Sox Win! World Rejoices!

I was asked the other day why I’m still watching every inning this year.  Is it because I have no life? Yes.  Of course.  But there’s a new rule for Chicago baseball: No complaining within 5 years of a World Series Trophy.  They’re tough to win, so you have to enjoy it and ultimately you must tolerate the let down that must follow. 

But I’m also trying to figure out what the heck happened.  How could a team with such talent swan-dive like this?  I don’t know. I’ll let you know when I’m done watching…

I need to update my "untouchables" list.  At this point, I’m down to three: A.J., Paulie, and Garland.  For everyone else, I’m fine with their departure if the right deal comes along.  Contreras’ velocity is down, so that red flag takes him off the list.  Danks has shown promise, but I’d part with him for the right player.  The lifespan of a closer is short and glorious. For that reason, I would be willing to lose Jenks, too, if someone backs up the truck for the Maestro.

Sox v. D-Rays tonight.  I’ll watch it for you…

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Invasion of the Flip-Flops and Visors

Preparations have begun on honorary Bill Veeck Way for the annual invasion of frat boys, transplants, trixies, and yuppies to the Cell tonight.  These are usually fun games because they’re always preceded and followed by lively dinner table civil wars and Derrek Lee-like "hold-me-backs" at the watering holes around the city.  Families get divided and friends pay out their annual wagers.  Or at least that’s what they want you to think…

The time has come for a ramp-down of the interleague experiment.  It’s run its course.  Do we really need to play the Cubs six-times this year? No.  And were the Sox v. Astros and Marlins anything special? Not really.  The novelty of this thing is done, so let’s tone it down and put more emphasis on re-instilling AL rivalries.  How can you disagree?

Exhibit A: The Sox have to play the loveable losers 6 times.  While this works in our favor; i.e., our "natural" rivalry is an historically weak franchise, it is admittedly good fortune.  We only get to play the Chowds 8 times and Rally Monkeys 9 times.  This is the first year in a while where the Yanks have come to Chicago for two homestands, isn’t it? This year the White Sox play Kansas City 17 times because of the unbalanced schedule.  That’s not fun for anyone.  Even fans in KC–this year anyway…

My feeling is that these forced-marriages have run their course.  And, mostly, when we’re seeing Divisions and Wild Cards in both leagues decided in the last week of the season, the luck-of-the-draw in interleague games is frustratingly arbitrary.

Now, there’s one good reason to have interleague play: $$.  Fine.  But, let’s cut the number of games and balance the schedule a little more, huh? How about just one session of interleague games every year and use the openings to focus on preserving existing (and creating new) rivalries.  Alternate the "natural" rivalries for those that have it (NY, Chi, LA, SF-OAK) so there’s 3 games per year, not 6. That’d be a good start.

And if there are teams that can’t put fans in the stands without some hyped-up gimmick? Well, maybe they should put a better product on the field.  There’s only one long-term cure for poor fan support: winning championships.

Where’s the Passion?

There’s no passion in the Sox dugout.  Similarly, there’s little passion in Sox fandom right now.  Maybe the scent of a lost cause has wafted.  And, frankly, at this point, I’m really only passionate about one thing: the fate of Mark Buehrle.

So, here it is. Decision time.  Is this how it ends?  Smart money says you trade Buehrls now, get a bushel-ful of prospects and "hope-so’s" in exchange for the staff ace as he licks his chops for impending free agency.  Buehrls’ agent is crossing his fingers, hoping Buehrle lands with a contender and can pull a Carlos Beltran for someone in the playoffs.  Meanwhile, the Sox hedge their losses and say thanks for the memories.  At times, I’ve agreed with that.  It is stupid to make long-term, big money deals for starters.

But, I’ve come around.  Someone is going to build around Mark Buehrle. He’s still young. He’s one of the most reliable pitchers in all of baseball for the last six years.  It might as well be us.  Pitching is so hard to come by and the market reflects that.  Who better to take that risk on, really?  Sign Buehrls to an extension now.  Pay the premium to keep him from hitting the market.  The difference is more than paid for by us not paying JD and Iguchi (and possibly Crede) next season. Five year deal. Six if we have to.  It’s got to get done.

Why? Because we have no one on the roster that can even come close to what Buehrle can do.  Garland is his Scottie Pippen, so to speak, and together it is clear that they form the core of our success for the next two-three years. Vazquez, Contreras, and Danks are bit players at this point in their careers.  Buehrle has shown this year that he’s worth gambling on.

So, Sox fans, as this season circles the bowl, let’s hope management does the right thing and deals our other pieces.  Just not #56 from St. Charles, Missouri.

On the Bright Side…

At this rate, prescriptions for heartburn meds for Sox fans in September should be lower than last year.  The inability of these players to hit the ball has finally reached historic proportions.  These are truly the hitless wonders.  No one is making solid contact.  If I had a "Kosher with" for every time our lineup dives across the plate for strike three, I’d have to buy an extra seat to fit my exploding backside.

This team needs to get back to basics.  Not major league basics like hitting behind runners, laying down a bunt, etc.  That’s too advanced for us right now. I’m talking little league basics: swing at strikes, keep your eye on the ball, and the like.  Let’s see how that works. 

These guys ought to be embarrassed right now. I know I am.

Bullpen Blowout!

Everything must go! Make an offer! 

Our bullie is in shambles, Pale Hosers. Sad but true.  The Maestro made the desperation-move this morning by sending down AAA-rdsma and McDoodie to Charlotte.  Bukvich and Prinz caught some flights to ORD, but my suspicion is that their jersey nameplates will be attached with Velcro. These guys, unless I’m terribly wrong–and I could be–are not the answer.

So, that means we’ve got to see what’s available.  Who are the untouchables? Well, right now, with no one hitting their weight, it’s a short list.  Removing sentimentality, there may only be two: A.J. and Thome.

Beyond that, I’d hang onto Paulie, Garland, Contreras, Jenks, Vazquez, Danks and Masset–one part for sentimentality (Konerko and Contreras) and the two parts because they are the "intangibles" core of the future of the organization.  I’d like to add Buehrls to the list, but I think his free agent price tag–moreso the years than the salary he’ll request–will be too dear.

The problem is that the rest of the lineup, ‘pen, and bench are at career lows, so they won’t fetch much.  What is Crede worth right now with an open lane the size of the Eisenhower in his swing? He can’t hit anything on the outside of the plate, as shown this weekend.  Iguchi? Dye? Snuggling up with the Mendoza right now in terms of AVG. We’d get taken to the cleaners in any deal. I don’t envy the Maestro at all because something needs to be done.

Prove me wrong. Please. And let’s win some games!

Who ya gonna call?

Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor?

Apologies to the Honorable Bluto Blutarsky, but we are not on a roll here.  Another dreadful game last night compounded by what appears to be a serious injury to Erstad.  Who will get the call up to the Show? The slick-fielding, but hitting-challenged Brian Anderson? The over-matched Ryan Sweeney? Or maybe Jerry Owens–who apparently was pulled in the 7th inning from the Knights game?  Seems like its probably Owens, as he’s projected as a "leadoff" hitter.  Of course, it remains to be seen if he can get on base at this level. By all reports, he’s not a great hitter, kind of a slapper; not a great fielder; average to below-average arm, to boot.  But, he’s fast–and, honestly, that just may be enough.  See, e.g., Pods in 2005: getting on base and making pitchers make mistakes.

There were two items of mixed good/bad news.  First, Buehrle was dominant. He made two mistakes that landed in the cheap seats, but really pitched extremely well.  It’s a great sign because if he pitches like that, we can get back in this thing.  A bad sign because these outings will make the ‘crafty’ southpaw prohibitively expensive.  And second, the greatest hitter in franchise history hit his 495th homer last night.  There’s a part of me that hopes he launches five more in the next three games–just for the trivia question that could be written…

Ugly.

Getting blown out by the D-Rays.  Then swept by the Twinkies.  Outscored 26-12.  Giving up a 5-run lead.  Bullpen in tatters.  Starters giving up soft runs.  Defense giving dangerous teams extra outs.  Getting robbed of homers by good D.  Walking in the sweeping-run in the Bottom of the 9th.  No hitting.  No speed. I can’t decide what fragment from this week I hate the most.  Let’s call it a thousand-way tie.

There’s something rotten in Sox-dom.  This is the type of situation where you can feel the tremors of an over-reaction.  Not just amongst the fans in the crowd, but in the organization, too.  Then again, maybe an over-reaction is exactly what we need.  Let’s just hope that the Blue Jays don’t right their ship against us, too. 

It’s tough to tell what this team needs right now. I just hope they have a better handle on it than I do.  This is the weakest part of our schedule, and it’s way past time to start winning consistently.