Springtime (?) in Chicago

Well, fellow Sox fans, we’ve waited this long.  We can wait a little longer.  

This being April in Chicago, there’s no telling if it’s going to be snowing, just above freezing and windy or sunny and fifty degrees.  Today it’s going to be the former, so tomorrow is now opening day.  

Unfortunately, you really can’t play baseball in snow.  Calvin and Hobbes proved that when Hobbes pitched a snowball and Calvin’s swing turned that snowball to powder.   

One of the great things about sports is that if they decided to play the game today, despite the weather, there would be fans in the stands – maybe not very many, but there would be some.  

Thank you White Sox, for not making the fans sit through weather better suited to a Bears’ game.  We’d do it if we had to, but we’re glad we don’t have to.

Advertisements

Valiant Warriors Vanquished

The White Sox lost 6-2 to the Rays Monday night.  Consequently, their season is over.  The Rays are the winners of the division series and will be moving on to face Boston in the league championship series.

Don’t hate the Rays because they beat the Sox.  The Rays are a great team.  Great teams beat good teams, like the White Sox.  That’s one of the differences between a good team and a great one.  The Red Sox will have their hands full in the next round.

I can’t feel bad for the White Sox.  I really can’t.  They left it all on the field.  The White Sox survived four different elimination games over eight days.  It took until elimination game number five to finally end their season. 

Just to get in the playoffs, they faced three elimination games in a row.  That’s like playing in a seven game series, falling behind three games to none, and coming back to force a game seven.

God bless Ozzie Guillen for leaving Quentin off the roster for the division series.  As I understand it (and I could be wrong,) Quentin could have played in the division series if need be, even though he wasn’t quite back to 100% health. 

There are probably managers would have used him, even knowing Quentin would be risking re-injuring his wrist.  There are probably managers in that situation who feel so insecure about their jobs that they would risk playing someone who really shouldn’t be playing just because staying a little longer in the playoffs would make that manager look better in the eyes of the General Manager.  

Guillen genuinely cares about his players.  Quentin is young and has a long career ahead of him. Guillen wasn’t about to risk Quentin’s health for this series.  Guillen deserves a great deal of respect for putting the health of his players first.

The White Sox may have exited the playoffs in the first round, but they have no reason to feel sorry for themselves.  They fought tooth and nail to get where they were.  Monday, the Sox maybe didn’t play as well as they could have.  However, they didn’t implode, either.  The Sox are a good team.  They just ran into a great team.

This lady is proud of you, White Sox.  All of you.  You couldn’t have fought any harder. 

Danks A Million

How good is John Danks? 

For the second time in a week, he’s been on the money on the mound for the White Sox in an elimination game.  He threw 6.2 innings, and gave up three runs (all earned) on seven hits.  Final score: White Sox 5, Rays 3.

Like I said, Danks is one of my favorites.  All he does is pitch his backside off.  Then he goes out five days later and does it again.

The bullpen didn’t have to be used very much, thanks to Danks throwing six innings and change.  Dotel pitched .1 of an inning, Thornton pitched one inning, and then Jenks took over for the ninth.  None of them gave up any runs.  In fact, Jenks is the only one who even gave up a hit, and he only gave up one.
 
Fortunately, the offense came through.  Three runs are not too expensive for a starting pitcher to give up, but the offense has to manufacture at least four to get the win.  Thome went 1-3, Griffey went 2-4, Wise went 1-3 with two RBI, Uribe went 1-3 with an RBI, and Ramirez had an RBI. 

While I’m talking about Danks, I can’t forget Pierzynski.  Not only did Pierzynski call a good game, he also went 2-3 with an RBI and a walk. 

Monday’s another elimination game.  It’s getting to feel like same old, same old.  Floyd will be on the mound versus Sonnanstine. As I write this, it’s about 10 minutes to the start of game three.  If the Sox make it the next round, they’ll get Quentin back.  Quentin has looked like the steal of the century all season.  With his bat back in the lineup, the offense can only get better.

This lady is once again in black, awaiting Floyd to throw the first pitch.  Please, White Sox, make me spend some hard-earned money on more championship gear.

Coming, Calling Home

The White Sox were unable to get the win in game two, losing 6-2 to the Rays.  It wasn’t that they didn’t get hits; they got 12.  It wasn’t that they didn’t get base runners; they did.  The Sox just couldn’t get the hits when they had the base runners.  They stranded 12 men on base.

The Rays are not blowing the Sox out, by any stretch of the imagination.  It was a 3-2 game until the bottom of the eighth inning.  However, with 12 runners left on base, the Sox could have been blowing the Rays out.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, likely until I’m blue in the face: I believe you have to give your starting pitcher at least three runs worth of run support.

Then there were the umpires.  While watching the game, I listened to the Sox radio broadcast.  In the later innings, I heard a lot of comments from Ed Farmer and Steve Stone that were along the lines of “Where was that pitch?”  Swisher was called out on a strike that was, in Ed Farmer’s words, “six inches outside.”

The Sox did benefit from a blown call that allowed Dye to reach base in the top of the ninth.  Dye hit a line drive to the Rays shortstop Bartlett who had the ball squirt out of his glove.  Dye actually stopped running a few steps out of the batter’s box and started again when he saw that Bartlett hadn’t caught the ball.  First baseman Aybar tagged Dye on the back, but the umpire ruled that Aybar had missed Dye.  Had Dye been running the entire way, there wouldn’t have been any controversy because Dye would have easily been safe. 

Sure it’s frustrating when the Sox lose, but if they do lose, well, it happens.  It’s maddening when the umpires wind up interfering with the game due to blown calls.  I know the umpires are human and will make a mistake now and again, but game two contained multiple questionable calls and at least one blown call on Dye’s ground ball hit in the ninth. 

Call me crazy, but I’d like the White Sox to win or lose based on how they play rather than based on how accurate the umpires are.  I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

About Dye’s infield hit in the ninth:  May I ask why players do not run out every ground ball in the playoffs?  In the regular season, I can understand not running out every single ground ball, but this is the playoffs.  Please understand: I’m not angry.  I’d just like an explanation.  Granted, Dye thought Bartlett caught the ball on the fly, but even so, what’s wrong with playing hard until you know for certain the play is over?  Remember in the 2005 playoffs against the Angels, when Pierzynski ran to first after strike three because he never heard the umpire say he was out?  He played hard until he knew for certain the play was over, and we all know what happened next.

It’s all a little disheartening, but there are a few bright spots from game two.  The Sox aren’t being beaten handily. It was a one run game until the bottom of the eighth.  Dye went 4-5, including the hit-that-wasn’t in the ninth.  Cabrera went 2-4.  Swisher went 1-3 with two walks.  With one exception (Anderson,) everyone in the Sox starting lineup had at least one hit.   The Sox scored in the first inning.  Granted, it was the only time they scored, but they got to Rays starter Scott Kazmir early.  The Sox had the hits, and they had the runners; they just couldn’t get the runners home. 

Perhaps most importantly, the Sox are coming home.  I’d much rather be down 0-2 and coming home than be down 0-2 and going on the road, like another Chicago baseball team.   If the Sox can win anywhere, they can win at home.  The 40,000+ fans wearing black in the stands won’t hurt, either.
 
Last but not least, Danks will be on the mound for game three.  If you’ve read this blog for any length of time, you know that Danks is one of my favorites.  He’s usually one of the most consistent starters the Sox have, and he’s come up big in games when the Sox need him, like he did last week.

I was panicking watching the Sox trying to get into the postseason. Now, it’s October and the White Sox are still playing baseball.  Next game, the Sox will be at home and Danks will be on the mound.  Even with the Sox down 0-2 in a best of five game series, somehow this lady isn’t panicking. 

One in the Dome + Two At Home = White Sox in A.L.C.S.

Unfortunately, the Sox didn’t win game one.  However, after having played three straight elimination games, it’s kind of nice to have the luxury of being able to lose a game.

That isn’t to say that Thursday’s game wasn’t important.  It’s a best of five series, so even one loss can be big.  Vazquez couldn’t even get to the fifth inning.  He only went 4.1, giving up all six runs Tampa Bay scored, and all of them were earned. 

The Sox lost game one 6-4, but there were a few things that I thought were good.  The bullpen came through. Clayton Richard and Octavio Dotel pitched 3.1 innings and one-third of an inning respectively, and neither of them gave up any runs.  I also liked the way the Sox continued to battle. They never believed they were down too far to come back.

The bottom line is that the Sox only have to win one game in the dome if they can take both games at the Cell.  I like their chances tomorrow with Buehrle on the mound.  The Rays are only one game over five hundred this year against left handed starters. 

This lady prefers to think of Thursday’s game more as a breather after the end of the regular season, or as a speed bump in the playoffs.

Thanks, Danks, for Your Performance (and for Restoring My Faith)

You’ve probably noticed that I’ve not been writing.  Quite frankly, it was just too stressful to watch the Sox.  In all honesty, the past week was too much like 2007 and I just couldn’t stand it.  If I had continued to watch, I would have bitten my fingernails off down to my knuckles.  Truth be told, I’d started to lose hope that this team could come back and take the division.

I completely ignored Sunday’s game, because I had watched the previous games and the Sox had lost.  So I left Sunday’s game alone, and the Sox won.  I had Monday’s game on while working around the house.  The Sox won, so I decided to risk watching tonight.  Again, I was working around the house, so I wasn’t paying complete attention to the game. 

It didn’t matter. The Sox managed to win three games in a row, against three different teams, to make the playoffs.  That’s the first time that’s happened in Major League history. 

I can’t say enough about Danks.  If you’re a regular reader of my blog, you know that Danks is one of my favorites.  He pitches his backside off, and Tuesday he pitched his backside off on short rest with the division championship on the line.  I am in awe.  Literally.  I tip my hat to you, Danks. 

I also tip my hat to Buehrle for Sunday’s game and Floyd for Monday’s game.  Without the two of you, the Sox wouldn’t have had the opportunity to play Tuesday’s game.

Tuesday’s game was a team win.  The headliners:  Danks pitched eight shutout innings and gave up just two hits.  Thome hit a monster solo home run – the only run of the game. Griffey’s outfield assist, and Pierzynski managing to hang onto the throw to keep the Twins scoreless. The little things that meant a lot:  The three double plays turned by the infield, and Anderson’s highlight reel catch to end the game. 

I think the Sox organization may have started a new tradition by asking the fans for a “blackout” in the stands.  I think that’s one tradition that should stick around a while, at least for the duration of the 2008 playoffs. 

This lady had begun to lose hope, but she’s a believer again.  Tuesday night, the Sox finally looked like the team we had seen them be for the vast majority of the season.  They looked like a first place team – like a championship team.  

Keystone Kops

Someone needs to call the Keystone Kops to tell them that we found their missing personnel in the Sox bullpen.  Think it’s an overreaction?  Read on, or watch the archived game broadcast.

Friday night was a golden opportunity for the Sox. Kansas City beat the Twins 8-1, so the Sox could have regained first place with a win over the Indians.

Would have, could have, should have: The Sox didn’t.

Ozzie’s post game interview session revealed his own frustrations with the Sox.  He said the team should be embarrassed because he was embarrassed.  Ozzie mentioned how there were 40,000 Sox fans in the stadium rooting for the team, and the team let them down.  He said the team couldn’t have played worse if they had tried to, and described the team’s play as “stupid.”

What made the biggest impression on me was when Ozzie mentioned that getting angry wasn’t working and that he was going to just start laughing. He was getting tired of trying to motivate the team, and if he didn’t just start laughing he was worried his health was going to suffer. 

In all honesty, it reminded me greatly of the struggles that I’ve had trying to get my fourteen year old to do his homework, and Ozzie’s dealing with grown men.  

Finally, Ozzie said the Sox had to look at themselves in the mirror and ask themselves how good they were, himself included.

What happened to cause this kind of a post-game response?  In a word: bullpen.  There were hit batters, four pitch walks, a balk, two wild pitches, and a run walked in.  This wasn’t baseball.  It was a farce.  Picture the Bad News Bears after they’d gone through puberty.  That was Friday night’s game.   

For your convenience, I have italicized all the major mistakes made by Sox pitchers on the evening so they will be easier to find.  I consider major mistakes to be four or five pitch walks, balks, wild pitches, hitting batters, and walking in runs.  

Danks – who has pitched his backside off for the Sox all season – started Friday and was pitching decently until the fifth, when he started off with two base hits and a four-pitch walk to load the bases.  Then he gave up a single to Shin-Soo Choo which drove in two runs. 

Carrasco came on with men at first and second and still nobody out, and walked the first batter he faced, Peralta, on four straight pitches to load the bases.  The next batter, Garko, hit a grand slam. Carrasco took the third batter he faced, Shoppach, to a 1-2 count before hitting Shoppach with a curveball. 

With Shoppach at first, MacDougal came in to face Gutierrez.  MacDougal took Gutierrez to a 2-1 count before hitting him with a fastball.  By some miracle, MacDougal managed to get the next three batters out. 

Grand total for the fifth inning:  Sox pitchers gave up six runs before recording the first out, four hits, two walks, and hit two batters.

Starting the sixth inning, MacDougal was still pitching.  He walked Francisco on four straight pitches to start the inning.  The next batter, Shin-Soo Choo, hit a groundball to short which forced Francisco at second.  So Choo was on first with Peralta batting. After throwing ball one to Peralta, MacDougal committed a balk to advance Choo to second.  Ultimately, on a 3-1 count, Peralta ultimately hit a pop up to Cabrera for out number two. 

MacDougal wasn’t finished yet though. He still had a few more mistakes to make before he left the game. The next batter, Garko, saw three straight balls before seeing a strike.  Garko walked on just five pitches.  Shoppach was next, and MacDougal’s 2-2 pitch to Shoppach was a wild pitch, which advanced the runners to second and third.  The final pitch MacDougal threw was high and inside.  If Shoppach hadn’t moved, it likely would have hit him the shoulder.  Of course, that was ball four, so Shoppach walked.

So now the bases were loaded with two outs.  Wassermann came in to face Gutierrez, whom he promptly walked on four straight pitches to walk in a run.  Mercifully, Wassermann somehow managed to strike out the next batter, Barfield, to end the nightmare that was the sixth inning.

The strangest thing about the sixth inning: Cleveland only scored one run.  Despite all that bad pitching, the Indians were only capable of pushing one run across the plate.  Don’t let anyone tell you miracles don’t happen, because you witnessed one right there.

The seventh inning saw Horacio Ramirez come in for Wassermann.  Ramirez gave up a single to Asdrubal Cabrera, caused Sizemore to fly out, then gave up another single to Francisco.  So there were men on first and third with one out.  Ramirez’ 1-0 pitch to Choo was wild, and it allowed Cabrera to score from third.

Still think I’m overreacting in comparing the Sox bullpen to the Keystone Kops? The Keystone Kops could have pitched better.  Seriously.  We should see if they’re available.  They certainly couldn’t have done a worse job.

I don’t like to single anyone out. I know MacDougal is a person who can feel just as much as anybody else.  I don’t like to talk badly about anybody.  That’s why I’ve avoided saying this.  However, I can be silent no longer.  In all honesty, I lost all patience with MacDougal last season.  He was good right after he came over from Kansas City and has absolutely stunk ever since.  The Sox are too good a team for MacDougal.  I wanted them to send him down to Triple-A last season, and was a happy camper when they finally did.  I was hoping he wouldn’t be with the team this season, but I’m not the one who makes such decisions. 

If you think I’m jumping on a bandwagon here, check out my archives from May and June 2007, entitled “Cubs Baseball” and “Hallelujah!” respectively. At that time I said I wanted MacDougal sent down and was happy when they finally did send him to Charlotte.

Give the Sox offense some credit, though: they didn’t give up.  After all that craziness, they still kept battling to try to win the game.  However, when the bullpen puts the team in that position, it’s going to take a monumental effort to overcome it. 

Ozzie wasn’t the only one who was embarrassed by Friday’s game.  Let me tell you something, and I say this in all seriousness: If the Sox bullpen is going to play that badly, the Sox don’t deserve to make the playoffs.  Think about it: if the White Sox embarrass themselves on a national stage, it’s going to make the team, the division, the city of Chicago and the White Sox fans look bad.

This lady really doesn’t want to see the White Sox embarrass us all on national television, but she might not have a choice: Saturday’s game will be on WGN. Vazquez will pitch on three days rest against Jackson.  Please, White Sox, either play like contenders or at least die quietly to put us out of our misery.