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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

It could be worse...
by Hal Vickery

Well, it certainly hasn’t been pretty so far. Here we are at the start of June and as this is being written the Sox are mired in fourth place, 7.5 games behind the division leading Cleveland Indians.

When the pitching is on, the batters aren’t hitting. When the starting pitching is on, the bullpen collapses. And there have only been a handful of games early in the season where everyone on the roster has been healthy. This is not one of those times.

You can’t really fault the starting rotation. Jose Contreras, Jon Garland, Mark Buehrle, Javier Vazquez, and John Danks have a combined record of 15-18 through Saturday’s action, but their combined ERA is only 4.06. They’re not the problem.

One problem is the lack of run support. The Sox have scored a miserable 206 runs in 51 games while the pitching has given up 242. The starters have given up only 154 total runs, of which 142 were earned.

It’s hard to say why the offense is sputtering, but sputtering it is. Consider that a month or so after we commented here on the low production we still are seeing the following numbers (Avg./HR/RBI):

Tadahito Iguchi………….. .231/2/13
Jermaine Dye……………. .230/10/29
Paul Konerko…………….. .223/7/26
Joe Crede…………….….. .226/4/21
Juan Uribe……………….. .214/5/21
Rob Mackowiak………….. .233/2/12

The offense has improved, but they really haven’t broken loose, and it’s June now. The cold weather is long gone, so we can no longer say that they’ll warm up with the weather.

The biggest problem now seems to be the bullpen. There are a few pitchers who have recently made us long for the days of Neil Cotts getting shelled because that would be a relief. Some of the run totals for the relievers are comparable to those of the starters but in half as many innings in some cases.

David Aardsma, the former Cub is the biggest culprit. So far he has given up 19 runs, all earned. Nick Masset trails him with 17 earned runs out of 18 allowed, while Mike MacDougal, a bright spot in the 2007 bullpen has suddenly turned into a new version of Neil Cotts. Through Saturday MacDougal has given up 14 earned runs out of 18 allowed for a whopping 7.13 ERA. Then there is Andrew Sisco, who looked so promising at the start of the season, until his ERA exploded to 8.36. That kind of thing happens when you give up 13 earned runs in 14 innings pitched.

But still it could be worse, I guess. I mean look at the Cubs. Not only have they imploded, but they’re fighting among themselves. So far that hasn’t happened to the Sox, but it pained me yesterday to hear a couple of Cubs fans saying about the Sox, “Well, they’re right down there with us.”

We’re not quite that low, yet, but something needs to happen fast. I’m not ready yet to say, “Blow it up and start over.” Still, in a couple of months, I might be right there with a few sticks of dynamite.

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As bad as the Sox record is, it could be a whole lot worse. Take those Cubs (please). Right now they are in fifth place in the NL Central, nine games below .500 with a record of 22-31. But at least their winning percentage is over .400.

That’s more than can be said for one of the local minor league entries. This year it is my misfortune to have a twenty game season package to Philip B. Elfstrom Stadium at the Kane County Events Center, home of YOUR Kane County Cougars. Or something like that. All I know is that I’ve attended a dozen games so far this year, eight of them Cougars games, and my overall record is a perfect 0-12.

Not that I would have had much opportunity to see the Cougars win anything anyway. Right now they are in last place in the Midwest League’s Western Division with a 15-40 record. You figure it out. That’s a .273 percentage.

I spent three and a half years in Gary at the start of my career. If I wanted to see a winning team in 2007, I guess I should have stayed there because right now the Gary Southshore Railcats lead the Northern League East with a record of 13-3. The two Illinois teams are both below .500, but more in Sox territory than in Cougars territory. The Joliet Jackhammers are 7-9, so there is still some hope for them. The same can be said for the Schaumburg Flyers who are 6-10. Sure, that’s .375, but it’s only sixteen games.

--------

My bad luck at games isn’t just limited to what happens on the playing field. As you know if you’ve followed this column, I helped organize a patio party for WSI that was held on May 26. It was a lot of fun, the gray skies were brightened by an appearance by Tampa Bay broadcaster (and former Sox pre- and post-game host) Dave Wills.

I guess I was the one who made sure the game was rained out. I told Dave about my stellar record attending games this year and said, “I guarantee you a win tonight if they play.” Within twenty minutes, the game was postponed. I can’t even win one for the D-Rays, so I guess that was a good thing.

One plus that came from the patio party is that a charity softball game was played by members of WSI and the SoxTalk.com web site. I can’t say it was my idea, but I did suggest the charity. The game netted $200.00 for Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities.

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Speaking of CBCC, they’re the benefactor of money raised by the Windy City Sox Fans. They will be having their first luncheon of the summer with special guest Ozzie Guillen. The luncheon will be held this coming Friday at the Polo Café, 3322 S. Morgan in Bridgeport from 11:30-1:30. Reservations are required.

Prices are $35.00 for members, $45.00 for non-members, and $25.00 for kids age 10 and younger. We’re waiting for confirmation by Chris Rongey of The Score to be the emcee for the event. All proceeds go to Chicago Baseball Cancer Charities, earmarked for Children’s Memorial Hospital.

If you’d like a great meal, a chance to get some autographs of Ozzie with a relatively short wait in line, and hear what’s going on with the Sox straight from the manager’s mouth, and in the process donate to a worthy cause, the WCSF would love to have you join us.

For information and reservations call the WCSF Info Line at (708) 424-8520.

______________________________________________________________________

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.

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