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Wednesday, June 19

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White Sox Mon Jun 02 2008

The Worst In First?

Could they possibly be the worst first-place team in baseball right now?

The White Sox certainly have the worst record of all the first-place teams at 30-26, with a one-game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central, previously known as the Toughest Division in Baseball. They’ve only won 13 games at home this season, worst among the first place teams; they have the worst team batting average among the front-runners at .247 and are dead last in the league in batting with runners in scoring position and two outs (.177).

It would take a bit more number crunching to determine if they are, indeed, the absolute worst, analyzing the strength of opponents (are the Cubs playing Pittsburgh again any time soon?), etc. But the White Sox are making a convincing argument.

Ozzie Guillen seems to think so. How many first-place managers have you heard reach the breaking point so… um… colorfully as Guillen did after Sunday’s 4-3 loss to the Tampa Bay Rays which concluded with another walk-off home run? How many first place managers would call out their general manager in public about the state of the team, effectively putting the blame on their recent sub-par performance on his shoulders?

“I expect movement Tuesday,” Ozzie raved in taking his problems to the front office. “I expect Kenny (Williams) to do something Tuesday and if we don’t do anything Tuesday, there are going to be a lot of lineup changes... I’m not protecting anybody anymore. F*ck it. If they can’t get it done, Kenny should find someone to get it done. That’s it.”

Williams’ response? “Very interesting… very disappointing. It’s never a good idea to through your boss under the bus.”

And it’s never a good sign when your boss reminds you that he’s your boss, either.

Despite Guillen’s lamentations about a weak lineup of hitters, Williams insists, “We have the horses.” Which means he puts the blame for their dismal showing at the plate on who? Guillen? Hitting coach Greg Walker? Either way, it’s quite obvious he’s not blaming the players, despite Nick Swisher’s .201 batting average, Jim Thome’s .212 average and Paul Konerko’s .205. All of which points up how freakin’ important Carlos Quentin and his 14 homers (2nd in the AL), 48 RBI (2nd in the AL) and .293 batting average, as well as over-the-top pitching performances, are to the Sox’ tips-of-fingers grip on first place

(Incidentially, as shocking as it may seem, Quentin is not even in the top 15 in American League All-Star voting for outfielders. Go to the MLB site and show him some love by voting for him. Quentin isn’t on the ballot so you’re going to have to write him in. In true Chicago tradition, you can vote early and often – up to 25 times.)

So the solutions to Guillen’s sturm und drang are either A) re-jigger the line up – again (Guillen did this several weeks ago and they went on an eight-game winning streak.) or B) take a look at the person on the team responsible for correcting problems in the team’s hitting, namely Walker. Guillen is The Man when it comes to hiring and firing coaches so the decision to make any changes in that department would be up to him.

Or maybe the problem is Guillen himself. In yesterday’s loss, the Sox led off the 10th inning with a (rare) double by Thome and rather than end Quentin’s pre-arranged day off prematurely, he took a chance, came up short and sucked up the loss.

Lest we decide that, after all of this, the White Sox are a once-proud sailing ship now headed for Dead Man’s Cove, we have to remember that they weren’t supposed to be in this situation in the first place (pun intended). They were supposed to be the quintessential third place team, with average talent across the board. Doesn’t make the current problems any easier to take, but puts things in a different perspective.

The good news for the White Sox is that they have last-place Kansas City (23-34) arriving into town tomorrow night to kick off a three-game series. Hopefully, playing against one of the REAL worst teams in baseball will show them how lucky they are.

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