September 2011

Over and Out

The season of our discontent ended in familiar fashion this afternoon as the White Sox, a wild Chris Sale in particular, blew a ninth inning lead to end the season in third place at 79-83.

A lot will happen during the offseason as the Sox retool in an effort to get better and erase the memory of a very forgettable 2011. At the top of the list will be the naming of a new skipper, hopefully some time before the start of the World Series.

I’ll be back with my opinions and observations as things develop. And thanks for hanging in with me this summer, it wasn’t easy for any of us.

Life Goes On

The former face of the franchise was in South Beach with his bench coach and the long-time pitching guru was the manager, but life went on last night at U.S. Cellular Field on the South Side of Chicago.

I’m in full agreement with Jerry Seinfeld‘s theory that we root for the jersey–the team–regardless of who is wearing it. Last evening at the Cell, the fans in attendance had lost their popular manager after a season we all want to forget, but they were still there rooting for their beloved Pale Hose. And, specifically, they were there to honor one of their favorites, Mark Buehrle, with a standing ovation and multiple curtain calls in what might have been his last appearance in a Sox uniform.

Buehrle, who along with Paul Konerko has represented the franchise with as much class as any players in the club’s history, was his typical consistent self in the 2-1 victory. He reached the 200-inning mark for the 11th year in a row as he won his 13th game of the season and 161st of his career–all with the Sox. And, of course, we will always savor his no-hitter, the perfect game, his All-Star appearances, his clutch World Series save in Game 3 and the ultra-competitive approach he demonstrated on the mound at all times.

If this was the last time we’ll cheer for Buehrle as a member of the Sox, it will be unfortunate and we will miss him. But life goes on.

I Miss Him Already

I’m going to miss Our Ozzie.

I’ll miss his bewildering stream of conciousness, his fall-down-laughing humor, his solid managing and his debunking of the Cubs and Wrigley Field. Most of all, though, I’ll miss that we had “one of us” at the helm of the White Sox who no longer will be the face of the franchise.

Having said all that as a fan of Ozzie since he put on the Sox uniform in 1985 and one who saw him guide the Sox to a World Series title, it’s time for the skipper, and for us, to move on. Nothing lasts forever and it became obvious when Ozzie began campaigning for a contract extension. Sorry, Oz, but that was bad timing if you really wanted to stay in Chicago. A contract extension after presiding over one of the most disappointing seasons in the teams’s history? There was no way that was going to fly with the Chairman.

So, what now? I think it would be an exercise in futility to try and find someone as colorful and fits as perfectly as Ozzie did in the context of his Sox bloodline. That person doesn’t exist. That’s not to say we won’t hire an outstanding manager with the potential of getting better results–even someone with a high profile who will help bring the fans back into the fold. But there’s only one Ozzie and we shouldn’t look for a clone.

The names of candidates are out there, though Kenny Williams hasn’t tipped his hand. Tony LaRussa is a longshot at best. There’s Dave Martinez, Sandy Alomar, Jr., up and coming AAA manager Joe McEwing, former manager and Sox player development director Buddy Bell, among them. Williams has said that because of Ozzie’s “warning” the Sox already have been focusing on a possible replacement and the decision could come sooner than later.

Last offseason, the Sox were “All In” for 2011. This offseason there undoubtedly will be substantial changes. A new manager, certainly new coaches and a belt-tightening that might see more familiar names–like Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Matt Thornton  and Carlos  Quentin–leaving as well.

It’s a time of change on the South Side. While I’ll miss Ozzie and some of the others, an overhaul is the right thing to do. We need to move on.

 

Pride Matters

After the White Sox lost the opener and found themselves down 4-0 going into the fifth inning in the second game of yesterday’s split doubleheader vs. the Tribe, I wondered, Where is the Sox pride?”

Sure, the Sox have been eliminated from the A.L. Central race, but the truth is that there is still something to play for–second place and a .500 record. Modest achievements based on this season’s expectations, but in my view the players owe it to themselves, the organization and the fans to give it their all through Game 162.

So, it was heartening to see the Sox rally to overcome the four-run deficit to win the nightcap, 5-4. It makes me feel a whole lot better about this group.

It was also nice to see how they did it. Gordon Beckham smashed three doubles and drove in a run; Alejandro De Aza, who could be an important piece of the puzzle in 2012, knocked in a pair ; and Josh Kinney, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Chris Sale, in relief of Dylan Axelrod, pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings.

Eight games to go.

Keep Hope Alive

                        

While A.J Pierzynski sums up 2011 season in appropriate fashion reliever Addison Reed, a former teammate of Stephen Strasburg at San Diego State who has impressed in his late-season call-up, gives the Sox hope for the future–perhaps as soon as 2012.

Yes, There’s a Reason For Me To Celebrate

While there’s little to be joyful about on the South Side these days, there is a reason for me to celebrate.

My Dad, Seymour Berke, a loyal White Sox fan who has had his share of health issues the past few years, is 88 today and looking forward to a 2012 Sox turnaround.

Here’s the two of us before Game 1 of the 2005 World Series. One of life’s great moments.

Some Questions as We Look Ahead

Instead of dwelling on what might have been and trying to ignore the Tigers’ roar, I’ve forced myself to be positive and look ahead to 2012 and how this White Sox team will take the field in Glendale, Arizona next February. The conventional wisdom is that big changes will be made, despite some big contractual obligations. I don’t have any answers, but here are some questions to consider:

* Will Kenny Williams be back as the general manager?

* Will Ozzie be back for his ninth season? How about his coaches?

* Will the Sox re-sign free agent Mark Buehrle?

* Will the Sox rely on Philip Humber and Zach Stewart for rotation spots and trade arbitration-eligible John Danks and/or Gavin Floyd? Will Chris Sale become a starter?

* Will Adam Dunn rebound?

* Will Alex Rios improve?

* What does the  future hold for Gordon Beckham?

* Will arbitration-eligible Carlos Quentin be back or used as trade-bait?

* Will Dayan Viciedo make a big-league impact?

* Will Juan Pierre, who has had a terrific second half, return?

* If Pierre is gone, can Alejandro De Aza be an everyday player and replace him in leftfield?

* Will Tyler Flowers be next year’s backup in the hope he can take over in 2013?

* Is Brent Morel‘s late-season power season a positive sign of things to come?

* How will the solid bullpen shape up? Will Matt Thornton be back? Jason Frasor? Then, there’s the Sale question.

It looks like it’ll be a busy winter.

Let’s Make the Best of It

It is what it is, we are where we are and it’s a long way from where we thought we’d be. The stark reality is that we’re one game above .500 and nine games behind the Tigers with 21 games to go.

Ozzie has said that it doesn’t matter where the White Sox finish in the standings if we don’t win the division. I’m a big fan of the skipper, but I respectfully disagree. Let’s capitalize on the eight games left against the Indians and finish in second place. And while we’re at it, how about getting a bit of revenge by making the last three games against Detroit uncomfortable for the soon-to-be division champions. It would also be nice in the upcoming 13 home games to reach the .500 mark or above at U.S. Cellular Field. We’re presently six below.

Achieving these goals won’t make up for a season we’d all like to forget, but it’ll help us get through the winter a little easier and boost our hopes for 2012.

A Most Unlikely Development

After suffering through the demoralizing three-game sweep at the hands of Tigers, which included an 8-1 defeat, a blown 8-1 lead and an embarrassing 18-2 thrashing on Sunday night, the White Sox facing the prospect of a split doubleheader in Minnesota on Monday was a scary thought. Especially since the Sox arrived at their Twin Cities hotel around 2 a.m.

But you never know about the game of Baseball.

Philip Humber, rebounding from a tough few starts and a stint on the DL, was outstanding in the first game. He hurled a shutout in his seven innings of work and emerged as the winning pitcher, thanks to a Chris Sale save, in the 2-1 victory.

If Humber’s performance wasn’t impressive enough, rookie Zach Stewart outdid him in the nightcap. Stewart (pictured above at far right, enjoying the moment) flirted with a perfect game, which was thwarted by a Danny Valencia double leading off the eighth inning, and chalked up a complete game, one-hit shutout for a 4-0 triumph.

The Sox are still eight games behind the sizzling Tigers with a tough road ahead, but for now a doubleheader sweep with two young starters with modest expectations allowing zero runs is something to celebrate.

“All In” or “All Out?”

 

White Sox blow 8-1 lead to Detroit and drop 7 1/2 games behind the Tigers.

Not much left to say.

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