Take your first date to Dairy Queen? Train wreck. Show up at a funeral in a bikini? Train wreck. Especially if you look like me. We all know what train wrecks are but, sometimes, it’s fun to get a reminder.
Yesterday both of our baseball teams decided to show fans exactly a train wreck looks like.
There’s no real way to describe the level of bad we were subjected to yesterday. I was having one of those days where the power was out so I couldn’t use an ATM. When the power came back on I found out my bank’s computer was off line so it didn’t matter if the freaking ATM worked or not. However, I avoided a train wreck moment when a friend of mine bought me a couple of beers and let me watch the games on her TVs. That was very nice.
She also gave me cheese.
It’s a pity she’s happily married.
Maybe not, given my track record in relationships.
Which brings us back to train wrecks.
PAUL SULLIVAN over at the Tribune, saw the Cubs game and was just shaking his melon when it was done.
The Cubs’ long-running slide continued Saturday in a game that turned on Matt Holliday’s controversial slide.
The takeout slide in the fifth inning led to the loss of some skin on Starlin Castro’s left leg, two runs scoring in an eight-run inning, the ejection of manager Mike Quade, the meltdown of reliever Jeff Samardzija and a 13-5 loss to the Cardinals, the Cubs’ fifth straight.
After scoring five first inning runs off Kyle Lohse, the Cubs watched as the Cardinals scored 13 off Rodrigo Lopez and the bullpen. They dropped to a season-low 23 games below .500 and are now 0-5 at Busch Stadium.
But the play that everyone was talking about afterward was Holliday’s wayward slide into Castro’s leg while breaking up a potential double play on David Freese’s bases-loaded grounder to second.
Whether or not the play was legal, or dirty, was in the eye of the beholder. Castro said Holliday was “not even close” to second base and questioned his intentions, saying he was fortunate Holliday wasn’t wearing metal cleats.
“He slid hard, real hard,” Castro said. “It was not clean.”
Manager Mike Quade has no problem with Holliday’s intention, but questioned umpire Derryl Cousins’ call that it was a legal slide.
“That’s why they have the rule in place,” he said. “I don’t think there was an attempt at the bag and he got a pretty good piece of Castro as well. That was a huge play. … I disagree a bunch, obviously.”
Cardinals manager Tony La Russa maintained Holliday was “in the vicinity of the base,” and that Castro “had a lapse” on the ground in pain as Albert Pujols scored from second base. Third baseman Aramis Ramirez called the slide “the right way to play the game” and said Castro told him it was “clean.”
Holliday escaped the clubhouse without addressing the media.
“I was within reach of the bag,” Holliday wrote in a text to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “… I was just playing the game the way I was taught — that’s as hard as I can.”
Quade didn’t believe the slide was dirty, which may be why reliever James Russell walked Holliday the next inning instead of retaliating with a knockdown pitch. In the last two seasons, Andrew Cashner, Kerry Wood and former Cubs pitcher Ted Lilly all have thrown purpose pitches to right a wrong.
“I applaud somebody for going in hard and trying to break up a double play that will end an inning,” Quade said. “But it was not a legal slide to me, and that’s it.”
Quade, who received his fourth ejection, said the game “would have been different” if Cousins ruled it an inning-ending double play. Instead, the game was tied at 5-5, and Samardzija fell apart after arguing a called ball on a walk. He finally was removed after eight runs had scored.
“That’s why you play nine innings,” Ramirez said. “You can’t relax, especially when you’re playing a good team.”
Oh, forget about the slide. Soriano threw a ball towards the dug out allowing a run, and that was a high point of the defense. Castro had a brain cramp and forgot to throw the ball home, even though Samardzija was screaming so loud the fans in the bleachers had to cover their ears. I shouldn’t single them out since there were lots of examples of how not to play the game on display.
But the Southsiders weren’t to be left out of this particular pity party. TONI GINNETTI at the Sun Times was at the Cell and wondered if the Sox could trade Rios to anyone for a bag of balls.
It wouldn’t even have to be a full bag.
The Boston Red Sox were busy on two fronts Saturday night.
Off the field, they completed a trade for starting pitcher Rich Harden; on the field, they handed the White Sox a 10-2 loss.
Already with the American League’s best record but fighting to hold off the New York Yankees in the American League East, Boston showed off its offensive firepower with a 15-hit attack against a team that has been its worst headache.
Jon Lester (11-4) allowed only four hits through eight innings, two of them solo homers by Paul Konerko and Gordon Beckham.
The loss, only the second in the last seven games for the White Sox, kept them three games behind the Detroit Tigers in the AL Central but dropped them 11/2 games behind the second-place Cleveland Indians, who made their own dramatic move Saturday night by acquiring starter Ubaldo Jimenez from the Colorado Rockies.
Like his team, Lester previously had been victimized by the White Sox.
‘‘We’ve had some success against him, but today he was around the plate, and when those types of guys are on their game, you try to get to them early because it’s going to be tough to get them late,’’ White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Philip Humber (8-7) hadn’t pitched since July 17, but he matched Lester through four innings before Carl Crawford started a decisive fifth inning with an infield single. The Red Sox batted around in the inning, then repeated it in the ninth against Brian Bruney, scoring five runs with the help of back-to-back homers by Adrian Gonzalez and Kevin Youkilis.
But it was the run the Red Sox scored in the eighth with two outs that drew the most boos from the U.S. Cellular Field crowd. It came after Josh Reddick walked with two outs but scored from first when Marco Scutaro singled to center field, where Alex Rios retrieved it but threw poorly to Beckham, who had no chance to relay home.
Rios declined to talk about the play after the game.
‘‘I won’t throw in the towel on [Rios],’’ Guillen said. ‘‘I’m not going to protect him like everybody thinks I am. I think [Reddick] should be at third, no doubt. The bad thing about that play was the bad throw to second base. [Rios] made a bad throw, and that’s why [Reddick] scored.’’
Guillen said Rios will play again today.
‘‘I know it’s not easy when you’re not playing well and people are on you every at-bat and every play,’’ Guillen said. ‘‘But this is Chicago. You’ve got to be tough and go out and perform.’’
No, Rios didn’t make a “bad throw.” He picked up the ball, kind of maybe thought about looking at it and then threw it to the wrong base. If I didn’t know better I’d say he was stoned.
“Oh wow, duuude, look at this round white thing. I wonder what it’s for?”
The same could be said about Brian Bruney who handed he Red Sox five free runs in the 9th to make them happy. Clearly he missed the memo about what the role of an MLB pitcher is.
Oh well, today’s the rubber match for the Sox. Now, if someone could explain to me why it’s called a “rubber match” everything would be fine here.
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Admit it, even when times are tough and life’s getting you down, you still look for the silver lining. It’s human nature. We never believe we’re counted out until the eternal darkness clouds our vision. That theme is one of the cornerstones of literature and cinema and television. I thought of this yesterday as I was watching a Jim Hendry interview on TV. Gordon Wittenmyer was there and shared it with the class.
‘‘You always need some kind of rebuilding when you’re in fifth place, absolutely,’’ Hendry said. ‘‘But you certainly don’t look at it like, ‘We’re not going to compete for a few years.’ When somebody says, ‘Blow the place up and start over and do it right,’ well, OK, does that mean we should get rid of the people who are very young and very good?’’
Well, no, numbskull, rebuilding means keep the young kids and dump the rest. But, since you’re just a petty general manager, I guess we shouldn’t expect you to know that.
But you can still see that he’s looking on the bright side of things. He believes that the team will compete next year. He even talks about how teams in big markets can’t rebuild. I guess we should all be thankful that the Sox, Bulls and the Hawks missed that particular memo.
Despite his personal delusions, fans understand rebuilding. When Toews and crew started coming up Hawks’ fans knew they were watching special players. When Rose and Noah joined the Bulls fans started grabbing up season tickets again even though they knew it was going to be a couple of years before they were a true force in the NBA. When the White Sox started “The Kids Can Play” campaign it was clear they weren’t going anywhere that year. But Konerko and crew resonated with Sox fans and they started paying attention again.
In other words, it can be done and done successfully.
Yesterday I wrote about the pervasive depressive mentality on the Northside and, in a private email, asked our readers to contribute articles on any subject. It was no surprise that the first article we got was from a Cubs’ fan.
As I was perusing the article I had the Cubs on the TV. I was flipping back and forth between both games last night. I was actually feeling sorry for Cubs’ pitcher Matt Garza. Not many people can pitch a complete game shut out and watch his team lose the game. And that was one of his better days. Yesterday he had a rough outing and actually earned the loss. In some sad way I think he might have felt relief.
Anyway, we know the Cubs lost their fourth game in a row by the close score of 9-2 and we know they did it the traditional way; bad base running, errors in the field, mediocre pitching and so on.
So, instead of recapping the game and passing along abject misery, let’s look at the hopeful thoughts of our blogger and life long Cubs’ fan, Loligag 1953.
I once asked Norman Chad, “If the Cubs were in the World Series leading three games to none against ... let’s say the Yankees, and they were up by a score of ten / zip in the eighth inning of game four; how much money should I place on New York to win the series?”
This question, along with my willingness to back it up with actual coin of the realm should indicate the utter hopelessness that will forever haunt and torment the Great Unwashed who worship at that ivy covered mausoleum on Clark and Addison.
As a gullible young lad back in 1969, I too bought into the possibility that, “This is the year” only to have my hopes and dreams crushed under the weight of abject failure and a total collapse; the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the fall of the Roman Empire. I swore to the Gods that I would never subject myself to such heartbreak again.
At that precise moment in time I came to this simple conclusion: It doesn’t make any difference who’s in the starting line-up, who’s on the pitching staff, or who’s coaching the team, because in the final analysis they’re Cubs, and are therefore doomed to failure.
It was a revelation, an epiphany, and transformational experience. I was freed from the annual torment of hope and inevitable despair that is a Cub fan’s lot in life. The vicious cycle had finally been broken.
In 1984 after the Cubs had swept the Padres at home I watched the final three games of the series in the company die hard friends who had yet to see the light. Sitting at the bar, listening to their anguished screams and watching as the tears streamed down their faces, I was unmoved and not the least bit surprised.
Someone asked, “Can you believe that? How can you just sit there in peaceful silence? Say something!”
An almost identical scene was repeated in 2003. The faces in the bar had changed, (the previous group having drank themselves to death during the 90’s) but it was deja vu all over again.
Like lemmings drawn to a cliff, they bellied up to the bar.
Someone screamed, “We’re on our way!”
I replied under my breath, “No you’re not.”
Another one of the believers corrected me, saying, “That’s ridiculous. We’re five outs away from being in the World Series. How can you even think such a thing?”
As I settled back to watch the ensuing carnage I casually replied, “They’re Cubs.”.
The regularity with which history repeats itself never ceases to amaze me.
Okay, maybe someone should buy Loligag 1953 a drink. Maybe two or three.
Believe it or not, even though I’m a Sox fan, I want the Cubs to do well. It’s no fun writing about loss after loss after loss after .... you get the idea.
There’s only so much you can say before you’re just repeating yourself. And then you sound like the crazy drunk in the Cubs’ hat who blames all the teams woes on Billy Sianis.
On the Southside the Sox played the Sox last night and ESPN had a nice pregame show explaining to their wonderful viewers why the Sox who don’t wear red were going to have a really tough time and then lose the game. They did, however, deign to admit that Ozzie Guillen is “scrappy.”
However, as SCOTT MERKIN reports, the White Sox don’t watch ESPN.
A 3-1 White Sox victory over the Red Sox before 27,513 at U.S. Cellular Field on Friday night is not exactly hard to fathom.
Gavin Floyd (9-9) was on the mound for the South Siders and raised his career record to 6-0 against the visitors, while the White Sox had 10 wins in their last 11 games against Boston and a 13-2 head-to-head ledger prior to this opener of a three-game weekend set. But the fact that a game involving these two teams checked in under three hours, let alone in 2:10, is downright stunning.
This quick pace stood as a testament to the lack of offense on both sides, with three hits for each team. It was more a tribute to great starting pitching from Floyd and Tim Wakefield (6-4), the ageless knuckleballer.
“That was the best knuckleball I’ve seen him throw since I’ve watched him, and I’ve faced him a whole bunch,” said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, who delivered the game-winning, two-run home run off Wakefield in the seventh. “It was just dropping, every one, and moving left, right, up and down.”
“Today, I knew it was going to be tough for us to get him because from the beginning he was throwing strikes and the ball was moving pretty good,” said manager Ozzie Guillen of Wakefield. “When you see your leadoff hitter swing the bat like he did, you don’t see Juan [Pierre] swing the bat kind of funny. I knew that ball was moving a lot.”
So much for the Wakefield tribute portion of the program. And that tribute was well-deserved, as the soon-to-be 45-year-old held the White Sox to one hit through five innings.
Pierre opened the sixth with a bunt single down the third-base line and moved to second on Omar Vizquel’s sacrifice bunt up the first-base line. A wild pitch brought Pierre to third, and Paul Konerko’s sacrifice fly matched Jarrod Saltalamacchia’s solo homer from the third to tie the game at 1.
Carlos Quentin’s leadoff walk preceded Pierzynski’s fifth home run of the season, a 409-foot blast to right-center on a 0-1 pitch. Pierzynski didn’t remember the deciding pitch from Wakefield being a bad one.
“I just saw it, I swung and luckily for us, it went out and gave us the lead,” said Pierzynski, who now has 33 RBIs.
“He ran into it,” said Saltalamacchia of Pierzynski’s long ball. “That’s what happens when you run into it.”
“[The pitch] just didn’t do what it was supposed to do,” Wakefield added.
While the White Sox (52-52) used two brief rallies to beat the Red Sox (64-40), Floyd managed to shut down the Red Sox’s biggest threat of the night in the sixth. Marco Scutaro’s single, Jacboy Ellsbury’s free pass and then a two-out walk to David Ortiz loaded the bases for Kevin Youkilis and his 72 RBIs.
Youkilis worked the count to 2-2, before being rung up by home-plate umpire Rob Drake on a borderline strike three on the outside corner. Even with the game on the line in this situation, Floyd didn’t immediately consider that strikeout pitch the biggest one of the game.
“Biggest pitch was A.J. hitting the home run, putting us ahead,” said Floyd, before the question was rephrased to ask about his effort in particular. “I walked a couple of guys to get the bases loaded, but being able to execute that pitch and strike him out looking was a key out for me.”
Floyd received perfect relief help from Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos (22nd save), reducing the bullpen’s ERA to a miniscule 1.05 over 77 1/3 innings covering the last 26 games. The White Sox starting rotation features a 1.92 ERA since the All-Star break, sparking the team’s 8-4 run, and Floyd ranks as a big part of that success.
Friday’s effort, in which Floyd struck out six over seven innings, improved his record to 3-0 since the Midsummer Classic. During wins over the Tigers, Indians and the Red Sox, Floyd has allowed two earned runs in 22 1/3 innings.
It’s quite a turnaround from the 3 2/3-inning shellacking administered by the Twins in his first-half finale.
“Throwing strikes, being really aggressive, that’s what we talked about coming back from the All-Star break,” said Pierzynski of Floyd’s changes. “Pitch selection and motion a little bit, just being more aggressive, speeding up the tempo. Throwing a lot more pitches inside. He’s always had the ability to do it, he’s just doing it now and getting strikes.”
“We’ve seen him pitch very well,” said Boston manager Terry Francona of Floyd. “When he has all his pitches going, he can go right through the lineup, just like he did.”
Claiming a seventh straight win over the Red Sox and fourth straight this season left the White Sox three games behind the Tigers in the American League Central, but just a half-game behind the second-place Indians. The White Sox will look to move over .500 Saturday for the first time since April 15, when they were a lofty 7-6.
Jon Lester stands in the White Sox way. But in a phrase ridiculous in its nature because of the two teams’ respective standings, all things Red Sox are good for Guillen’s crew as it fights for the division top spot.
“Some people you can’t beat. That’s happened to us with a few teams. It’s happened to them,” said Guillen, whose team beat the Red Sox without Adrian Gonzalez as a pregame scratch with a stiff neck. “They have a great ballclub. There’s a reason they’re in first place. We bring our best out there.”
With the win the good Sox pulled within a half game of second place.
It’s not going to get any easier for our guys. The Red Sox have two nasty lefties and the Good Sox are going to face both of them this weekend. One thing to keep in mind is this, after their godawful 11-22 start, the Good Sox have gone 41-30. If they keep that pace up to the end of the season the AL Central is going to be a fun division to watch.
Maybe Cubs fans can switch to the Southside for the rest of the season. We drink too but without the maudlin music and depressing tributes.
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If you look at the image to the right you’re probably thinking it looks like an album cover. Much to no one’s surprise, it is. Kevin Henrickson released that album in June of 2008 and it is full of the treacly, overly earnest, poorly written, annoyingly sung, music that seems to permeate Northside lore. Think bad piano bar and save yourself the pain of actually listening to it.
But what inspires a level of dementia so severe that crap like this ends up being aired on WGN before Cubs’ games and lauded as a fitting tribute? It goes far deeper than the mentality that anything your kid draws ends up on the fridge. This is music to commit suicide by.
And more than anything else it is that mentality that needs to change.
Are the Cubs, as constituted, going to be able to do that? I’m not talking about the players on the field, I’m talking about the people who put the players on the field.
I think the short answer is no.
Yesterday I looked at the Sox. That was pretty straight forward. Fans and detractors of Ozzie would be fans and detractors no matter what I wrote, so there was nothing to be accomplished looking at him. Jerry Reinsdorf has brought more championships to this city than any other owner, so there’s nothing to say about him. All I had left to do was look at the pluses and minuses of Kenny Williams and call it a day.
The Cubs, on the other hand, are like your good looking cousin who never quite seems to be able to find a job or stable relationship. Simply put, they’re complicated.
Tom Ricketts outbid Mark Cuban, yes, you read that right, to become the owner of the Chicago Cubs. This solved any problems the old boys’ club, led by Selig, would have had with Cuban. To accomplish this he leveraged twice the gross national debt of Lichtenstein.
He talks lovingly of the times he spent in the bleachers and returning the team to those halcyon days of yore. The problem is that those halcyon days are the 80’s. That would be the era that saw the Cubs purchased by the Tribune company and watched them have 2 good seasons out of 10. It was also the era that saw an end to even trying to put a complete team on the field and, instead, focused on a player or two who could hit and, maybe, a pitcher. From Dave “King Kong” Kingman to Sammy “No Habla Ingles” Sosa it was an era that saw fans, if I may use that term, focus on one player at a time and ignore the team. It was great for marketing and began the fan fascination with partying and occasionally catching a game.
It also led to the fact that over 35% of the people in the stands each day aren’t from Chicago. They’re just there to see the ivy and hit the bars. Without them Cubs’ attendance would barely rival the Astros. In a good year.
Back on February 8th of this year, I joined Rick Morrissey in taking a look at the Cubs’ prospects this year. It was a depressing article. What it all boiled down to was the Cubs, under Ricketts’ reign, are going to put as much eye candy as they can around the park, both here and in Mesa. However, it appears as though they are going to put nothing but excuses on the field.
In other words, the Cubs have an owner who really doesn’t care all that much about the Cubs.
But that can be worked around by having a strong visionary in the president’s seat. After all Marge Schott got out of the way enough to allow the Reds to become the Little Red Machine, one of the scariest teams in baseball. There is precedent. But the Cubs have handed those duties to Crane Kenny, a man who knows nothing about baseball and who probably couldn’t tell you what RBI stands for. Back in November of 2010 Desipio, a brutally honest fan site, took a look at the wonderful world of Mr. Kenny.
WARNING: This is not for the faint of heart or those who might be easily offended.
Remember back when the Rickettses took control of the team and we all just couldn’t wait for them to shitcan their Vice President for Douchebaggery and Asshattery, Crane Kenney? Yeah, well they never actually did that. Instead, they put Crane in charge of two things.
1) Finding a buddy of his to take over and ruin the marketing of the Cubs
2) Heading up whatever the hell “Wrigley 2014″ is.
Crane made short work of hiring the brains behind the brilliant marketing of Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid (can’t wait to buy my tickets!), and things are going so well that the team can’t get anyone to buy tickets to the Cubs Convention this year.
But what was really important to the Rickettses (that can’t be the right plural for them, is it Ricketti?) was the Wrigley 2014 horseshit. They were going to execute this grand plan that would renovate the ricketty (wait, maybe that’s ricketti?) old ballyard into a cash cow money maker with toilets so clean Todd would only need to hose them down every other day, and actually edible food, and a clubhouse that wouldn’t necessitate the spate of sub 5’4 middle infielders they have to have now to meet fire code, and all kinds of nifty new crap.
They were going to build a triangle building that would be shaped like…well, a triangle I would guess, and it would have offices in it (neat!) and a Cubs Hall of Fame (oh, for godsakes why?) and they were going to dig a tunnel so players could either use expanded training facilities in the adjacent building or play Chilean miner, I’m not really sure which.
Anyway, this was going to be great. And Crane was going to head it up, because nobody knows how to get things done like a guy who has had a series of jobs with the Tribune and now the Cubs that nobody knows what the hell he’s supposed to do.
Crane was also going to use his somewhat masculine charm to convince Interim Baseball Commissioner for Life Bud Selig to have the 2014 All-Star Game in Chicago to commemorate the 100th birthday of Wrigley Field.
See, Crane’s a man who gets things done. This is why he continues in his phoney baloney job months after he should have been kicked to the curb. He’s a man of action, and you can’t ever have too many men of action.
So guess how well Wrigley 2014 is going?
It’s now Wrigley 2016.
I really don’t have anything I can add to that.
Well, okay, that still leaves them with a general manager who can manipulate budgets and put a competitive team on the field.
As Dan McNeil notes, of the three active general mangers right now, Hendry isn’t the worst. However that’s akin to saying “You have terminal cancer, but at least you avoided Ebola.” It really isn’t good news.
The Sox dropped $9.5 million from their payroll and added depth to a bullpen that already is good. Meanwhile, the Cubs moved Kosuke Fukudome to the Indians on Thursday — paying all but $775,000 of what remains on his contract — and acquired two undistinguished minor league players.
So what did Hendry accomplish? Fukudome’s departure only means an opportunity for Tyler Colvin to play every day. That and the money he saved his boss. When you look at all the dead money the Cubs possess, that barely moves the needle.
Hendry won’t do it because he thinks the Cubs can compete next year, but he should be looking for a new home for closer Carlos Marmol. He’s been erratic and he’s in the Cubs’ pockets for $17 million over the next two seasons.
Forget how bad the division is. Do the Cubs really have a core that says “World Series contender” in 2012? 2013?
The rotation and bullpen are both suspect. That’s why Hendry should be looking to move whatever reasonably well-compensated players he can. Ryan Dempster, Marlon Byrd and Carlos Pena all should be shopped.
Let’s face it, Hendry has proven to be adept at throwing money at problems, not solving them. And now he’s faced with a team full of players that no one wants. Not even triple A teams.
The manager he hired to take the team to the promised land never won a playoff game and the one he slighted won a World Series. The next manager he hired may go down in history as the third most inept manager in the history of the franchise.
Which brings us to Mike Quade.
He’s a really nice guy.
He really likes baseball.
He couldn’t coach his way out of a paper bag if you spotted him a scissors and a flashlight.
It was he who, after a giddy sweep of the only team worse than the Cubs, declared them primed for the playoffs. Well, why not, you might ask. After all you can count the number of teams that have been hovering around 20 games under .500 near August that have made it to the playoffs on a closed fist. But it didn’t matter as the Cubs went and faced a real baseball team and got their asses handed to them three games in a row.
In summation, you have an owner who doesn’t care about the team on the field, a president who isn’t sure what those people are doing on his field when it could be used for concerts and stuff, a general manager who can’t general manage and a manager who has never done this before and probably shouldn’t do it again.
Go Cubs go, indeed.
As my friend, the scout, said yesterday, “If fans thought they were bad this year, they ain’t seen nothing yet.”
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Jay the Joke Request
Would you do me a favor? Could you write more about the White Sox? I am already tired about reading about the Cubs, who lose every day. The White Sox are contending in the AL Central, and they are the best team in Chicago. I see the White Sox winning it all this season if they get the playoffs. They are more intriguing than the stupid Cubs.
I usually write about the Cubs on first half to the blog and then the Sox on the second, but I’ll see what I can do.
It’s just that there are White Sox fans who read the blog that may feel offended that it’s a pro Cubs blog. Cubs have been irrelevant for awhile now. They have nothing to play for. White Sox do.
You always have to shake it up where there is a day you write about the White Sox and a day where you have to write about the Cubs.
That’s not a bad idea.
What makes this blog different than most others is that not everyone who reads it posts here. They are just as likely to post on Twitter and Facebook. The conversation above comes from Facebook. It is kind of galling to have someone assume I’m a Cubs’ fan, especially given the fact that I’m typing this while wearing my Sox boxers, but I guess I can see his point if he’s only reading the front page. My attempt to not bias the blog could be construed as biasing it in the opposite direction.
So, in order to make our fan happy, I’ll just stick to the Sox today.
PHIL ROGERS, at the Tribune, thinks that Kenny Williams is the reason that the team has been ruined.
You knew Ken Williams was going to do something. He always does.
And more often than not since 2005, Williams’ hyperactivity has been a problem for the White Sox. He has taken a strong organization, won a World Series and chased his bets trying to create another playoff run.
On Wednesday, the check finally came for a series of overly aggressive mistakes by the general manager, who has spent Chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s money at a record pace rather than build from within, as the smartest teams do.
Attendance is down at U.S. Cellular Field, and the White Sox’s record isn’t up. It’s 51-52 after John Danks’ victory over the Tigers on a day when the departure of Edwin Jackson and arrival of Alejandro De Aza diverted attention.
The Sox didn’t wave a white flag in dumping salary to lessen their load — and possibly set the stage to acquire Aramis Ramirez or another third baseman — but Williams did cry uncle. He touts right-hander Zach Stewart’s potential and the need to add a right-handed reliever to lessen the load on Jesse Crain, but the trade he made that allowed the Blue Jays to acquire center fielder Colby Rasmus (the kind of player the White Sox should be adding) was all about lowering the payroll.
Williams was thrilled to find a taker for Mark Teahen, just as he was to offload another mistake, Scott Linebrink, before this season. The deal that sent Jackson and Teahen to the Jays for Jason Frasor and Stewart is hardly a huge one in regard to balancing the books, however.
Jackson and Teahen already have banked about two-thirds of their combined $13.1 million salaries this season, so the Sox figure to save only $4.4 million. They will save another $5.5 million on Teahen in 2012.
This, of course, is chump change when compared to moves that could handcuff Williams or his successor for years to come — two bad trades involving Nick Swisher, a 2009 trade for Jake Peavy, an ‘09 waiver claim for Alex Rios and this winter’s signing of Adam Dunn, which looked good at the time but has been an exploding cigar.
While the White Sox’s farm system has regressed annually, Williams has helped the Padres, Blue Jays, Royals and Diamondbacks rebuild. And his headline-grabbing trades and big spending haven’t stopped a run of mediocrity that began at the All-Star break in 2006. The White Sox are 411-414 since then, and they could have had a better record and lower payroll if Williams had learned to say no.
His risks have included trading away a series of players after they reached the big leagues. Daniel Hudson, Clayton Richard and Chris Getz, who are making a combined $1.331 million this season, have far outperformed the trio of Peavy, Jackson and Teahen, who are being paid $29.1 million.
Give Williams credit for saying to blame him for the underperforming roster. But we already knew whose responsibility this was.
Consider the Jackson trade the first step in Williams’ salvage operation. There will be more veterans traded this week, with Matt Thornton, Carlos Quentin and Juan Pierre among the possibilities.
It could get really interesting. Fox’s Ken Rosenthal, a guy who has appeared to have a pipeline to Williams through the years, reports the White Sox are weighing the possibility of dealing Danks (4-0, 0.98 ERA in his last six starts) or Gavin Floyd.
If Williams really is willing to deal Danks — and he probably should be given the uncertainty of keeping him beyond 2012 — he will have no shortage of takers. Danks is the type of starter who would appeal to every contender, especially the Yankees and Red Sox. Those teams aren’t worried about making the playoffs but are looking for starters to pitch behind aces CC Sabathia and Josh Beckett.
Danks would be huge for the Yankees, who previously have said they won’t deal top pitching prospects Dellin Betances and Manny Banuelos. He could be a game-changer.
Williams never has made a better trade than the one in which he got Danks from the Rangers for Brandon McCarthy. I didn’t like that one at the time, but Williams was right. It’s too bad he abandoned the patient approach and starting looking for the quick fix. The Sox and their fans have learned a hard lesson: You can’t buy happiness.
The undercurrent of this article, and the topic of almost every caller on talk radio, is that Williams is to blame for the problems Dunn and Rios have been having. Some are adamant that Williams MUST have known that these two players were going to have horrid seasons this year and this is all some plot to ..... they get very unclear on that last point.
While I’ll admit that I have not been a fan of some of the trades K-Dub has made, mostly because he has an affinity for old slow guys, blaming him for the seasons that Dunn and Rios are having is about as logical as blaming me for the weather.
Oh, and for whatever it’s worth; DON’T TRADE DANKS!!!!
Okay, I’m done.
Not everyone thinks that K-Dub should be fitted for cement shoes. DARYL VAN SCHOUWEN, at the Sun Times, takes a look at his blunt motivational approach which paid off, at least, for one game.
Enough was enough. Maybe it was the fly balls that fell unchallenged in front of White Sox center fielder Alex Rios on Monday night. Or the benching a couple weeks ago that didn’t change much about Rios’ performance. Or his steady stream of ground balls to the left side of the infield. Or that .208 batting average.
Some combination of the above — coupled with a 25-man roster opening created by Wednesday’s trade of Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahen to the Toronto Blue Jays for right-handed reliever Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart — apparently prompted Sox general manager Ken Williams to say he had seen more of Rios than he can handle.
‘‘I’m sending a message to everyone,’’ Williams said when asked if a new name on the lineup card was designed to motivate Rios.
Williams’ timing couldn’t have been better. Hours after Alejandro De Aza, 27, arrived from Class AAA Charlotte to step in for Rios and play center field against the Detroit Tigers in the Sox’ most important game of the season to date, the left-handed hitting De Aza hit a two-run homer in his first at-bat and the Sox held on for a 2-1 victory.
‘‘Right on time,’’ manager Ozzie Guillen said.
Rios, who is making $12 million this season and is owed another $37 million over the next three years in a deal Williams took on when he claimed Rios off waivers from the Blue Jays in 2009, has been a source of frustration since Opening Day. Only Adam Dunn’s struggles have sheltered him from more heat.
De Aza’s homer, his first in 87 major-league games on a low-and-inside changeup from Max Scherzer (11-6), was like a blast of cool, refreshing air surging through U.S. Cellular Field. He also pounced on three fly balls in center.
‘‘Rios is going to have to take a back seat,’’ Williams said before the game. ‘‘We are going to see if De Aza can give us a little bit of a spark and provide us a way to manufacture some runs.’’
‘‘Spark’’ was an understatement.
‘‘He’s going to see some playing time, and hopefully he can help us,’’ Guillen said.
The matter of Rios’ salary will be a nonissue, Williams said.
‘‘Here’s what I told Ozzie: Do not worry about the size of the contracts,’’ Williams said. ‘‘Just worry about putting the players out there on a given day that can win. The size of the contract is not Ozzie’s problem. It’s not [chairman] Jerry’s [Reinsdorf] problem. It’s not the coaches’ problem. That’s my problem.
‘‘Put the players on the field that can win. I don’t give a darn if one guy is making $400,000 and the other guy is making $12 million.’’
Those hoping to see Class AAA prospect Dayan Viciedo will have to wait. He can’t play center, and he’s nursing a sore thumb, anyway.
Those wanting to see Rios work his way out of the slump may see him in certain matchups, perhaps against left-handed pitching.
De Aza batted .322 with nine homers, 29 doubles and 22 stolen bases for Charlotte.
‘‘He’s going to give more speed,’’ Guillen said. ‘‘Better bat than Rios — at least I hope. When you hit .200, .209, whatever it is . . . I’m not going to say Rios on the bench.
‘‘I will talk to him about the situation. I hope he handles it the right way. It’s not an easy situation for anyone, but I have to put everybody out there that I think is the best for the team that particular day.’’
De Aza was 9-for-30 in 19 games for the Sox last season and also played for the Florida Marlins in 2007 and ’09. He’s a career .242 hitter in the majors.
‘‘I didn’t know I would be in the lineup until I came to the park,’’ De Aza said. ‘‘I see my name in the lineup, and I said, ‘What?’ I’m just going to play. That’s what I came here for.’’
De Aza provided the spark, and starter John Danks (six innings, one run) and relievers Chris Sale (22/3 perfect innings with help from Carlos Quentin’s diving catch in the ninth) and Sergio Santos (21st save) did the rest as the Sox won the rubber game of a three-game series with the American League Central-leading Tigers. The Sox trail them by 3½ games.
It was an eventful day — and an important victory, as one Sox fan reminded Reinsdorf after the game.
‘‘Congratulations! We needed that one,’’ the fan said.
‘‘You’re not kidding,’’ Reinsdorf replied. ‘‘Badly.’’
Reinsdorf doesn’t make a big deal about his fan interaction but he’s usually around at every home game. I’ve run into him a couple of times and he’s always been pleasant and willing to take a minute to talk about the team. What’s funny is that he has no idea who I am, he couldn’t pick me out of a one man lineup, but he’s also a cursory fan of this blog. Maybe I should get a BigBadBill Sox jersey the next time I hit the Cell.
Maybe not. Kenny might sign me.
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As sports fans we’ve all had those moments where we say things like “HEY! We’re only 10 back with 15 games to go!” and try to make that sound like a positive. Or you’ve gone and bought an outfit that looks exactly like the one you saw your favorite athlete wear in the hope that it makes you look just like him, only to be reminded, often and painfully, that said athlete is neither middle aged or paunchy. We’ve also done incredibly dumb things like think the blond at the end of the bar is smoking hot. Only to find out later that, yes, HE was. It is at that moment you thank God for your friends who dragged you out of the aforementioned drinking establishment before you could make an even bigger fool of yourself.
Suffice it to say we all get a little delusional at times.
Yesterday, speaking of delusional, Kerry Wood, a/k/a Special K, was scratched from the roster for suffering from “flu like symptoms” (i.e., puking his guts out) that had nothing, NOTHING I TELL YOU, to do with the fact that he’d just returned from a 6 hour golfing/drinking marathon.
Also yesterday, prior to the game, Marlon Byrd (the sane Cub) completely lost his mind when a fan yelled “You guys suck!” From what I was able to piece together, Marlon (the sane Cub) seemed to think that hovering around 20 games under .500 isn’t as bad as it might seem to a non-baseball professional such as that, self proclaimed, fan.
I hate to break this to Marlon, since he’s one of the few bright spots on the Northside, but yes it is.
But all of those examples pale in comparison to Mike Quade’s pre-game press conference. Fresh off their sweep of the worst team in baseball, PAUL SULLIVAN reports, with a straight face, that Manager Mikey began talking about what the Cubs would need to do to get into the playoffs.
Even in a season where he has argued with umpires to continue playing during a rainstorm, and blamed an eight-run loss on a lost fly in the sun, Mike Quade’s sanity seldom has been challenged.
But after contending Tuesday the Cubs still can be contenders in the National League Central, it may be time to get out the straitjacket.
“I’m not a lunatic,” Quade insisted. “I understand there’s a lot of work to do ahead of us. But we’re playing the right clubs and let’s see if we can’t put something together.”
After the vote of confidence from Quade, the Cubs went lost 3-2 to the Brewers at Miller Park, ending their season-high three-game winning streak.
Ryan Dempster’s six-game winning streak against the Brewers was snapped after he gave up three first-inning runs following Aramis Ramirez’s two-run homer. The Cubs failed to score on a bases-loaded, no-out situation in the sixth and the Brewers bullpen limited them to two hits over four innings.
“You really have to give credit to them, and the moves (manager Ron Roenicke) made,” Marlon Byrd said.
Dempster (7-8) said he was “outpitched,” though he threw shutout ball from the second through the sixth.
But the exuberance of Quade beforehand, maintaining the Cubs were a hot streak away from contending, may have been the head-scratcher of the year.
“If we stay in games, and keep ourselves in games with a good start, then I think we have an excellent chance,” he said. “Just look around. The game is about pitching.”
Yet the Cubs were second-to-last in National League pitching on Tuesday with a 4.61 ERA, and their starters ranked dead last in the majors.
“It’s a funny game,” Quade said. “We might come out of this road trip in real good shape as far as how we play here. And if we do (well), there’s still a lot of baseball left. I take nothing for granted and put nothing past these guys. We won three in a row against Houston, so let’s see if we can’t win tonight and go from there.”
The Cubs are 42-61 record, 13 games out of first-place.
Asked if he really was suggesting the Cubs could get back into the race, Quade replied: “Why not? What are we — 11 back? What if you win 10 out of 12? Who the hell knows?”
It was pointed out that even if the Cubs won 10 of their next 12, they still would be 10 games below .500. But Quade pointed out the division leaders weren’t far above .500.
“It’s an interesting division to be in that situation,” he said. “What is there, 60 games left? Let’s play them and see. I concede nothing. We’re going to play, and we’ll see what happens. Daunting task. Four teams in front of you. We haven’t played well. But why not?”
So the Cubs actually might add on at the trade deadline?
“Oh, that’s not my business,” Quade said.
Rest assured the Cubs are highly unlikely to be buyers on Sunday’s trade deadline. A respectable finish in August and September is all that anyone in the front office is hoping for.
There is nothing I can add here that wouldn’t seem like piling on, so let’s move on.
On the Southside the Sox played their second game against the division leading Tigers. They pitted their ace-wannabe, Jake Peavy, against the Tigers’ ace, Justin Verlander, and for five innings Peavy made the Sox look good. Unfortunately, and you can’t really blame Ozzie here since Peavy had a low pitch count and the lead, he pitched in the 6th as well. RICK MORRISSEY saw the same game we did and then got to listen to Ozzie discuss his team’s chances for making the playoffs.
The sound of a 97 mph Justin Verlander fastball meeting the fat part of Adam Dunn’s bat is about as sweet and pure and elemental as it gets. It sounds like . . . possibility.
It sounds like a plan, too. The plan was for Dunn to hit mammoth homers like the one he hit off the Detroit Tigers’ Verlander on Tuesday night, a 436-foot shot to right-center that came with its own vapor trail. The plan was for the White Sox to be the class of the American League Central.
That was the plan, at least, but we now have definitive proof that you have to be flexible in life.
When the Sox raised their record to 42-42 with a victory over the Cubs on July 2, it was the first time they had been at .500 or better since April 16. Some of us wondered if we had witnessed a team finally finding itself.
The Sox lost the next day on their way to five losses in six games.
Guess where the Sox were Tuesday morning for the first time since early July? Yep, within a game of .500 — 50-51.
Guess where they were late Tuesday night? Yep, 50-52 after a 5-4 loss to the Tigers.
If we’ve learned anything this season, it’s that you believe in this team at your own risk. Ozzie Guillen? He wishes he knew how to quit these guys.
‘‘I love this ballclub a lot,’’ he said. ‘‘I love the guys a lot. I think with this ballclub, we can win with it. Are we going to? I don’t know. I think we have a good shot. But like I keep saying, we need two guys to get hot or to take care of business. There’s no doubt in my mind, no doubt in anybody’s mind that if those two guys . . . just contribute, I think this team’s got a legit shot.’’
‘‘Those two guys’’ need no introduction. If Dunn and Alex Rios ever hit like they’re supposed to, then the Sox will win the division running away. But if pigs could get their pilot’s licenses, right?
So there this perplexing team was Tuesday night, knocking at .500’s door again, against Verlander and the first-place Tigers at The Cell in what could reasonably be called the biggest game of the season to date.
That Dunn home run. It was a thing of surpassing beauty. Power against power. You almost didn’t mind the three strikeouts in his next three at-bats. The homer didn’t make you forget the previous four months, but it did induce some fuzziness.
Jake Peavy pitched well for five innings and not so well for the sixth.
‘‘I ran out of gas a little bit,’’ he said. ‘‘I went as hard as I could for as long as I could.’’
What does any of it mean? It means that general manager Ken Williams, in the role of the unfeeling bank executive, might have moved a little closer to foreclosing on the farm. But beyond that, I have no earthly idea what it means.
On Monday, Williams had said the next week or so would decide whether the Sox will stay the course or begin trading players and go young. Guillen had the perfect answer when Williams presented those two options to his manager. He shrugged.
‘‘What can I say when you don’t see anything going forward?’’ he said. ‘‘I’m not going to lie to Kenny’s face and say, ‘Wow, look, we’re going to do this, we’re going to do that.’ I just was honest with him. I said, ‘Listen, I love this ballclub, but I’m 50-50. I don’t know which one I’m going to get.’
‘‘I believe in what we have — the quality of the ballplayers is there. I told him, ‘These three, four, five, six, seven games will dictate to you what we have.’ ’’
In the end, Verlander dictated Tuesday’s outcome. He struck out Konerko with a 100 mph fastball on his 120th pitch. Who else can do that?
Beats the ’05 team, Ozzie says
If Sox fans were looking for another reason to feel bad, Guillen said Tuesday that the 2011 club is better than the 2005 club, which is more commonly known as ‘‘World Series champions.’’
‘‘I’m talking about man to man,’’ he said. ‘‘In ’05, we had a lot of ‘ifs.’ If [Scott] Podsednik can play. If [Tadahito] Iguchi can play good from Japan. [Juan] Uribe was a backup player now playing every day. [Jon] Garland never pitched more than seven innings. A.J. [Pierzynski] was a guy nobody wanted. We got a guy [Chris Widger] playing softball a year before who was our backup catcher. [Cliff] Politte never was good in his career. We got a kid from Double-A [Bobby Jenks] closing games early, late. We got a Japanese player [Shingo Takatsu] closing games early.’’
When he puts it like that, it’s hard to believe the Sox won a game that year.
It’s even harder to believe this year’s model hasn’t won more games. When does that stop being the theme of the season?
Yes the Sox also had a three game winning streak snapped last night but they can still win the series with a victory today. However, as Ozzie noted about the 2005 team, there’s a lot of ifs.
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