Pro sports are all about the franchise player. Management searches for one, players work to become one, analysts judge prospects who can be one. Fans idolize and support one.
The White Sox had one for the last 16 years in Paul Konerko.
Before the team's 5-4 win over the Royals on Saturday, the club honored Konerko with a touching tribute. Hawk Harrelson said a few words, a video montage ran on the scoreboard, former teammates attended. A nice statue was unveiled, and next year the Sox will retire his No. 14. Konerko thanked the fans and the fans thanked him. This was the highlight of the 2014 season.
When Gordon Beckham was on the White Sox, the case was made that Beckham's defensive impact was overrated.
Everyone -- roughly meaning, Chicago baseball writers, Sox fans and people who had any sort of take on Beckham -- said that while he wasn't a hitter, he was a good fielder; one of the better second basemen in the league. The argument was made in this space that the advanced defensive metrics didn't back up that subjective evidence. Stats like his UZR and dWAR were average at the very best. Everyone, according to the numbers, was wrong.
There was a great moment during Wednesday night's White Sox game, and it was only seen by the 15,000 people in attendance at Sox Park.
A lady was on the big screen doing the "Guess the Lineup" game. After nailing the first three batters -- Eaton, Ramirez and Abreu -- she got tripped up and completely blanked on camera. She paused, accidentally said Abreu again, and then as time expired she said what sounded like "Gill-ah-sop-pee."
Say what? Of course, she meant third baseman Conor Gillaspie. While he's not household name status, Gillaspie's play this season makes him a little more well-known within this team.
There's a great scene in the Seinfeld episode "The Pen." Jerry presents the positive side to Elaine about sleeping on a sofa bed at his parents' place in Florida. He says, "It's only for three days. Today's over and we have tomorrow. We leave on Sunday. It's one day, really." Well, when you look at it that way...
The same exercise can be done with Adam Dunn, who was traded to the Athletics Sunday, the last day before postseason rosters become official. Across Twitter, the reaction was unanimous. It was nothing personal, but fans were glad the White Sox got rid of Dunn. After signing a four year, $56 million deal before the 2011 season, Dunn was viewed as a disappointment over the next four years.
However, Dunn wasn't that much of a disappointment when you really look at it.
Though they are a small market, down-on-their-luck team, the Kansas City Royals are atop the American League Central division at the moment and appear to be on their way to a playoff spot. The Royals haven't gotten much offense this year, but they've ridden the defense and pitching they have for all that it's been worth.
The White Sox have been the anti-Royals this year.
Of course, these are teams in different phases. The Royals are built around competing for a postseason spot this year after winning 86 games in 2013; the Sox are retooling on the fly and improving on a 63-win season last year. But it is notable that defense and pitching have been such difference makers for these two teams this year -- in the negative sense for the Sox.
For at least the last two years, the White Sox waited for Gordon Beckham to break out offensively. It never happened.
Beckham was traded to the Angels for a modest package: a player to be named later or cash. He won't be filling any pressing need for the Angels, as they already have Howie Kendrick at second base and David Freese at third, Beckham's secondary position. He'll come off the bench, because not starting won't diminish his value.
Over the last five seasons, Beckham gradually became more and more disappointing and speculation of his exit became increasingly rampant. The eighth pick of the 2008 draft, Beckham was actually an impact player as a rookie, where he manned third base and accumulated 2.1 WAR in 2009. From there, he progressively got worse, roughly - 0.7 WAR in 2010, then 1.2 in 2011, 0.8 in 2012, 0.8 last year and 0.3 this year.
For the White Sox, this year is all about Jose Abreu. And if it isn't about him, it's about Chris Sale.
Adam Eaton is making his name known with a strong first season in Chicago. Jose Quintana is having another quality campaign. Paul Konerko is in his last go-round, Adam Dunn is doing Adam Dunn things and Dayan Viciedo still has that hot stretch every so often that reels folks in. Alexei Ramirez is an All-Star, Carlos Rodon is in Triple-A, the bullpen stinks and Hawkeroo still homers it up.
One person that hasn't gotten much attention this season? Moises Sierra.
Jose Abreu has the American League Rookie of the Year award wrapped up. Though some other first year AL guys are in the running, only New York's Masahiro Tanaka had a chance, and he'll miss half the season. Abreu has been fantastic all year, leading the league in home runs and RBIs. He's even getting some MVP buzz.
But by WAR, Adam Eaton has been just as valuable to the White Sox this year.
Both have 3.8 Wins Above Replacement as calculated by Baseball Reference, which lead all Sox position players (Chris Sale has a 4.7 WAR). While Abreu has a superior offensive WAR, with 4.2 to Eaton's 2.7, Abreu has actually cost the Sox on defense. The first baseman has a -1.0 defensive WAR, while Eaton has been worth a team-high 1.5 wins out in the field. Additionally, Eaton has added 2.5 Wins Above Average, which is more than Abreu's 2.3.
Both Grantland and New York Magazine have run articles over the last few weeks that argue the NBA transaction periods (the trade deadline, draft and free agency period) have become more exciting and interesting to fans than the actual season, playoffs and championship. It's really hard to deny this, when Kevin Love trade rumors dominate ESPN every day.
This concept carries over a little into baseball, too. The offseason has a catchy nickname (the Hot Stove) and the trade deadline is a whirlwind of player movement. Nowadays, it's a whirlwind of rumors, conjecture and outright hoaxes, too. Here's what the last 26 hours and 37 minutes before the moment of yesterday's 3 p.m. deadline looked like from the White Sox's point of view. Well, mostly from their point of view.
Always a quality pitcher for the Sox, Quintana has raised his game to another level this season. The lefty starter has a 3.23 ERA and a 123 ERA-plus this season, both career highs. Just over the last month, Quintana has a 1.77 ERA and has held opponents to a .489 OPS in his last six starts. This has been big for a Sox team that's still lurking just under .500 and is searching for pitching from people other than Chris Sale.
Over the past week or so, Fox Sports 1 (at the convenient channel number 408!) has been airing classic MLB All-Star Game moments. Yesterday, they showed the 1999 game, which had some of the best players in baseball history: Tony Gwynn, Cal Ripken, Jr., Ken Griffey, Jr., Mark McGwire, Manny Ramirez, Mike Piazza, Randy Johnson, Mariano Rivera, and Pedro Martinez. The game was loaded.
However, like every All-Star game, there were some choices that I'm sure made sense at the time but look puzzling now. For instance, who was Jose Rosado? He played for parts of five seasons (three full seasons) and was the Royals' lone representative. Though he had a career 4.27 ERA, he made two All-Star games! Also in the 1999 game? Ron Coomer, Ed Sprague, Dave Nilsson and Kent Bottenfield.
This happens every year. Unknown players are selected for the All-Star Game because they had a good first half, or because their teams need a representative. It got me thinking, who were some of the more unlikely All-Star selections in White Sox history?
The National and American League All-Star rosters were released last night, and though Alexei Ramirez and Jose Abreu will each represent the White Sox on the AL team, Chris Sale is on the outside looking in. For now.
Sale still has a chance to make the team. He'll be on the Final Vote list, so fans can vote between him and four other AL team hopefuls on MLB.com. People can even tweet about Sale with the hashtag #TargetSale if they are so inclined. While Sale has been phenomenal this year, two things put a damper on his All-Star chances: he missed one-fourth of this season and the other AL pitchers are really good.
Sale is 8-1, but more importantly he has a 2.16 ERA, a 0.87 WHIP and a 2.49 FIP (second-best in the AL). His ERA-plus of 188 leads the league. Save for a four-run outing against the Angels, every one of Sale's starts has ranged from good to great. He's pitched as well as he ever has in a Sox uniform.
Jose Abreu is having himself a year. He started out modestly in his first week, then tore up competition over the rest of April and first half of May. Standing at 15 homers and a .908 OPS, he was riding high.
Then he got hurt and put on the DL. So much for that, right? Nope. He's been even better over the last month, with 11 homers and a 1.036 OPS since his return on June 2. Altogether, he's tied for the league lead in home runs (26) and RBIs (67) and he's been the White Sox most productive player. He's a strong Rookie of the Year candidate and even an MVP option. The $7 million he's getting this year is a bargain for the Sox.
He's on a record-setting pace. Toppling Mark McGwire's rookie home run record of 49 is not out of reach, nor is the Sox single-season homer record (also 49, by Albert Belle). If you extrapolate his numbers out and estimate his production, you'll be impressed with what numbers he can have this year.
Tony Gwynn, who passed away at a much too young age of 54 on Monday, was an excellent hitter by every measure. And by every measure, I'm talking about all the wacky splits he put up.
The internet as a whole shared some of his best stats, crazier figures than when he almost hit .400 (finishing at .394) in 1994. My favorites included that Gwynn hit .408 over a 180-game stretch in 1993-1994, that he never struck out against Greg Maddux in 107 plate appearances, and that he could have closed his career with 295 consecutive 0-for-4 games and still finished with a career batting average over .300. My goodness, he was great.
Splits are fun, and they are so uniquely baseball. After perusing Gwynn stats for a few hours, my mind wandered to the Sox. I got sucked into the statistical worm hole and examined some of my favorite splits from this Sox team (All stats from baseball-reference.com). No, they don't measure up to Gwynn.
All the losses from last year's White Sox team paid off to some degree last night. With the third pick in the 2014 MLB Draft, the Sox selected Carlos Rodon, a lefty starting pitcher from North Carolina State.
Rodon very well could have been the first pick of last year's draft if he were eligible, so the Sox got a steal talent-wise this year. Instead of banking on high school pitchers like the Astros and Marlins did with the first two picks of the draft, the Sox got a guy who played three years of college ball and was excellent in his time there. Rodon finished with a 2.24 ERA and 436 strikeouts in his career at NC State.
For the White Sox's first round pick at third overall, they should go with the best player available. Done and done.
OK, fine, what's the alternate plan, picking the worst player available? But the point is this: barring some surprises at the top of the draft, the Sox will have a relatively easy choice at their slot. There isn't a super prospect at the top of the draft (like Stephen Strasburg or Bryce Harper a few years ago), but there seems to be a clear top three. The Sox will get the choice of whoever's remaining between Brady Aiken, Carlos Rodon and Tyler Kolek.
This video clip of a guy cowering away from a bat flung by Tyler Flowers during yesterday's White Sox game, and then a woman reaching over and calmly snagging the bat, has been everywhere on the internet since yesterday.
Everyone's laughing at the guy, snickering away because he's presumably been emasculated, and everyone's lauding the woman because she's a hero and whatnot (the catch prevented a kid behind them from getting hit, so that was good).
Let me give the quickest and most reasonable defense of the guy.
Though the bullpen almost blew it, Sale earned a victory last night against the Yankees. In his first game in over a month after a DL stint, Sale had an absolutely masterful performance. The guy is back.
Sale was actually perfect through the first 5.2 innings, which was no accident. The Yankees were flailing at fastballs on the corners and off-speed stuff, they were watching clear strikes fly by them and they didn't make solid contact until Yangervis Solarte flied out to center field in the fifth. Even that was just a harmless fly out.
Sale will be back soon enough. Since he's the team's best pitcher and most important player and someone who's been considered a risk for arm injuries, the White Sox will take it slow with him.
The rest of the team has weathered this pretty well. When Sale was placed on the DL, during the afternoon of April 21, the Sox were 9-10. As of today, the Sox are 20-22, meaning they treaded water during Sale's time out. Really, this is pretty remarkable. Other than Sale, only one Sox starting pitcher (Jose Quintana) has an ERA and FIP under 4.00 for the season.
Chris Sale is hurt, Erik Johnson is in Triple-A, Felipe Paulino has been bad and the White Sox already have had eight pitchers start multiple games this year. The pitching hasn't been very good.
No matter, because the offense has been picking the team up.
Last night's game was a great example of that. Everyone got a hit or got on base. While Jose Abreu was great as usual with two doubles and two runs scored, the team didn't rely on him for run production -- Gordon Beckham jacked a three run homer and Paul Konerko brought in three runs on a double. In total, they got eight runs off of 11 hits and six walks. Pretty good stuff.
OK, that's not all. Abreu has been the best power hitter in the game this season. He's the top producer on an offense that leads the league in runs scored. He's headlining a White Sox team that is, surprisingly, full of feel-good stories.
Though it's still very early not just in his Sox career but also in the season, Abreu has drawn some comparisons to Albert Pujols (really, just google "Abreu" and "Pujols"). That's some high praise. He's doing everything that baseball experts predicted he could do.
Last night, with two men on in the sixth inning and the White Sox down by a run, Adam Eaton demonstrated why White Sox fans are so fond of him.
Eaton hit a little squibber up the first base line. After a moment of hesitation by the Red Sox defense (a runner was heading home on the play), first baseman Mike Napoli flipped the ball over to pitcher Jon Lester, who was running to cover first. Routine play... but Eaton, hustling the whole way, beat Lester to the bag for an infield single.
The new Sox centerfielder has been doing this since he joined the team. This is what he does, this is the type of player he is. He's been characterized as a "grinder," someone who plays the game the right way and someone who exerts maximum effort every moment he's on the baseball field.
Eaton is shaping up to be more than just a grinder for the Sox this year, though.
Just when I was about to head out the door to go to yesterday's White Sox game, I checked Twitter and saw some bad news. The club shut down the upper deck because of the blustery weather conditions. Cheapskates stay home! While the cancellation did save me from potential frostbite and certain discomfort - oh, and $7, too - it robbed me of one of my favorite experiences.
The Sox have had trouble filling the stadium in the early season. Not counting Opening Day and Saturday's afternoon game against the Indians (75-degree temps and a fleece blanket giveaway), the Sox are pulling in about 13,000 fans per game. The weather has been bad and the opponents haven't been too exciting, but 13,000 is pretty lackluster. That's bordering on Montreal Expos territory.
Yet I was still excited to go to the game Tuesday, mainly because the park would be empty. Am I a maniac? A psychopath? Not only was I going to this game alone (and I was considering keeping score, too!) but I actually enjoy being one of 10,000 fans at Sox games instead of one of 40,000. For a run-of-the-mill regular season game, at least.
I have a bunch of reasons why I cherish a deserted US Cellular Field. Other than my own introverted spirit, of course.
The season is only a week and a half old, but already we've seen some good things out of the White Sox group of young guys. Jose Abreu is tearing the cover off of the ball, Adam Eaton is hustling his way into our hearts and Chris Sale has been, well, Chris Sale. So far, so good.
For the most part. A day after having his best game of the (super, super, super) young season, Avisail Garcia tore the labrum in his left shoulder and will miss the rest of the year. Ugh. He was one of the guys to watch on this White Sox team and not having him around will be depressing.
Garcia was acquired last year in the Jake Peavy trade and the soon-to-be 23-year-old was a good get in that transaction. He may struggle with plate discipline but he hits the ball. He was a top Tigers prospect for a few years, and was half decent with the Sox over the last two months of the season (.775 OPS, five homers in 42 games).
What else is notable about Garcia's injury? A few things.
For the last two years the White Sox have jazzed up the menus at Sox Park. Last year was all about the Walking Taco (for me, at least). This year we have several new food items, including pork chop sandwiches, bacon mac and cheeseburgers and chicken and waffle sandwiches.
The king of the new offerings is the massive ice cream sundae the Sox are peddling. You can get a full-sized batting helmet with a 12 scoop banana split inside. My God. The Sox say this sundae is for the whole family, but you know a bunch of bros are going to try to tackle this thing themselves. I don't blame them.
Every year I get excited for the new menu... until I see the prices. The sundae is a reasonable $17, but I'm sure that ordering one of each new food item will run you about $126 combined. The Walking Taco, which is just a mini bag of Fritos with a squirt of chili and nacho cheese inside, is $4.50, which is highway robbery. You're better off bringing in peanuts or going to Taco Bell after the game.
Beside the menu, here are some other notable things about the 2014 White Sox.
The White Sox have made some pretty significant roster moves over the last few seasons, including a handful of big transactions this offseason. The rotation has two new starters, the bullpen has new roles for everyone, and the lineup has new outfielders and corner infielders. And really, catcher is so bad that something will change there shortly.
But one position where things have been untouched -- inexplicably, too -- is second base. Gordon Beckham, the team's 2008 first round draft pick, has played there for four seasons, and this is shaping up to be his fifth. Four years at second (he played third base his rookie season) is enough of a sample size to determine that Beckham isn't a starting-caliber second baseman on this team. Sox fans realized this years ago, I know, but bear with me.
Spring Training is great. All the games are in sunny Florida or Arizona, the atmosphere is laid back, the same story lines emerge every year. The games don't matter: Ties occur and the split-squad concept is baseball at its finest - too many players even for a nine inning, substitution-heavy game.
I also love how local evening news telecasts cover the Cubs and Sox. WGN's Dan Roan will be in Arizona with a small hint of a sunburn, and the hosts in the Chicago studio will go, "It looks so warm down there, bring back this weather for us, Dan!" It's all awesome.
Though Spring Training is as far from the Junction Boys as you can possibly conceive, it's not all fun in the sun. The month of March is a time for stiff intra-squad competition. Minor leaguers are battling for the chance to stay on the roster; free agents are hoping to stick with a team; guys are preparing their bodies for a grueling 162 game schedule; and, most importantly for fans, players are jockeying for lineup spots.
The White Sox have as many question marks as anyone in terms of that last tidbit. Several positions are up for grabs right now.
I was looking through the Blackhawks online store awhile back looking for gift ideas. I was pecking around when I came across this: "Chicago Blackhawks 2-Pack Absorbent Car Coasters." I was intrigued. What is this? Does anyone need this? Who would buy this? Did printing a Blackhawks logo on it increase sales?
Don't get me wrong, I love team merchandise. I'm a big fan of the aesthetics of pro sports (as Jerry Seinfeld famously said, we're just rooting for laundry), so I've always loved logos, jerseys and other apparel. I have team-branded shirts, hats, keychains, wallets and all that. But when making any purchase, I, like most normal people, buy stuff that's useful and at a good price.
"Useful" and "good price" probably aren't associated much with the White Sox store, though. To be fair, the shop has some quality items. It has both functional and visually pleasing merchandise... but it also has a lot of junk with "SOX" plastered on it.
Walks don't advance runners an extra base and they don't drive in runs unless the bases are loaded. They don't force the defense to have to make a play. Yet still, walks are extremely valuable in this statistical era of baseball. Team speed, exotic hit-and-runs, small ball are all on the decline while the importance of OBP is up.
Walks serve a number of purposes. They drive up pitch counts, they put runners on base for sluggers and situational hitters, and, by not hacking away at bad pitches, batters in theory will see better pitches to hit because the pitcher has to throw strikes. Walks are extremely important in baseball, and drawing walks is a skill.
I was killing time on the internet as usual, and I clicked on Keith Law's list of the top-20 impact prospects (Insider only, alas) for 2014. Surprise, surprise, the White Sox have three players on the list. Three!
THREE!!!! The White Sox!
Law mentioned Erik Johnson, Matt Davidson and Marcus Semien... so he's not counting other guys like Avisail Garcia, Jose Abreu, Adam Eaton and Leury Garcia (nor any of the other established Sox young veterans). What does this all mean? Not only will 2014 be a watchable White Sox season, but fans should be excited for what the year might bring.
Not because of all the many problems with it, what with the voting issues and negative historical contexts. No. I was worried about an enshrinement in Cooperstown becoming less meaningful.
In recent years Goose Gossage, Jim Rice, Andre Dawson and Bert Blyleven were a few of the most notable names elected. All are fine ballplayers, some of the better players of their era. But Hall of Famers? I'm not sure about that. And really, the voters weren't too sure either, because each had been retired for at least a decade and had spent multiple years on the ballot before getting voted in.
Things were different this year. Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Frank Thomas got the Hall of Fame nod yesterday, and all are sure-thing, zero-debate, first-ballot candidates. I'm happy those three, especially Thomas, got in.
Reed had good numbers last year for the Sox, with a 9.1 K/9 ratio, 1.11 WHIP, 3.79 ERA and 40 saves in 68 games. Reed can hit the mid-90s with his fastball and has a nice slider to go along with it. He turns 25 in a few weeks and was under team control through the 2017 season.
After teasing everyone last month with rumors of signing Curtis Granderson, the White Sox finally got their center fielder. The Sox participated in a major three-team trade today, flipping pitcher Hector Santiago to the Angels for outfielder Adam Eaton (via the Diamondbacks). The instant Twitter reaction was euphoria. Or, at least as euphoric as you can get for landing a young outfielder with some upside.
Eaton is nothing but untapped potential. He just turned 25 last week and only has 88 games played in the big leagues. He's put up strong numbers in the minors, including .995 OPS over 119 Triple-A games in 2012. Before the 2013 season, he was a top 100 prospect. Last year, though, Eaton sprained the ulnar collateral ligament in his left (throwing) elbow and missed half the season - he was expected to be Arizona's Opening Day center fielder and lead-off hitter.
Here in the days of Embracing Debate and Bleacher Report SEO tactics, it's important for every sports story to have a hot take reaction. Every trade has a winner and a loser, every draft pick is graded, every free agent signing is viewed in the scope of bargain or bad deal. There is rarely any in-between.
Except here. The White Sox resigned Paul Konerko to a one-year, $2.5 million deal, keeping him in Chicago for a 16th season. Konerko will turn 38 in March, and the 2014 season will be his last. Good deal? Bad deal? Nah. Neither.
Konerko was not good last year. He struggled with injuries, never found his power stroke and actually cost the team a win (-1.3 WAR). But this signing was the ultimate contract for past results and service. Konerko surely didn't want to go out on the low note that was the 2013 season, and the Sox would like a subdued farewell tour (and whatever buzz it brings to the team) for their franchise guy.
Jose Abreu is really, really good. But, Jose Abreu is a really, really bad fit for the White Sox.
The Sox made the first splash of free agency late Thursday night, signing Cuban League superstar Jose Abreu to a six-year, $68 million deal. Abreu, a giant right-handed hitting first baseman, was also pursued by the Astros, Red Sox and Rangers. The fact that the White Sox, of all teams, was able to outbid everyone for Abreu is fairly surprising.
In a vacuum, this is a great signing. What's wrong with adding a prodigious power hitter and unleashing him on the slugger haven that is Sox Park? What's wrong with turning first base, which was going to be a huge hole in the lineup for the next few years, into a strength? What's wrong with the Sox adding an All-Star caliber player who will be one of the only South Siders drafted in a fantasy league?
Every morning I have the same internet ritual. I go to Uni Watch first, then saunter over to Mental Floss, The Worst Things for Sale, Deadspin, Sidespin, SportsPickle and, yes, Barstool Sports. Hey, what do you want? I'm a 23-year-old guy.
But my favorite site to check each day is FuzzyMemories.TV, the Museum of Classic Chicago Television. It's one of the main reasons why I'm thankful for both the internet and for residing in Chicagoland.
The Bears' season just began with an exciting comeback win over a playoff team. The defending world champion Blackhawks open their training camp on Thursday. The Bulls, even during this lull in the basketball offseason, are getting major buzz about being a title contender. With Big Ten and Notre Dame football kicking off too, this has been a busy sports month in Chicago.
That's not even mentioning the baseball teams. For a reason: both the Cubs and the White Sox are more than 20 games under .500, and have been reduced to playing call-ups and acting the role of spoilers for the rest of the season.
This was a bad year for baseball in Chicago, with the Sox suffering the most. Once at .500 in late May, the team has plummeted to 58-86. The race to the bottom for a top draft pick is on, and the Sox currently have the third selection locked down.
Enough about this season. What's in store for next year? This is a very early look at the 2014 season. Hint: It's going to be tough to be optimistic.
Events dubbed All-Star games that include former pros have a tendency to underwhelm when it comes to the talent booked to participate. That isn't so with this weekend's inaugural Larry A. Pogofsky Chicago All-Star Softball Challenge.
White Sox superstars Frank Thomas, Magglio Ordonez and Ron Kittle along with embattled manager Ozzie Guillen will square off against former Cubs Derrek Lee, Gary Matthews Jr., and Jamie Moyer at the Schaumburg Boomers Stadium. The game begins at 4pm, with a Kid's Clinic taking place prior to the contest at 2:30. General admission and VIP tickets to the game or the clinic can be purchased here.
Proceeds for the event will benefit Chicago Cubs and White Sox charities, the Special Kids Network, and the Larry A Pogofsky Trust. An online auction is also being held with a number a very cool prizes, including roster spots in the game, coaching spots in the Kid's Clinic, and positions as honorary bat boy/girl for each squad.
Though they haven't been rookie of the year candidates, the important thing for the White Sox is that their three main 2013 call-ups are at least in the game.
Josh Phegley, Avisail Garcia and Andre Rienzo have had a mixed bag so far in the bigs, flashing their potential while also reminding fans and management that they are works in progress. Phegley had a nice opening week but is now down to batting near the Mendoza Line. Garcia is hitting .328, but hasn't yet shown to be a power hitter. Rienzo has had four quality starts in seven appearances, yet still sports a 4.21 ERA.
While Phegley, Garcia and Rienzo aren't of the Jurickson Profar/Yasiel Puig/Jose Fernandez class of young players, they all figure to be big parts of the Sox roster moving forward. Along with Chris Sale and Addison Reed, and maybe even Hector Santiago and Dayan Viciedo, the Sox are trying to build a core of under-25 guys that should be in their primes by the next time the team is successful. It's good that all of them are playing in the majors now, learning on the fly.
It had been a little over 50 years since an outdoor boxing event took place on the South side of the city. That was on September 25, 1962, when Sonny Liston won the world heavyweight title by knocking out Floyd Patterson in the first round. The capacity crowd witnessed what eventually would be a long drought of outdoor boxing for rest of the millennium.
I'm reading a book on White Sox history (it'll be a future blog post so I won't spoil anything) and I've been reminded of one of the more interesting aspects of baseball history. Before 1969, there were no playoffs. The best team from the American League faced the best team from the National League in the World Series.
I liked how simple and fair the process was. Each team had the same strength of schedule and played each team in their league the same number of times. In the golden days of baseball, the pennant meant something because the regular season meant something. The best team was determined solely by 154, and later 162, games.
When the second wave of expansion was conducted in 1969, divisions took shape, schedules became unbalanced (teams played same division teams 18 times and non-division teams 12 times), and there needed to be some sort of playoff to determine the best team. In 1995, and then in 2012, the playoffs expanded even more, and regular season records meant less and less. Teams get hot at the right moment, sneak in, and make the World Series (I'm looking at you, 2011 Cardinals and 2007 Rockies). Add in interleague play, and the AL and NL look like arbitrary groups that house teams for organization's sake.
But what if baseball didn't expand the postseason?
I know more about NBA transactions than I do about MLB transactions. In the world of pro basketball, teams are more than happy to flip overvalued marginal veterans with long-term deals for expiring contracts. This is almost always a good move, and very often a great move, freeing up cap space and making it easier for a team to restock for the future. Every trade is made with cutting salary in mind, and oftentimes it doesn't matter what the tangible return is.
Baseball isn't quite the same way. Sure there are buyers and sellers, and teams still like to clear the books even without a restrictive salary cap, but you hardly ever see pure salary dump trades. Usually, an organization picks up a part of the outgoing player's contract and maybe a few low level prospects change hands. So, the receiving team minimizes the risk to a certain extent, and the giving team accepts that just because they want to receive something in the trade.
What about the case of Alex Rios, though?
Rios was put on waivers this week and claimed on Thursday by the Rangers. The White Sox are now in the driver's seat, and have multiple options about what to do with Rios.
The Chicago sports landscape is a vast space, reaching as far as the Quad Cities to Nashville, with legions of fans who stick with their teams through thick and thin. And much like that landscape in the middle of February, it is often dark and cold for what seems like an eternity, with no hope in sight. But once every so often, a beam of light shines through, melting away the ice and once again restoring hope for athletics in the Second City.
With so much drama and so many teams in the country's third-largest market, it became necessary for news outlets to canvas the city's north, south and west sides with sports writers, just as they crammed the courts and morgues with beat writers as early as they dawn of the newspaper.
It was Trade Deadline Day on Wednesday afternoon, and the flurry of (in)activity reminds me of one of my favorite baseball quotes. In 1992, Philadelphia dealt outfielder Von Hayes to California. Fellow Phillies outfielder Lenny Dykstra was informed of Hayes departure and said, "Great trade! Who did we get?"
The trade for Jake Peavy generated the opposite reaction. Though the White Sox hinted they might not trade their number two starter, it was pretty clear that trading him was the smart thing to do. We knew he was leaving; the only question was where, and what would the Sox get in return.
That was answered late Tuesday night, when the Peavy trade was announced. He was sent to Boston in a three-team deal, with the Red Sox trading infielder Jose Iglesias to Detroit. Chicago ends up with outfielder Avisail Garcia from the Tigers and pitchers J.B. Wendelken and Francelis Montas and infielder Cleuluis Rondon from Boston.
Reliever Matt Thornton was traded to Boston a few weeks ago, and it's clear that a) the Sox are cashing in any non-buildable assets they have and b) relievers are the easiest position to trade and trade for. The rub to this Crain trade is that he's currently on the disabled list with a right shoulder injury. He's been out all of July, and while many thought he would be back by the All-Star game, he suffered a setback and his return is undetermined.
Because of that, the Rays worked with the Sox on an interesting trade: Tampa gets Crain, and the Sox get a package depending on how many games Crain plays for them. The Rays (potentially) bolster their middle-of-the-pack bullpen while the Sox await a return.
As has been pretty clear for the last month or so, the White Sox will be sellers at July's trade deadline. They also will presumably be sellers post-trade deadline as well, placing any unsold vets on waivers and trying to work deals that way as well. Simply put, the Sox tried to run back last year by making only small cosmetic moves this past offseason. It didn't work, and now it's time to rebuild. For real, this time.
Right now, the Sox have one of the worst farm systems in the game, second-to-last in Baseball America's organizational talent rankings and third-to-last in Keith Law's farm system ranks (Insider only link). The Sox only had three top-100 picks in last month's entry draft, including the 17th selection.
The club obviously needs to replenish their young talent. In a glass half-full kind of way, it's good that the Sox are 38-56, because then they can shut down this season and not worry about what could have been.
Though Dick Allen was one of the most talked about players in baseball during his career, in the decades since his exit from the game he's one of the least talked about baseball greats.
It's a paradox, but it's true. Allen was one of the most controversial players in MLB during the 1960s and 70s, always in the headlines in the sports sections for the wrong reasons. Now? Allen hasn't gotten the recognition he has deserved as one of the best hitters in the game, someone who was an all-around force on the baseball field.
Allen, who spent his best years with the Phillies and White Sox, finished his career with 351 home runs, and a slash line of .292/.378/.534. That's a .912 career OPS, the 55th best of all-time (and better than Mike Schmidt and Willie Stargell). He won the 1972 AL MVP award, carrying a Sox team filled with nobodies to 87 wins and a second-place finish. Yet Allen isn't in the hall of fame and is hardly remembered, save for baseball diehards.
Dick Allen shares his story in the 1989 book, Crash: The Life and Times of Dick Allen, by Allen and writer Tim Whitaker. The book is a good one, and for the most part, Allen's life story comes straight from the horse's mouth.
Attention White Sox fans: circle July 31 on your calendars. Or, set a reminder on your phone or whatever. It's going to be a big day.
Not only is that Wednesday the trade deadline, but that night the ballclub is hosting "A Night at the Ballpark with the Chicago White Sox" at US Cellular Field. The Sox will be in Cleveland to face the Indians, and guests can watch the game on the scoreboard. In addition to the game, fans can meet Phil Rogers of the Chicago-Tribune and Ron Kittle of the 1983 Sox, and take photos on the field, toss some pitches in the bullpen and even take a stadium tour.
Tickets for adults are $45 and kids are $25, and that included ballpark snacks. Have a big group that wants to root for the Sox, clown around with Southpaw and chat about "Winning Ugly" with Kittle? The price for a group of 10 is $300, and that includes everyone's name flashing on the big screen. Parking is free.
So relax and watch a ballgame in the evening at the Cell. It will be especially sweet after monitoring the trade deadline action all afternoon.
Needing to make a change at catcher, the White Sox gave a young righthanded hitter a shot to start regularly behind the dish. The new catcher responded, crushing two home runs in his first three games. His hot start excited the fans, who began to envision a glowing future cog in the White Sox offense.
But enough about Tyler Flowers.
Okay, I'm sorry! I don't mean to be a Negative Nancy here. But you have to admit that there was an interesting parallel between Josh Phegley's hot start and the first few games of 2013 for Flowers.
Phegley got the call to the bigs last week, and so far he's been good: three homers and eight RBIs in five games. It's an extremely small sample size. But in such a dismal season, the Sox and Sox fans will take all the positives they can get, and Phegley has been a huge plus. His grand slam Thursday afternoon against Detroit gave the Sox a lead they wouldn't give up.
Hey, remember when I wrote that the White Sox couldn't be counted out just yet? You can, uh, ignore that now. Not a good call by me.
The Sox season, as far as competing for a respectable record in 2013, is over. Of course, this doesn't come as a surprise. The team hasn't been above .500 since April 9. But in trying to capture something, even just a semblance of success, the team has gone 3-5 since leaving Houston last Monday.
It's not just that the team is losing. It's that the Sox are failing in some of the most spectacular ways possible. Jordan Danks was picked off second base to end a one-run game. Chicago was swept by a Twins team I've heard described as "The Astros with Joe Mauer." Alexei Ramirez booted a grounder in the eighth inning against Kansas City that allowed the tying and go-ahead runs to score.
The funniest moment of the White Sox-Astros series happened on Saturday. The announcers were chatting about the Astros franchise and what shape they're in for the rest of the decade. Daron Sutton said, "The Astros have one of the best farm systems in the game," and as the next batter stepped in, he continued with, "Here's Ronny Cedeno."
Houston is doing a good job amassing young talent, and they will probably contend for a pennant in 2017, at the earliest. In the here and now? They are a really bad team. It couldn't be exemplified any better than the fact that they start Cedeno, a replacement-level player who roams from bad team to bad team.
Of course, the White Sox found a way to lose three of four to Houston. Baseball is a long season, and any team can beat any other team, but this wasn't a fluke. The Sox offense was putrid on Friday, squandering a great Chris Sale start (14 Ks over eight innings), and they had to play from behind on both Saturday and Sunday. Worse yet, they continued to make Little League mistakes -- including a game-ending pickoff at second when Jose Veras stared Jordan Danks down before throwing over.
Looking at the last two weeks both Alejandro De Aza and Adam Dunn are doing what they are supposed to be doing in their respective roles. De Aza is finding ways to reach base, with a .360 batting average and five walks, and Adam Dunn is back to producing the three true outcomes (strikeouts, walks and home runs). Dunn has five homers, nine walks and 10 strikeouts in that span, good for a 1.097 OPS.
Both guys have been disappointments this season, each playing below replacement level (both have a WAR of -0.5). This season, De Aza has shown an increase in power, but everything else has been bad. He hadn't been drawing walks and getting on base was a rarity, only he bats first and gets the most plate appearances when he plays.
Hey, remember when the White Sox were at .500? How quickly things fall apart. It was Memorial Day, the scent of charcoal was in the air, and the Sox were prepping for a four game set against their North Side rivals. Then, the club was going to travel out to beautiful Oakland and face the A's in a weekend series. It was going to be a fun ride.
One week later, the Sox sit at 24-30, losing all six games (one was rained out). So much for the Crosstown Classic, and so much for making a run at the lead in the American League Central.
It's one thing to be a subpar team. That's understandable in a way, especially with the injuries and middling expectations coming into the season. But it's another thing to be a subpar team that makes avoidable mental lapses and fielding errors, allows the other team's worst to beat them. That's just a Molotov cocktail of disaster.
A breakdown off all the miscues that doomed the team:
In honor of the 1983 White Sox - the division-clinching "Winning Ugly" team that reached the postseason for the first time in 24 years - the 2013 White Sox have been wearing home throwbacks on Sundays this season. The reactions have been mixed. Some love the look; some hate it.
My thoughts fall somewhere in between (we'll get to that). But since the Sox have been wearing '83 throwbacks this year after wearing '72 throwbacks last year, it got me thinking: what have been the best and worst uniforms in White Sox history?
The team has had many different uniforms over their 112 year history. They've been the anti-Yankees: their current black-and-white look is by far the longest the club has gone without overhauling their unis, and it's only been 22 years. As you're about to see, the Sox have been more than willing to mix things up.
To give credit where it's due, I used the fantastic Dressed to the Nines database for the year-by-year history. I searched Flickr and Google and stumbled upon some nice photo collections. I'm a daily Uni Watch reader (it's the first site I go to every morning), and Paul Lukas wrote a nice 2008 column on the evolution of the Sox's uniform.
Here are, in my opinion, the worst and best White Sox uniforms over the years.
If you watch White Sox games, then you've surely seen this commercial for Family Sundays at the Cell. It's on every commercial break. Two things stand out: Harold Baines exclaiming "Evidently!" after his character wins the mascot race, and Ron Kittle awkwardly patting his mascot. It's a fun ad, and it's nice to see Baines, Kittle and Carlton Fisk in the beach blanket Sox jerseys again.
Know what else has been fun? White Sox baseball! Some odds and ends on the Sox, who... don't look now... are sitting at .500 after a 9-3 stretch.
• So yeah, how about the 9-3 run? Of course, it helped that they played the Marlins for three games at home. And it's not like they blew them away, because the Sox needed walk-offs to win the first two.
Yet the Sox have been playing well, taking two of three from Minnesota, splitting with the Angels, taking two from Boston and sweeping Miami. Minny and Miami stink, but the Angels are a very talented sub-.500 team, and the Red Sox are near first place. These last 12 games were not a cake walk.
The Sox are 27th in the league in OBP from their no. 1 hitter in the lineup, reaching base just 28 percent of the time. Since De Aza has batted lead off in 39 of the team's 42 games, the team's splits nearly equal his total stats.
A leadoff hitter's top job is to get on base, and De Aza isn't doing that. Looking at his splits even more, he has only a .306 OBP with three walks this season when starting off an inning. The only positive is his surprising power, with four homers in that spot (and three homers to start a game). Hence, De Aza's .827 OPS in that split is skewed.
Two nights ago, Sale threw a complete-game, one hit shutout at home against the Angels on ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball. Other than a Mike Trout dribbler that reached center field, he was perfect - seven strikeouts, 11 groundouts and nine flyouts, with only a few balls that could have been trouble. Alex Rios nabbed a deep fly ball off the bat of Howie Kendrick in the second inning, and Alexei Ramirez made a spinning toss on a Alberto Callaspo grounder in the seventh. Otherwise, Sale was untouchable.
It's been an odd White Sox season so far. It's still early May, only 19 percent of the season is in the books, and the much-discussed Red Line construction project hasn't even kicked in yet. The Sox are 14-18, and as much as they should be counted out because of their dreadful offense and embarrassingly sloppy fielding, the starting pitching has been remarkably good.
It has really carried the team so far. Out of the team's 32 games, the rotation has accumulated 20 quality starts, and starters have the ninth-best ERA (3.58) and the 10th-best WHIP (1.20). Even more amazing, this isn't the 1971 Orioles. The Sox have Chris Sale and Jake Peavy, who have been awesome as always, and three young, back-of-the-rotation pitchers.
The Sox are being held together by Jose Quintana, Dylan Axelrod and Hector Santiago. With Gavin Floyd done for the season and John Danks still slowly getting back into pitching shape, the Sox are down to their last options. Going back to last year, Quintana was good for most of the season before fading hard late; Axelrod got a spot-start once in a blue moon but spent most of the season in Triple-A; and Santiago started the year as closer, and got irregular bullpen work and long relief appearances.
This has been a rough season so far for the White Sox. The team is 10-14, and it's been suffering from a lack of offensive production that the starting pitching and bullpen can't make up for. But, if the offense does get that lead, and the pitching is able to hold it, Addison Reed has been there to finish the job in the ninth.
It's odd to praise the bullpen a few days after the Sox blew a game against the Rays, but Reed is having a strong 2013. Through 11 appearances (11 innings total), Reed has allowed only two runs and four walks to 12 strikeouts, to the tune of a 1.64 ERA and a 1.00 WHIP.
Reed is hitting all the checkmarks on the list of things you want from your closer:
Through 20 games, the Sox have been a team with no discernible strength. Every other good American League team has one, but the Sox don't.
The Royals have a ton of youth and a killer bullpen. The Tigers have three superstars. The Red Sox have three top-notch starters. The Orioles eke out close games. The Athletics score a lot of runs. The Yankees will have an influx of talent in a few months.
Adam Dunn cracked his third home run of the season Sunday afternoon, sending a Josh Roenicke fastball over the fence in center field. The Sox desperately needed some offense at the moment, trailing by three runs in the seventh. Dunn came through for the team then.
Other than that, Dunn has been horrendous.
Horrendous might not even be the right word. It's kind of like in the George Orwell novel 1984, when the government tried to establish Newspeak -- basically, Dunn's season would be described as "duodecuple ungood" right now.
Anyway, Dunn's home run snapped a 31 at-bat hitless streak, and on the season he's hitting .108 with 26 strikeouts and three walks. Dunn's game has always been based around Three True Outcomes; this year it's been based around the only bad one of the three (strikeouts).
Last year, Gapers Block had a night out at the Sox game. It was a pivotal game -- one of the last of the season against division rivals the Detroit Tigers. It ended up being rained out, but enough GB readers bought tickets that this year, we're doing it again even bigger.
Gapers Block is proud to offer special deals on not one but five White Sox home games this season.
Friday, April 26 vs. Tampa Bay Rays at 7:10pm. Fireworks after the game. Tickets are $10 to $30.
Sunday, May 12 vs. Los Angeles Angels at 7:05pm. It's "Family Sunday," when the first 10,000 female attendees over age 14 will receive a White Sox Mother's Day tote bag. Tickets are $5 to $35.
Wednesday, June 12 vs. Toronto Blue Jays at 7:10pm. See whether the Jays' buying most of the Florida Marlins' best players has turned them into a powerhouse. Tickets are $10 to $30.
Saturday, Aug. 24 vs. Texas Rangers at 6:10pm. AJ Pierzynski returns to face his former teammates! Tickets are $20 to $40.
Saturday, Sept. 14 vs. Cleveland Indians at 6:10pm This is the popular Halfway to St. Patrick's Day game! The first 20,000 attendees over age 21 receive a free White Sox green ballcap, and fireworks follow the game. Tickets are $14 to $34.
Tickets are available in Lower Box, Outfield Reserved and Upper Box sections, and you can buy as many tickets as you like, all over the stadium. Purchase yours online or by phone (866-769-4263) and use the offer code BLOCK.
Last Saturday, with the Mariners in Chicago and Felix Hernandez on the bump, Conor Gillaspie was penciled into the lineup for his first start for the White Sox. Manager Robin Ventura sat several normal starters that day, and Gillaspie, recently acquired from San Francisco, would be getting his first at-bats of 2013.
Very quickly, he flashed some potential. In the fifth, with King Felix dealing, Gillaspie smacked a triple to right field. He hit the ball on the screws, hitting it so hard that right fielder Michael Morse misjudged the liner. Two batters later, Gillaspie scored on a sacrifice fly to tie the game at one run apiece.
The third baseman finished 2-for-3 that day, and has been on a tear since: He's batting .444 (12-for-27) and has five multi-hit games in nine contests. He's a lefty bat in a lineup stacked with righties. His presence eases the pain of having Gordon Beckham out of the lineup.
Alex Rios stepped to the plate Tuesday with two outs and a man on base in the ninth inning, the White Sox trailing by three runs in Washington. Though the right fielder was 2-for-4, two innings earlier, in another spot where a homer would put Chicago down one, Rios softly popped out. Here was a chance for a small redemption in the ninth.
Closer Rafael Soriano hurled a weak breaking ball over the heart of the plate, and Rios connected. It was a typical Rios swing: he started with a mostly upright stance with his knees slightly bent, then when the pitch was thrown he shifted his front leg back, touching his knees together. As the pitch neared, Rios uncoiled a smooth, easy-looking swing. The ball jumped off his bat, instantly appearing to be a home run. It's tough to describe what Rios' swing looks like when he has it going. It really is a beautiful thing to watch.
Well, he's been swinging like that a lot lately. Rios has been on a hot streak to start the season: a hit in each game, a .467 OBP and 1.319 OPS, and a home run in each of his last four games. He's been the Sox best hitter by far.
Not counting some errors on the field and off, the White Sox played well over their opening homestand against the Royals to start the season. They got quality starts from their three best pitchers, the bullpen didn't allow a run, and key, questionable figures like Tyler Flowers, Gordon Beckham and Alex Rios each had a sublime series.
Most impressively, the team pounded the ball. Flowers went deep twice, and Alexei Ramirez and Dayan Viciedo also homered. Adam Dunn crushed a soft-serve high-80s fastball deep into the stands. The Sox indeed were the South Side Hitmen.
Just as long as they were jacking home runs. Otherwise, they didn't get much in terms of offensive production, especially in big spots. As a team, the Sox went only 1-for-14 with runners in scoring position against Kansas City, and they only got one non-home run RBI.
The White Sox weren't afraid to mix things up this offseason. Ticket prices were slashed, a new GM was hired, and even The Cell's menu was altered.
The park will have several new food options at their concession stands. This includes something called the Walking Taco: a bag of Fritos with nacho cheese and chili. Sounds like it's loaded with calories and fat... but move over Cracker Jack! There's a new ballpark snack sheriff in town.
In addition to that, an olive branch was extended between Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone, and the farm system is slowly improving. Everything is looking up White Sox.
Off the field, at least. It will be tough for the Sox to have the season they had last year -- 85 wins, 126 days in first place. A myriad of factors aren't working in their favor in 2013. Among the examples:
Quick tangent/intro before we get to the top White Sox fantasy players for the 2013 season:
The new Sox ad campaign about pieing teammates is a hit. It's fun to see athletes take part in local commercials, to see them mug for the camera and act so unnaturally. Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane of the Hawks have mastered it, but for whatever reason, Bulls players aren't in local ads. Here's hoping the Sox make some more commercials with the Chris Sale, Paul Konerko and the gang.
Addison Reed, Alejandro De Aza, Jake Peavy, Adam Dunn
Reed was bad in the second half of 2012, with a high ERA and BABIP. But, he has a fair amount of job security at closer (because other options like Matt Thornton and Hector Santiago failed in the past), and he's young. He'll get the hang of closing.
This year, the first overall pick requires a difficult decision. Do you go with Ryan Braun, and risk losing him for 50 games if the PED investigation nets something? Do you go with Mike Trout, and hope he doesn't have a sophomore slump? What about Miguel Cabrera? Of course he's a beast. But in fantasy, he's a step behind (potentially) Braun and Trout.
You'll figure it out, though. You'll make your first five picks and talk yourself into your team, no matter how flawed it is. And don't sweat the draft too much: by the end of the year -- really, maybe even by June -- your team will look completely different after all the waiver wire adds and drops, and after trades and injuries.
The question is, where do White Sox players fit into your fantasy team this season?
Chris Sale signed a five-year, $32.5 million extension yesterday afternoon. Though he won't notice a huge difference in 2013 -- he'll make $850,000 -- the contract is loaded in the later years. He will make $9.5 million in 2016, and $12 million in 2017.
The Sox lock up their top pitching asset with a sweetheart of a deal. The team also possess two nice team options at the end of the deal. They can retain their ace for $12.5 million in 2018 and for $13.5 million in 2019.
The club signs a pitcher who had a higher 2012 WAR (5.7) than Felix Hernandez (4.6), who inked a seven-year, $175 million deal with Seattle in February. Not to say that Sale is better than Hernandez, but Chicago gets a pitcher who can have comparable stats at a fraction of the price.
With a blazing fastball and a sharp slider, Chris Sale pitched his way into our hearts last year. The lefty with the sidearm delivery racked up 17 wins with a 3.05 ERA in 192 innings in 2012, all during his first season as a major league starting pitcher. Sale had a team-high 5.7 WAR, and if it weren't for late season Sox collapse and two megastars named Verlander and Price, Sale would have generated some major Cy Young buzz.
The Sox had Sale on the hook for only $500,000 last season. He'll make $600,000 this season. He is a total steal for the White Sox.
This is MLB's salary structure with its younger players -- they make little money (automatic renewals by the club) their first three years, then become arbitration eligible for another three years with no guarantee to a long-term deal.
Finally, after six years in the big leagues, a player can then become a free agent, have his value assessed by the open market and receive a big payday. Sale will be under the White Sox control through 2016.
In sports, long-standing reputations can be changed in what feels like an instant. LeBron James is no longer thought of as a choker after his first title, and Mike Tyson's lunacy is considered quirky instead of disturbing after recent success outside of the ring. Even the Blackhawks underwent a transformation from a lame ticket to a hot ticket in only half a decade.
Alex Rios is in a position to flip his reputation, too.
The outfielder, before last year, was thought to be mediocre, overpaid and one of the league's worst contracts. Before the 2008 season, Rios signed a seven-year deal worth nearly $70 million and declined so badly in 2009 that Toronto waived him. The Sox claimed him and were criticized for it. Rios is typically solid in even-numbered years but subpar in odd-numbered years (for whatever reason), leading to disappointment among fans and management with the expensive and inconsistent right fielder.
"As far as health, I'll throw as hard as I want," Danks said to ESPN Chicago last week. "And I've been cleared by the doctors, and I'm passed that mental block of cutting it loose. I feel like we're at that point now where you want arm strength. We can start working on pitching rather than try to get back healthy."
My wife and I just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary last week on Valentine's Day (no, I'm not that hopeless of a romantic. It was cheaper and it scored points with my in-laws so that they didn't have to make plans). And overall, we have been together for nearly six wonderful, glorious, fun-filled years, where I feel we have both learned so much, not just about our favorite music and foods, but about what makes us tick as individuals.
Early on in the relationship, my wife got an inside look at my love for the Blackhawks, Bulls, Cubs, Bears and, sadly, one of my favorite pastimes, fantasy sports. While dating, I would come over on Sundays and take over her front room by snagging her laptop to monitor football scores, while flipping between the Fox and CBS games.
Needless to say, she had the patience of a Saint while I marched my way through the playoffs to eventually capture my first ever fantasy sports championship. I had my good luck charm in her, and she got a nice dinner out of the winnings.
This offseason, I waited for the White Sox to jump into the hot stove action and make some moves. Then, mid-February suddenly rolled around. Not exactly a flurry of transactions on the South Side.
Not like I expected the Sox to turn into the Dodgers, or even a half-decent facsimile of them. I knew Zack Greinke and Josh Hamilton wouldn't be heading here (no one did), and even when Michael Bourn was lingering for eons on the open market, I knew the Sox wouldn't pounce on him either. The Sox never really pursue big-name free agents.
I thought they might jump on a sneaky free agent signing, though. Like grabbing an innings-eating pitcher who might be due for a breakout season, or an outfielder who isn't flashy but has a solid batting eye and high OBP. I even thought they might go after a guy on a down year, a reclamation project with low risk and a high reward. Someone under-the-radar, on the cheap.
Another core member of the 2012 White Sox is gone. Catcher AJ Pierzynski signed with Texas on Thursday night on a one-year deal. Terms are not yet reported.
The Sox and new general manager Rick Hahn mulled the idea of re-signing Pierzynski this winter, but as the days kept counting and it became late December, I can't say I was totally surprised that Pierzynski split. He and the Sox must have been far apart on a deal, and the Rangers, who lost two of their best bats (Josh Hamilton and Mike Napoli), swooped in.
Chicago loses Pierzynski, who hit a career-high 27 home runs last season (by far the most in his career) and high strong marks in RBIs (77) and OPS (.827). Pierzynski's hot streak in July and August carried the team and he posted a solid WAR (2.6).
Pierzynski had a very good year - and he was rewarded with a Silver Slugger award. But the Sox were undoubtedly concerned with his age (he will turn 36 in under two weeks) and his fair-to-middling defense (only threw out 26% of base-stealers and a microscopic 0.2 defensive WAR).
Here's the problem, though: by losing Pierzynski and seemingly avoiding late career dip in production or post-contract year swoon, a different problem arises.
White Sox Nation's reaction? It's pretty much been "Meh."
The Sox inked the veteran to a three-year, $12 million deal today. Keppinger is a versatile defender who can play any position in the infield, and he's not bad with the bat. In 2012, he posted a .806 OPS with the Rays, the highest mark in his career.
The guy has a couple marks against him, though. Keppinger is 32, so he doesn't fit any sort of youth movement. He's a journeyman, and the Sox will be his seventh team in his career. And most obviously, he's Jeff Keppinger. Nothing to get too excited about.
Whether you like Grantland or not, you have to admit that Jonah Keri is one of the best national baseball writers. He can appeal to both new school and old school, weaving in eye-witness observations and sabermetric stats to make thorough arguments. I love his Simpsons references too, but that's just me.
Keri released his top-50 MLB Trade Value column on Tuesday. (For a full explanation, Keri breaks down what he is doing in the intro and sidebar to Part 1). Weighing player potential and team-controlled contracts more heavily than superstars in their prime already making big money, we get to see who is the most valuable in baseball.
The White Sox, not surprisingly, only have one player on the list, Chris Sale. Keri didn't take into account minor leaguers (not that it would matter for the Sox), ignored most expensive veterans (too many to name on the Sox), downplayed relievers (affecting Addison Reed and Nate Jones), and took into account talent depth at certain positions (Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza are good, but MLB is filled with young talented outfielders).
I have to say that I was surprised that the White Son and new GM Rick Hahn re-signed Jake Peavy last week. I thought Peavy was going to be shown the door, wished farewell and goodluck, and he would then sign his last big contract with another contending club.
The choice for Rick Hahn to become the new White Sox GM was the polar opposite of a rash decision.
The move for Hahn to take the position as former GM Kenny Williams was promoted to overseeing baseball operations was not something decided on last week. The wheels had been in motion to make the switch since 2008.
"We had gone back-and-forth about this possible structure being a way where we can be a little more efficient, to free [Williams] up a little more to evaluate talent, which is obviously one of his strengths," Hahn said in a conference call to Sox bloggers on Thursday. "Each of us needed to get to a point where we felt it truly was the right thing for the organization."
Hahn has been in the Sox organization for 12 years, serving as an assistant GM under Williams. In recent years, Hahn had been pursued by other teams for their GM spots, but nothing ever materialized. Even Hahn admits that the talks never got too serious.
Feeling depressed, White Sox fans? Still not over the ending to the season? Sad that the Tigers -- the Tigers! -- clinched the pennant Thursday night?
Well, chin up!
The White Sox will be lowering some ticket and parking prices at Sox Park for 2013. Seats in the lower deck in the corners will be $20, and seats in the corners of the upper deck will be $7 every game (save for three prime contests). Many season ticket packages (especially bleacher seats) will be cheaper, and parking will be dropped to $20 from prices of $25 and $23.
While fans would love to view this as an act of philanthropy by owner Jerry Reinsdorf, this is actually an effort to boost some pretty weak attendance figures. The Sox finished 24th in attendance in 2012, drawing in less than 2,000,000 fans, the franchise's lowest showing since 2004. Well, maybe if the team was successful, fans wou– hey wait, the team was in first place for about four months.
But back to my point: Everyone is either past their prime, or not at their best years yet. For "prime," I define it loosely as a player who has been in MLB for at least 3-5 full seasons, who is 26 to 30 years old roughly, and who is as good as he will ever be.
In front of a generous count of 15,000 people, Tigers' closer Jose Valverde nailed down his biggest save of the season. The bespectacled righty hurled his best pitch, his fastball, and he induced a chopper up the middle from batter Alcides Escobar. Shortstop Jhonny Peralta gathered it and fired it over to Prince Fielder at first, the throw beating the speedy Escobar to the bag by a half step. The hefty slugger jumped off the bag with joy, and his Motown teammates mobbed each other around the pitcher's mound.
It was official. The Detroit Tigers are headed to the postseason, clinching the American League Central. And, most importantly (for readers of Gapers Block, anyway), the Chicago White Sox' season will be over after Wednesday night's game.
Sure, there are six games left in the season. Yeah, Detroit's closing out the regular season on the road. And naturally, this is baseball, stranger things have happened, it's not over 'til it's over, and all that.
But it just looks more and more like the Tigers will eke out a division title just as the White Sox ran out of steam. Heading into the weekend, Detroit leads free-falling Chicago by two games in the AL Central.
Thursday night's game was just a small sampling of many of the issues that have plagued the Sox this season. Jake Peavy had a strong outing where he willed himself to 115+ pitches, but a few mistakes put a blemish on his evening. The Sox lineup was able to get guys on base fairly easily, but couldn't bring them in (10 men left on base). They had a baserunning gaffe. The bullpen caved and yielded a late lead. Adam Dunn struck out in a big spot.
The Sox's trump card over the second half has been twofold: As long as they didn't go into a complete funk, they could keep a lead in the division because the Tigers, for whatever reason, could never get over the hump and get hot. Chicago could lead the division by two games and go on a 5-11 run, yet still lead the AL Central by a game (like what happened earlier in the month). Then, the Sox could go on a mini-hot streak and right the ship a little.
The Sox followed up last Monday's thriller with a 1-5 stretch in Kansas City and Los Angeles, with five consecutive losses. The causes for the losses varied, from bad baserunning to rally-starting walks, from leaving guys on base to sloppy fielding.
The weekend, the Sox never got into a groove on offense. Not only did the Angels rack up nine 1-2-3 innings (with three additional 1-2-3 innings with a double play), but the Sox mustered only five runs. Two were solo home runs, and three could be categorized as "too little, too late."
The big theme is not bringing runs in. Over the past six games, the Sox are 3-for-42 (!) with runners in scoring position. This included a late Adam Dunn strikeout on Friday (two on, two out, down four in the eighth), the team going 0-for-3 Saturday in the seventh with runners on second and third with no outs, and the team leaving the bases loaded in the first with one out on Sunday.
Another Bruce Chen start... another time this season that the Sox were completely flummoxed by his stuff.
Chen didn't allow a run over his 6.2 innings, and Kansas City's offense did just enough to eke out a 3-0 victory over the White Sox on Wednesday night. It was Chen's third win over the Sox since the all-star break. Not counting Chen's stinker at Sox Park 12 days ago, where he allowed five runs and took the loss, Chen pitched 19.1 innings in his wins - and he allowed only four earned runs, 17 hits and five walks. About as dominant as a soft-tossing lefty can do against this powerful Sox squad.
How did this happen? How did Chen, who has been the embodiment of an average pitcher over his career, not only shut down the Sox, but also have his opponents know they were going to struggle against him even before he took the mound?
The season isn't over yet and the White Sox have to fend off the Tigers for the pennant for another two weeks, but Sox first-round playoff tickets go on sale Friday, Sept. 21 at noon. Tickets will be sold at whitesox.com, TicketMaster or by calling 866-SOX-GAME (709-4263); limit six per customer.
American League Divisional Series ticket prices are as follows:
• Lower Box: $65
• Lower Reserved/Bleachers/Upper Deck Box: $60
• Upper Deck Reserved: $45.
The playoffs will begin Oct. 5, with American League Divisional Series games beginning Oct. 6 and 7. In the meantime, the Sox have extended their "Postseason Chase" ticket deal to the rest of the regular season home games; get $20-26 reserved seats for series against the Indians and Rays.
It was pretty obvious that Monday's White Sox-Tigers make-up game was one of the most important games of the season. What was more surprising was that the season's most important play (so far) happened in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Yes, I said most important. The play itself didn't directly win the ballgame (though it did provide the margin of victory), nor was it highlight reel worthy. It was a nice microcosm of the 2012 White Sox, and it had a strong impact on the team for the rest of the game - and maybe, the rest of the season.
To set the stage: Sox trail 4-3, bases loaded, one out. Dayan Viciedo up. Though Jose Quintana wasn't great in the contest, Tigers' pitcher Doug Fister wasn't perfect, either. Yet the Sox couldn't really get to Fister. Other than Dewayne Wise's two-RBI single, the offense couldn't bring the runners in scoring position in.
As for the at-bat, Viciedo swung at a slider over the plate and hit a hopper to short. Jhonny Peralta flipped to second to get Alex Rios out, but Rios took out Omar Infante at the bag, and Infante's throw skipped into the Tigers' dugout. Two runs score, Sox lead 5-4. Three reasons why this play stands out:
Who loves the rain more than the White Sox right now? Well, other than CCR?
The weather and the threat of storms cancelled the series finale between the Sox and Tigers on Thursday night, a matchup between the aces -- Justin Verlander and Chris Sale. Though it could have been spectacular television (that no one would have seen because the Bears were on), the Sox dodge another series-ending game where Detroit could have tied up the division. The game will be rescheduled for Monday afternoon, after the Sox have completed a weekend set in Minnesota.
Though the Sox took the opener versus Detroit in a thrilling fashion, with mania ensuing in the stands after Alex Rios' and AJ Pierzynski's back-to-back home runs, Chicago couldn't bring home either of the next two contests. The Tigers yet again gained some more games on the Sox' behalf, and now stand one game behind in the AL Central.
For most of the season, I thought the White Sox bullpen was pretty good. There have been times -- I don't know, maybe in May or July -- that I believed that when the Sox took the lead and turned it over to their relievers, the game was over. I was that confident and that impressed in the Sox' 'pen, that if they blew a game, I treated it as an aberration.
After the last few weeks, I pondered why I ever thought that in the first place.
This is not to rag on the relievers, to take pot shots at this mish-mash of young and old guys that have united to form a semblance of a reliable bullpen. Robin Ventura and the Sox organization has done the best with what they have, and that's some rookies who get regular appearances (Addison Reed, Nate Jones and Leyson Septimo, as of late), and a patchwork of over-30 arms (Matt Thornton, Brett Myers and Jesse Crain). They've even had to alter their plans for certain guys on the fly - Hector Santiago went from closer to long reliever to starting pitcher, and Philip Humber went from starter to long reliever and middle reliever. Every so often with the Sox, everything goes smoothly, and the middle relief, set-up men and closer all close out the game swiftly and easily, with no issues.
When Kevin Youkilis was exiled from Boston in late June and was sent to Chicago, everyone associated with the White Sox (the players, front office and fans) were, at best, ecstatic, and at worse, optimistic. Through almost three months, Youk has not disappointed.
The Sox received a boost from Youkilis's arrival, rolling off a 9-3 record right after the deal. The team has been in first place just about every day since the trade, too. Youkilis too has been rejuvenated in Chicago, with a .362 OBP and a .812 OPS with 12 home runs in 59 games for the team. Plus, he works the count well and many of his homers have come in big spots for the Sox. Even considering his spotty defense, he's been good, and he already holds some sway in the clubhouse.
But as the Sox fixed their problems at third base, issues have been rising at second base. Gordon Beckham has been lousy since the trade. From May 7 to June 24, Beckham was plugged into the #2 spot in the lineup every day for 43 games, and he finally found a groove in the big leagues, shaking off some of the stink of his previous two seasons. Beckham became a minor threat in the order, and he hit a not-too-shabby .264 with seven home runs and 25 RBI. Even if it wasn't all-star level production, it still appeared that Beckham had something to build on.
I totally can't believe that happened... but then again, I totally can.
I'm not too surprised that the White Sox were swept by the Tigers over the weekend, with the two teams now tied in the AL Central. I mean, we saw this same thing happen a month ago. The Sox went into Detroit, hoping to extend their lead in the standings, only the Tigers completely shut them down. Déjà vu.
I just didn't think that Delmon Freaking Young would be the MVP of the series.
To be fair to the Tigers, they had several stand-out players this weekend. Miguel Cabrera hit the daylights out of the ball, racking up six hits, a .692 OBP (6-for-10 with three walks) and home run that set the tone in the first game - and he was limping so badly it looked like he had two wooden legs. Max Scherzer had a fine outing Saturday, going eight innings with nine strikeouts while allowing only five baserunners and zero runs, yet Justin Verlander topped him on Sunday. Verlander showed why he was MVP: 11 Ks with only one run (and that was the first batter of the game). He made Sox hitters look foolish, hitting 100 on the gun and getting the final strikes by check-swings and breaking balls chased in the dirt.
The White Sox have been enigmatic, at best, against the best teams in the American League over the second half of this season. They can sweep New York fairly easily, but then look listless against Kansas City. They can take two of three from playoff hopeful teams like Oakland, Los Angeles and Texas, but then wilt when facing Boston (when they were good) and Detroit. They'll go on a modest win streak, and subsequently negate it by losing just as many games in a row.
This weekend will be a test for the Sox, going into the Motor City to play a three-game set with the Tigers. Chicago leads Detroit by three games in the AL Central, yet the Tigers have been playing some pretty good ball lately, with a 30-18 record since Independence Day. Those guys come into this series hot and ready to--
I like baseball, and I like statistics, but I'm not a huge Sabermetrics guy. I would love to be a card-carrying SABR member, but I have trouble wrapping my mind around some of the more sophisticated and complex statistics - when I peruse Baseball Reference and see stats like Rpos and RA9def, my head starts spinning.
One advanced stat I do like is WAR, which is Wins Above Replacement. Although the method to calculate the number is very convoluted, it is really a fairly simple statistic. A positive WAR is how many wins a player added to a team as opposed to an average bench player, and a negative WAR is how many wins a player cost a team.
I checked out some of the leaders in WAR on the White Sox. Not surprisingly, Chris Sale (5.4) and Jake Peavy (4.6) lead the pitchers, followed by Jose Quintana (3.4), Gavin Floyd (1.4) and Nate Jones (1.2). Makes sense.
As for the hitters... without looking it up (and forgetting you saw this article's headline), who would you guess the Sox leader in WAR is for position players?
The White Sox won a rain-shortened series finale at home against Seattle on Sunday, extending their win streak to six games. They swept their half-dozen game homestand, handing three defeats each to the Yankees and Mariners. In a season filled with peaks and valleys, the South Siders are riding a hot spell, clearly having some positive momentum.
Ah yes, momentum. The impossible to quantify, hard to define, ever-fleeting byproduct of a crew that's playing good ball. A team is never quite sure how to get momentum, but once they have it, the players know it. And so do the coaches, front office, press and fans. There is that feeling that the team can beat any given opponent, that every player's production will increase, and that even if the situation appears dire, someone will emerge to carry the squad.
That has been the story for the White Sox over the last seven days, with something clicking in them specifically in the fifth inning of the home opener last Monday.
I attended last Wednesday's White Sox game against the Yankees. Normally, those types of games sell out quickly. The final count was 26,319. That's nowhere near capacity, folks. It was embarrassing to hear Yankees fans out-cheer Sox fans. That should never, ever happen.
If Sox fans really want to get to a game this year, they can if they really wanted to. I have heard fans say the economy and the area around U.S. Cellular Field are the reasons why they don't go.
After how last season went down and how this season has turned out (far exceeded anyone's expectations) how could anyone who calls themselves a Sox fan not at least try to make it out to some games this year?
On Sunday, Jose Quintana was yet again the unheralded rock in the Sox pitching rotation, quietly hurling another splendid game - Two runs allowed in seven innings, pitching out of a couple jams, inducing a few timely double plays. He even kept the Sox in the game, despite the offense being no-hit until the seventh inning.
And as is typical for Quintana, he took a no-decision for his efforts.
One could argue that Quintana was fortunate that he didn't pick up the loss (Chicago scored two in the top of the eighth, tying the score). Yet the fact remains: Jose Quintana is quite unlucky, and, as Hawk Harrelson always says about Q, "If he didn't have bad luck, he wouldn't have any luck at all."
A quick look back at some of the examples of his misfortune in 2012:
As was said about 500,000 times this weekend, "The White Sox are a different team this season when playing the Royals." And after a three game sweep where the Royals outscored the Sox 18-8, who can disagree?
Everything went Kansas City's way. Chicago came up short on the tougher aspects of the game (like not driving in sorely needed runs late in the game), yet also struggled with the easy things (four errors in Saturday's game). The now third-place Royals rolled out their best three starting pitchers, and Chicago had no answers.
It was a sweep that felt like a sweep. The Royals played better ball and deservedly won all three contests. The White Sox had their chances to steal every game, though.
This even extends to the batting order. Players like to find their spot in the lineup and stay there. Statistics and analytics determine which batting order work and can figure out the optimal lineup, sure, but part of it is just players' comfort of hitting in his certain spot. What manager wants to anger his players by disrupting their routine?
Having said all that, the White Sox should move A.J. Pierzynski up in the batting order, and drop Adam Dunn down in it, at least for the time being. Simply put, A.J.'s hot bat is being underutilized, and it's worth the risk to mix up the lineup.
Chris Sale took the mound for the White Sox on Monday night against the visiting Royals, making his first start after a nine-day rest. The layoff did him quite well.
Sale had a fine outing, going eight strong innings and striking out seven in a 4-2 Sox win. Before the game, not only had Sale been experiencing a drop in velocity and arm discomfort; he also wasn't sharp in starts against the Tigers and Rangers, allowing five runs in each game.
The young lefty with the slingshot release looked himself on this evening, ratcheting pitches up to 95 mph and using his mid-80s changeup to keep Kansas City hitters honest. Sale even mixed in some nice 10-to-4 breaking balls in as well.
The first seven innings went pretty well for Sale, racking up the K's, routine grounders and weak pop ups. There were a few exceptions, though, as Jeff Francoeur and Billy Butler took two of Sale's mistake pitches deep for home runs. Francoeur went opposite field with a liner that found the Royals' bullpen, and Butler crushed a low fastball for a no-doubter to the seats in left field. Sale had a rough fifth inning, with a few warning track fly outs and Francoeur's homer.
It looks like the White Sox got the starter they wanted. The team traded for Twins left-hander Francisco Liriano on Saturday night, and Liriano could make his debut on Wednesday against his former team at his former ballpark. Funny how things work out.
The trade, quite simply, was a win for the White Sox. A good get. It's a good deal considering what Chicago got - a 3rd or 4th starter who fills out the rotation, which they desperately needed - and what they gave up. Eduardo Escobar is a decent utility player and good clubhouse guy, but nothing too special, and pitcher Pedro Hernandez had one of the worst outings of the 2012 season for the Sox. Also, while Escobar was considered a marginal prospect, Hernandez was a little lower on the futures list.
Although I believe adding Liriano was the right move, his season as a whole has been subpar. He has an ERA of 5.31, and an ERA+ of 77 (100 is the average). He also had been dropped from the rotation by the Twins this season. He's not exactly Josh Johnson or Ryan Dempster here.
But for Liriano, we have to look at his last 11 starts. Since May 30, when he was reinstated in the Twins' rotation, Liriano has been very good. Not counting his most recent outing, where he allowed seven runs in 2.2 innings to the White Sox, he has only given up four runs three times, while allowing two or less six times.
The White Sox used the tagline "All In" a season too soon.
The organization used the slogan last year in White Sox promotional materials. All in. As we saw, All In didn't amount to much, as the Sox finished 79-83, well out of first place.
This year - specifically, right now - the battle cry should be "All In." The Sox are currently in the thick of a bizarre dog fight with the Detroit Tigers in the race for the AL Central crown. I use the word bizarre because it feels that neither team wants it. The Tigers are finally now over .500, but they're a team that the Sox just gave away three wins to this past weekend. Each team needs something, and the Tigers may have addressed that with their recent acquisitions of Anibal Sanchez and Omar Infante.
The Sox? They can use a top-notch pitcher. Specifically, Zack Greinke. As was announced Thursday, the Brewers will be dealing their ace before the July 31 trade deadline. This is an opportunity for the White Sox to jump in.
I was only 8 years old when Paul Konerko was traded to the White Sox.
He hadn't played many games for the Dodgers and Reds, but the Sox considered him a good first base prospect. I remember hearing about him joining the team, but the trade that brought him over for Mike Cameron after the 1998 season was in no way monumental.
Years later, I can't imagine this team without him.
There's a reason Konerko stands with Derek Jeter as the only official team captains in the game. He led the Sox to a World Series title; trails only Frank Thomas among their career home run leaders; and last week he became one of three men to play 2,000 games for the franchise. He's on pace to pass Nellie Fox for second place next season.
Yet, Konerko remains underrated. He has gained a lot of respect over the years, but the way he has hit consistently since 2010 and played first base should be garnering way more attention nationally.
But that's the great thing about Paul Konerko: He doesn't care if he gets the attention or not. And I don't mean that in an "A.J. Pierzysnki doesn't care" kind of way.
Over just seven days, the White Sox dream season has come crashing down. After Sunday's 6-4 loss to the Tigers, which finished off a Detroit sweep and a 1-6 mark over the past week, Chicago now stands 50-45. The Tigers, who disappointed the entire first half, are now in first place, one and a half games better than the Sox.
This means I was wrong in my column a week ago. The Sox will probably not cruise to a divisional title. But I was right on one thing: a 7-0 or 6-1 swing would be huge. Of course, the opponents went 6-1.
What happened? First, the bats went ice cold. Paul Konerko led the team in batting average over the last week, and he only hit .273. Kevin Youkilis has struck out eight times in the same time span. In their losses, the Sox only scored ten runs total. Three of those runs came as solo scores in the first inning.
The recent offensive ineptitude is understandable, though. It's a long season, and there will be hot streaks (like the stretch before the all-star break) and cold spells. We know that the Sox have a talented offense, so they will rebound soon enough.
The second reason why the Sox had a hell week - the big innings - is a greater cause for concern.
Pedro Hernandez took the mound for the White Sox Wednesday night at Fenway Park, making his major league debut. In a never-seen-that-before move, A.J. Pierzynski tossed aside the young lefty's first pitch, a called strike to Jacoby Ellsbury, giving Hernandez a memento to treasure forever. The ball will serve as a confirmation that, yes, Pedro Hernandez is a member of the very small percentage of humans who have pitched in the major leagues.
Ellsbury then hit the second pitch of the night for a double off of the Green Monster.
It was a sign of more things to come on the evening. Nothing went right for the South Siders, and they picked up a 10-1 loss. With Detroit's victory, Chicago now only leads the Tigers by 2.5 games in the AL Central.
Though Hernandez, who came to Chicago in the Carlos Quentin trade, showed some fight over the first two innings, the wheels started to come off after Cody Ross's first (yes, first) three-run homer of the game.
Okay, not really. We still have over two months remaining, and we are barely halfway through the season. This week's trips to Boston and Detroit are undoubtedly important for the White Sox, but they are not do-or-die.
That is, unless we see some sweeps.
If the Sox go 7-0 or 0-7 (or even 6-1 or 1-6), well, that's what you call a game changer. The Sox' hot run of late can be legitimized, or their entire streak of success could go for naught. While this week's slate of games -- four games in Boston, starting tonight, followed by a weekend series in Detroit -- is not "critical," the stretch can potentially make or break the Sox, if sweeps happen.
I've always been fascinated by the concept of "house money." Basically, it means that people are willing to take more risks with money (or intangible items like "success") that was unexpectedly obtained.
The question is, are the White Sox playing with house money for the rest of the season? You bet.
The White Sox are in first place right now, and they have been playing their best ball of 2012 over the last week. Kevin Youkilis, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy have been rejuvenated, numerous young players are stepping up, and the team has strengths in every aspect of the game (hitting, pitching and fielding).
None of this was expected. The over/under for Sox wins this year was 74. Sports Illustrated had them finishing last in the AL Central. ESPN's Jayson Stark pegged the Sox as a team with no chance of playing in October.
How about that Jose Quintana? Far from being a ballyhooed prospect for the Sox (who, as we all know, have the worst farm system in MLB), Quintana has been a major player for the Sox recently. He's the main reason we haven't thought of a catchy "Peavy, Sale, then pray for rain" line, akin to the Yankees' old "Sabathia and Hughes, and the we lose" tag.
After a few spot starts, Quintana was recalled and put in the rotation when John Danks was put on the DL in May. After getting settled, Quintana has only given up more than two runs once (still getting a 14-7 victory over the Yankees) over his last six starts. He had back-to-back eight inning shutout performances against the Dodgers and Brewers. He even has good command, with five walks total in his last 45.2 innings pitched.
Thursday's game against Texas was his finest game so far. He went eight dominating innings while allowing one fluke run for a sweep of the Rangers. The only run came when Adrian Beltre hit a screaming liner back at Quintana, and the ball ricocheted off his left thigh and into shallow right field. Ian Kinsler scored from second on the play. Even then, it showed how tough Quintana is -- he immediately waved off the trainers, finished off the inning and went for four more.
To be the best, you have to beat the best. Or something like that.
The White Sox split a four-game series with the AL East-best New York Yankees this weekend. At times, it looked like the Sox were going to sweep. Other times, the Yankees looked like they were playing at a different level. Perhaps a split is tolerable in that regard.
The Sox took the first two games. Wasn't easy though: they needed comebacks in each of those two games. In Thursday night's game, the Sox trailed 3-1 in the ninth, and Dayan Viciedo did one of my favorite moves in sports: He hit a three-run homer to give his team a one-run lead in the final inning. That's a game changer right there.
Viciedo teed off on a high 90 mph fastball from David Robertson, getting all of it. What a moment seeing Viciedo absolutely beaming in the dugout afterwards, high fiving all of his teammates.
Immediately after news broke Sunday that the White Sox had traded pitcher Zach Stewart and utility player Brent Lillibridge to Boston for third baseman Kevin Youkilis, two things confirmed that the move was a good one:
1) Moments after Twitter lit up with reports of the completed deal, Orlando Hudson stepped to the plate in that afternoon's game against Milwaukee. It was the bottom of the ninth inning, no score, and the bases were loaded with two outs. Chicago had all the momentum, and looked ready to take the game. Hudson has been holding it down at third base for the White Sox over the last month, though he is only hitting .167 since joining the club.
Not surprisingly, the nine-hitter weakly popped out to short on the third pitch to end the inning.
2) A little after that, but still before the trade was 100% official, ESPN baseball writer Buster Olney tweeted, "White Sox 3bmen came into today with a .466 ops...worst in the majors, by 102 points."
My expert opinion says that Chicago upgraded its offense by bringing Youkilis to the South Side.
As a baseball fan, I pay attention to what happens around the league on a daily basis. But speaking as a Cubs fan only, I could absolutely care less about the White Sox outside of the six games a year the teams play one another. And I don't think they're more important than the rest of the season.
I don't celebrate the South Siders' failures. I don't get distraught when they succeed. One crappy baseball team is more than enough to worry about. It's clear however, that I'm in the minority when it comes to the "Crosstown Classic."
The Facebook status Mike wrote about Wednesday is right in line with what I see on my news feed as well, and is quite common amongst Cubs/Sox fans. I simply can't figure out why.
After the Cubs pounded the White Sox on Monday, cruising to a 12-3 victory in the opening game of the three-game set, Cubs fans puffed out their chests a little.
I have a Facebook friend who posted "Cubs>>>>> Whitesux" right after the game, racking up 28 "likes." I saw it and thought, "Nevermind the clubs' records (Sox 35-32 at the time, Cubs 23-44), I guess the guy has a short memory, because the Sox swept the Cubs fairly easily just a month ago."
I noticed a larger point, though. People care about the rivalry, and people care about the two three-game series the North and South Siders play each year. Yeah, most of the time it is for pride (because usually one or both of the teams are mediocre or worse), but a Cubs-Sox series is roughly 15 times more exciting than a typical Sox-Orioles or Cubs-Padres matchup.
With the Astros shift to the American League next year, and with 15 teams in each league, interleague play will now be season round. Unfortunately, scheduling this has been tough, so the rivalry scheduling will change. Gone are two weekend series; in are single mid-week series. The number of games between the rivalry teams will be reduced from six to four, and the Sox and Cubs will now have two games each at home.
Gapers Block is going to the ball game, and you're all invited! Join us to watch the White Sox take on the Detroit Tigers on Thursday, Sept. 13. As a special deal for GB readers, tickets are half-price if you purchase them through this page, by mail using the order form below, or by mentioning the promo code "BLOCK" when you order by phone.* And you're not going to be stuck all in one section -- you've got access to every available section, wherever you can find a spot. Lower deck box seats are just $20, and the nose bleed seats in Upper Reserved are just $7!
Marilyn Monroe "practicing batting" with Joe Dobson (standing) and Gus Zernial (catching).
Monroe's connection to baseball is well known -- she was married to hall of famer Joe DiMaggio for less than a year in 1954. What's somewhat less known is that a photo spread shot at White Sox training camp in Pasadena, CA in March of 1951 is how she caught Joltin' Joe's eye. The photos show Monroe with Gus Zernial, Joe Dobson and Hank Majeski in a couple different poses -- including the one above in which pitcher Dobson stands behind Monroe as she pretends to bat, with Zernial playing catcher. The photos stuck with DiMaggio, who waited until after he retired to contact the press agent who organized the shoot, David March, to arrange a date. The rest, as they say, is history.
What should the Sox do to prevent Sale from racking up a massive amount of innings pitched? Have him skip a couple starts the rest of the way? Move him to the bullpen or into the closer role? Have him pitch up to his innings limit, then shut him down? How to handle the 23-year old lefty fireballer?
For a first place team that definitely could win the division, none of those options are desirable. Sale has been the Sox's best pitcher by almost any metric; not using him is a total detriment to the team. The bullpen/closer role is the best potential outcome, but still, Sale has been shifted around all season, and how would he adapt to the role on the fly?
I guess a better question is, Do the Sox need to put Sale on an innings limit in the first place?
When we last left the White Sox, they had a 13-1 streak going and had just swept the AL powerhouse Rays. That was on May 31, when they had an off day. Since June began? The Sox are a "meh" 4-5, winning a series versus Seattle and going 1-2 against both the Blue Jays and Astros.
This shouldn't be cause for concern. Chicago is still in first place in the AL Central, currently by a half game over Cleveland. They have a run differential of +35, second-best in the AL. Chris Sale has been spectacular, with back-to-back gems versus the M's and 'Stros. Over the last seven days, Adam Dunn has three home runs, and Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios and Paul Konerko are all hitting over .350.
There are a few small things to worry about, though. The last nine games have been at home, and Toronto was the best team of the three (currently 31-30). It would have been nice for the Sox to keep rolling and go 6-3 or better over the stretch, but they did not. Little bit of a sour taste, there.
By now, I'm sure you've heard and seen Hawk Harrelson's tirade against umpire Mark Wegner during Wednesday's White Sox-Rays game. Hawk, always known to be an unabashed homer, has received some heat over the last few days regarding his outburst.
Was the rant over the top? Sure. Was it funny? Of course. Was Hawk right, that the ejection was unwarranted? Either viewpoint is acceptable. But can you blame Harrelson for it? Can you scrutinize him for it? Can you be outraged over it? Not if you like or accept the Hawk.
For covering the White Sox this year, I try to not become too attached to the team. There is not much upside in personally liking a player too much. He could get hurt, he could get traded, or he could be demoted. Of course, the attachment could also cloud my judgment in writing about the team, and being objective would be really tough.
With that said, Dayan Viciedo is really testing me.
I just love how it's all clicking for him, how he's realizing some of is potential. Viciedo has been red hot in May, hitting .333 with 8 home runs and 23 RBIs. He's been a pleasant surprise this season, in a season that's been filled with pleasant surprises for the Sox.
What I wrote yesterday? Disregard that for this series.
With the White Sox in St. Petersburg for a three-game set versus the Rays, pitching will have to be the South Siders' focus - because the Rays have such a good rotation and bullpen, the Sox' pitching has to keep the Rays offense in check to keep games close.
Chris Sale did just that Monday, pitching an absolute gem of a game in a Sox 2-1 victory. I was thoroughly impressed by what the 6'6" lefty did today; 8.1 innings pitched, one run allowed and 15 strikeouts. Fifteen!
Over the past week, White Sox games have pretty much morphed into slo-pitch softball. With the scores the Sox, Twins and Indians put up over the last six games, can't you picture the players hitting with aluminum bats and the pitchers arcing the ball between 6 and 12 feet?
The ball has really been jumping off the bat at The Cell. After the Sox lost on Tuesday night to Minnesota 9-2, they won by the scores of 6-0, 11-8, 9-3, 14-7 and 12-6. The Sox have scored a whopping 54 runs during their six-game homestretch, including 17 home runs. In fact, the Sox haven't had four straight nine-run games since 1938.
Yet while the offense has been looking good, the pitching has been subpar. The Sox have allowed 33 runs in that span, with four instances of the starter yielding five runs or more. In each game, the winner was able to out-slug the opponent, with offense being key.
My how times have changed! A little over a month ago, the Sox's script was flipped: Pitching was the main reason for the Sox's success. Now, the offense is carrying the team.
The White Sox went to Wrigley and swept the Cubs fairly easily this weekend, outscoring their North Side counterparts 16-6 while smashing eight home runs. The season's first interleague series was exactly what the Sox needed as they improved to .500 before a six game homestretch against Minnesota and Cleveland.
Too caught up in the NATO protests to watch baseball? Here were some of the highlights and lowlights of the three game set.
Just in time for the start of the Crosstown Classic, Craig Robinson and Nick Offerman return in New Era's "Chicago vs. Chicago" commercial series. This round, Robinson asks Offerman how far he'd go to see the Cubs win the World Series. As you'd expect, it's pretty far.
The White Sox didn't do so well against the fourth place Royals this weekend, dropping the final two games by a combined 13 runs. The Sox played well in the opener though, and the top offensive performer in the victory was a now not-unlikely name: Adam Dunn.
Much has been written about the slugger's resurgence. Perhaps the best indicator that Dunn's hot streak is for real is that he's keeping it up. Usually, once you notice that a player is tearing it up, he quickly returns back to earth. Not in this case, though.
In Friday night's 5-0 win over Kansas City, Dunn had one of his finest games of the season. Not only was his power evident and his OBP at 1.000, he even broke his season-long strikeout streak.
Just how did Dunn do it? Let's look at it at-bat by at-bat.
This has been a confounding White Sox season so far.
Sometimes, they look good. They look like a postseason-contending team when Adam Dunn is driving the ball, when Jake Peavy is dominating on the hill, when Konerko is putting up a stream of 2-for-4s, when Philip Humber is literally unhittable, and when the entire lineup chips in - Wednesday's 8-1 win over Cleveland was an example of that.
But then again, the Sox can look pretty bad, like they are truly a 72-win team masquerading as a .500 (or better) squad. Prior to their last two wins over the Indians, the Sox had a stretch where they were 3-11, and their current record is 15-17.
Even though the Sox lost their rubber match against Detroit on Sunday, Adam Dunn hit a home run.
We are slowly getting to the point where that is not a surprise anymore.
Dunn connected off the Tigers' Rick Porcello, driving a low and outside changeup just over the fence in right field. Dunn hit the pitch about as well as any hitter could; the hit was the one bright spot the Sox offense had against Porcello (only one run on four hits allowed) all afternoon.
The big 1B/DH has been swinging the bat well over the last few weeks, specifically the last 18 games. For the first few weeks, Dunn looked like he was continuing last season - he had one home run (way back on Opening Day), and was batting .179 with a .256 OBP. He had four extra-base hits, and two of them came in one game against Detroit.
Jake Peavy has had a peculiar career. Really, you can divide it into two: There was the pre-2009 Peavy (a.k.a, San Diego Jake), a stud pitcher who always kept his ERA under 3.00.
Then, there is the Peavy of the past two seasons. This version not only has had injury problems (pitching only 44 games since mid-2009) but has also suffered a statistical decline. His ERA ballooned to the high 4s, his K/9 ratio dipped to the 7s, and his ERA+ was nowhere near his high of 171 in 2004.
And yes, it is the latter version we've seen here with the White Sox.
But the first month of 2012 has been a pleasant surprise.
On a sunny Saturday in Seattle, with two outs in the bottom of ninth, Philip Humber went to the slider to finish off his perfect game.
It was the biggest pitch of Humber's life, and it worked. Pinch hitter Brendan Ryan struck out on a check swing, the ball briefly escaping A.J. Pierzynski, and after a throw down to first to clinch the out, Humber dropped to his knees and his White Sox teammates mobbed him.
When the 29-year-old right-hander left the field a few moments later, the Seattle crowd gave him a warm standing ovation. It was quite a moment.
Humber's 4-0 masterpiece was a prime example of why baseball is so great. Who would guess that a mid-April game between two near-.500 teams' starting No. 5 pitchers in a half-full stadium would be deemed anything close to memorable?
Your opinion of Thursday's White Sox game is shaped by how you think of the strikeout. If you think, "Eh, it's just another way to make an out," then the 5-3 loss to Baltimore to close the four-game series wasn't a big deal.
On the other hand, if you think the strikeout is the worst way to make an out, then the loss was a tough one to swallow. There were strikeouts galore at The Cell on the overcast afternoon. Of course, the K's were only coming for one side.
The White Sox struck out 16 times -- 10 times against starter Jason Hammel, then twice each against Baltimore relievers Matt Lindstrom, Pedro Stropp and Jim Johnson. Brent Lillibridge, Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo each struck out three times (Viciedo looking all three times), with Alejandro De Aza, Adam Dunn and Tyler Flowers each chipping in with two K's apiece.
Knock on some wood and cross your fingers - the White Sox have been playing some good baseball lately.
The White Sox barely missed stealing a sweep from the powerful Detroit Tigers Sunday afternoon at the Cell. Trailing by four runs in the bottom of the ninth, the Sox got a rally going and were able to get the tying run to the plate. Perhaps it wasn't meant to be - Tigers closer Jose Valverde buckled down and got Kosuke Fukudome to ground out, then Valverde K'd Dayan Viciedo to end the game. Viciedo, who hit a home run in the eighth, took some impressive hacks but couldn't connect. Detroit won their only game of the weekend series, 5-2.
But other than Sunday's game, the Sox have been playing well since their opening series in Texas. They beat the Indians twice, then took the first two games of the Tigers' series.
My favorite moment of the White Sox opening weekend, where they lost two of three to the defending AL champion Texas Rangers, was a play from Friday's opener that probably was forgotten soon after the game.
With the Sox trailing by a run in the sixth, and with Alex Rios on first, Alexei Ramirez hit a single to right-center with two outs. Normally, the ball would move a runner a base or two, but Rios, who was running on the pitch, was waved home. Rios hustled hard, gritting his teeth while rounding third. He scored standing up as the throw was off-line, tying the game.
It was a nice effort play, and the Sox were rewarded for being bold. Even though they lost the game, 3-2, they can overachieve this season if they keep playing tough and aggressively.
The White Sox begin their 2012 season on Friday, with a 1:05 game in Texas. City-wide excitement would be higher if the Bulls and Blackhawks weren't title contenders and if the Sox didn't project to be below average.
The South Siders do have some things going for them, however. A few things I'm looking forward to this season:
Chris Sale, stud starter. I watched two of the former reliever's starts in spring training, and he looked really good. Against the Dodgers in Glendale, AZ, Sale struck out seven in six innings (including three on Matt Kemp) with no walks. Tuesday, in Houston, Sale struck out six in four innings. Sale had 28 strikeouts to only four walks in 28 innings this spring. Granted, it's a small sample size (in exhibition games, no less), but the 6'6" lefty has pitched well in the games leading up to the season.
Every year, Baseball America ranks the 30 major-league franchises on how much overall talent they have in their farm systems. In the 2012 rankings released last week, the White Sox were 30th.
Buddy Bell, the team's vice president of player development and special assignments, could not care less about that ranking.
"I'm not really sure about what the rankings are or what they do," Bell said Friday on a conference call with Sox bloggers. "I don't pay a whole lot of attention to it."
Bell told us he would put the Sox's record "for candidates for our major league club" up against just about any other team and that "we all feel good about where we're at in terms of development and things like that."
White Sox fans braced themselves for a potential fire sale this winter, with Mark Buehrle leaving as a free agent and veterans such as John Danks, Gavin Floyd, Carlos Quentin and Matt Thornton rumored to be available via trade.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed as spring training gets underway. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Mark Buehrle
Last season: 13-9, 3.59 ERA, 1.295 WHIP, 117 ERA+
Hello: Chris Sale
Last season: 2-2, 2.79 ERA, 1.113 WHIP, 152 ERA+
After starting for 11 years, winning 161 games, posting an ERA under 4.00, earning three Gold Gloves and four all-star appearances, throwing a no-hitter and a perfect game, and bringing Chicago a world championship, Mark Buehrle signed with Miami this winter.
The Marlins had a few special advantages to lure Buehrle over. Number one was money, as Miami shelled out $58 million over four years for the left-hander.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Hello: Matt Thornton and Jesse Crain
Thornton last season: 3 saves, 3.32 ERA, 9.5 K/9, 3.00 K/BB
Crain last season: 1 save, 2.62 ERA, 9.6 K/9, 2.26 K/BB
In a move that kicked off the White Sox rebuilding effort, Chicago traded closer Sergio Santos to Toronto for pitching prospect Nestor Molina.
"It is the start of a rebuilding," Sox general manager Ken Williams told reporters after the trade. "And you guys know I have not used that word in 12 years. But it is the start of a rebuilding. Now, is it the start of falling-domino rebuilding? No. Absolutely not." Williams went on to say that he planned to keep most of the pitching staff intact, and that they hoped to add a piece to make a run in 2013 or 2014. For the most part he was right, but Mark Buehrle signed with Miami, and the White Sox traded Jason Frasor back to Toronto.
Because the Sox did not either trade or sign a closer after the Santos deal, reports have holdovers Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton competing for the closer spot in spring training.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Carlos Quentin
Last season: .254 BA, 24 HR, 77 RBI, .838 OPS (.340 OBP, .499 SLG)
Flashback to 2008. Quentin finished with a breakout career year - 36 home runs (second in the American League), 100 RBI, and a .965 OPS. Plus, he only turned 26 during the season. The sky looked to be the limit for him.
Since then? Not as wonderful. That's not to say he's been bad, not by any means. But he has only averaged 24 home runs, 73 RBI and a .815 OPS from 2009 to 2011. While's he had a 4.6 WAR for 2008 (placing him in near-elite status), he suffered from plantar fasciitis and had a wasted 2009 and a decent 2010 (conventional stats say he was good, Sabermetric stats said he was below average), but regained form and was an all-star for 2011.
Obviously, Chicago will miss a player who was good for at least 20 home runs, 20 doubles and 80 RBI. But the Sox found themselves at the crossroads with Quentin for four reasons.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Juan Pierre
Last season: .279 BA, 2 HR, 50 RBI, .657 OPS (.329 OBP, .327 SLG)
HelloAlejandro de Aza
Last season: .329 BA, 4 HR, 23 RBI, .920 OPS (.400 OBP, .520 SLG) in 54 games
Juan Pierre, the starting left fielder for the White Sox for the last two years, became a free agent and signed a minor league deal with Philadelphia in late January. With the Phillies, Pierre may get the chance to platoon in their outfield somewhere. Meanwhile, Chicago didn't really add anyone; it appears that they will be moving forward in 2012 with Alejandro de Aza, Alex Rios and Dayan Viciedo in their outfield in some configuration.
It's been a tumultuous offseason for the local nines, with the Cubs and White Sox both saying goodbye to big names who played big roles in recent years. Let's get you up to speed before spring training arrives. (Part of a series.)
Goodbye: Ozzie Guillen
78-82 (.488) last season; .524 win percentage in eight seasons, 1 World Series title
Hello: Robin Ventura
After eight increasingly exhausting seasons, it just became time to end the Ozzie Guillen era. The squabbling with Kenny Williams, constantly the focus of a Chicago press corps, subsumed a 2011 season appropriately promoted as an "all in" year for the Sox. It was bust, not boom, and after 21 years as a Sox player and manager, Ozzie, Kenny and Jerry Reinsdorf agreed he should get an early start on his new job managing the newly renamed Miami Marlins. He left the team in Don Cooper's hands for the final two games last fall.
How Will the Sox Miss Ozzie?
Well, he did win a World Series title, so you definitely could do worse. All of Guillen's weaknesses, especially his refusal to make tough choices about struggling veterans, were laid bare in his final season here, but ...
You know what? That's enough about Ozzie Guillen. It was time for a change. Let's just be done with him until the 25-year reunion in 2030.
The wise and powerful Octophant, Phineas X. Jones, has seen fit to bestow upon us a series of gorgeous designs for every corner of the Chicago sports world. Feast your eyes on our new icons for the Bulls, Bears, Blackhawks, Cubs, Sox, Fire and derby demons.
We've had months to absorb the reality of a White Sox rebuilding project, what with the departures of Mark Buehrle, Carlos Quentin, Sergio Santos and Juan Pierre, but Tuesday's big MLB news put another nail in the coffin.
After losing Victor Martinez to a potentially season-ending ACL tear, the Tigers filled their cleanup spot behind Miguel Cabrera by agreeing with Prince Fielder on a contract reportedly worth $214,000,000 over nine years.
The good news for Sox fans? See the financial evidence below -- and the corpulent evidence above, from 20 years ago.
The #Tigers have now guaranteed $338 million for the upcoming years to three 1B/DH types in Fielder, Cabrera and Martinez. #MLB
With the White Sox betting on younger talent, free agent Juan Pierre's future with the team is looking less and less realistic. After losing a step in his speed and his defender Ozzie Guillen out of the picture, re-signing seems like a long shot.
The left fielder received criticism early on for his inconsistent batting and below-average base stealing. After a solid July and August, Pierre's batting average dropped to .257 and in September, he managed just four steals in eight attempts. By the end of the season, Pierre's stolen bases were an alarming 41 fewer what they were in 2010 while his caught stealing number was the same.
As a Type B free agent, the White Sox could offer Pierre arbitration, which means if he rejects their offer and signs with a different team, the Sox would receive a compensatory draft pick between the second and third rounds of the 2012 entry draft. Since there isn't a strong outside interest in Pierre, offering him arbitration means risking his acceptance and signing a one-year deal worth a minimum of 80 percent of his 2010 salary of $8.5 million. That said, it's likely the two parties will cut ties instead since the White Sox don't have money to throw around and do have younger talent to put in place of Pierre.
After making headlines for hiring rookie manager Robin Ventura, the next big move for the White Sox is free agency. While some players on the market appear to be getting older and replaceable, the Sox should think long and hard before letting free agent Mark Buehrle go.
Any other year, the White Sox and Buehrle would re-up without issues. This offseason is different because of the less than impressive free agency selection of starting pitchers, especially left-handers. MLBTradeRumors.com has him ranked as a Type B free agent, essentially meaning that any team that signs him wouldn't lose a high draft pick. Buehrle is getting a lot of attention and the White Sox don't have time to wait around until December to resign him like they did last offseason with Paul Konerko.
Buehrle might not wait that long. After pitching his last game of the season, Buehrle told reporters that "if the right deal is there and the right team is there, I don't think I'm going to wait around to see what everyone else gets."
So just how valuable is Mark Buehrle? After 12 seasons in Chicago, the lefty has an impressive list of accomplishments including a no-hitter, a perfect game, and a World Series championship. He is the only major league pitcher to pitch at least 200 innings every season for the past 11 seasons. In those 11 seasons he also consecutively had at least 30 starts and 10 wins. If that isn't enough, he's been an All-Star four times and won two Gold Gloves.
That's just some of his accomplishments on the field. His value skyrockets even more when you consider the leadership Buehrle has consistently provided for the White Sox off the field over the years.
When Kenny Williams spoke to the press about new White Sox manager Robin Ventura, he stressed the team would be in a "holding pattern." Had that statement come from someone other than Kenny Williams, it might be less worrying. The general manager, known for his gambling moves, has been off with his recent endeavors (Adam Dunn, Jake Peavy, Alex Rios).
But Williams took "out with the old and in with new" to the extreme after hiring Robin Ventura. The departure of Ozzie Guillen also means the departure of the team's "All In" mentality. While the team will be stuck with some veterans, Williams has hinted that the 2012 season will be a shift after telling reporters he expects Ventura to "hit the ground running and be the guy he's going to be two or three years from now."
It would be naive to assume that hiring Ozzie Guillen's opposite will solve all the team's problems. So putting the focus on younger players and bringing in a manager with no previous managerial experience means the desperate "All In" approach is being put aside for now. Though anyone knowledgeable about Williams' past knows this team retooling won't be conventional. Just like Ventura's future, the 2012 season is unpredictable.
I can't tell you how Ozzie is feeling about Kenny Williams these days or how Kenny is feeling about Ozzie or how Papa Jerry Reinsdorf is feeling about the two men, these surrogate sons of his. It's always made for a rip-roaring psychodrama, but the backstage stories told publicly have been so many, so varied and often so conflicting as to render impossible any clear sense of the interpersonal dynamics at play.
What I can say is it was time for a change.
Not because Ozzie Guillen is a bad manager; he's one of the top 10 or 12 guys out there, despite his flaws. But eight years was enough. In the struggle to repeat the glories of 2005, Ozzie and Kenny had become a headline that would not go away. It became exhausting for everyone - thanks, Chicago media! - and especially so once this disastrous "all in" season was revealed as a snake-river bluff that came up empty and left the franchise with few good cards for the next round.
Heck, I'm so wiped out I'm starting to sound like Hawk Harrelson. (Snake-river bluff?)
So Ozzie goes south to Miami, proving yet again that sometimes the rumor mill is running on more than pure speculation, and we look to a very interesting off-season, not only for the GM-less Cubs, but now for the head-less White Sox.
Like their North Side brethren, the Sox are locked into a bunch of bad contracts and have not nearly as many personnel options as you'd like after a losing season. When Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle, your oldest everyday player and your oldest starting pitcher, are your most productive everyday player and starting pitcher (and among precious few who were even above-average this year), you've got work to do.
There's a new attraction at U.S. Cellular Field, and it's a big one.
Frank Thomas, the best hitter in White Sox history, was honored before Sunday's game with a statue on the left field concourse.
The statue depicts the Big Hurt in his MVP prime: swinging for the fences, left arm extended in his classic, one-handed follow-through as he watches the flight of another home run blast. It is one of seven statues honoring eight Sox legends.
Thomas played 19 major-league seasons, the first 16 in Chicago, and finished with a .301 batting average, 521 home runs, 1,704 RBIs and 1,494 runs scored. He posted a career .419 on-base percentage and .555 slugging percentage, numbers which stood out even in a huge offensive era.
With an adjusted OPS of 156 -- adjusted, that is, for the era, league and ballpark he played in -- Thomas is tied with fellow former Sox MVP Dick Allen for 19th all-time. He won two American League MVP awards and finished in the top 10 seven other times.
It's July, which means Kenny Williams is trading guys. And for once, he seems to be looking at the price tags.
Sure, there's some baseball logic to the Wednesday trade that sent Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to Toronto for reliever Jason Frasor and minor-league arm Zach Stewart. As that thinking goes, the White Sox have six solid-to-good starting pitchers, so why not trade one of them for more bullpen depth?
The fly in that ointment is that while bullpen depth is all well and good, the Sox do have Sergio Santos and Jesse Crain and Chris Sale and Matt Thornton. Their offense, on the other hand, is in the bottom third in scoring runs. You know, those points that help you win games? Preventing them is awesome, but scoring them is equally important.
Thus do we come to the crux of the matter: The White Sox couldn't trade Edwin Jackson directly for Colby Rasmus, the promising young outfielder Toronto immediately acquired from St. Louis for Jackson, because the whole point of the deal was getting rid of Mark Teahen's contract. Chicago couldn't get St. Louis to take Teahen, so they had to settle for the Blue Jays' moderate offer.
The White Sox offense showed signs of life in Detroit this weekend, getting a huge effort from Edwin Jackson and posting 13 runs in wins Friday and Saturday before the Tigers salvaged Sunday's rubber game.
A sweep of the AL Central co-leaders would have been huge, but the Sox did at least stay in the Tigers' and Indians' rearview mirrors. They're four games back, and the mathematicians at Baseball Prospectus give them a 21 percent chance of winning what will almost certainly be the division's only playoff berth.
That's not great, but it could be worse. For all the talk of the great second-half races we're supposed to have, six of the eight playoff berths appear all but settled, thanks largely to the wild card, which renders irrelevant the competitions between the Red Sox & Yankees and Phillies & Braves.
The Cubs, of course, are not anywhere close to playoff position, and the trend continued with three losses in four games against the visiting, semi-hapless Marlins over the weekend. But few teams do hapless like the Cubs. They're among seven teams with zero chance of making the postseason, according to Baseball Prospectus.
Although Kenny Williams has become famous for trading prospects and young talent to help the big club and the White Sox farm system is ranked a dismal 27th by Baseball America, the well hasn't totally run dry.
Recently, Dayan Viciedo and Alejandro De Aza in particular have drawn a great deal of attention because of their great seasons in Triple-A Charlotte and a general panic about the turgid White Sox offense. With constant speculation about who can be moved, waived, etc., to clear roster room, White Sox fans are suddenly paying keen attention to the Knights, with every strikeout by Adam Dunn or bungled play by Alex Rios bringing cries for this power duo.
In light of this, and the recent amateur draft, it was very kind of Doug Laumann, the club's director of amateur scouting, to take time Thursday to join Sox bloggers on a conference call and discuss the recent draft and the direction of the Sox farm system.
The Cubs and White Sox are back at it Thursday after a quiet All-Star Game in which their primary contributions were Paul Konerko's 13-pitch walk and Starlin Castro's two steals as a pinch runner.
But unless things change in a quick hurry, most likely on the South Side, we're looking at another year without playoff baseball.
One huge reason is two inconsistent offenses loaded with hitters who will swing at just about anything. Watch Alfonso Soriano or Gordon Beckham for a weekend and you'll know what I mean, but the proof is in the numbers.
Cubs hitters walk in only 6.4 percent of plate appearances, worst in baseball. The Sox are fourth-worst at 7.5 percent.
Plate discipline is important, as evidenced by the patient, potent Red Sox, Yankees, Reds and Cardinals. All are in the top five in runs per game and the top eight in walk rate.
But here's a bubble graph of the Cubs this season, plotting walk rate vs. percentage of pitches outside the strike zone taken. Basically, the top right corner is where you want to be, and the larger the circle, the more plate appearances (i.e., more impact) a player has had. The red circle represents the 2010 major-league average.
Also selected as an all-star during his mammoth 2008 season, Quentin is having the best season of any Sox hitter not named Paul Konerko. Despite a .253 batting average, he has 17 home runs, 49 RBIs, a .516 slugging percentage and a .353 on-base percentage (thanks largely to 28 walks and a league-high 17 HBPs.) Among AL leaders, Quentin is tied for third in extra-base hits (40), tied for fourth in doubles (23) and tied for seventh in home runs.
But he wasn't the only Southsider who deserved consideration. Here's a look at those who missed out:
1B Paul Konerko
Before the all-stars were announced, I started to outline an article on the ballot. Without hesitating I put Konerko on the "Who Made It" side because if anyone on the team deserved it, he did. Konerko was the strongest Sox candidate and one of the most underrated hitters in baseball. He not only leads the White Sox in home runs, batting average, RBIs and OPS , but among the league leaders, he's fifth with a .317 average, fourth with 21 home runs and tied for third with 62 RBIs. He's playing as well as he did last season, when he finished fifth in AL MVP voting.
Moreover, Konerko has been around long enough to establish his name and be snubbed on previous occasions (2004 and 2010). The silver lining to it all is that he can still make the team and most likely will, based on his season so far (and the relative size of the Chicago fan base). While you have to scratch your head at Paulie not getting in already, fans can still vote him in as the final man on the roster.
But that doesn't mean we can't enjoy the back half of our crosstown baseball rivalry, as the White Sox won the six-game season series by taking two of three games at Wrigley Field this weekend. They won 6-4 on Friday and 1-0 on Saturday before the Cubs recovered to take Sunday's finale, 3-1.
If you missed it:
-- Yay, the White Sox are at .500! OK, not anymore, not after Sunday's loss, but it was a glorious moment there, wasn't it? That 42-43 record looks a lot better next to the Cubs' 35-50 mark. Thank heaven for the continuing mediocrity of the AL Central.
-- Juan Pierre, hitting .355 (11-for-31) with seven RBIs in his past seven games, drove in the winning runs in both Sox victories, so it was a great time for Ozzie Guillen to face the full complement of local media. I mean, heck, if his "I told you so" routine holds out, if Pierre comes up big in the second half, Ozzie will look like a genius for sticking with the aging slap hitter. But it's hard to see that happening.
-- Last time the White Sox saw Aramis Ramirez, he was hitting .277 with a .727 OPS. Since then, he's hitting .400 (16-for-40) with seven homers and 11 RBIs. It's 11 games, but get him while he's hot.
-- It didn't look like a banner weekend for starting pitching: Edwin Jackson, Phil Humber and Gavin Floyd vs. Randy Wells, Matt Garza and Rodrigo Lopez. But that was before you remembered neither of these offenses can really hit. Garza, Humber and the immortal Lopez combined to allow one run on 11 hits in 23 innings.
And of course, there were only 11 walks the entire weekend. Because hardly anyone in this town knows how to draw a walk. It's a problem. More on that later in the week.
Having a manager who stands behind his players is usually a good thing. Lately, though, Ozzie Guillen's fierce loyalty seems to be hurting the White Sox more than helping. He has remained stubborn with his feet firmly planted in the ground, and in third place, while his team sinks to 38-42.
With every strikeout Dunn seems to be sinking deeper and reacting a lot slower. His batting average has now hit .173, and a dismal .126 at home. Most alarming, the strikeouts, which are par for the course with him, have not been accompanied by his customary 40-home run power. He's got seven homers now as we near the all-star break.
So while Ozzie is correct in saying Dunn is paid too much to sit and the Sox have to keep putting him out there, the same doesn't have to be said about other players.
This was one of those games Cubs fans will point to when they bemoan their team's lack of clutchness, clutchosity and clutchitude.
In the sixth, the Cubs scored twice to get within one run of the White Sox but left the bases loaded.
In the eighth, they got pinch runner Tony Campana into scoring position with no outs, but Jesse Crain and Matt Thornton held the dike, inducing a ground out and two strikeouts.
That set the stage again for Sergio Santos, who dazzled the North Side visitors for the second night in a row. He threw 11 pitches, nine of them strikes, to retire the side in order for a 4-3 win and his 14th save, befuddling Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez and Carlos Pena.
If you missed it:
-- Jake Peavy got the win in his return from the disabled list, pitching 5 1/3 decent innings before stumbling in the sixth as the Cubs scored their second and third runs. He didn't have much -- will he ever again? -- but he's a pro.
-- Another home run for Pena, his fifth in seven games, and this one showed a bit of opposite-field power, going out to left-center. A very good sign for the Cubs.
-- Another successful squeeze bunt by the Sox, this time with Brent Lillibridge scoring A.J. Pierzynski, who had tripled(!) in a pair of runs, to push the lead to 3-0 after four.
-- Let it not be said the Cubs are incapable of getting a hit when they need it: In the top of the fifth, Castro followed Kosuke Fukudome's two-out double with an RBI single to center field.
-- Briefly, on that subject: The Cubs have less of a problem getting Big Hits in Clutch Situations than they do simply getting hits in any situation. Most great lineups aren't magically "clutch" but generally just create so many scoring chances that enough of them pay off.
A rain delay of 1 hour, 44 minutes washed out a good portion of the crowd last night at U.S. Cellular Field, but those who stayed late on a school night saw the White Sox push past the Cubs for a 3-2 win.
If you missed it:
-- Paul Konerko and Carlos Pena traded home runs again, continuing Pena's power surge (four homers in his past six games) and Konerko's even hotter streak. The Sox captain has 11 homers in his past 18 games, along with a .446 batting average, .512 on-base percentage and .986 slugging percentage.
-- The Sox bullpen was called into action in the sixth inning after the rain delay knocked out Mark Buehrle, and it delivered, protecting first a 2-2 tie and then a 3-2 lead after Brent Morel's seventh-inning sacrifice fly. Jesse Crain was very good, Matt Thornton got two outs and Sergio Santos was at his filthy best, earning his 13th save.
Santos retired all four hitters he faced. He struck out three of them, including Aramis Ramirez with two on and two out in the eighth. He threw 15 pitches. Fourteen were strikes. Thirteen were sliders. He's developing into a pretty great closer.
-- Starlin Castro showed why Cubs observers are so high on his defensive potential, making two great plays on slow rollers that required a barehanded scoop and sidearm throw in one motion.
-- Juan Pierre did something useful for once, giving the Sox a 2-0 lead in the third with an RBI squeeze bunt with no outs. Alex Rios scored easily from third and Morel moved over to second.
Here's how our partisan critics saw it:
Brian Livingston on the Cubs:
The rain delay helped the Cubs by getting rid of Buehrle, but it also might have broken the momentum they were building during that sixth inning threat. Also, don't pitch to Konerko anymore. He's torched them twice now. It appears they didn't learn anything from pitching to Albert Pujols and getting burned.
Jenny Zelle on the Sox:
Offense + lights out bullpen performance = What we should have been seeing from the White Sox all year. Buehrle did his job, as always, but Crain and Santos were just plain nasty with all-star-worthy performances. The Sox offense still under-performed, based on what they could and should be doing, but they were lively enough to get the W. Hopefully, this one serves as a confidence-builder going into Wednesday's finale.
Mr. Comiskey would not approve / Gapers Block file photo
Our own Jenny Zelle was in her usual seat at U.S. Cellular Field last night, rooting on the White Sox as they hosted the first of three games against the Cubs. Last year she attended about 50 Sox games, and she's been to 20 already this season.
But what she saw at the park last night was different: a highly unusual level of drunken "madness" in many fans that was at best embarrassing and at worst dangerous for fans just trying to watch a baseball game in peace.
She emailed us this story:
We entered the park right after the gates opened and things were pretty mellow until the game started, when all the already immensely drunk people poured in.
Our section (along the 1st base line, right field) does not have a lot of [season-ticket holders], so we often get out-of-town fans -- we had a lot, and they were all either wasted when they came in, or were hammered by the 7th.
There was exactly one sober Cubs fan in our section and he was horrified at the behavior of his fellow fans. Of course, he was in from Pittsburgh and had brought two friends with him, they were all stunned at the level of intoxication from the start of the game. [My husband] Jeff and I spent a lot of time assuring them the park was never like it was tonight.
There was a large group of Cubs fans sitting across the aisle from us that were dangerously drunk when they came in. A number of beer vendors refused to serve them, but they kept getting beers.
Three of the guys were running up and down the stairs, chasing women and vendors. At least 10 people (that I saw or spoke with) texted or went to security to report them, including a couple of Cubs fans, but they weren't tossed until late in the game as they kept changing seats.
I went to have a cigarette and saw a group of male Cubs fans repeatedly surround women and "woof" and make sexual noises at them as they tried to make their way up the ramp. I ran and got security, I'm not sure what happened to them, I didn't stick around to see it.
I also saw security toss two Cubs fans out of the bullpen bar. I asked them how it was going and they said "It's been like this all night."
Two sets of parents in our section removed themselves and their children by the 7th as the atmosphere felt "unsafe" and "uncomfortable" to them.
There were a lot of Sox fans that were annoying (getting up with the ball in play, grrr), but not one, not a single Sox fan responded to any of the Cubs fans taunts. I was pretty proud of them, everyone kept their cool in a carnival-gone-wrong atmosphere. Sox security was also pretty calm, as were the guest services people.
I think the park handled it well, but I don't know the extent of what went on. In Ozzie's press conference, he said it felt like another game to him but that he'd heard about a bunch of fights and that security probably would not agree with him.
Just icky. Hoping Wednesday is better, the park felt wrong last night.
I followed up today with a few questions:
Q: This vaguely predatory drunkenness you describe does not sound fun. Did it seem outright sinister or was it just playfully dumb antics?
Jenny: That scared the shit out of me. I ran for security. I am tiny, so to me, it seemed menacing, but I wasn't being surrounded. I have *never* seen anything like that before. I just couldn't believe I was seeing that at Comiskey. I don't personally know any Cubs fans even remotely that vile. The guys chasing vendors sucked too.
Q: Were they young men in their 20s and 30s?
Jenny: Mid- to late-20s. And by the way, a friend in Section 534 just told me some drunken Cubs fans got hauled out of the upper deck too. ... There was tons of stuff being thrown off the upper deck, which we normally don't see. ... This really was the roughest crosstown crowd I have seen yet. Maybe Cubs fans know nothing is happening this season and took out their frustration? Sox staff clearly worked hard to keep things under control. It was just soooo drunk. I was so embarrassed by what I saw.
Nice win for the Cubs last night at U.S. Cellular Field, as they stiffened after the White Sox scored three in the first inning and rallied for a 6-3 win in the first of six games between the crosstown rivals over the next two weeks.
If you missed it:
-- Three of the first four Sox hitters scored, but Carlos Zambrano recovered after allowing a two-run homer by Paul Konerko and shut them down the rest of the way, going eight strong innings. Great news for a Chicago media corps that had already pre-written their sidebars and columns looking back at his tirade during last year's series.
-- Big nights for Starlin Castro, who tied the game with a two-run, two-out single in the third and a solo homer to lead off the sixth; and Carlos Pena, who put the Cubs in front with a three-run homer that capped a four-run sixth and chased fading Sox starter Gavin Floyd.
-- Ozzie got himself thrown out screaming and hollering about a call the umpire actually got right. Alexei Ramirez hit a ball nearly straight down, a few inches in front of the plate, and Geovany Soto picked it up before it rolled foul, then tagged Ramirez out. Ozzie took this as a personal affront, bursting from the home dugout in righteous fury, and umpire James Hoye quickly gave him the heave. Ah, the joys of Ozzie's mood swings when he's managing a losing team ...
Here's how our partisan critics saw it:
Brian Livingston on the Cubs:
It was a quality outing from Zambrano. He really settled in nicely after giving up that home run to Konerko. On a night when the bullpen could use a day of rest, Z took care of business and his offense battled and got the job done.
Jenny Zelle on the Sox:
This was their game to lose, and the Sox did. It felt like the offense made an effort, but again, they left too many runners in scoring position, runners that would have made a difference.
That being said, I have to look at Ozzie for this loss. Floyd's self-admitted biggest problem is losing his focus, and he was clearly losing it this time. He had a rough start, which really showed in the fourth, but he managed to fight back and make it through the fifth.
Ozzie's mistake in the game was leaving Floyd in after the home run from Castro to start the sixth. Floyd was nearing 100 pitches at that point and clearly was no longer effective, but Ozzie left him in and minutes later, he gave up a single, then walked a batter before giving up a three-run bomb to Pena.
Editor's note: With the crosstown rivalry resuming tonight at U.S. Cellular Field, we asked Cubs fan Brian Livingston and Sox fan Jenny Zelle to account for their passions. Here's what Jenny had to say:
I was raised a White Sox fan in hostile territory among Cubs and Cardinals fans, so I'm what you might call "devoted," bordering on "obsessed." Historically, Sox fans have been born into it, but I'm seeing more and more Cubs fans crossing over to "Sox Town."
Why would they do it? Well, there's a lot to love about the Sox.
1. I like to watch baseball games. Yes, at U.S. Cellular Field. I pay attention to what is happening on the field. That is my primary objective when I head to a game and at a Sox game, I am typically surrounded by like-minded people. The game is the reason for being there, not the party.
Some fans say U.S. Cellular Field is "soulless," but the White Sox have spent a lot of money improving the fan experience since it first opened and it's a terrific place to watch a game. This year alone, there's a new restaurant across from the park, an expanded food selection (check out the Flautas stand at Sec. 122) and a hugely improved choice of beers. Personally, I like having clean and plentiful bathrooms to use and the fact that the Sox don't have a rat infestation in their dugouts, but maybe that's just me?
2. I like winning. Sure, the White Sox had a long dry spell, but they typically intend to win and make an earnest effort to do so, with the Sox spending about $126 million this year to try and make it happen.
I realize it's a business and all, but the White Sox care about winning and they care about the fans. Jerry Reinsdorf responds to letters from fans, as I learned this off-season when I sent him a note. I received a very gracious response and it let me know that my thoughts meant something.
Editor's note: With the crosstown rivalry resuming tonight at U.S. Cellular Field, we asked Cubs fan Brian Livingston and Sox fan Jenny Zelle to account for their passions. Here's what Brian had to say:
For me, the Cubs represent family. My grandfather was a Cubs fan, which made my mom a Cubs fan, which eventually made me a Cubs fan. There is little doubt in my mind when I have kids they will be Cubs fans too.
I love the Cubs because of the history and tradition that surrounds them. Guys like Ernie Banks, Ron Santo, Andre Dawson and Kerry Wood are why I love the Cubs. They are what Cubs baseball is all about.
Sometimes it is hard loving something that doesn't always love you back, but regardless, I will never stop being a Cubs fan. I've been a fan since day one and I will continue to be a fan of this team, win or lose, until my time is up.
I might as well be a junkie because I'm addicted to the Cubs. Simply put, they are my bliss.
On the other side of town ... well, I don't really hate the White Sox. They play each other six times in a 162-game schedule and aren't even in the same division. If anything I'd say I hate the St. Louis Cardinals most, followed by the Marlins, Padres, Mets and Yankees. The Sox aren't even in my top five.
But that doesn't mean there aren't some Sox things that aggravate me, starting with their fans.
I'm sure Sox fans feel the same way about the Cubs, but what I can't stand are the ones who go out of their way to hate on my team. I can understand if we were playing each other all the time, but most fans seem to care more about hating the Cubs than loving the Sox. I like to call it Little Brother Syndrome. Sad, really, considering they won a World Series six years ago but their focus remains on the Cubs.
As the College World Series begins this weekend in Omaha, the eight teams still alive include six players picked by the White Sox and Cubs in last week's First-Year Player Draft.
The White Sox drafted a trio of Cal stars -- pitcher Erik Johnson, shortstop Marcus Semien and catcher Chadd Krist -- as well as Texas A&M pitcher Brandon Parrent and Virginia pitcher Cody Winiarski. The Cubs will have only one draftee in the College World Series: Texas pitcher Andrew McKirahan.
RHP Erik Johnson, Cal Bio - Stats - Drafted in the 2nd round by the Sox
Cal's pitching has been the team's biggest strength and Johnson (7-4) is the poster child. He has a 2.91 ERA, 100 strikeouts and 54 walks in 102 innings this season. He made notable contributions in his last appearance in the Super Regionals, pitching six solid innings and allowing two runs on three hits. Look for his power pitching and consistency in Sunday's opener against a tough Virginia offense.
SS Marcus Semien, Cal Bio - Stats - Drafted in the 6th round by the Sox
Semien had a slow start this season, though the Pac-10's pitching talent could have contributed to his struggle. He is known more for his defensive capabilities but has his average at .277 heading into the weekend after hitting .328 last year. He helped win Game 1 of the Super Regionals last weekend with a three-run home run.
But the Twins' current 11-2 surge isn't the biggest of Chicago's problems. If the White Sox want to make a serious run in the AL Central, they'll need to fix some key issues.
It's no secret that the White Sox are struggling when it comes to producing runs with guys in scoring position. In Thursday's 1-0 loss, they left 12 men on base. They had a chance to score early in the second inning with Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski on first and third and only one out. They failed to score, and in the next inning Minnesota's Michael Cuddyer hit a solo home run, the only run of the game.
This seems to be a concerning trend. Not only do the White Sox have to worry about leaving men on base, they have to consider the confidence the other team gets from Chicago not scoring.
It's hard to place the blame on one person for their offensive struggles. Looking at the heart of the order, though, is the most obvious conclusion. Players like Konerko, Pierzynski and Carlos Quentin have been hitting well and getting on base, but Alex Rios and new import Adam Dunn haven't been getting runs in.
While Dunn has been playing better, the two have not produced nearly as much as they should. Dunn still is hitting .185, which is bad even by his low-average standards. Rios is 5 for his last 34 after Thursday's 0-for-4 performance. And Gordon Beckham hasn't been the answer, either.
The weather during the Minnesota series didn't help, with the Sox unable to get on the field for batting practice four straight days.
The team looks mentally beat down and frustrated even when they get hits. If players like Rios and Dunn don't step up more consistently and find their groove, the Sox will be stuck in an offensive rut for a while.
Eleven games under .500 less than six weeks ago, the White Sox suddenly stand at 33-35, four games out of first place in the AL Central, as they head to Minnesota for a three-game midweek series with their closest rivals.
The Twins have been one of the biggest disappointments in baseball, with a 26-39 record that's worse than everyone except Houston. Yet they are one of the hottest teams right now, riding an 8-2 streak by sweeping Kansas City and winning series against Cleveland and Texas.
The White Sox are looking for revenge after losing both games in an odd two-game series against the Twins in early May. One of those losses resulted from a no-hitter by Francisco Liriano against a struggling White Sox offense. This time around, the offense won't be desperate for a spark.
The White Sox have homered in a season-high 10 straight games. Paul Konerko is batting .457 with six doubles, six homers and 14 RBIs in a 12-game hitting streak. Carlos Quentin is hitting .320 with nine homers and 24 RBIs in his past 21 games. Adam Dunn, who has taken heat for his lackluster performance this season, broke his 0-for-12 streak with runners in scoring position in Sunday's win against Oakland.
On the other side, Twins left fielder Delmon Young has eight runs, six RBIs and a .314 batting average in his past 10 games. June has also been a strong month for the Minnesota bullpen, which has allowed only three earned runs since the beginning of the month.
Puttering along through what looks like another unremarkable season, the Cubs at least have more wins than the White Sox. But Sun-Times columnist Joe Cowley hasn't abandoned his vision of a Chicago united under the Sox banner.
Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd, Edwin Jackson, John Danks, Jake Peavy, Phil Humber
Phil Humber's start last Friday signaled the beginning of an experiment for manager Ozzie Guillen and the Chicago White Sox.
While Guillen is anything but conventional at the helm of the White Sox, his decision to go with a six-man rotation for 20 days seems especially unusual. But with no off days until June 2, it works for him.
With Jake Peavy's successful comeback start on Wednesday, his first since undergoing surgery to repair a detached lat muscle near his throwing shoulder last July, the White Sox are blessed/cursed with too many pitchers Guillen wants in his starting rotation.
"I hope all those guys throw the ball good, so we keep it there," Guillen said. "The only reason we change it is if somebody struggles or we need more help in bullpen or that thing don't work. But we have a pretty tough stretch of 20 days. The way the starters throw right now, it's a perfect time to do it. We'll see after that how that works. We have a Plan A and Plan B if everything don't work. We'll figure out what to do."
But some would argue that the decision to have a six-man rotation, even for a limited time, is a bad one.
With the six-man rotation, half of the rotation will have one fewer start, which equates to (on average) seven fewer innings pitched this month. Over the length of the entire season, it would be around 56 innings of lost pitching. But is limiting fatigue for a major-league pitcher a good thing?
"The more an athlete rests, the weaker he becomes," Marshall told us. "The body does not get stronger by sitting around doing nothing. You lose bone density, you lose muscle fitness. ... It's the dumbest thing I've ever heard. ... The research is clear in swimming and track, where they do meaningful research, that rest is the worst thing you can do for the body if you're trying to be a high-quality, high-intensity athlete."
With the six-man rotation set up, a setup these starters have never faced, there's a possibility that they fall out of routine and struggle more during their starts. And more rest doesn't necessarily equal better health -- there's no real correlation between more rest (beyond 4 days) between starts and injury prevention.
With the six-man experiment, the White Sox ignore their biggest issues: the instability of the bullpen and their spotty offensive performance.
Of the 40-man roster, 12 of those are pitchers. Of those 12, six are now starting pitchers, removing the possibility of an extra bullpen arm or an extra bat that could help with run support.
Though the White Sox finally have a closer in Sergio Santos, who is 6-for-6 in save chances and hasn't allowed a run in 20 innings this season, most of the bullpen remains in distress. Matt Thornton, Will Ohman and Tony Pena all have ERAs over 6.00 and Chris Sale isn't much better.
But with a struggling bullpen, and a plethora of starters, wouldn't it make more sense to convert one of the six starters to a long-relief position? But then the question becomes, which pitcher should make the transition?
Hopefully after this 20-day experiment, the answer becomes clearer, but with Ozzie you never know.
Mark Buehrle, Gavin Floyd and John Danks will keep their slots in the rotation, unless they are injured. The $8 million dollar man Edwin Jackson will also remain as a starter. That leaves Humber and Peavy vying for the last rotation spot.
Humber's early-season success comes as a big surprise as he moved to 3-3 with a 3.18 ERA after a solid six-inning win against the A's on Friday. His success this season was what prompted the six-man rotation in the first place, and it seems as long as he's being productive, he'll remain in the rotation as well.
Then there's Peavy. His White Sox career has been plagued by injury ('09 ankle injury, '10 shoulder injury), but he would make a lot of sense as a long-reliever in the bullpen.
A lighter workload could keep his lethal arsenal of pitches refined and effective -- and having a pitcher who can work pitches and get strikeouts like Peavy would be a strong asset to the sinking bullpen.
So for now, it's a six-man rotation where the best pitchers start less, the worst pitchers don't move to the bullpen, and the starters learn to make adjustments to a new routine for this 20-day experiment.
But if the six-man rotation turns out to be effective, what does Guillen do?
His unconventional management style makes it likely that could continues the experiment longer, as the White Sox try to make up a 10-game deficit in the AL Central.
Peavy started strong, fanning Erick Aybar on three pitches and getting Bobby Abreu to fly out. Then the clouds gathered and the Sox showed the former Cy Young winner the kind of fun they've been having in his absence. Maicer Izturis -- inexplicably, hitting third for the punchless Angels -- singled, stole second and scored when Juan Pierre dropped a deep fly ball by Torii Hunter.
Welcome to the 2011 White Sox, Jake.
Peavy had a moderately successful start, with definite room for improvement. He pitched six innings and allowed seven hits and four runs. He only struck out four, but his fastball had batters hacking at the air all night. He didn't allow a single walk and looked strong after 87 pitches.
In all, this was about as good as we could have hoped for in his first game back.
The offense did their part to familiarize Peavy with their 2011 brand of maddening frustration as well. The Sox hitters left men in scoring position in every inning until the sixth, when they went 1-2-3. Aside from Adam Dunn's solo homer in the third, the offense was dead for most the game.
Alexei Ramirez stopped a double steal and a rally in the eighth by interfering with a pitchout. It looked like that would have been the ballgame. There was a lot to be mad at from the Sox fan's perspective.
In the end, when trying to pitch around Paul Konerko in the 10th, Walden threw a high, wild pitch and Ramirez crossed the plate. Brent Lillibridge followed with a single to center to score an earth-quaking Dunn, giving the Sox a 6-4 lead. That would be all they needed, thanks by back-to-back cracker jack defensive plays by a shockingly limber Paul Konerko in the bottom of the 10th.
At 11-20, after the worst April in franchise history, they're in last place, 10 1/2 games behind the first-place upstarts from Cleveland, and the vultures are closing in for the kill. Phil Rogers is flailing about for a solution -- "do something," he implores, calling for the head of Juan Pierre -- while Joe Cowley sensibly figures there's little the Sox can do with this "$125 million pile of dung."
Now the sobering part of an ''All In'' campaign-turned-bad joke: There is no help coming.
Not now, not any time soon.
That's a statement you're just going to have to wrap your arms around and embrace.
While it's generally accepted among White Sox fans that the team is prone to slow starts, did anyone expect another one this bad? After five straight losses and 15 in 18 games, the past three to perennially hapless Baltimore, they sit at 10-19, a full 10 games behind the surprising, first-place Indians.
So bad, in fact, that the Sox are actually worse than they were this time last year.
Everyone remembers last season right? Do we all remember the 24-33 start that made winning 26 of 31 games not just a thrill but a necessity?
Well get ready, because if the Chicago White Sox are going to play any October ball at all they'll have to dig themselves out of a grave like Beatrix Kiddo, and right now this team is lacking any punch.
Everything is wrong and little is working. At no point in any of the Sox losses over the past three weeks did anyone expect them to pull through. While the rotation has been mostly adequate, posting a 4.44 ERA, the lineup ranks 11th in the AL with 3.9 runs per game -- and even when they can scrape together enough runs to take a lead, there's little hope the bullpen can hold it.
Just look at the eighth-inning calamity between A.J. Pierzynski and Matt Thornton in Saturday's 6-2 loss. If you only needed to watch one inning to sum up how this April went, this was it.
I apologize for being brief, sports fans, as I still have Bulls and Blackhawks games to watch. I must however take a break from Chicago's Tuesday Night Sports Overload to report that things are looking mighty good on the South Side after tonight's game at Yankee Stadium. After grabbing the last two outs with stellar sequential diving catches, Brent Lillibridge gave the Sox their first back-to-back wins since April 9-10. His effort was worth it -- it feels like the tide is finally turning for our Sox.
Hawk Harrelson let out his most cathartic "You can put it on the boooard! YES!" of the season after Paul Konerko took Rafael Soriano deep in the eighth for a two-run homer to give the Good Guys the lead. Gavin Floyd also gave the Sox his best performance of the season as he flirted with going the distance with only four hits and two earned runs over eight innings. He also fanned 10 members of the Evil Empire.
There is of course some bad news to report -- there is no way anyone (hopefully this includes Ozzie) could possibly consider Matt Thornton a closer after tonight. After taking the mound with a runner on first, he gave up a sac bunt followed by a walk to Mark Teixeira. That was all Ozzie needed to see, and it was up to Sergio Santos to get the final two outs.
Had Lillibridge not been determined to get on the Web Gems highlight reel, Santos would have been the new focal point of Sox fan scorn. So while the White Sox still need an answer for the ninth, tonight we celebrate. With two wins in the Bronx under their belt, this feels like a much more capable team that it did last week.
1) The odds of both the White Sox and Tampa Bay Rays making the playoffs are next to nothing, so at the very least fans can say goodbye to cavernous Tropicana Field and its cow bells and vuvuselas for at least another year.
The 2011 "All In" White Sox dropped their seventh straight game last night. It has been so much of the same mediocrity for the past week that all the games are beginning to blend into one. So much so that my after-work routine has become the same thing every night: get home, strap it down, watch three hours of baseball, shuffle over to my fridge, scrawl an "L" on my Sox calendar, go to bed and repeat. It's like Groundhog Day but with a sad sack offense in place of Bill Murray.
Last night, Ozzie felt so bad for putting us in this rut that he dropped Dunn to the fifth spot in the lineup just to spice up our relationship. It didn't work.
Where are the bats from the first two weeks of the season? Before the bullpen and defense started melting down regularly, the offense was white hot, averaging 6.9 runs and 11.4 hits in the first nine games.
In the previous two seasons, Zambrano pitched as many as eight innings just three times. But there he was against the Padres, striking out the side in the seventh and cruising through the top of the eighth. He worked fast, threw strikes and even though he wasn't overpowering he struck out 10. In that seventh inning, he didn't dial up a fastball more than 90 mph until the final two pitches against Ryan Ludwick, instead relying on good movement, a nice front-door slider to catch Nick Hundley looking and a couple of 70-something curveballs. It was one of the best starts of his career -- just the ninth time he's recorded a Game Score of 85 or better.
Is Big Z back? I wouldn't say that. The hitters were hacking away in the cold (the 10-inning game lasted just 2:26, proving major leaguers can play quickly if they want to), so I wouldn't read too much into the effort, especially after three mediocre starts to begin the season. But for one night it was nice to see something resembling the old Z racking up the strikeouts.
Chicago-based blogger Christina Kahrl examined the White Sox closer situation last week, advancing a headline-grabbing solution for a bullpen that has gotten an 8.84 ERA and five blown saves from Matt Thornton, Chris Sale and new addition Will Ohman:
The answer has to come from outside the organization, and it'll be [Kenny] Williams' crew who can find him. If it's a matter of taking a chance on a pitcher struggling with staying healthy, here again, the Sox can afford a bit of risk where other teams might shrink from it, because they have the benefit of Herm Schneider's matchless training staff.
The question is whether Williams can acquire someone this early in the season, when salary dumps generally aren't the order of the day, so it's likely to cost talent -- something Chicago's system isn't rich in. Making the call this early comes across as desperate, because it is. Even so, perhaps the best fit will involve the Sox living up to their season motto -- "All In" -- and making a deal for a short-time veteran who could use the change of scenery.
So the time is now for Williams to call Sandy Alderson, start talking about Francisco Rodriguez, and see how much money the Sox can get the Mets to eat while making it happen. K-Rod may not appear to be the same pitcher he was in his Angels' heyday, but his strikeout rate last season (28.4 percent) was his best since 2007. As much as "closer mystique" is overrated, the Sox probably can't afford to keep experimenting on into May.
As the Cubs and White Sox struggle to advance much past the .500 mark -- that Sox collapse Wednesday afternoon was a bullpen horror show -- I finally got the chance to cozy up with ESPN The Magazine's baseball preview issue.
Few surprises on the prediction front: Sox in first, Cubs in fourth, Adam Dunn should be a beast. But the hidden treasure was the players' responses when ESPN asked them about road trips in their divisions.
Chicago got mentioned twice by rival players. Indians middle infielder Orlando Cabrera, a 15-year veteran who spent a brief, generally unimpressive year with the Sox in 2008, said we have the most aggressive autograph hounds in the AL Central. "They're outside the hotel, and when they want it, man, they want it! I've had guys follow me three blocks down Michigan Avenue."
Journeyman pitcher Nelson Figueroa, now with the Astros, said Chicago is the city where he is recognized least often. Apparently drunk Cubs fans can't see straight. "When you leave Wrigley, fans have already been drinking for hours and they're well on their way to having a good time."
To be fair, Nelson, not even your home fans have any idea who you are.
ESPN also talked with two Chicago pitchers. Jeff Samardzija of the Cubs said the best team hotel in the NL Central is in St. Louis. "We stay in a casino, and I don't mind the tables so much."
Matt Thornton of the Sox picked Detroit as the trip with the worst commute to the park. "We stay in Birmingham: Great city, great hotel, but it's 35 to 40 minutes to the stadium. More with traffic. It's a hike."
There is a lot of online angst regarding the first week of the White Sox season. Sure, Jake Peavy is out for the time being and, in what appears to be a trend this year, Adam Dunn had an emergency appendectomy Tuesday night in Kansas City. Maybe the Sox lost some games that seemed like gimmes, but they're off to a great start with a 4-2 record against two divisional rivals. Let's not lose our collective mind yet, Sox fans. They haven't even played a home game yet! The season begins in earnest with today's home opener at U.S. Cellular Field.
Down three runs with two outs in the ninth, the White Sox rallied Wednesday against notorious Sox killer Joakim Soria, winning 10-7 in 12 innings to capture the second of two games in Kansas City. Even with four errors, the Sox were ultimately victorious, and that means a lot in the AL Central where the Sox have had a less-than-stellar record.
Although Dunn was initially expected to be out for five games, he isn't going to let something as trivial as the surgical removal of an organ deter him. Dunn was at the park Wednesday and offered to pinch-hit, telling Ozzie that he was ready for the home opener. Although Ozzie called that "crazy," it was another sign of how determined this team is.
Peavy is on a steady path to recovery and should be back soon, despite the recent setback in his recovery from a potential career-ending injury. (Maybe he and Dunn should be wearing capes instead of jerseys?) Carlos Quentin's unbelievable start was commemorated with his second AL Player of the Week award. Fans have a lot to look forward to at the start of this season, with an electric offense and a potentially strong pitching staff.
Blips in the bullpen? Sure, but this team has heart, determination and true grit. Now is the time to be patient while the White Sox work out the kinks. Edwin Jackson is up today against the struggling Rays and there's a lot of baseball left to be played.
The White Sox gave us thrills early and chills late on Opening Day, scoring the game's first 14 runs before hanging on for dear life and a 15-10 win in Cleveland. The Indians put up 10 runs against the Sox in the last three innings. It was, to say the least, a memorable game.
Chicago's fuel-injected offense produced even better than expected. Adam Dunn appeared to be more than comfortably settled into his new DH role with a home run, four RBIs and two runs. Paul Konerko showed he still had his Opening Day magic, bringing Juan Pierre home for the first run of the game with an RBI single. Carlos Quentin singled, doubled and homered, driving in five runs before giving way to Mark Teahen when Ozzie brought on four backups in the late innings.
Fifteen runs? Eighteen hits, including eight extra-base hits? If the White Sox can keep this up, it's going to be one heck of a season.
The bullpen was clearly off its game today, needing four additional relievers to hang on to the 14-4 lead Mark Buehrle handed over after six innings. Will Ohman, after a promising performance in spring training, was particularly disappointing, allowing three runs on two homers in two-thirds of an inning. Tony Pena, Chris Sale and Jesse Crain finished it off, eking the White Sox through. On a day when the Indians celebrated the late Bob Feller, neither pitching staff honored the Hall of Famer's legacy.
Instead of "All In," the slogan today was a callback to 1983: "Winning Ugly." It's hard to complain about an Opening Day win -- ahem, Northsiders -- but when you nearly blow a 14-0 lead, it leaves a tinge of bitterness. Still, a win is a win, and the Sox will take them where they can get them. It's a long road from here.
Opening Day. Two of the most beautiful words in the English language to a baseball fan. For Cubs fans it's the beginning of a new season. Hope springs eternal. I consider Opening Day at Wrigley to be a religious holiday. Which is exactly what I told my employer when I requested the day off. Today is the reason I put up with the cold and snow during the winter.
The optimism couldn't be any higher than it is today. Everything is wiped clean from last year and everyone is starting out in first. We can dream of the World Series and the party that will surely follow. On Opening Day all things are possible, even if my team hasn't won a championship in over 100 years. Cubs fans can dream and dream we shall because next year is here.
It's spring in Cleveland, but it doesn't quite feel like it. While U.S. Cellular Field is ready to go, Progressive Field groundskeepers have spent the past 24 hours clearing 3-4 inches of snow.
Could this be the baseball gods' way of frowning on the Indians' winter Snow Days events? Something tells me that The Sodfather wouldn't give over his verdant domain to ice skating and snow tubing.
So, technically it's spring, but when the White Sox are making snow angels and having snowball fights on the field the afternoon before Opening Day, it feels a bit surreal. So much so that even Ozzie chimed in on the subject, in his usual inimitable way. Who knows, maybe this is just the sort of thing the White Sox need to get over their traditional slow April starts.
So let it snow. Paulie, A.J., Ozzie and the White Sox are ready and so are their fans. Let's face it, there's a lot to be excited about today as Mark Buehrle makes his ninth consecutive Opening Day start; the incredible Omar Vizquel begins his 22nd season; and Adam Dunn makes his official Sox debut. Who says they aren't a cold weather team?
Disappointing move by the White Sox, who've made a major downgrade to their road jersey's sleeve patch. On the plus side, team execs have said the road grays will be worn more often this season, instead of the black alternate that increasingly [has] become the club's standard road look. Meanwhile, the "Sox" logo has also been added to the team's stirrups, although Juan Pierre and manager Ozzie Guillen may be the only ones wearing them.
With Opening Day in Cleveland a week away, here's a refresher course for any White Sox fans still getting up to speed:
Despite a slow start to the hot stove season, leading many fans to suspect that the team was going the money-saving rebuilding route after another second-place finish, things began to heat up in early December with the signing of Adam Dunn and the re-signing of A.J. Pierzynski, followed by the return of The King, team captain Paul Konerko. Paulie himself wasn't sure he'd be back for 2011, but the combined efforts of the front office along with Reinsdorf's legendary loyalty and willingness to open up the checkbook brought Paulie back to the South Side. The White Sox were "All In."
Christmas on the South Side continued with the signings of relievers Jesse Crain and Will Ohman, the former a notorious White Sox killer as a Twin -- a move that sapped pitching strength from the Twins while shoring up the back end of the Sox bullpen -- and the contract extensions of Alexei Ramirez and Matt Thornton. All the gory details of the White Sox off-season moves are available here, but it's safe to say that the White Sox front office had a very productive winter.
We here at Tailgate have a general policy of ignoring the details of whatever's going on at spring training -- unless your Cy Young candidate blows out his elbow or breaks a rib -- but it's undeniably encouraging to see Jake Peavy throwing well for the White Sox.
With less than three weeks left in Arizona, Peavy is on track to open the season as Ozzie Guillen's No. 5 starter -- and if you're trying to wrap your brain around the magnitude of that achievement, ESPN.com and MLB.com both had lengthy pieces this week on his uncommon injury and arduous recovery. Highly recommended.
As a general principle, I'm all for Ozzie Guillen saying whatever he wants. Most of the so-called controversies that surround the outspoken White Sox manager are the product of our oversensitivity and a media culture that rewards every non-politic utterance with disproportionate attention.
On the other hand, this public feud Ozzie has been having with Bobby Jenks since the big man left for Boston is simply ridiculous.
Jenks has a hallowed place in White Sox history, and this is no way for him to go out. More important, would you want to play for a manager who (or whose family) publicly trashes a player after he's gone and spills his personal problems to the media?
We wrote a bunch of Cubs and White Sox preview pieces. You might have read them. Or maybe not. How do I know? Either way, here they are again, neatly compiled in one handsome, leather-bound edition. Because what else are you going to do for five more weeks of spring training?
It looks for all the world that Dave Duerson, the former Bears safety who killed himself Thursday, might have been among the growing number of American football players bludgeoned into brain damage. At the very least, he worried he might be, telling his family to donate his brain to ongoing research about football players and chronic traumatic encephalopathy.
Joakim Noah will be back in the lineup when the Bulls return from the all-star break Wednesday at Toronto, coach Tom Thibodeau said today. If you had any doubt how important that is, ESPN.com had a great piece over the weekend about Chicago's team defense, as explained by Taj Gibson:
Last season, no one understood that more than Gordon Beckham.
Beckham's 2009 season was one of a star on the rise, less than a year after the Sox drafted him eighth overall out of the University of Georgia. He was voted AL Rookie Of the Year by his peers. After hitting .270/.347/.460 with 14 home runs and seven stolen bases in his first season, the foundation for a strong second season had been laid.
Then came the struggle.
Beckham was supposed to build on his successful 2009 season. In 2010 he was supposed to be the ideal No. 2 hitter as someone who could get on base often. He was supposed to be that versatile infielder who could play any position. But for the first half of the season, Beckham showed little promise.
Quentin took a lot of heat last season from fans and media frustrated he wasn't hitting like 2008, his MVP-caliber first season on the South Side, but the maniacally intense right fielder actually had a pretty good season. Sure, he batted .243, but his .342 on-base percentage and .479 slugging percentage (.821 OPS) made for a strong middle-of-the-order hitter.
Spring training hasn't even started yet and Joe Cowley is already stirring up trouble in the Cubs-Sox rivalry. His Sun-Times column today advances the idea that Chicago is now "a Sox town." It begins:
It was a nice little run for the North Side.
There was drama, Sammy Sosa's hop and then flop, a sold-out ballpark/museum on a daily basis, a fall guy named Bartman and even a few wins and division titles thrown in along the way.
But it's over.
It's a Cubs town no more.
Beginning next week and playing out all summer long, the only relevant baseball team in New Gotham is at 35th and Shields. Yes, for the first time in decades, this town belongs to the White Sox.
Cowley is known for making waves. In 2006, he bucked convention by voting Derek Jeter sixth in an AL MVP race where Jeter finished second. Last year, he compared Toronto to a third-world country and urged MLB to relocate the Blue Jays. And he mocks players, teams and other media members on Twitter all the time.
So there's no surprise he'd be the one to rile up Chicago baseball fans.
That said, there is some validity to his column. Cowley's measurement for the Sox taking over the city is predicated on their success this season, which is warranted and likely accurate.
When it comes to fan loyalty, the White Sox benefit not only from winning Chicago's only World Series in generations, but also from having fans who seemingly never let go of the players they love. Just last fall, while Juan Uribe was on the verge of his second ring, this time with the San Francisco Giants, Sox fans all over the country were teeming with excitement for him. Aaron Rowand still has a following of South Siders wherever he lands and the thought of losing Paul Konerko this winter was unthinkable. Truly the '05 Sox have a cherished place in the memories of their lifelong fans. No one has benefited from this more than one Anthony John Pierzynski.
Last year we witnessed a rough season for the infamous catcher, particularly at the plate. While his .270 batting average was just slightly under his .284 career average, the rest of his stats paint an unfortunately distressing picture. The most concerning was a .300 on-base percentage only a hair higher than his batting average, which tells us what we all remember watching: Plate discipline was not Pierzynski's specialty . He also slugged .388 to finish with a mediocre .688 OPS, his career low for a full season and well lower than his .755 OPS in 2009.
The new deal, which includes a $10 million team option for Year Five, wasn't strictly necessary. The 29-year-old Ramirez was entering the final season of the cheap four-year deal he signed as a Cuban free agent three years ago, but the Sox could have kept him around for a few more years through arbitration. Instead, they decided to give him a little more money on the front end in exchange for a few years of cost-effective security on the back end. And it won't cost anything this season.
Jim Margalus of South Side Sox likes the move: "I'd call this contract fair, with an overtone of fun. Ramirez is often a blast to watch, and he's not going anywhere. That's good."
Good news for the Bulls too, as Joakim Noah had the cast on his right hand removed Monday after practice. The fourth-year center, one of the league's premier rebounders and post defenders, will participate in non-contact drills with the team on their current road trip and could be ready for game action after the all-star break in three weeks.
While we look ahead to spring training with multi-part previews on the Cubs and White Sox, ESPN.com analyst Keith Law is looking way ahead with a package of stories on the top prospects and top farm systems in baseball.
Third base is the biggest question mark in the White Sox lineup this season. The two main contenders for the job are the young hopeful Brent Morel, who came up at the end of last season with a competent glove and a potentially potent bat, and the lithe, ageless Methuselah, future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel. And of course, Mark Teahen is still around and the Sox have to pay him $4.75 million this year, so they might as well try and find something for him to do.
It's the new year and that means it is time to start counting down the days until spring training. (Thirty-four until White Sox pitchers and catchers report. Set your watches accordingly.) While the White Sox get ready to show us just how all in they are in their "We're All In" campaign, their rotations and lineups seem to be fairly set. With exception of Adam Dunn and probably Brent Morel, the batting order will most likely look familiar to anyone who paid attention in 2010. The same goes for their rotation, which only has the question of when Jake Peavy will be rejoining its ranks.
That is not to say that everything is set in stone for Opening Day, of course. There is still the bullpen to sort out as well as who will take the honors batting between lead off man Juan Pierre and new masher Dunn, and a lot can happen in spring training. So as we inch closer and closer to Feb. 17, I will be examining what we should all be looking forward to once the Sox descend on the Cactus League ready to show off their minor-league talent and play meaningless baseball games with disproportionately high scores.
In part one of this series, we will turn our attention to the man who went from easily remembered draft pick to hilariously bejeweled Major League bullpen savior in just a matter of weeks, the rail thin Chris Sale.
The Sox are replacing last year's "It's Black & White" ads with the very apropos "We're All In" campaign. While the new slogan clearly refers to the money spent on retaining Paul Konerko and A.J. Pierzynski and acquiring Adam Dunn rather than blowing the doors off their competition a la the Red Sox and Phillies, it is hard to take the assessment lightly.
Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams began the offseason with the possibility of saying goodbye to some key players, and they came back from Florida with a mighty lineup chock full of fanfavorites and a shiny new lefty slugger. If White Sox hustle was black and white in 2010, White Sox power offense will be clear as day in 2011.
Assuming everyone else stays put, the lineup for next year is starting to become clearer. Williams has stated publicly that he isn't looking to move anyone else, not even Carlos Quentin whose name was being tossed around as possible trade fodder just weeks ago. Should that remain true, here is what the Opening Day lineup looks like right now.
Last week the White Sox added slugger Adam Dunn to the middle of their lineup, but there wasn't much point analyzing the move until we saw whether he was replacing or supplementing Paul Konerko's production.
Today we saw it is, fortunately, the latter. Jerry Reinsdorf authorized Kenny Williams not only to spend $56 million on Dunn's four-year contract, but another $37.5 million to bring Konerko back for three more seasons.
There were those of us that feared the White Sox off-season would be mired in stalemates and non-happenings. There were also those among us that feared the Sox would enter 2011 without a legitimate power hitter, thus revisiting the sins of the past season. We all know Kenny Williams is a man that gets the players he wants, regardless if that player is still relevant. Adam Dunn was a name that was tossed around a lot amongst Sox bloggers during the trade deadline last summer, and now his visage is being Photoshopped with a White Sox uniform on websites across the city. Like it or not, it looks like Kenny got his guy. And that guy is a Southsider until the next Midterm election.
Pending a physical, Adam Dunn is expected to be announced a White Sock Friday afternoon (2 p.m. in a press conference that will no doubt be watched by hundreds) in a relative blockbuster deal -- $56 million over four years. The Sox nabbed a guy that can fill the hole left by Jim Thome after they failed to resign the affable slugger at the end of the 2009 season -- a lefty power hitter who can be relied on for about 40 homers or so a season. But how does this acquisition affect the White Sox 2011 outlook?
I don't know about most baseball fans, but I find myself longing for the sport the most when the weather gets coldest. Nothing makes you crave 80 degrees and hot dogs like blustery Chicago winters. With the onset of yet another frigid season on the tundra, it is time to start looking forlornly at our calendars to the next Opening Day: April 1st 2011. (People who complain that the baseball season is too long: you need to start rooting for the Sox.)
There is a lot to consider for the White Sox for next season. It is entirely possible that we will all be presented with a vastly different team when we next visit the South Side. With the bullpen in disarray, the question of who will be returning and who will explore their options as free agents looming large, 2011 looks to be a challenging year for the Sox before Spring Training even arrives. So let's gather 'round, huddle in warmth and think fondly of spring while we take a peek at what to expect for next season.
Aside from looking to our televisions and yelling, "That should be us giving up late inning runs to the Yankees with sloppy outfield defense and a shaky bullpen! Not the Twins!" White Sox fans don't have much going on since the season ended with heartfelt good byes to Nancy Faust, Paul Konerko and A.J Pierzynski. I have been keeping myself busy contemplating an interest in the NBA, mourning the absence of the Bears' offensive line, and rooting against the Twins as mentioned in the previous sentence. Baseball is the beast that never slumbers however, not even after its tremendously long regular season. So just because there are no more games to attend at U.S. Cellular until April, there are still some newsworthy happenings for the Sox-obsessed. Here is a quick roundup:
It was 10:19 back home in Chicago when the White Sox absorbed the first blow. As Mark Buehrle pitched the bottom of the fifth inning in Oakland, the Minnesota Twins closed out a comeback win against Cleveland, moving to the brink of another AL Central title.
Little more than an hour later, team MVP Paul Konerko grounded out to end a 7-2 loss, the eighth in a row and 12th in 14 games for the Sox. Their postseason hopes were pronounced dead at 11:37 by Hawk Harrelson, as he graciously congratulated the Twins, the first team to clinch a playoff berth, on their sixth division title in nine years.
To be completely honest, I have become far more immersed in White Sox culture this summer than I expected. I figured that, at best, my treachery would result in me listlessly distracting myself with another team while I subsisted on a hatred for the Cubs. Maybe after a couple years, I would come to fully love the White Sox, but in the meantime, they would be a way to be entertained by baseball while I refused the brand offered on the other side of town.
Lo and behold, this was not the case. I quickly became so adequately obsessed with the Sox that I forgot why I ever cared about the Cubs in the first place. I was aided by a great ballpark and a bizarrely streaky team. Every game I went to this season was baseball bliss. The great fans, the park with its staggeringly low supply of bad views, and the team that dared you glance away for even a second because they were always one play away from their next huge string of wins rapidly accelerated my passing interest in Chicago's oft-neglected team into a full borne fascination with the Southside. The only thing more surprising than my sudden willingness to chirp out random renditions of "Let's Go, Go-Go White Sox," was how quickly I came to loathe the motherless collection of small-market dirtbags that hail from Minnesota. My god, how I hate the Twins.
At least the White Sox were considerate enough to slip out of playoff contention before football season really got going. It's time to turn over our lives to the Bears and the Big Ten, and the Sox (and of course the Cubs) have ensured we don't really need to worry much about fall baseball around these parts.
It's all Manny most of the time here at Tailgate, and I've still got time to follow up Rick's incisive post before he plays his first game in a White Sox uniform. Tuesday in Cleveland, Ramirez was held out of the starting lineup (because getting up early is hard) and made it only as far as the on-deck circle before a three-run homer by A.J. Pierzynski eliminated the need for his pinch-hitting services in the top of the ninth.
The blast gave the Sox a three-run lead and they hung on for a 4-3 win, but they're still 4 games behind first-place Minnesota in the AL Central. Even with the arrival of one of the best hitters in baseball history, they're going to have seriously pick it up if they're going to close that gap in the season's final 5 weeks. Manny Ramirez probably is worth only about one extra win by himself.
But heck, no one wants to hear about that. Let's all bathe in the warm, glowing light of one of the most fascinating and polarizing athletes in sports.
As the White Sox scramble to keep their season afloat and remain in a pennant race with ESPN's new favorite Midwestern team, the Minnesota Twins, they will now have what everyone hopes will be the first real threat of the season at the designated hitter position. All summer long Ozzie was forced to juggle fading Andruw Jones, questionable Mark Kotsay, defensively useless Mark Teahan and even at one point the impressive-in-every-stat-but-power-hitting elderly statesman of the MLB, Omar Vizquel as his DH. Those days are behind the Sox, at least for the last month of the season, as they will be joined tomorrow night in Cleveland by one of the most recognizable names in the sport, one Mr. Manuel Ramirez.
Boy, I pick some of the least representative games to write about.
For most of the month, there's been all kinds of weeping and gnashing of teeth about the sinking fortunes of the Chicago White Sox. Sure, there were four losses in six games against AL Central rival Minnesota, but that was only part of a string of five straight series losses to such limp foes as Detroit, Baltimore and Kansas City.
Yet every time I pop up here in Tailgate, the Sox are celebrating some absolute romp of a win. Last week it was an 11-0 win in the finale at Minnesota, a rare moment of sunshine in that frustrating series. And now the Sox are breathing a sigh of relief after Edwin Jackson and the bats rolled over the visiting Orioles, winning 8-0 on Thursday to capture their first series victory in three weeks.
See, this is why I don't opine about each individual White Sox game. If I had popped off after Tuesday and Wednesday's one-run, stomach-punch losses in Minnesota -- critical losses with the AL Central threatening to slip away -- I might have sounded like Steve Rosenbloom, the Tribune's reliably Napoleonic armchair general.
That would have been silly. The Sox headed north trailing the first-place Twins by three games. They were by far most likely to exit the three-game series with a 2-1 or 1-2 split -- and a two- or four-game deficit. Fan and media fantasies that this brief meeting, 1/54 of the season, was going to decide a playoff spot were always a bit overblown.
Really, I haven't been a fan of Juan Pierre. Nothing personal, but I was about ready to puncture my own ear drums if I had to keep listening to Ozzie Guillen extol the virtues of a leadoff hitter who was years past his prime.
It's not as bad as the White Sox conventional wisdom on Andruw Jones' defensive abilities -- the 10-time Gold Glove winner hasn't been an even average outfielder in three years since leaving Atlanta -- but the Pierre hype has been more than puzzling. To hear Ozzie and others tell it, the 11-year veteran hasn't lost a step since he was taking over games for the Florida Marlins in 2003 and 2004.
Well, that wasn't at all how the White Sox wanted to end a crucial series against their biggest rival.
Thursday's 6-1 loss to Minnesota wasn't the end of the world; though it gave the Twins a one-game AL Central lead after the teams split the first two games, they'll meet again next week at Target Field. Yet this must rank with Chicago's more frustrating losses of the season, with a handful of critical mistakes, a bunch of runners left on base and a fateful managerial decision that helped the visitors deal the clinching blow.
Ah yes, this is why the wizened men in the White Sox front office pushed to acquire a starting pitcher at the trading deadline. They wondered how rookie Daniel Hudson would hold up in a pennant race, but they also questioned whether 12-year veteran Freddy Garcia could continue to come through as the fourth starter.
Tuesday night, Garcia gave the men upstairs more cause for concern, exiting after 2.1 abysmal innings as the Sox began the final 50 games of the season with a 12-6 loss to visiting Minnesota. Tied with Chicago at the start of this three-game series -- the first of six games between the two teams in 10 days -- the Twins edged into a one-game lead atop the AL Central Division.
The Minnesota Twins are on the horizon and the White Sox are nursing their wounds after dropping three of four in Baltimore, a fate sealed when the Orioles won Monday night for the sixth time in seven games under Buck Showalter, walking off with a 3-2 win when Brian Roberts homered off J.J. Putz in the 10th inning.
But before the AL Central co-leaders -- both with 63-49 records -- meet Tuesday for the first of six games in 10 days, let's finish off the back half of the everyone's favorite White Sox quasi-reality show, the six-part MLB Network miniseries "The Club."
You'll recall that recapping the firstthreeepisodes in detail nearly sucked the life force bodily from me, so let's just hit the highlights this time. There actually were a few.
This is one of those days when Ozzie Guillen looks like a genius.
Not 24 hours ago, the White Sox manager vociferously defended Mark Kotsay against media jackals who questioned why an aging journeyman with a .215 batting average and a .636 OPS was still starting at designated hitter instead of baby bull Dayan Viciedo.
Vindication came Thursday afternoon in Detroit, as the first-place Sox prevailed in 11 innings, 6-4, despite another ninth-inning collapse by Bobby Jenks. Kotsay went 3-for-5, including a two-run homer and a two-run triple in the 11th that helped Chicago take three of four games from the fading Tigers.
It's Monday and/or Tuesday, which must mean it's time for another installment of that quasi-reality show than literally tens of White Sox fans can't wait to see every week: "The Club," presented by Selig & Reinsdorf's House of Sanitized Promotional Television.
If you missed episodes one and two of The Ozzie & Kenny Show, first of all, congratulations. Also, you can find our lengthy, increasingly shambling recaps hither and yon.
It's been a busy few days for the first-place Chicago White Sox, what with the passing of the non-waiver trading deadline and the conclusion of a wildly successful seven-game homestand against Seattle and Oakland. And of course, Ozzie closed it out with a sermon on race in baseball.
The weekend drama kicked into high gear when the Sox traded young pitchers Dan Hudson and David Holmberg to Arizona for right-hander Edwin Jackson, a 26-year-old veteran of (now) five teams in eight years who pretty much defines "unharnessed potential." He's the guy who no-hit Tampa Bay in June but needed 149 pitches because he also walked eight batters.
But the story behind the story was equally compelling.
After an uneven road trip, with trading deadline speculation in full swing, home has provided all the comforts the White Sox could require as they fight to hold on to first place in the AL Central.
John Danks, Gavin Floyd and a brawny offensive display helped the Sox outscore Seattle 17-1 on Monday and Tuesday in the first of seven straight home games -- and that set the stage Wednesday for a night of high drama.
It's Monday Tuesday(!), which means it's time to take a break from the daily fortunes of the Chicago White Sox and instead hop in the way-back machine for another installment of the MLB Network's oddly timed reality show, "The Club."
Last Sunday, the first episode of this four-week miniseries took us from spring training through mid-May, and it is there that we pick up this week with a White Sox team struggling to beat even the perennially hapless Kansas City Royals.
It's an off day on the South Side of Chicago and the first-place White Sox are coming off a near-sweep in Seattle, denied perfection only by Bobby Jenks' second collapse in four days. So while half the Sox cognoscenti work themselves into a lather debating which of the team's four capable relievers should get the ball in the ninth inning, the other half has plenty of time to indulge in trading deadline fantasies.
Most trade scenarios seem concocted primarily from rumor and speculation -- see if you find any substantive facts in theserecentarticles about Prince Fielder -- but the majority are built on one premise: The White Sox need to add a left-handed bat to their lineup.
One notable evening was during one of their last home games during this stretch, Friday, July 9th to be exact. Everything that could have gone right did. Aside from Mark Buehrle getting smacked on the hand by a line drive from former Sox lead-off man, the turbo charged Scott Podsednek, it was a perfect evening. Buehrle soon recovered from the incident and refused to allow anyone to cross the plate for six strong innings. A.J. Pierzynski went out of his way to prove why he is still a fan favorite and clobbered two home runs. The Friday night post game fireworks show supplemented A.J.'s dingers as Sox fans throughout The Cell relaxed and reflected on what a great ride our team was taking us on. It was a perfect evening and an exceptional game. Nobody there could have possibly asked for more.
If you missed Sunday night's opening hour of the new White Sox behind-the-scenes miniseries, "The Club," you didn't miss too much. It's an MLB production, so it's highly sanitized, and it's geared toward a national audience, so it focuses laboriously on the soap opera trio of Ozzie Guillen, Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf.
But we recapped it anyway, so come along, Sox completists, and maybe you'll pick up an anecdotal nugget or two.
After dropping two of three close games against the Twins, the White Sox were three outs away from victory Sunday afternoon. With Bobby Jenks on to protect a three-run lead in the bottom of the ninth, the Sox seemed poised to escape Minnesota with a four-game split, salvaging some of the magic of their recent season-changing surge.
But Jenks had nothing, and Sergio Santos couldn't save him, either. Three walks, three singles and a climactic throwing error by center fielder Alex Rios [video] gave the Twins four ninth-inning runs and a stunning, 7-6 win.
Saves are sometimes the most overrated stat in baseball, but not tonight.
Not after the White Sox rallied to overcome Minnesota's six-run second inning and John Danks handed a two-run lead to the bullpen for the final nine outs. Not after Sergio Santos stumbled in the eighth, loading the bases with two outs.
With all real baseball fans paying at best cursory attention to the monstrosity known as the modern Home Run Derby, let's rewind to Sunday afternoon and examine Daniel Hudson's first attempt at filling the void left in the White Sox rotation by Jake Peavy's season-ending injury.
Overall, it wasn't great. The 23-year-old right-hander threw 74 pitches and left after failing to retire a batter in the fifth inning. Staked to an 8-1 lead after Chicago's seven-run third inning, Hudson couldn't hang around long enough to get the victory.
It seemed likely, when the season was at its lowest ebb, that the White Sox weren't quite as bad as they'd looked so far. Even with a fair number of veterans on the down slope of their careers, the idea of regression to the mean suggested they wouldn't be this bad all summer.
But no one expected 25 wins in 30 games, a brilliant run that concluded triumphantly with a 15-5 win Sunday against Kansas City to finish off a perfect seven-game homestand and send the Sox into the All-Star break in playoff pole position. They now lead second-place Detroit by one-half game in the AL Central and Minnesota by three and a half.
Sunday's winning formula, moreover, was fueled by five Chicago home runs -- four in the third inning -- which fit nicely with one of the more puzzling memes we've seen from Sox observers in recent weeks. Are there really smart people out there who are surprised to see these guys hitting home runs by the bunches?
If you worried that Jake Peavy's season-ending injury would end the winning vibe the White Sox have been riding for the past month, perhaps you weren't paying attention to the recent work submitted by the rest of the starting rotation.
While Peavy is arguably the biggest name of the group, he has plenty of help. That came through loud and clear Thursday and Friday as the Sox closed out a sweep of the Los Angeles Angels and won the first of three games with Kansas City, giving them six straight wins and 23 in the past 28 games.
We knew the news would not be good, not the way Jake Peavy was hopping around last night after injuring himself on a second-inning pitch. But a detached latissimus dorsi muscle? Yeouch.
"This isn't good news, having something completely detached from the bone," Peavy told reporters before the White Sox beat the visiting Angels 5-2 on Wednesday for their 21st win in 26 games.
No sir. No it is not. Now the question is just what this bad news means for Chicago's playoff chances. What happens in the likely event that Peavy, one of their top starters, can't pitch again until 2011?
White Sox players, coaches and fans have been talking up Paul Konerko for weeks now: He's our best hitter, our leader, our heart and soul. He's the reason we saved our season over the past month. He clearly deserves to play in the All-Star Game.
They're right on all of that except the last part. That depends how you define "deserves."
As the White Sox return for their final homestand before the all-star break, a playoff berth is undeniably within their grasp. After taking two of three at Texas, with Mark Buehrle helping fuel a 5-3 win in Sunday's rubber game, Chicago stands only 1 game behind AL Central co-leaders Detroit and Minnesota.
There's no sharper observer of major-league baseball than Rob Neyer, so I had to laugh when the pioneering ESPN.com columnist posted about Omar Vizquel this afternoon on Twitter, joking that the White Sox surely had no chance to win the AL Central if they continued to start the 43-year-old slap hitter at third base.
I've thought along the same lines myself this summer, wondering how Kenny Williams could hand the hot corner to such luminaries as Vizquel, the since-injured Mark Teahen and the since-released Jayson Nix. Vizquel, one of the finest defensive infielders in baseball history, was a nice luxury to have on the bench, but with a .630 OPS, what was he doing in the starting lineup so often?
I was gone, you see, for the entire 11-game win streak, off getting married and honeymooning with my new bride. I didn't see the Sox sweep the Pirates or the Nationals or the Braves. I didn't see them beat the Cubs on Friday and Saturday -- but I did get back in time to catch Sunday's streak-ending loss.
Monday, it was my sad duty to preside over a 3-1 loss in the first of three games in Kansas City.
June is a great month for American League teams -- especially struggling teams like the Chicago White Sox. Not only is the weather finally baseball-ready and the hitters are well warmed up, but A.L. teams are treated to the relaxing three week vacation that is interleague play. Against the National League, the Sox have improved just about every statistic and number.
Over the last twelve games prior to Tuesday night, it was the White Sox rotation that freed them of a losing record. The robust and dominant pitching staff all but shut down the last four teams the Sox faced. Last night against the Atlanta Braves though, it was the offense that put them on the list of winning teams -- a list they have not been on since Opening Day. To the surprise of many, many people, the Southsiders' offense came alive against a team with one of the best collective earned run averages in the Majors.
Hold the ennui and put your pessimism back on the shelf: the Chicago White Sox are at .500 for the first time since April 7th, the second day of the season, when they fell to the Cleveland Indians. It has been a long arduous journey but after beating the Washington Nationals 6-3 Sunday, the Good Guys finally shed themselves of a losing record. Some of the more cynical members of the White Sox blog community, namelyme, did not expect this turnaround to happen so quickly. Given that the Sox had failed to muster up any competence against even the last place and still falling Cleveland Indians, it didn't stand to reason they would be better against the National League's lesser ball clubs either ...but they were. The Sox have been clobbering their National League opponents after taking a series from the Detroit Tigers two weeks ago.
The White Sox are 12-6 in June so far. They have now taken four series in a row and have won six straight -- their longest streak of the season. The heart of their success has been where it should have been all season: their rotation. Over the last 12 games, the White Sox starting five have an earned run average of exactly 2.00. They have pitched for a combined total of 85.5 innings and only given up 19 runs since June 8th.
The White Sox continued to prove they're better than terrible Thursday night, as they completed a sweep of one of the worst teams in Major League Baseball. Respect should be paid to the starting rotation. Freddie Garcia, John Danks and Mark Buehrle all earned a win apiece over the last three games. Between the three they only gave up eight earned runs over 21 innings. Since last Friday, the Sox starters have only given up ten runs and struck out 34. It took a pair of terrible teams to do it, but the starting five have finally been pitching the way Sox fans had hoped.
If ever you're rooting for a baseball team and you think they have hit rock bottom, hope they get to play a team or two from the National League Central Division -- otherwise known as the collection of teams where has-beens mingle with minor league players. The Chicago White Sox, a team struggling so hard in 2010 their general manager Kenny Williams has had his itchy trigger finger hovering above the FIRE SALE! button, just won their third series in a row. The confounding variable in the question of whether or not the Sox have begun to finally turn things around of course, is the fact that they have been playing some pretty substandard teams this past week.
Just a couple of days after the Sox had answered the question of who the worst team in town is (answer: The Cubs), they traveled to Pittsburgh to play a relaxing, breezy set against the Pirates. The Bucs are doing so poorly this season, all MLB memorabilia for this team should come with rebate program; the percentage of how much is refunded can be determined by how many losses they have. Anyone who spends money on anything Pirates related should get some incentive. Yesterday was the tenth game they have lost in a row and the team currently has three losing streaks this season in which they have lost five or more consecutive games. The Pirates are third in errors (53), have the second highest ERA (5.24) and are dead last in runs scored (210) and batting average (.236). In other words, they're not very good at playing baseball.
Inning after inning, Ted Lilly and Gavin Floyd matched each other pitch for pitch and out for out. Neither had given up a hit, and neither seemed inclined to falter any time soon. With the Stanley Cup in the house, the Cubs and White Sox were validating the national spotlight of ESPN Sunday Night Baseball.
Big game at Wrigley on Saturday afternoon, with Mark Buehrle and Carlos Silva treating a national (or at least regional) FOX audience to a sharp pitchers' duel that ended with Bobby Jenks and the White Sox hanging on for a 2-1 win.
Addled by patriotism/nationalism/jingoism and memories of one of the ugliest goals in World Cup history, I'm hard pressed to fashion anything more coherent than a hail of bullets. And heck, there's just too much to dissect as the Sox celebrate a season-best four-game win streak and the Cubs absorb three straight losses.
Friday was busy sports day in Chicago, with a certain hockey team celebrating its first Stanley Cup title in 49 years and soccer fans celebrating the start of the world's biggest quadrennial sporting event. But the matinee at Wrigley, the first meeting of the summer between the Cubs and White Sox, deserved a little attention as well.
It's hard to ascribe much importance to individual White Sox wins and losses these days, what with their general manager talking openly about the possibility of dealing away any number of high-priced veterans. But if 2011 is fast overtaking 2010, there are plenty of questions that need answering in the coming months -- and chief among them is what the franchise can realistically expect going forward from potential building blocks such as John Danks, Gordon Beckham and Gavin Floyd.
That why Thursday afternoon was such a delight. Danks, after starting the season strong, had been awful his pasttwo outings, but he bounced back in a big way in the last of three games with Detroit. The fourth-year left-hander isn't really built to dominate hitters, but he hit his spots and kept the Tigers off balance with his changeup, leading Chicago to a 3-0 win and a rare series win heading into this weekend's matchup with the Cubs.
It was a beautiful night for baseball, and though most of Chicago turned their focus elsewhere, the White Sox enjoyed every minute of it. They took control with seven runs in the fourth inning and finished off the Detroit Tigers with another seven in the eighth, winning 15-3 at U.S. Cellular Field.
The White Sox spent the night honoring longtime broadcaster Ken Harrelson, but the best present they could have given the Hawk, a victory, was ripped cruelly from their grasp after stalwart reliever Matt Thornton fell apart in the seventh inning. Detroit scored six runs and went on to a 7-2 win in the first of three games at U.S. Cellular Field.
To see the difficulty major-league scouts and draft analysts had projecting left-handed pitcher Chris Sale, you needed only to check ESPN analyst Keith Law's final mock draft. He slotted Sale at No. 10 and wondered if he might go as early as fourth or fifth. Several teams liked the kid a lot.
But when Law, a former front office assistant with the Toronto Blue Jays, assigned the players his own rankings, he pegged Sale 47th. Too much can go wrong with a 6-6, 175-pound beanpole to be confident about his major-league future.
This weekend, the Cubs and White Sox will begin their annual showdown. Despite the fact that either team has yet to display anything resembling professional baseball in 2010, fans in this city will still treat this with the importance of the World Series times the Super Bowl times the second coming of Babe Ruth. No matter how bad the Cubs and Sox are performing, you can always count on interleague play being over-inflated with importance due to both sides of town having equally crippling Second City Complexes. Will the Blackhawks win the Stanley Cup this week? It doesn't matter June 11th through 13th (and again June 25th through 27th), as baseball fans from both sides of the city come together to drink, yell and fight in the contest over whether the American League or the National League Central Division has the slightly better under-performing major market team.
This year also marks the inaugural Crosstown Cup series. In addition to giving their fans a weekend distraction from how poorly they're doing in the standings, the Sox and Cubs will now be battling for a cheap piece of PR from the company that just took a two month crap all over the Gulf of Mexico and the proprietors of suburbia's favorite feedbag, British Petroleum. The series is still sadly being sponsored by the oil conglomerate, though it is now "scaled back," which hopefully means less AM/PM commercials. Having the crosstown classic sponsored by a company responsible for such an immense disaster showcases just how sad the rivalry in this town really is. If either Cubs or Sox had anything to be proud of this season, fighting over a trophy might actually mean something. Both teams are sub .500 and in third place, and both are lucky to be there. Both the Cubs and the Sox played the worst teams in their divisions this last weekend and both dropped two out of three games. Top off this mediocrity with a trophy presented by the company responsible for murdering countless wildlife and deluging nearly 20,000 gallons of crude oil a day for the last 50 days, and you have what stands to be the most depressing contest in the history of baseball.
Let's take a look at how each team has been doing so far.
It won't solve all their problems, not sitting closer to last place than first in the AL Central, but Sunday's comeback win helped the White Sox stave off a sweep by rebuilding Cleveland and forestall an immediate referendum on the hold-or-fold decisions awaiting Kenny Williams as baseball's trading season heats up.
Or you could forget all that big-picture stuff and just enjoy the moment. Celebrate the perseverance of a Sox team that kept fighting after falling behind 6-2 in the third inning; the performance of long man Tony Pena and the Chicago bullpen; and the excitement of an all-hands-on-deck rally that tied the game with three runs in the sixth and peaked when Carlos Quentin drove in the go-ahead runs with a two-RBI single in the seventh.
At times, it can be hard to discern whether the frequent futility of the White Sox offense stems from a lack of skill or a lack of luck. There is evidence to support both conclusions -- and the answer probably encompasses both.
But mired as they are in the bottom third of MLB teams in total runs, it can be painful to watch these 2010 Sox struggle to score. Saturday they squandered a fine effort by mercurial would-be ace Jake Peavy, falling for the second straight night to visiting Cleveland, 3-1.
The White Sox were looking good through five innings Friday night. John Danks was pitching like the frontline starter he'd been all season, keeping the last-place Indians off balance while the Sox lineup got into the Cleveland bullpen. But that didn't last.
One-third of the way through a torpid season, the White Sox turned back the clock. For the first time in a while, they got a strong effort from their starter, three home runs and a shutdown performance from the bullpen. It felt like the good old days. For one night, at least, it was 2005.
As the Chicago White Sox had started the season off with a less than dominating start (OK, let's admit it: they're terrible), questions among some of Chicago's more prolific Sox blogs had been looming large as to whether or not a fire sale was eminent. Given that until recently the Southsiders had been struggling against even the lowly Cleveland Indians and perennial punching bags the Kansas City Royals, it looked like it was time to give up and work on the farm system. White Sox GM Kenny Williams dismissed the idea before yesterday's game though, saying he he "Still believe[s] in these guys."
The Sox started a nine game home stand yesterday, which also kicks off what looks to be a cakewalk of a month. Throughout June, the Sox face an NL sandwich of terrible teams book-ended by crosstown rivals, the equally ineffective Chicago Cubs. AL opponents include the Royals, Indians and second place Detroit Tigers. So if there is ever a time to save this season and right the ship, this is it.
By now we should all know that to be a fan of the 2010 Chicago White Sox means to expect the unexpected. Sometimes the unexpected can be very bad, like when a pitcher you thought would have an easy time struggles. And sometimes the unexpected can be very good, like when the White Sox split the four game series against Tampa Bay. Who saw that coming?
In my last post I predicted that the Sox would go 3-1 against Tampa Bay, a team that currently has the best record in Major League Baseball. Instead, the Sox split the series. Oh, they had their sure of tumbles which came, of course, in unexpected ways. John Danks and Gavin Floyd, the two most reliable starting pitchers on the White Sox, each struggled at the mound. Freddy Garcia with his sliders and changeups that never clock at ninety miles per hour or above dominated his game. On the last day of the series, Jake Peavy wasn't at his best but thanks to the White Sox lineup, especially, surprisingly, Jason Nix who hit a grand slam, on Saturday night.
Yahoo Sports reports: Major League Baseball plans to suspend or fine umpire Joe West after he talked to reporters this week about the controversy he created in April when he called the Yankees and Red Sox "pathetic and embarrassing" because of their long game times, a source said.
Combined with the fallout from his ejections of White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and pitcher Mark Buehrle on Wednesday, his behavior reached a tipping point for baseball officials. MLB reprimanded West during a phone conversation Thursday and will consult with the World Umpires Assocation to determine his punishment.
Just the other day, I made a post about how refreshing it is to root for a manager who most likely mentally ill. Sure his behavior is not always becoming of a professional baseball manager, but the man loves a good fight when it comes to his team. I am going to be honest, I had some qualms about making that post. It didn't seem right to encourage all off Ozzie Guillen's outbursts just because Cub's managers make me sleepy.
Not even a day had passed, and Ozzie justified the decision. As I am sure everyone with at least half an ear towards sports radio has heard, Mark Buehrle was ejected after some very questionable balks yesterday in Cleveland. The situation was further agitated by the fact that the source of the calls was the ego-maniacal Joe West, who has been causing trouble elsewhere in the MLB this season. If there was anyone in the league that was going to take West to task, let's be glad it was our ball of rage on the Southside.
If you've read any news about the White Sox today, you've probably already read that Umpire Joe West, who has a history with Ozzie Guillen, threw out Mark Buehrle and then Ozzie after West called a balk on Buehrle that plainly didn't happen. It was bad call, not much more to say. Watch it here. But out of that bad call came something wonderful: solid relief by Tony Pena and Matt Thornton. Hell, even Randy Williams's performance (right after Buehrle left the mound) was good...for Williams. The Sox came away with a win after a truly unnecessary ninth inning in which Bobby Jenks let in three runs and loaded the bases. Twice. The Sox barely squeeked away a run ahead.
Chicago is fortunate in that we have not only two baseball teams, but also that each team has a manager that does a great job embodying the spirit of their respective teams. This is important to Chicagoans. We like to identify with our teams. The Cubs have Lou Piniella: the sleepy old codger, with not quite enough pep to make it to the finish line these days. The White Sox have Ozzie Guillen: the feisty ball of anger, full of scorn for the media, his players and the North Side. Despite all the trouble both teams are currently having, we should at least take solace in that fact. As someone who spent a few decades on the Cubs managerial merry-go-round, with its Trebelborns and its Rigglemans, I can appreciate the Piniella's and Guillen's of the world.
I was excited when the Cubs hired Lou. Like all Cubs fans on the smarter side of Addison, I really wanted Joe Girardi to replace Dusty Baker when the Cubs finally wised up and showed the toothpick-noshing whiskey lover the door (I am well aware he is having a good year, get off my back), but the Cubs got Lou and Girardi fell into obscurity. Lou was a good second prize for the Cubs at the time. He had won a World Series; but more importantly, he had intensity. Sports fans, like the American public when electing a new president, tend to want a leader who is the opposite of the guy who failed last. The bookish, hyper-educated, smooth talking Barack Obama was an easy pick to contrast the seemingly dimwitted, speech and grammar pillaging George W. Bush. Similarly, the brash, base-throwing, ump-hating Lou was easily embraced by the Cubs fans tired of the sleepy dog, rotation-mismanaging, mediocrity-begetting Dusty Baker. With Lou came the promise of fire and brimstone for all that stood in the Cubs way. No longer would the talent on the Cubs slack off and let the team slide into third place behind the Cardinals and Astros. Lou was going to set things right.
There isn't much new to say about the last two series the Sox played. When pitching is good, hitting can be its usual inconsistent self and the Sox can still win. When hitting isn't good --or as good as the other team-- then the Sox need strong pitching. It's as simple as that. That's why the Sox were sweeped by the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim by close margins in a two game series (2-3 and 5-6, respectively) and that's also why the Sox looked amazing against the Florida Marlins in the first two games winning 8-0 and then 4-1 but losing 13-0 when Freddy Garcia pitched in the third outing.
It was a great day for the Sox. Not only did the Toronto Blue Jays beat the division leader, the Minnesota Twins, by nine, but the Sox scored a handy victory against the Detroit Tigers making them the victors in their one game series against Detroit. Luck was with the South Siders today, that's for sure. The original plan was for a two game series against Detroit with Detroit ace Justin Verlander pitching against John Danks today. Fortunately the weather put the kibosh on those plans and Freddy Garcia, who was supposed to start yesterday, (the game, for anyone who cares, that I was supposed to watch but was rained out and canceled, something me and my friends were informed about after we bought our tickets which can't be reused at a makeup game) went up against Rick Porcello, a Detroit pitcher who has been having some trouble lately. Porcello is currently sporting an ERA around 6.00. Lucky for the Sox.
The big news with the White Sox today is that the Texas Rangers are interested in A.J. Pierzynski. Halleleujah! People want our crappy players! Cregen McMinn thinks this would allow the White Sox to play Tyler Flowers:
It's clear A.J. is expendable, and with Tyler Flowers waiting in AAA, now is the time to move A.J. while he still has some value to another club.
Moreover, what better time to bring up Flowers to take over at catcher than now, when the pressure isn't on him to produce since the lineup as a whole already isn't producing? Another benefit would be that he'd be able to learn and develop a rapport with veteran starters like Mark Buehrle and Jake Peavy that would carry over into next season.
Trading Pierzynski and bringing up Flowers makes too much sense for it not to happen sooner or later. With A.J. gaining five and 10 rights on June 14, it looks like it might be happening soon.
Flowers has an almost respectable average, batting .257 with eight home runs for the Charlotte Knights (the Triple A affiliate of the Chicago White Sox), so I can see where McMinn is coming from. But I'm still skeptical. There's a big difference between triple A and the major leagues and remember, the last time Flowers played for the White Sox he didn't have an average over .200. So there's a good possibility that the only thing that would change by replacing Pierzynski with Flowers is the name and number on the catcher's uniform.
Because the White Sox aren't doing well this season changes seem inevitable. Chicago Sun-Times White Sox beat reporter Joe Crowley has a list of players that might not be on the team much longer and it's...surprising:
On the list of potential movable parts are A.J. Pierzynski, Paul Konerko (upon agreement), Bobby Jenks, Mark Buehrle (upon agreement), Andruw Jones, Carlos Quentin and Scott Linebrink.
I don't know about you, but I think losing Konerko and Buerhle would be a big blow. I'll admit that I think Buehrle should stay for more sentimental reasons but he's still a damn good pitcher, especially when he's hot. Moving Konerko would be insane. He's been one of the main scorers on this team this year. Of the few games the Sox have won, Konerko has been responsible for it. I can understand Jones, Quentin, and Linebrink. What about Juan Pierre? And does the White Sox management really think Gordon Beckham is worth keeping?
One thing Sox fans will have to get used to is not bearing the burden of reminding how badly he's doing when Jake Peavy is doing badly. After a disastrous first inning against the Kansas City Royals today where he let in three runs, Peavy cooled down and pitched beautifully. I was very tempted to change the channel. Even a hardcore Sox fan like myself just couldn't bear to see the Sox ruin yet another game for themselves. But in the seventh inning against Royals ace Luke Hochevar, the Sox managed to load the bases so Ramon Castro (don't worry if you haven't heard of him, he's a substitute catcher) was able to start the runs off with a single allowing Mark Kotsay and Alexei Ramirez to score. More runs followed thanks to Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones that allowed Mark Teahen, Castro, and Juan Pierre to pass home plate. I should also note that although neither Alex Rios or Paul Konerko were the source of runs today, Rios was able to score a run in the second thanks to Alexei Ramirez.
Kansas City Royals Manager Trey Hillman will be out for blood in tonight's game (which starts in t-minus 27 minutes) because it's his last game with the ball club. He was fired yesterday but has been allowed to manage tonight's game so he could possibly end the seven-game losing streak the Royals are on and leave on a positive note. If anyone cares, my money is on Chicago (surprise!), especially since Mark Buehrle is pitching.
The gist of the two game series between the White Sox and Minnesota that ended yesterday is that Minnesota can be beaten this year. In the first of the two game series Freddy Garcia pitched admirably, staving off even Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau while Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios, and Juan Pierre among others brought in the runs. After a heart-wrenching ninth inning where Bobby Jenks closed the game, the Sox left Target Stadium with a 5-2 win. I admit, Bobby Jenks pitched better than he thought he would have (keep in mind I was at The Cell the game before this one where Jenks blew it for the Sox and won it for the Twins) but he still didn't look like a closer. This will be an ongoing problem for the Sox. Manager Ozzie Guillen seems set on keeping Matt Thornton in the setup man job so it's likelyt hat he'll either stick with Jenks or wait until Sergio Santos is ready to close every night. Judging by the fact that Santos was warming up in the ninth, Jenks days could still be numbered.
I have to admit that I have been playing to stereotypes a little in this column. Normally I would feel guilty about that sort of thing, but we're dealing with baseball fans -- namely, the hard drinking party-guy Cubs fan, less interested in the number of runs on the old, green scoreboard than the number of pink Cubs hats in the bleachers and the bitter but noble, baseball -savvy Sox fan, hunched over his score card ready to boo the hell out of under-performing players -- not the United Nations. It is more in the interest of fun than any attempt to be mean spirited. I would much rather share some laughs than pick a fight. I do this partly because it makes my job easier, but also because sometimes these stereotypes have a few thousand grains of truth to them. But, to be honest, when it really comes down to it, the disparity between the North and South sides of our city are probably not that great. I am sure there are plenty of frat boys at U.S. Cellular and I am also sure if I really spent all weekend with a team of super detectives at my disposal, I could round up a few Cubs fans capable of explaining the Infield Fly Rule. Probably.
There is however one aspect of Sox fandom I have yet to touch on, and that's because it is a more sensitive element in the gamut of Chicago baseball sociology. It is an especially delicate facet for me to talk about, since I am new to this particular side of town, figuratively speaking. It would seem unwise to take an entire subculture to task while simultaneously asking them for acceptance. In the interest of maintaining honesty though, it is probably something I should address since I have already made my case for the silliness of Cubs fans. So since I am a fair guy, always willing to look at all sides of a pointless issue, I am now forced to deal with the specter of whether or not Sox fans are A-Holes.
On Sunday afternoon I found myself sitting in between my Dad and my girlfriend at U.S. Cellular Field watching Bobby Jenks win the game for the Toronto Blue Jays. Yes, the Blue Jays. I sat there, sulking, wondering how it had come to this. This was not the Bobby Jenks of 2005 who closed a game with a treacherous arsenal of pitches that flew at over 90 miles per hour. No, this was the Bobby Jenks of 2010 who hasn't pitched a single good close all season.
The Jenks of 2005 could have finished this bumpy game off nicely. Gavin Floyd pitched fine except for letting in four runs in the third. Alex Rios was stupendous going four for four and hitting a beautiful homerun in the later innings. Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, and Juan Pierre all played well and Paul Konerko managed a run without hitting his usual homer.
Last night's White Sox game was what is quickly becoming the ugly status quo for the White Sox: a few moments of greatness eclipsed by lots of horrific playing. Despite giving up two runs, John Danks pitched a great game. The problem was the hitting. None of the Sox were able to get the ball farther than a pop-up. Fielding wasn't bad. Alexei Ramirez had some great saves but at bat he was classic Alexei swinging at everything but not hitting. There was no Paul Konerko to bring in his regular home run and even though Alex Rios is batting .300 now, he couldn't manage to get anything started. For a White Sox fan, it was the worst hitting nightmare come true. I, for one, never wanted to see the 2010 White Sox play without Konerko but I got to last night and will get to again tonight as Konerko's neck is still sore, keeping him on the bench.
Michael Shapiro has a incredibly snarky post up at The New Yorker's Sporting Scene blog about the Yankees' visit to the White House this year and President Obama's subtextual sentiment about them and the White Sox. Shapiro's jealousy shows itself in the later paragraphs when he gives statistical history of Yankees/Sox matchups:
Yesterday's win against the Kansas City Royals was White Sox manager Ozzie Guillien's 1,000th game managed. MLB's White Sox reporter Scott Merkin noted that he is the fourth manager of all baseball franchises to achieve this record. Last night was a win, tonight was a loss, which does sort of nag at the question, should Ozzie be allowed to manage more games?
Rick's open letter must have gotten to the White Sox today since they came through and won game one in a three game series against the Kansas City Royals. I'm happy but not ecstatic about the White Sox's performance tonight. It's the Royals we're talking about. I repeat, the Royals, sans Cy Young pitcher Zack Greinke who pitched right before this series. Realistically, the Sox should have totally decimated the Royals, who missed plenty of opportunities to earn some runs from weak pitches or keep Sox runners from passing by second and third.
Okay, now that I've got the grim caveats out of the way, time for the plain ol' good news. Jake Peavy finally played a solid game of the season striking out nine over seven innings. When Ozzie and Don Cooper finally came to the mound at the top of the eighth you could see Peavy trying to negotiate some more pitching time. He wasn't, after all, tiring out or letting in runs like most pitchers tend to do after seven strong ones. It was really Peavy's day today which White Sox fans acknowledged by cheering his performance as he retired to the dugout for the evening. Peavy's pitching and defensive prowess were topnotch today especially when he made amazing save out of a fumble most pitchers wouldn't have been able to turn around on.
Hey guys, how's it going? I'm fine, thank you. I hope your trip home went well, given that most of your time away from Chicago looked to be pretty aggravating. How was the weather in Texas? Did you have fun in New York (when you weren't getting trampled by the current World Series champs, I mean)? I heard Alex Rios had a kid while you were on the road. Good for him. At least one of you guys is scoring, am I right? I'm kidding; I'm kidding. But actually, that brings me to the point of this letter.
Now I know we haven't known each other very long. I mean, I've known you guys my whole life, but up until now I haven't really cared about your success. Well, that's not true either. I cared a lot in 2005, but not the way you would have wanted me to. I pretty much did everything short of sacrificing a child to Old Testament God to stop you guys from winning that World Series. It's not that I disliked you at the time; I think you're all real swell. It's just that I am lifelong friends with some pretty relentless Sox fans, and I didn't want them to have the bragging rights to end all bragging rights. I was a Cubs fan until recently, and these same friends dressed up as the Florida Marlins for Halloween in 2003. So you can see why your success made me a little uneasy back then.
Confession: I didn't watch the first Yankees-White Sox game Friday because I was getting ready to graduate from college, which was a big deal this year (a "big fucking deal" some might say). But I was able to track the other two games and no, it wasn't a blast to watch. To the Sox's credit, they did win yesterday 7-6 but that was after they blew a three run lead in the sixth. It was an exciting game, no doubt about that, but if you look at the over all performance of the Sox this year, you realize that blowing a chance at a solid win is an all too familiar story.
Well no, it's possible if the team scores runs from homeruns and stolen bases almost exclusively, which is exactly what's happening. Not that you can blame the Sox, nobody is hitting a respectable .300 right now, not even Paul Konerko who leads the AL in homeruns. This is the only way to do it until sluggers like Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham realize their full potential. Right now there's no consistent hitter in the White Sox lineup besides Konerko with his homeruns. A team can't win like that. There are hits though, just not from anyone in partcular. One day it'll be Juan Pierre and Andruw Jones, the next it'll be Alexei Ramirez and Carlos Quentin.
The White Sox and Cubs held a press conference this morning to announce the "BP Crosstown Cup," which will be awarded to the winner of the inter-league series, annually. In the case of a tie, the trophy goes to the winner of game 6.
The crosstown trophy concept has been done elsewhere, but I personally don't see this adding much to the rivalry. Fans in this town are already pretty passionate about their respective teams, and tend to be pretty vicious towards one another when they are visited by their respective crosstown rival. I think our Second City Complexes will overshadow any trophy a petroleum company presents, especially since the White Sox already won the one trophy that matters. But who knows, maybe this will add fuel to the fire.
During the summer of 1969, that fateful summer the Chicago Cubs had arguably the best team in their history yet still failed to make it to or succeed in the World Series, my father was 12 years old. He was fortunate enough to attend many of the Cubs home games that season. Back then, Wrigley had not yet established itself as the overcrowded den of inequity in high demand it is today. A neighborhood kid, such as my father, could get into Cubs games easily -- go to a game, help sweep the aisles afterwards and get free tickets to the next one. In doing this, he was not only able to obtain a first hand account of a monumental season in the history of his favorite ball club, but also establish himself, in my mind, as one of the greatest sports fans any team could be lucky enough to have. He has always been a true fan, honest and dedicated, regardless of how poorly his team performed or how difficult it was to root for them. He has always been there, as much a part of their history as they were his. More then anyone else, he deserves to see them win.
Growing up with this man as my example of what a Wrigleyvillian embodied, it was a long time before I could ever fathom the idea of someone not liking Cubs fans. All the man wanted in exchange for his fanaticism was to see his team win. He isn't a bleacher bum and he isn't frat boy, he is just a great guy rooting for the wrong team. Based on the wrongful assumption that all who attend Cubs games are a lot like him, it only made sense that A) people who don't like Cubs fans are in small number and B) those who do not are dismissible crazies. Well, it might come as a surprise to some of you, but a lot of peoplejustdon'tlikeCubsfans.
There is so much about the White Sox that is unreliable. That fact, perhaps, is the only reliable thing about them.
It was reasonable for any White Sox fan to bet against the White Sox winning their first series this year against the Seattle Mariners, who have a strong team this year. The team has solid pitching from the likes of Félix (King Félix) Hernández or Doug Fister (who pitched today) who keeps a solid ERA always under 2.00, limiting any points to Seattle hitters like Ichiro Suzuki, Chone Figgins, and Mike Sweeney.
The contrast couldn't have looked greater. Yesterday Gavin Floyd had the mound, the same Gavin Floyd who was pitching when the Sox lost 4-7 against Cleveland. Yet the Sox eked out a win off of a bottom of the ninth walk-off homerun by Andruw Jones. Up until that last inning, it looked like the same old sorrowful story for the 2010 Chicago White Sox. Everyone, Sox and Mariners, alike, were stunned by the rapid shift of the tide.
With the Sox, what we have here ladies and gentlemen, is a pitching problem (with a little hitting too). The Sox just ended their three game series against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays and in total Tampa scored a total of 23 runs over three games. You read that right, 23. The one win the Sox got was a pleasant 4-1 that I wrote about here. That was the team the Sox need to be which also was the opposite of what they were in their last two outings.
If you're a Sox fan, the reason to be hopeful about tonight's game against the Tampa Bay Devil Rays is that the last matchup with Buehrle pitching turned out pretty well for Chicago. It would be fitting for the Sox to begin to turn around their record this year against the same team that gave them that perfect game.
If the Sox are going to do well tonight they need to watch out for a few players in the Tampa bay lineup:
First, there's catcher John Jaso with an average of .667. Need I say more? If Tampa Bay is going to win tonight, it's going to be, at least partially, thanks to Jaso. He's a top prospect for the Rays out to prove himself. I can't think of a better way to prove his value then getting a big hit or homerun off of the pitcher that earned a perfect game from the Rays last year.
That homer by left fielder Carl Crawford last night was no fluke. Crawford has a .340 average and had all three hits yesterday against John Danks. He'll be looking to polish that record tonight. This year he's earned two homeruns and 10 RBIs.
With pitching, Wade Davis isn't the Rays' best pitcher, but he's been 2-2 with a 3.72 ERA that's on the downward trend. Don't count him out.
I came across this 2010 American League Prediction post by Tyler Kepner of The New York Times' Bats Blog. Here's what it had to say about the Central Division:
American League Central
1. White Sox - Their rotation could be overpowering, and the offense should be able to score runs in more ways. Carlos Quentin and Alex Rios need to be consistent power sources, but Gordon Beckham is a rising star.
2. Twins - Losing Joe Nathan hurts, and while their lineup should be very strong with Orlando Hudson added to the Joe Mauer/Justin Morneau core, there is too much mediocrity in the rotation to catch the White Sox.
3. Tigers - The rotation has holes, and even with Johnny Damon it's a pretty thin lineup. The Yankees believed Austin Jackson needed another year at Class AAA, but the Tigers think he's ready after a strong spring.
4. Indians - There's legitimate talent in the lineup, with under-the-radar standouts like Asdrubal Cabrera and Shin-Soo Choo. But their rotation may be the worst in baseball, and closer Kerry Wood is hurt.
5. Royals - They need to find out if some high draft picks (Luke Hochevar, No. 1 over all in 2006 and Alex Gordon, No. 2 over all in 2005) can really play. The rotation has Zack Greinke in front ... and Kyle Farnsworth in back.
I was talking to someone the other day about the Twins. It seems completely off right now but I'm not sure. Given that the season is still young and Minnesota hasn't found a comparable closer yet this may not be a stale assessment of the Twins. And without Mauer and Justin Morneau it's hard believe the Twins would be leading the division like they are.
This is one of the weird (and wonderful) things about baseball, a team can be doing horribly and then come along and trounce a team that's in second place in the Eastern Division. Savor this moment Sox fans, for I fear the next few games probably won't be as sweet. I'm not going to dwell though.
Oh man, tonight was awesome --homers by Paul Konerko and Andruw Jones, and eight solid innings by John Danks whose only mistake was a solo homerun by Carl Crawford in the first. Danks struckout four in a row between the fourth and the fifth innings bringing his K's to nine tonight.
The best part about tonight was that it was exactly the opposite of how the Sox have been winning this year. Even though Chicago did get two essential runs off of homers, they didn't depend on it, earning two runs from Konerko and Alex Rios off of smart playing and unfortunate defense by the Rays. That's how the Sox need to play if they want to win. Good to see it's in them somewhere, albeit buried deep.
In the recap piece (linked to above) on the game Danks had this to say:
"We've been saying all along that we are way better than we've been playing and I truly believe it. I think it's just a matter time before we start clicking and hopefully it started tonight," Danks said. "We all feel that way. We're better than how we've played so far and we know we got off to a pretty disappointing start, but with that said there is a 148 (games) left and every team is going to go through a slump and we got ours early."
If that weren't enough, tonight's win continues the Sox streak against the Rays (the Sox are 7-2 in their last matchups against Tampa Bay). The last game they played was Mark Buehrle's perfect game. As it happens, Buehrle is pitching tomorrow too. Hopefully that'll cause a repeat.
Sports, like politics, religion and pop culture, attracts fanaticism of a very vicious nature. When there are rivalries involved, the typical sports fan can regress from jovial enthusiast to belligerent maniac. Anyone who has been a Gapers Block reader long enough to remember the comments from Ramsin Canon's "Hate, Hate, Hate the White Sox" column (comments now rendered even more hilarious since the Sox did eventually go on to win it all) will note that not even the classy denizens of this website can abstain from ad hominem attacks and personal insults regarding the other side's sexuality, socio-economic status and level of education when defending their team. Even though Chicago is easily the greatest city in the world and stuffed to the condos with admirable people, we tend to turn pretty barbaric when the Packers come to Soldier Field, the Red Wings visit the United Center and, most of all, when the Cubs and White Sox are compared in any capacity what-so-ever.
So it is with that in mind, that I leave you with the following warnings: if you are a Northsider with a perpetual dislike of Sox fans, you will come to loathe me. If the thought of someone scribing preference of the White Sox and The Cell over that of the Cubs and Wrigley Field is a notion that angers your blood, then you will most likely curse my name to your grandchildren. None of this is my intention of course, I am not picking a fight. I am merely examining the facts of this city and my own life. For you see, I used to be one of you, but my taste in baseball has since matured. I used to be a Cubs fan but I now root for the White Sox. I am a turncoat.
There have been a number of unanswered questions going around about White Sox pitching. Where's Daniel Hudson? Should Sergio Santos be playing more? Why is Freddy Garcia a starter? Is Jake Peavy really worth all the patience White Sox fans have given?
The answer to that last question may begin today with Peavy's third start this year against the Cleveland Indians. His last two games (first against Cleveland and then the Toronto Blue Jays, respectively) resulted in disappointing performances. The Sox lost to Cleveland 3-5 and barely won against Toronto, 8-7 leaving Peavy with a 8.44 ERA. This isn't how many pictured games would go with Peavy on the mound.
Still, it's a bit early to make definitive claims on whether the Peavy acquisition was a mistake. He has pitched well for the Sox in the past (a late game against Detroit last season comes to mind) and in general, Ozzie Guillen seems pretty calm that the South Siders will improve, Peavy included. That's sensible.
On the other hand, if the Sox want to be competitive, they have to start acting like it, fast -- and pitching is no exception. Starters like Peavy and Garcia need to show that they deserve to be on the mound. Otherwise people won't be wondering about that Peavy question or that Hudson one.
The White Sox needed to stop the bleeding before it got any worse. Mark Buehrle did just that. He pitched eight strong innings and limited the Twins offense to four runs. It didn't look good for the Sox earlier on as the Twins scored two runs in the first inning, but Buehrle would battle back and limit the damage. He looked to be in mid-season form in just his second start of the season.
While he kept the Twins to just four runs he would need a little help from his offense too. He got just that. The Sox offense tied the game back up in the bottom of the first on the strength of a Paul Konerko two-run homer, his third of the year. Mark Kotsay and Gordon Beckham also hit their first home runs of the season.
Sox starter Gavin Floyd pitched well enough to keep his team in the game only giving up two runs in just six innings of work. He struck out seven as well. He left before his team re-took the lead in the bottom of the seventh on a Carlos Quentin two-run homer, his first of the season. It would be a short lived lead as Sox reliever Matt Thornton would give right back in the top of the eighth.
It wasn't the way Jake Peavy wanted his first start of 2010 to go. Peavy was less than stellar in his first outing in front of the home crowd Wednesday night at U.S. Cellular Field. The Sox offense spotted Peavy with three runs early. Two of those runs came off the bat of Paul Konerko who hit his second home run of the season in the bottom of the third inning. The offense went cold after that. They were not able to take advantage of the six walks issued by Indians starter Fausto Carmona.
Unfortunately, Peavy would give-up the 3-0 lead in the fourth inning surrendering three runs of his own. He threw 106 pitches in just five innings of work. Sox manager Ozzie Guillen was forced to go to his bullpen early after the departure of Peavy in the fifth. The bullpen wouldn't be much help though as they allowed the Indians to score two runs in final four innings.
The Big Hurt announced his retirement today. Thomas spent 16 years on the south side of Chicago with the Sox. He finishes with a .301 career batting average, 521 home runs and a .419 OBP. He spent almost his entire career, however he also spent time with Toronto and Oakland from 2006-2008.
He also won back-to-back MVP awards in 1993 and 1994. There is no doubt that Thomas put up hall-of-fame worthy numbers, but the one thing thats preventing his hall-of-fame candidacy from being a shoe is he was a DH for a good majority of his career. If he does get the call for the hall it may open the door for other DH's whose numbers hall worthy.
Yeah, we know, a cheap and easy joke (just like we like 'em). But the White Sox did, in fact bolster their bullpen by signing J.J. Putz to a $3 mil deal. Putz last pitched for the New York Mets and went 1-4 with a 5.22 ERA in 29 games - not exactly numbers to write home about. And he's coming off surgery, which is always nice. He's reportedly being looked at as a setup man or (gasp) a replacement for closer Bobby Jenks.
The roster of White Sox players attending the team's annual convention has been expanded with stalwarts Mark Buerhle, Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham joining Freddy Garcia, Jayson Nix, Jake Peavy, A.J. Pierzynski, Alexei Ramirez, Matt Thornton and newly signed Andruw Jones at SoxFest 2010, January 22-24 at the Palmer House Hilton.
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks have announced that ticket sales for their annual convention in 2010 will go on sale tomorrow (Wednesday) at 10 a.m. The convention will kick off July 30 at the Hilton and feature Blackhawks Hall-of-Famers and Team Ambassadors Bobby Hull, Stan Mikita, Tony Esposito and Denis Savard, General Manager Stan Bowman along with head coach Joel Quenneville and players Jonathan Toews, Duncan Keith and Patrick Kane.
...and Kevin Gregg and Rich Hardin and Octavio Dotel and possibly Scott Podsednik as the White Sox and Cubs declined to offer arbitration to a total of seven free agents. In addition to Jermaine Dye, Dotel and Podsednik of the Sox, the team gave a pass to catcher Henry Blanco. Besides Gregg and Hardin, the Cubs said "meh" to Reed Johnson.
Add former Atlanta Braves star Andruw Jones to the list off one-year deals the White Sox are compiling for next season.
A few days after inking Omar Vizquel to a one-year pact, the Sox brought Jones into the fold for 2010. Jones will get half a million, with a chance to raise it to $1 million iin incentives. Jones was with the Texas Rangers in 2009 where he hit .217 with 17 home runs and 43 runs batted in.
Reportedly next on the Sox radar is potential leadoff hitter Coco Crisp, whom the team will presumably sign to a deal longer than one year if they get the chance.
The White Sox signing of veteran shortstop Omar Vizquel, which we wrote about earlier, reportedly has become official with Vizquel agreeing to a one year, $1.3 million contract. Vizequel, 43, will serve as a mentor tot he relatively young infield duo of Alexi Ramirez and Gordon Beckham, who is making the transition from third to second next season.
Should the White Sox go through with their plans to sign the, well, let's say "mature" shortstop Omar Vizquel, it will be like looking in a mirror for manager Ozzie Guillen. For better or worse.
Both Vizquel, who turned 43(!) in April, and Guillen (a mere three years older) grew up only a few miles from each other in Caracas, Venezuela, played shortstop against each other for more than a decade in the AL and both wear number 13 in honor of their countryman and hero, Dave Concepcion. Which means if the deal goes through, someone is going to have to switch uniform numbers next year. (There's no player on the roster with No. 31, so there's that.)
If the deal goes through, don't look for Vizquel to see a lot of playing time, but rather serve as a mentor to erratic shortstop Alexi Ramirez.
As Sox fans (and yes, I place myself in that camp), we have a lot of chips balancing on our shoulders with respect to respect (and/or the lack thereof). From the perceived amount of local media coverage heaped on the Cubs to the way certain players openly snub the team when talk of trade or free agency crop up (like Jake Peavy before he realized no one wanted him BUT the Sox), we have a sense, not always openly expressed, of getting the short end of the stick no matter what happens with our team.
So, yeah, you can call us bitter if you like. But we've got 2005, so, you know, suck on it.
But Gordon Beckham? Fifth in AL Rookie of the Year voting? We figured first might be a longshot, even after he picked up two similar awards voted on by the players. But fifth?
If we had a handkerchief and were wearing a tie, we'd be Rodney Dangerfield-ing all over the place right now. No respect indeed.
I don't want to lay out all of the arguments as to why this seems to be a slight to Beckham and White Sox fans. The Sun-Times' Chris DeLuca does a good enough job of it here. And if you're of the camp that Beckham is where he belongs in the voting, ESPN.com's Rob Neyer goes point/counterpoint with DeLuca here.
Beckham, for his part is playing it cool, saying only that he's a little surprised at how he finished but it won't ruin his day. He seems to be learning to accept being shortchanged. He's one of us.
Now, reports of Scott Podsednik and Ramon Castro filing for free agency are correct. And rumors that the Texas Rangers are throwing out feelers for Jermaine Dye have some validity. But that KC/Sox deal? Let's just wait and see.
UPDATE: Ok, NOW it's official: The Teahen-Getz-Fields deal has finally been approved by all parties. Geez, was the Red Sox-to-Yankees trade of Babe Ruth this complicated?
The season may have been a wash for the White Sox postseason-wise, but at least one player has something to smile about after cleaning out his locker. Third baseman Gordon Beckham has been named Rookie of the Year by the Sporting News.
The award, voted on by a panel of 338 other players, went to the Atlanta native for a standout inaugural season in which the 22-year-old batted.270 with 28 doubles, 14 home runs and 63 RBIs in 103 games. He's the ninth rookie in team history to be tabbed by TSN and the first since current manager Ozzie Guillen was awarded the prize 1985. Here's the modest Beckham speaking on his hopes for a decent season and perhaps a "couple of good games".
Chicago Public Radio's Justin Kaufmann notes that the entire Illinois congressional delegation submitted a bill on July 31 honoring White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle for his perfect game -- but it never made it out of committee. Seriously? We paid them for this? I'm all for honoring Buehrle for his achievement -- in fact, I was at the game when he was honored by the Sox -- but wasting time on this sort of thing is exactly the sort of thing that gives government a bad name.
The White Sox chances of making the playoffs at this point are pretty much a moot point as they are one game away from being eliminated from the American League Central Division. However, that doesn't mean they can't play the role of spoiler. And that is just what they did as they beat the Tigers 2-0.
The Sox may may play a role in whether or not the Tigers make the playoffs. Jake Peavy took the mound for the Southsiders tonight and his offense gave him just enough for the win. Peavy went seven innings and struck out eight. Gordon Beckham helped out his pitcher out with a two run homer in bottom of the sixth.
So with baseball season in Chicago officially over (OK, OK, ALMOST over, Mr. Sticker), the question now turns to who'll be standing on the field when the Cubs and White Sox start play in 2010. Free agency, arbitration, trades...you name it. Bottom line, there'll be some faces missing from the team picture on both sides of town next year.
Today we got word that White Sox reliever Bobby Jenks is shutting it down for the rest of the year due to an injured right calf muscle, which has given rise to talk of whether we've seen the last of the portly closer on the mound for the Sox for good. He's up for arbitration next year and the Sox aren't known for fighting hard to keep guys in that situation, so it could be the end of his career with the team.
You can debate the wisdom of the White Sox trying to work in a start for pitcher Jake Peavy before the season is out, but you can't debate that it's now actually going to happen.
After a rehab stint to work out kinks in his surgically repaired ankle and, later, his elbow after it was hit by a batted ball during the minor league tune-up, Peavy has been given the green light to make his White Sox debut when he takes the mound Saturday against the Kansas City Royals. at U.S. Cellular.
Let's see... Bears kick off their new season with a REAL quarterback on Sunday...Air Jordan touches down in the Hall of Fame...Chicago's Olympic bid comes into the home stretch with some help from the White House.
Oh, yeah, baseball.
If you've forgotten that the White Sox and Cubs were still in action, don't feel bad. I don't think they been thinking too much about it either. Sure, both teams are making noise about "it's not over till it's over", but trust us, it's over. But if you MUST have some info on baseball in Chicago as it winds down...
After years of anguish and many, many, many headaches in Minnesota, the White Sox played their last game in the Metrodome and came away with a rare victory. Just mention the word Metrodome to any Sox fan, player, manager, broadcaster, front office personnel, general manager or owner and their response would start with a groan and end with several expletives.
However, after years of torment in that building, the Sox left there smiling for once. Their record there indicates how miserable it has been for them, more so the last few years. They went 84-114 since 1982, losing 19 of their final 24 games there. They finished 1-8 in the Metrodome last year and finished 2-7 this year.
At any other point in the season, a Cubs/White Sox game would be a hype-lover's dream. But with the two teams at 10 1/2 and 7 games out, respectively, any fan claiming bragging rights after tomorrow's game would seem to be grabbing at straws. Yeah, sure, Ozzie Guillen is sounding like Bluto Blutarsky these days telling everyone that nothing is over until HE says it's over, ever after the team dumped two relative stars in Jim Thome and Jose Contreras And the Cubs fans, ever the optimists, will probably be encouraged to hear that the team has decided to fight it out until the end (as if they could simply walk away). But, truth be told, if there is any real venom swapped by the fans of the two teams tomorrow, as there has been in the past, it'll only be done by the clueless. Look, if you have tickets to the game, by all means go. Have a beer. Cheer for your team and congratulate the winner. But if you're expecting it to mean anything more than that, you're just as out of it as the White Sox and Cubs.
The White Sox continued their slide in Minnesota Monday night dropping their fourth straight and sixth overall on the trip. They lose 4-1 in the opener with the Twins, but the bigger news came off the field as they traded a pair of big names to contending teams.
DH Jim Thome was traded to the Los Angeles Dodgers who are currently leading the National League's Western Division. The other big name dealt was Jose Contreras. He was sent to the team right behind the Dodgers, the Colorado Rockies, who are currently tied with the San Fransisco Giants for the National League Wild Card lead.
The Cubs' Milton Bradley is not happy. So what else is new? Besides, he's now the Ricketts family's problem.
The White Sox have lost four in a row and five of their last six. The Bleacher Reporter ask if they're heading in the wrong direction. Hmmm...let me think about that one.
Don't let Jay Cutler's cool demeanor fool you. According to ESPN he's a little jittery about returning to Denver as a member of the Bears this Sunday. Elsewhere on the Bear beat, Matt Forte is looking for balance and Dusty Dvoracek is looking at a doctor this Friday.
As if running a triathlon (like the Chicago Triathlon this weekend) wasn't difficult, try throwing cold, rainy weather into the mix. Here at some tips for coping with that.
While the state debates video poker, the real thing is going on in a tournament in Arlington Heights tonight. Wanna play? Ante up here.
The Chicago Sky host a benefit this Friday to promote breast cancer awareness.
Chicago Public Radio's Justin Kaufmann talks with legendary Steve Stone about his Wikipedia entry, and gets lots of stories about Stone's time with both the Cubs and Sox -- and his 1983 Playgirl spread.
Playgirl?! Oh yes. The pictorial is online here if you're interested. I wouldn't call it safe for work, but there's no "Little Stoney" visible if that's what you're worried about. You can let Stone know what you think -- or blot it from your mind and just ask him about baseball -- on Twitter at @BaseballStone.
Kenny Williams shocked the world by making a last minute deal to acquire Padres ace and Cy-Young award winner Jake Peavy at the trading deadline. While it sounds all well and good it came with a catch. Peavy has been on the disabled list June after injuring his ankle while running the bases.
Peavy has had two rehab outings since he joined the Southsiders. In his first outing he was brilliant and in his second not so much. That is where the problem comes in. By all accounts his ankle has healed nicely, but due to the fact he wasn't able to do any kind of baseball activities for a good two months it has delayed his return.
Hernandez struck out 10 Sox batters over seven innings. Alex Rios went 1-for-6 last night in his Sox debut last night. He struck out twice as well. Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye both sat this one out. Both are healthy and were just receiving a day off. They could've used their bats in the line-up however. It was a familiar face that came back to bite the Sox in the 14th.
The Chicago White Sox have solved the million dollar mystery. They were the ones who claimed the Toronto Blue Jays second baseman Alex Rios off waivers over the weekend. Rios was claimed on Friday afternoon, but no team had come forward until today.
Rios signed a very hefty contract last April, a seven-year $60 MM contract to be exact. This comes in addition to the large Jake Peavy contract. However, at the of the end of the season there will be some money available with Jim Thome and Jermaine Dye's contracts expiring. Rios is expected to join the club in Seattle on Tuesday.
The Southsiders take on the Mariners tonight at 9:10 p.m. CT. Gavin Floyd (9-2) will take on Luke French (2-2).
What a difference a week makes. Just last week the Sox were finishing up an abysmal 1-6 road trip that included them being swept in Minnesota. That would all be forgotten after they returned home to take on the best the American League had to offer. They took three out of four from the first place New York Yankees over the weekend then set their sites on the team with the best record in the A.L., the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim.
The Chi Sox snapped the Halos' eight-game winning streak last night with a wild walk-off 5-4 victory. That was in spite of Jose Contreras' erratic pitching performance. Gavin Floyd, however, would fair much better tonight. Floyd went eight innings and only surrendered one run and struck out six.
The 2009 trade deadline has come and gone and a lot of big names were moved. It was a very active deadline with trades a plenty taking place. The Minnesota Twins and Detroit Tigers both made deals to improve their respective clubs. The Twins acquired Orlando Cabrera from Oakland and the Tigers picking up Jarrod Washburn from Seattle. It appeared that the White Sox and Kenny Williams were going to stand pat with what they have.
Well if you think that is the case with Kenny Williams, think again. While everyone was looking at Roy Halladay to be the big name moved during the deadline Williams pulled off a shocker by bringing the 2007 National League Cy Young Award winner Jake Peavy to the South side of Chicago.
The on again/off again Jake Peavy-to -White Sox deal is apparently really on this time, as reports are coming out that the Sox and the Padres have agreed to terms on a deal that would send the sought-after righthander to the South Side in exchange for four minor league pitchers: Aaron Poreda, Clayton Richard, Dexter Carter and Adam Russell. The announcement of the deal came minutes after the trading deadline had officially passed.
In May, Peavy exercised his no-trade clause and rejected a deal that had been hammered out by the Sox' Kenny Williams and the Padres. But a strained right ankle tendon sidelined him soon after that and his stock took a dip as would-be suitors lost interest. That injury may have had something to do with his new-found willingness to accept a move to the AL, where he won't have to step to the plate or run the bases.
Peavy is 6-6 this season with a 3.95 ERA with 92 strikeouts in 81 innings. He will earn $11 million in 2009, $15 million in 2010, $16 million in 2011, $17 million in 2012 and a $22 million option for 2013 with a $4 million buyout.
It was looking like Buehrle would pull off the unthinkable and pitch back to back perfect games. However, it was not to be. He lost the perfect game in the sixth after walking Alexi Casilla. That is where things began to unfold for Mr. Perfect.
Perfect game been "berry berry" good to him: Fresh off his appearance on David Letterman, the White Sox Mr. Perfect Mark Buehrle gets the cover of the latest Sports Illustrated. Will Buehrle, who pitches tonight against Minnesota, fall victim to the alleged SI cover jinx or the struggling reliever Jenks? (And yes, we know that it's really pronounced Bobby JANKS.)
Turns out pitching a perfect game is a great career move. It's earned White Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle a spot on David Letterman's "Top Ten List". Buehrle will shoot a clip for the Letterman's show's signature segment today in Minnesota prior to the team's game with the Twins. Joining him in high-profile spot will be outfielder Dewayne Wise, he of the game-saving catch, and third baseman Josh Fields, whose grand slam helped the cause.
Powered by a Josh Fields grand slam in the fourth inning that would be all Buehrle needed to complete his masterpiece. With his gem he becomes the second pitcher in Sox's history to pitch a perfect game. Charles Robertson was the first to pitch a perfect game on April 30, 1922 for the Southsiders. Buehrle's effort was almost all for nothing if not for a game-saving catch by defensive replacement DeWayne Wise.
Buehrle was down early after surrendering his lone run of the game, but Jermaine Dye bailed him out with a two-run homer (21). The Sox are now 7-0 at home on Saturdays and 12-0 when they play on Saturday afternoon.
Give credit to the Sox offense for making a game out of it. Down 9-2 by the third inning the Sox offense drew closer by putting up a four spot in the bottom of the third inning. The closest they would get would be one run. They wrapped up this short home stand by going 2-1 and they are now headed to Minnesota to take on the Twins.
The Bartolo Colon mystery is over. The rather robust starting pitcher for the White Sox has resurfaced Moby Dick-like after going AWOL from his scheduled rehab stint with the Charlotte Knights,the Triple-A affiliate of the Sox. Well, to be truthful, he's not actually IN Charlotte yet. The Knights expect him to start tonight, but have pitcher Carlos Torres penciled in just in case.
Colon was supposed to report to Charlotte Tuesday to prepare for tonight's start, but failed to do so, leading to the APB that extended all the way to his home in the Dominican Republic. So why did he pull the disappearing act? Well, according to Ozzie Guillen, it might have something to do with Michael Jackson. Seriously.
Two. That is the grand total of All-Stars representing Chi Town in Major League Baseball's 80th Midsummer Classic. Mark Buehrle will make his fourth All-Star team after starting the year off 6-0 for the Southsiders. He is 8-2 with a 3.09 ERA. He was the starter for American League in the 2005 All-Star game in Detroit. He would be the winning pitcher in that one as well.
One could make the argument that Scott Podsednik is deserving of a trip to St. Louis. Since rejoining the Southsiders on April 14 he has hit .312, .368, and .407. Not too shabby considering most of the experts in baseball believed his better days were behind him. This is no doubt a snub of Podsednik especially since he is not one of five candidates vying for the final American League roster spot.
The Chicago chapter of the Baseball Writers Association of America is meeting tomorrow to figure out once and for all how they should regard players of the Steroid Era in their future Hall of Fame voting. One Delaware sports writer is urging them to "do the right thing."
When the dust clears after tonight's NBA draft, will Kirk Hinrich end up wearing a new uniform?
This series was important because on Saturday they would play the first ever regular season Civil Rights game. The Sox won a barn burner 10-8. Mark Buehrle pitched on Sunday and earned his first victory since May 19. He improves to 7-2 on the year. They were 5-3 on the trip and they return home to take on the Los Angeles Dodgers.
Now that Part I of Cubs vs. White Sox, 2009 is in the books, Chicago baseball fans get a brief respite before the madness kicks back into gear again when the two teams meet at The Cell for the rematch next weekend. Brian Livingston takes a look at the abbrebviated series and offers an intriguing way to make up for that washed-out game that was supposed to start the series.
The series seemed to lose some intensity after the rain out on Tuesday, but don't tell that to White Sox fans who were smiling from ear to ear after their team beat their North Side counterparts 4-1. This series took place during the middle of the week, which seemed to take away the atmosphere that normally surrounds this series which usually takes place on the weekend. It is unfortunate that Tuesday night's game got rained out, because it would've been nice to see a night game during the week being played between these two at Wrigley Field.
This match up is meant for the weekend because it generally makes for a better atmosphere before, during and after the games. A thought crossed my mind as to how to schedule the rained-out game. Originally it occurred to me that they could do what they did in New York. A game between the Mets and Yankees was rained out at Shea Stadium last season. They re-scheduled the game for the following weekend when they were playing the Yankees at their place. They played an afternoon game at Shea and then a night game at Yankee Stadium.
The Cubs and Sox play next weekend at U.S. Cellular; why not play an afternoon game at Wrigley then take the Red Line down to U.S. Cellular? How cool would that be to have the players ride an express train down to 35th Street after playing an afternoon game at Wrigley? It would really give new meaning to the "Subway Series". Of course both clubs would have to agree to it, and more than likely it isn't going to happen. There is an off-day in September that the two teams share, and the game will most likely be played on September 3.
It appeared that both games were going to go to the White Sox. The Sox were 4-1 winners in game one, but the Cubs would play spoiler in game two. Just like the overall series itself, the numbers between these two they were pretty evenly matched during the two game set. On the downside they'll have to wait for September to conclude this series. The all-time series is once again tied 34-34 and the Sox season record stands at 31-35, four games out of first place. The Sox head out to Cincinnati to take on the Reds this weekend, featuring the Civil Rights game on Saturday.
For the Cubs, this years' Cross Town Classic comes at an odd set of crossroads. Statistically speaking, the six games that make up the Cubs/White Sox rivalry each year are actually the most meaningless six games of the season. Games against NL Central opponents carry a larger weight in deciding which team will win the division. Inter-division games have more significance when it comes to deciding which team will win the wild card. Inter-league play has almost no meaning outside of pure wins and losses. Despite the hype and perceived significance of these games, losing in them is only a single blade sword. When a team loses within in their respected division or league, it not only gives them the loss but also gives a win to a team in their direct competition; it creates a one game swing in the standings. In the six games of the Cross Town Classic, each game is only half as important. Neither a win nor loss carry much clout, each only represents a half game swing in the standings.
They would look for Mark Buerhle to bring them to victory in game three. He would do his best bring his team a win, including hitting his first career home run. He went six innings surrendered seven hits, four earned runs and struck out five. Unfortunately he would not stick around to get the win. Buerhle gave up a season high three home runs,but the Sox would go on to win 5-4 despite his less then stellar pitching performance.
As the Big Hurt pressed the flesh with Ozzie Guillen (and no, the flesh being pressed wasn't his hands and Ozzie's neck), fans in the stands couldn't be blamed if they wondered if Thomas were making a return trip to the South Side. After all, the Sox' bats have been in a state of slumber lately. And the post-game news about Paul Konerko's thumb might warrant musing on the possible return of the Big Hurt.
But, nope, Thomas wasn't there for that, though he hasn't officially retired yet and he and Sox GM Kenny Williams have reportedly been chipping away at that block of ice that was formed when Thomas made negative comments about the team while playing for the Oakland A's. (The White Sox website says the two talked Wednesday and described the meeting as "cordial".) Williams allegedly wants Thomas to retire (and, one assumes, enter the Hall of Fame) as a White Sox and making nice would seem to be part of that deal.
No, Thomas, instead, was roaming foul territory Wednesday with a mike in his hand as a member of the Comcast Sports Net reporting team, conducting pre-interviews for the upcoming White Sox-Cubs interleague series where he'll serve as an on-field reporter. And yes, the irony is pretty thick: the recalcitrant, media-shunning Thomas on the other side of the camera shoving microphones in the faces of ballplayers and asking the questions.
Finally, meet the man who motivated Michael Jordan to greatness (by beating him out for the last spot on their high school basketball team): Leroy Smith. (If he looks a little like Charlie Murphy, that's purely coincidental, we're sure.)
Despite dropping the afternoon game to the Tigers 5-4 and seeing just a small sample size of their manager Ozzie Guillen on the verge of a blowup the White Sox rebounded in the night cap. Their victory was fueled behind the arm of Jose Contreras who had made his return to big league action after being sent down to Triple-A Charlotte after starting off the year 0-5. He went 3-1 with a 2.73 ERA in five starts for Charlotte.
Contreras looks to have figured it out after a dismal start this season. He went eight innings and only surrendering one hit back in the first inning and that was all. His ERA drops from 8.19 to 6.45 after his impressive outing. His offense helped him out in a big way as Alexei Ramirez, Scott Podsednik and Jim Thome all hit home runs in Monday nights 6-1 win over the Tigers.
Then came the Cleveland Indians who hold the second worst record in the American League. Yet they some how managed to take two out of three from the Sox. Today Bartolo Colon was the culprit behind the 8-4 loss to the Tribe. He surrendered four home runs to Cleveland hitters. Alexei Ramirez tried to bring the Sox back with a three run-homer in the bottom of the fifth, but the damage had already been done.
So when Tony Dungy said signing Jay Cutler was risky for the Bears, did he stop to consider who the previous three or four Bears quarterbacks were?
Author Sarah Paretsky takes time off from documenting the exploits to private investigator V.I. Warshawski to discuss another dark subject: the Cubs. She compared Cubs fans to "tired women living with alcoholic men." Ouch.
Starter Clayton Richard would give it right back in the top of the second inning. After three solid starts Richard had one of his poorer performances since joining the rotation. He gave up seven hits, four walks and five earned runs in five and one third innings. Three home runs by the A's were the undoing of Richard.
Sox starter Clayton Richard pitched seven strong innings giving up six hits and striking out seven. He earned his second win since joining the Sox rotation on May 18. His streak of not allowing an earned came to an end after 16 2/3 innings as the Royals Billy Butler would tag him with a solo home run in the sixth. They are going to be with out their All-Star left fielder Carlos Quentin as he has been placed on the 15-day disabled list.The move has been made retroactive to May 26.
After taking the first game of this series in convincing fashion the White Sox rolled onto victory in game two. They weren't able to pull off that elusive sweep,however. They have now won their last three series in a row, however, they always seem drop the last game of said series. Last night the Sox ran into a buzz saw in Jered Weaver.
Gavin Floyd matched Weaver all night long. Weaver was just that much better,however. He allowed only one run in eight innings of work. Floyd would pitch eight innings and surrendered three runs and that was all the Angels needed to beat the Southsiders. They were 0-for-2 with runners in scoring position and left six men on base.
After suffering their worst loss in team history Thursday afternoon to the Twins the Sox righted the ship by beating the Pirates Friday night 2-0 and 4-0 tonight. They rode the bat of Alexei Ramirez to victory as he would hit is second home run in two nights.
Ramirez was batting number two after it proved successful in Fridays game. He was placed there by Joey Cora who is filling in for Ozzie Guillen, who is tending to his ailing father-in-law in Venezuela. He hit a home run in the two hole Friday night, so it would only make sense to keep him there. Perhaps Ramirez relaxed a little bit with his skipper out of town.
Despite winning their first series this month the White Sox fall back on bad times losing to the Twins 20-1. Bartolo Colon was god awful lasting only two innings but only surrendering one earned run. It was his defense that failed him. Wilson Betemit who was replacing Josh Fields, the newest member of Ozzie Guillen's doghouse, committed an error that opened the flood gates in the second.
A throwing error allowed the inning to continue which allowed the Twins to have a seven run inning. The game became out of reach at this point and it only got worse from there. The bullpen didn't do any better either. The Twins scored in all but three innings. Sox relievers gave up a six spot in the sixth and a four spot in the seventh.
Ozzie Guillen returned for series finale in Toronto Monday only to see his team get swept by the red hot Blue Jays. The Sox were down 2-0 early, but came back on a two-run homer by Jim Thome in the top of the eighth. The bullpen would give the lead right back in the bottom half of the inning.
Sox reliever Octavio Dotel surrendered an RBI triple the to the Jays Alex Rios They lose 3-2 and drop their fifth straight. Ozzie Guillen has yet to go off, but if they continue down this path a Guillen rant will be soon to follow.
Meanwhile, Chicago's other pro soccer team, the Red Stars have a budding star with the free-spirited midfielder Megan Rapinoe. Elsewhere, ESPN shows the Red Stars some by singing out goaltender Caroline Jonsson as one of the standouts in the Women's Professional Soccer League's inaugural season.
Vancouver is still trying to hold its collective heads up high after being bounced by the Blackhawks. But at least they don't welch on a bet.
If you had a brand-new boat (and really, in this economy, who doesn't?), the Chicago Park District has given you two new harbors.
Yahoo! Sports has the Bears finishing 11-5 this season. Hmmm...what changed?
As long as the Arena Football League is gathering mothballs, former Rush coach Mike Hohensee figures he's better earn a buck somewhere else.
Tired of movie dates, candlelit dinners and walks along the beach? Try antigravity yoga (among other alternative and physical date ideas).
New video game upstart retail outlet Play N Trade opens a new store in the Chicago area.
Seeking to assert their masculine superiority, the baseball-playing Schaumburg Flyers will take on the Chicago Bandits, the 2008 National Pro Fastpitch champions, in a fastpitch softball game. Why am I temped to bet the house on the Bandits?
And that was all she wrote. Buehrle pitched seven strong innings and struck out six despite surrendering a pair of home runs he fell victim to a lack offense. The Sox had no answer for Cy-young Award winner Cliff Lee as they were 2-for-4 with runners in scoring position and left seven men on base. They failed to score twice with the bases loaded.
Buehrle went eight innings,giving up one hit and striking out five. He may have jinxed himself after returning to the dugout in the middle of sixth by acknowledging that he had a no-no going. After surrendering that lead-off double in the seventh he got into trouble by walking two to load the bases but would retire the side as Tiger catcher Gerald Laird would fly out to center.
The White Sox have now lost four in a row dating back to their series with the Texas Rangers. They lost 8-7 to the Kansas City Royals in extra innings last night. This is the second series in a row they've lost. They were without Jermaine Dye and Josh Fields since the weekend, both have been nursing bumps and bruises they've suffered over the against Texas. They did make their return to the lineup last evening and provided a much needed lift, however, it becomes a moot point in a loss.
Suspect starting pitching has been their undoing in this four game skid. Since Saturday Sox starters haven't gone longer than six innings. As a result the bullpen has been overworked. Just last night five relievers were used and on top of that they went into extras. There are going to be some tired arms in that pen if this trend continues.
After taking 2 out of 3 from the Seattle Mariners the Chicago White Sox enjoy their off day in Arlington before they open up a three game series against the Texas Rangers.
In a move to spark production from their lead-off position the White Sox have sent down the struggling Jerry Owens and have recalled '05 World Series hero Scott Podsednik. The Sox currently sit at 11-10 and they are a half game behind the first place Kansas City Royals.
Mark Buehrle (3-0) will take the mound Friday night in Texas and will be opposed by Rangers right-hander Scott Feldman (1-0).
The White Sox got a small amount of pay back after taking three of four from the Tampa Bay Rays over the weekend. The South Siders took care of business after a couple close games on Thursday and Friday night. The weekend would be a different story, however, they would man handle the Rays to the tune of 8-3 on Saturday and 12-2 on Sunday.
Strong performances from Carlos Quentin and Gavin Floyd helped fuel the Sox's victory Sunday. Quentin has picked up where he left off from last season. He hit is league leading seventh home run. Floyd pitched seven strong innings with seven strike outs and improved to 2-0 on the year. They improve to 7-5 overall and they are in a three way tie for first with the Tigers and Royals.
The White Sox took their off day to visit their biggest fan, Barack Obama. Paul Konernko, Jermaine Dye and A.J. Pierzynski among others stopped by Pennsylvania Avenue to visit the first fan.
The White Sox are in town for a three game series to face the Baltimore Orioles. Jose Contreras (0-2) will take on the Brad Bergesen (0-0). Game time is 6:05pm CT.
In a rematch of the 2009 American League Division Series the White Sox took on the Tampa Bay Rays Thursday night. It was the first meeting between the two since the Rays bounced the Sox from the playoffs last October. John Danks, whose scheduled start was skipped due to a rain out in Detroit pitched six innings, surrendered two hits and struck out eight.
The Sox took the lead early in the game and they never looked back. Jermaine Dye hit a two run homer in the second and that was all they needed. They would score an insurance run in the top of the ninth. The Sox go on to win 3-2. Credit Bobby Jenks with his third save of the season.
The White Sox are now 5-4. Bartolo Colon will pitch tomorrow against James Shields. Game time is 6:38 p.m. CT.
The White Sox took on the Detroit Tigers in their first meeting of the season at Comerica Park this afternoon. It was a slug fest between the two as the Sox came out on top 10-6.
Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko hit back-to-back home runs in the second inning. They made history as each home run was the 300th of their respective careers. They became the first teammates ever to hit century milestone home runs of at least 300 in the same game. Carlos Quentin also hit a pair of homers (3,4) as well.
The White Sox bats came alive this weekend to take the series against their rivals the Twins and win their first series of the season. However the series didn't start off favorable for the Southsiders. Former fan favorite Joe Crede made his return to the South Side. Like Most athletes who leave and come back with another team they usually give management a reminder of what they let go. Crede did just that.
He would take the third pitch he saw from Jose Contreras into the Sox bullpen in left field. They would go on to lose 12-5. Saturday and Sunday were a completely different story. The Sox would roll to an 8-0 victory on Saturday.
The White Sox wrapped up their series against the Kansas City Royals yesterday. After an impressive opening day start the White Sox dropped the next two. Royals starting pitching stymied the Sox bats only allowing one earned run through out the series. The White Sox lost 2-1 yesterday afternoon after Sox closer Bobby Jenks surrendered a two-run homer to Coco Crisp in the top of the ninth.
John Danks pitched six strong innings only giving up three hits while striking out five, but it was not enough as Danks would earn a no decision. Lack of run support from the Sox offense negated a quality start by Danks.
The Chicago Force kick off their 2009 season this Saturday, April 11, in Iowa vs. the Crush, before returing to North Park University for their home opener April 18 against the Wisconsin Warriors. You can hear head coach John Konecki discuss the upcoming season this Friday on AM 1240 (11 a.m.) and on WJJG-AM 1530 at 4:15 p.m.
The Southsiders took on a familiar face in the form of Jon Garland on Saturday at Chase Field in Arizona. They would finished the Cactus League on a positive note beating the Arizona Diamondbacks 2-0. White Sox starters Jose Contreras and Bartolo Colon pitched a combined shutout. Contreras pitched the first four innings only giving up one hit. While Colon pitched the final five innings and earned a save for his efforts.
Carlos Quentin came back to the desert and bit the hand that once fed him. He hit a one out double in the third and would eventually score on an Alexi Ramirez single. The White Sox finished with a spring record of 16-20. While spring records are irrelevant the regular season begins Monday.
It might have been the least thrilling position battle in Chicago baseball: the fight for the starting centerfielder's job for the White Sox. While the job was expected to belong to minor league hopeful Jerry Owens, contenders Brian Anderson and Dewayne Wise hung around long enough to make it a three-horse race until the very end.
The White Sox took on the Cubs in their final meeting of the Cactus League and it was over before it even got started. White Sox starter Clayton Richard only lasted one-third of an inning giving up seven-runs as 11 Cub batters came to the plate in the first inning. The White Sox lose 9-4.
The White Sox did make it respectable,however, as Josh Fields hit a two-run double in the fourth. Carlos Quentin had a pair of singles and Brian Anderson hit a solo home run (4) in the seventh. They drop to 12-16-1 this spring. The Cubs took the spring series 3-2.
The White Sox and Cubs hooked up in Cactus League action today. This is the fourth of five meetings between these two this spring. The Cubs took the first game with a decisive 13-0 victory, the White Sox would take the next two games 7-6 and 4-3 respectively. Victory number four would belong to the Cubs 13-2.
The White Sox ace Mark Buehrle was on the hill for the Southsiders today while the Cubs had newly named fifth starter Sean Marshall going for them. Buehrle didn't have his best stuff today. He surrendered eight earned runs on seven hits, which included a pair of home runs. He would only last 3 2/3 innings before hitting the showers.
The White Sox were home run happy today against the San Diego Padres. Paul Konerko hit his third of the spring and went 3-for-4 with three RBIs. While Brian Anderson and Dewayne Wise hit their first home runs in the Cactus League this spring.The White Sox sent 11 batters to the plate in a six run fourth inning. They went onto destroy the Padres 15 - 4.
Gavin Floyd went four innings and gave up two hits,struck out four and surrendered two runs. With the win the White Sox climbed back to .500 this spring with a record of 8-8. They also made a few roster moves this week.
The South Siders will take on the Texas Rangers this Saturday at 3:05 p.m. CT at Camelback Ranch.
By now, even kids realize there really is no such thing as "loyalty" (in the classic sense) in baseball. Gone are the days when a guy played his whole career with one team (OK, most of the time he was bound by leg-shackling contracts that ended with the whole Curt Flood saga, but you get my drift). These days, there are so many players criss-crossing the country that the contrails from the jets are beginning to look like dollar signs.
You can't blame them, of course. If some dot.com mogul wants to shell out millions for a guy who somehow managed to have that one good season last year, hey, who can blame him for not pouncing on that like a hungry lion on a wounded gazelle.
Still, there's something weird about seeing this. Joe Crede on another team? And the Minnesota Twins at that, the closest thing the White Sox have to an arch rival? ANYBODY but them, Joe.
Lisle may have lost the Bandits, but they've gained the Red Eleven (who used to be the Gales and are not to be confused with the Red Stars, even though the two are connected. Got all that?).
The local mixed martial arts center expands its range. Now there's something for everyone...who likes to punch other people in the face.
A new book examines the "holy" (or unholy, depending on where you stand) trinity of men, sports and beer.
He might have flew a bit under the radar on the local sports scene, but they'll no doubt be a tip of the cap in the press boxes to the one-of-a-kind Larry Gross, who is mourned here in Chicago and in his native New Jersey.
First, there was Barack Obama in the White House. Now there's Pat Quinn in the State House. Politically speaking, White Sox Nation just keeps getting bigger.
Speaking of the Sox, as SoxFest kicks off this weekend, Ozzie Guillen says the team will try "small ball"... again. And will Joe Crede join former Sox teammate Juan Uribe in Frisco? His potential replacement, Josh Fields, is wasting no time just in case he does.
But don't forget to show some love to the city's other roller derby queens, The Outfit, as they host a benefit party tonight.
You'd think getting punched in the face and crotch, sometimes at the same time, would be high on the pain scale for a UFC star. But for one Hammond, Ind., there's something more painful: being a Cubs fan.
You own the coins, the plates and even the lava lamp. Now let Barack Obama sit on your head. Well, not actually. But the White Sox are making it sort of easy with plans to unveil a new Obama commemorative cap, to salute their No. 1 and clearly most powerful fan. The team has created two designs and both have been approved by Major League Baseball. Now they only have to get The O Man himself to give it his thumbs up. No word on when the "golden" Blagojevich Cubs hat will be unveiled.
Much has been made of the role sports has played in Four-Days-From-Being-President Barack Obama's life, most notably the sport of basketball. From his days as a prep player in Hawaii, to his love of pick-up games around the country, to his penchant for picking cabinet members with a hoops background, Obama is becoming synonymous with basketball.
But in his New York Times column, writer George Vecsey makes a case for baseball as a defining factor in Obama's ascention to the White House. No, not Obama as baseball player or even avid fan, but Obama as benefitting from the social gains established by baseball before becoming a regular part of the larger society.
No surprise that Vecsey points to the Brooklyn Dodgers as the team that deserves the most credit in the sport for helping to pave the way for Obama. Yeah, it smacks of typical New York City bias, but he makes a good case for the Dodger influence on history, citing Roy Campanella, Don Newcomb and, of course, Jackie Robinson as part of the reason why the Obamas were able to make the journey from Chicago to Washington, D.C.
Basketball may be his game, but for Barack Obama, baseball's influence on his life may go far beyond his well-worn White Sox cap.
The Sporting News' reaction to the Wrigley Field hockey spectacular: meh.
Meanwhile, the Hawks' Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are first and sixth, respectively, among forwards in NHL All-Star Western Conference balloting. Brian "Soup" Campbell is third in balloting for defensemen.
So let's see, there's a White Sox fan in City Hall, another in the White House and now... one in the governor's mansion?
If "Radioactive" Rod Blagojevich does, indeed, step down as Illinois governor (and if he doesn't, he's got bigger ones that we've ever imagined), his replacement will be current Lt. Governor Pat Quinn, an unabashed White Sox fan, which would give Sox Nation a trifecta of sorts as far as positions of power. Quinn would join Mayor Daley and President-elect Barack Obama as political Sox backers and create a logjam at the throwing-out-the-first-pitch-at-the-opening-game position.
As proof of his Sox devotion, here's an article about Quinn's resolution to honor slugger Jim Thome following the team's 2005 World Series victory, while the photo above shows Quinn at the Japanese Consulate where Consul General Kenji Shinoda and Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf helped honor former Sox second baseman Tadahito Iguchi in 2006.
And the Cubs post-season post-mortem examination continues, with Lou Pinella blaming that old standby, the media, while Ryan Dempster says the team flatout wasn't ready. Hey guys, sorry, no do-overs.
Meanwhile, the White Sox, who seems to have come to grips with their playoff loss, work on keeping Bobby Jenks around. But did Nick Swisher phone it in for much of the season?
Four area college soccer teams have made it to the NCAA tournament.
It was bound to happen after that embarrassing loss to the Packers: The "Fire Lovie" talks are heating up. Here is one blogs' 10 reasons why he deserves the ax. Meanwhile, Fanhouse questions Lovie's assessment that the Bears receivers are "pretty good".
The Bulls' Derrick Rose sits atop most Sports Illustrated NBA writers' list of early top rookies. Naturally.
It's not the major draw it used to be, but prep football is still a big deal in Chicago. The Catholic League is gearing up for its title game, pitting Loyola Academy against De La Salle.
A disabled cyclist bikes 1,064 miles from Jacksonville, Fla. to Chicago. His final destination? Where else: Oprah.
The Chicagoland Bicycle Federation gets a new name.
The Chicago Outfit wants YOU... well, that is, if you're a female and don't mind getting knocked around a little. There's a recruitment Q&A tonight at 9:30
The Minnesota Vikings' Bernard Berrianexpects boos when he returns to this old stomping grounds at Soldier Field this Sunday. C'mon Bears fans, don't let him down.
If his contract doesn't discourage the White Sox from resigning him, Ken Griffey Jr.'s recent knee surgery might.
Evanston remembers one of his favorite sons, former MLB pitcher Kevin Foster.
Speaking of favorite sons, new Wolves head coach Don Granato is happy to be back home as he prepared for the team's home opener Saturday night.
Remember the Cubs' "fan" who tried to auction off his loyalty on eBay? He may have found a buyer and a kindred spirit in the Boston Red Sox.
In the battle of sports radio on Chicago (well, it's actually just a two-horse race), WSCR-AM has taken the lead.
De La Salle's Mike Shaw is being touted by ESPN as the "next big thing" in Chicago high school basketball.
Even if you're not entered in this weekend Urbanathlon, you can still go down and enjoy the party.
The Windy City Rollers are holding tryouts. If you think you have what it takes (and can come up with a clever alias like "Val Capone" or "Lucy Furr"), come to a scrimmage preview on Monday. Incidentially, the WCR All-Stars made it to the national finals in Portland, Oregon.
It doesn't help that the economy is currently in or headed directly for the proverbial crapper, but the price of tickets to sporting events show no sign of coming down to meet the slightly thinner pockets of the buying public, according to an article on "Medill Reports".
Currently, the average ticket to a Cubs' game rose to $42.49 in 2008, according to the report, a 42 percent increase from 2004. And that two-parents-two-kids-at-the-game measuring stick they're always using in the yearly reports on how much a day at the ballgame will cost (officially known as the Fan Cost Index)? This season it was $251.96 for a Cubs game. And it doesn't appear likely to come down even with the "occurances" of this past season.
The Bears were the most expensive ticket in town at an average price of $88.33. The White Sox were a better baseball bargain with an average ticket price of $30.28 and an FCI of $214.61. The Blackhawks were the city's best professional sports value at $34.88, although that could change next year if the team makes the progress everyone expects.
In a weekend of extreme highs (the Bears, doing what they were supposed to do and crushing the Detroit Lions) and extreme lows (Say, did you hear what happened to the Cubs?), the accomplishments of the White Sox fall somewhere in the middle.
Yes, they managed to stay alive in their best-of-five ALDS series against the Tampa Bay Rays and need to pull another three-game winning streak out of their... hat to keep progressing in the playoffs. But they also remain one game away from forcing Juan Uribe to let his beard go back to his natural color.
Game Four kicks off today at 4:07 p.m. at The Cell with Tampa's Andy Sonnanstine (13-9, 4.38 ERA) going against the White Sox' Gavin Floyd (17-8, 3.84), who is pitching the latest "game of his life". His first was the 8-2 victory over Detroit in the make-up game that sent the Sox into the tiebreaker against the Minnesota Twins. Not bad for a guy who was considered a question mark coming into the season.
Win today and the Sox head back to Tampa Bay for the series finale on Wednesday. Lose, and well, Cubs fans won't be the only ones moaning into their beers.
If you're sick of looking at the Minnesota Twins, no one can really blame you, especially the White Sox. The three-game debacle in the Metrodome last week is still a fresh memory, so seeing them one more time is like running into that guy you knew in high school who you didn't like anyway... again.
But this time you have to acknowledge him because this time he's standing between you and a date with the Prom Queen (or King). At 6:30 this evening, the American League Central will FINALLY decide on a champion when the Sox and Twins face off to see which one gets to go to the dance, er, the first round of the playoffs.
Yeah, sure, it shouldn't have even come down to this, the 163rd game of the season, and probaby wouldn't have had the Sox won one of those three games in Minnesota. So thank that skinny kid from Cuba for coming through with arguably the biggest hit of the season and keeping the team alive.
The White Sox will go with John Danks, who's 1-1 against Minnesota this season (in four starts) with a whopping 7.91 ERA. Not the most confidence-inducing stat line you've probably ever read. The Twins counter with Nick Blackburn (2-2 against the Sox with a 5.67 ERA) who beat the Sox 3-2 on September 24 for his 11th win of the season. BUT, Blackburn is 3-6 outdoors and has a 6.75 ERA in the month of September. Hey, you crunch your numbers when you can...
The Sox are asking all fans attending the game to wear all black in a show of solidarity, creating possibly the first all-goth fanbase for a major league baseball team. Hopefully, it won't turn into a funeral for the 2008 season.
They couldn't do this the easy way, could they? Pretty much handed the AL Central title by the Minnesota Twins who uncharacteristically lost two games at home to the lowly Kansas City Royals, the White Sox only had to win ONE game to move ahead in the division race. It was a chance they promptly muffed by losing two games in their own final three-game series to the Cleveland Indians.
So now they stand at the intersection of Postseason and Long Winter needing two wins to extend their season, today's make-up game against the Detroit Tigers and a possible tie-breaking game against the Twins at U.S. Cellular on Tuesday.
Whether we see the slick-fielding, timely-hitting White Sox we saw yesterday in a 5-1 win over the Indians (four double plays, a Paul Konerko homer and two RBI by Jermaine Dye) or the tensed-up White Sox we saw in their sweep in Minneapolis last week is anyone guess. But they have two games to determine who they really are.
So now, Sox fans, we must dwell in the Land of Hope and Luck. Hope Minnesota stumbles against the Kansas City Royals at the Metrodome in the final three games of the regular season (not bloody likely). Pray the Sox get lucky and sweep the Cleveland Indians in their three-game finale at U.S. Cellular ("luck" being a more viable commodity for the Sox than skill, as the past three games in Minneapolis proved).
In hindsight, the prospect of winning at least one game against the Twins seemed like reasonable expectation. After all, the Sox had a 1-5 record in the Dome coming into the series, meaning they at least had the capacity to win there, if not the tenacity.
Did I mention I hate the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome? Hate it, hate it, hate it. Hate its bloated name, its Michelin-Man-Taking-A-Nap appearance. Hate its garbage bag outfield wall, its plastic grass and plastic fans. Hate its non-descript, sterile, but oppressive interior. Hated their players, all of whom seemd to be 5-10, 180-pound slap-hitters. I hated that ballpark. Hate it, hate it, hate it.
When you looked at the White Sox schedule in April, didn't you know it would come down to this?
It's probably no stretch of the imagination to say that 90 percent of Sox fans were anticipating these three days in September as a showdown of sorts, a confrontation that would have season implications for the White Sox or the Twins. Or both.
It didn't matter than the Sox were supposed to be road kill this season, or that the Tigers were supposed to have clinched the AL Central a month or so ago. You knew.
This is the stuff that feeds conspiracy theories, that conjures up thoughts of rigged games and phantom calls. I mean, c'mon: slating a White Sox-Twins series so late in the season and - gasp - you mean it actually matters? Scheduling a showdown between two of the most heated rivals in the division with little more than a week to go? Who would have (ahem) thought that?
Of course it's not rigged (it isn't, right?) but you have to admit it's a perfect scenario. In the last few weeks they've both been playing hot potato with first place, with the Sox managing to hold on the longest. Even now, as Game 1 gets set to kick off, the White Sox' 2 ½ game lead is just enough to make every game a matter of (baseball) life and death.
So with that stage set, as Ozzie Guillen commands starter Javier Vasquez to "kick some butt", as we wonder why Ken Griffey Jr. is starting in centerfield instead of Dewayne Wise, as we ponder what this series would be like with Carlos Quentin in the lineup, just remember, as random as the baseball gods are, you knew it would come down to this.
As previously mentioned in Merge, bars in Wrigleyville and US Cellularburg (US Cellstonia?) are being asked to voluntarily stop serving alcohol after the 7th inning of home playoff games wherein the Cubs or Sox could clinch a series. This is some hilarious quasi-fast pitch (pun intended) being called by Hizzoner and what should bars really do? Games get out at what? 11pm, CST? So, yeah, stop serving three hours early for the sake of what, families? children? Excuse me, but last time I checked, former frat boys, duuuuuuudes, and vapid women lived in Wrigleyville. Meanwhile, on the Southside, I'm pretty sure they have vastly more important things to worry about than curbing the amount of consumption and need to be vastly more aware of the clientele and actually exacting some sort of responsibility on the employees and customers of said speakeasy.
Back to the lecture at hand, what Daley is proposing is ludicrous and would amount to a much less safe and far less controlled environment wherein people would be, indeed, "gettin' their drank on!" The only comparable notion I can I think of is the current straits that many universities find themselves flummoxed by when confronted with the problem with under-agers drinking far too much in uncontrolled circumstances at off-campus house parties.
However, instead of realizing that people like to get drunk, down, fete, dirty, krunked, what-have-you, Daley, is of the belief that people are having too much in bars -- which, in many cases, I am sure they are. Yet, attempting to curb drinking through a 7th inning cut-off would merely exacerbate the drunken throngs by tempting them to raid their own pre-purchased stockades of liquor and beer that they (the drunken crowds) already are fantasizing about while drinking until the end of the games, bar time, whatever. Within the realms of a bar at least there exists the implied notion of control, versus the unchecked beer-swilling of a person in their own (or a friend's) home.
Yes, he led the White Sox to a World Series and may return them to the playoffs this season. But when it comes to national recognition, it seems manager Ozzie Guillen is better known for other, ahem, talents, as this skit from Mad TV this past Saturday demonstrates.
It was an ironic move that wasn't lost on White Sox fans.
When ESPN made the necessary switch from the White Sox/Detroit Tigers waterlogged game Sunday (Game 2 of a doubleheader) to the dramatic conclusion of the Cubs/Houston Astros neutral-site game in Milwaukee, it was a microcosm of the 2008 baseball season in Chicago.
There were the White Sox, sloshing and slogging their way through a hastily arranged doubleheader on a dreary, grey, overcast slit-your-wrists kind of evening. Still, despite that depressing scenario and in front of a crowd only slightly larger than most high school graduating classes, the Sox had managed to stake a 7-0 lead, giving a national audience at least a glimpse of the kind of run-scoring ability they possess (Good thing they weren't around for their catnap against the Toronto Blue Jays earlier in the week). And when the lead was cut slightly to 7-2, there was some concern but nothing to cause one to throw their giant White Sox foam finger at the television in anger.
No, we didn't expect the Bears to beat the Colts last Sunday night either. But if they're going to build on that, there are three things they must do to beat the Carolina Panthers this Sunday.
Even if they don't win the game, the Bears are still scoring touchdowns at the bank.
Arguing over who gets the last drumstick is one thing. But a Cubs-White Sox World Series could drive one family nuts.
REALLY old school White Sox fans will mourn the death of former manager Don Gutteridge.
Current White Sox star Carlos Quentin hopes to be healthy by the playoffs. Question is: will he be playing or watching?
Patrick Kane and Jonathan Towes, the Blackhawks' Teen Titans (OK, they're not really teens but it's not far off) get some more (inter)national publicity.
From Kansas City to Chicago on a bike: Are gas prices THAT high?
The marathon gold-medalist from this year's Olympics, Constantina Tomescu-Dita of Romania has joined the field (pdf) of runners for the 2008 Chicago marathon. Hopefully, we'll have better weather this year.
The Sky take on the New York Liberty in their next-to-last game of their WNBA regular season.
Chicago teams finished third, fourth and fifth in the 2008 North American Gay Amateur Athletic Association Gay Softball World Series.
You're in Lisle. You're riding your bike. You have a hankering to see a play. What are you going to do?
Amidst the heart-pounding stories of untimely injuries (like that of Carlos Quintin), panic-inducing losing streaks (five and counting for the Cubs?) and too-close-for-comfort pennant races, there is a bigger question that looms for Chicago baseball fans: whom to vote for.
No, we're not talking about next year's All-Star game. That's a little too "wait'll next year" even for baseball fans. We're talking about THE election, the big one, the biggest "sporting event" in the country. The race for president.
Surprised that hardcore baseball fans in Chicago, who are engaged in nail-biting division races on both sides of town, would have time to contemplate things like budget deficits and tax gains? Well, if a presidential candidate can find time to discuss baseball, then it's only fair that a die-hard White Sox fan places the race for the White House in baseball terms.
It may not make it to the side of a milk carton, but the Chicago Fire fan club Section 8 is missing their banner.
Some people might have an opinion about who they are, but a new book of photos entitled "We Are Cubs Fans" seeks to define the loyalists visually. The obligatory Ronnie Woo Woo photo is included.
Speaking of the Cubs, Sports Illustrated joins the rest of the country in being amazed that they AND the White Sox are both in first place and may make the playoffs in the same season for the first time since 1906.
And speaking of the Sox, Fox Sports calls the acquisition of Carlos Quinten the steal of the century. OK, they call it the steal of the season. It just LOOKS like the steal of the century.
Tickets for the National Pro Fastpitch softball championships go on sale this Saturday at Judson Sports Complex in Elgin, home of the Chicago Bandits. The Bandits are one of the four teams who will be participating.
Now that the Blackhawks are enjoying a resurgence in popularity, new fans might want to read about one of the team's legends featured in a story from the Sports Illustrated vaults.
It's another weekend of crucial baseball in Chicago (but then aren't they all these days?), and it's one that might cause at least a little worry for the teams' respective fans.
The Cubs' cushy six-game lead over St. Louis (and their five-game lead over Milwaukee) could take a hit if they do the seemingly impossible and tank their three-game series against the Cardinals at Wrigley Field. (Update: The Cubs defeated the Cardinals 3-2 in 11 innings Friday) We say "seemingly impossible" because the Cubs are a ridiculous 43-16 at home and the Cardinals are a very human 31-25 on the road. No need to do the math because it's right there. It's the Cardinals' first visit to Wrigley this season. The Brewers, meanwhile, will be taking on the Washington Nationals, who are currently stinking up the joint in the National League East
The White Sox, meanwhile, are teasing their fans more than Gypsy Rose Lee with their tenuous hold on first place (now they're in, now they're out) and a four-game series with Boston isn't helping matters any. Their half-game AL Central lead over Minnesota could crumble like a churro if the Red Sox repeat last season's dominance over the White Sox, when they outscored the South Siders 46-7 in a four-game series. Yeah, there's no Manny Ramirez to face this year, so that might figure in the White Sox favor. It's one of the few breaks they'll receive this weekend, thanks to Minnesota having to contend with lowly Kansas City.
The question is, of course, where he'd fit in the lineup. Mark Gonzales predicts he'll play center -- which he hasn't done for the Reds in a couple years -- to leave Germaine Dye in right. Jim Thome would stay DH, and Nick Swisher and Paul Konerko would share first base, with Swisher occasionally pulling OF duty.
As Chicago's two baseball teams continue their improbable dual climb to the top of the baseball food chain, they both meet the two biggest challenges to their dreams in the next four days.
The Cubs and White Sox, atop the NL Central and AL Central respectively, confront the two biggest threats to their first-place status when the Cubs facing the surging Milwaukee Brewers in Bratsville while the Sox travel to Minnesota to face the pesky Twins in the Hump Dome. Both series are four games each with the Cubs and Brewers kicking it off tonight at 7:05 p.m., while the Sox and Twins kick off their series five minutes later.
The White Sox hold a 2 1/2 game lead over the Twins while the Cubs have a narrow one game lead over the Brew Crew. A stumble by one or both teams in these very important series could push them into second place where there's a good chance they could stay there for the remainder of the series. Even if you loath the team on the other side of town, the chance to see them sink in the standings makes both games must-see TV.
Start exercising your remote control fingers. There stands to be a lot of channel surfing in the next few days.
Cook County Commissioner Mike Quinn got a lot of Detroit Red Wings fans ticked off when he managed to skewer the team in his resolution celebrating the outdoor game against the Blackhawks at Wrigley Field...
...But here’s guessing he’ll have an easier time getting tickets to the game than you do.
A half-game lead (as of Thursday afternoon)? Are the Cubs done for? One writer seems to think so (though he admits he’s a Sox fan but insists that has nothing to do with it… right.)...
...But never fear Cubs fans, there are enough pro-Cubby blogs to ease the pain. In fact, there’s a whole army.
If he didn't occasionaly move, you'd probably forget he was in the lockerroom. To say Harold Baines was quiet and soft-spoken is like saying Cecil Fielder was a little overweight. Clubhouse interviews with Baines might have consisted of 30 words, tops. Reporters and sportscasters were forced to avoid questions that could result in one-word answers at all costs, because that's what Baines would give you.
But Harold didn't really have to say anything. Like most baseball players worth their salt, he let his bat do the talking. His final career numbers: 2,866 hits, 384 homers, a .289 batting average, 1,628 RBIs (981 with the White Sox, the rest with the Baltimore Orioles), 384 homers (221 with the Sox), a six-time All-Star
From 1980-1989, Baines patrolled the outfield (mainly right) and was seranade with a soon-to-be signature call of "Har-old, Har-old", a few years before a guy with a similar first name and the last name of Washington made it big in this town. And you have to marvel a bit at the fact that Baines share a locker room for much of that time with the 190-degree personality of Ozzie Guillen.
On Sunday, the White Sox will unveil a statue honoring Baines in the center field concourse, taking its place alongside similar statues of Charles Comiskey, Minnie Minoso, Luis Aparicio, Nellie Fox, Carlton Fisk and Billy Pierce.
At least we think it will be a statue of Baines. Harold, help us out; say a few words.
Not to dismiss the first half of the 2008 baseball season, but for me, my battle cry has always been, “Talk to me AFTER the All-Star break.”
Countless frantic fans on both sides of town, giddy with early-season promise have, through the years, approached me with manic glee in their eyes, fully convinced that this was The Year due to the fact that either the Cubs or White Sox are in first place at the break, a sign that supersedes anything a billy goat or Shoeless Joe could conjure up.
I’ve seen it so many times I’ve lost count. Take this season, for instance, which finds the White Sox AND the Cubs in first place in their respective divisions. Or rather take 1977, the year to which this year has most often been compared. For it was 1977 which marked the last time both teams were in first place at the same time.
Here's a fun way to go to the game: On July 19, Reggies, the rock club/music complex at 2105 S. State, is throwing a Sox Tailgate Party. For $50, you get hotwings in the club, Hamms, hot dogs and whiffle ball in the parking lot, and then a ride to the game and a seat in the bleachers; it's just $20 if you've already got your ticket. If that wasn't enough, it just happens to be Mullet Night at the game, with fireworks afterward. Call 312-949-0125 for more info or to reserve your spot.
Steve Stone joining Hawk Harrelson in the White Sox TV booth? According to the Tribune, it could happen, though the dominos have to fall in just the right way.
ESPN’s Scoop Jackson says the Bulls’ drafting of former Simeon High School star Derrick Rose evokes the memory another Simeon hoopster tabbed for greatness, Ben Wilson, whose murder 24 years ago stunned the city.
Deposed WSCR morning man Mike North says he has four deals on the table. No word on whether any of them involve dishing out extra relish.
A new online marketplace offers fans the chance to put in a bid for playoff and World Series tickets for the Cubs (provided they make it) from season ticket owners looking to dump them. Presumably the website will offer the same deal for (ahem) the White Sox.
The Chicago Rush take on the Grand Rapids Rampage (don’t you love those Arena Footbal League names?) in an AFL Divisional Round playoff game this Sunday, 2 p.m., at Allstate Arena. In other Rush news, wide receiver Donovan Morgan was named AFL Rookie of the Year
The Sky’s Sylvia Fowles is getting a bit antsy since being sidelined with a knee injury, as she reports on her WNBA blog.
White Sox catcher A.J. Piersynzki needs your help in selecting his at-bat music. Though the website lists suggestions (“Panama” by Van Halen?) , I’m sure there are more appropriate songs...right?
Also, the White Sox host the first Double Duty Classic, featuring the top high school baseball players from across the Midwest, on Monday, July 7, 2:30 p.m. The game will honor the legacy of the Negro Leagues and is named for legend Ted “Double Duty” Radcliffe.
If you're a fan of Chicago baseball, you might take special pride in seeing your Boys of Summer represented in the Midseason Classic, set for July 15 at Yankee Stadium in New York City. If so, get cracking: All-Star voting ends tonight at midnight.
As it stands, one Chicago team should be well represented in the game while the other will be woefully absent, despite having both teams in first place in their divisions. As of Wednesday, the Cubs have a strong possibility of having three starters in the game. Geovany Soto leads all catchers in voting, while Alfonso Soriano and Kosuke Fukudome (yes, Fukudome, he of the .292 batting average and six HRs) are Nos. 1 and 3 in balloting for the starting outfield. Derek Lee is third among first basemen, Mark DeRosa is second among second basemen in votes and Ryan Theriot is third among shortstops.
So the first half of the Great Chicago Baseball Orgy is over and the Cubs have emerged not only with early bragging rights but a firmer grip on National League Central, thanks to their three-game sweep of the White Sox. The Sox, meanwhile, saw their lead in the AL Central get cut to 1 1/2 games over the always-bothersome Minnesota Twins.
So what have we learned from this, other than Ozzie Guillen and a few other guys on the White Sox should probably zip it until after the series is over? Well, we learned that:
The Cubs will never lose another game in Wrigley Field.
The Cubs can get by just fine without Alfonso Soriano and Carlos Zambrano, but the White Sox are pretty lost without a healthy Paul Konerko and an effective Jim Thome.
There are two Jose Contreras: Good Jose and Bad Jose. Bad Jose was in the ballpark on Saturday.
Carlos Marmol is not the best closer-who's-not-a-closer as some would have you believe.
He may be the better rapper, but Guillen might not be the better manager in town.
Big rats and the smell of urine are far less scarier than Aramis Ramirez' bat.
Sox fans get a chance to exact some revenge against their pain-in-the-neck Cub fan cousins next weekend when the White Sox host the Cubs at U.S. Cellular (which USA Today says will take place on the "less pristine South Side"). Nothing less than a sweep will do for the White Sox in the three-game series and while the team does have a few home series sweeps under their belt this year, the Cubs' current play is on another planet. You've been forewarned, Sox fans: it might be another long weekend.
I suppose it makes sense that the actual participants in the annual local baseball orgy known (among other names) as the Crosstown Classic are a little blasé about the whole thing. Listen to sports talk radio or read the papers and you get the idea that baseball Armageddon is on the horizon and nothing less than the fate of the free world hangs in the balance.
But read the quotes from the likes of players like Paul Konerko, Derek Lee, Joe Crede or even Kerry Wood and you get the idea that they’re as excited by the contests as someone having a hangnail removed.
Their opinions usually run along the lines of “: “It’s just another game.” “It means more to the fans than us.” “It’ll be a lot of fun, but…” The Cubs’ Mark De Rosa said as much last week when in an interview he stated, “(I)t has to be viewed as [just] another series. I know it's not. I know it will be hyped up, and rightfully so. It's fun, it's a hot topic to talk about, and they're playing well and we're playing well. But I think it ends there. Six games hopefully won't affect the outcome of either team's division standing.”
A Major League Baseball story on the Cubs' days as a WEST Side ballclub includes some interesting bits of information, including the time in 1908 when a woman gave birth in the bleachers. Contrast that with today when...nah, too easy.
Belmont Harbor will be the launching site of a major international boating event when 84 boats from around the world compete in the 2008 Etchells World Championships. The weeklong event kicks off this Friday.
Another bout has been added to the boxing card at the Aragon Ballroom this Friday, which we told you about yesterday.
After a surprising and promising 2008 season for the Blackhawks, this weekend's NHL draft will be as important for the Hawks as the NBA draft will be for the Bulls. A hockey prospects resource site gives the lowdown.
He may not be in the Hall of Fame, but South Carolina residents are not forgetting their native son, White Sox legend Shoeless Joe Jackson and are building a museum in his honor. The organizers are hoping that the tribute helps the HOF committee forget about Jackson's role (or non-role) in the whole Black Sox scandal.
Turn on Comcast Sports Net now. It's the bottom of the 7th, and the Sox just went up by two over the Twinkies. Down by three runs, Paul Konerko just hit a two-run homer to right-center. Hoping to sweep the series, the Sox have coupled their consistently strong pitching with their suddenly-hot bats to dominate the Twins over the first three games of this series.
Going for the four-game sweep, Jon Danks was less-than-stellar, but Nick Swisher has kept it close with homers from both sides of the plate. He's finally heating up after struggling all season.
This could be the series in which the Sox step up and truly establish themselves as the team to beat in the Central. As for the Sox-Cubs debate currently raging both on ESPN and in bars around Chicagoland, we have only a few weeks until we can settle that one...
Neither one was supposed to be anywhere near the top of the division, but here we are looking at a White Sox-Minnesota Twins showdown series that actually is a SHOWDOWN.
Only two-and-a-half games separate the first-place White Sox and the second-place Twins in the AL Central and that could all change during their four-game series which kicks off tonight at U.S. Cellular at 7:11 p.m.
As unpredictable as the mouth of Ozzie Guillen is, for some strange reason he’s always been pretty conciliatory to the Twins, praising their attitude and labeling them “piranhas” for the relentless way they approach games. At times you feel like telling him and Twins manager Ron Gardenhire to get a room.
Even though we have two long-standing, nationally-recognized newspapers in Chicago (a rarity these days),the presence of a good ol’ fashioned newspaper war is virtually non existent. Despite the competitive nature of the local mainstream press, there hasn’t really been the makings of a good newspaper war in this town since… I dunno, the local papers battled for the best Al Capone headline?
Oh, there have been skirmishes, such as in 1984 when Rupert Murdoch bought the Sun-Times, causing legendary columnist Mike Royko to flee to the Tribune and lob verbal hand grenades on an almost-daily basis. And every now and then the Sun-Times tries to tweak the Trib on new owner Sam Zell’s threats to change the name of Wrigley Field, but the Tribune response is basically to ignore the taunts. Heck, the Trib even scored points by having one of their own win the Sun-Times’ anti-Sam Zell song contest.
But other than the recent Red Eye vs. (now defunct) Red Streak battle, it’s been pretty quiet. I mean, the battle for control of the self-absorbed hipster market isn’t that compelling.
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?
With the Cubs’ Kosuke Fukudome the latest Japanese baseball star to try to show his stuff in the West, the status of Japan’s own professional league is in shaky condition, according to a Bloomberg report. No less than former MLB manager Bobby Valentine says, “MLB is trying to kill the sport.”
The Sporting News reports on the “surprising” White Sox (surprising to them, right?) and says one of the main reasons for the unexpected surge is – who else? – Carlos Quentin.
The website Black Athlete Sports Network shows another side of Cap Anson, the legendary baseball figure who was captain-manager of the Chicago White Stockings (who later became the Cubs). Generally regarded as less-than-enlightened when it came to race, Anson was reportedly one of the first major leaguers to compete against an all-black team that was led by future Negro League founder Rube Foster.
It's always kind of annoying when ESPN treats its opinions as news. They do it a lot. But still, it's cool when Chicago gets a shout-out on the front page of the MLB section of ESPN.com, even if they're only teasing to this week's MLB Power Rankings. The network's baseball gurus seem to think that Chicago baseball is the real deal this summer: the Cubs have risen all the way to the No. 1 position, with the Sox lurking not far behind at No. 4. Aaargh, ESPN, why must I indulge your shameless list-making?
So are these the REAL White Sox, the ones who have won eight in a row? The ones who have now swept Cleveland, swept San Francisco and went 7-for-10 on their recent mini-West Coast road trip? The ones who have done all that with a combination of solid pitching, patience at the place and (of course) the long ball? The ones who have discovered the art of actually breaking up a potential double play?
Or are they the ones we saw earlier this month, the ones who dropped a two-game mini-series against the Minnesota Twins and then four straight to the Toronto Blue Jays?
You’d like to think that the squad we saw Thursday night in their 3-1 victory over the Indians is the real deal, the physical manifestation of what General Manager Kenny Williams had in mind when he signed a questionable Octavio Dotel, who appeared in all of nine games last season; gambled that Jose Contreras would bounce back from a crap-tacular 2007, dealt staff co-ace Jon Garland to Anaheim for (huh?) a shortstop when they team already had, like, a gazillion of them; and took a chance that some kid named Carols Quentin might be able to last in the starting lineup.
The Cubs AND White Sox both in first place? OK, that's GOTTA be one of the Modern Signs of the Apocalypse, right after Howard Cosell rising from the grave. But that's where we find ourselves this morning after the Cubs wrapped up an 8-2 homestand with a win over the Pittsburgh Pirates and the White Sox completed a sweep of the San Francisco Giants with a 13-8 victory for their fifth straight win.
Their frenzied weekends left the Sox 1 1/2 games up in the AL Central while the Cubs hold a two-game lead over St. Louis.
Enjoy it while it lasts, Chicago. Bartender, bragging rights for everyone...
We're a quarter of the way through yet another MLB season. At 40 games, the real character of a team begins to take shape. As a fan, you start to learn which hitters will deliver in late-inning situations, which subs might spark the team on any given Tuesday, which relievers you can count on to get the big outs in close games.
Last night's one-run win over the Malibu Angels of Orange County did, in fact, reveal a lot about who the White Sox are--and who they might be--in 2008.
I bet Jerry Reinsdorf, Ken Williams, and the rest of the White Sox gang are sure glad to be getting national media coverage again. It's been the busiest press week for the team since Tom Gamboa last visited the South Side (ok, all scandal-mongering aside, there was that little World Series championship a few years back).
Ozzie has clearly been boning up on some postmodern media criticism. Last week's profanity-laden tirade (his first in several years) was his most "meta" yet! Not only did Ozzie call out the usual suspects--angry fans, fickle media, etc. He also talked about profanity-laden tirades mid-profanity-laden tirade, musing on Lee Elia's place in Chicago sports lore and threatening to capitalize on his penchant for ill-chosen words. Either Ozzie is a media-savvy opportunist, or he's just really, really crazy.
After losing four in a row to the Toronto Blue Jays and six in a row overall, the White Sox would seem to need any motivation they can get to get back on the winning side. A pithy fight song. A recording of Knute Rockne’s greatest speeches. A visit by Dr. Wayne Dyer.
They chose blow-up dolls.
To be fair, it’s not certain that the entire team agreed on positioning inflatable sex toys in the visitor’s locker room at the Rogers Center in Toronto as the way to break out of their slump. Perhaps it was a lone coach or a second-level team exec. Either way, the story of the plastic air-filled “marital aids” with bats inserted in specific artificial orifices hit the papers and thus Inflategate was born.
Considering everything else that has gone wrong with the team in recent weeks, you’d think this would be just an unusual blip on the 2008 radar. Not if Carol Slezak has anything to do with it.
After a rain-soaked weekend series with Baltimore, Sox fans hoped that a swing through several of the Majors' last remaining dome stadiums would liven up their recently-sluggish offense.
Now, after dropping two games to the one-time arch-rival Minnesota Twins (including this afternoon's disappointing 4-3 clunker), the White Sox head to Toronto scratching their heads. Although the FieldTurf and giant blue tarps of the H.H.H. Metrodome made for some undeniably cozy confines, taking the game indoors did little to wake up the club's moribund offense.
Don't Think So, Sox Fans
The White Sox have a weak team batting average of .241, and timely home runs are still no substitute for doing it the old-fashioned way: stringing together some clutch hits and moving runners around the bases. Ozzie's played with the lineup in recent games, and the pending arrival of Cuban rookie Alexei Ramirez could provide a spark. But all will not be well until the big guns--Thome, Konerko, Dye--step up and match the early-season achievements of Pierzynski, Crede, and Carlos Quentin.
A supposedly freak-nasty AL Central has started slowly, allowing the White Sox to jump out to an early division lead. If the offense remains all moist and mildew-y, however, it certainly won't last.
When Frank Thomas was unceremoniously dumped by the Toronto Blue Jays this past Saturday, it was a roster move that created ripples all the way back to Chicago. Despite the fact that it's been almost three seasons since he last wore the silver and black of the White Sox, Thomas carved out a niche in the hearts of Sox fans. Yes, he could be petulant at times, seemingly in an everlasting cycle of signing a contract and then asking the team to tear it up and offer another the following season. But hitting 448 home runs for the White Sox gave "The Big Hurt" a permanent place in White Sox lore.
But don't expect him back at U.S. Cellular in anything other than a fan capacity anytime soon. His war of words with General Manager Kenny Williams assures he won't be offered a deal other than as a beer vendor. Supposedly the Oakland A's, the team he joined after leaving the White Sox, might be interested, but they've got a surplus of young guys who need playing time.
So whether goest thou, Frank Thomas? How about Joliet?
Deny it as we might, Chicagoans do have a little chip on their shoulder about playing second fiddle to New York City in just about everything, a fact that a New Yorker will waste no time in telling you. “Sure, you have the Sears Tower, but the Empire State Building is the quintessential skyscraper. Sure you have a thriving theater scene, but everyone knows a play isn’t REALLY a hit until it makes it on Broadway. And sure your entire city burned to the ground about 137 years ago, but you’re trying to compare it to OUR great tragedy of only seven years ago?...”
Which is why the baseball events of the next few days are our rare opportunity to exact a modicum of revenge in a short amount of time. In a quirky bit of scheduling, both Chicago baseball teams will take on both New York City baseball teams in their respective leagues. The Cubs (12-6) open a short two-game series today against the Mets (10-7) while the White Sox (11-7) square off against the Yankees (10-10) in a three-game series beginning Tuesday night. Speaking of Tuesday, it will offer the rare chance for a Chicago-New York unofficial split doubleheader as the Cubs and Mets battle at 1:20 at Wrigley Field, while the White Sox and Yankees clash at 7:11 at U.S. Cellular Field.
Last night I expressed my desire to ignite a rivalry between the Baltimore Orioles and the White Sox. Apparently, the news spread quicker than expected with an extra inning comeback win for the Baltimore Orioles. Let the battle begin!
The White Sox dominated most of the game with a solo shot from Joe Crede and two homeruns from LF Carlos Quentin. A 5-2 lead in the eighth inning, however, was not enough to suppress the Orioles. Jenks and Logan allowed a combined three runs, four hits, and two walks in the final innings. A throwing error from A.J. Pierzynski also contributed to the late inning collapse. But blaming the White Sox bullpen and errant throws seems to obvious, especially considering that the comeback coincided with my declaration of a new rivalry. A coincidence or do the Orioles have a streaming news feed in the dugout?
One positive note on this otherwise disappointing evening: No mention of Andy MacPhail or Peter Angelos in press coverage of the game. My search engine dominance is safe for another day. Whew.
Warning! The content below is completely self-serving to the Angelos brand. Continuing reading at your own risk.
Baseball rivalries are essential to maintaining fan interest throughout 162 game seasons. Most often, rivalries sprout from loosely unified groups separated by location, beliefs, or prowess. The Cubs and White Sox, for example, share a spirited rivalry based on the notably different cultures of two teams from the same city. Who could forget the pandemonium caused by Michael Barrett's attack against A.J. Pierzynski? Thank you Tadahito Iguchi for grand slamming Cubs fans into defeat!
The spirited Crosstown Classic, however, only provides excitement for Chicagoans on six days each summer. To increase the intensity level of baseball's seemingly endless season, I would like to suggest the creation of a new, unlikely rival for the Chicago White Sox. Wait for it...wait for it..the one, the only, the Baltimore Orioles! Some Orioles fans claim the Washington Nationals as their primary rivals, but does a relocated expansion team have the die hard fanatics necessary for an inspired rivalry? Studying the cultures (and attendance levels) of the Devil Rays and Marlins implies the answer is NO.
Generally regarded as one of the nicest guys in baseball, the White Sox' Jim Thome got a little testy when he was called out on strikes by home plate umpire James Hoye during last Friday's game against the Detroit Tigers. So miffed was Thome that he had to be separated from the ump by Ozzie Guillen of all people.
Thome earned a one-game suspension and fine for his outburst and will sit out tonight's (Tuesday's) contest against the Oakland A's. Thome is batting .156, which might have something to do with the uncharacteristic reaction.
The next few games will be a test for both teams, as the Sox face the A's, a perennial rival, and the Cubs take on Dusty Baker's Reds. A middling Cincinnati team shouldn't be much of a challenge, but facing their former skipper may turn a few Cubbies toward point-proving, which rarely goes well. We'll see.
So let’s see… John Danks gets shelled, the Minnesota Twins pound the White Sox and Ozzie Guillen gets into a war of words with… somebody.
Yup, things are back to normal at The Cell.
Ok, it’s a little to early to jump ship on the Sox’ 2008 season, just as it was a little to early to start printing ALCS tickets after their five-game winning streak. But there was something depressingly familiar about the events of the last couple of days at U.S. Cellular Field.
First Danks, who pitched a gem against the Cleveland Indians on April, looked like John Danks, circa 2007 as he coughed up seven hits and seven earned runs in the 12-5 loss to the Twins Wednesday night. He lasted only 2 1/3 innings and after the game, called it “one of those days.” To say the least, John.
We've seen the White Sox offense show some passion AND swagger during this 5-2 season opening stretch. How good have they been? As of 10PM on 4/7/2008, the Sox were first in the Major Leagues in Run Scored, Runs Batted In, Total Bases, Walks, On-Base Percentage, and Slugging Percentage. Also, they were 2nd in Doubles, 2nd in Home Runs, and 4th in Hits [stats via MLB].
Going into the season, it was a safe bet that Swisher and Cabrera were going to upgrade the team's on-base percentage and situational hitting, and it was fair to assume that the middle of the lineup (Thome - Konerko - Dye) wasn't going to take a big step backward this year.
It's early, but the first seven games of the season might have answered a few lingering questions in the Sox favor:
Carlos Quentin looks ready to make the jump from highly-regarded prospect to major league contributor
Joe Crede looks healthy and might be the scariest #8 hitter in the AL
Juan Uribe has already taken more than 1 walk this season!
My guess is that the Sox offense will continue to be very good as they've got talent, the depth to be able to withstand an injury, and a hitter-friendly ball park. How good do you think the Sox offense will end up? Leave a comment.
Could one question mark concerning the 2008 White Sox be erased from the books? Coming into the season, the team was cautiously optimistic about installing pitcher John Danks as the team’s No. 3 man in the rotation. After all, he compiled a 6-13 record last year, which combined with his big fat 5.50 ERA and his so-so spring training season wasn’t exactly a reason to scream “Cy Young” anytime soon.
On Thursday, however, Danks held the Cleveland Indians to one run in the White Sox’ 2-1 victory and didn’t allow a hit until the sixth inning, helping the team avoid a season-opening sweep against their AL Central division rivals. Ok, maybe not enough to erase the thought of Jon Garland chillin’ in Anaheim, but still… Anyway, on to Detroit...
It used to be the Cubs that were the Team of Angst around Chicago, perennially engaged in a 162-game soap opera that usually concluded with a sad ending and bad reviews. Actual baseball seemed to take a backseat to the emotional turmoil of front-office bumbling, locker room conflicts and finger-pointing and managerial frustration. Throw in the perpetual subplots of billy goats and black cats and it became one of the longest running theatrical productions in the city’s history. A losing one, but still…