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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Few Runs, No Wins!
by Hal Vickery

Carl Skanberg got it right. For those of you who don’t know about Skanberg, he is a brilliant cartoonist who draws a strip called Palehose 8, a sort of a sequel to his previous strips Palehose 6 and Palehose 7. This year Skanberg who has for the first time become a character in his own strip is chronicling the adventures of Don Guillote as he doesn’t exactly tilt at windmills but has some rather bizarre adventures.

Skanberg is not exactly Sancho Panza in the strip either. Instead he’s a monkey who follows Guillote around on his donkey, appropriately named Southside Hope. Well, he did until Skanberg’s most recent strip, posted Thursday on Skanberg’s blog site, http://palehose8.blogspot.com/.

It seems Southside Hope just can’t find it in himself to cross the border from April into May. It seems that he remembers last year and the disaster that befell the Sox a month or so into the season. And it appears that the little donkey got it right.

The Sox have been playing terrible baseball the past few days, first in Minnesota, and then crossing the border into Toronto, dropping as a result to .500 and to second place. The pitching hasn’t been all that bad, but the other two aspects of the game have been a disaster.

Over the past several games Nick Swisher suddenly can’t get on base. His on-base percentage has plummeted from well over .400 to .357. Of course that sort of thing happens when your batting average also plummets, in Swisher’s case to .208. And this is the leadoff guy, the guy who sets the tone for what is to come.

In Swisher’s case, he certainly does. Orlando Cabrera, who appeared to be a tremendous pick-up during the off-season after a .300 year is struggling at .219. His OBP is a terrible .299. So much for setting the table for the big guns….

Of course you may legitimately ask, “What big guns?” And if you do that, I really don’t have an answer for you. Jim Thome? Paul Konerko? Jermaine Dye? Thome is batting an anemic .212 with six homers and 19 RBI. Then again, who is he supposed to drive in?

Konerko actually started hitting a little bit last Sunday, and has raised his average to .233. Can you say, “Whoopie”? Two of his five homers came last Sunday, and like Thome, he has all of 19 RBI.

Dye actually has been hitting better than either Thome or Konerko, at least for average at .272, but his limited playing time due to injury has kept his production down. At the time this is being written, Dye has just three homers and ten RBI.

Three players have been having good offensive years. Joe Crede is only hitting .255 but he does have seven homers and 22 RBI. A.J. Pierzynski is second in team in batting average at .284, but his production for that isn’t all that great. Pierzynski isn’t going to hit homers, and with so few batters getting on base in front of him, he’s driven in only twelve runs.

The outstanding offensive player so far this season has been newcomer Carlos Quentin. I happened to overhear a conversation with Roland Hemond during SoxFest in January in which he was asked about Quentin. He said that once he recovered from the injury that sidelined him last year, Quentin would be “outstanding.” So far Hemond’s prophecy is correct. This is born out. Quentin leads the team with a .289 average. He is slugging at a .622 clip, by far the best on the team. His eight home runs lead the team, and he is tied with Crede for the team lead in RBI with 22.

Of course, time will tell with Quentin. He’ll need to go around the league once to see if the pitchers adjust to him and then if he adjusts to the pitchers, but so far, he does look like the real thing.

On the other side of the coin, though, there is Juan Uribe. Kenny Williams signed him before he picked up Cabrera, and is now stuck with him. I guess Williams is lucky he did sign him because Ozzie Guillen was able to put Uribe at second base when Danny Richar was injured. Richar remains on the disabled list, and Uribe remains the only viable alternative at second base, given the fact that his .161 average is still a whole lot better than rookie Alexei Ramirez’s .121.

Ramirez was put on the restricted list for the Sox’ trip to Toronto this weekend. The Cuban exile apparently is unable to travel to Canada due to visa problems. Right now, I’m far from the only person who would like to see Ramirez moved down to Charlotte so that he can face pitching every day and work his way up to the caliber of pitchers he has to face in the American League.

In short, you can’t win if you can’t score runs, and it’s hard to score runs when batters don’t get on base. That’s just what’s happening to the Sox as we go into May. It’s a repeat of that aspect of the Sox’ game in 2007, and it’s starting to wear a little thin on fans and on Southside Hope.

______________________________________________________________________

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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