The Tigers certainly seem in it to win it. Victor Martinez out for the season? No problem, let’s spend $214 million on Prince Fielder to replace him.
With yesterday’s signing, Detroit should unquestionably be the heavy favorites to win the A.L. Central. But we all know that the winners in the offseason aren’t always the winners when all is said and done.
The combination of Fielder and Miguel Cabrera hitting back to back in scary. And add Justin Verlander heading up a solid pitching staff, it’s pretty hard to think the Sox, Indians, Royals or Twins could outlast the rivals from Motown.
That said, stranger things have happened and it would be foolish to just give up and hand over the division title to Detroit. From a White Sox perspective, let’s just hope Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham rebound and our newly-formed pitching staff delivers. If they do, the South Siders certainly could be as big a pleasant surprise as we were a disappointing one a year ago.
When I heard the Fielder announcement, all I could think of was that the Sox once had Frank Thomas and Albert Belle hitting back to back–a duo even more formidable than the Fielder/Cabrera duo. And the record shows that it didn’t produce a championship team. In fact, the Sox finished around .500 in both seasons Thomas and Belle played together.
So, keep the faith.
In a few weeks the White Sox will be firmly embedded in spring training mode trying to assemble a team that’s ready to contend in the A.L. Central.
Conventional wisdom says it’s going to be a difficult task with the Tigers showing no signs of fading and the Royals and Indians seemingly poised to reach the next level.
You really can’t blame the skeptics. As names like Pujols, Fielder, Buehrle, Darvish, Wilson and others have been the talk of the hot stove period, the White Sox made “headlines” with the acquisition of minor league pitchers Nestor Molina, Simon Castro, Pedro Hernandez, Myles Jaye and Daniel Webb while losing known quantities Sergio Santos, Carlos Quentin and Jason Frasor in the process. The only major news was the signing of John Danks, who we all thought was destined to be traded.
It’s really easy to look at all this and come to the conclusion that bad things are in store for the 2012 club. But we shouldn’t be so quick to judge. With myriad questions, the truth is that we just don’t know how the season will manifest.
How will the Ozzie-less Sox be with Robin Ventura at the helm?
Will the Sox survive without Buehrle?
Will Danks pick up where Buehrle left off?
Will an effective closer be found to replace Santos?
Will Adam Dunn, Alex Rios and Gordon Beckham rebound?
Will Alejandro De Aza be a competent major league leadoff hitter?
Will Paul Konerko be Paul Konerko?
Will Jake Peavy be the Cy Young Peavy?
Will Dayan Viciedo live up to the hype and make us forget Quentin?
Will Chris Sale make a successful switch to the starting rotation?
Will Kenny Williams make any more significant deals to upgrade the big league roster?
More than any other year I can remember, it’s hard to predict what’s in store for all of us this season. We’re just going to have to wait and see.
It seems serendipitous doesn’t it? On Monday, the White Sox release Ozzie and two days later he officially becomes the manager of the Miami Marlins. Then, in about 48 hours with the Sox on the hunt for a new skipper, former Chisox minor league manager Terry Francona, after winning two world titles in Beantown, parts ways with the Red Sox.
Arrange the press conference at the Cell immediately, right? Well, not so fast.
Conventional wisdom is that hiring Francona should be a no-brainer. A proven winner with ties to the organization that would give the South Siders an established leader in the dugout and instant credibility with the fans. But is it the right thing to do? Is Francona the answer or should the Sox brass opt for a fresh start with a young, respected, managerial star of the future?
At the risk of waffling, I would be happy either way. I’d welcome Francona and his impressive resume. I also think Sandy Alomar, Jr., the Tribe’s new bench coach who seems like the favorite to get the job, or Dave Martinez, Joe Maddon‘s trusted bench coach with the Rays, would be outstanding choices. And both have spent time in a Sox uniform.
For all the buzz about Francona coming to Chicago, at the end of the day I don’t think it will happen. I believe that when Kenny Williams comes to the microphone in a couple of weeks, he’ll announce the following as the new Sox field general:
After the White Sox lost the opener and found themselves down 4-0 going into the fifth inning in the second game of yesterday’s split doubleheader vs. the Tribe, I wondered, Where is the Sox pride?”
Sure, the Sox have been eliminated from the A.L. Central race, but the truth is that there is still something to play for–second place and a .500 record. Modest achievements based on this season’s expectations, but in my view the players owe it to themselves, the organization and the fans to give it their all through Game 162.
So, it was heartening to see the Sox rally to overcome the four-run deficit to win the nightcap, 5-4. It makes me feel a whole lot better about this group.
It was also nice to see how they did it. Gordon Beckham smashed three doubles and drove in a run; Alejandro De Aza, who could be an important piece of the puzzle in 2012, knocked in a pair ; and Josh Kinney, Matt Thornton, Jesse Crain and Chris Sale, in relief of Dylan Axelrod, pitched 4 1/3 scoreless innings.
Eight games to go.
It is what it is, we are where we are and it’s a long way from where we thought we’d be. The stark reality is that we’re one game above .500 and nine games behind the Tigers with 21 games to go.
Ozzie has said that it doesn’t matter where the White Sox finish in the standings if we don’t win the division. I’m a big fan of the skipper, but I respectfully disagree. Let’s capitalize on the eight games left against the Indians and finish in second place. And while we’re at it, how about getting a bit of revenge by making the last three games against Detroit uncomfortable for the soon-to-be division champions. It would also be nice in the upcoming 13 home games to reach the .500 mark or above at U.S. Cellular Field. We’re presently six below.
Achieving these goals won’t make up for a season we’d all like to forget, but it’ll help us get through the winter a little easier and boost our hopes for 2012.
You can make the case that the White Sox would have been better off, provided they won today’s game, if Dayan Viciedo didn’t single in his first at bat, slug a three-run homer in his second appearance and draw a walk the third time (which put him on base for Tyler Flowers‘ first career grand slam).
Now, all the pundits, internet geeks and talk show callers are going to be more vocal than ever that Viciedo should have been brought up weeks ago to compensate for the failures of Adam Dunn and Alex Rios.
As inviting as it might be, I’m going to resist the temptation to criticize. The fact is that he wasn’t called up before and there’s nothing we can do about it. I’m just going to look ahead and hope Viciedo, in that Hollywood ending I suggested in my last post, helps turn the tide.
On the heels of today’s 9-3 victory and three-game sweep in Seattle, the Sox come home to face the Twins in an abbreviated three-game homestand. And by virtue of the Tigers’ loss to Minny and the Indians defeat at the hands of the Royals, the Sox find themselves in second place, six games behind Detroit and a half-game ahead of Cleveland.
The Viciedo Era has begun.
Sox Note of Note: With all the talk about the barren Sox farm system, it’s particularly comforting to see Viciedo and Flowers come through this afternoon. Although he hasn’t been given as much credit as he deserves, Flowers has done a terrific job in place of A.J. Pierzynski, hitting .273 with a pair of homers and playing above average defense behind the plate. Let’s hope the performance of these two youngsters are a sign of positive things to come.
Duh, yeah, Alex Rios, you’re right about that: “The more wins we get, the better off we will be.”
I guess the White Sox centerfielder could be excused for his Yogism after he had a lot to do with the White Sox’s rare laugher this afternoon as they blanked the defending American League champion Rangers, 10-0. It was a banner day for the beleaguered Rios both at bat and in the field.
On a day like this when everything is clicking, it’s a pleasure to look at the box score:
–The South Siders scored 10 runs on 16 hits.
–Homers were cranked by Rios and Brent Lillibridge.
–A three-hit day was enjoyed by Lillibridge while Rios, Juan Pierre, Paul Konerko,Tyler Flowers, Alejandro De Aza and Gordon Beckham had two hits apiece. The only Sox player without a hit was Alexei Ramirez, but he scored a run after drawing a walk.
–Other offensive highlights included a three RBI day by De Aza, two apiece by Pierre, Lillibridge and Rios and Flowers’ three runs scored.
—Gavin Floyd was outstanding as he won his 11th game. In seven innings, he gave up just three hits and a walk with six strikeouts. Chris Sale pitched a scoreless eighth and Jason Frasor struck out the side in the ninth.
–The only blemishes were the two errors, one by Lilli and one by Alexei.
With the victory the Sox are back at .500. They remain five games in back of the Tigers and are now just a half-game behind the Indians.
Sox Note of Note: It’s likely that Carlos Quentin won’t be back in the lineup until the end of the week at the earliest. The possibility of him being put on the DL is still there with Dayan Viciedo waiting in the wings.
Adam Dunn is on target to have the worst season by a qualifying position player in 91 years. Alex Rios, who boldly predicted in spring training that the White Sox were clearly the favorites in the A.L. Central, has been a colossal disappointment. But I would make the argument that the most disheartening aspect of the 2011 Sox is the continuing decline of Gordon Beckham.
The eighth overall pick of the Sox in the 2008 draft after a outstanding college career at the University of Georgia, he was an instant sensation. He impressed that year at Class A Kannapolis and hit .394 in the Arizona Fall League. In 2009, after a terrific spring training and solid stints at AA Birmingham and AAA Charlotte, Beckham was promoted to the major leagues in early June and had the look of nothing less than a future All-Star. In 103 games, he socked 14 homers and drove in 63 runs with a .270 batting average. As validation of his impact, two separate player polls gave him the nod as the A.L. Rookie of the Year.
The excitement that the Sox had the new face of the franchise was short-lived as Beckham began the 2010 season with a prolonged slumped. He rallied after the All-Star break and showed some signs he was on the way back to his ’09 form. But an injury to his right hand after getting hit by a pitch in late August forced him to the sidelines and aside from pinch-running he didn’t play the last two weeks of the season.
The concerns about Beckham’s future were put on the back-burner during spring training this year as Beckham looked like his old, impressive self. But then the season began and we’ve all seen the results. Once settled in the No. 2 spot in the batting order, he’s now a No. 9 hitter at .238 with nine homers and just 33 RBIs.
Beckham’s descent into mediocrity, which has made him “just another guy” was never more evident than last night as the Sox dropped the 4-2 decision to the Indians, losing the three-game series. Apart from going 0-4, Beckham struck out to end the sixth inning with men on first and second and fanned again in a crucial situation with the bases loaded in the eighth as he had another opportunity to tie the score or put the Sox ahead.
My intention is not to make Beckham the scapegoat for this year’s failures. There’s a lot of blame to go around. Hopefully he’ll adjust and get his offensive mojo back to go along with his elite defensive ability. But, to me, of all the developments in this less-than-satisfying season–including the Dunn and Rios sagas–the puzzling decline of Beckham is the most disappointing of all.
With the White Sox at an even .500, 3 1/2 games behind the division-leading Tigers and 1 1/2 games in back of second place Cleveland, the South Siders realistically need to win every game.
That said, we know that goal is impossible and some games are just going to wind up in the loss column due to “natural causes.” Last night’s 4-1 defeat to the Tribe was one of those losses. Fausto Carmona, who was beaten up badly in two previous starts against the Sox, was at his best as he limited the Good Guys to four hits. Two of them came off the bat of Alejandro De Aza, who has been quite impressive since his callup, hitting .310 and adding speed and energy to the lineup. The only run scored on Alexei Ramirez‘s 13th homer in the second inning, which at the time tied the score.
It was also the end of Mark Buehrle‘s team record 18-game streak of allowing three runs or less. He gave up four earned runs while being tagged for 12 hits in 7 1/3 innings. Regardless of the outcome, he remains a model of consistency.
While last night was just one of those losses that’s going to happen, tonight represents something much more. The Sox need to win in order to remain .500 or better, win the series and keep pace with the Tigers and Indians as the formidable Texas Rangers prepare to invade Chicago this weekend. Phil Humber looks to regain his early season form tonight against a very tough customer in Justin Masterton.
Last night, after the White Sox failed to score Alex Rios from third base with nobody out in the bottom of the 11th inning against the Indians, it felt like it just wasn’t going to be our night–and, more to the point, it’s just not our year.
The Sox ultimately survived the 14-inning, 5 hour and 21 minute marathon, 8-7, thanks to Juan Pierre‘s game-winning single, but it was a maddening night for those of us watching the game. A game that put us over the .500 mark for the first time since April and moved us to within a half-game of the second-place Tribe.
Here’s what I mean:
–The Sox collected an impressive 22 hits, led by Paul Konerko and Brent Morel with four each, but stranded 16 runners.
–We threatened the record books with five triples (Rios, Alejandro De Aza 2, Alexei Ramirez, Tyler Flowers), but only two of them scored.
–The bullpen outpenned the Cleveland pen, as all six full-time relievers saw action. But Chris Sale gave up a homer to Travis Hafner in the eighth and Sergio Santos blew a save in the ninth to allow the Indians to tie the game and send it into extras.
But in the end, the Sox were able to pull it out and there were a host of positives. In addition to Konerko, Morel, the five triples and a mostly solid bullpen, Pierre homered (only his second) and had three hits in all. De Aza also totaled three hits and two RBIs (he’s pictured above sliding in with one of his triples) while Flowers had a double and a single and drove in a run. Even a struggling Gordon Beckham came through with a 14th inning double and scored the winning run.
It was a long night and I’m still trying to wake up. I would be feeling a whole lot worse if the uplifting win was, instead, a disheartening loss.