October 2009

Sox-wise and Otherwise…

   My weekly off-season musings on the White Sox and more…

*  Is President Obama the first Sox fan to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize?

*  It was announced today that Dewayne Wise, he of the spectacular catch that saved Mark Buehrle’s perfecto, has opted for free agency rather than accepting an outright assignment to Triple A. Wise is a favorite of mine and I wish him the best. No matter what happens in his career from this point on, he made “The Catch” that many call the greatest in history.

*  Chip Caray is certainly not a “chip off the old block.” The grandson of legendary Harry Caray and the son of outstanding sports broadcaster Skip Caray, is an embarrassment to his family’s tradition, TBS and baseball in general. He’s a minor league announcer on the sport’s biggest stage. Read Richard Sandomir and Phil Mushnick in today’s New York Times and New York Post, respectively, for details.

*  You have to feel for the Cardinals’ Matt Holliday after his error with two outs in the ninth set the stage for the Dodgers to rally and take a 2-0 lead in their ALDS series. That said, Cards closer Ryan Franklin should have been able to pitch over it. Reminds me of all the flack Bill Buckner got as THE culprit in Game 6 of the 1986 Mets-Red Sox series. In that case, pitcher Bob Stanley got a big-time pass.

*   I’m not the biggest Jim Thome fan, but I was hoping he was going to jack one out yesterday as a pinch-hitter in the eighth inning. Instead, he was hit by a pitch.

*   Joe Girardi’s decision to replace All-Star catcher Jorge Posada with Jose Molina to catch A.J. Burnett in Game 2 of the ALDS against the Twins is a big story here in New York. Truth is, Posada’s not a great defensive catcher and Molina is. Plus, Burnett and Molina have a much better rapport.

*   I picked the Yankees to win the World Series, but the more I think about it I’m getting a vibe it’s going to be the Angels. They are on a mission to win it for their late teammate Nick Adenhart.

*   I’d give anything for the Sox to be in the thick of things, but it’s nice to sit back, relax and enjoy a baseball game. I can’t do it when the Pale Hose are playing.                 

11 Ex-White Sox on 2009 Playoff Rosters

While our Sox failed to make the grade this season, 11 former Chisox find themselves on postseason playoff rosters, including four who won World Series rings with the club, one coach and one manager.

Here’s the breakdown:

Yankees:    *Damaso Marte, Nick Swisher
Twins:         Orlando Cabrera, Jon Rauch
Red Sox:    *Brian Anderson
Angels:        None

Cardinals:    Tony LaRussa (Mgr.), Dave Duncan (Coach)
Dodgers:    *Jon Garland, Jim Thome
Phillies:       Scott Eyre
Rockies:    *Jose Contreras

* Member of 2005 World Champion White Sox. Anderson was on the team, but not on the postseason roster.

Two more of note: Red Sox Manager Terry Francona managed in the Sox organization and Twins’ reliever Matt Guerrier played in the farm system, but neither made it to the majors with the White Sox.

My Hat is Off to the Piranhas

I have a great deal of compassion for the Detroit Tigers and their fans this morning after last night’s thrilling tie-breaker loss in Minnesota. As a White Sox fan, I’ve seen this movie before.The Twins play the right way (especially in the Dome), make very few mistakes, hit in the clutch and just nibble at you until they’ve done enough to win. Ozzie Guillen said it best, they’re a bunch of piranhas.

As a division rival I hate them. As a baseball fan I admire them. Many are predicting a Yankee sweep in the ALDS and it very well could happen. But the Twins, a tired bunch without playoff-caliber pitching and an injured Justin Morneau, will compete and certainly won’t embarrass themselves.

My prediction: Yankees in 4. The Twins will find a way to win a game, but the Yanks’ lineup is as strong and balanced as any in baseball and the pitching staff should be able to handle the Minny hitters, who are at a major disadvantage without Morneau.

My other predictions:

Angels over Red Sox in 5
Cardinals over Dodgers in 5
Rockies over Phillies in 5

Sox News: Freddy Garcia and Matt Thornton had their respective options picked up and will both be back with the Sox in 2010.

2009 Season (Thankfully) in Rear-View Mirror; White Sox Will Eye the Prize in 2010

The Sox surely gave it a shot this afternoon, but came up a little short in their quest for a sweep in Detroit with the 5-3 defeat. As a result, the Tigers and Twins (who crushed the Royals, 13-4) will oppose each other in a one-game playoff on Tuesday for the right to face the big, bad Yankees. 

It’s the second year in a row that the gritty piranhas have ended the season in a tie for the top spot in the AL Central–and the first time a team has played the “sudden death” game two consecutive years. In last year’s one-game playoff at the Cell, it was John Danks and a Jim Thome solo homer that foiled the Twins in the 1-0 thriller. It may be much different this season as Minny will be playing at the Twinkiedome, and we all know their history at home. Whatever happens, Ron Gardenhire should send a box of expensive cigars to Ozzie for winning this weekend’s series at Comerica to help the Twins’ cause.
Before we put the 2009 season in the rear-view mirror, here are the Sox season leaders:
Home runs: Paul Konerko (28); RBI: Konerko (88);  Batting average: Scott Podsednik (.304) with A.J. Pierzynski (an even .300) the only other .300 hitter; Pitching victories: Danks and Mark Buehrle (13); ERA: Matt Thornton (2.74); Saves: Bobby Jenks (29). Additionally, Rookie of the Year candidate Gordon Beckham, who was called up on June 4, finished his maiden voyage in the big leagues with a .270 BA, 28 doubles, 14 homers and 63 RBI. 
Despite the disappointment of ’09, Sox fans should be itching for the 2010 campaign to
begin–there’s so much to look forward to. Spring training can’t come soon enough.
                                     Art of the Pale Hose will certainly not be
                                     hibernating during the off-season with so
                                     much activity expected on the South Side
                                     and throughout baseball. Beginning with the
                                     playoffs, look for my weekly Sox-wise 
                                     and Otherwise report plus opinions and 
                                     observations as the news warrants.   

How About Those White Sox!

It was Jake Peavy and an explosive offense on Friday night. Tonight, it was Freddy Garcia and some more potent hitting. The bottom line? With the South Siders’ back-to-back 8-0 and 5-1 victories over the Tigers, the Sox have helped Minnesota create a tie with Detroit in the AL Central pennant race with one game remaining. 

Tomorrow at Comerica it’ll be Tiger ace Justin Verlander vs. Sox bulldog John Danks and in the last regular season game in the Twinkiedome it will be the Twins’ Carl Pavano vs. the Royals’ Luke Hochevar. It’ll be a day all true baseball fans love–a couple of games for all the marbles–with the distinct possibility that there will be a one-game playoff on Tuesday in Minny. 
If the playoff scenario plays out, the Twins will face “sudden death” for the second year in a row. They lost to the Sox in a heartbreaker in 2008 and regardless of the outcome, the Twinkies should give the Chicagoans a big thank you for helping get them there in ’09.

Peavy’s Gem Puts More Pressure on Tigers…and I Can’t Wait for Spring Training

Jake Peavy’s third Sox victory (without a defeat) was a masterpiece as he worked eight scoreless innings tonight, surrendering only two hits–a pair of singles–in the 8-0 whitewash of the Tigers.

While Peavy’s gem is much too late to vault the Sox into playoff contention, he has given us a lot of hope for 2010 as well as giving a big boost to the rival Twins. The Twinkies, who outlasted the Royals, 10-7, are just a game behind Detroit with two games left.
With the Tigers undoubtedly feeling some pressure, they will have to face the rejuvenated Freddy Garcia tomorrow night in an effort to separate themselves from Minny. Sox fans are looking for a win and another one on Sunday afternoon behind 13-game winner John Danks to end the season in satisfying fashion. If they do just that, it’s likely they will have pushed the Twins over the finish line. I’d rather be a contender than a spoiler, but it is what it is.
Offense Comes Alive

Peavy got great support tonight. Scotty Pods went 3 for 4 and led off the game with a homer. Carlos Quentin socked his 20th round-tripper of the season and drove in two while Jermaine Dye and Mark Kotsay each drove in a pair as well.

WWOD (What Would Ozzie Do?)

Chicago sports certainly has experienced better times. First, the Sox and the Media Darlings from the North Side disappointed and now the loss of the 2016 Olympics. Ah, to be back in 2005 again.

The city certainly brought out the heavyweights in Copenhagen–President and Michelle Obama, Oprah Winfrey, Mayor Daley and an impressive group of past U.S. Olympians. But it all went for naught. I guess we can blame it on Rio.

Perhaps the Chicago Olympic folks should have gone a different direction and asked, “What Would Ozzie Do?” and requested that the Sox skipper be part of their official contingent. I know, he needed to be in Detroit to help the Sox affect the AL Central race, but maybe Ozzie could have made a quick trip to Denmark and gotten past the staid IOC and laid in on the line for his peeps.

Who cares if he would have said some politically incorrect things and criticized the countries that the voters call home? It would have been refreshing for someone to be straight forward and honest–two traits that aren’t usually associated with the men and women of the IOC despite their lip service about Olympic ideals.

This should be a lesson for us all. For the salesman trying to sell a product, the politician trying to convince voters, the minister preaching religion to his flock or the city trying to win an Olympic bid, remember one simple thing:

Ask yourself, what would Ozzie do?

Our Sox Still Have Something to Play For

So the weekend series against the Tigers in Motown will mean something to the White Sox after all.
Following the Twins 8-3 victory over Detroit this afternoon, the Tigers now hold a two-game lead over the Twinkies with three left to play. That means if the Sox handle the Tigers and the homestanding Twins handle the lowly Royals, the South Siders will have a hand in Minnesota tying for the lead or even winning it–either within the 162-game season or in a one-game playoff.
It’s not that I necessarily want the Twins in the playoffs, but rather it would mean that the Sox played hard to the end. I, for one, will be rooting for the above scenario to happen. If my team can’t be in the postseason, the next best thing is for them to decide who makes it. 

Mr. Perfect Finishes His Season in Fine Form; Sox Look Ahead to 2010 and Perhaps the Best Starting Rotation in Baseball

When your team is out of the playoffs after a very disappointing year, it’s important to look for positive signs in the remaining games and for the next season. So, that’s exactly what I’m doing.

Mark Buehrle’s victory last night vs. the Tribe, a 1-0 decision in the nightcap of the doubleheader, was a pick-me-up after the Sox dropped the opener 5-1 and lost any chance for a .500 season. He pitched six innings for his 13th win, allowing three hits with no walks. His stellar performance was needed as his mound opponent, Justin Masterton, hurled a complete game, giving up just the one run and striking out 12 Sox. After struggling post-perfect game, Buehrle deserved to end the season on a high note.

That brings us to what is probably the biggest plus in this lost season and for 2010–the starting pitching. The South Siders lead the American League with 84 quality starts and are second in ERA with a 4.24. And I don’t think there’s any question that next season’s rotation of Buehrle, Jake Peavy, John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Freddy Garcia/Daniel Hudson/somebody else will be considered the best staff in the division and maybe in all of baseball.

With the series victory over the Indians under their belt, it would be another positive if the Sox finish strong against Detroit, who with a win this afternoon against the Twins will clinch the division title. We’ve got Peavy, Garcia and Danks going against the Tigers at Comerica.