So it isn't looking so hot for the White Sox at the moment. The question of the day seems to be whether or not it's time to panic (and, of course, whither Ken Griffey, Jr is coming wrapped in a bow). Scott Podsednik is MIA, the offense is sputtering and ugly, and the Twins just came into town and swept three games.
Sound the alarms!
If getting swept by the Twins at home doesn't send the Sox a message, nothing will.
I mean, the Twins? The #%$%@ Twins? That's just ugly, sad and depressing. That's a Smith's song, or a Russian novel
And it's unacceptable.
Even Aaron Rowand made an error in the series. Come on now.
And now the Yankees come to the Cell for a weekend series as the Sox' most treacherous portion of the schedule heads into the dog days of August. The belief is wavering. And it doesn't get any easier any time soon. Are these Sox mentally tough, or are they simply the same old jokers from seasons past who peed themselves at the sight of the Twins or any other quality opponent once the summer began to dim?
I mean, we've all seen this utterly annoying nonchalance in the second-half before, haven't we? Yes, yes we have.
History repeating itself, and all that. So be careful.
Of course there are positive ways to look at the current rut:
1) Every team will have slumps, up and downs. The Sox have avoided that all season. Until now. Just like any team, they deserve the opportunity to work their way out of it. The question is, can they? Or will they?
2) The Sox' lead in the AL Central is big enough that, while it's still too early to shift into a lower gear or assume anything, they can afford to have a rough patch. They've earned it (if that makes any sense, and I'm not sure it does).
3) Look, with the divison title all but assured (barring a collapse of historic proportions), the Sox should simply view the current stretch of playing quality opponents as ample reason to prepare for the postseason. Make it fun. Big games - playoff games - are ahead, so an opportunity to play some of the American League's best on a nightly basis now should be viewed as a blessing. Make these games count for something, a learning experience, a test.
That said, right now, the general malaise that has afflicted every Sox team in the second-half of the season since 2001 is present and it stinks.
Still, it's no time to panic just yet.
The starting pitching - always, always, ALWAYS the holy grail for any team - is still solid, though it has looked a bit shaky at times lately, at least in comparison to earlier in the season.
Earlier, Mark Buehrle and Jon Garland were the darlings, while El Duque and Jose Contreras were inconsistent and worrisome. (Freddy Garcia remains the model of consistency in the middle of the rotation.) As of this moment, things have reversed a bit. Fine. Dandy. As long as all five starters are in form for the postseasn, the Sox remain a team capable of beating anyone. And I see no reason why all five can't pitch well enough to demand a call from Ozzie Guillen once his playoff rotation is set.
Bottom line: the starting pitching, while not quite as dominant of late, is still doing enough to give the Sox a chance to win on most nights. It's getting the job done.
In the bullpen, Cliff Politte, Neil Cotts, and Bobby Jenks are quietly putting together a combined year - historically, statistically - that will go down, as of now, as one helluva fine middle relief crew. Simply damn good. Neh, awesome. Oh, they'll be remembered. In fact, they need a nickname. Any suggestions? Let me hear them.
Politte is an unassuming general finally at the peak of his powers, while Cotts is only approaching his power yet already near-dominant. And Jenks? Let's just say Jenks excites in a way that no young Sox pitcher has in a while (assuming Garland is already a grizzled vet.) He's like a young Roger Clemems, but in the bullpen. No, really. I'm not exaggerating. He's scary good. Scary.
I had a feeling I'd like Jenks as soon as I heard something about the Angels dropping the kid for bringing beer on the team bus. You gotta love that.
Damaso Marte and Luis Vizcaino are nothing to sneeze at, either. Dustin Hermanson? His back is always an issue, but there is talk of acquiring the Mariners Eddie Guardado, which would certainly help.
OK, the offense? Where do we start?
How about we start by being up-front and honest?
The offense is garbage right now. Pathetic. Horseshit. Weak and laughable.
Is that a fair description?
The Sox' biggest offensive achilles heel is the inability to get a hit with multiple runners on, particularly with two outs. How many times have we seen (pick a Sox player, any Sox player) swing and miss to end an inning and strand runners in a close game. It's maddening.
While the Sox on-base percentage actually ranks among the lowest in the American League, that can be misleading. The fact is, the Sox normally have several opportunities to get something going, an opportunity to cause big damage in a close game. With the pitching keeping games close, that's all you can ask for.
In other words, the Sox aren't that far from where they need to be.
But where are the big hits in clutch situations?
I love a Paul Konerko blast into the bleachers as much as the next guy, but if I see another solo shot by Konerko I just might blow.
I'd still like the Sox to acquire Ken Griffey, Jr, but who knows what Cincinatti management is thinking. I love how Reds owner Paul Allen was belligerent when asked about the Griffey trade rumors. He acted all offended and surprised, as if there is anything surprising about teams inquiring about a Hall of Fame outfielder put on waivers. Allen is a douche, as if the continued wretchedness of the Reds wasn't already enough proof.
But I digress.
Look, it's not time to panic. Rest assured, the Sox will be in the playoffs, and once there, hey, anything can happen. So hold tight and and brace for the bumps in the road.
In the meantime, I cannot stomach losing to the Twins. Jesus.
Especially when Twins fans - chick Twins fans, no less! - are writing what can only be described as vile, antagonistic garbage such as this
. (Unless she's attractive, in which case I would describe her point of view as disagreeably interesting.)
So Carlos Zambrano beat the Astros last night in the Houston heat. He also hit a home run. Awesome. Zambrano is quietly climbing my personal list of all-time favorite baseball players, number one being, of course, him
. Who else?
I'd be surprised if Ozzie Guilen didn't use his Venezuelan connections to attempt to lure Zambrano to the South Side at some point in the future.
Oh, yeah. The Cubs are getting their poor fans all excited again by beating the Astros. Poor Cubs fans.