of this year’s top farmhands could have an impact next season. Tyler Flowers has gotten a cup of coffee this month and there’s a chance he could make the 2010 club as the backup catcher and sometime DH. It’s uncertain whether or not the likes Dayan Viciedo and Jordan Danks will reach the majors next year, but hopefully they are not too far away.

* Matt Thornton proved to be one of the top relievers in the game from his setup role. Whether or not he’s our closer in 2010, he’ll be an anchor in a pen that will certainly undergo a facelift over the winter.

* I’m looking for big things from Alex Rios next year, both offensively and defensively. I think it would be a mistake to write him off based on his performance with the Sox thus far.

These positives, along with the anticipated moves by Kenny Williams, should make us feel we’ll be a whole lot sounder baseball team next year–and a legimate contender.

The State of the White Sox: Look Ahead to 2010

As reported, Kenny Williams addressed the media yesterday. The bad news is that he underscored his earlier pronouncement that the Sox have been “underachievers” in 2009. The good news is that he’s got a plan to improve the team in 2010.

Some, like me, agree with KW that this team on paper is much better than they have performed. Others feel that it was a flawed team from the start. The bottom line is that the season has been a major disappointment after last year’s thrilling race-to-the-finish division title.

Here are Williams’ key observations from yesterday’s State of the White Sox press conference:

* More emphasis will be placed on defense. The outfield defense, in particular, will improve with Carlos Quentin returning in good health and Alex Rios manning centerfield for an entire season.

* The Sox are in need of players who have high on-base percentages and deliver more extra-base hits.

* Regarding the acquisitions of Rios, Jake Peavy and Mark Kotsay, Williams said he “would not take back in any way, shape or form.”

* He would not address whether Bobby Jenks will be in a Sox uniform next year.

* Concerning the acquisition of free agents, he said: “We were willing to go that extra mile if we have that fit for us.” But he added it might be difficult economically and the prospect of losing a high 2010 draft pick.

* Williams said he knows who’s quit and who has not, but would not mention any names.

10 Questions for Kenny Williams

Word is that Kenny Williams will address the media before tonight’s game against the Twins. Despite the Sox performance on the field this season, my motto is still “In Kenny We Trust.” To me, he’s done all the right things to help the team win. Unfortunately the players didn’t keep their end of the bargain.

If I were at his press conference, here’s what I’d ask him:

* What has been your biggest disappointment?

* What will be your priorities in the offseason? Power bats? Bullpen? Upgrading the defense? And do you feel there’s a lot to do or just some significant tweaking?

* The Sox can boast about having as many “good guys” as any team in baseball. That said, without getting away from that sound philosophy is there a need to change the chemistry a bit?

* Will the bullpen be reorganized and what are the chances of Bobby Jenks being back in a Sox uniform? If not, can Matt Thornton be counted on in the closer’s role?

* Did Scotty Pods do enough in ’09 to warrant bringing him back?

* Did Jermaine Dye’s second half ensure he will be elsewhere in 2010?

* How do you explain Alex Rios’ horrendous Sox debut? Do you still have faith he’ll be the player you thought he can be?

* Are you confident that Carlos Quentin can rebound from his injuries and get back to 2008 form?

* Paul Konerko will be in the last year of his contract. Is there any chance he’ll be dealt?

*What is your assessment of Ozzie’s performance this season?

Whatever questions will be asked at the presser I think we can be sure KW will tell it like it is. He didn’t exactly have the best summer of his life.

“We Are Just Not Fun to Watch”

White Sox fans reached a boiling point at the Cell last night as they heartily booed their beloved South Siders, who lost a 7-0 decision to the Twins. The defeat gave the Sox the dubious distinction of being shut out a major league-leading 13 times this season.

Frankly, I have run out of explanations of how a team with such established major league hitters can perform this way. It’s especially hard to understand when you look at the stats and the Sox pitching staff has the second lowest team ERA in the American League.

While Ozzie went on record basically saying he can’t blame the fans, Gordon Beckham offered his assessment.

“It’s a pretty frustrating time for the White Sox,” the rookie said. “We are just not fun to watch.”

To say the least.

Freddy is Superb, Offense is, Umm, Offensive

Apart from Freddy Garcia’s sixth straight quality start–eight innings of two-run baseball–it was a downer at the Cell today as the Sox could only muster one run and six hits in the 2-1 loss to the last-place Royals. I don’t have to tell you that it’s a familiar scenario, but one that is still mind-boggling with the talent the South Siders have in the lineup.

The tough loss is also another nail in the coffin for the Sox division title hopes as they fall to 6 1/2 games behind the Tigers, who salvaged the series finale this afternoon against the second-place Twins.
The truth is that there are a whole lot more questions than answers regarding the offense as we focus on the final 12 games of 2009 and beyond.
*  What happened to Jermaine Dye in the second half? And will he be back next season?
*  Why hasn’t Alex Rios snapped out of it?
*  With Gordon Beckham’s average now down to .266, is the fatigue of his first big-league season affecting his play?
* Will Carlos Quentin return to his 2008 form next season?
* Will Alexei Ramirez keep improving or have we seen the best of him?
* Will the Paul Konerko era end this season or will he be back at first in 2010.
Note of the day: With Gavin Floyd being held back from his start tomorrow in the first of three against the Twins because of a sore left hip, rookie Daniel Hudson will take the hill. Hudson, who was 14-5 at four minor league stops in ’09, will undoubtedly be a candidate for a roster spot next season–perhaps as the fifth starter.