I’m not planning on purchasing playoff tickets just yet, but we all should be happy at what we’ve seen of the Sox as they’ve concluded their initial road trip with a 3-2 record.
* A.J. Pierzynski is on fire with two homers, six RBIs and a .313 batting average.
* Alejandro De Aza also has a pair of homers (hit in the same games as A.J. hit his) and is hitting a respectable .273 from the leadoff spot.
* Paul Konerko is homerless, but has driven in five runs and has an OPS of 1.100.
* Adam Dunn is hitting only .222 with just one homer and two RBIs, but looks much, much better and has an on-base percentage of .364.
* Dayan Viciedo has zeroes in HR and RBIs, but is hitting a somewhat acceptable .267.
* And there are always early-season stragglers looking to break out. In this case, Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, Alex Rios and Brent Morel all need to get things going. I have to admit I’m concerned about Beckham and Rios while Alexei always gets off to a slow start.
* Chris Sale has to be the top early story here with his terrific performance against the Tribe in his first ML start. The other Sox victories were credited to Matt Thornton in relief against Texas and John Danks, who was far from in command yesterday in Cleveland, but gutted it out and benefitted from the 10 runs of support he got from his teammates.
* The pen has been solid with relievers Jesse Crain, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Thornton all possessing 0.00 ERAs. And aside from surrendering a leadoff ninth inning homer in the opener against Cleveland, closer Hector Santiago has been impressive with his two saves.
Now it’s time to go home and convince the Tigers that they’re human.
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 doesn’t escape me that the day the world was mourning Apple visionary Steve Jobs, the personification of thinking out of the box, that Jerry Reinsdorf and Kenny Williams named Robin Ventura manager of the White Sox.
All we’ve heard since Ozzie left for South Beach is that the top candidates were Sandy Alomar, Jr., Dave Martinez and Terry Francona. Then, yesterday, the Sox fooled us all and chose one of their own who has absolutely no professional coaching or managing experience.
I think it’s a terrific, inspired choice on multiple levels. Ventura is a proven leader, he is familiar with the White Sox, he’ll have credibility with the veterans, will nurture youngsters like Brent Morel, Gordon Beckham and Dayan Viciedo and will somewhat offset the loss of Guillen in the eyes of the fans. He will also be great with media in a non-Ozzie sort of way. He will be thoughtful with a touch of wry humor as opposed to his predecessor’s 24/7 stream of consciousness. And, as far as I know, he doesn’t have a twitter account.
As you would expect, many in the baseball community have come out of the woodwork very skeptical of the move. Everybody from Tigers’ coach Gene Lamont, a former Sox manager, to a legion of baseball writers. With experienced men out there for the taking, they’re saying, how can the White Sox pick someone with absolutely no experience?
My answer to them is that managing a baseball team is not rocket science. It’s about leadership. Everything else can be learned. What Ventura doesn’t know about pitching, he’s got Don Cooper. What he needs to understand about other facets of the game he’ll have an experienced bench coach and another quiet professional in Harold Baines. And in time, Robin, who was a smart player and a consummate pro as well as being enormously popular, will know all he needs to know.
Nobody, including Ventura, knows how this will play out. But with high risk there’s high reward. And although Mr. Jobs most likely didn’t know the White Sox from the Red Sox or Stan Williams from “No Neck” Williams, I think he would have approved of this decision.
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.
After suffering through the demoralizing three-game sweep at the hands of Tigers, which included an 8-1 defeat, a blown 8-1 lead and an embarrassing 18-2 thrashing on Sunday night, the White Sox facing the prospect of a split doubleheader in Minnesota on Monday was a scary thought. Especially since the Sox arrived at their Twin Cities hotel around 2 a.m.
But you never know about the game of Baseball.
Philip Humber, rebounding from a tough few starts and a stint on the DL, was outstanding in the first game. He hurled a shutout in his seven innings of work and emerged as the winning pitcher, thanks to a Chris Sale save, in the 2-1 victory.
If Humber’s performance wasn’t impressive enough, rookie Zach Stewart outdid him in the nightcap. Stewart (pictured above at far right, enjoying the moment) flirted with a perfect game, which was thwarted by a Danny Valencia double leading off the eighth inning, and chalked up a complete game, one-hit shutout for a 4-0 triumph.
The Sox are still eight games behind the sizzling Tigers with a tough road ahead, but for now a doubleheader sweep with two young starters with modest expectations allowing zero runs is something to celebrate.