April 2011

White Sox Cruising in Reverse, No End in Sight

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A muffed relay throw by Paul Konerko, a wild pitch by John Danks that gave the Orioles a four-out inning and ultimately a game-changing homer, a mishandled ground ball by Alexei Ramirez and a “wild” performance by Jesse Crain resulting in four unearned runs without the benefit of a hit.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to your 2011 White Sox, 10-4 losers last night in a season that is quickly unraveling before our eyes.
Captain Konerko says creating a sense of urgency would create tension and tension is the last thing you want in a 162-game season. GM Kenny Williams tells fans not to panic. I keep telling myself it’s early and it will get better. Surely, we’ll turn things around when we get to the Cell. Not so much.
The truth is that we are an awful team right now and arguably the biggest disappointment of the young baseball season. I’m tired of all the talk and really tired of having to write about what has become a train wreck dressed in silver and black.

Have We Hit Rock Bottom?

Like so many others, I’m sick to my stomach. Sharp objects are probably being kept away from Kenny Williams and we know Ozzie well enough to know he’s due for a tirade.
Although we’re still in April, the noble “All In” philosophy of 2011 is on the verge of collapse unless a turn-around comes pretty quickly. After a 3-8 road trip, in which we scored 12 runs in the last seven games, the South Siders are already seven games out of first place. The much talked about offensive firepower has virtually been reduced to getting standing ovations for getting a runner on base. This is the curious, inexplicable reality of what has happened to a team once thought to be destined for greatness.
The first two games against the Yankees gave fans reason to think that better days might be ahead. The pitching was excellent, the defense was solid (thanks, Brent Lillibridge) and the Sox scored just enough to win. Even though the Sox lost Game 3 of the series, it was there for taking. Again, it was the offense.
Then, there was last night and the 12-3 debacle. I’ll spare most of the details, but it was ugly. To make matters worse I witnessed it in person. Trust me, it was real ugly. Edwin Jackson couldn’t find the plate and the offense (sound familiar?) was a no-show. All you need to know is that the Sox had runners on second and third with nobody out in the first innning and couldn’t score. It was similiar to the night before when we loaded the bases in the second inning with none out and came up empty. So we can’t chalk it up to the fact yesterday was get-away day.
My good friend Jeff Graubard, a Yankee fan who invited me to the game (yes, I socialize with the enemy on occasion), thinks that a whipping like this might signal the club has hit rock bottom and will spur a winning streak. Jeff knows his baseball, even though he has bad taste in teams, so I’m counting on his wisdom.
Let’s see how wise he is, starting tonight at home against the Orioles.

Where’s That Potent Offense?

While the victories in the first two games of the Yankee series were exhiliarating and last night’s loss somewhat palatable because of the Monday and Tuesday wins, we’re still 10-15, in last place in the A.L. Central and set to face nemesis C.C. Sabathia tonight in the series finale.
With the pitching and defense seemingly getting better, we all know where the blame lies. Nine runs in the last six games–that’s the harsh truth about the White Sox offense.
We’ve known since the offseason moves were made that the pieces of the puzzle are there. But it’s gotten to the point where we’re grateful for just getting runners on base. Forget the big rally, it’s just not happening. Case in point was the second inning of last night’s 3-1 defeat at the hands of Bartolo Colon. The Sox loaded the bases in the second inning with no outs after falling behind, 3-0, on the strength of Robby Cano‘s three-run homer. The result? Zip. A strikeout and two harmless fly outs.
What is going on? Let me count the ways:
Juan Pierre is struggling. The leadoff man not getting on base is a problem.
Alexei Ramirez is in his usual early season funk.
Adam Dunn has gotten a few hits lately, but we’ve yet to witness his mammoth power. He does get the benefit of the doubt because he’s still fighting his way back from the appendectomy.
Alex Rios is hitting like he did when he first joined the team in 2009. We’re missing the 2010 version of the centerfielder.
Gordon Beckham? Great spring, great first few games, now he’s back to where he was a year ago. Like so many of the other offensive developments, it’s inexplicable.
If it weren’t for Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin…well, I just don’t want to think 
about it.
With the way the South Siders played in Tampa Bay and Detroit we have to be happy with the developments this week in New York. At worst we get a split, which would have been acceptable going into Monday’s action. If we can survive tonight, taking three of four from the Yanks could be a significant sign that things are moving in the right direction. 
But will we be able to score enough runs?
Sox Note of Note: It had nothing to do with the result of the game, but it was obvious from the beginnning that home plate umpire Todd Tichenor was going to have a bad night. It started in the first inning with a couple of calls that resulted in Ozzie arguing to the point where he got ejected. To me, the telltale sign was that both teams were griping about his work. Now that I know a little bit more about Tichenor, it’s understandable. He’s a AAA umpire who will be filling in most of this season. At least for one night, his performance was strictly minor league.

Lilli to the Rescue as Sox Nip Yanks

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In the most improbable of endings, pinch-runner turned defensive replacement Brent Lillibridge (shown above being congratulated by Juan Pierre) stunned the 41,000 onlookers at Yankee Stadium tonight with two of the finest catches you’ll ever see, resulting in a thrilling 3-2 Pale Hose victory. Adding to the drama was that he robbed the likes of Alex Rodriguez and Robby Cano back-to-back with the tying and winning runs on base to end the game.
The amazing turn of events prompted Ozzie to come up with the quote of the night. “I think I finally found my closer–Lillibridge.”
Lilli’s heroics from his spot in right field and the subsequent Sox triumph were preceded by a stellar outing by Gavin Floyd and a clutch two-run homer by Paul Konerko. Floyd, who gave up only solo homers to Cano and Brett Gardner and two singles to Derek Jeter, struck out 10 in eight plus innings. Paulie’s blast gave the Sox the lead in the eighth–a margin they never relinquished, thanks to Lillibridge’s defensive wizardry.
Any two wins after beginning the road trip 1-6 would be welcome. But the fact we’ve won two close games against the Yankees in New York is special. How special? check out this fact:
It was the first time the White Sox overcame a deficit in the eighth inning or later to beat the Yankees in New York since 1996.
There was also a bonus moment for Sox fans when the cameras focused on Jeter’s expression of frustration and bewilderment after Lillibridge’s game-ending gem. He owes us a few of those.
Full disclosure: Readers of this blog know full well I’m not Lillibridge’s biggest fan–in fact, Sox Posse member Tim Clodjeaux reminded me of that tonight. I’ve said more than once that a player with his specific skills needs to be smart and do the little things. Too often Lilli has made mental mistakes and physical errors that have cost the Sox. But the two catches he made this evening were nothing less than magnificent and he deserves every accolade that will be bestowed upon him in the days ahead.

“Thing of Beauty”

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The quote in the headline came in an e-mail last night from good friend and loyal reader Stu Wade after Phil Humber‘s virtuoso performance at Yankee Stadium.
Humber’s 2-0, seven inning shutout, in which he no-hit the feared Bronx Bombers for 6 1/3 innings and ultimately gave up only a single to Alex Rodriguez, was undoubtedly “a thing of beauty.”
For all the happiness it provided to beleaguered Sox fans, it was more a sense of relief. We finally won and we actually scored, though it took a grand total of 23 innings to accomplish the latter. And, believe it or not, we recorded a save (Sergio Santos).
Let’s face it, after losing 10 of 11 and getting whitewashed for two games plus, the prospect of coming to Yankee Stadium for a four-game series didn’t exactly inspire confidence. But the fact Humber and friends were able to win last night takes a little pressure off the club to tackle the remaining three games in the series. 
Not that there are any guarantees, and the offense is still a far cry from where we want it to be, but winning Game 1 is always a good thing. 
As A.J. Pierzynski said after the game, “It’s a start.”
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61045030.jpgA not-so-happy recap: Sox lose 10th in 11 games with today’s 3-0 whitewash at the hands of the Tigers…The loss completed a three-game Detroit sweep where the South Siders failed to score in the final 20 innings.
Can it get worse? Try a four-game series against the Yankees starting tomorrow night in The Bronx.
Nothing more needs to be said.

We Really Stink


charlie-brown-baseball-aaugh.jpgI’m certainly not giving up after 21 games, but the truth is that the White Sox are currently unwatchable.
That happens when you can’t hit, field or, for the most part, pitch. It reached a new low today as the Sox now occupy the basement in the A.L. Central as a result of the 9-0 beating at the hands of the Tigers. They are also tied for the worst record in baseball. 
With all the offseason moves and high expectations, the Sox performance so far is inexplicable. They are simply not this bad. Or are they? Perhaps Gordon Beckham isn’t as good as we thought, words can’t describle how awful Adam Dunn has been and Alex Rios has been dreadful. We all know that we don’t have a closer, but the fact we’ve lost eight of the last nine we haven’t needed one. Especially since we usually get behind big early.
The problem here is that there’s really very little Kenny Williams can do. The pieces are in place. And Ozzie‘s hands are pretty much tied. He can make a lineup change here and there, but the 25 we have pretty much represents the team we’re going to stay with. We just have to wait it out and hope things get better.
Unfortunately there is no rest for the weary. We face the 3-0 Max Scherzer tomorrow in the finale of the Tiger series and then it’s on to New York to face the Yankees for four. And we all know how successful we are at Yankee Stadium.
Aaugh! is right.

Sox Elders Calm in Eye of Early Season Storm

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While White Sox fans are angry and frustrated over the 8-12 start and the fact the South Siders couldn’t continue the momentum from Thursday’s win in Tampa last night in Motown, the players are taking the slump in stride.
On one hand, their calm reaction is maddening as we fans are so hungry for some semblance of success. On the other hand, it shows the distinct difference between athletes and fans. We panic, they don’t. And that’s a good thing in a 162-game season.
Paul Konerko, who is off to a good start with a .329 BA, five homers and 16 RBI, and Mark Buehrle, who is 1-2 with a 5.40 ERA, were asked by the media if the Sox should have a sense of urgency.
“Never,” said the Sox captain. “Because a sense of urgency makes you play worse. You’re playing with urgency, that means tension. Tension will never lead to good things. So of course we want to play better and have better results, but you just have to know you’re going about it right.”
Buehrle added, “We have plenty of time. Twenty games in, it’s way too early to be worrying about that. I think we’re fine. If we get to the All-Star break and are struggling, you might think about it.”
Got it, guys. Now go out and win some games.

Sox Win, 9-2 (and it’s not a typo)

Finally. In a matter of 24 hours, the White Sox have gone from this…

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to this…
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Before we head to Detroit and face the likes of Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer, let’s celebrate last night as the seven-game losing streak is now a bad memory:
–Nine runs, 10 hits and no errors
–A solid six-inning performance by Gavin Floyd and scoreless innings by Will Ohman,  
  Sergio Santos and Jeff Gray
–The ageless Omar Vizquel‘s two hits and two RBIs
Paul Konerko‘s 3 for 5 with a pair of RBIs
Juan Pierre‘s 2 for 4 with three runs scored
Carlos Quentin‘s two-RBI double
Adam Dunn even had a hit and RBI
A.J. Pierzynski‘s two RBIs
After a menu of pitchers like Weaver, Haren, Price, Shields and Davis, next up is Verlander.
It is what it is.

How is Kenny Williams Feeling These Days?

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                                     Is he angry about the horrible start?
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                                                   Is he blaming Ozzie?
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                                 Is he on his cell trying to shake up the roster?
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                                                         Is he tearful?
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                              Is he blaming himself for the Jake Peavy deal?
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              Is he experiencing guilt over disappointing his Commander in Chief?


Let’s hope that whatever our GM is feeling these days it will just be a bad memory as soon as the Sox turn things around.
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