July 2011

Chicago Baseball

The White Sox were off on July 29th, which may have been the rest they needed as they had just enough offensive on the 29th against Boston. The game ended 3-1 in a battle against the Red Sox in Chicago. Knuckleball legend Tim Wakefield started for Boston, but was out-dueled by Chicago’s Gavin Floyd.

Bears Trade Olsen

In what has to be described as a mind-boggling trade, the Bears sent former first-round pick Greg Olsen to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a third round draft pick on Thursday.  Olsen was the team’s top tight end and one of their top receivers last year.  In fact, he had been one of the team’s most dependable receivers in his four seasons in a Bears uniform.  Unfortunately, though, this move has Mike Martz written all over it, as the supposed genius of an offensive coordinator prefers his tight ends to block rather than catch, and blocking was usually second on Olsen’s list of preferred tasks.

Sox Make Big Trade

Mired at or just below the .500 mark for most of the last month, the Sox are right in the middle of being buyers or sellers at the trade deadline.  There are pieces to add if they start winning, but plenty of pieces to get rid of if they go on an extended losing streak.  And so in that vein they made a trade on Tuesday: Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahan for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart of the Toronto Blue Jays.  The Sox added a piece and shed some salary, which plants the move firmly in the middle on the buyer/seller spectrum.  Typical 2011 Sox.

But despite that designation, the trade was actually a smart one for the Sox.  Jackson was expendable, and has to be one of Kenny Williams’s most controversial additions.  He was brought to the Sox last year for top prospect Daniel Hudson.  Both Hudson and Jackson have pitched very well for their new teams, but with Jackson being sent away, the trade turned into Hudson for Frasor and Stewart.  The hotshotting of players isn’t something uncommon for Williams, but it’s a little frustrating as a fan to see a top prospect be traded (and then prosper) and then to see the player received be shipped off a year later.  But this is Williams’s style, and 2011 is 2011, so it is important to look at what was received this time.

Sox Take Key Series from Tigers

Well the Sox did their part in the first series of a huge homestand, taking two of three from division leading Detroit this afternoon.  Granted, it could have been a sweep, and I suppose the argument could be made that it should have been a sweep, but the Sox played decently in each game, and came away with a series win, which is all we can ask for at this point.  The Sox now find themselves at 51-52, and 3.5 games back in the Central.  They have a tough series with Boston coming up on Friday, but let’s have a look back at the games against the Tigers.

Sox Season on the Line

The Sox came away with a pretty decent road trip all things considered, as they took both games from the Indians this past weekend.  They now head home to face what could be the nail in their season’s coffin in they don’t find a way to get some wins.  The ten-game homestand starts with three against division leader Detroit, followed by three with Boston, and then the New York Yankees come to town for four games.  Probably four very long games. 

This is make or break, do or die, or whatever other cliché you prefer for the Sox.  This is a chance to prove themselves as a legitimate contender against three of the top four teams in the American League.  If the Sox truly think they can compete with anyone, and beat anyone, then this homestand is the chance to show that to everyone.  If they truly think they can just flip a switch and get on a roll and be a true force to reckon with, here is their opportunity.

Conversely, if they struggle against the Tigers, they will find themselves at least six games back in the division, and if the beat continues from Boston and New York, the Sox could find themselves down double digits in the standings.  Every baseball fan knows how tough the Yanks and Sawks are, but facing them back-to-back is a gauntlet that even the best teams in the sports rarely come away from unscathed.  Chances are, the Sox will be able to scrounge some wins against them, and more than likely, the Sox will find a way to remain hovering around .500.  It’s just what they do. 

And because they will even out against the beasts from the East, the series with the Tigers is vital.  The Sox need to win at least two games.  Doing so would put them at 3.5 games back, and one game under .500 before they host the other two teams.  The Sox have been able to compete with Detroit this year, and took a series from them in Detroit right after the All-Star Break.  The Sox showed renewed vigor and intensity in that series.  It is imperative that they find that intensity again and play all 27 innings as if their season were on the line.

Sox Rebound in Cleveland

After a dismal showing in Kansas City, the White Sox found a way to rebound in Cleveland this weekend, taking two games from a team ahead of them in the standings.  The middle game on Saturday was rained out, allowing the Sox to prevail with a two-game sweep this afternoon.  It was a much needed winning weekend, and the Sox now find themselves at 49-51, with the Tigers coming to town tomorrow.  The Sox finished a crucial 9-game road trip against only divisional opponents at 5-3 (with the rainout).  It was a good road trip after a horrible homestand heading into the All-Star Break.  The Sox have played very well against Cleveland this season, and this weekend was no exception.

Sox’ Maddening Season Continues

Some things don’t seem to change.  The Sox’ up and down season is one of them.  Fresh off a very solid start to the second half, by beating the Tigers two of three times, the Sox took a major step backwards earlier this week, when they lost two of three to the lowly Kansas City Royals.  The Sox’ struggles against division opponents this season has been well documented, but the continued struggles against the Royals just hurt on so many levels.  It’s way too frustrating to watch them be unable to beat a bad team, but let’s take a look back.

Game 1 went well for the Sox, as Mark Buehrle pitched a great game, and the offense came up big again.  The Sox won 5-2 and it seemed like they might be establishing some momentum for themselves.  This win gave them 3 of 4 to start the second half of the season, and with two more against the Royals, maybe the Sox could go on an extended run.

Cubs and Sox Win Big

The Chicago White Sox won 5-2 on July 18th against the Kansas City Royals. The win for the White Sox moved their record to 47-49 on the season as they continue to scrape to get their record to .500. They continue to play well away from home where they are now 26-24 this season. Sox pitcher Mark Buehrle was sharp on the day as the Royals struggled to get hits off of him.

The Sox got just 7 hits on the day, but they were timely and productive. They were able to hit Royals starter Kyle Davies early and get two runs in the first 3 innings. Davies continues to struggle for Kansas City and has not done much of anything to improve on a dismal Royals record. Buehrle, on the other hand, pitched great for the Sox and improved his record to 7-5 this season.

Kansas City got just 2 runs in the game off of 5 hits. They were only able to get some hits put together in the bottom of the 5th when Buehrle began to struggle a bit. Royals pitcher Davies struggled throughout the game though and now has a dismal 1-9 record this season as he continues to get hit off of early and often. The loss for the Royals brings their record to 38-58 this season and they are just 24-28 at home.

The two teams will meet again on Tuesday the 19th at 8:10 PM ET in Kansas City. The White Sox are set to start Jake Peavy against the Royals Danny Duffy. Peavy is 4-3 this season with a high 5.27 ERA. Duffy is yet another 1 win Royal pitcher, like Davies, and has struggled. He has 4 losses on the year and carries a 4.85 ERA into the game.

White Sox Spotlight: Mark Buehrle

Earlier on in my White Sox Spotlights, I mentioned that only three players from the 2005 World Series Championship team remain on the South Side.  Those three are Paul Konerko, A.J. Pierzynski, and pitcher Mark Buehrle.  Of the three, Buehrle is probably my favorite, but more importantly, he is the most consistent and truly representative of the White Sox uniform.  Granted, it’s not an equal comparison, since Buehrle is a pitcher, but I would say along with Konerko, they are the two faces of the White Sox.  Let’s have a closer look at Mark Buehrle.

The main difference between Buehrle and the others I mentioned is that Buehrle is truly homegrown.  He was drafted by the White Sox and made his debut in 2000.  He made an immediate impact, as well.  From the moment he stepped on the mound, you could tell her had good stuff and good command of that stuff.  And he immediately developed into the ace of their staff, a position in the rotation he has occupied for the majority of his career. 

Blackhawks Won’t Be Bringing Campoli Back

The Blackhawks made some noise when free agency began earlier in July by signing five players.  The signings in themselves were fine, but what was interesting was that restricted free agents Viktor Stalberg, Michael Frolik, and Chris Campoli remained unsigned, with little news at all about the status of their new contracts.  But over the last few weeks the Hawks came to terms with Stalberg and Frolik, leaving Campoli as the lone unsigned player the Hawks intended to keep.  Apparently, however, Campoli’s camp and the Hawks were never close to being on the same page, and general manager Stan Bowman announced that Campoli will not be brought back.

White Sox Off to Good Second Half Start

The Sox went into the All-Star Break with their tails between their legs.  They had a horrible homestand, losing series to the lowly Royals and the irritating Twins.  The Sox looked demoralized and defeated.  All momentum was lost, and the days off would be bittersweet with a bad taste in their mouths from the previous week.  But baseball is a funny game, and some days away from the sports can work wonders on players’ psyches and teams’ performances.  And it appears that may be the case for the White Sox, who took two of three from the Detroit Tigers to open the second half, and looked quite good in doing so.

I had the privilege of witnessing Friday’s 8-2 victory in person at Comerica Park, and was treated to an offensive display rarely seen by the Sox in 2011.  The Sox were great with runners in scoring position, even producing a number of hits with two outs.  Even more impressive was that most of the runs came against Tiger All-Star and ace Justin Verlander.  The Sox got to him early, and never eased the offensive attack.  On the other side, Gavin Floyd pitched brilliantly, going almost 8 strong.  It was a terrific start to the second half.

Chicago Stars Shine Dully

I admit I am a little bit late with this All-Star Game recap, but I say better late than never. But one of the reasons I let this article sit is that the three Chicago representatives, Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin of the White Sox, and Starlin Castro of the Cubs, did very little of note on Tuesday night.  Be that as it may, however, they still were in the game, still played, and are deserving of a look back.  So let’s get to it!

Sox Embark on Most Important Trip

The second half of the 2011 season begins tomorrow evening, when the Sox are immediately thrown into the fire.  They begin a nine-game road trip tomorrow night at Comerica Park in Detroit, where they start with three against the Tigers.  They then head to Kansas City for three more, have a day off, then face off with the Indians for three in Cleveland.  This road trip is the middle portion of the 19 straight division games for the Sox, and after going 2-5 to start the stretch, things need to change in a hurry.

White Sox Midseason Report Card: Bullpen

With the 2011 MLB season at its halfway point, now is the time to take an in-depth look at the White Sox.  This will be the last of four parts, and will focus on the Sox’ bullpen.  I have already looked at the offense, the bench, and the starting rotation.  Despite the Sox’ overall struggles, there have been bright spots, so despite my wanting to just rip the team to shreds, I will try to be as unbiased as possible.  Let’s get to work!

The bullpen is an interesting study this year, since they were so horrendous to start the year.  But collectively they have picked it up as the months have gone on and are now actually a pretty good group.  They tend to get spread thin a bit, especially when the Sox play their marathon extra-inning games, but overall they have been a bright spot, albeit a smudged spot.

White Sox Midseason Report Card: Starting Rotation

With the 2011 MLB season at its halfway point, now is the time to take an in-depth look at the White Sox.  This will be the third of four parts, and will focus on the Sox’ starting rotation.  Up next will be a focus on the the bullpen.  I have already looked at the offense and the bench.  Despite the Sox’ overall struggles, there have been bright spots, so despite my wanting to just rip the team to shreds, I will try to be as unbiased as possible.  Let’s get to work!

The rotation has been the anchor for the Sox in 2011 so far.  When the offense went south early in the year, the rotation picked up the slack.  Now, this is not to say they were tossing shutouts every time out, and they have had their share of clunkers.  But by and large the rotation has been effective, and at times, better than expected.  This is even with the unorthodox six-man rotation the Sox have used at certain points this year.  Indeed, Mark Buehrle, Edwin Jackson, Gavin Floyd, John Danks, Jake Peavy, and Phil Humber  have all taken their turns and gone out and pitched well, and have kept the offense in a number of games that should have been lost easily.

White Sox Midseason Report Card: Bench

With the 2011 MLB season at its halfway point, now is the time to take an in-depth look at the White Sox.  This will be the second of four parts, and will focus on the Sox’ bench.  Up next will be a focus on the starting rotation and then the bullpen.  I have already looked at the offense.  Despite the Sox’ overall struggles, there have been bright spots, so despite my wanting to just rip the team to shreds, I will try to be as unbiased as possible.  Let’s get to work!

The Sox bench consists of four players: Brent Lillibridge, Omar Vizquel, Mark Teahan, and Ramon Castro.  I will take a look at each one individually, but overall they have done a nice job.  Lillibridge has been outstanding, as I wrote about a few weeks ago, Vizquel is an ageless wonder, Teahan has been dependable, and Castro always does a nice job backing up A.J. Pierzynski.  The bench has been a strong suit for the Sox this year, but even these guys aren’t immune from the lack of clutch hitting that has plagued the Sox this season.

White Sox Midseason Report Card: Hitting

With the 2011 MLB season at its halfway point, now is the time to take an in-depth look at the White Sox.  This will be the first of four parts, and will focus on hitting, and the offense as a whole.  Up next will be a focus on the bench, then the starting rotation, and bullpen.  Despite the Sox’ overall struggles, there have been bright spots, so despite my wanting to just rip the team to shreds, I will try to be as unbiased as possible.  Let’s get to work!

I start with an anemic offense that has underperformed all year.  I say “underperformed” because the Sox have talent on their team, and if everyone was hitting up to his normal production level, the Sox would probably have at least 10 more wins and would be a lethal offensive team.  Of course, that is a lot of “ifs” and not too many of them have come to fruition thus far, and it’s becoming a valid question to ask if those “ifs” will ever actually happen.

Sox Stumble Before Break

Well so much for momentum before the All-Star Break.  The Sox began the week in somewhat good position (considering the season they are having), hovering around .500 with seven games at home to close out the first half.  Unfortunately, as we have noticed all year, the Sox like to make the worst out of positive situations, and took a major step backwards against the Royals and Twins, and now find themselves in a precarious position at the Break.

Chicago's Sox and Cubs Win

The White sox won 4-3 against the Minnesota Twins July 9thto move their record to 44-47 on the year. The Sox Alexei Ramirez helped big from the plate and got two big hits in the game. The Sox are still scratching to get to a respectable record and are just 3 games away from the 500 mark. They are also 3 games below 500 at home with a 21-24 record.

In all, the White Sox got 8 hits on the game producing 4 runs. Ramirez hit his 9thhomerun of the year and was able to drive in a game winning walk-off hit with 2 outs in the bottom of the 9thinning. Pitcher Jesse Crain’s victory brought his record to 5-2 on the season.

The loss for the Twins dropped their record to 40-48 this season. They are, also, just 20-29 away from home. In the game they managed just 4 hits, but did score 3 runs. They were in the game throughout, but lost it in the 8thand 9thinning when their pitching began to fall apart. They gave up a game tying hit with two outs in the bottom of the 8thbefore Ramirez’s game winning 2-out hit in the 9th. The loss was credited to pitcher Jose Mijares and was his first of the year.

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