September 2009

Who Would Be On Your Single-Season Sox All-Time 9?

Whitesox.com is asking fans to vote for their dream Sox lineup based on the best single-season hitting performances in the team’s history–the All-Time 9.

It’s a multiple choice exercise with candidates listed at each position. My selections will be made based on my personal impressions of how the player did and in the context of when he did it. And since I’m not participating in the official poll, I’m going to take liberties. Specifically, one of my choices is not on the ballot and I’m moving two players to different positions. Go to whitesox.com for the complete list of candidates and their stats.

Here we go:

1B — Dick Allen (1972): Although not on the ballot for some reason, to me this pick is a no-brainer. In addition to leading the league in home runs (37), RBI (113), walks (99), on-base-base percentage (.420) and slugging percentage (.603), he almost single-handedly revived the franchise from oblivion.

2B — Nellie Fox (1959): It’s very difficult to ignore Little Nell. He batted .306, led the Sox to the AL pennant and won the league MVP award. One possible candidate for the second base position could have been Hall of Famer Eddie Collins (1923). For unknown reasons he is listed at first base, a position he didn’t play. That said, I’ll still go with Fox.

3B  — Pete Ward (1964): This group includes Bill Melton (1971), Robin Ventura (1996) and Joe Crede (2006), but I’m going with Pete who was my favorite player during the 1960s. Aside from my personal feelings, I can make the case that in ’64, with 23 homers, 94 RBI and a .282 batting average, he distinguished himself as the main power source in an otherwise power-deficient lineup

SS — Luke Appling (1936): This would seem like a tough call with Luis Aparicio’s 1959 in the mix, but this is about hitting. While Aparicio was spectacular in the field and stole 56 bases for the AL champs, Appling batted .388 with 128 RBI and for years and years was the Sox only star. He belongs in my lineup.

  C  — Carlton Fisk (1983): Sherm Lollar was the big power man in 1959 and Ray Schalk was the backstop on the 1917 World Champion Sox. But I’ll go with Fisk, who was at the core of the team that was the first Sox postseason club since ’59. He hit .289 with 26 long ones and 84 RBI.

  DH — Frank Thomas: Frank was listed for his 1993 MVP season at first base. I’m taking the liberty of ignoring that and moving him to DH to make room for both he and Dick Allen. And let’s face it, Thomas is the greatest offensive player in the team’s history and any number of years would qualify him at either position.

  OF — Harold Baines: Harold is listed as a DH for the 1996 season. I’ve got him in the outfield where, like Thomas, he’s a White Sox icon and qualifies in my book for any number of years.

   OF — Minnie Minoso (1954): Although he didn’t play for the ’59 pennant winners, Minnie was a symbol of the Go-Go Sox in the 1950s. Maybe the stats aren’t as gaudy as others, but Minoso’s got to be on my team.

    OFScott Podsednik (2005): With apologies to folks like Albert Belle, Shoeless Joe Jackson, Magglio Ordonez and Al Simmons, I just can’t ignore what he meant to the World Champs from the leadoff spot in ’05. Unlike so many Sox before him, he wears a ring symbolizing baseball supremacy.

No one asked, but here’s my lineup 1-9: Minoso (LF), Fox (2B), Allen (1B), Thomas (DH), Appling (SS), Baines (RF), Fisk (C), Ward (3B), Podsednik (CF).
  

News and Notes from SoxWorld

Some random thoughts on an off-day following a much-needed 4-3 walk-off win and in advance of a crucial road trip vs. the Angels and Mariners…

*  The offense last night was sparked again by our two everyday MVPs–Scotty Pods and A.J. Podsednik tied a personal record with his four hits (two singles and two doubles) and Pierzynski doubled to score Alexei (who had two hits and two RBI) with the winning run in the 13th inning. The P & P boys are also our only .300+ hitters–Pods at .307 and A.J. at .314.

*  On the flip side of Pods and A.J., it’s been excruciating to watch Jermaine and Alex Rios at the plate. Dye, who started the season on fire, has been in a slump since the All-Star break. With his 0 for 6 performance last night his average has dwindled to .256. Rios, down to .247, did hit a bloop single but he’s been like the walking dead. It just seems like he’s lost his confidence. And if his offense wasn’t bad enough, he dropped a ball for an error in extra innings. Ugh!

Freddy Garcia was denied the victory last night when Tony Pena coughed up the tying run in the eighth, but he was outstanding as he gave up only two runs and five hits over six innings while striking out five. It looks more and more like Freddy will be the front-runner for the fifth starter role in 2010.

*  I would be remiss if I didn’t give a shout out to Octavio Dotel for his fine performance to give us a shot to win it in the 13th. He’s been a human yo-yo all season–great one day, awful the next–but he was terrific last evening.

*  With last night’s Sox win and the Tigers loss, the South Siders picked up a full game on Detroit for the first time since August 22. No wonder we are where we are–6 1/2 games behind the leader.

*  The 20 games in 20 days stretch has ended with the Sox finishing 3-8 on “The Road Trip” and 8-12 all told.  That said, it was nice to see us play much better in the last two road games and during the 4-2 homestand against Boston and Oakland. It leaves us a game away from the .500 mark at 70-71.

*  Word is that Jake Peavy will make his Sox debut on the upcoming road trip either in Anaheim or Seattle. That’s good news whether we’re in the race or not. Peavy has promised he’ll be in perfect shape come spring training where he will be part of what could be the best rotation in the league–led by Peavy, Buehrle, Floyd and Danks.

*  Will we see Gordon Beckham this weekend? After four consecutive days off because of the sore side, it seemed like he’d be back. Now it’s been reported that he hurt the tip of his right middle finger in infield drills. Let’s hope he’s OK. Would hate for him to miss out on Rookie of the Year honors because of injury–not to mention that he’s been sorely missed during his absence.
 

It Was Over Before It Started

In September of 1962, the father of a friend of mine paid a large sum of money for what he thought was going to be a night of a lifetime. He bought a ticket to the Sonny Liston vs. Floyd Patterson heavyweight title bout at Comiskey Park.

With the start of the fight minutes away, my friend’s father went out to the men’s room. When he returned to his seat, the fight was over. Liston knocked out Patterson in two minutes and six seconds of the first round to win the heavyweight crown.

That fight was across the street at old Comiskey and not the Cell and it would be ridiculous to compare the significance of that event with last night’s Sox game. But I couldn’t help but think about my friend’s father when the A’s scored seven runs in the first two innings in the 11-3 laugher. Not good for the Sox fans on hand as well as those settling in for a night of baseball in front of their TVs, hoping their club would reach the .500 mark against one of the league’s weaker teams.

Sadly, like the fight 47 years ago, the game was over before it started.                                                                                                        
 

10 Things I’d Like to See in the Final 23 Games

Of course I want the Sox to win the AL Central, but whether or not that happens–and it sure is a longshot at this juncture–here are some other things I’d like to see as the regular season winds down:

1.  Alex Rios goes on a tear, giving us some real hope for him in 2010.

2.  Gordon Beckham finishes the year healthy and in the driver’s seat for AL Rookie of the Year honors.

3.  Jake Peavy makes a start. And is it asking too much for him to chalk up his first AL victory?

4.  Our defense continues to play the way it has the past week–a big improvement over “The Road Trip.” I’ve said all season that if you go position by position it’s a decent defense (and not the club with the league’s most errors). Somehow, though, it unraveled.

5.  Daniel Hudson and Carlos Torres are given the opportunity to shine so they can be right in the mix for the fifth starter’s spot next spring–along with Freddy Garcia and perhaps others.

6.  We get a good look at Tyler Flowers. Just like it is with Beckham, I can’t get enough of seeing our top prospects.

7.  Jermaine Dye finishes strong. Whether or not he’s in our plans for ’10, he’s meant a lot to the franchise and along with guys like Konerko, Buehrle and Thome (before he was traded) gave the Sox a lot of character in the past few years. If he does play elsewhere next year, I’ll miss his presence on the South Side.

8.  Tony Pena turns it around and pitches like he did yesterday in the eighth inning vs. Boston. With the likelihood of changes in the bullpen for next season, we need Pena to be more consistent. Not to mention it would take some of the sting out of trading young slugger Brandon Allen to Arizona for the reliever.

9.  Mark Kotsay has a hot September so he makes a case for a roster spot in 2010. He’s a grinder, a veteran leader who can play multiple positions. I’ve always had a soft spot for players like Kotsay. To me, he’s a keeper.

10. Hawk Harrelson goes three innings without prefacing an observation with, “In my 50 years in this game…”
   

Mr. Perfect in Winner’s Circle with 12th Win

Mark Buehrle’s eight-game winless streak came to a satisfying halt this afternoon as Mr. Perfect pitched seven solid innings in the Sox 5-1 win at the Cell, enabling the South Siders to capture the weekend series against Boston three games to one.

Labor Day proved to be lucky for for the All-Star lefty, who won his 12th of the season and notched his first victory since the July 23 perfect game. His triumph came on the strength of his own performance, Mark Kotsay’s two-RBI single and Carlos Quentin’s two-run homer.
It proved to be a rare and rather historic day for the Sox as well. It was the first time ever that they defeated Red Sox ace Josh Beckett.
Something to keep an eye on
During his one season with the SF Giants, AJ Pierzynski had some teammates who weren’t so crazy about him. One of the most vocal was pitcher Brett Tomko, the same Tomko who will be on the mound against the Sox tomorrow night as the starter for the Oakland A’s. I’m just saying…

Too Much Lester at the Cell, Inge at the Trop

It’s a shame. With today’s 6-1 loss to Boston the White Sox have now won four of the last five, but haven’t made a dent in the standings with the Tigers on a roll and specializing in late-inning comebacks. This afternoon, down 3-1 to the Rays in the top of the ninth, Detroit came back on the wings of a Brandon Inge grand slam to defeat the Rays, 5-3. They now lead the Twins by seven and the Sox by eight.

This afternoon at the Cell it was simply too much Jon Lester, who stifled the South Siders’ offense for seven innings. The only Good Guy he didn’t dominate was Scotty Pods, who knocked out three of the four White Sox hits against the dominating lefty–all singles. The only run we scored was in the eighth when Ramon Castro went deep against his former Mets batterymate Billy Wagner. 
Our Sox will go for the series win tomorrow with Mark Buehrle, looking for his first victory since the perfect game, matched up against ace Josh Beckett. For those of you who aren’t aware, rookie star Gordon Beckham took himself out in the first inning of yesterday’s game with a sore side, sat out today and will be on the bench again in the series finale.

Hip Hip Jose!

There’s no reason for any us in SoxWorld to wish Jose Contreras anything but the best as he attempts to push the Colorado Rockies into the postseason. By all accounts he is a great guy and a great teammate. And how can we ever forget what he did for the Sox in ’05.

With that in mind let’s give it up for Jose’s first National League start. All he did was give up one run, eight hits and one walk in 6 2/3 innings against the rival Diamondbacks as the Rockies remain one game ahead of the Giants in the NL Wild Card race.
A side note to Jose’s initial NL victory is that the one run he gave up was a home run off the bat of rookie Brandon Allen. Yes, the same Brandon Allen who the Sox traded earlier this season for reliever Tony Pena.

Saturday Afternoon Delight

The White Sox, behind Gavin Floyd’s eight-inning, 11-strikeout masterpiece, won their fourth in a row with today’s 5-1 victory over the Red Sox. For those of you interested in such things, it gave the Sox a 17-5 record on Saturday this season–far and away their most successful day of the week–and continued the South Siders’ mission to come back from the AL Central abyss.

The pitching of Garcia and Floyd and Mark Kotsay’s home runs yesterday and today have 
to stand out as the highlights of the two Red Sox contests. But another interesting story is unfolding with Chris Getz back in the lineup after being out with an oblique injury.
Since being activated on September 1, Getz has gone 8 for 16. In the last three games, including the one vs. the Cubs and two against Boston, Chris is 7 for 11 and in the first two games of the Red Sox series has gone 6 for 8 with his four hits last night and two today. The recent spurt has raised his average to .278.
Getz’s performance is not only a great sign for the rest of the season, but for the future as well. With a year under his belt, all signs point to him becoming one of the best second basemen in the AL next season.

Sunday in the park
It’s Danks vs. Lester tomorrow in the third of the four-game Sox/Sox series.

What’s Not to Like?

The fun returned to the Cell last night. The Sox not only won their third in a row, but pummeled the AL Wild Card-leading Red Sox, 12-2, pounding out 20 hits. We gained a game on the second-place Twins, but remain 7 back of the Tigers.

Let’s not worry about the division race for now. I’d prefer to focus on the modest winning streak and savor what happened last night.
*  Ozzie won his 500th game as Sox manager.
*  Freddy Garcia had another outstanding outing, giving up only one run, scattering seven hits and striking out five in seven innings as he picked up his first victory of the year.
*  After hitting the first batter he faced, Daniel Hudson settled down and retired the next six in a row in his major league debut. Hudson, an ’08 draft pick out of Old Dominion, had a dream season as he was promoted from Kannapolis to Winston-Salem to Birmingham to Charlotte and now to Chicago.  His four-stop record in the minor leagues this year was 14-5 with a 2.32 ERA. Look for him to make a strong bid for the rotation next season.
*  Now for the lineup, truly a sight to behold:
   –Pods: a hit and 2 RBI
   –Beckham: his first big league triple and a run scored
   –AJ: three hits, an RBI and two runs scored
   –Paulie: two hits, a walk and three runs scored
   –Kotsay: three hits, a homer, three RBI, three runs scored and a walk
   –CQ: a hit and an RBI
   –Getz: four hits, two runs scored and two RBI
   –Alexei: two hits, a run scored and three RBI
   Rios: two hits
With 26 games to go let’s hope there’s more where this came from–and maybe, just
maybe…

Nagging Questions For a Holiday Weekend

1.  With his 10 homers, 52 RBI, .275 batting average and .351 on base percentage in his first 81 big league games, will Gordon Beckham be named the ’09 AL Rookie of the Year? He would be the first Sox player to achieve the honor since Ozzie in 1985.

2.   Who will we see on the mound first, Jake Peavy or young phenom Daniel Hudson, who was just promoted from Charlotte?

3.   Will Tyler Flowers be A.J.’s backup in 2010?

4.   Will this be the last season for Bobby Jenks as the Sox closer and, if so, can Matt Thornton get the job done in that role?

5.   Will Brandon Allen, the hot slugging prospect dealt to Arizona for Tony Pena, come back to haunt us?

6.   The Angels’ Chone Figgins, long coveted by the Sox, is a free agent at the end of this season. Will he finally don a Sox uniform? And what position would the versatile Figgins play in Chicago?

7.   All members of the 2005 White Sox (yes, even Damaso Marte) will always have
a special place in the Art of the Pale Hose Hall of Fame. So isn’t it disappointing that
Joe Crede may have to hang it up for good because of his recurring back problems?

8.   Will Jose Contreras get a second wind in the NL and help the Rockies to the playoffs?

9.   How much impact will Jim Thome have on the Dodgers postseason success?  

10.  Just wondering, when will we see the real Alex Rios? I can’t believe that the guy we’ve seen so far in the Sox lineup is the All-Star we saw with the Blue Jays.

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