White Sox pitching has been pretty good by most accounts this past decade. As I mentioned in my article on the starting rotation, many thanks for to Don Cooper for being able to take on any pitching project and turn him into an asset for the team. He does it consistently with the rotation, and the same holds true for the bullpen. And in 2011, though the campaign started out a bit shaky, the White Sox bullpen turned into one of the most potent on all of baseball.
Well, I was wrong when I said the Bears would beat the Titans last week. I was wrong when I said the Bears would put together a few scoring drives. I was wrong thinking that the second and third units would put some drives together. I was wrong thinking that the Bears would rebound after getting plastered on national TV against the Giants. Turns out I should trust my gut. And my gut says that the Bears are not going to replicate their success from a year ago. I am open to being proved wrong, and the Bears have one more chance to figure things out tomorrow night.
So, continuing to look at the Sox this season, and what went wrong (or right), I look now at the starting rotation. For the Sox, the rotation has become a staple of their organization; since 2005, the rotation has been the team’s strongest aspect. Often keeping the fledgling offense in games, if the Sox had a worse rotation, they’d never have won the division in 2008 or competed as they have most of the years since they won the Series in 2005. Even more impressive is that only Mark Buehrle has remained from that championship rotation. Any one the Sox bring in fills his role admirably, and the 2011 version has been no exception.
This is probably going to seem fairly obvious, but as I begin to look at the 2011 White Sox in some detail, and what went wrong, I need to start broadly and work my way down to the individual points I eventually will make. It starts with the offense, and because baseball is a team game, I want to first look at the collective offensive effort our Sox put forth this season. As you are well aware by now, it wasn’t much.
Tonight the Bears head to Nashville to face the still Chris Johnson-less Titans in the third game of the preseason. The third preseason game is always the dress rehearsal for the teams involved and will feature the starting units for at least three quarters of the game. This gives the Bears a chance to show their doubters, including yours truly, that they have what it takes to compete in a top-heavy NFC North and once again make a deep playoff run. However, first things first, as the Bears need to bounce back from a terrible effort last week in New York.
Today is August 26th. As I write this article, the White Sox are in Seattle, preparing for a three game series against the Mariners. If you had asked me where I thought the Sox would stand on August 26th at the beginning of the year, I probably would have told you they would be in first place, trying to keep the Twins and Tigers at bay. At the very least, I would have told you they had better be in first place, considering the talent they assembled over the offseason. Alas, I was wrong on both accounts, and on August 26th, 2011, the White Sox season is officially over.
And so the Bears are on primetime tonight, battling the New York Giants on Monday Night Football in their second preseason game. The Bears return to the New Meadowlands, the place where all their offensive line issues came to the fore last year. As you may recall, it was against the Giants that quarterback Jay Cutler suffered a concussion after being sacked nine times. Cue Ferris Bueller reference: “nine times? Nine... times..” So all eyes tonight will be on the much-maligned line, as they get set to face a legitimate test.
And so just as quickly as the Sox gained momentum away from the formerly friendly surroundings of U.S. Cellular Field, they give it all back upon returning home. The Sox entered this week’s series with the Cleveland Indians at 60-60, were coming off a fantastic road trip that thrust them back into the hunt in the division, and we going to face a team they had beaten six of seven times this season. And they flopped.
They’ve been here before. And they always falter. The White Sox sit at the .500 mark once again. They are now 60-60. There are 42 games left. The season is now officially on the line. Each time the Sox have crawled back to .500, they’ve gone backwards and have had to crawl back again. And each time, they find themselves three or four games out of first place. In other words, they always seem to find themselves within striking distance. Unfortunately, if they falter again, they won’t be able to crawl back.
The White Sox and Cubs were both in action on August 7th and both played in very opposite fashions. The White Sox blanked the Twins 7-0 in Minnesota while the Cubs fought in a losing 8-7 effort against the Reds. Both played great offensively, but in the end only one Chicago ball club could get a win.
Well, that was unexpected. After getting the tar beat out of them by the New York Yankees to drop six in a row, the Sox rebounded in admittedly impressive fashion, as they swept rival Minnesota over the weekend. This was such a shock in so many ways that it is tough to know where to begin.
There were a number of bright spots in the course of the three games, none more so than the return (figurative) of Alex Rios. Apparently, he made a small adjustment to his mechanics, and is holding the bat slightly higher than he normally does. The result was a fantastic series in which he hit the ball hard all three games. It’s too early declare him out of his slump, but he showed definite signs of life at the plate, and Sox fans can only hope that we are in for a great final two months from Rios.
Last week, when the Sox sent Edwin Jackson and Mark Teahan to Toronto for Jason Frasor and Zach Stewart, I wrote that the move was a good, in-the-middle deal for a team that was in the middle of being a buyer or seller. They got a nice arm in the bullpen and a potential starter by sending away an underachieving utility man and a quality starter who was expendable. But what a difference a week makes.
Well, the Sox finally have gone on that one run that was eluding them all season. The problem is, that run sees them going in the wrong direction. After last night’s defeat at the hands of the New York Yankees, the Sox finished their gauntlet against the top dogs in the AL East and American League overall at a spectacular 1-6. The Sox now find themselves at 52-58, 6.5 games back in the division. Instead of a normal recap where I have a look at each game, the Yankees series was so awful that I think I just need to vent a little.
With Chicago baseball teams either out of the race already or on the fast track to doing so, the Bears back on the field with a bunch of misfit castoffs, and the Bulls not likely to be playing until 2012, the Chicago sports fan has very little to cheer for these days. That is, except for the local hockey team. The Blackhawks made some waves today by re-signing Patrick Sharp, star winger and key member of the highly touted “core.” The deal comes at the perfect time, and gives Chicago sports fans something to smile about.
The White Sox need wins. It doesn’t matter how they are manufactured at this point in the season. Today, the calendar reads August 1st, meaning there are two months left. The Sox find themselves four games back in the Central Division, which is a reasonable margin to overcome. But to do that, series need to be won, and games in which they hold a lead in the seventh inning must be won. Neither happened for the Sox this past weekend, as the American League leading Red Sox took two of three at the Cell, leaving the Sox desperate for wins as the Yankees come to town.