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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Just say "No" to Vazquez's Curve!
by Hal Vickery

Itís time to take no prisoners!

The Sox reached what we can only hope is the nadir of their 2006 campaign last week when they fell to 8.5 games behind the Detroit Tigers in the American League Central Division race and a half game behind the New York Yankees in the AL Wild Card race.

Not only that, but they also found themselves in a tie for second place in the AL Central with the Minnesota Twins who just a month or so ago were considered to be out of contention. Thatís the kind of thing a team-wide slump will do.

But now, thanks to a ninth-inning grand slam homer by Ross Gload, who was in Friday nightís game against the Orioles for an injured Paul Konerko, the Sox slump appears to be over. As soon as the ball cleared the fence, all of the pent-up frustration that has built up during the month of July seemed to explode. The Sox knew they were back. You could see it in their faces.

Of course that didnít stop Saturdayís game from being an adventure, as Sox pitching squandered most of a 10-4 lead to eke out a 13-11 win. For the first time in weeks, the Sox offense was able to pick up the pitching staff as the offense gave notice that it was back with a vengeance. Indicative of that was the performance of A.J. Piersynski who had been slumping lately. Pierzynski went five for five Saturday.

It is now up to the pitching and hitting to finally get in sync for the first time this season. Itís time to play the way this team was supposed to play from the start. Itís time for the starting pitchers to live up to their reputation as the best rotation in the American League if not in baseball. Itís time for the revamped bullpen to prevent inherited runners from scoring. Itís time for the batting order to prove that itís not just the 3-4-5 hitters who can be devastating.

Itís time for Mark Buehrle to go back to pitching inside instead of worrying about maybe other batters have figured him out. Buehrle canít live over the plate. Buehrle canít live on the high strike. He needs to keep the ball down.

Itís time for Javier Vazquez to show that he can pitch for more than five innings. Itís time for him to keep his concentration three times through the batting order. Itís time for him to forget about his curve ball. He has four pitches without it. Itís time for A.J. Pierzynski or Sandy Alomar, Jr. to simply forget the signal for the curve ball, and if Vazquez shakes either of them off because he wants to use itís time for them and/or Don Cooper, and if necessary even Ozzie Guillen to trot out to the mound and tell him, ďNO!Ē

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

I was one of the people fortunate enough to receive invitations to one of the ďGrinder BashĒ parties the Sox have been sponsoring this weekend. Had my back not been bothering me, I might have had a much better time, but it was still fun.

The Sox had the patio area and bullpen bar open. Fans could schedule a time to go onto the field where the bullpens and dugouts were also open to them. They also had access to the conference center, scout seats lounge, and visitors club house.

The World Series trophy was on display on the fan deck and the Fundamentals area was open. I wasnít able to go to the main concourse because of my back, so I have yet to get up close to the trophy. Maybe somedayÖ.

On Friday evening, the Sox-Oís game was on all of the TV screens and on the Diamond Vision scoreboard, so it was impossible to not keep track of the game. Unfortunately Ross Gloadís ninth-inning heroics came after the ballpark was closed.

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

While Iím at it, I probably should mention that I was finally able to take advantage of one of the benefits of joining the online Sox Pride Club. Each member is allowed to purchase two game tickets. Friday before I headed out to the Grinder Bash, I received an email that tickets for the Tigers, Royals, and Yankees series in August were now available.

I responded within seconds and tried for both the Tigers and Yankees. No luck there, but I was able to get lower deck tickets to one of the Royals games. The seats werenít bad, either: lower deck reserved. I should note that there arenít discounts on the seats, but at least there is an opportunity to get them, and in this year of sold-out series, thatís a good thing.

______________________________________________________________________

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
Just say No to Vazquez's Curve?

You Can Put it on the Board -- Yes!



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