Wednesday, September 28, 2011

A Week of Good-Byes


This week has been a lot more emotional for me than I originally thought. What was supposed to be a week of relief as this disaster of a season came to an end, was instead a week filled with sadness, memories, nostalgia, and- I’ll admit it (and I can do this because I’m probably the only Sox blogger who is a chick)- a few tears.

It started last Sunday, at a showing of Moneyball. The storyline was a little too close to home this season. Sure, the story of the A’s is a story of underdogs payroll-wise, but the story of a struggle between GM and manager could have been lifted from our own headlines. There is a moment in the story, where the GM dictates to the coach that he built that particular team to be played a certain way. It made me wonder how GM envisioned the Sox this year. Was it his fault for giving Ozzie too many options, or did Ozzie just make all the wrong choices? Which brought us to Monday…

The announcement that Ozzie was leaving left me with lukewarm feelings, thinking back on Ozzie’s career with the Sox. For most of the younger Sox fans, including a handful of us bloggers, Ozzie is really all we know. Those in their 20s are too young to remember anything memorable of the past managers. It’s easy to remember a player when you’re a kid. It’s not so easy to remember someone who sits on the bench. Unless, of course, that someone is Ozzie. Ozzie was, for better or worse, the face of the Sox. He made a name for himself by speaking his mind- even if the thoughts he was expressing were muddled or in Spanish. He stuck up for his players and led them to a memorable World Series win. Was his song and dance getting old? To many, yes. But it is still the end of an era, and as such I can’t help but feel a twinge of sadness.

Now multiply that twinge of sadness by about 6,000. Those were my feelings in realizing last night may have been Buehrle’s last game in a White Sox uniform. I plopped myself down in front of the TV around 6PM and immersed myself in the pregame show, interviews with Kenny from the previous day, and a little chat from the local sports guys. By the time the game started, I was already feeling the momentousness of the occasion.

I don’t need to enumerate his accomplishments in the black and white uniform. We all know too well about his surprising talent despite his surprisingly slow fastball. And we know him as a guy with a smile on his face, who was part of the 2005 gang.

I desperately try to cling to the gang, but I’m beginning to feel like the Black Knight of Monty Python fame clinging to his limbs. Crede is gone, Buehrle’s contract is over, Ozzie has moved on, Pods, Dye, Jenks, Uribe, etc, etc, etc, etc… AJ and Paulie are all that’s left. The rest are elsewhere or, like Dye and Crede, retired.

When I thought the game couldn’t get more emotional for me and carry more meaning, I realized Joe Crede was throwing the first pitch. I later read an article Chuck Garfien wrote about his battle with back pain and the end of his career. He returned to Chicago, where he is still revered by fans, and where the organization still recognizes him. Pair that with his pal and fellow Missourian Mark Buehrle’s emotional night and I had goose bumps all night. There was an electric feel in the air. Rain was pouring down, the manager’s chair had Don Cooper in it, Mark Buehrle took his curtain call, and it was clear that a new era is being ushered in. A new time, with new players, but a tradition that spans generations.

Monday, April 11, 2011

Sizing Up the Competition: Indians & Royals

It’s a little strange for me to keep having to tell myself that it’s only 9 games into the season and that we’re not in first place because we’re trailing to the Indians. And the Royals are tied with us. Should I be worried? Well, the Indians swept the Red Sox, so I would think that’s saying something if they are beating the big-budgeted Yankee rivals. Because they also swept the Mariners, the Indians are on a 7-game winning streak. I’m sincerely impressed. And, yes, worried. If you look at the Indian’s roster, no huge names stand out, other than Carlos Santana, but I have a feeling I’m thinking of the wrong Santana.

To be honest, their starting rotation sounds like a mess, with 5 right-handed pitchers who were named “defective” by the teams’ own writers (Indians.com). Here’s what the same writer has to say about their ace, Carmona: “Back in 2007, Carmona looked like an ace-in-waiting. Now he looks more like a middle-of-the-rotation guy ... Of course, on this particular staff, he's an ace”. Other phrases to describe the Cleveland starting rotation? The “time was ripe to give up on the Masterson-as-a-starter experiment”, “a serviceable placeholder in the rotation”. And the White Sox have certainly beaten up on the Indians’ pitchers (particularly on Opening Day when they were pummeled by 15 runs). How, then, are these pitchers leading a team to victory?

I suppose the hitting could be a factor. 7 of their 13 active players at hitting above .300. Of course, so is Mark Teahen, so that can obviously be deceiving. Maybe we can be optimistic and say this is a fluke and the Indians are coasting as long as they can before they crash and burn. Or maybe they’ll keep on pace for 126 wins this year.

And then there are the Royals. From Ball Star (royalsblog.kansascity.com): “Most teams don’t trade away a former Cy Young winner in his prime, give the opening-day slot to a guy with a 5.60 career ERA, trade their most complete position player for an unproven 24-year-old right-hander — and expect their rotation to be improved.” And another optimistic description: “Which part of the Royals will be more improved* this season — the offense or the starting pitching? *We may want to phrase this, ‘Which part will be less worse?’, but anyway…” Who would have thought the Royals had anything worth living for after trading Zack Greinke? Especially since the AVG leaders on their team are (excluding Billy Butler): Wilson Betemit, Alex Gordon, and Chris Getz in that order. How do you feel about yourself, Josh Fields? All the White Sox leftovers (Aside from Alex Gordon who I desperately wished would play for the White Sox to no avail) are doing better than your cleft chin! But I digress.

It seems that the Royals are, much like the Indians, running on fumes and waiting for their luck to run out. So where does that leave the Sox? Their 6-3 record is not shameful by any means. The team (bullpen aside, but even that seems to be improving) is looking solid all-around, probably a few weeks from regaining Cy Young winner Jake Peavy, and the offense is everything we thought it would be on paper (minus a week off for Adam Dunn).

I have no answers to these questions, but 153 games to figure it out.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Gavin Lite

I can't be the only one that's noticed that of all the White Sox starting pitchers, Gavin Floyd had quite the badonk-a-donk on him. Seriously, this guy was the Kim Kardashian of the White Sox organization. (At least after Dotel and his bubble derriere vacated the state.) I joked about it, but mostly figured it was because he was so tall that it was just to scale with his extremely tall body. When Chuck Garfien asked for questions for the post-game show, my mind had probably started to wander, feeling an ominous coming on. I jokingly threw out to Chuck and my Twitter followers, "Did Gavin Floyd's butt get smaller? Cause that thing used to be HUGE!" I promise I have a point. Lo and behold, Chuck answered my tweet with the news that Gavin lost 25 lbs since last year.

Now I'm not saying that's what made Gavin's game different today, but it may be adding to the adjustment period he is going through at the beginning of the season. I didn't get to see all of the game today, but I liked what I saw from Gavin. I, of course, missed the 4 runs he gave up, but he looked really solid. He didn't seem jittery, he didn't seem concerned that his curve ball wasn't on top, according to the Twitter world, he just went out there and did 7 innings of pretty solid work.

There were definitely some good things about today, too. Like Paul Konerko's first homer of the year. Once again, I didn't see it. Also, there was A.J. being A.J., sliding into the short stop at second base, trying to make him bobble the throw to first. Forget Charlie Sheen, get Pierzynski his own comedy tour.

Sadly, I got to be right today, as Alex Gordon owned our butt. If you type "Alex Gordon" into the blog's search box, you will find that in every post where he is mentioned, I write that I still like Alex Gordon. (Actually, I write "I still like Alex Gordon, even though..." well there's always something not to like, and I still liked him in spite of it. And times like today is why.) And in a post from 2008, I wrote this:
If Crede doesn’t come back next season (as painful as it is for me to admit that it is a possibility), we must move on to the farm, where Josh Fields has been seething with rage and jealousy, having first to relinquish his “hard-earned” spot to Crede and Uribe. I would rather have Jeff Cox play third base than Fields, but it’s an option. There are also third basemen out there or the taking. Maybe the Royals will be na├»ve enough to take Fields off our hands in exchange for Alex Gordon. I can’t explain it, I just really like the kid.
 Well, apparently Kenny Williams reads my blogs, but he thought "Gordon" was a fancy was of spelling "Teahen."

Overall, I'm not losing hope. I just hope the bullpen gets it together. It's been rocky out there for every reliever, and I'd really like to see that change. Drastically. And soon.

And on that bombshell, good night Sox fans!

--And one last thing. I mentioned Chuck Garfien today and in a previous post, I think, but I have to say, he just seems like the nicest guy. Sure, I made fun of his occasional misuse of homonyms, but what he lacks in grammar, he makes up for in good-natured charm. Glad he's on our side of town.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Carlos Quentin, Rollercoaster Tycoon

Watching Sunday’s game was a bit of a flashback to Friday. I had high hopes through the first few innings, thinking of what solid pitching the day had before the end of the starter’s turn and the bullpen gave up a touchdown. Of course, unlike Friday, the offense was silent. Just one run crossed the plate for the White Sox.

And of course, the story is Alexei Ramirez bunting into a triple play. A rare feat in baseball. Almost as rare as having two identical pop-out-foul-bunts, one of which ended up in someone’s glove. Now, Alexei needs to be scolded for his terrible bunting, but isn’t Ozzie really to blame for giving the sign for small ball when obviously it wasn’t going to work? It’s like asking Juan Uribe to bunt all over again: why bother when you saw with you own eyes that it wouldn’t work? I’m sure my question will go unanswered, and I’m not waiting for an answer. I’m waiting for a change. 2 on, not outs… and you choose to make Alexei Ramirez bunt. Sure… you’re the manager, not me.

There is a bright spot for the 2nd place Sox, though. They are playing the first place Royals (seriously) next, which should make for an easy couple of wins, and will hopefully result in the Sox taking over first place. First place, just like Carlos Quentin, who was voted the AL Player of the Week. In just 11 at-bats, CQ picked up 7 RBI and 3 doubles (leading the American League in both those categories). TCQ seems to be off to a good start, so long as he keeps from punching bats, twisting his ankles, or stays away from really dangerous areas such as baseball fields.

Quentin is really the only surprise this year. So far, Dunn and Konerko are blasting RBIs and looking every bit as solid as we could have hoped for the first 3 games. Quentin is really a surprise because the last 2 or 3 seasons have been a rollercoaster ride for him and his fans. Come to think of it, let’s add that to the list: no rollercoasters for Quentin. Or those spinning teacup things.

Friday, April 1, 2011

2011 Opening Day: An Opening Bid

I felt elated through the first 5 or so innings of today’s game. Buehrle was shutting down the Indians. Sure, they had a couple of hits, but they couldn’t score a run. The Sox, on the other hand, drove the Indians’ pitcher out of the game by the 4th inning, and were two touchdowns (14 runs) ahead. I couldn’t have been happier if Joe Crede himself was playing third base. Everyone (but Rios, of course) had a hit, Dunn and Carlos had homered… spirits were high, and the game was moving along.

And then the 6th inning game. Slow. Painful. Four runs later, Buehrle exited the game, with a 10-run lead. And then the floodgates opened. Ohman’s first thrown pitch was a solo home run. (Yes, his ERA after just 0.2 innings of play is 40.50] Crain earned some runs (as did Tony Pena), and even Chris Sale looked bad (despite not being credited with any runs). Fans on Twitter joked that “All In” meant have to put every single player in the game. I joked that it was Josh Fields’s fault. Overall, I can’t put my finger on it.

The offensive explosion seemed promising in the beginning, but faltered toward the end, indicating some of the problems of previous year. The bullpen looked so shaky, I could imagine Bobby Jenks stroking his bleached goatee and laughing an evil laugh.

 It’s not exactly the way I planned to spend my time after opening day. Usually a game won is pretty clear cut. But I haven’t felt so bad and so good about a game at the same time in very long.

I guess what I’m really trying to say is that it’s day one. It really doesn’t determine anything. What it does is give fans hope for the next 161 games, it brings the word “baseball” into conversation, and it makes conversations a little bit more interesting than “that was a good game.” In the end, that’s what baseball is all about. Averages, numbers, the “long-run”, not just a small sample. So the Sox are off with a win, and the fans are left with many questions whose answers are just beyond the 9th inning of every game from now until October. Cheers to Opening Day.

PS: Joe Crede walks into a bar. Everyone buys him a beer. No joke. Just what it’s like being AWESOME.


Saturday, February 19, 2011

Spring Training: A Time To Grab the Bullpen By The Horns

Thornton says he doesn’t get recognized much. While it may be every little boy’s dream to grow up to be a famous baseball player, in today’s world, that would mean you’d have to be an A-Rod-sized egomaniac who philanders himself with one famous lady after another, all the while juicing up on steroids and being everything baseball shouldn’t be. It’s okay, Matt Thornton. You don’t have to be recognized. (And you certainly don’t want to be remembered as the guy who gave up the go-ahead run in the All-Star Game in 2010, but alas…)

Uh… what was I talking about? Oh yeah, Matt Thornton. The Sox front page features an article about him and how they will deliver him from anonymity by making him their closer. Yes, at the moment, he seems to be the prime candidate to fill Bobby Jenks’s oversized britches.

I’m not sure how I feel about this. First of all, I was Thornton’s biggest fan in 2009. Last year, though, it was appallingly difficult to tell if he was having a so-so year in the midst of the Sox driving themselves into a ditch or if he was having difficulties. That, or, maybe everyone figured him out. After all, the same article mentions that, “According to FanGraphs.com, Thornton threw his fastball 88.1 percent of the time among his 974 pitches last season.” I’m not exactly a mathematician, but my counting skills tell me that’s a lot of pitches that are the same. If you asked me a few years ago, I would say that’s all a closer is: a guy that throws really really really really really hard. If you asked me last year, while Jenks was struggling and complaining about his fast ball, I would stand behind that even more. In the ninth inning, Thornton isn’t coming on to cover Tony Pena’s ass after he got 12 men on base and allowed 45 runs to score (Pena often does that. Look it up…), he’s coming on with no one out, with arguably less pressure and more room for error. If there’s one thing Thornton’s proven is that he is the voice of reason. And if he thinks he’s ready to close, that may be reasonable enough.

Speaking of the bullpen, Kenny Williams said an interesting thing about Chris Sale. Sale was scheduled to train with the starters, but was announced to be a bullpen arm within a few days. What gives? Well, Kenny says Sale has prepared as a starter all his career and Kenny did not want to change the way he prepared for the season, for fear that it would change his game in any way. Uh… sure. I’ll buy that.

That’s my bullpen news of the day. It’s exciting to see footage crop up from Spring Training and I can’t wait to see the first game! Combined with the increasing puddles outside and the diminishing mounds of snow, I am ready for baseball season.


Monday, February 14, 2011

Good on Paper, Bad in Excel

"Someone mentioned to me how on paper, we look great and I said, 'Yeah, the '08 Tigers, on paper, they were the most feared team in the history of baseball.' I was terrified and thinking, 'This team is ridiculous and we have no chance.' We ended up winning the division, and the Tigers finished dead last. It can happen to us." –Matt Thornton

I feel like, in a strange way, Matt Thornton has been this team’s voice of reason this offseason. From his radio interview saying Oney should not have brought out clubhouse business, to admitting that looking good on paper doesn’t mean anything, Matt Thornton is a smart guy. But how good do the Sox really look on paper? Enter Microsoft Excel and the writer of The White Sox Blog. Phase one, pitching.

Pitching is really the backbone of any baseball team. If your starting pitching is good, you won’t need much. Sure, there are the likes of Wilson Betemit, Josh Fields, and Mark Teahen, who have single-handedly lost a game or two, but for the most part, pitching makes or breaks a team. So I laid out a spreadsheet of the ERAs and winning percentages of all the pitchers listed for the White Sox by ESPN.com. Then, I took the average of both the ERAs and the percentages for both 2010 and for the entirety of their respective careers. To borrow from Top Gear, the results were STAGGERING. Well… not really.

Although I didn’t get weighted average (so the results are a bit biased because some pitchers pitched 500 innings, some pitched about 2), and some pitchers had no results to speak of, the number is still technically the White Sox “on paper.” The average ERA in 2010 for the 18 pitchers listed on ESPN.com is 4.44. This is a fair ERA, but nowhere near brilliant, or even good, considering that it is an improvement from the pitchers’ lifetime average ERA, 4.73. And while 2010 was somewhat of a disappointment, these pitchers had an average winning percentage of 56%, while their lifetime winning percentage was 53.2%. If we only win 53.2% of our games this year, we’d be no better than this year. Last year, we won 54.3% of our games.

Don’t despair, though. While the numbers are staggering with 2.00 ERAs and 77% winning percentages, last year’s World Series winners, the Giant only won 56.8% of their games. See, we’re not exactly in bad shape. But does the pitching look great on paper? Well, according to dictionary.com, you’d have to define “great” as “of exceptional talents or achievements; remarkable” or “impressive or striking.” How can you use any of those words in conjecture with a staff that refuses to relinquish itself of Tony Pena?


Thursday, February 10, 2011

Things I've Heard...

It’s all over the newspapers. “I know it's bad to say, but there were times where we hope he gets hurt.” That would be Mark Buehrle on Michael Vick. Sure, it’s taken out of context. He [Buehrle] was saying he’s an animal lover, and that guys like Vick, who hurt animals, have something coming for them in terms of karma. But Holy Jesus Wearing Sandals! You can’t qualify something with “I know it’s bad to say” and then blurt it out in an interview! Way to shove your huge foot in your enormous mouth. I think Matt Thornton (talking about Oney’s twitter rampage against Bobby Jenks) sums my feelings up best: “The fact that anything was said at all is ridiculous,” Thornton said.

Now, I know you’re waiting with baited breath for me to deliver on the promise I made last post. More Mark Teahen bashing. Well, here it is. From the front-page itself: “Mark Teahen acknowledges his on-field performance, offensively and defensively, last season was subpar.” Don’t worry, Mark. No one thinks your performance was subpar. It was right on par with your crappy career-long performance. You were playing for the Royals, not the Red Sox, for a reason, honey. Because you are subpar compared with anyone else on your team. Or any other team for that matter. Let’s all face it. Teahen will be eating a lot of bench and using his frequent flier miles on flights to Charlotte this year. Even Peavy said he hears Brent Morel is the third baseman elect, and couldn’t be happier about it. God, I miss Josh Fields… At least he was arrogant about his abilities and I didn’t feel bad about making fun of his unshaven cleft.

One thing I didn’t talk about was Alexei’s extension. And by that, I mean, Dayan Viciedo’s enormous contract. Alexei’s extension finally gave him a contract that wasn’t, well, insulting. Viciedo’s contract makes me wonder if he’ll ever be a big league player and why we owe him so much money. I’m sure the Cuban well has not run dry, but is it possible for the Sox to have struck gold twice? With their luck, no. So, again I ask, for the 40th time, what’s the deal with Dayan Viciedo?

That’s all for today. Keep your eyes open for a post sometime this week that uses actual statistics!


Tuesday, February 8, 2011

If You're "All In", Get Out!

Later that night: It's just been announced that the White Sox 2011 ad campaign is titled "All In." Oh dear lord!

It’s colder than a witch’s tit out there! And you know what that means! It’s time for the White Sox Blog to come back to life. No, that’s completely made up. But after computer malfunctions last December and a crazy January, I find myself in February, ready to pick up my typewriter and write to my adoring fans. Also, I have a new laptop on which to write my blog on.

First, let me just tell you that if I ever read the phrases “All In” and “White Sox” in a sentence (apart from this one) ever again, I might personally go to Jerry Reinsdorf’s house and steal his wallet. Now clearly, Jerry allowed the Sox to expand their budget a tad, but this “tad” is probably still on pace with average revenue growth. It’s not like he’s not going to get that money back and then some. “All-In” doesn’t even apply to this situation. Unless our payroll was double that of the Yankees and had half of their players, we are being duped into believing Jerry is making some great sacrifice and giving us the money his wife would otherwise use to buy dinner.

As for Jake Peavy being “All In”… yeah, well he better be. He’s getting paid and adding no value. On a more serious note, he seems determined to be our 5th starter by opening day. My hopes aren’t as high. Then again, if Jose Contreras did it, so can Jake Peavy. Oh, God. Let’s not make that analogy.

If Peavy isn’t ready, Freddy Garcia isn’t an option either. It turns out Freddy got picked up by the Yankees. That’s right. New York’s going to get a little wetter this summer. Freddy and Colon in a Yankees uniform. A sight to behold! You are one Jose Contreras away from the best team ever!

There’s always Chris Sale, according to the internet. And while my little “hole in the wall” blog is part of the internet nevertheless, I am going to respectfully disagree. Freakin’ idiots. Okay, forget the “respectfully” part. You’re not going to entrust your starting rotation to a kid in the year that you’re going balls to the walls (alternative #1 for “All-In”). Who knows what problems Sale will display when pitching for 7 innings at a time? And, not to agree with Don Cooper, but he shouldn’t be bounced around. Look at what it did to Beckham. At least in theory.

In minor league news, Joe Crede is back! He’s back baby! Crede has inked a minor league deal with the Rockies. That’s pretty much the worst thing I’ve ever heard, but at least it’s something! Show them what you’ve got, Joe!

In related news (if you define “related” and “news” loosely), Gordy Becks has decided he will no longer do things like endorsements, and focus on baseball. That’ll disappoint the Victoria’s Secret girls. And the Giordano’s manager. And anyone who counts on Beckham’s salary for that matter. And on that note, I’m sorry if you came to this website because you searched “Eva Longoria shirtless.” There were 18 of you. Thanks for that precious info, Google Analytics.

It’s good to be back. Join me Thursday, when I attempt to catch up on an entire offseason of baseball and I say more mean things about Mark Teahen.