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Chicago Proud
for Our Sox!

by George Bova

Ears & Appendices

by George Bova

Say this much for Ozzie Guillen.  He gives a shit. 

To many this might not seem like much, but to anyone who knows Chicago baseball, it truly sets Ozzie Guillen apart.  The ones who pooh-pooh the relevance of his win-or-else attitude are the same ones who believe

1.) Collecting minor league talent is an end unto itself,

2.) Head-case ballplayers are to be pampered, not challenged, and

3.) Rosters filled with losers are to be tolerated for an indefinite period and then "rebuilt" for a future that never comes.  (See "A" above.)

You can sum up virtually all of the last 90 years of Sox history with any of these three schools of thought.  That's what makes Ozzie's tenure so unique.  He inherited a mess with Scott Schoenweis in the rotation, declared he couldn't win the Kentucky Derby with short-legged horses, and got the organization to invest in a team that could run and hit but most of all pitch -- finally delivering upon what previously had been only broken championship promises the Sox organization was comfortable making since long before self-satisfied Jerry Manuel or even Jim Fregosi ever managed.  "Good enough" was a South Side mantra.

The Sox are sliding, have been sliding since the very first week of the season, and seemingly every time Ozzie expresses his frustrations with the lousy play of his ballclub -- they slide even further, faster.

Folks, this isn't a manager problem.  It's a ballclub problem, and (quite possibly) a problem specific to a front office too in denial to admit their problem.  Any Sox Fan with a sense of the franchise's history knows too well the issues facing the 2011 White Sox.

Ears (or specifically the wide-open spaces between them) and appendices are troubles that have dogged the Sox this year, but they're hardly unusual.

Matt Thornton was given the closer role this season for the most obvious reason:  Necessity.  A solid set-up man, the closer role was available after Bobby Jenks' tenure was finally (mercifully) brought to a conclusion.  Unfortunately, Thornton has a gaping void between this ears that utterly deflated this ballclub in a way only a failing closer ever can:  Blowing games that were already won by his teammates.  He can't close, the Sox learning this reality too late to do them much good. 

Thornton's not unique.  Despite his obvious talent, no less a skilled player as Jon Garland simply could not be trusted as a front-half of the rotation starting pitcher.  Like Thornton, Garland's problems were all between his ears.  No matter what run support he did or didn't get, you could count on Garland to lose focus, pitch from behind, and generally find a way to give up enough runs to not win.  Garland didn't become a true major league pitcher until relegated to the #5 starter role -- just one step from the Sox bullpen -- beginning the 2005 season.  Rockhead finally got it:  Pitch well or else.  Little wonder that 2005 still stands as his best season:  Not addressing Garland's head vapor is the key to Garland's major league mediocrity. 

The key to reclaiming the talent that set up man Matt Thornton possesses?   Make him EARN the set up role and stop kidding yourself he can go back anytime soon.  Meanwhile mop-up duty sounds about right.

And what about Adam Dunn's appendix?  If not for his infected organ, you still might wonder if Dunn has the stuff to be successful in the American League.  As it stands we Sox Fans -- and the Sox, too -- are left to wonder how much Dunn's pressing to come back so quickly after an appendectomy affected his homerun-hitting ability (initially) and his major league confidence (longer-term).  Since the Sox -- and we Sox Fans, too -- couldn't possibly know Dunn's appendix would cause trouble this past April, we're simply left to ponder the "what ifs" surrounding more snake-bitten fate -- the notorious kind we Sox Fans know too well.  Pete Ward's injured back after an automobile accident... Bill Veeck's under-sized wallet and Richie Zisk's and Oscar Gamble's over-sized payday expectations... the 1994 strike... and on and on and on.

There is however one element that points to something far more sinister about Adam Dunn's decent to mediocrity on the South Side, probably invisible to the city's sports mediots and endless apologists for lousy baseball.  The former are good for only gathering attention to themselves; the latter good for nothing at all.  Adam Dunn thinks the Sox front office does a lousy job scouting the opposition.  Unlike the legions before him, Adam Dunn is willing to speak his mind publicly about it.

Eureka!  A ray of light in this dismal Sox season!

If Adam's arrival is noteworthy for nothing else, getting GM Kenny Williams to sit on the hot seat and finally explain why the Sox alone these past 10+ years cannot figure out how to hit pitchers they've never seen before -- minor leaguers so awful they're good for hardly more than a spot start against Sox hitters flailing away for 6+ major league innings.

Time to finally man-up, Kenny Williams.

It's far beyond the failings of any single hitting coach.  It's far beyond the failings of any single manager.  It's far beyond the failings of anyone else responsible for the day-to-day operation of the major league roster.  It's simply too big, too long-term, and too far beyond anyone in those roles to be responsible for correcting.  If Guillen, Walker, Cora, Cooper, Baines or anyone else suiting up is complicit at all, it's strictly for holding their tongue and not speaking up themselves. 

If Adam Dunn is simply frustrated -- and I'm sure the apologists have already latched onto this excuse -- they need to explain away a lot more Sox baseball history than the ten weeks since Adam Dunn joined the Sox major league season. 

There is something more here.  It's Williams who must answer; Maintaining the status quo is tantamount to a confession of guilt.

Talking ain't good enough any longer, Kenny.


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George Bova is editor and founder of White Sox Interactive.  You can write George at george@whitesoxinteractive.com


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