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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Cold Snap Over?
by Hal Vickery

Itís been a few weeks since Iíve written here, and Iím happy to report that the Sox are in first place and as of this writing have increased their lead over the Twins to 4.5 games after a brief setback against the Rays last week.

Itís also comforting to see at least some of the hitters, who were struggling through April and May are making a comeback now that the weather has finally warmed up. Could the problem have just been a colder-than-normal spring? Itís hard to say, but the Sox bats have been much hotter now that you donít need a winter coat to stay warm at the ballpark.

Just a few weeks ago Orlando Cabrera was making people wonder why they were so enamored by his addition to the roster. Like several of the starters, his batting average was hovering around .200. His average is now up to .253. Of course he is still hitting into far too many double plays, and thatís something that needs to change. Still itís nice to see some improvement.

The same can be said of rookie Alexei Ramirez. His average just a few weeks ago was below .200, but now heís gotten hot. Heís now hitting a very respectable .261, and he seems to have gotten the hang of hitting in the major leagues. Even better, heís made a bench warmer out of Juan Uribe. After all, why should you go with a free swinger who canít hit his weight when you have somebody who is hot?

Thatís the good news. The bad news is that Jim Thome, Paul Konerko, and Nick Swisher are still struggling. Depending on where you put the Mendoza line, all three are flirting with it. If you go by Mendozaís career average, all are below it. Every once in awhile you see some indication that these guys are coming out of their funk, but then they seem to take two steps back for every step forward.

These are the guys who should be the heart of your lineup, and theyíre not doing the job, and this is cause for concern.

The other sour note of the season has been Mark Buehrle. After Saturday nights win over the Twins, Buehrle is still only 3-6, but he looked brilliant, giving up just one earned run in eight innings. That makes four good outings in his last five, and thatís good news. If the Sox are going to stay on top, theyíll need Buehrle to be his usual self.

It is interesting to me how much of the improvement in the Sox, particularly with their hitting, came after Ozzie Guillenís Sunday tirade. After their third consecutive loss to the Rays, Guillen seemed to deliver an ultimatum to Kenny Williams that changes had to be made by Tuesday. Williams responded by saying that he didnít appreciate Guillen throwing him under the bus, especially after the number of times Williams had Guillenís back.

It was great theater, and lost in the furor was the second part of Guillenís statement. Guillen said that if no changes were made, heíd have to make changes in the lineup. Well, it all blew over, the Sox swept the Royals, and have now taken the first two games against the Twins.

What else happened? The focus was taken off the players and put on Guillen and Williams. The players have responded with an offensive outpouring not seen since the start of the season.

Naturally the people who pass as sportswriters in this town donít get it. Theyíre too busy looking for ways to be controversial, and what better way than to criticize a manager who has his team in first place despite lousing hitting. Perhaps that criticism is exactly what Guillen wanted. The players certainly responded.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

I probably should explain a few things, considering WSI founder George Bova has called me the most prolific writer at WSI. I think that means I have the most to say about the fewest things, but Iíll take it as a compliment.

Iíve been taking a lot of time off lately, and I probably should explain myself. I have an older brother who like me was a teacher. He lives a lot closer to our mother than I do, and has done a lot over the past few years to transport her from one place to another when she needs to run errands, since mom hasnít been able to drive.

Well, my brother came down with a serious illness last fall, so Iíve assumed that role. This means that at least a couple of weekends a month, I drive down to my momís house and take her shopping, etc. I still like to have some time to just chill out on weekends, so this column has kind of fallen by the wayside.

Unfortunately we got word this week that Iíll have to be the one to help out our mom on a permanent basis. I wonít go into the details out of respect for my brotherís privacy. Iíve probably said more than I should already, but Iím not one to hold things in.

The upshot of this is that this column will probably appear when I get the time and the inclination at least until further notice.

To compound things, Iíll be going in for some surgery later this week. Iíll probably be in the hospital through Sunday or Monday, so I can definitely say no column next week. Itís nothing major, but the doctor wants to be cautious. I canít say that I blame her. I prefer doctors who are cautious.

I canít say when Iíll be back, but as I recuperate, Iím sure Iíll have a lot more time to follow the Sox than I have the past few weeks as we geared up for and completed final exams at school. Iíll probably have plenty to say when I write here again.

Thanks for putting up with my rants, and weíll see you soon.

______________________________________________________________________

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!

Have a Thought about
Cold Snap Over?

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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