Art Berke, a lifelong White Sox fan, has worked at the highest levels of the sports industry with Major League Baseball, ABC Television and Sports Illustrated. He grew up in Northwest Indiana, in the shadow of old Comiskey Park, and proudly proclaims 2005 as the best year of his life. Art offers his glass half-full opinions and observations as he lives and dies with the Sox.
Dayan Viciedo (above), Brent Morel (below), Tyler Flowers and Alejandro De Aza found themselves in the Sox starting lineup last night as the likes of Paul Konerko, Alex Rios, Carlos Quentin, Alexei Ramirez, A.J. Pierzynski, Manny Ramirez and the injured Gordon Beckham were firmly planted on the bench in the third base dugout.
Ozzie apparently felt that giving the youngsters some playing time was more important than the Sox extending their three-game winning streak and finishing the season a game shy of 90 victories. The Good Guys wound up losing to the Tribe, 7-3, after Tony Pena surrendered three runs in the first.
With so many questions that need to be answered, it’s impossible to predict what roles, if any, the above four prospects will have with the big league club in 2011. In my view, Morel could certainly be the starting third baseman and Viciedo either a DH or maybe the first baseman if Konerko doesn’t return. With his great speed, De Aza is a possible fourth or fifth outfielder. Pun intended, the bloom could be off the Flowers rose. He no longer looks like the blue-chipper both the Braves and White Sox thought he was. I would be surprised if he’s in the picture next season.
With two games remaining, it’s uncertain who Ozzie will put on the field. But there is still something to play for. I would like to see Mark Buehrle get to the .500 mark tonight with his 13th win and it would be a nice sendoff for Edwin Jackson, who has been less than stellar lately, to shine in his last start of the season.
In the city of Chicago, the Blackhawks’ Stanley Cup hangover, the rumor than Lebron and Bosh are on their way to the Bulls and the Zambrano meltdown are overshadowing something pretty special brewing on the South Side. It was another day and another victory for the surging Pale Hose, making it 10 in a row–the club’s most consecutive wins since 1976–and 14 of 15.
It was simply a great day as…
Jake Peavy stymies Cubs in the 6-0 whitewash…Carlos Quentin hits a first inning three-run homer…Gordon Beckham slugs round-tripper and drives in two…Mets beat Twins…Braves defeat Tigers…The Sox move within a game and a half of the division-leading Twinkies and only a game behind Detroit.
Count me as one of those who felt changes needed to be made with these 2010 White Sox after their dismal April, May and beginning of June. And I was part of a pretty large legion, which eventually included Sox GM Kenny Williams.
Of course my sentiments were centered on the winning and losing. But the fact that the Sox seemed out of the race in May with no hope of improving was even more disturbing. I, like most fans, certainly didn’t want to spend their summer without any meaningful baseball.
Then we went on the roll that continued last night with the 4-2 win over the Braves, which clinched the series victory. Here are the happy totals: We’re now two games over .500, 3 1/2 games behind the first place Twins and only two games behind the Tigers. We’ve won eight in a row and 11 of 12.
How did all of this happen? The starting pitching has been superb, we’re finally getting clutch hits, the defense is better (Omar Vizquel at third has been a real plus) and something that many of us said before the season is finally coming to fruition.
That preseason observation was that Alex Rios and Carlos Quentin have to produce if the Sox want to be contenders. We all know Rios has more than lived up to his end of the bargain, but Quentin seemed lost at the plate for the first two months. Now, he’s turning it on and the Sox are back in the hunt. His two homers last night, for example, were the difference in the game.
Whatever the reasons, baseball season is fun again on the South Side of Chicago.
When the Braves took an early 3-0 tonight against the White Sox at the Cell, I flashed back to April and May and had that sinking feeling that we were doomed.
But this is a different Sox team. One that can rebound from an early deficit because of renewed starting pitching, clutch hitting and defense that has improved their record to 35-34. You don’t have to look further than tonight’s result against the red-hot Braves to see that. Down 3-0 after one and a half innings, the South Siders scored five runs in the bottom of the second, added one in the third and three in the fourth en route to the 9-6 victory. And after his early woes, John Danks settled down and blanked Atlanta for the next five innings before being relieved by Tony Pena in the eighth.
Here we are one game above .500, 4 1/2 games behind the division-leading Twins and only three in back of the Tigers.
Many heroes surfaced last night. Danks, A.J. Pierzynski (three hits, two RBI), AlexeiRamirez (three hits and an RBI), Paul Konerko (three hits to raise his BA to .304), Alex Rios (two hits and an RBI) and Carlos Quentin, who slammed a three-run homer for the team’s first roundtripper in eight games. We had 16 hits in all. The only negatives happened in the ninth with Scott Linebrink giving up two runs before being relieved by Bobby Jenks (who got the save) and Ramirez leaving the game with a finger injury. Too early to tell how serious the injury is.
No, I didn’t forget Omar Vizquel, who has been outstanding as the main replacement for the disabled Mark Teahen (remember him?). Omar delivered a clutch two-out, two RBI single in the Sox five-run second, which prolonged the rally (pictured above).
How important has Vizquel been to the Sox recent resurgence? The Sox are 13-6 when the future Hall of Fame starts at third base.
After an 8-1 road trip and six victories in a row the Sox will arrive home to play the Braves on Tuesday as a .500 team. And despite winning against mediocre teams like the Cubs, Pirates and Nationals, it looks like we’ve turned the corner with solid play (and no homers in eight straight games). I have to admit I had serious doubts it would happen this season.
Freddy Garcia won his eighth game today in the 6-3 win over the Nationals and Alex Rios and Paul Konerko continued their assault on major league pitchers. Between them they were 5 for 10 with five RBI. And this could be the most telling stat of all: The Sox starters are 9-1 with a 1.95 ERA in their last 12 games.
“Today’s game might be the biggest game all year,” Ozzie told reporters after the game. “We got a chance to be .500 and go back home and continue to play the way we want to play…a couple of weeks ago were in a lot of trouble, but now (we’re) getting the players’ confidence back and giving the team some hope.”
We all know that preseason predictions mean nothing–nada, zilch, zero. And while we shouldn’t take them seriously, it’s still a lot of fun–especially when the so-called experts pick your team to win.
Historically, it’s very rare when the baseball media elite pick the White Sox to win their division, let alone the AL pennant or World Series. It’s not that much different this year as the Twins seem to be the most common pick to conquer the AL Central. That said, there are a few “big name” media types among those who have picked the South Siders:
* Hall of Fame electee Bill Madden of the New York Daily News and author of the forthcoming bio of George Steinbrenner.
* Fox Sports‘ Ken Rosenthal, who somewhat tongue-in-cheek picked the Sox to win the World Series while referring to them “Team Wacko.” Think that had anything to do with our Ozzie?
* ESPN‘s Tim Kurkjian, who doesn’t exactly wear a Sox jersey on the weekends.
* Jon Heyman, he of SI, SI.com and the MLB Network.
Since I’m drinking the prediction Kool-Aid, I might as well add my two cents. Here are my divisional picks for 2010: