07.08.10

Danks Beats Angels, Traffic

Posted in Baseball at 4:34 pm by

White Sox 1  LAA 0

In a 2-hit complete game shutout coming in at 1 hour 50 minutes, Pale Hose LHP Johnny Danks (W, 8-7, 2H 7K 0BB 3.29)  completed the team’s first sweep of the Angels since 1983, a season similarly marked by a jaw-dropping turnaround on the South Side.  (Only this time, the Orioles are not a factor.)

The white-hot club is 22-5 over their last 27, are 8 games over .500 and half a game behind idle 1st place Detroit with three games in KC between now and the ASG.  Outside the exercise yards of the nation’s maximum security prisons, the Sox are credibly the most dangerous team in baseball: what a difference a month-and-change makes. June 2nd it ain’t.

07.07.10

Peavy On The DL: Did Torii Break Jake?

Posted in Baseball at 4:45 pm by

According to the White Sox front office, following today’s evaluation, a detached right latissimus dorsii suffered in last night’s White Sox/Angels tilt has put a sudden stop to the rejuvenation of RHP Jake Peavy and landed him on the 15-day DL, (a time frame more optimistic than those found in Pentagon briefings).

From my view last night in section 534, Peavy looked fine until Torii Hunter moved to steal in the second inning. Everything was weird about the attempt; Hunter’s jump looked ill-advised and Peavy, after spinning around, jogged toward to second before awkwardly tossing him out by a mile.

Peavy’s next few windups to Mike Napoli looked somehow hitched at their tops. A 2-2 fastball finally sent the Cy Young winner marching right off the mound in pain, practically stalking past trainer Herm Schneider.

Tony Pena came in and held the Halos to 5 hits and their only run.  As the pen suppressed the Angels a second time in the series for a 4-1 win, thoughts first turned to the likely callup Daniel Hudson, whose appearance in the All Star Futures game was today cancelled.  The 23 year old has a 3.47 ERA, 1.20 WHIP over 17 starts with Charlotte, averaging 10.4 K/9 and 3.0 BB/9.

Shortly after, thoughts of past infield transgressions dating to Torii’s reign with the Twins surfaced.  But these were not more than the disgruntled ramblings of scapegoaters.  With long memories.

07.06.10

NBC’s Gleeman: Ozzie Won’t Take A Lillibridge Too Far

Posted in Baseball at 11:33 am by

(Above: Brent Lillibridge, dressing to the right.)

In last night’s White Sox 9-2 pounding of Anaheim, 2B Brent Lillibridge’s stand-in for the benched Gordon Beckham (.206/.271/.280) satisfied, both in terms of leather and wood.  At the plate, Lillibridge’s (.467/.933/1.433 on 15AB) 1 for 3 w/1 RBI was more than sufficient to eclipse Beckham’s lousy numbers of late, and the steady diet of rockets to second courtesy of Angels biting at Gavin Floyd’s (W, 4-7, 7IP, 5H 1R 4K 2BB) bent heaters kept Lillibridge impressively busy with numerous big-league grabs.  Adequacy in his role is no delusion.

As comfortable as the replacement seems, enthusiasm is not universal for twitterer @BSLillibridge, as NBC Sports’ Aaron Gleeman illustrates (while raising suspicions as to which second baseman appears on his fantasy team):

Beckham has followed up his strong rookie season by hitting just .206/.271/.280 with two homers in 72 games, but the good news is that being benched in favor of Lillibridge “for as long as he hits” won’t be very long.

Lillibridge is 7-for-15 with four extra-base hits in his latest stint in Chicago, but prior to that hit just .177/.258/.251 with a 49/17 K/BB ratio in 197 plate appearances as a big leaguer. And he wasn’t much better in the minors, hitting .255/.321/.379 in 1,247 plate appearances at Triple-A. He’s a utility man-caliber hitter, at best.

Beckham has been bad enough that it’s tough to blame Guillen for riding the hot hand and perhaps losing some starts to a marginal big leaguer like Lillibridge will motivate the disappointing sophomore, but it’ll be a surprise if “for as long as he hits” lasts until the end of the week.

That’s a bet I’ll take.  The evidence: the diminutive Lillibridge is less so than before; work on his strength has upped his bat speed (and gun caliber).  To my eye there’s not much difference in his general acclimation to the bigs than was seen from Beckham last season.  Seems it’s going to take a magnificent BP from Beckham to change Ozzie’s mind on Lillibridge.

06.23.10

Singles Going Steady: Pale Hose Eschew Long Ball, Break .500 Anyway

Posted in Baseball at 5:25 pm by

Sometimes it’s tough to write about a team as a homer during an upturn.  When things begin to go well on the field, opportunities for savaging the responsible parties dwindle and the mind turns to attaboys and accolades.  And, really, who wants that?  You just can’t wail, gnash teeth nor unleash withering bathos against the impression that tens of millions of player contract dollars are being *well*-spent.
So it’s with a thimble of selfish regret that I report the Chicago White Sox have remarkably returned as a contender in the AL Central power struggle.  A tussle, to be sure, only slightly more epic than an outbreak of hair-pulling in the back of a second-grade classroom, yet the playoffs seem to hinge upon it.
The Sox, who once considered adopting the pointless solo home run as the team mascot, have left behind their free-swinging ways, a decision that has paid handsome dividends.  With the rhythmic regularity of Mountain Dew belches from Bobby Jenks, the Pale Hose have notched 12 of the last 14 and moved above .500 for the first time in 2010.  They’ve mowed through the National League on an 8-1 road trip, dealing defeat to the Cubs, Pirates, Nationals, and last night, the far more serious Braves, piling on 16 hits and finally, a dinger.  Prior to last night’s Carlos Quentin 3-run bomb, the Sox’s turnaround was engineered without a single home run in 8 games, a drought that reaches back to the 1940s.
Bats that no longer twitch trying to correct.200 averages in one swing are one story.  On the bump, the prospects are no less bright.  Sunday’s complete-game Jake Peavy victory against the Nats is a signal of a rejuvenated rotation including the awakening of Gavin Floyd and a general deep-inning work ethic. Reliefwise, outside of Sergio Santos (control problems) and Scott Linebrink (meatball delivery problems), the rested pen holds, the LOOGYs get their men and the leads get protected.
As a package, this is no longer a team that can be counted out of a division dominated by the Twins and the Tigers, whose arms can’t match up to these when firing on all cylinders.

Sometimes it’s tough to write about a team as a homer during an upturn.  When things begin to go well on the field, opportunities for savaging the responsible parties dwindle and the mind turns to attaboys and accolades.  And, really, who wants that?  You just can’t wail, gnash teeth nor unleash withering bathos against the impression that tens of millions of player contract dollars are being well-spent.

So it’s with a thimble of selfish regret that I report the Chicago White Sox have remarkably returned as a contender in the AL Central power struggle.  A tussle, to be sure, only slightly more epic than an outbreak of hair-pulling in the back of a second-grade classroom, yet the playoffs seem to hinge upon it.

The Sox, who once considered adopting the pointless solo home run as the team mascot, have left behind their free-swinging ways, a decision that has paid handsome dividends.  With the rhythmic regularity of Mountain Dew belches from Bobby Jenks, the Pale Hose have notched 12 of the last 14 and moved above .500 for the first time in 2010.  They’ve mowed through the National League on an 8-1 road trip, dealing defeat to the Cubs, Pirates, Nationals, and last night, the far more serious Braves, piling on 16 hits and finally, a dinger.  Prior to last night’s Carlos Quentin 3-run bomb, the Sox’s turnaround was engineered without a single home run in 8 games, a team drought record that reaches back to the 1940s.

(Above: Alex Rios puts it where they ain’t.)

Bats that no longer twitch trying to correct.200 averages in one swing are one story.  On the bump, the prospects are no less bright.  Sunday’s complete-game Jake Peavy victory against the Nats is a signal of a rejuvenated rotation including the awakening of Gavin Floyd and a general deep-inning work ethic. Reliefwise, outside of Sergio Santos (control problems) and Scott Linebrink (meatball delivery problems), the rested pen holds, the LOOGYs get their men and the leads get protected.

As a package, this is no longer a team that can be counted out of a division dominated by the Twins and the Tigers, whose arms can’t match up to these when firing on all cylinders.

06.02.10

Feliz Navidad, Neftali Feliz

Posted in Baseball at 12:02 pm by

(Above: Omar Vizquel leaves those little yellow diamonds right where they were.)

Rangers 9 White Sox 6

Yesterday, it could be said that without a .620-plus showing in June putting the team to 4 behind, the Chicago White Sox are done. But after last night’s home loss against Texas, make that a .650 showing from here on in.  .650 from the dead-last batting team in baseball?  Did that mean last night was a must-win on June 1st?  Pretty much, yes.
Sadly, nobody told Ozzie, whose mishandling of the 9th inning against Texas reliever Neftali Feliz will go down as an especially violent cramp in a legendarily dyspeptic season.
The wheels fell off in the sixth inning.  After blowing a 4-0 lead on the latest bad outing by Mark Buehrle (L, 3-6, 5.1 IP, 12H 6ER, 3K), pen phenom Sergio Santos chose the evening to regress, giving up one more run, followed by Randy Williams and the ever-reliable Scott Linebrink combining for two ERs.
Feliz, whose average against right-handed batters is at .308 yet against left-handed batters is .106 helpfully pitched himself into a serious jam, loading the bases with no outs and the score 9-6.  The last thing in the world Feliz needed to see was a power-hitting righty step up to pinch hit.  Like say, Andruw Jones, who had no plans for the evening.
Luckily for Feliz, Ozzie put this troubled linup on auto-pilot.  Mark Kotsay left his fourth, fifth and sixth runners of the evening unadvanced, then Alexei Ramirez hacked the first pitch into a popup, leaving Kenny Williams baseball card collection prize Omar Vizquel to settle matters.
With the game – and at this point the season –  so exquisitely on the line, even the most libertarian among looks to the manager for something other than a torrent of sunflower seed shells. Something, oh, you know, manager-y.  Forethought-ish.  Competent.  Awake?
Nope: not only did Ozzie fail to pinch hit Jones for the HOF infielder, the switch-hitting Vizquel went into the lefty batter’s box, despite the splits on Feliz saying he was cutting his chances by 2/3rds.  The weak fly to center was a foregone conclusion.
When 2010 is over, 2005 will be too.

Yesterday, it could be said that without a .620-plus showing in June putting the team to 4 behind in the AL Central, the Chicago White Sox are done. But after last night’s home loss against Texas, my calculator says to make that a .650 showing from here on in.

.650 from the dead-last batting team in baseball?  Did that mean last night was a must-win on June 1st?  Pretty much, yes.

Sadly, nobody told Ozzie, whose mishandling of the base-loaded 9th inning against Texas reliever Neftali Feliz will go down as an especially violent cramp in a legendarily dyspeptic season.

The wheels fell off in the sixth inning.  After blowing a 4-0 lead on the latest bad outing by Mark Buehrle (L, 3-6, 5.1 IP, 12H 6ER, 3K), pen phenom Sergio Santos chose the evening to regress, giving up one more run, followed by Randy Williams and the ever-reliable Scott Linebrink combining for two ERs.

Feliz, whose average against right-handed batters is at .308 yet is .106 against left-handed batters helpfully pitched himself into a serious jam, loading the bases with no outs and the score 9-6.  The last thing in the world Feliz needed to see was a power-hitting righty step up to pinch hit.  Like say, Andruw Jones, who had no plans for the evening.

Luckily for Feliz, Ozzie rolled over and put this troubled linup on auto-pilot.  Mark Kotsay left his fourth, fifth and sixth runners of the evening unadvanced, then Alexei Ramirez hacked the first pitch into a popup, leaving Kenny Williams baseball card collection prize Omar Vizquel to settle matters.

With the game – and at this point the season –  so exquisitely on the line, even the most libertarian among us looks to the manager for something other than a torrent of sunflower seed shells. Something, oh, you know, manager-y.  Forethought-ish.  Competent.

Awake?

None of the above. Not only did Ozzie fail to pinch hit Jones for the HOF infielder, the switch-hitting Vizquel marched right into the lefty batter’s box, despite the splits on Feliz saying he was cutting his chances by 2/3rds.  The weak fly to center was a foregone conclusion.

When 2010 is over, 2005 will be too.

05.29.10

MLB Punches Out Joe West

Posted in Baseball at 2:30 am by

I’m not normally one to throw stones at the professional who sidelines in music for the sin of moonlighting.  I have my own glass house,  it offends my sense of fair play and no matter how many blues lawyers or jam-band dentists the world has to suffer, I know the history of worthwhile music would shrivel badly if you removed its insurance executives or accountants.

But something about Wednesday’s multiple-ejection tantrum at the Indians/White Sox tilt by baseball’s least introverted umpire has me wondering if Cowboy Joe West’s muse isn’t worried a little too much about taking a solo – a time-honored tradition best left on the small and hacky stage, not behind the plate. Would a bit of focus on the job at hand kill anybody?

At Progressive Field, West, whose upper strike zone is harder to find than an army recruiter in a white neighborhood, twice called a balk on LHP Mark Buehrle’s move to first base, having apparently noticed the trademark motion’s rubber-grazing character for the first time in ten seasons.  The first balk call brought out Ozzie, who West ejected.  The second disgusted the normally level-headed Buehrle so much, he dropped his glove.  For that, West sent him following Ozzie into the Cleveland afternoon with no plans.

Today, MLB decided that West needed to lose some weight – in his wallet. Along with Guillen and Buehrle, baseball fined West an undisclosed amount, the petulant authoritarian’s penance no doubt taking a deeper bite compared to either ballplayer’s bankroll.  Rolling Wednesday together with West’s quasi-inappropriate excoriation of the Yankees and Bosox pace of game last month,  Yahoo Sports’ Jeff Passan could barely contain his glee at West’s comeuppance:

MLB doesn™t have nearly the perception problem with umpires that the NBA does with its referees. It doesn™t want one, either, and so its move to muzzle West is appropriate. The Yankees and Red Sox do push pace-of-play boundaries; they also provide the greatest rivalry in the sport, and fans who appreciate good baseball are willing to sit through extra time as long as the drama remains. West should™ve apologized and moved on. His targeting of Buehrle “ pitchers get called for multiple balks about once a decade “ was the vindictive sort of call that cements his reputation.

Undeterred, West™s diarrhea of the mouth continued. He had CDs and gear to sell, a website to push, a brand to promote. Attached to the latest e-mail from his publicist were 11 pictures, just in case one or two weren™t enough. It also included a funny subject line: œThe Real Joe West.

Like everyone doesn™t already see him for what he is.

05.09.10

“Steve” Bellán And A Feliz Dia de las Madres

Posted in Baseball, We Aren't The World at 1:17 pm by

(Above: pelotero especial Esteban Enrique Bellán)

It’s Mother’s Day, which means I don’t have a whole lot of time.  I have to head over to the other side of the city and drop in on Mom and my grandmother, who turned 99 this year.

So it’s only a quick perusal of Baseball Reference’s always-awesome BR Bullpen Today In Baseball History that allows me to report a notable anniversary.  May 9, 1871 is the date Cuban national Esteban Enrique Bellan became the first Hispanic player in major league baseball, taking the infield for the Troy Haymakers of the National Association.

There are two reasons this resonates for me.  First, given the recent and sickening Gestapo turn in Arizona, it is always worth remembering that too much of what too many of us think as quintessentially American is simply not, has never been, and never ever will be.

Second, the elder of the ladies I am visiting today was born in Puerto Rico, but did everything she could in her life to obscure that fact once she moved to Chicago.  Her entire family, of Catalonian Spanish roots, strove for decades to meet the expectations of the surrounding white culture, suppressing their own language and history thoroughly enough to wipe it out in only a generation.

That this has left me linguistically unequipped today to follow the narratives in Telemundo’s jiggliest programming is no great tragedy, but nonetheless makes me wonder what might have been – personally and nationally – had “Steve” Bellan and all those following who spoke his language on the diamond had more influence on the far greater number who never took the field.

04.23.10

The Possibly Urological Musings Of Gordon Beckham

Posted in Baseball at 4:14 pm by

With the White Sox sporting a 5-11 start (their worst since 1997), a .215 team batting average, a lineup designed by way of Santeria, a winless Cy Young starter with a .400 OBA, and a catcher openly wondering in April about his next assignment, you might guess clubhouse pessimism would reign on the South Side. Add in a .217 lead-off hitter, a manager obsessed with Twitter, and the grim news that traded-away Scott Podsednik is busy savaging the pitching staffs of the American League, and you’d be doing more than mere guesswork.

So when youthful 2B Gordon Beckham appeared on WSCR’s Mully and Hanley show this morning, it was with some surprise that Chicago heard a more hopeful perspective.

“Baseball,”
offered Beckham, “comes in spurts.”

Indeed it does, young Gordon. So reminded, thoughts reel with the hydraulic possibilities. After all, weather remains terrible at home, and like many Southern-built models, Jake Peavy is not optimized for 39-degree outings. Even the ’97 team was competitive with an 81-80 finish. The bullpen is frighteningly good, and Freddy Garcia’s slippery spot may well provide the means to deservingly bust Matt Thornton into the rotation. On offense, the front office could heat up more than the temperature – hitting coach Greg Walker may finally fulfill his true function: to be pointlessly fired as a scapegoat. Cowed by guilt at the charade, Sox bats might catch fire in memory of their hapless coach. Anything could happen.

What Beckham is saying is that things can change. Whether he’s channeling Richard Hell, The Runaways or Peter North, we would do well to remember this as we fertilize our own lawns this spring.

04.21.10

Comcast And Twitter: Cozy Before Ozzie

Posted in Baseball, twitter twatter at 5:19 pm by

Some trends in new media reach great heights of popularity while others vanish.  While it isn’t clear in every case what differentiates a future IPO-worthy juggernaut from a worthless abandoned domain name,  success stories tend to come from those ideas that are widely embraced by business.  Suggest that your interweb gewgaw makes or saves money in some way, and its prospects brighten.  Prove it, and they brighten even further.

This was the history of the rise of Twitter.  In 2008, the microblogging service didn’t have to struggle much to explain itself, as its proponents could point to a series of corporate early adopters who had leveraged the medium.  Of these, at least to internet pundits, cable TV operator Comcast was the most remarkable.  The audacity of the hated, legendarily customer-hostile company making a digital whipping boy available for damage control one pissed-off customer tweet at a time made lots of news and generated lots of notoriety for both Twitter and Comcast.   PR flacks, net pundits and social media consultants agreed: nothing could go wrong with this new synergy.

To be fair, none of them were thinking of Ozzie Guillen, Comcast customer/avid Twitterer.  As a fellow victim, repeatedly burned by Comcast’s classically laissez-faire approach to showing up and doing stuff, it is with a certain joy that I present the skipper’s afternoon tweets as reported by Sun-Times blogger Kyle Koster:

Ozzie Guillen’s White Sox may have used the comforts of home to snap a four-game losing streak with a victory over the Tampa Bay Rays last night, but he’s having a bit of a rough day back at his own home.

It seems Comcast has drawn the ire of the outspoken manager.

Waiting for comcast people to show up in my house godddddd please take a little longer is not free,” he tweeted.

Guillen was apparently led to believe the cable company would be there at 8 a.m. As of around noon, he was stil waiting.

Its amazing to me how u have to wait for cable. As if I was getting it for free. 8 am they said wow,” another tweet reads.

Comcast is now saying they came to my house. They suck. Its not free they r not the only cable company,” he continued.

It just goes to show it doesn’t matter who you are. Between 8 and noon doesn’t always mean between 8 and noon, World Series ring or not.

04.16.10

Sweaty Freddy Explores Alternatives To Leaving Men On Base

Posted in Baseball at 7:13 pm by

Blue Jays 7 White Sox 3

Given that the Pale Hose had dropped their previous ten games against the Jays, a 2-2 series split might, in some quarters, be viewed with a certain satisfaction. To snap such a longstanding spell – and to do it with former Blue Jay Alex Rios leading the charge – might provide succor on the South Side.

But it won’t. Instead, panic buttons from Pullman to Pilsen are receiving more energetic jabbing than the Fielder family turkey at Thanksgiving. With a loss record equaling basement-dwelling Cleveland, Sox fans – a proudly dour and fatalist bunch to begin with – need little more than a pair of staff rotations to divine a glum future AL Central dominated by Twins.  Will the pessimism be justified?

The consternation in White Sox Nation has risen upon the recognition that crappy hitting with RISP is not the only way to lose games. This team could leave as few as 4 on base and still lose, as 5th starter Freddy Garcia (L, 0-2, 8.10 3IP 8H 7R 3K) aptly demonstrated last night. Garcia’s 2nd ining lob to Travis Snider for a solo HR was the low point of an 8-hit outing that RH reliever Randy Williams couldn’t get out of.  The vaunted rotation is demonstrating something less than complete command.

On the bright side, down by 7 in the 5th, backup C Donny Lucy had little splainin’ to do, sending Dana Eveland’s (W, 2-0, 1.35, 6IP, 3H, 2R, 4K) up fastball into the stands. AJ Pierzynski, fleeing from Canadian justice at the time could not be reached for comment.