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.
Two days ago I commented to my Sox posse that I was concerned about A.J. Pierzynski‘s recent hitting slump. One of my guys said his toughness, ability to call a game and his durability outweighed what he did with the bat. Another said A.J. had lifetime immunity due to his now-legendary run to first base on a strikeout in Game 2 of the 2005 American League Championship Series against the Angels.
After hearing their reaction I was sorry I even brought up the subject. Now, after A.J.’s two-homer, four RBI performance in the 8-2 White Sox victory against the Royals last night, I was compelled to send the posse an apology.
Sox Vets Rise Above the Rest
In the wake of the LeBron James PR fiasco, where apparently no thought was given to humility and common sense, we Sox fans need to realize that we have two of the most authentic sports role models in our midst–Mark Buehrle and Paul Konerko.
Their leadership, humble nature and on-field performance should be an example to everyone in the sports world. Ironically, because of their low-key demeanors relatively few outside of the South Side recognize what outstanding examples they are.
Buehrle On Top of His Game
Speaking of the Sox lefty, Buehrle’s seven innings of scoreless ball last night continued his recent mastery of A.L. hitters. Mark is now 5-1 with a 2.23 ERA in his last six outings, all being quality starts. Buehrle and his fellow starters have surrendered only 16 runs in their last eight games against the Rangers, Angels and Royals.
Sox are now 47-38, a half-game behind the Tigers and 2 1/2 games ahead of the Twins. We’ve won six in a row and 23 of the last 28. Pretty amazing.
It was Alexei Ramirez‘s clutch, two-out, two-run sixth inning homer off of Scott Feldman that proved to be the difference in the 5-3 White Sox victory over the Rangers.
The game was big, according winning pitcher Mark Buehrle, and that it was. It gave the Sox a series victory over the red-hot A.L. West leaders, a respectable 3-3 road trip and, most importantly, it moved the South Siders to within a game of the Twins and Tigers for the division lead. So it’s no wonder Alexei, whose average is now hovering around .280 after his usual mediocre start, voiced his excitement.
Another factor that can’t be ignored is that revitalized Sox pitching. Against a lineup with the likes of Josh Hamilton, Vlad Guerrero, Michael Young, Ian Kinsler and Nelson Cruz, the Pale Hose gave up only three runs in each of the three games and 18 total hits, an average of only six per contest.
What seemed like an impossibility just a few weeks ago, the Sox are seriously knocking at the door of the division lead. Now back home for seven games–four against the Angels and three vs. the Royals–before the All-Star break, it is conceivable that we could have a first place team in a matter of days.
The nation’s sports talk shows, to the point of ad nauseum I might add, have created a new national conversation: Should Nationals’ miracle man Stephen Strasburg be named to the All-Star Game?
Frankly, I’m more concerned about what Sox players will be selected when the teams are announced today. We know we won’t have any starters because the White Sox rarely do, but the hope is that we squeak by with two players–Paul Konerko and Alex Rios–instead of the obligatory lone choice.
Maybe I’m falling into the trap of glorifying the good old days, but I think most will agree that the All-Star Game isn’t what it used to be. There’s no real rivalry anymore, there are more players selected and even though the winning club gets home field advantage for their league in the World Series, the best players aren’t around when the game is decided.
All that said, I’m still interested when the teams are announced. So I’ll be watching the TBS Selection Show today–confident Paulie’s name will be called and hoping Rios survives from a group of worthy outfielders.
And I’m still waiting for a Sox player to be the MVP of the the midsummer classic. Maybe this is the year.
The Race Goes On…
In the real world, The Sox are looking to end their road trip at 3-3. A victory tonight in Arlington against the Rangers will do it. Then it’s back home against the Angels and Royals before the All-Star break.
I don’t think I’m overstating it when I say that last night’s 4-3 squeaker over the Royals was one of the season’s most important wins. I say that because after two straight losses following the 11-game streak, the Sox could not afford a third defeat in a row with Zack Greinke on the mound tonight and three against the hot Rangers in Arlington on the horizon.
On this night it was the pitching, especially the bullpen, that was instrumental in eeking out the victory. The South Siders scored four early runs to take a commanding lead, but the Royals got to Gavin Floyd with three in the fifth to narrow the lead to one. Then Floyd calmed down, went 6 2/3 and benefited from 2 1/3 innings of scoreless relief from Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz, who earned the save. With the Twins win over the Tigers, they move back into first, 1/2 game in front of Detroit and 1 1/2 games ahead of the Sox.
Rumor mill: While the Sox are mum and Ozzie is on record saying we don’t need a big lefthanded bat right now, rumors have it that the club is exploring the possibility of bringing powerful first baseman/outfielder Adam Dunn of the Nationals (above) into the fold by the trading deadline. There’s no question the Sox could use some lefty pop, but they aren’t the only ones who covet Dunn. Whether it’s the D.C. slugger or someone else, I’m confident Kenny Williams will add a lefthanded bat before July 31.
It happens. In fact it happens so often that I was expecting a couple of losses in a row after the 11-game winning streak.
What I’m saying is that it’s pretty much the natural progression of things that a team will suffer a bit of a letdown after winning a significant number of games in a row.
So it is now with our White Sox. After the streak ended on Sunday with the loss to the Cubs, the Sox lost another last night in Kansas City. In both Sunday and Monday contests the South Siders had a chance to win in the ninth with a clutch hit or two. But the law of averages prevailed and now we’ve lost a couple in a row and stand two games back of the Tigers who beat the Twins to move into first place.
The Pale Hose will be back at it tonight with Gavin Floyd on the hill against the Royals. No need to panic, but it’s important for us to win this one. We don’t want the two games to get to three and beyond.
Note of the day: Red-hot Carlos Quentin was named the American League Player of the Week. Continuing his surge, he homered for the only Sox tally last night.
I have one question after witnessing the White Sox lose another game and another series–this time to the last place Kansas City Royals, who continue to sit in last place and improved to14-24 with today’s triumph.
Do the Sox really expect their fans to endure this team as presently constituted for the next four and a half months?
Kenny Williams has admitted he’s losing patience. Kenny, join the club. With high hopes for a division title and all the bravado about being a strong championship contender, the Pale Hose have self-destructed. Either Williams’ architecture is highly overrated or the players he acquired in the offseason are grossly underachieving–or maybe it’s a little bit of both.
There’s a lot of blame to go around. Mark Teahen, Gordon Beckham, Gavin Floyd, CarlosQuentin, A.J. Pierzynski and Mark Kotsay are at the top of my list. If Alexei Ramirez hadn’t rallied a bit recently, he’d be there too.
So, what do we do? I’m not sure, but it’s unbearable watching these guys blow leads and fail to come through in the clutch day in, day out, night in and night out.
KW, it’s time. Something needs to be done to shake things up. Whether it’s via trades, promoting prospects or reading the riot act, do it. The status quo is unacceptable.
Teahen: One of the poster boys for the Sox failures
I have to admit that my blood pressure reached scary levels after the first inning last night as Jake Peavy was the victim of a three-run Royal splurge that included a walk and a hit batsman. All I could think about was losing back-to-back games to the Royals and losing the opportunity to gain on the Twins, who lost earlier in the day to the Yanks.
But the South Siders showed some grit and overcame a 4-1 with a four-run seventh to win 5-4. Aside from the rare comeback itself, there were some positive signs. Among them:
–The way that Peavy rebounded after the shaky start. After giving up four runs through three innings, he pitched scoreless ball into the ninth for this third victory of the season.
—Juan Pierre collected a pair of hits and raised his average to .254. Not exactly on par with Rod Carew, but we’ll take it after Juan’s subpar start.
—Alexei Ramirez (above) was 3 for 4 with an RBI, upping his average to .231. Puny, but improving.
—Ramon Castro got his first hit of the season and drove in a pair of runs in the pivotal seventh inning.
—Matt Thornton got the save after relieving Peavy with one out in the ninth.
Now the hard part–winning today to capture the series.