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.
You think that you have problems? Take a look for a moment at the Bobby Valentine Red Sox.
Although they just swept a three-game series from the Twins, the Bosox stand at 7-10 and are in the basement of the A.L. East as they invade the Cell starting tonight for a four-game series. And I’m sure they haven’t forgotten last Saturday’s debacle when they blew a 9-0 lead to the Yankees and lost to their bitter rivals, 15-9.
If that weren’t enough, they’ve lost two-thirds of their regular outfield with serious injuries to CarlCrawford and Jacoby Ellsbury, have a decimated bullpen that was severely weakened by an injury to new closer Andrew Bailey on the eve of Opening Day and the starting staff has been far from stellar. Add a little bit of smugness and unfortunate rhetoric from their new skipper and you have a team, as presently constituted, that will have trouble contending with the likes of the Yankees, Rays and even Blue Jays. That said, it will be interesting to see how the sweep in Minnesota has lifted their spirits.
Our Sox come in at 10-8 and in a virtual tie with the Tribe for the division lead after a 4-2 road trip to Seattle and Oakland. It’ll Philip Humber on the mound tonight, fresh off of his perfect game. He’ll be facing promising youngster Felix Doubront.
Friday night it will be John Danks vs. converted reliever Daniel Bard, unbeaten JakePeavy vs. Jon Lester on Saturday and Gavin Floyd vs. Josh Beckett on Sunday.
It wasn’t an oversight: No, I didn’t overlook yesterday’s 14-inning loss to Oakland. Just didn’t have the heart to revisit the bad memories.
* After the 12-2 win over the Tigers in the opener I would have loved a doubleheader sweep last night, but as one of the members of my Sox posse e-mailed after the second game: “It’s baseball. You don’t win them all. We split two games and gained one-half game. I’ll take it.” And we all know how difficult it is to sweep a twinbill.
* You’d be hard-pressed to find a better story than that of 43-year-old future Hall of Famer Omar Vizquel (above). Having taken over the third base job after Mark Teahen‘s injury, he’s now hitting .293 with numerous clutch hits and superb defense. Remarkable.
* Has anybody noticed that Alexei Ramirez is hovering around the .300 mark at .296? And, oh, that defense.
* Less than two months ago Chris Sale was the club’s No. 1 draft choice out of Florida Gulf Coast University. Is he now headed to Chicago? After four games with Class A Winston-Salem, he was promoted to AAA Charlotte and has struck out 15 in 6 1/3 innings over seven relief appearances. With Carlos Torres shipped back to Charlotte after last night’s start and Erick Threets on the DL, speculation is that Sale might be joining the big club as the second lefty in the pen.
* I wonder how the hapless Orioles will respond to new manager Buck Showalter, who Ozzie sarcastically has referred to as “Mr. Baseball.” If they improve, I hope they start after we leave town next Monday night.
* I’m eager to see Edwin Jackson face his former teammates in Detroit tonight. Would love to see a lights-out performance.
* A big thank you to the Rays, now on top of the A.L. East, for taking the first two games against the Twins.
A week ago, when the White Sox embarked on their seven-game road trip to Cleveland and Tampa Bay, it’s safe to say that we would have been happy with what now has happened–a series win over the Tribe and a split with the Rays.
Of course more would have been better, but the way this season is going a 4-3 mark is satisfactory–with the hope that June will be the time for the turnaround.
The finale in Tampa Bay yesterday, an 8-5 triumph over baseball’s best team, had a lot of heroes. Jayson Nix, who replaced Mark Teahen (injury to right middle finger)at third in the middle of the game, gave the Sox the lead for good in the sixth with a grand slam (pictured above). Alex Rios went 3 for 5 with his 11th homer and a pair of RBI and Juan Pierre made two spectacular catches.
On the pitching side Jake Peavy was nothing special, but got the win. Sergio Santos lowered his ERA to 0.48, Matt Thornton pitched 2 1/3 scoreless innings and Tony Pena finished the game by retiring Evan Longoria and Carlos Pena.
Now it’s back to Chicago to face the Rangers, Indians and Tigers. No time to waste.
With the White Sox having the dubious distinction of a league-low team batting average of .235 and a comparable mark with runners in scoring position, their 21-27 won-loss mark is no surprise. In fact, you could make the argument that it should be worse.
Amid the underperforming hitters is Alex Rios, whose .309 batting average is about 60 points more than the next regular, Juan Pierre (.251), and 108 points higher than last year’s rookie sensation, Gordon Beckham. Paul Konerko, whose average has dwindled to under .250, has come through on the power side, but Rios has been the man overall adding 10 homers and 25 RBI. He did it again last night with the key two-run homer off of David Price in the 4-2 victory over the first-place Rays. He’s been a godsend.
That goes for Freddy Garcia as well, who bounced back from his horrendous outing against the Marlins to dominate Tampa Bay last night. He’s been pretty darn good for a fifth starter especially since his fellow starters, for the most part, have underperformed. While we’re at it, we have to add Sergio Santos, he of the 0.50 ERA, and Matt Thornton (1.77) to the mix of stalwarts.
The common denominator here is that all of the above have been significant contributors for the first two months of the season and each had a hand in the win last night.
The angst created by the slow start dissipated a bit last night after the White Sox rose to the occasion with a very satisfying 4-1 win over the red-hot Rays. It was highlighted by another John Danks gem.
After surrendering a first inning homer to Sox nemesis Carl Crawford, Danks was virtually untouchable. In eight innings he gave up two hits, both to Crawford, and struck out nine. He is now 2-0 with a 1.29 ERA. Bobby Jenks came on in the ninth for his third save.
The offense, while still far from where it should be, did just enough powered by Paul Konerko and Andruw Jones homers. I’m still waiting for Gordon Beckham, among others, to break out soon.
Kenny Williams Speaks
The Sox GM spoke to reporters before the game last night and talked about the fans and the poor start of the season:
“If you have a passionate fan base, you have to be prepared for a heightened sense of urgency or worry when things don’t go your way–just as you are the beneficiary of extreme excitement when it does go your way. You got to take the good and bad with it. Right now, everyone is a little upset with the way we’re playing. So are we.”
It will be an interesting dynamic tonight as Mark Buehrle faces the Rays for the first time since the perfect game.