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Even Ozzie Is Bored

Nothing makes a team look disinterested, dull, and boring as one that isn't hitting.

I mean, why go to the ball park unless a few guys knock the ball into a gap, off the wall, or up the middle?

You swat the ball around the yard, run the bases, and score some runs.

That description doesn't come anywhere close to the Sox' performance last week. Hence, they appear to lack hustle and spirit. Even Ozzie said he was bored.

But it appears that something else might be going on with the team's manager.

He's played his infield up close in the first three innings with a runner at third base and less than two outs. Wasn't it a bit early to do that? Was Ozzie waving a white flag, saying, "Better stop them now because we aren't going to score many runs?"

The strategy backfired in Detroit when the Tigers got hits on balls that would have been fielded had the infield been at regular depth. On the other hand, the Sox, in fact, didn't score once during the weekend. Who knew?

In another weird move on Saturday, the Sox were trailing 6-0 in the sixth inning with Edwin Jackson struggling on the mound. Ozzie had him issue an intentional walk to load the bases with one out. Will Ohman was ready in the bullpen, and Edwin clearly had had enough. But no call to the pen. A sacrifice fly and another hit made it 8-0. That's not Ozzie. Normally Ohman would have entered after the intentional walk.

Meanwhile, the camera shots of Ozzie joking with Joey Cora or Don Cooper have been non-existent. Granted, there isn't much to rejoice about, but Guillen is a guy who likes to have fun in almost any situation.

Talking about foul moods, just before the game started on Wednesday in Tampa Bay, the cameras gave us images of both the Sox' and Rays' dugouts. There were Carlos Quentin and Gavin Floyd - two fellows not prone to smiling countenances even in the best of times - sitting stoically among like-minded teammates. Pan over to the first base side and viewers saw B.J. Upton yukking it up with his buddies, including manager Joe Maddon. This was a portent of yet another loss as the Sox managed only six hits in a 4-1 setback.

The team also is timid. Seems like they don't want to make a mistake. Brent Morel was on second base Friday night when a ball got away from Tigers' catcher Alex Avila. Although the ball bounced 20 feet away from Avila, Brent never made a move toward third. No doubt he figured it was much safer staying put.

And Sunday Juan Pierre played a line drive on the first bounce rather than going for the catch, which he often makes. When you're going bad, you don't want to add yet another mistake. But you don't win ball games that way either.

Guillen expressed relief last October when the season ended. It was a frustrating summer with an up-and-down team (more downs than ups). Twenty-two games into this season, we tend to wonder whether the game is any more fun now than it was in 2010. Needless to say, a string of victories will make everyone feel better, not the least of which will be Ozzie. But at this point, it's unclear whether this team is capable of putting together something positive.

Now it's on to New York for four games. Sure, the Yankees are leading the East, and the Sox are playing miserably. Yet, I'm not impressed with the four pitchers the Sox will face. Bartolo Colon? If our guys have problems with him on Wednesday, then we'll really have to wonder if this early-season nightmare will end. C.C. Sabathia on Thursday? The Sox have had some success against him.

Opposition Research

You grimace watching the Sox the last ten days, but there were a couple of young opposing players who impressed me.

Sam Fuld was liberated from the North Side as part of the Matt Garza trade and the 29-year-old is making a name for himself in Tampa. He hasn't been under the radar since he's been among the league leaders in batting in the early going. He leads off for the Rays, presents a base-stealing threat, and he stifled the Sox with outstanding plays in the outfield.

Fuld was a college teammate of Carlos Quentin at Stanford in 2001-03. Quentin kissed off his senior year to sign as a first-round draft choice of the Diamondbacks while Fuld went to the Cubs in the 10th round in 2004. Sam had a solid minor league career but never was offered full employment by the Cubs at the big-league level. If he does turn out to be a bust, don't feel sorry for him. Prior to Stanford, Fuld attended elite prep school Exeter, so this guy is no dummy. He's a shoo-in for the All-Academic team.

Going back to the last homestand, the Angels' 23-year-old backup catcher Hank Conger looks like a keeper. A late season call-up in 2010, Conger is playing behind Jeff Mathis, a career .199 hitter. He better improve quickly. Conger slugged a three-run homer when he was in town; he blocked every low pitch with great footwork and lightning speed; and he threw out defending Major League base-stealing leader Pierre. His bullet throw arrived knee high to the first base side of second. Impressive!

Like I say, when your team is struggling you look elsewhere for talent. Let's hope that changes quickly.


Comments welcome.

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