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Replays vs. Rhubarbs

There is one baseball record that never, ever will be broken.

It's conceivable that some iron man can break Cal Ripken's consecutive-game mark of 2,632 or an ageless singles hitter can amass more than Pete Rose's 4,256 hits. The Marlins' Giancarlo Stanton hit 117 home runs in his first four seasons, 33 more than all-time leader Barry Bonds had at the same stage of his career. Stanton is just 24. Keep an eye on him.

Mike Trout is the best young hitter in baseball. Could he break Joe DiMaggio's mark of hitting safely in 56 straight games? Not likely, but if anyone can do it, Trout can.

No, the magic number is 161, not a recognizable milestone in baseball. However, with the advent of replay review where a manager can challenge umpires' decisions, Hall of Fame manager Bobby Cox's all-time record of getting tossed out of 161 games is forever secure.

In this young season, not too many games have been played without at least one challenge being issued by a big league skipper. Of the first 20 challenges, eight calls were overturned, including one last Wednesday in the Sox's 7-6 victory over the Twins.

Minnesota manager Ron Gardenhire questioned whether Sox center-fielder Adam Eaton caught a line drive off the bat of Oswaldo Arcia. The umps ruled that Eaton caught the ball but dropped it during the transfer to his throwing hand.

Gardenhire, who celebrated his 1,000th victory Saturday, has been sent to the showers by the umpires with greater frequency than any other active manager - approximately every 28 games, according to Total Pro Sports.

On a similar play in the past, Gardenhire would have come running - okay, jogging - out of the dugout to confront and battle the men in blue. He very well might have added to his notable rate of ejections. A heated exchange would have ensued. Had Gardenhire been tossed, the few Sox fans at The Cell would have been delighted on the cold, harsh afternoon.

However, on Wednesday, Gardenhire walked slowly, taking as much time as possible so that a coach in the clubhouse, watching the replay on television, could advise him whether to challenge the call.

Until this season Gardenhire might have accosted the umpire with something like, "You goofy sonuvabitch, he never caught that ball. You suck," or words to that effect. Last week it appeared that the calm, polite Gardenhire could have been saying, "Let's meet after the game for a Grande Cinnamon Dolce Latte. And, by the way, let's take a look at that catch. I may be mistaken, but I think he dropped the ball."

Gone are the days when Earl Weaver tossed his hat. We'll never see a Billy Martin wannabe kick dirt on home plate, nor Tony LaRussa's re-enactment of hurling third base before departing for the locker room. Guys like Leo Durocher would have to be truly innovative to create ways to fight with the umpires. On second thought, Leo would have found a way.

Oddly enough, two of the architects of the new procedure are none other than LaRussa, the umps banished him 87 times, and MLB executive vice president Joe Torre, who was thrown out of 66 games by the umpires during his 29 years managing five teams.

When MLB announced the review system in January, commissioner Bud Selig proclaimed, "Our fans will love it."

What's there to love about watching guys in navy blue outfits donning headphones so that they can talk to Replay Review Central in New York?

In most cases, the decisions have been handed down in a couple of minutes. What a waste of time that could have been filled with a seemingly enraged middle-aged guy sticking his nose within inches of an umpire's grill accompanied by wild gestures and incomprehensible yelling.

The White Sox even had a silly mascot a few years ago named Roobarb. He wasn't named after a pie. Rhubarbs used to be part of the game.

Selig boasted that fans at the park now can watch replays of the disputed plays, a privilege that folks at home watching on TV always have enjoyed. Why couldn't the paying customers see the replays before now? To protect the umpires and/or the integrity of the game?

So today the people who pay $50 and upwards for a seat are privy to replays that fans who pay nothing have always received. If you're confused, join the crowd.

In the past, if his team was struggling, a manager, in an attempt to stir up his athletes, might intentionally get tossed out. There's the story about Rays' manager Joe Maddon - arguably the game's finest skippers - picking his spot a few years ago with umpire Ted Barrett, who warned Maddon that one more word out of him would get him banished.
"I love you," said Maddon, and he was gone.

"I ejected him and then realized, 'What do I put in my report, that I ejected him because he told me he loved me?'" said Barrett later. "I had never had a manager tell me he loved me before."

So those stories and the entertainment of managers going nuts now belong to baseball lore.

I can picture a grandparent years from now relating to his or her grandchildren the antics of Durocher, Weaver, Cox, Gardenhire, and, of course, a former White Sox skipper.

"You mean they wouldn't let Ozzie Guillen even sit on the bench?" asks the incredulous grandchild after hearing about one of Ozzie's rants.

"No, that was the punishment," says Grandpa, "but he got his money's worth before he left. And we loved every minute of it."

* * *

There were aspects of the Sox's play last week where "love" might have been a bit strong, but we certainly liked what we saw as the team split its first six games.

Adam Eaton looks like a splendid leadoff hitter, and he's more than adequate in center field.

Aside from Erik Johnson, who yielded seven runs to the Royals on Saturday, the starting pitching has been solid. Chris Sale beat the Twins 5-3 on Opening Day, and he shut out the Royals for eight innings on Sunday for his second win. He looks ready to solidify his place among baseball's elite pitchers.

The team can score runs, a definite improvement over a year ago. Even with a struggling Avisail Garcia (3-for-20) and a somewhat tame beginning for Jose Abreu (.261/.379/.814 with no homers), guys like Conor Gillaspie, Tyler Flowers and Alexei Ramirez have been ripping the ball. And Alejandro DeAza clubbed two homers on Opening Day, the first White Sox player to do so since Minnie Minoso's return to the South Side in 1960.

However, that's as far as the positives go. The defense committed six errors, one being the aforementioned bobbled ball by Eaton. Abreu dropped three balls at first base on plays he should have easily made.

However, nothing is as disturbing as the bullpen. Adam Jones failed to retire any of the five hitters he faced before heading to the DL, and only his replacement, Jake Petricka, has had any success. In 15 2/3 innings, the relief staff has walked 12 hitters and given up 19 hits for a WHIP of 1.98. That's bad. No, it's absolutely awful.

On the other hand, being .500 with such ineffective relief pitching actually is quite an accomplishment.


Roger Wallenstein is our man on the Sox. He welcomes your comments.


1. From Howard Bulgatz:

Just read your article about Bobby Coxs' record of being ejected 161 times as being safe. While I do agree with that, for me, there are two records that with NEVER be broken. One would be when the White Sox played a record 44 doubleheaders in 1943. A second record that will never be touched would be the one established by Joe Sewell of the Yankees in 1932, for the fewest strikeouts by a batter with more than 500 AB's in one season. He only fanned three times in 503 ABs that year. That means, to break that remarkable record, a batter would have to strike out twp or fewer times during the course of a season. Those are the two most unbreakable records in my opinion.

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