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Put a Fork in 'em

The Sox were given every opportunity by Cleveland in the past seven games
to make a challenge for the AL Central title.  The Sox weren't up to the
challenge.  The Sox scored runs in Cleveland this weekend just like they
did last year and ultimately it was Mark Buehrle, Bob Howry, and Keith
who couldn't rise to the challenge.

You can stick a fork in the White Sox.  They're done.

Anyone who follows these diatribes knows that we threw in the towel weeks
ago, but there was always that little lingering ember of hope.  And the pitching staff, which had been the one thing that held this club together and nearly brought them back from the dead, drowned that ember this weekend.

The Sox needed to sweep Cleveland this weekend.  Now they will be lucky if
they get a split.  Mark Buehrle, the AL ERA leader was shelled Sunday, but
the Sox lumber somehow kept them in the game.  But then, for the second
consecutive game, came Keith Foulke

You can almost forgive a game-winning double to Kenny Lofton.  That's not
a rare event.  It's hard to forgive what put the Sox in that position Saturday night, though.  The Sox brain trust, or Jerry Manuel, or whoever, needs to be asked why Bob Howry was allowed to pitch to Jim Thome, the AL home run leader.  Howry hasn't been the same since his surgery, and unless he pitched perfectly to Thome, it was a mighty big risk.  A manager with any modicum of intelligence tells Howry to pitch around Thome or to walk him intentionally.  But he gets nothing anywhere near where he can hit it.  But that's not how Jerry Manuel works.

Sunday's game took the cake, though.  Omar Vizquel?  His second homer of
the year?  Off Keith Foulke?  You've got to be kidding, right?  Oh, no.  Foulke blew his second game of the series and his fourth huge game of the year with that pitch, an 88-mph beach ball.  Hereafter, Foulke will be known in this column as Big Game Keith.  Those are the only ones he loses.

Foulke turned down Lenny's final contract extension offer (aka Kenny Williams) , meaning that the Sox will let Foulke go to arbitration.  The Sox should present the arbitrator with the scenario for the games against Cleveland this past Saturday and Sunday.  The Sox had a chance to get within striking distance of the Indians and Foulke grooved two big pitches, eliminating the Sox
from the race.

I don't care how good Foulke's overall statistics look.  Four times Foulke
needed to hold down the opposition in crucial games.  Four times he failed.  Foulke is not one of the top relievers in  baseball.  Top relievers don't lose big games, and they certainly don't lose two big games against the team you have to catch in the last series you have against them.

Maybe it's a good thing, Foulke lost these games, though.  It left no shadow of a doubt that any hopes for the Sox to win the AL Central were just pipe dreams.  The $64,000 question is do we have the guns for next year, or are we deluding ourselves into thinking that last year was indicative of the quality of this team?

Editor's Note:  Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old.  For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL.  Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, their son Jeff, and Buster T. Beagle.


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