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Wednesday, July 24

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Airbags

Cubs in Five
by Jeff Webber

One: Matt Lawton and Todd Hollandsworth Get Traded, or, Further Proof Dusty Baker Is Going to Be Fired

You give your idiot child a little plastic tool set for his birthday only to see the kid whack himself on the head over and over with the toy hammer. So you take the thing away and hope he takes an interest in the tape measure instead. Trading Hollandsworth and Lawton is kind of the same principle. Manager Dusty Baker's slavish devotion to veterans was getting in the way of finding playing time for interesting rookies like Matt Murton and Ronny Cedeno, so upper management is working around him. Sometime after the World Series you'll be hearing about Baker's termination and you can bet one of the first things his replacement pipes up about is finding playing time for promising kids.

Two: Fun People to Root for Other Than Derrek Lee, or Konnichiwa McClain-San

Scott McClain spent the last four years playing in the Japanese Professional Baseball League. Before that, the best he'd managed was a cup of coffee with the '98 Devil Rays. But, after knocking the snot out of the ball all year for the AAA Iowa Cubs (30 HR, 93 RBI, and a .291 BA) the 33 year-old career minor leaguer was rewarded with a slot on the big league club when Aramis Ramirez's injury created an opening last week. He may never be more than a pinch-hitting bench guy, but you've gotta believe Scott McClain is grateful for every single second.

Three: Fun People to Blame for the Week, or Further Proof That Neifi Perez Sucks

Remember when you were a kid and one of the only statistics you ever heard about was batting average? Try to let that go, OK? Because if you're going to learn to really understand the math behind the game, the first thing to understand is that a batter's primary job is not to get a hit, but simply not to make an out — to just plain get on base. To that end, a walk is as good as a single. So, when you take a guy like Neifi Perez who hits a seemingly respectable .276, but never draws a walk and, in fact, is out 70 or so percent of the time... well, you're talking about somebody that sucks. Dusty can ramble all he wants about veteran leadership, but take my word for it: Neifi sucks.

Four: Deja Vu All Over Again, or Why Only a Schmuck Would Get Excited About Felix Pie

So there's this top Cubs prospect named Felix Pie ("Felix Foot" if you like) who hits left-handed and plays a terrific center field, but strikes out too much and seldom walks. Lots of folks are dreaming big dreams about his future, but bear in mind the last Cub prospect of this mold, Corey Patterson, ended up a pretty spectacular failure. I recommend we all wring our hands nervously about the idea of rushing another kid before he's mature enough to lay off bad pitches.

Five: It's Never Too Early to Be Conflicted About Rafael Furcal

A quick look at 2006's free agents puts Atlanta Braves shortstop Rafael Furcal possibly atop the Cubs' wish list. On the one hand, Furcal doesn't get on base as much as you'd like for a leadoff man (just 34 percent of the time in 2005). And he was exposed as two years older than he'd originally said in the 9/11 immigration records audit. And he's likely to net an exorbitant $8 to $11 million per year in the open market. And we have yet to give AAA standout Ronny Cedeno a crack at the job. But Furcal is among the fastest players in all of baseball and is currently third in his league in stolen bases. In one infamous 2001 incident, the man actually hit a bunt double. In another game, the San Francisco Giants made six throwing errors, just frantically chasing him around the bases. Wouldn't you like to watch that guy every day?

~*~

Sox in Five
by Steve Gozdecki

I devote a good chunk of each day following the many ups and occasional downs of my Chicago White Sox, and each week through the end of the playoffs I'll boil my mad crazy knowledge and insights down into five crucial talking points you can use the next time someone greets you with, "Hey, how 'bout them Sox?"

On a topical note: Happy Mullet Day to you. Or, more precisely, Mullet Night, which will be celebrated at U.S. Cellular Field this evening before and during our matchup against the Tigers of Detroit. You say you don't have the whole business-in-the-front, party-in-the-back thing going on? Hair-cutting professionals will be available at the ballpark to help you get your mullet on. Beware: you may experience William Ligue flashbacks if you brave the Mullet Night crowd. More information is available here.

One: You Go to the Playoffs With the Roster You Have
Well, that was rather uninspiring. For the first time all year, the White Sox finished August with a losing record, 12-16. If you do the math, that's a 3:4 ratio of wins to losses, which isn't going to get it done in a seven-game series. More troubling is the fact that even though decent hitters like Ken Griffey, Jr. and Dmitri Young were said to have cleared waivers, General Manager Kenny Williams was unable to acquire any reinforcements for the squad, which has shown a disturbing inability to make any noise on offense lately. So at this point, what you see is what you get going into the playoffs next month, barring any injury situations that could develop and make a minor leaguer or two eligible to play for the team in the post-season.

Two: Bright Lights, Big Run Totals
The Sox dropped three out of four games to the Texas Rangers this week. Was it the anemic hitting? Partly. (See item three below.) Was it rampant cheating by the Rangers hitters, who some suspect are being tipped off as to what the pitcher will be throwing through some secret system of flashing lights emanating from centerfield? White Sox southpaw Mark Buerhle added fuel to this rumor when he noted this week that there are two Rangers teams, one that stinks on the road and "one that uses the light in center field. Something's strange. They don't play so good on the road, and at home everybody's Babe Ruth."

Three: Helter-Skelter in the Summer Swelter
It's been said many times that when a team wins, the manager gets too much credit, and when it loses, he takes too much blame. And while that's true for most managers, you can never blame Ozzie Guillen enough when the Sox lose the way they did Wednesday in taking a 9-2 pounding from those cheatin' Rangers. Granted, it's hard for a team to win while giving up a run an inning, but it's equally difficult when you only score twice in a game. Because Ozzie knows that "win or die trying" is just a dopey marketing slogan, he trotted out a lineup that included the one-two punchlessness of Timo Perez (subbing for Scott Podsednik in left) and Pablo Ozuna (filling in for the injured Joe Crede at the hot corner), plus Geoff Blum at first base (Paul Konerko shifted to designated hitter) and Willie Harris at second (in place of Tadahito Iguchi). Not a single OPS (on-base percentage plus slugging percentage) as high as .700 among these four scrubs, while the superior bats of Podsednik, Iguchi and regular DH Carl Everett languished on the bench. As Terry Boers of 670-AM The Score says, "That real bad."

Four: Brandon, You’re a Fine Hurl(er)
There was big excitement for Sox fans during the nightcap of Tuesday’s doubleheader, as rookie starting pitcher Brandon McCarthy came up to pitch nearly eight innings of shutout ball. This was by far the best start of his brief major league career, reflecting the improvement he’d shown over the last month down on the farm after he did made some adjustments to his mechanics. While there’s still disagreement as to whether McCarthy projects as a future ace or just a middle-of-the-rotation starter, in the short term he may be used to round out a six-man rotation down the stretch if Ozzie and Kenny decide to give the other starters some extra rest heading into the post-season.

Five: The Callup
Ah, September—the kids go back to school, and minor leaguers who played well this season are rewarded with a callup as major league teams expand their rosters to as many as 40 active players. Unfortunately, the White Sox will mostly be bringing up retreads—Willie Harris came up a few days ago, while Thursday saw the club calling up first baseman Ross Gload, 33-year-old catcher Raul Casanova, and left-handed pitcher David Sanders, who last pitched in the bigs back in 2003. On a brighter note, outfielder Brian Anderson, who crushed a pair of homers off of Seattle rookie phenom “King” Felix Hernandez last week at Safeco Field, is expected to be brought back up after his mandatory 10-game minor league stint ends. We may also see some of the talent from AA, like Mike Cameron clone Chris Young, after the Birmingham Barons finish their Southern League playoff run.

Bonus Feature: Where Can I Catch the Sox in the Coming Week?
Because the White Sox are such baseball Bedouins when it comes to the TV broadcasts, I’ll let you know each week where you can catch them on the tube, as well as any promotions going on for those of you who want to catch a game in person.

This week will be a long one for those who don’t have cable or satellite service, with only one game on free TV. All games are also on WMVP AM 1000, which many prefer to tune into to catch John Rooney and Ed Farmer while muting TV announcers Ken “Hawk” Harrelson and Darren “Dull” Jackson.
Friday Sept. 2—v. Detroit, 7:05 pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago (Mullet Night and post-game fireworks)
Saturday Sept. 3—v. Detroit, 6:05 pm, WGN Channel 9 (post-game fireworks)
Sunday Sept. 4—v. Detroit, 2:05 pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago (kids day)
Monday Sept. 5—at Boston, 11:05 am, Comcast Sports Net Chicago (make-up game)
Tuesday Sept. 6—v. Kansas City, 7:05 pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago (two-for-one tickets for upper deck)
Wednesday Sept. 7—v. Kansas City, 7:05 pm, Comcast Sports Net Plus (win-a-jersey Wednesday)
Thursday Sept. 8—v. Kansas City, 7:05 pm, Comcast Sports Net Chicago (dollar hot dogs)

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