Countdown to Opening Day

Here’s my prediction: the Sox are better than everyone thinks they’ll be.

But, will it be good enough? I don’t know. Look, the lineup is far improved from last season.  Nick Swisher may hit 40 dingers at the Cell.  Cabrera is a solid batsman who can do all the little things that no one on our roster could do with any consistency last season.  Paulie, Dye, and AJ are unlikely to have horrible years again.  And, in the "addition by subtraction" category, these guys will not be getting at bats: Erstad, Gonzalez, Cintron, and Terrero.

The bullpen now has some veteran arms–pretty good ones at that. It may not be the best bullie in the AL, but it won’t be the worst like it was last year. Of course, the biggest question is the rotation.  Can the Sox withstand losing Garland? Maybe.  Can Contreras rebound, eat some innings, and be effective? Perhaps.  Are Danks and Floyd ready-for-primetime? Some think so.

The point is that I expect our lineup to produce more runs this season–and that may be enough to cover up the question marks at the back end of the rotation. Maybe.



Here’s a cold realization: Seattle is a better team than the Sox. Ugh.  Seattle’s won 4 of the first 5 head-to-head this year.  The best we can get out of a sweep is to earn a season split. Think about it–when the Good Guys were catchin’ confetti on LaSalle Street, the Mariners were on the golf course licking the wounds of a 69-win season.

That said, I just don’t think they have the tools to catch the Angels or work their way into the Wild Card.  Still, they have a lot to root for: Ichiro, Felix, and Putz, to name a few. Even so, they seem to be gelling without Hargrove at the helm.

Fresh off a raw rump-kicking by the Moneyballers, let’s just go out and win the series, huh? Baby steps to ’08.

Rub Some Dirt on It.

Because this hurts. Boy, after not helping our ’08 club at the deadline by picking up nothing but low minors prospects for Iguchi and Mack, I was hoping to at least see a glimmer of hope from our current roster.  Last night’s game, of course, rivalled the Twin-Bullying in the double-header last month in terms of bad mojo.  Eight homers? Seriously.

There’s no silver lining.  Contreras had 20-loss stuff on the mound the last few weeks and has had a brutal year since "go."  Time for some DL time to clear his head or get himself healthy.  We need to see if Floyd has anything. If not, he gone.  Haeger, too. Both looked awful last night.

I may be in the minority, here, but this team is so bad right now, we have to make a serious effort to re-sign Dye.  Think about it, we’ll need at least two pricey free agents to fix the bullie and solve the shortstop problem.  We just cannot go into next season depending on Owens, Erstad, Pods, and Anderson/Sweeney in the outfield. We need at least one guy that can hit the ball.  Since the Break, JD has pulled himself together; hitting for both AVG and power.  Of course, if JD thinks he’s gonna pull in Caballo money, he’s nuts. That said, in order to make next year’s club at least somewhat competitive, you can’t have 3 automatic outs trotting out to the outfield.

Big Frank Comes Home

A nice series win against the Tigers this week, but, I tell you, it really shows how far we’ve underachieved this year when you see that we were capable of competing with the elite teams in baseball.  It was also nice to have Pods back in the lineup–I don’t know what it is, but when he’s in the lineup, everyone steps it up a notch.  Query whether that means he might be worth keeping on the roster next year. If only he could stay healthy, it wouldn’t be a question.

The Big Hurt lumbers into town tonight with Les Blue Jays.  It’ll be nice to hear the ovation he gets this time around.  There was quite a mixed reaction to Maggs over the week–in fact,  more boos that cheers, for sure. Which I thought was strange: I can’t say I understand the animosity. He was a nice player for us and when he wanted to cash in, he got shady, secretive, and greedy.  Good riddens. And we got a ring out of it. My feelings toward Maggs lean towards indifference.

But for Frank, it’s different.  He’ll wear the cap to Cooperstown. Cheers for Hurt. No question.  Let’s hope Gar can keep him in the yard this time…

Reconnecting with the Fan

I’m reminded of a recurring theme in Bill Veeck’s famous autobiography.  Bill Veeck, of course, was the former Pale Hose owner (two terms, actually) who thumbed his nose at the stuffed-shirt owners of the day in favor of the truism that baseball, at its core, is just plain entertainment. 

Today, being a baseball fan is not easy.  The guys selling news stories and accompanying advertising space keep trying to sell us controversy, disappointment, and fraud on the baseball pages.  Is the cloud over Barry Bonds a significant story? Yes, of course. But, haven’t we had enough? I have. Must these reporters snipe at each other and dish unverified, anonymous sources to build controversy over contract talks? No. Exhibit A: Buehrle–day after day we were spoon-fed controversy where, apparently, none existed.  What, exactly, is entertaining about impending free agents talking about the "business" of baseball?

For the love of the game, stop this nonsense. Every day, there are fun, entertaining things happening on the ball field.  Instead, media are selling what’s happening (or not happening) in the luxury boxes.

Though I must admit, I’d be tempted to do some channel surfing if I were in a luxury box as soon as Ozzie goes to this bullpen!

The Sox at the Half

With the Sox starting the second half tomorrow, it’s an opportune time to take a quick look in the rearview mirror. Scream. Then look forward. It can’t look any worse.

What went wrong? Everything.  No one could hit the ball or run.  No one could catch the ball.  No one could pitch in relief.  Tough to win games with that mighty trifecta.  Buehrle tossed a no-no, which was undoubtedly the high water mark of the first half.  Never has there been a more dominating performance on the mound at 35th and Shields in my lifetime.  Injuries plagued the White Sox.  Most were foreseeable: Pods, Erstad, Thome, Hall, MacDougal, and Crede were all big injury risks before the first pitch on April 2nd.  Not surprisingly, in a season where everything that could go wrong has, all 6 missed significant time (Note: MacDoodie went to AAA before the DL just before the break).  Super-utility spark-plug Pablo Ozuna was lost for the season, too.  It’s also clear that Contreras and Dye are toughing out something.  If it weren’t for bad luck…

So, what needs to happen in the second half?  Well, the biggest priority was figuring out what to do with #56.  The Maestro and Buehrle got together and worked it out.  Nothing could make me happier–because now we have a foundation for next season.  And that’s what we need to do.  I’m not saying we pack it in, but if there are moves to be made to make us better next year, we have to seize them.  A front-four of Buehrle, Gar, Vazquez, and Danks works for me.  Our outfield needs a complete overhaul and we need to solidify our strength up-the-middle–both in the batter’s box and with the leather.  The bullpen? Boy, is there anyone worth keeping? Jenks? That’s the only close one.  And the other kids (Owens, Sweeney, Anderson, Gonzalez, Massett, Logan, etc.)?  I’ve seen little to be optimistic about.

There are signs of hope.  For one: we’re not mathematically eliminated.  Not being much of a math-guy, this gives me little comfort.  It’s tough to watch strong seasons by Buehrle, Garland, and Vazquez washed down the tubes.  Paulie has been wrecking the ball for the last few weeks after an abysmal start.  Fields and Danks have grabbed their opportunities by the ears and are progressing.  And that’s promising. Maybe one of the other kids will earn a roster spot for ’08.  That’s worth watching. I guess.

10 and 5 in ’09– What’s the Real Story?

The latest on the Mark Buehrle soap is a real noodle scratcher.  In fact, I call shenanigans.  The latest reports say they had agreed on years and salary, but the hold-up was that #56 wanted a full no-trade clause for the duration of the deal.  Fair enough–if he’s giving a "home town discount," that’s a perfectly reasonable request.

The part that makes no flippin’ sense is that the Maestro apparently wouldn’t give it to him despite the fact that after ’09–unless I’m mistaken–Buehrle becomes a 5/10 player and is able to quash any trade anyway.  So, what they’d have us believe is that this thing fell apart over a full no trade for the ’08 and ’09 seasons.  Something’s not right here.

If that is the edict from ownership, it’s terrible. There’s really no excuse for it.  And, while I hate to use the "season ticket holder" card, since there are thousands of great Sox fans who, for any number of valid reasons, don’t sit at the Cell 81+ times a season.  I’ll have to use it here though.  What the heck are we paying for if management makes decisions like this?

Since I can find no rational justification for these reports–I’m going to do one thing: assume it is untrue. Smart people don’t do things this stupid.