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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

For Starters, Pretty Good!
by Hal Vickery

Some thoughts after the first week of the new baseball season…. 

• Five games with five quality starts!  Obviously the Sox starting rotation isn’t going to keep this up.  Somebody will eventually get lit up, but this is as good a starting rotation as I’ve seen on this club in over a decade.  Let’s just hope Contreras doesn’t decide to rely too heavily on his split-finger pitch after he has a bad outing and that El Duque holds up for well over 100 innings, something he hasn’t done for a few years. 

• Did anybody see Tony LaRussa kidnap Ozzie and take over his body last Thursday?  That’s the only explanation I can think of for his handling of the bullpen in the eighth inning of that game.  LaRussa is the first manager I know of who would go through that many pitchers in one inning with each one facing just one or two batters.  But when he did in Oakland, which is where I remember him doing that first, he had Rick Honeycutt left as the set-up man and Dennis Eckersley to close.  Those guys were as close to perfect as any set-up/closer combo that I can think of. 

Ozzie blew through pitchers Thursday like he had Honeycutt and Eckersley just itching to come in instead of Shingo Takatsu with Luis Vizcaino in reserve.  A pitcher who relies as much on junk as Takatsu does stands a pretty good chance of getting lit up a few times during the course of a season.  You need more than one pitcher in reserve in your pen in a close game. 

• This of course leads to the other thing that I don’t understand about the way managers do their jobs these days.  Granted Takatsu is the closer, but why did he stay in after the second home run?  I know this contradicts my last talking point, but that further goes to illustrate the corner that Ozzie painted himself into by wasting pitchers the previous inning.   

In addition it further points to a larger problem.  Every time a reporter questions the manager about leaving the closer in, the set response is, “He’s our closer and we’re going to stay with him.”  Are the egos of these guys so fragile that they can’t admit they just don’t have it and maybe it’s best for the team on one given day to admit that this might be the case and get out while the team still has a lead?  Isn’t a win more important than an individual player’s feelings? 

After the second home run that Takatsu gave up, drivers around me were probably wondering who the maniac was in my car.  If they were lip readers, they would have heard me shouting, “Get him out of there, Ozzie!” after the second homer.  If Ozzie had been paying attention to my shouts, the Sox might be 5-0 after their first trip through their starting rotation.  Then again, had Vizcaino given up a gopher ball, Ozzie still wouldn’t have had anybody left in the pen.  

I concede that Guillen isn’t the only manager who has let his closer get shelled.  Some managers will even let the closer get behind at home or take a loss on the road to protect his fragile ego.  At least Ozzie yanked him before the Sox lost the lead. 

• This discussion of closers leads to a general complaint about sportsblab radio hosts who insist on referring to closers as “stoppers.”  They are two different things.  A closer closes out games.  A stopper is the pitcher you put in to stop a losing streak.  Shingo Takatsu is a closer.  Mark Buehrle is a stopper. 

• While we’re on the subject of misuse of terms, one that bugs me even more than the previous example is the complete misuse of the terms “bean ball” and “beaning.”  For those of you who think that these refer to throwing at a batter, you are wrong.  The term comes from throwing at an opposing batter’s bean, a slang term meaning head. 

Perhaps the funniest misuse of the term was when someone talked about a pitcher beaning a batter when the ball hit him on the rear end.  The only way that might be possible is if the batter had his head….never mind. 

• As anyone who is familiar with this column knows, I’ve been a big fan of Dave Wills for years, ever since he was doing play-by-play for the Kane County Cougars starting back in 1991.  Therefore, I thought I’d weigh in on the job done so far by the Sox’ new pre- and post-game host, Bryan Dolgin. 

The first time I was able to hear him was driving home from Milwaukee after the exhibition game there on April 2.  I didn’t catch the entire program, but he sounded all right.  After the first home game Monday, Dolgin sounded pretty nervous, something he denied on the message boards here, describing himself as being more anxious than anything.  That could easily be the case.  The show was done from the Bullpen Bar, and he might have had a lot of distractions. 

His subsequent performances would seem to bear that out.  I was able to listen to the post-game show again Wednesday and Thursday, and he sounded a lot more at ease.  He sounded particularly good Thursday working with Bill Melton.  It will probably take awhile for him to hit his stride, but he’s settling in nicely. 

• That reminds me, Dolgin has done something that Dave Wills didn’t do until just before he left Chicago.  Dolgin has already registered at WSI.  I used to bug Dave quite a bit about not registering despite the fact that he was a regular reader of the message boards.  Dolgin registered within a few days of getting his pre- and post-game job.   

So for both joining the Sox broadcasting team and for joining WSI, welcome aboard, Bryan!


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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For Starters, Pretty Good!

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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