July 2011

Konerko is a Paul Star

Thanks to his terrific first half and a masterful marketing effort by the White Sox, Paul Konerko won the “Final Vote” to take his rightful place alongside teammate Carlos Quentin on the A.L. All-Star team.

The following quote from Konerko, about the team’s effort to get him to the midsummer classic, is something special. When was the last time a modern-day athlete expressed his gratitude in this manner?:

“The front office and the public relations people have done a great job. I feel bad that every year our team seems to have to go through this big production. And they do a heck of a job. In fact people come in here on off days when they shouldn’t be working. And I definitely appreciate that.”

It’s the Offense, Stupid! (Part 2)

It’s now the Sox half of the sixth inning and I don’t see any reason not to start summing up what has become a lifeless effort by a team that has made underachieving an art form.

Last night it was Felipe Paulino, who was 0-6 entering the game, and today it is the much-travelled Bruce Chen who has shut the door on the dormant Sox offense in a disappointing 4-1 defeat. It’s really hard to believe.

As I’m writing, the Sox loaded the bases in the sixth with no out. What happens with the 2-3-4-5 hitters? Brent Morel goes 3-0, swings at ball four more than once and pops out. Adam Dunn walks to score a run, Paul Konerko strikes out and Carlos Quentin pops out. Bases loaded, nobody out and we score one run–on a walk. And we think we can win the division with these types of performances? Really? In the 7th, we got the leadoff man on base with a walk and he was erased via the double play. Sound familiar? And the eighth and ninth were a waste of lumber.

Like last night, the pitching was subpar. Today, Edwin Jackson gave one of his usual performances, pitching just well enough to lose. But it’s the lineup that’s most troubling, troubling from the beginning of the season to now, a week before the All-Star break. We expected so much more.

Think things have been bad vs. the Royals? Twins come in for four starting tomorrow. Can’t remember the last time we beat them.

It’s the Offense, Stupid!

Some may point to the fact that Jake Peavy was off of his game last night, giving up five runs, six hits, a pair of walks and a crucial two-out, two-RBI single to journeyman catcher Matt Treanor in six innings of work.

But the truth is that it was the offense that has to bear the bulk of responsibility for last night’s 5-3 loss to the Royals. It wasn’t about getting on base, but rather the season-long problem of clutch hitting. The Sox collected 13 hits and a pair of walks, but stranded 13 runners. The math is simple: if just three of those runners had crossed home plate, the loss would have been a victory.

As Ozzie said after the game, “We’re so unpredictable…We struggle with people on base, and like I preach, we have to get better than that. We need big hits…”

Paul Konerko again was the center of the offense, going 3 for 5 with a homer and two RBIs. And A.J. Pierzynski (3), Omar Vizquel (2), Juan Pierre (2) and Carlos Quentin (2) had multiple hit games, but only Quentin drove in a run. With Alex Rios and Alexei Ramirez out of the lineup, Adam Dunn, Brent Lillibridge and Gordon Beckham went 0 for 13 with seven strikeouts.

Remember what Ozzie said: “We have to get better than that.”

Dunn’s a Guy Worth Cheering For

As White Sox fans we have agonized over the collapse of Adam Dunn, heretofore one of baseball’s premier sluggers and the man the Sox hoped would be a key piece in their drive toward an A.L. Central title.

The facts, however, are there for all to see: a batting average well below .200 (it reached .165 after Sunday’s game with the Cubs), an alarming 105 strikeouts and before last night Dunn hadn’t hit a home run since June 12. Statisticians have gone even further by pointing out that his season thus far is historically one of the worst ever.

In the midst of pulling the hair out of our heads and screaming at him at the top of our lungs, we’ve also been aware how tough it must be for Dunn, who has been the favorite of the boo-birds. And, frankly, who could blame the fans? Dunn has whiffed so often that a groundout or routine fly ball has been cause for optimism.

But there is another side to Dunn. He’s a fun-loving guy, a great teammate and has worked as hard as possible to break out of the slump. To his credit, he has responded to his woes with a self-deprecating humor and hasn’t for a minute lashed out at the media and fans. That quality was never more evident that it was last night in the Sox’s 5-4 victory over the Royals.

In his second at bat in the fourth, Dunn lined a single down the right field line. The fans, reacting to the rare occurence, gave him a “tongue in cheek” standing ovation.  Dunn smiled and tipped his cap. Then, in the bottom of the eighth, with a man aboard, Dunn smashed a towering two-run homer over the right field fence to give the Sox a 4-3 lead. The fans, now delirious with joy, didn’t stop cheering until the beleaguered DH came out for a curtain call.

As it turned out, Dunn’s home run was not the lead on SportsCenter and in all the game recaps. K.C. tied the game at 4 in the top of ninth on an Eric Hosmer round-tripper off of closer Sergio Santos and the game ended on an Aaron Crow balk with Dunn at the plate and A.J. Pierzynski scoring from third.

We’d like to think that July 4 will be Dunn’s independence from the ire of the media and the fans and the freedom to be the slugger he has been for years. From our perspective, we now realize that regardless of his performance on the field, he’s someone we should cheer for.

Letdown Sunday

Any hope of a sweep and the chance of getting above the .500 mark were dashed big-time this afternoon by a journeyman pitcher who was 0-2 with a 5.40 earned run average in 2011 and had a lifetime 75-84 record and a 4.86 ERA going into today’s game.

In seven innings, Rodrigo Lopez, who has pitched for the Padres, Orioles, Rockies, Phillies, Diamondbacks and Cubs in his 10 undistinguished seasons, shut out the Sox with only two hits in his seven innings on the Wrigley mound and the Cubs hung on to win 3-1. Gavin Floyd was decent for the Sox, but had his usual bad inning and now has the dubious distinction of being the losing pitcher in both losses to the Cubs this season.

Offensively, The Sox scored their run against Kerry Wood in the eighth and got the tying runs on the bases, but Sean Marshall and Carlos Marmol shut the door with no further damage and Marmol did likewise in the ninth. And you knew this was coming: Adam Dunn was 0-4 with a strikeout, dropping his batting average to .165. There’s really nothing left to say. We’re lucky to be only 3 1/2 games out of first with the once-potent slugger doing absolutely nothing to help the cause.

The Sox head to the South Side for three against the Royals and four against the Twins before leaving for the All-Star break.

Sox Notes of Note: Carlos Quentin was named the lone Sox All-Star with Paul Konerko still having a chance in the final online vote. In an effort to get him on the team, the White Sox have created the campaign, “PaulStar.” For the record, the club has had great success with the “final vote” in the past as fans have voted in both Scott Podsednik and A.J. Pierzynski. Although Konerko unquestionably belongs by virtue of his terrific season, it’s hard to argue with the two first basemen who did make it–Adrian Gonzalez and Miguel Cabrera.

Here’s A.J. showing who he’ll be voting for:

42-42

It’s been a long time coming, but the White Sox reached the .500 mark today with a nail-biting 1-0 victory over the Cubs at Wrigley for their fourth straight win. Phil Humber (above), who has been nothing short of extraordinary all season, chalked up his eighth win in seven innings of work. The season’s most pleasant surprise outpitched Matt Garza, who went all the way in the loss.

The South Siders went hitless for five innings before the red-hot Juan Pierre (who else?) collected the first Sox hit and drove in their lone run in the same at bat in the sixth.

With Sergio Santos having pitched three days in a row, Matt Thornton was called upon to preserve the shutout. He did, hurling two perfect frames for his third save. Another spectacular performance by a bullpen that has been nothing less than spectacular in recent days.

Nothing’s perfect, though, and if an Adam Dunn resurgence is forthcoming it’s going to have to wait. Dunn, playing in right field in place of Carlos Quentin, struck out three times. It seems his nightmare is never going to end.

Sox win 4 of first 5 against the Cubs to win Crosstown Cup with 1 game to go.

Comeback Sox Move to Within a Game of .500

Suddenly, the underachieving White Sox offense is showing some resilience and the ability to come from behind–as we all know, a must for any team with championship aspirations.

Wednesday in Denver they scored a run in the ninth to escape with a 3-2 triumph. Thursday, they rebounded from being down 4-1 to beat the Rockies, 6-4, and today at Wrigley against the Cubs, they turned a 4-2 deficit to another satisfying 6-4 victory with a four-run seventh inning.

Juan Pierre provided game-winning heroics for the second day in a row with a two-run triple that plated the fifth and six runs in the seventh. It followed Alexei Ramirez‘s two-run shot that tied the score at four.

For the first time this season, Sergio Santos appeared for a third day in a row after stellar relief stints by Brian Bruney in the seventh and Jesse Crain in the eighth. The result? Santos’s third save in as many chances and No. 18 on the year. It can’t be emphasized enough what a godsend Santos has been, especially after Matt Thornton‘s early season meltdown. He’s performed at an All-Star level in only his third season as a pitcher. Pretty amazing.

A victory tomorrow on the South Side and the Pale Hose are at .500.

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