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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Ozzie Ball on DL!
by Hal Vickery

Last week’s article was titled, “It Could Be Worse.” Little did I know when I wrote it how much worse it could get. This has been a bad week for the Sox – a very bad week.

Since I wrote last week’s column the Sox have gone 1-6 losing one to the Blue Jays, three to the Yankees (against whom they won their only game of the week), and two to the Astros. The sad part about all of this is that all of these teams are playing less than .500 ball. Well, now so are the Sox, who have now dropped to six under .500.

Of course it doesn’t help to have key players on the disabled list. Scott Podsednik has been on the DL since about the second week of the season. Pablo Ozuna has been on the DL for a couple of weeks now, as has Darin Erstad. People ask where Ozzie ball went? Take a look at the disabled list.

The latest player to join the DL is third baseman Joe Crede, who elected in the off-season not to have back surgery as he went into his free agency year. That paid off really well, didn’t it?

At the Windy City Sox Fans luncheon Friday, Ozzie Guillen had nothing but praise for Crede’s work ethic. “One day he came to me during a game and said, ‘You’d better take me out. I can’t feel my legs,’” Ozzie told the fans at the luncheon. “The other day he told me he couldn’t sleep because he was in so much pain.”

Sure that’s a great work ethic, but you have to remember once again that Crede elected not to correct the problem with surgery. Granted surgery on a herniated disc doesn’t always work, but it’s obvious that whatever alternative treatment Crede chose isn’t any better.

Meanwhile the bats remain pretty much silent. The team batting average seems to be stuck forever at .232, and that’s not going to get the job done. It’s June. The weather is warm, but the bats are still cold.

No colder than the bullpen where everybody but Bobby Jenks is struggling. Newcomers Ryan Bukvich and Brett Prinz are the poster children for what is happening to the Sox bullpen. Both have appeared in three games. Both have pitched an inning and a third, and both are have given up three earned runs in those brief appearances. That translates to ERAs of 20.25.

Okay, that’s unfair to them, so let’s look at it another way. Only Bobby Jenks and Dewon Day have ERAs under 4.00 – Jenks at 2.66 and Day at 3.86.

In the spring everyone was impressed with the fireballers the Sox could bring out of the pen. A friend suggested to me this week that maybe that was the problem. She suggested that perhaps the Sox needed someone with a different look coming out of the pen, someone who would keep the hitters from looking all the time for “dead red” (as Hawk Harrelson might say).

As usual, people who post at WSI have their share of solutions to the bullpen problem. One of the favorites seems to be to just use Jenks whenever the other team has a scoring threat anytime in the late innings. The conversation turned to that during the table conversation at Friday’s luncheon, and one person answered those suggestions pretty convincingly.

“Okay, you put Jenks in during the seventh or eighth inning. You still have to put someone in to close. Which one of those guys is going to do the job? You’re either going to give up the runs early or later, but you’re still going to give them up.”

Or as someone else said, “As long as you only have one person in the bullpen pitching well, you’re going to keep struggling. You need six guys in the bullpen doing the job. That’s the only way you’re going to win.”

The more aggressive pessimists want somebody’s head to roll. The only area of disagreement is whose head it should be. Those who fault the pitching want to see Don Cooper go. Those who fault the hitting want Greg Walker to make a quick exit. Others put the blame at the top and think Ozzie Guillen should be fired.

Firing coaches is probably the stupidest solution of all. It isn’t Don Cooper’s fault, and it isn’t Greg Walker’s fault if, as someone said Friday, “the coaches work with them and tell them what to do, but they don’t do it.”

As a teacher I know how that goes. You can tell people how to study, and you can model it for them. But as long as human beings have a free will, they don’t have to do as you tell them. The coaches can’t pitch for the pitcher, and they can’t hit for the hitters.

So that leaves the manager. Is he responsible for the failings of the bullpen? Oh, yeah, that’s right. It’s “bad bullpen management.” But we already answered that criticism. What can you do when all but one pitcher isn’t doing the job?

Then there is the little matter of the disabled list. I remember when people were after Ozzie because somehow the team didn’t win consistently in 2004 when both Frank Thomas and Magglio Ordoñez were on the disabled list. Now we have Podsednik, Erstad, Crede, and Ozuna on the DL, and those same people are screaming the same thing.

Okay, I understand that Ozzie seems to be a polarizing influence among Sox fans. About ninety-nine percent of Sox fans love him. However, there is a highly vocal one percent that still resents the fact that he was the person to bring a World Series Championship to Chicago because he doesn’t fit their concept of what a championship manager should be.

Ozzie’s personality is responsible for a lot of that, I think. But you could hire Connie Mack, Casey Stengel, Joe McCarthy, and Earl Weaver to manage the collection of players the Sox now have to put on the field, and you know what? They’d still lose six out of their last seven.

______________________________________________________________________

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.

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