September 2010

White Sox Assured of Second-Place Finish

Despite my outburst on September 18 when I wrote here that I couldn’t wait for this season to end, I’m following the Pale Hose to the end.

While the Sox have long since been eliminated, I want them to finish strong and am relieved that as a result of last night’s 5-2 win over the Red Sox they have clinched second place.

With that win and four games to go, the Good Guys are at 85 victories with an outside shot at 89 if they capture the finale against Boston and sweep the Tribe this weekend. It may not amount to all that much and won’t vault us into the postseason, but it’ll make the entry into the offseason a little easier to take.

Farewell to Freddy?:  It’s too early to speculate about Freddy Garcia’s future, but whatever happens he exceeded all expectations this year and a case could be made that he was the club’s most reliable starter. Garcia finished the year at 12-6 with his impressive performance last night and if it weren’t for a few blown saves, he could easily have won at least three or four more.  Garcia will always be remembered fondly by Sox fans for his role in the 2005 championship run and his highly-competitive nature.

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Dayan for a Victory

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In this season of White Sox schizophrenia, a constant has been the club’s ability to rebound from early deficits. It happened again last night as Dayan Viciedo lined a ninth-inning RBI single to leftfield for the 5-4 walkoff win against the Bostonians.
The South Siders were indeed “Dayan” for a win, having lost seven straight games at 
home–three to the Twins, three to the Tigers and the series opener against the Red Sox.
Sign him up:  As the speculation heats up about the futures of free agents Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, one of the most valuable Sox of 2010, Omar Vizquel, has said he wants to come back.
“I got used to the city and the teammates,” Vizquel said. “And it’s nice to come back to a team where they know what to expect from you, and what kind of personality you have. In my career, I really have been jumping from team-to-team, and you always want to feel comfortable in a place you like. I like it here, so I hope they maybe can think about having me back.”

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Ozzie, Manny and KW on Sox Future

56399739-27221748.jpg.gifThree games against Boston and three against Cleveland are all that remain on the Sox 2010 schedule as they sit eliminated and nine games in back of the Twins.
So what’s there to talk about? Here’s three items that come to mind:
* He’s Baaack: Ozzie had his sit downs with owner Jerry Reinsdorf and GM Kenny Williams and it seems as if Oz got the assurances he was looking for so he’ll be back in 2011. I know it was a cause celebre for a few days because of the constant controversy that surrounds Ozzie, but this might have been much ado about nothing. Regardless of what anyone says, Guillen needs the Sox and the Sox need him. A match made in heaven for sure.
 
* Oh, Man, oh Manny: I was on the record at the time we acquired Manny Ramirez as saying that regardless of the outcome, it was a wise decision to take the chance on the slugger. I still feel that way so you won’t see me second-guessing the move. That said, Manny has been awful and has had zero positive impact with his .258 batting average, one homer, one double, two RBI and 21 strikeouts. His 15 singles and 12 walks have contributed to his .410 on base percentage, but it’s all been meaningless. And last night’s lack of hustle going into second base was inexcusable–but typical of what you get with him.
*What’s Next: So where do the Sox go from here. I’ll let Williams explain: 
“Every year, I go through three different scenarios. Where we are currently, which right now is kind of middle of the road. Yes, we have potential to be that notch above, but I have to look at where we are right now. You look at going out and adding the necessary pieces through free agency and through trades where you think you can compete for a championship.

“After that, you take a look and say, ‘well, if we have to go the other way because of budgets or my pie-in-the-sky thinking, we aren’t going to be able to afford it,’ then what’s the best young team we can put out there and start the process?

“It wouldn’t be the typical rebuilding. We’ve worked hard over the years here to make sure we are never in a position for total rebuilding kind of project. If you just look around the field, we have good young players under 30-years-old that are some of the better players in the league. I don’t think that’s the case, but if you have to filter two or three young guys around that position player-wise and maybe someone in your bullpen, well then that’s going to be called, I know how that works in Chicago, it’s going to be called rebuilding.

“In our minds, it’s still with the midset of trying to win. One you start using the “R” word, you create a different kind of mindset. I think a part of what we’ve done here is making sure our players understand that whatever the composition of the team is, it’s designed to win.”

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Ozzie Belongs in a White Sox Uniform

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You won’t find many White Sox fans who support Ozzie Guillen as much as I do.
Mostly due to the constant controversy that surrounds him, he’s grossly underestimated as a manager. Just as important, he’s one of us–a White Sox guy through and through–and he is the face of the franchise nationwide. For a team that struggles with its identity even in its own city, the importance of that reality can’t be ignored. And I haven’t even mentioned that he brought us a World Series ring.
Now, as this schizophrenic Sox season comes to an end, Ozzie is asking for his bosses to give him some love beyond the security of being here one more year with an option for another–vested if he wins the A.L. Central next year. The skipper seems to want an answer as he sees the Marlins job his for the taking. How do you say leverage in Spanish?
Despite those voices that keep saying that Ozzie has lost the team, and point to the September collapse as proof, I want him back. White Sox World needs him for the reasons expressed above and I don’t want to be in the position of regretting his loss after he’s left. His departure has all the makings of a perfect example of how you don’t realize what you had until it’s gone.
Because of his intensity and passion, I’ve also been a big fan of Kenny Williams. While he’s made his share of miscalculations, he’s been outstanding overall. I have to admit that his recent admission to how he’s been affected by the stress of the job troubles me. Especially when it’s put in the context of deciding who’s more important to the Sox–Ozzie or KW–and who will stay and who will go.
As the drama unfolds in the weeks ahead, it may very well be a matter of choosing one or the other. It’s my contention that what’s best for the White Sox is to make Ozzie happy and promote Williams, who would then be off the daily rollercoaster. This would open the door for the club to give the GM job to KW’s No. 2 Rick Hahn, who would give the Sox a fresh approach as they attempt to be consistent contenders in the A.L. Central.  
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Sox Win! Sox Win! “Marks” Save the Day

 

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I know that the White Sox have been eliminated.

I know that the recent eight-game losing streak was too much to bear.
I know that we’re still in danger of finishing in third place.
All that said, today’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory over the A’s, giving the Sox their first victory since September 12, put a smile on my face. I needed it to cure my baseball blues.
Two forgotten South Siders–Mark Kotsay (above, top) and Mark Teahen 
(above, bottom)–came to the rescue today with key ninth-inning pinch hits. Manny Ramirez, bless his heart, was nowhere to be found.
So it’s on Anaheim. My hope is we can close out the season against the Angels, Red Sox and Indians with three series victories. That’s not too much to ask, is it?
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Sox Hopes End With a Thud

The history books will show that it all ended for the 2010 White Sox on September 21 in Oakland as the South Siders were officially eliminated from the A.L. Central race.

But in reality it was over when the Sox won seven games in a row in late August and early September on the road against the the Indians and Red Sox–and didn’t gain on the Twins.
It was then, I believe, that The Good Guys took a collective breath and said, what’s the use.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying they gave up. It was just a matter of fighting so hard for so long that they ran out of gas. And the death knell came when the Sox dropped the three-game series to the Twins in Chicago.
We certainly didn’t want this up and down season to end this way–losing eight consective games, getting eliminated two weeks before the end of the season, facing the possibility of finishing in third place and double digits out of first place. But that’s the way it’s played out.
While the disappointment is there, the truth is that the Twins are simply a better team and proved it throughout the season–without Joe Nathan for the entire year and former MVP Justin Morneau since the All-Star break.
Bitter rival or not, I’ll be rooting for them in October.

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                           Twins celebrate last night after clinching A.L. Central



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Sox Headed for Third-Place Finish?

42613821.jpgJust a couple of weeks ago we were talking playoffs. Here it is September 21 and the White Sox, after getting whitewashed last night in Oakland, are in the midst of a seven-game slide and find themselves only three games ahead of the third-place Tigers.
This late season swoon sure puts a damper on what we all thought was going to be a satisfying season after the horrific start. And it makes me ask two questions: how many more games will we win this season and what does it mean for next year?
Like the Sox, I wish I had some answers.
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Is it October 3rd Yet?

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October 3rd will be the 59th anniversary of the most famous home run in history–Bobby Thomson‘s dramatic “home run heard ’round the world” off of Ralph Branca, which gave the New York Giants the 1951 National League pennant (pictured below).

That date is also the final day of the 2010 baseball season. As fun a year as it has been in many ways, after today’s 6-3 loss to Detroit–the South Siders’ fifth defeat in a row–I’m ready for it to end.
I’m tired of getting clobbered by the Twins and, lately, the Tigers. I’m tired of blown saves and the team’s inability to get clutch hits. I’m just plain tired of all of it and want to regroup and move on to 2011. Most of all I hate the fact we’re now 10 games out of first place.
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Second Place, Manny and Looking Ahead to 2011

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Some White Sox thoughts on a football Saturday:
* Even before this week Sox fans got used to the fact that we weren’t going to catch the Twins. No one is really talking about it, but we now have a challenge to stay ahead of the Tigers and secure second place. After last night only six games separate us and Detroit. Two more Tiger victories this weekend (it’s Lucas Harrell vs. 16-game winner Justin Verlander this afternoon) and our lead is down to four. Then it’s off to the West Coast followed by a four-game series with the depleted, but always tough, Red Sox. I don’t want to cause any panic, I’m just saying…
* I wrote it before we acquired Manny Ramirez, I wrote it when we got Manny and I’ll say it again now after Manny has had no impact on the Sox pennant chances: regardless of his performance in a Sox uniform, it was the right thing for management to do. I do find it almost laughable, though, that it took a green uniform (because of the halfway to St. Patrick’s Day promotion) and nearly three weeks for him to record his first home run and RBI. To be fair, he is hitting .295 with a .456 on base percentage since arriving in Chicago.
* The Sox brass has a lot of lot of decisions to make in the offseason. So, it’ll be interesting to see how the ’11 Pale Hose are constituted. Some questions:
–Will the Sox sign free agents Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski?

–Will the South Siders bring back Omar Vizquel, after his amazing season?

–Will the intense, but brittle, Carlos Quentin be back?

–Will Tyler Flowers and Jordan Danks, who both seemed to take a step back this season, be viable candidates for the major league roster?

–What will become of Freddy Garcia?

–Will Chris Sale be in the starting rotation?

–Will Jake Peavy be ready for spring training?

–I can’t see Manny, Mark Kotsay or Andruw Jones returning, so who becomes the DH?

–All indications are that Bobby Jenks is a goner, so who will close? J.J. Putz?

–Despite the fact he has two more years to go on his three-year deal, will the disappointing Mark Teahen still be in a Sox uniform even as a utilityman? 

–What are Brent Morel‘s chances of winning the starting third base job? Maybe a platoon with Vizquel?

–I know I’m burying the lead, but will both Ozzie and Kenny Williams be back? 
The offseason certainly won’t be boring.
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Konerko and the “R” Word Sum Up Sox Season

If we didn’t know it before, we know it now. The Twins are clearly the best team in the A.L. Central. It was never more apparent than it was this week as Minnesota not only swept the White Sox, but outscored them 26-11 and increased their division lead to nine games.

The fact that the Sox aren’t going to the postseason doesn’t mean we can’t have some good feelings about this season. Granted, the horrible start, the inconsistent pitching, porous defense and the lack of clutch hitting was exasperating. But how about the 25-5 run before the All-Star Game and the seven-game winning streak just a few weeks ago?
In the end, the identity of this team wasn’t about championships, but rather about its fight. Time after time they showed resiliency after getting down early in games. They may not have won all of those contests, but their heads and hearts were always in the game. 
And then there was last night. While the Sox fell to the Twins, 8-5, a incident involving Paul Konerko best illustrates what the 2010 Pale Hose have been all about. 
In the first inning, with two outs and Omar Vizquel at first base, a Carl Pavano pitch collided with Konerko’s face. Being led off the field by Ozzie and trainer Herm Schneider, Paulie refused to come out of the game and jogged to first, fat lip and all. Then, in the third frame, Konerko got the appropriate revenge by smashing his 37th homer of the season. 
You can make the case that this scenario is the Sox season in a nutshell. It can be summed up this way: resiliency, resiliency, resiliency. 
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56202734.jpgHere it is. Paulie gets clocked, then rebounds with No. 37 two innings later.


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