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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Kansas City Blues?

A look back--before the Sox go forward--against the Royals

by Bradley Joseph


Lets face it, smart baseball is the key to success for the 2003 White Sox.   They will not be not be in the top echelon of the league in defense, and they do not have much team speed.  They can hit, but that won’t get the job done all on its own.  Yes, smart baseball is the golden ticket, the one thing that can compensate for their deficiencies.  That means smart base running, smart defensive decisions, smart hitting, smart pitching, and most importantly, smart managing.  So I got this idea to write a column that analyzes the mental side of the game – that holds the Sox players and coaches accountable for the decisions they make as well as combats any possible unfair criticism launched at them by the finicky and rhetorically sly Chicago media.  This is about the subtleties, the little things that make a huge impact in the standings.  Yes, I would evaluate the decision-making processes of our beloved Sox and pay close attention to detail.  A weekly column for the baseball aficionado! (A column few Cub fans could comprehend)


Now imagine my horror as the Sox opening three game set with the Royals came to a close, the very day I had planned to write my first article analyzing the “mental” side of the game. Oh, the humanity!  Frank Thomas sprints home on a grounder to third . . . with no outs!  Tony Gaffanino bunts on a 3-2 count  . . . Hawk grumbles under his breath, “that was unexpected.”  So I waited awhile with hopes of not having to write in complete despair.


Over a week has passed since the Royals debacle.  The virtually mistake free series against the Tigers is fresh in my mind, and the 3-2 bunt . . . a distant memory.  But not distant enough.  There are still some things I need to get off my chest. 


So how ‘bout that break for home by Frank Thomas in the opener.  Let me recall the scenario for you.  7th inning, 2-0 royals, Runners on 1st and 3rd, nobody out.  Slow grounder to third, frank charges like a lumbering boar towards home.  He is easily gunned down by the nemesis Joe Randa.   Has Frank made a mental error?  Hawkaroo doesn’t think so:  “Well DJ, at that point, it’s out of the base coaches hands, and all up to the instincts of the runner.”  Instincts??????  No, hawk.  With all due respect (and I do respect Hawk) this is not an instinctual error, but a mental error for the simple fact that there is nobody out and Frank runs like said wild (stately plump) boar.  Frank has to make a mental note before the pitch.  If the play is questionable, stay put.  You’re still on 3rd with less than two outs, with good odds you’ll score anyway.


Now as for that dreadful 3-2 bunt in the 9th inning of game #2.  First we should take Manuel off the hook.  Apparently he took the sac bunt sign off when the count went full.  Furthermore, many dissidents have been whining that he should have pinch hit Valentin against the righty because, hey, why are we paying that brutal fielder 5 million bucks if not for his clutch hitting and solid lefty bat?  Well, if your original intention is to sacrifice, it is better to stay with Graffanino.  First, because Tony is noted for his bat control and bunting skills, as where Jose is a spotty bunter, and second because Tony has been in the whole game and you don’t want a cold Valentin coming off the bench against a guy who throws 100 mph, especially trying to bunt.  That said, what in the @!$# was Graffy thinkin’ on that 3-2 count?  For that matter, what was he thinking bunting on the 2-0 count with a pitcher that has gone wild?  Take a pitch man!  Look, I applaud his selflessness, but really.  Manuel said Graffanino tried to bunt with two strikes because he didn’t feel confident he could get good wood on the ball against that fireballer. Problem is you don’t have to get good wood on the ball swinging away, you just have to foul it off and stay alive; try to work a walk or a ducksnort or anything.  If ya bunt . . and you foul it . . . your out.  The whole out-on-two-strike-foul-bunt thing really swings the odds in that situation.  It makes it do or die,  which is never desirable against an Irish Goateed Flamethrower like McDougal.


And then there was game #3 of the series.  The worst.  Enough said. 


But now we are rejuvenated, or at least I hope so.  Jon Garland needs to look more concerned on the mound.  He has been the personification of apathy so far.  Maybe he should borrow one of Bobby Knight’s game faces or something.  But rest assured, this loss was not because of mental errors, or physical errors, but just plain bad starting pitching and some questionable umpiring.  I can live with that.  In the long run, if those are the only games we lose: Hello October.


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