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Kansas City Blues

DVD Cure for Sox Woes

Guy Bacci

It sure is nice having that World Series ring in your back pocket, or at least those DVDs on your shelf. They come in handy when, say, Javier Vazquez hangs a meaty curveball that gets demolished for a grand slam by the division-leading Tigers, or, Scott Podsednik swings at a heater near his eyebrows with a man on third and one out in the late innings of a tie game.

You can’t beat a few hundred replays of Pablo Osuna sliding in with the winning run or Bobby Jenks embarrassing Jeff Bagwell in the biggest moment of his career. That stuff just never gets old. Especially when your current club has decided to extend the All-Star break by about two weeks.

Those DVDs sure dull the pain of watching all the other good teams in the American League gain momentum while the Sox revert to 2003. All mash, no substance. While it’s nice watching so many balls fly into the stands, teams that lead the league in homers rarely win other accolades.

The pitching woes have been well documented—there’s no need to repeat them here. But the good news is that this could simply be a case of the White Sox getting their slump out of the way sooner rather than later.

Remember, there was one of these last season. A big, gnarly one, as a matter of fact. Similarly, it seemed as if nothing could go right. For the most part, the pitching was ugly. When the Sox lost seven in a row from August 12-August 20, they allowed exactly six runs per game. Not quite up to the glowing standards they set during the start of the season. And even when they did get a great performance, such as Freddy Garcia’s one-hitter on August 23 in Minnesota, the offense failed to show up. (The Sox lost that game 1-0 on a Jacque Jones homer.)

Fans are moaning about the Sox losing to play-off caliber teams. Greg Couch, in his latest column in the Sun-Times, frets about the latest stumbles against New York and Detroit. But let’s keep this in perspective, folks. The Angels came to U.S. Cellular as late as September 9 last season and absolutely humiliated the Sox in a three-game sweep. That didn’t seem to matter come October.

Brian Anderson is once again surfacing as the scapegoat. Couch spouted this bit of wisdom: “It's becoming more clear every day that the Sox can't risk having that big of a hole in the lineup.” How loudly do we have to beat this drum before people understand that baseball is about pitching and defense, and not about how well your ninth-hitter can swing the bat? How can sports writers cover a game for so long and still not understand? What is becoming clearer is that every time Rob Mackowiak or Pablo Osuna misplay a ball in the outfield, the opposition has the chance for a big inning. Sox pitchers need all the help they can get these days.

Which leads to the one disconcerting difference between ’06 and ’05: Sox pitching has been shaky just about all season. First it was Garland and Garcia, then Vazquez and Buehrle caught the bug. The pen has been in shambles from the beginning. Cliff Politte has already joined the ranks of Damaso Marte and Orlando Hernandez as 2005 lore.

Simply put, the White Sox have no chance if the pitchers don’t rebound. So why worry about spending for another centerfielder? Heck, the Twins lost Torii Hunter and Shannon Stewart, yet continue to win at a frenetic pace. That has a little something to do with Johan Santana and Francisco Liriano—two utterly unhittable lefties.

The White Sox rank 10th out of 14 in AL ERA. Leading the pack are teams like Detroit, Oakland, Los Angeles, New York and Minnesota. That is a huge cause for concern, because as the world champs showed us last season, great pitching shuts down great hitting any day. You can have a middle of the order with Thome, Konerko, and Dye and watch them go 0-for-12 against the likes of Santana, Liriano, Kenny Rogers, or Justin Verlander.

Nonetheless, panic is never a good thing, and it appears to be leading to some strange decisions on the field. Why, for example, would Guillen choose to pinch-run for Jim Thome last night with one out instead of none? Especially since the game was tied and Thome’s bat would be lost for extra-innings. As it turned out, Thome’s pinch-runner Mackowiak stepped up in the bottom of the ninth as the winning run, only to meekly end the game. Furthermore, why did Jenks enter the game in the eighth with the score tied?

These curious moves don’t help the matter. The Sox are in a slump. It is what is. Everyone take a few deep breaths.

And if it helps, pop in one of those World Series DVDs.

Guy Bacci is from the north suburbs of Chicago, where he couldn't avoid growing up as a pampered and snotty Cubs fan. Luckily, he saw the light in 1985 and never looked back. He loved the hard-working, old-school tactics of Carlton Fisk, who would become his all-time favorite player. His most memorable moment was going to a Sox double-header with his grandfather, who insisted on staying all nine hours (including a long rain delay). Guy is a journalism grad from Northwestern, currently residing in Seattle, where he works as a computer programmer and freelance writer. He can be reached at

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