April 2010

Mauer, Morneau and All That Gang are on the Way

In promoting upcoming series, White Sox Hall of Fame radio broadcaster Bob Elson would say something to the effect of, “Folks, come out to the ballpark for a big series this weekend. The New York Yankees will be here with Mantle, Maris, Berra and all that gang.”

That was a half-century ago, but if Elson were around today he’d talk about the Minnesota Twins with Mauer, Morneau, Span, Kubel, Hudson, Thome and all that gang descending on The Cell for a three-game series this weekend.
After watching the Sox the past two nights, it doesn’t appear that it’s the best time for the South Siders to challenge the Twins. Two straight 5-3 losses to the Indians with weak hitting and bullpen woes have not given Sox fans a great impression of what’s to come in 2010. Plus the Twins are on fire, taking three of four from the Angels in Anaheim.
The pitching matchups:
Friday: John Danks vs. Francisco Liriano
Saturday: Freddy Garcia vs. Scott Baker
Sunday: Mark Buehrle vs. Nick Blackburn

As Hawk would say, strap it down. Joe Nathan is nowhere to be found, but the M & M boys will no doubt make ther presence known.
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Sox Counting on Floyd to Help Good Guys Win Opening Series

I know that the Sox weren’t going to go 162-0, but last night’s 5-3 loss to the Tribe was a disappointment. With Jake Peavy on the mound and the momentum from Opening Day I had already chalked up a victory in my head. Lesson learned for the millionth time–nothing in baseball is set in stone.

While Peavy was far from his best, I’m not at all discouraged. He’s an intense competitor with great stuff and I love having him. And he wasn’t the only culprit. You’re not going to win many games with two hits.
On the bright side, Paul Konerko is off to a hot start with two two-run homers and five RBIs. Paulie being in the last year of his contract may be a great benefit to the Sox offense.
Tonight is the rubber game against Cleveland with Gavin Floyd going against Justin Masterston. The best part of the 2010 Sox is that they run out an outstanding starter every night so we’ve got a fighting chance every day. But remember, in baseball nothing is set in stone.
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                                             Next up for the Sox: Gavin Floyd


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Buehrle Joins Iguchi and Wise on Mount Rushmore of White Sox Web Gems

As satisfying as it was to watch the White Sox blank the Tribe 6-0 in today’s opener at The Cell, the impressive victory has already been cast aside as an afterthought to Mark Buehrle‘s mind-boggling play to retire Cleveland catcher Lou Marson. It was even more remarkable than Buehrle’s seven shutout innings and Paul Konerko‘s two-run homer in the first which gave the Sox the lead for good.

Here’s what happened. The Sox were leading 4-0 in the fifth inning with one away when Marson struck Buehrle’s foot with a smash back to the mound. Buehrle went after the ball, which went foul, tossed the ball with his glove between his legs and Konerko caught it with his bare hand. My description doesn’t do the play justice–nor does the photo below. You had to see it to believe it. 
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Buehrle’s effort brought to mind that Sox fans have now witnessed arguably three of the most astonishing defensive plays in baseball history.
Remember this gem by Tadahito Iguchi in April of 2006? Priceless.
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And, of course, DeWayne Wise‘s Perfect Game-saving catch last July…
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Note of the day: Five years ago, Buehrle faced Jake Westbrook on Opening Day with Buehrle also getting the win on a shutout (1-0). As we know, the Sox went on to win the World Series. I’m just saying…
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In the Beginning…Sox and Buehrle vs. Tribe and Westbrook

The long cold winter and six weeks of spring training are in the rear-view mirror. It’s time to play for real. Let’s hope the White Sox take the first step toward an AL Central title and a trip to the postseason.

Today’s Opening Day lineups:

Indians

Asdrubal Cabrera, SS
Grady Sizemore, CF
Shin-Soo Choo, RF
Travis Hafner, DH
Jhonny Peralta, 3B
Matt LaPorta, 1B
Mark Grudzielanek, 2B
Lou Marson, C
Michael Brantley, LF
Jake Westbrook, P

Sox

Juan Pierre, LF
Gordon Beckham, 2B
Carlos Quentin, RF
Paul Konerko, 1B
Mark Kotsay, DH
Alex Rios, CF
A.J. Pierzynski, C
Mark Teahen, 3B
Alexei Ramirez, SS
Mark Buehrle, P

                                                                          
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I Love Lucy

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News Item: White Sox backup catcher Ramon Castro is placed on the 15-day disabled list due to a bruised right heel and replaced on the Opening Day roster with catcher Donny Lucy.


I wouldn’t exactly say it’s love–frankly it’s just that I couldn’t resist the headline. It is true, though, that Lucy will forever hold a special place in my memory bank. He was the player designated by the Sox to have the chore of running out to home plate to catch my ceremonial first pitch at Camelback Ranch on March 15. To his credit, he was great, acting like it was something he really wanted to do.
So it was on that night that I became a fan of the 27-year-old Stanford product, who was a second round pick by the South Siders in the 2004 draft and has hit .251 in 402 minor league games in the Sox system. He also appeared in eight games with the major league club in 2007, collecting three base hits.
The truth is that Lucy’s major league stay will last as long as it takes Castro to get healthy, but in the meantime I’m hoping he makes the most of his opportunity. No less authority than Ozzie has said Lucy is both a good handler of pitchers and is loved by all in the organization for the person he is. And how about this? His teammates gave him a standing ovation in the clubhouse when it was announced he made the team. 
When the Sox are introduced before tomorrow’s opener at The Cell, I’ll give an extra fist pump for Donny Lucy and I hope you do too. He’s paid his dues and now he’s able to say he was on a major league Opening Day roster.
Good for him.

                                                        
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The Springtime Ritual of Predicting the Winners

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We all know that preseason predictions mean nothing–nada, zilch, zero. And while we shouldn’t take them seriously, it’s still a lot of fun–especially when the so-called experts pick your team to win.
Historically, it’s very rare when the baseball media elite pick the White Sox to win their division, let alone the AL pennant or World Series. It’s not that much different this year as the Twins seem to be the most common pick to conquer the AL Central. That said, there are a few “big name” media types among those who have picked the South Siders:
* Hall of Fame electee Bill Madden of the New York Daily News and author of the forthcoming bio of George Steinbrenner.
* Fox SportsKen Rosenthal, who somewhat tongue-in-cheek picked the Sox to win the World Series while referring to them “Team Wacko.” Think that had anything to do with our Ozzie?
* ESPN‘s Tim Kurkjian, who doesn’t exactly wear a Sox jersey on the weekends.
* Jon Heyman, he of SI, SI.com and the MLB Network.
Since I’m drinking the prediction Kool-Aid, I might as well add my two cents. Here are my divisional picks for 2010:
AL CENTRAL

1. White Sox
2. Twins
3. Tigers
4. Royals
5. Indians


AL EAST 

1. Rays
2. Red Sox
3. Yankees
4. Orioles
5. Blue Jays


AL WEST

1. Angels
2. Mariners
3. Rangers
4. A’s

NL EAST

1. Phillies
2. Braves
3. Marlins
4. Mets
5. Nationals


NL CENTRAL

1. Cardinals
2. Reds
3. Brewers
4. Cubs
5. Pirates
6. Astros


NL WEST

1. Rockies
2. Dodgers
3. Giants
4. Padres
5. Diamondbacks

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The Peavy Factor

53057058.jpgI’m certainly not the first to write this and I won’t be the last, but I can’t help thinking what a bonus it is to have Jake Peavy in a White Sox uniform. Apart from his wins, strikeouts and innings pitched, his demeanor and competitive nature will undoubtedly rub off on the rest of team–especially guys Like Gavin Floyd and John Danks. And to have Peavy AND Mark Buehrle at the top of the rotation can only be a good thing.

From all accounts, Peavy is strictly business on the mound and a consummate team player. As recently as this spring Peavy avoided a potential controversy by not only saying that Buehrle deserved the Opening Day start, he even pushed for it.

“Mark is really deserving of that start,” said the former Cy Young Award winner with San Diego. “That’s also a good message to send to this clubhouse, to our fans, even Mark. We are saying ‘Hey listen, we have a couple of No. 1 starters here, so run them all out there.’ From 1-5, we are as good or as solid as anyone in the game. It’s something I truly believe.”

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Now pitching for the Royals…Brian Anderson?

Brian Anderson was once the White Sox golden boy who had the opportunity of a lifetime. He was the club’s No. 1 draft pick out of the University of Arizona in 2003 who was given the chance to be the starting centerfielder for the World Champion Sox three years later.  As we know, he never made the grade in Chicago.

That said, there were some memorable moments for the superb defender who was unable to hit consistently. While he wasn’t on the playoff roster his celebration with eventual predecessor Aaron Rowand, captured in the ’05 World Series video after Scott Podsednik‘s walkoff homer in Game 2, will live in Sox lore. His two home run performance off of Felix Hernandez and making the final catch of the “sudden death” game against the Twins to give the South Siders the 2008 AL Central crown are two other memorable instances. And, of course, he has a World Series ring.

Despite these sporadic highlights the Sox simply gave up on BA last summer just prior to the trade deadline, sending him to the Red Sox for Mark Kotsay. Obviously not in Boston’s long-term plans, he signed a one-year deal with the Royals this past offseason.

Despite hitting for the cycle during a 5 for 5 day in spring training, Brian must have seen the writing on the wall and is now heading back to the low minors in an attempt to become a pitcher.

“I’m not sure how that process is going to go, but it’s got to start at the very bottom,” said KC manager Trey Hillman. “We’re milling through that right now. He’s committed to making a go of it. So that’s what we’re going to do.” For the record, BA last pitched in college for Arizona. He was in 17 games with a 5.40 ERA in 21 2/3 innings.

Anderson is no different than hundreds of others in baseball history who were highly touted, but never quite lived up to their supposed potential. Some just didn’t have the talent to stick, others didn’t have the stick-to-it-iveness and still others may have not had the professional maturity. In BA’s case the first and third points seem to apply as he has admitted that he wasn’t ready when the Sox handed him the starting job after the championship season.

Who knows how all of this will turn out. Will it be the second coming of Sergio Santos? For Anderson’s sake, I hope it’s a happy ending.

qnpwnl.jpg                                                   BA in happier times


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It’s Ozzie Time…Just Sit Back and Enjoy

As the White Sox close out spring training and zero in on Monday’s opener, our Ozzie is in rare form. Thanks to Mark Gonzales in today’s Chicago Tribune, we are able to enjoy the wit and wisdom of our favorite manager:

*  “A lot of people hate me. I want them to hate my team, too. Because we want to kick some (butts). Nobody hates anybody when you’re horse(bleep). When you’re horse(bleep), nobody cares about you. When you’re good, that’s the people you want to beat, the people you hate the most. It’s so many many things. People give people attention when they have success…that’s what I want. I want every day to show up and kick people’s (butts). Show every day we’re ready to fight.”

*  “…You don’t win championships in the Cactus League or Grapefruit League. But I love the way they (the Sox) play. The guys are playing the basics very well as a unit this spring. I’m very excited about it. I never was before.”

*  “When we lose, I don’t even like my kids or my wife. That’s how bad it is. When we win, I love everyone–even my worst enemy. I love them because I’m happy. As long as we’re winning, everything is good. Even the worst (bleeping) guy I wish would die. I feel good for him. That’s what we’re here for–winning.”

Ozzie-Guillen.jpg                   Just think how boring it would be if Ozzie were ever muzzled

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