April 2012

Pessimistic About Your White Sox? Listen to None Other Than Tigers Manager Jim Leyland

By Fred Mitchell of The Chicago Tribune:

Tigers manager Jim Leyland can get pretty riled up, even after his team has won a game.

Following Sunday’s 5-2 victory over the White Sox that prevented a series sweep, Leyland adamantly dismissed the many preseason predictions that the Tigers would run away with the American League Central, and that the White Sox would struggle mightily.

“People who made those picks, they know nothing about baseball,” Leyland said.“Trust me. If they think the Chicago White Sox are not going to be in the thick of this, they’re crazy. They don’t know anything about baseball, people who make picks like that … they know nothing about baseball. Nothing!”

Sports Illustrated predicted the White Sox would lose 95 games this season.

“Since 2006 when I got here, this has been one of the best teams in the league every year. And they will be right there,” Leyland said. “They picked us fourth last year and we won 95 games. So don’t pay attention to those people. They pick and they talk, but they don’t know what they’re talking about.”

The White Sox are off to an early 5-3 record, a half-game behind the Tigers (6-3).

“Look at their pitching staff. Look at the arms they throw out there,” Leyland said of the Sox. “Look at some of the arms they bring out of the bullpen. You know, Paul Konerko is one of the best hitters in baseball. You know Adam Dunn is going to do a lot better than he did last year. He got a couple of (doubles) today. I mean, this is a good team. (Alexei) Ramirez is one of the best shortstops in the league. This is a real good team. (A.J.) Pierzynski is one of the best catchers, gets a lot of big hits. I don’t know why anybody would not pick these guys as a solid, solid contender.”

The Tigers are the defending AL Central champs and have added free-agent slugger Prince Fielder to their lineup.

“I mean, we have a good team. Don’t get me wrong. So do they. They’re proving that. The people who make those picks…I don’t pay any attention to that,” Leyland said.



A Successful Weekend, No. 42 and Those 1972 Red Pinstriped Unis

We sure wanted the brooms to come out this afternoon, signifying a three-game White Sox sweep over the tough Tigers. It wasn’t to be, however, as the Sox dropped the series finale, 5-2.

It’s certainly not the end of the world as the Sox are still 5-3 on the young season and are playing good baseball. It’s just a bit disappointing we didn’t sweep because the South Siders have been playing so competitively and even had the tying run at the plate when the game ended. All in all, I’ll take it.

Chris Sale pitched well this afternoon (as Gavin Floyd did Saturday and Jake Peavy on Friday), but threw a lot of pitches, left early and on this day couldn’t match the Tigers’ Rick Porcello. In the good news category, Adam Dunn cranked out a pair of doubles and Dayan Viciedo went deep for his second homer of the season.

I’m a glass-full guy, as you know, so take this for what it’s worth: Based on what I’ve seen so far  I’m convinced we’ve got an exciting season ahead of us–even though it’s only April 15.

Next up: Four at the Cell with the Orioles.

Day of Celebration: All the Sox and Tigers, along with players on the other 28 Major League clubs, wore No. 42 to commemorate the anniversary of Jackie Robinson breaking the color barrier on April 15, 1947. The Sox players donned the their red pinstripe unis, as they will every Sunday home game, to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the outstanding 1972 Pale Hose.

Viciedo Heads a Host of Heroes in Victorious White Sox Home Opener

Regardless of who you may have chosen as today’s White Sox “Pick to Click,” you could likely make a case for your choice as the Sox celebrated their home opener with a host of heroes in their 5-2 triumph over the powerful Tigers.

Conventional wisdom would seem to be on the side of Dayan Viciedo, who put the Sox ahead 1-0 in the fifth with a long homer over the centerfield fence (pictured above) and made a spectacular catch in left of the bat of Andy Dirks to prevent the tying and go-ahead from scoring with the Sox ahead 3-2. The catch was certainly a game changer.

But how about Alexei Ramirez, whose diving grab behind the second base bag started the key double play off the bat of the dangerous Miguel Cabrera with one out and men on first and third in the eighth inning. Another game changer.

Or how about Jake Peavy, who gave up just two runs in 6 2/3 while striking out eight.

Then there was Paul Konerko who singled in Alejandro De Aza in the sixth for the sec0nd Sox run and A.J. Pierzynski who tripled in Konerko  all the way from first for run No. 3.

And we can’t forget  three others–De Aza who tripled in the eighth and scored on a Brent Morel single to give the Sox a 4-2 advantage (the fifth run scored on a wild pitch) and Hector Santiago, who recorded his third save.

OK, let’s give it to Dayan with a bunch of honorable mentions.

Sox note of note: In the category of nothing’s perfect, it’s interesting to note that the three regulars in today’s lineup who weren’t very heroic were the same three hitters who had such poor seasons a year ago: Adam Dunn, who K’d four times, Gordon Beckham, who struck out on three occasions, and Alex Rios, who struck out twice. In all fairness, Rios did smack a double and was at the plate when the  final Sox run scored on the wild pitch.

A.J., De Aza Among Early Sox Contributors

I’m not planning on purchasing playoff tickets just yet, but we all should be happy at what we’ve seen of the Sox as they’ve concluded their initial road trip with a 3-2 record.

Offensively…

* A.J. Pierzynski is on fire with two homers, six RBIs and a .313 batting average.

* Alejandro De Aza also has a pair of homers (hit in the same games as A.J. hit his) and is hitting a respectable .273 from the leadoff spot.

* Paul Konerko is homerless, but has driven in five runs and has an OPS of 1.100.

* Adam Dunn is hitting only .222 with just one homer and two RBIs, but looks much, much better and has an on-base percentage of .364.

* Dayan Viciedo has zeroes in HR and RBIs, but is hitting a somewhat acceptable .267.

* And there  are always early-season stragglers looking to break out. In this case, Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, Alex Rios and Brent Morel all need to get things going. I have to admit I’m concerned about Beckham and Rios while Alexei always gets off to a slow start.

Pitching-wise…

* Chris Sale has to be the top early story here with his terrific performance against the Tribe in his first ML start. The other Sox victories were credited to Matt Thornton in relief against Texas and John Danks, who was far from in command  yesterday in Cleveland, but gutted it out and benefitted from the 10 runs of support he got from his teammates.

* The pen has been solid with relievers Jesse Crain, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Thornton all possessing 0.00 ERAs. And aside from surrendering a leadoff ninth inning homer in the opener against Cleveland, closer Hector Santiago has been impressive with his two saves.

Now it’s time to go home and convince the Tigers that they’re human.

Chris Sale: An All-Star Starter in the Making?

There was a lot to like last night in the 4-2 Sox victory over the Tribe.

First and foremost, Chris Sale‘s first major league start couldn’t have gone smoother. He was masterful, giving us hope that an All-Star starter is in the making. Granted, it was only his maiden start, but he has shown enough in a relief role to believe he is the real deal.

Another positive was the performance of Alejandro De Aza, who we need to live up to expectations. He led off the game with a homer and pounded out another hit. He needs to keep it going.

Hector Santiago recorded his second save, though he did give up a leadoff homer in the ninth. The good news it was a solo job and he calmed down enough to strike out two batters in the inning.

For the record, I’m ignoring the one big negative–Alex Rios‘s dropped  a “can of corn” fly ball that could have been disastrous if Addison Reed didn’t get the Sox out of the inning. Of all the mysteries on this year’s squad, Rios is probably the most perplexing on multiple levels.

A Night of “Firsts”

Last night in Arlington proved to be a winner for the White Sox as their nail-biting 4-3 triumph over the Rangers was built on a series of “firsts.”

For starters, it was the first Sox win of the year as they rebounded from a 3-2 defeat the day before in the season opener. It was also Robin Ventura‘s first victory as a manager, an accomplishment that earned him a beer shower from the troops. And it was rookie Hector Santiago‘s first major league save.

Aside from the “W” itself, the most satisfying “first” of all had to be Alex Rios‘s game-winning homer–over the centerfield fence.  It’s too early to make any legitimate assessements, but Rios showed that maybe there’s some potential for a turnaround from his disastrous 2011 as he slugged his personal No. 1 round-tripper.

We’ve said all along that Adam Dunn and Rios could be the keys to a Sox surprise this season. So far, so good.

Sox Will Have to Bring Their “A” Game as Tough Foes Dot April Schedule

Happy Opening Day!  And now the flurry of questions about our 2012 White Sox will begin to be answered.

The April schedule won’t be a cakewalk. First it’s three against the Rangers, beginning this afternoon, then three vs. the Tribe–all on the road–then home for three against the mighty Tigers and four vs. the Orioles. The month concludes with a six-game road trip to Seattle and and Oakland and a four-game homestand against the Red Sox.

I hate to get ahead of myself because facing the two-time defending American League champs the next three days is imposing enough. But the facts are the facts. The Sox, in need of getting off to a good start to excite the South Side fandom, have their work cut out for them.

Today, we’ll see Robin Ventura‘s managerial debut and a new lineup that will look like this:

DeAza, CF

Morel, 3B

Dunn, DH

Konerko, 1B

Pierzynski, C

Rios, RF

Ramirez,SS

Viciedo, LF

Beckham , 2B

Danks, P

One mystery is the identity of the closer. Ventura has been mum on the subject, but it seems Matt Thornton, Hector Santiago and Addison Reed are the likely suspects, in no particular order.

One game won’t make or break the season, but it sure would be nice to get out of the box with a “W” against the league champs. And it would be even sweeter if Dunn is a big part of it so he can exorcise those 2011 demons sooner than later.

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