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How About These White Sox…and Tommy Lasorda’s Big Mistake

Jake Peavy did his best Philip Humber imitation, pitching a masterful three-hit, complete game shutout.  The back-to-normal Adam Dunn and red-hot Paul Konerko hit back-to-back homers in the fourth inning, giving Peavy all the support he needed to offset the outstanding outing by the A’s Bartolo Colon. And, in the end, the Sox went on to win their fourth straight with a 4-0 victory last night in Oakland.

Furthermore, take a look at the standings this morning. The only American League team with a better record is Texas at 13-4.  Right behind are the Sox and Tigers tied for the A.L. Central lead at 10-6 and the Yankees and Blue Jays knotted up for the A.L. East lead with the same record. Everyone else is behind these five leaders.

I know it’s early, but this is a lot of fun and I’m going to enjoy it.

Konerko on verge of 400th homer

Konerko’s homer last night was the 399th of his career, tying him for 48th place in major league history with Al Kaline and Andres Galarraga. One more and he joins the “400″ club.

Paulie’s standing as one of the game’s Top 50 home run hitters brings to mind Tommy Lasorda‘s comment when the Dodgers traded Konerko to Cincinnati for reliever Jeff Shaw (the Sox acquired PK from the Reds for Mike Cameron). The Hall of Fame manager said, and I paraphrase, that he was comfortable making the deal because he didn’t see Konerko as a 20-homer guy in the major leagues.

As wrong as Lasorda was in judging Konerko’s home run prowess, he was right about one thing. Paulie isn’t a 20-homer slugger. From 1999-2011 in a White Sox uniform,  No. 14 averaged 30 homers.  He’s had 40 or more twice, 30 or more five times and 20 or more on five occasions.

So much for Lasorda as a talent evaluator.

White Sox Sweep; Next Up: A’s and Bartolo Colon

The impressive Robin Ventura White Sox brought out the broom today, completing a three-game sweep of the home-standing Mariners.

The Sox overcame another so-so John Danks effort and some shoddy defensive to defeat the Mariners, 7-4. The heroes? The resurgent Alex Rios, who went 3 for 4 with three RBIs including a triple that tied the score at four; Kosuke Fukudome, who drive in his first two runs in a Sox uniform; and the bullpen in the persons of Addison Reed (7th inning), Matt Thornton (8th) and Hector Santiago (9th), who shut down Seattle with each pitching a scoreless inning.

The South Siders head to Oakland with Rios (.333), Paul Konerko (.362) and A.J. Pierzynski (.348) sporting pretty gaudy batting averages. Add Adam Dunn‘s long balls and 14 RBIs and it’s suddenly quite a middle of the lineup.

Even though red-hot Jake Peavy is on the mound tomorrow night against the A’s, the Sox are going to need all that offense and more with the ageless Bartolo Colon on the mound. The former Good Guy has been out of this world thus far this season and last week even hurled 38 straight strikes.

Don’t look now, but the team that most dismissed in their spring predictions is 9-6 and only a half-game behind those “unbeatable” Tigers.

Is Humber’s Gem Just the Start of Something Big?

As we all know, our White Sox are a team that entered 2012 way, way under the radar, even picked by many to finish in the cellar of the A.L. Central.

In the first 14 games of the season, the Sox have mostly impressed with a respectable 8-6 record.  Paul Konerko, Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, Alejandro De Aza and even 2011 disappointments Adam Dunn and Alex Rios have led the way.

Now, Philip Humber, a terrific example of talent, humility and persistence, has pitched the 21st perfect game in major league baseball history in yesterday’s 4-0 victory over the Mariners. By itself, it was the ultimate accomplishment for a pitcher and an historic feat by every measure. But I’m hoping for more.

I know that they say momentum is nothing more than the next day’s starting pitcher, but I’d like to think Humber’s gem can put the Sox in a whole different mindset–a renewed sense of confidence that will fool the experts and create a genuine threat to the Tigers. Am I asking for too much? Maybe, but it can’t hurt to think about it.

It will be a while before we can judge if this remarkable event on April 21 was a positive turning point in a season that started with much pessimism in most places outside of the Sox clubhouse. But wouldn’t it be something if that celebration pictured above of Humber’s teammates toasting his perfecto becomes just one of a series of South Side victory parties.

Humber is Perfect

                 Philip Humber hurls perfect game in 4-0 Sox victory over the Mariners.

A New Hitting Coach and a Medicine Ball Rejuvenate a Beleaguered Dunn

Poor Adam Dunn.

It now comes to light that he may not have had to endure his historically-awful 2011 season if Jeff Manto was the hitting coach.

You see, Dunn spoke yesterday of Manto’s unconventional method of having the slugger swinging a bat with a medicine ball–yes, a medicine ball–between his legs to help keep him from lunging which preserves his overall balance.

So far, at least, the results are clear. Dunn’s been a different hitter as of late, coming up with clutch hits and going the other way to boot. Last night, he drove in five runs in the 7-3 Sox victory over the Mariners with an opposite field, run-scoring double and a pair of homers, one a towering three-run shot.

After the first 13 games of the season he’s now got three homers, 12 RBIs, a .265 batting average (more than 100 points higher than he finished last year), a .368 on-base percentage and .940 OPS.

The strikeouts (22) are still there and, let’s face it, they always wil be for a hitter of this ilk. But I think that you’ll agree that we can live with that, if we get those home runs and run-scoring doubles.

Up and Down Sox are .500 After First Dozen Games

As the White Sox head out to Seattle and Oakland for three games each with the Mariners and A’s, we’re a .500 team. Not so horrible, I guess, but losing three of four at home to the Orioles makes it feel much worse. Especially since we were in every game and raised everyone’s expectations by  taking two of three from the Tigers to open the homestand.

There were certainly positive signs in the Baltimore series as Adam Dunn and Alex Rios both had clutch hits (something rare a year ago), Paulie is Paulie and Jake Peavy is heading into 2007 territory when he won the Cy Young with the Padres. That said, Gavin Floyd (above) left a lot to be desired on the mound, the offense is striking out way too much and either not getting on base enough or leaving too many aboard. In yesterday’s game, the South Siders struck out 16 times and left the bases loaded three times. Certainly not something to build on.

The good news is that we’re only 12 games into the season. The next 150 will determine whether or not we’re more than a .500 team.

Two to Forget

I couldn’t bear to post my blog yesterday after the Sox meltdown Monday night against the Orioles. A 4-2 lead in the ninth should be enough, but we all know that there are always going to be a bunch of these heartbreakers during the course of the season. We just don’t want to admit it–and I couldn’t face writing about it, especially the 10-4 final score.

I had good feelings about the South Siders bouncing back last night with John Danks on the mound, but very few teams are going to win games with two, maybe three hitters, doing what they’re supposed to do. The result? a 3-2 loss.

To state the obvious, we are struggling offensively. Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham are among the culprits along with Brent Morel. And the few who are on their game,  like Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski, haven’t provided enough firepower to overcome the slackers.

The new skipper is still showing confidence in the non-producers. It’ll be interesting to see how long he waits before a makes an adjustment or two.

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.

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