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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Kansas City Blues

Buehrle's Goose Eggs
The start of something big?

Jim Laffer

Another baseball season is off and running and the Sox have started off slowly. The starting pitching has been suspect and the hitting just hasn't come around. Kenny made several pitching deals over the course of the winter and Sox fans were left scratching their heads over the trades of "can't miss prospect" Brandon McCarthy for two guys most of us had never heard of and stud pitcher Freddy Garcia was likewise cast aside for a couple of young arms - one of whom the Sox had traded away before. Things haven't been great and of course the usual group of doubters and GM wannabes have been wailing and moaning and gnashing their teeth over the slow start. Nevermind that the Sox have been playing a tough opening schedule against potential playoff teams and that none of the big hitters save Jim Thome have been hitting their weight or pulling it for that matter either. According to the doubters, if the Sox can't right the ship immediately all is lost and it's time to join the rats jumping over the side.

The Sox briefly gave reason to hope last weekend, climbing above .500 but slipped slowly backwards losing three straight including the last two to division rival Cleveland and the opener of the series to Texas that followed - the bats going on a 3-game sabbatical over that stretch managed to generate a whopping 2 runs over 27 uninspiring and lifeless innings to drop the team two games under .500 and drive the dark cloud fans into a feeding frenzy.

Then came Wednesday, 4/18/2007.

Unless you've been living under a rock, you probably know what happened that night. Mark "Burly-Mon" Buehrle grabbed the team by its collective throat and dragged it to a higher level. In honor of the recent Easter holiday, Mark decided eggs weren't good enough and decided he should go with goose eggs. Lot's of goose eggs. Rows and rows of double goose eggs. When the smoke had cleared, Mark had his first career no-hitter and had faced the minimum. The lone batter to reach base on a walk quickly and quietly sent back to the dugout by Burly-Mon's dreaded and deadly pick-off move. As if realizing it was time to wake up, the bats suddenly came alive. With big guns Big Jim Thome dropping two solo-shots into the seats and Jermaine "MVP" Dye adding a three-run jack of his own. And life was restored.

The next three games the Sox played with heart and vigor. Coming from behind late in all three games to win and put themselves on a 4-game roll. Timely hitting, clutch bullpen work and well executed fundamentals all were evident as the Sox climbed back into second place with a series finale against Detroit still coming. Along the way, Bad Bobby Jenks picked up his 6th save of the still brand new season and one of the new pitchers (Nick Masset) got his first Major League win and the beer shower that comes with it.

Hope springs eternal in April. Slow starts can be erased over the course of the 6-month marathon that is the baseball season. All teams (well most teams) still feel they can win it all if they can just find the right combination of hitting, pitching and luck to take the team to the playoffs. Still, few have the expectations of the White Sox a mere season removed from winning it all. Last year's disappointment still fresh in everyone's mind could fester and cause a bad start to turn into a repeat of the futility and frustration that was 2006. That's why big time players know how to pick it up and give their team a kick in the pants. Players like Burly-Mon. Willing the team to win is one thing. Willing the team to become something special, something bigger than a group of individuals is something only a few players have the capability to do. Burly-Mon is one of those special players and the effort he put forth in his last start is bigger than one game, bigger than one win, bigger than... well just huge.

So here the Sox sit at 9-7 in second place. The bullpen is vastly improved. The hitting should come around and the starters look much more focused than last year. Anything can happen over 162 games, but sometimes one game can mean all the difference to a team's energy and determination. Staying focused and finding ways to win when all seems hopeless are the difference between 3rd place and championship caliber teams. Sometimes even the best teams need a kick in the pants and it is up to the team leaders to make that happen. Burly-Mon did it on Wednesday and now the team seems ready to play baseball at the level they are capable of. One can only hope it's the start of something big...

Jim Laffer is a lifelong Chicago sports nut living on the North side of Chicago. He was raised in Hyde Park and graduated from UIC in December, 2000. He grew up in a house famous for developing insights into economic phenomenon. Thus he doesn't believe it when the White Sox start crying poor.

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