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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Buying Time Sox?
by Hal Vickery

It has been a busy three weeks and a productive one personally. Unfortunately, I can’t say the same about the Chicago White Sox. Plagued by injuries and weak hitting, the Sox are stuck in fourth place in the AL Central.

I might have said “mired,” but that would be a gross overstatement. After all, the Sox are only four games behind the Indians and Tigers and just 1.5 games behind the Twins. Still it’s hard to be encouraged by a team that is batting a collective .221 after twenty-seven games.

At the start of the season the greatest fear of most fans was the starting rotation. With Jose Contreras coming off an injury-plagued season, Mark Buehrle coming off a sub-par season, Javier Vazquez coming off a season in which he had trouble getting past the fourth inning, and a rookie fifth starter in John Danks, there was plenty of room for doubt.

As it turned out, the starting pitching has been anywhere from adequate to terrific. What has consistently killed the Sox is the inability to generate any kind of offense other than the solo shot. This is too close to the bad old days before Ozzie Guillen took over the helm.

Look at the statistics through Saturday’s game for yourself (average/home runs/RBI):

Paul Konerko: .204/4/18
Jermaine Dye .217/6/16
Joe Crede .208/2/9
A.J. Pierzynski .211/4/7
Juan Uribe .224/4/14
Rob Mackowiak .167/1/3

Add to those statistics the fact that a team with a manager who insists that he believes in creating runs has a grand total of twelve stolen bases compared to thirty-two home runs, and you can see that this is a team that is not producing.

Although I promised a column for last week, circumstances prevented it. One of those circumstances was that I had to leave early to go to my first Sox game of the season. The Sox were playing the Angels with Mark Buehrle on the mound.

Buehrle had been having an outstanding early season, so expectations were high. They were even higher when the Sox took a 2-0 lead. What happened next reminded me of the bad old pre-Ozzie days. With Buehrle on the mound you figure a two-run lead should last for at least a little while.

But no! What did Buehrle do? Of course, he did the same as countless Sox pitchers had done before 2005. He gave up back-to-back homers to start the next inning. The lead evaporated…along with the Sox’ offensive punch for the rest of the game. The result was Buehrle’s first loss of the season.

Frankly I haven’t had a whole lot of time to watch baseball this spring, but I’ve seen enough to have a reaction as soon as Buehrle gave up those homers: “We’re gonna lose.” What else can you expect from a team that so far has shown no offensive punch?

It was a cold April. The bats were slow coming around because of the cold weather. That was the conventional wisdom, and I bought into it. But now it’s May. The Sox are on the West Coast, and they’ve had warm weather for a couple of weeks now. But still the bats are quiet. Fortunately no one has decided to run away with the AL Central this year.

And given the strength of the division, it’s unlikely that any team is going to run away from the pack, with the likely exception of the Royals running away in the wrong direction. This can buy the Sox bats some time. But those bats must come to life.

Maybe the loss of Scott Podsednik and (especially) Jim Thome was too much for this team. It’s hard to replace the kind of speed Podsednik has, especially when the guy was hitting .303 when he went to the disabled list. It’s also hard to lose a cleanup hitter, especially one of Thome’s caliber.

Both should be coming back in the not-too-distant future. Maybe that will put some life in this team.

I certainly hope so. I’m getting tired of corpseball.

______________________________________________________________________

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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