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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Slump Busting!
by Hal Vickery

As Sox losses mounted, fans were beginning to wonder when Ozzie Guillen would finally say something to put a little fire in the guts of his players. Last week was a horrible week for the Sox who were in a two game losing streak when they were rained out in Boston last Sunday. By week’s end the streak was at seven.

It’s not just that they were losing. As the streak progressed, the players looked more and more lethargic as they were losing. It appeared that Ozzie’s patience with them had finally reached its limit after Saturday’s 5-0 shutout at the hands of the Yankees in which the anemic Sox bats managed just four hits.

Guillen summarized the feelings of all Sox fans when he said, "We just stink at the plate.” Truer words were never spoken. After watching Carl Everett, Aaron Rowand, and A.J. Pierzynski swing at pitches that were in the dirt, one began to wonder if they still thought they were still at the Field of Greens golf outing.

The plethora of pop ups was an indicator that “smart ball” had gone out the window. As has happened to Sox teams over the past few years, when the team started to tank, everybody seems to have decided that every at bat has to be a bases-empty five-run homer. It has become pathetic to watch.

Guillen wasn’t through. He continued, "I didn't come here to criticize my players, but it gets to the point where you get sick to your stomach watching this. Terrible at-bats, and when you do that, you're going to lose. What I see is, you shake your head and you can't believe how many outs we are giving away."

Guillen is right. It seems as if going deep into a count has become a thing of the past. It says something when the best at-bats during Saturday’s game came from the normally free-swinging Juan Uribe.

We all know that “Grinder Rule No. 1: Win or Die Trying” is a marketing tool, but for the first four-plus months of the season, the Sox were playing that way. As recently as August 9-11 in New York, where Aaron put on a defensive exhibition that gained him national recognition, this seemed to be the rule for the club. Now the rule seems to be: “Get off the field as fast as you can with your tails between your legs like whipped curs.”

Guillen wasn’t taking the blame for this skid, and he wasn’t going to pass it off to anyone in management. He put it squarely where it belonged: on the shoulders of his players. Speaking of the local media, he said, “You're going to put my hitting coach on the spot, Kenny Williams on the spot, you put me on the spot, and I'm not going to take it. I think it's not my fault, Kenny's fault or Greg Walker's fault. We just stink at the plate. I know someone will get blamed, and we should get some blame because that's our job. But I'm sick and tired of seeing guys take horrible at-bats."

Guillen then spoke to the fans. He said, “"I apologize to the fans who come here to watch us play and on TV because I don't think we're playing the game we're supposed to be playing. It's embarrassing. I don't know if my players are, but to me and Kenny, it's embarrassing."

It was sickening enough for fans to boo Sox players, who failed to drive in any runs during the first six innings when four lead-off batters reached base, on at least two occasions. Those may have been the first occasions all year that Sox fans have booed the team. They should be embarrassed.

Then Guillen hit the crux of the problem. "I expect everyone to have good at-bats," he said. "It's a shame. The way we play all year long, and all of a sudden we don't click together and people start feeling sorry for themselves.

"If you feel sorry for yourself, you're in the wrong business....I shake my head and can't believe how many outs we give away. Just give me good at-bats."

Unfortunately those at-bats, such as the thirteen pitch at-bat by Uribe haven’t been coming.

If there is any good news in a week where the Sox’ lead has dropped to “just” 8.5 games, it is that this slump is coming in August. Pulling out some wins in Minnesota might get them back on the right track. With leadoff man Scott Podsednik on the DL for another week with a strained groin muscle, the Sox will have to find a way to put some kind of offense together in which they can win without swinging for the fences.

Here’s a suggestion for the Sox. Start doing the things you did to get you where you were. Go with the pitch. Hit to the opposite field, or at least centerfield for crying out loud! Pulling the ball over the fence didn’t get you into first place, but trying to do so, could soon put you into the Wild Card race.

-------------------------------


My condolences go out to Sox fan and former next-door neighbor (as I was growing up) Mike LaGesse on the passing of his wife Sheila last week at the age of 61.

To give you an idea of the type of person she was, shortly after Sheila’s illness was diagnosed, my own mother had to have a couple of procedures to crush a kidney stone. Although extremely ill, Shela called after each procedure to find out how my mom was doing.

Rest in peace, Sheila.


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, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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