Last night’s 9-2 White Sox victory over the Angels was pretty close to perfection. Solid pitching, great defense, four homers, clutch hitting and holiday fireworks to top it all off. The only blemish was a scary top of the eighth as Bobby Jenks, obviously rusty from a week’s absence, and newcomer Erick Threets loaded the bases before Sergio Santos slammed the door on the Halos.
Many heroes emerged: Gavin Floyd and his outstanding seven innings, Dayan Viciedo and his first major league home run and a pair of RBI, red-hot Alexei Ramirez and his homer and two RBI were among them.
But the revitalized Carlos Quentin stole the show. Q hit a pair of homers with three RBI. Overcoming a horrendous start, he now has 15 homers and 53 RBI with a week to go before the All-Star Game. And then there was the first inning catch off the bat of Sox nemesis Torii Hunter in right field, which saved a run, set the tone for the night and is certain to be an ESPN “Web Gem.” Here it is, though the photo doesn’t do it justice.
I can’t say enough about Mark Buehrle. His pitching accomplishments, his leadership, his sense of humor and the fact he still runs out to catch ceremonial first pitches except on days he’s on the mound all contribute to him being special.
And not everybody boasting his credentials would be the leading spokesperson for the election of a teammate for an All-Star berth–especially when said spokesperson didn’t make it himself. But then again, Buehrle isn’t everybody. Here he is, t-shirt and all, at the Cell last night encouraging fans to vote for Paul Konerko, who by the way should already be on the American League roster.
It was Alexei Ramirez‘s clutch, two-out, two-run sixth inning homer off of Scott Feldman that proved to be the difference in the 5-3 White Sox victory over the Rangers.
The game was big, according winning pitcher Mark Buehrle, and that it was. It gave the Sox a series victory over the red-hot A.L. West leaders, a respectable 3-3 road trip and, most importantly, it moved the South Siders to within a game of the Twins and Tigers for the division lead. So it’s no wonder Alexei, whose average is now hovering around .280 after his usual mediocre start, voiced his excitement.
Another factor that can’t be ignored is that revitalized Sox pitching. Against a lineup with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, the Pale Hose gave up only three runs in each of the three games and 18 total hits, an average of only six per contest.
What seemed like an impossibility just a few weeks ago, the Sox are seriously knocking at the door of the division lead. Now back home for seven games–four against the Angels and three vs. the Royals–before the All-Star break, it is conceivable that we could have a first place team in a matter of days.
The nation’s sports talk shows, to the point of ad nauseum I might add, have created a new national conversation: Should Nationals’ miracle man Stephen Strasburg be named to the All-Star Game?
Frankly, I’m more concerned about what Sox players will be selected when the teams are announced today. We know we won’t have any starters because the White Sox rarely do, but the hope is that we squeak by with two players–Paul Konerko and Alex Rios–instead of the obligatory lone choice.
Maybe I’m falling into the trap of glorifying the good old days, but I think most will agree that the All-Star Game isn’t what it used to be. There’s no real rivalry anymore, there are more players selected and even though the winning club gets home field advantage for their league in the World Series, the best players aren’t around when the game is decided.
All that said, I’m still interested when the teams are announced. So I’ll be watching the TBS Selection Show today–confident Paulie’s name will be called and hoping Rios survives from a group of worthy outfielders.
And I’m still waiting for a Sox player to be the MVP of the the midsummer classic. Maybe this is the year.
The Race Goes On…
In the real world, The Sox are looking to end their road trip at 3-3. A victory tonight in Arlington against the Rangers will do it. Then it’s back home against the Angels and Royals before the All-Star break.
You knew at some point a player would be injured in one of those walk-off celebrations at home plate. And it happened yesterday when Angels’ slugger Kendry Morales fractured his leg after hitting a grand slam in the 10th inning to defeat the Mariners.
Unfortunate for the Angels. Unfortunate for Morales. And maybe it’ll be the beginning of the long-awaited Sox shakeup.
It’s purely speculation on my part, but with the Sox in the doldrums, the Angels now in need of power at first base and Paul Konerko‘s contract expiring at season’s end, it’s not out of the question that a deal could be worked out. Considering Paulie almost signed with the Halos after the 2005 season, he lives in relatively nearby Scottsdale and has a good relationship with LA skipper Mike Scioscia, it makes even more sense.
I’m the last one to want to give up on the season before June 1, but it just seems like the handwriting is on the wall that some changes need to be made. The Sox have given no indication that they are going to be a contender, they’re on the old side and their top prospects have been disappointing–from Gordon Beckham with the Sox to Jordan Danks and Tyler Flowers at Charlotte.
Because of what he’s done for the franchise, Konerko’s No. 14 could very well be retired in the years to come. His contributions to the Sox through the years, especially in 2005, won’t be forgotten. But maybe it’s time. Time for the Sox to start thinking about an overhaul–beginning with Konerko.
Enough said after last night’s 6-5 loss to Angels.
Kenny Williams, above in a pose that now seems like a distant memory, addressed his troops upon their return from the 3-3 road trip.
–Lighten up (stop pressing, have some fun)
–He remains confident that this team can still challenge for a division title and beyond
–He’s not giving up on players like Carlos Quentin, Gordon Beckham and Alexei Ramirez, who he expects will turn around.
–He’ll make trades only when the team forces him to.
–He has not had conversations about making changes with the manager or coaches.
The “pep talk” seemed to have little impact as the Sox once again failed to win a second consecutive game–it’s been almost a month that they did so–by dropping a 3-2 decision the Angels.
Same old story. Despite John Danks surrendering only three hits in 7 2/3 innings, the Sox could only score a pair of runs–one on a Paul Konerko homer in the ninth–and committed three errors.
It’s just hard for me to believe there won’t be some changes–and soon.
If the White Sox are going to make us believe 2010 isn’t over, it’s time to prove it.
Freddy Garcia‘s stellar performance and a couple of clutch two-out hits in yesterday’s 6-2 win over the Tigers once again gave us some hope. But we’ve seen too many one-game winning streaks. So. the homestand that starts tonight with two against the Angels and three against the Marlins will go a long way in determining our fate. Our Ozzie certainly senses it and knows full well how hard it’s been to put a winning streak together–even a two-game streak.
“If I believe in God, I need a win (Wednesday),” Guillen joked. “Then I start believing in God.”
We all know that preseason predictions mean nothing–nada, zilch, zero. And while we shouldn’t take them seriously, it’s still a lot of fun–especially when the so-called experts pick your team to win.
Historically, it’s very rare when the baseball media elite pick the White Sox to win their division, let alone the AL pennant or World Series. It’s not that much different this year as the Twins seem to be the most common pick to conquer the AL Central. That said, there are a few “big name” media types among those who have picked the South Siders:
* Hall of Fame electee Bill Madden of the New York Daily News and author of the forthcoming bio of George Steinbrenner.
* Fox Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal, who somewhat tongue-in-cheek picked the Sox to win the World Series while referring to them “Team Wacko.” Think that had anything to do with our Ozzie?
* ESPN‘s Tim Kurkjian, who doesn’t exactly wear a Sox jersey on the weekends.
* Jon Heyman, he of SI, SI.com and the MLB Network.
Since I’m drinking the prediction Kool-Aid, I might as well add my two cents. Here are my divisional picks for 2010:
1. White Sox
2. Red Sox
5. Blue Jays
The 2010 “new look” White Sox will officially be unveiled today as the South Siders travel to nearby Tempe to face the LA Angels of Anaheim in Game 1 of spring training.
Many of the regulars will be starting with a couple of top prospects rounding out the starting lineup. Juan Pierre will be in left, Andruw Jones in center (Alex Rios is nursing a sore shoulder) and Jordan Danks in right. Jordan will be backing up big brother John, who gets the start and is scheduled to pitch two innings.
Dayan Viciedo, a natural third baseman, gets the starting nod at first as the Sox want to see if he can make the switch to the other side of the infield. Gordon Beckham is set at second, Alexei Ramirez at short and Mark Teahen at third. A.J. Pierzynski will be behind the plate and Mark Kotsay the DH against Angel righty Joel Piniero.
I’m definitely ready.
There’s nothing like waking up on a chilly November morning to see the Hot Stove burning with a White Sox rumor.
This one involves the Sox, Angels and Padres. As the rumor goes, Chicago would get All-Star first baseman Adrian Gonzalez, LA would get Paul Konerko (who has the right to approve any deal) and San Diego would receive top prospects from both clubs.
There’s a long way to go before this deal becomes reality, but Gonzalez, who walloped 40 homers, drove in 99 runs and posted a .407 on-base percentage in 2009, would be a great get. Not to mention he has a very affordable contract. He’s due $4.75 million in 2010 with a club option of $5.5 million in ’11.
Before we Pale Hosers get too excited, it’s pretty much a certainty that this won’t be the only deal presented to the Padres for their prized player as they look to cut payroll.
For instance, It’s well known that the Red Sox are very interested in Gonzalez and it just so happens San Diego recently hired Jed Hoyer, former Red Sox exec, as its GM. Needless to say, he has a good handle on what Boston has in its farm system. And if the Sox acquire a player of Gonzalez’s caliber, the Padres would most likely want one or more of the likes of catcher Tyler Flowers, outfielder Jordan Danks and righty Daniel Hudson. Would Kenny Williams be willing to mortgage the future to that extent?
For now, let the Hot Stove burn.