Posted on: September 2, 2011 2:00 am
If the White Sox somehow find their way back into the race in the American League Central, will Ozzie Guillen and Kenny Williams stop fighting long enough to enjoy it?
Sometimes it feels like the White Sox only play well when they're in crisis. Sure enough, they've won seven of their last 10, during a stretch that included Guillen's strange demand for a contract extension and also, according to sources, a nasty pregame confrontation between Williams and one of Guillen's coaches.
Sometimes it seems that if things get ugly enough off the field, the White Sox respond by avoiding ugly play on the field.
The Sox are still 5 1/2 games behind the first-place Tigers, which means they probably need to win at least five of the six remaining head-to-head meetings to have any chance at a miracle run.
The White Sox get their first chance this weekend in Detroit, with three meetings Sept. 12-14 in Chicago. Neither team's schedule is particularly taxing otherwise, which is better news for the Tigers, as the team holding a significant lead.
If there were close races elsewhere, we'd barely acknowledge Tigers-White Sox. But five of the eight playoff spots are basically wrapped up, and baseball is in real danger of a September without drama.
If you want a pennant race, root for the second-place Giants this weekend against the first-place Diamondbacks, who lead San Francisco by six games. And if you like your drama on and off the field, root for the White Sox against the Tigers.
On to 3 to Watch:
1. The next seven days might be the most crucial remaining stretch in the American League West, even though the first-place Rangers and second-place Angels will be on opposite coasts. The Rangers have six games at Boston and at Tampa Bay, which could give the Angels (six home games against the Twins and Mariners) a chance to eat into their 3 1/2-game deficit. It begins for Texas with Rangers at Red Sox, Friday night (7:10 ET) at Fenway Park. It could also be an interesting night for the Red Sox, who are starting to believe that Andrew Miller could help them in some role in the playoffs. Miller, the 6-foot-7 left-hander, shut out the Rangers for 6 1/3 innings last week in Texas.
2. The Diamondbacks have won nine in a row, and as everyone in Arizona no doubt knows by now, club president Derrick Hall and general manager Kevin Towers vowed to shave their heads if the team ever won 10 straight. That could happen Friday night, when Joe Saunders faces Matt Cain. But the most interesting pitching matchup of the weekend comes a day later, in Diamondbacks at Giants, Saturday night (9:05 ET) at AT&T Park. Ian Kennedy, a Cy Young candidate this year, faces Tim Lincecum, a Cy candidate every year.
3. The presence of Justin Verlander in the Tiger rotation makes it unlikely they'll lose enough games to blow a 5 1/2-game lead. But if the Tigers are to truly be dangerous in the playoffs, they'd likely need Max Scherzer to find some consistency, as well. Scherzer has a 1.64 ERA in three starts this year against the White Sox, but he gave up seven runs in three innings Monday night against the Royals. Scherzer faces Mark Buehrle in White Sox at Tigers, Sunday night (8:09 ET) at Comerica Park.
Posted on: April 25, 2011 6:29 pm
Edited on: April 25, 2011 10:16 pm
NEW YORK -- Every year, we go through this with the White Sox.
Every year, we go through this with Ozzie Guillen.
"Every year at some point, somehow, I'm getting fired," Guillen said Monday.
Yes, crisis time is here again for the White Sox, although Monday night's 2-0 win over the Yankees will help a little. Now the White Sox are 2-10 over their last 12 games, matching those other Sox, who went 2-10 over their first 12 games.
But even if there was panic all over New England until the Red Sox began winning, it's safe to say that no one does crisis quite like the White Sox. The only surprise is that Ozzie hasn't said anything -- yet -- that would have people asking if this time, he really is going to get fired.
The assumption from people who know White Sox owner Jerry Reinsdorf has always been that only something Guillen says -- something really, really bad -- could get him fired. But some of those same people are wondering this week whether this team could play poorly enough that Guillen's job would become an issue.
"Is Ozzie's voice getting old?" one of those people asked Monday.
The word in the White Sox clubhouse is that it's not, that Ozzie is the same as ever and that this is just a bad stretch of games like other bad stretches the White Sox have endured.
"He's the same guy he's been since my first year here," said Matt Thornton, now in his sixth year as a White Sox reliever. "He just has a little more gray hair, most of it my fault."
Other White Sox players and coaches say the same thing, and Guillen's pregame media session Monday was like any number of others he has held when White Sox times have been bad.
He expressed confidence in his team ("We need to go out and let the talent take over"), defended hitting coach Greg Walker ("Some [players] out there are making $12-15 million. Greg Walker's only making $100,000. We're not struggling because of Greg Walker"), and joked about his lack of a true closer ("Somebody's going to be out there, and we have to pray, because we need a win").
And, asked whether general manager Ken Williams would want to talk to him about changing coaches, Guillen said, "If they're going to blame anybody, I take the blame. If somebody's got to be fired here, it's Ozzie."
Williams arrived in New York after a flight delay ("Two and half hours with angry Sox fans," he said), and also expressed confidence that the White Sox are much better than their record.
"We have the ability, we have the talent," Williams said. "Call me crazy, but I happen to think we've got a pretty good team out there. They're what we think they are."
We've heard it all before, and we've seen this all before. Just last year, the White Sox started 8-13, the same record they had before Sunday's loss in Detroit.
The difference this year is that the Sox now have the highest payroll in the division (a club-record $127.8 million), and also that they pushed their players harder in spring training in hopes of getting off to a fast start.
"We got off to a slow start last year, and it ended up costing us the division," said starter Jake Peavy, who believes he needs just two more rehab starts before making his 2011 debut.
They have been here before, but has it been this bad?
Scouts who watched the White Sox over the last week described them as "uninspired" and said there was "no energy."
"They're going to snap out of it . . . I think," said one scout who has followed the White Sox for years.
You have to figure they will, because you have to figure that some of their big hitters will start hitting. While the bullpen was the problem early in the season (and while the White Sox still have just one save in seven opportunities), the biggest recent problem has been a severe lack of offense.
And while it's true that the White Sox have faced great pitching during this 2-10 slide (David Price, Jered Weaver, Dan Haren, Justin Verlander, and then A.J. Burnett Monday night), it's also true that they've scored just 27 runs in that span.
New designated hitter Adam Dunn had a ground ball that brought in a run Monday, but he's still hitting just .158 with 24 strikeouts in 57 at-bats. Alex Rios had a hit Monday, but that broke an 0-for-22 skid. Gordon Beckham has just one hit in his last 29 at-bats.
"Hitting is so mental," Walker said. "Right now, our team doesn't feel that good about themselves. But deep down, they know they're good."
They should be good. They should be much better than this.
But weren't we saying the exact same thing a couple of weeks back about a different group of Sox?
The Red Sox lost 10 of their first 12. The White Sox has lost 10 of their last 12.
Is it that different?
"I saw them a lot in spring training, and I thought they'd have a heck of a year," one scout said Monday.
Just to be clear, he was talking about the White Sox.
Posted on: August 18, 2008 12:46 pm
The Indians and the Tigers are two of the biggest disappointments in baseball this year. No question there.
Here's the interesting part: You can blame both teams' demise almost completely on their bullpens.
Don't believe me? Here's the evidence:
AL Central Standings, based on only the first six innings of games
W L T GB
1. Twins 60 50 13 --
2. Indians 60 50 14 --
3. White Sox 58 49 16 1 1/2
4. Tigers 58 53 13 2 1/2
5. Royals 51 62 11 10 1/2
In other words, if you take out the innings usually pitched by the bullpens, the AL Central would be an amazing four-team race, and the Indians would be tied for first place. Not only that, but in this six-inning world, the Tribe never trades away CC Sabathia at the beginning of July.
What does it all mean? Two things, as far as I can tell. One, White Sox GM Kenny Williams was smart to spend his money last winter on Octavio Dotel and Scott Linebrink. Two, the Twins were smart to sign Joe Nathan long-term, rather than trade him away.
Oh, and by the way, the six-inning rule doesn't help the Yankees. They'd be 55-56-13 if games ended after 6.
It does, however, help the Mets -- big time. They're 68-40-16 after six, compared to 51-52-18 for the Phillies and 52-58-15 for the Marlins. In the six-inning world, they'd have a huge lead in the NL East, as opposed to the two-game lead they hold in the real world.
Posted on: July 26, 2008 7:10 pm
"The climate is awful," Williams said before Chicago's Saturday night game in Detroit. "But that's from my perspective. Obviously the Yankees were able to get something done. But from our vantage point, I'm not really seeing anything that makes sense."
Even with Linebrink out, it's believed that the Sox are focused more on getting a starter than on getting a reliever. But they've looked at both.
Manager Ozzie Guillen said that in Linebrink's absence, he'll normally use Octavio Dotel in the eighth inning, and D.J. Carrasco in the seventh. But he said he would also consider using Matt Thornton if the opponent had a lot of left-handers scheduled to bat in either the seventh or the eighth, and he said he would consider Dotel in the sixth or seventh if he thought that was the most important inning of the game.