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If the White Sox thought the corner would be turned in Minneapolis over the weekend, they were sorely mistaken. In a four-game sweep, they were outscored 31-8, outhit 50-36, and out homered 5-0. The Sox did, however, "win" one category. Thanks to four errors on Sunday, they had six in the series to three for the Twins.
No team in baseball has scored fewer runs than the team's 70. The Sox have hit just 12 home runs - none since April 22nd - which also puts them dead last. So it makes sense that our fellows also are 30th in total bases and 27th in slugging percentage.
They do get some hits - obviously mostly singles - but primarily at the wrong time. With runners in scoring position during the disaster in Minnesota, the Sox were a miserable 6-for-32. They've grounded into 22 double plays so far this season, or one per game, as they've lost 14 of the first 22. That's not horrible, but their DPs have come at inopportune times.
Division-leading Detroit, on the other hand, leads the majors in grounding into double plays with 28. But the Tigers can overcome that transgression by hitting the long ball and coming through in the clutch. At the moment, we must excuse their euphoria as they come to town for a three-game set beginning tomorrow after leaving Kansas City, where they took two of three from the Royals.
Then we come to the Sox' defense, which is mediocre at best. Jose Quintana pitched a beauty on Friday, losing a 1-0 decision, the lone run coming on a ball in the dirt that escaped catcher Tyler Flowers in the bottom of the fifth. Kennys Vargas - not exactly a speedster - scored from third, and the official scorer ruled it a wild pitch. Twins veteran outfielder Torii Hunter knew better. "Today was won by a passed ball," Hunter later said. "I've seen it all."
Vargas had gotten to third by tagging up at second on a fly ball to center fielder J.B. Shuck - subbing for an ailing Adam Eaton - who took awhile to get into position to make a throw, which was far wide of third base. This has become typical White Sox baseball.
General Manager Rick Hahn did a masterful job of shoring up his bullpen in a flurry of offseason moves, and his acquisitions - Zach Duke, Dan Jennings, and David Robertson - have been outstanding. The starters, however, with the exception of a few games like Friday's, have been lit up. Chris Sale gave up seven runs in the third inning on Thursday, and John Danks did the same on Sunday. Sale will win his share this season. Danks will not.
So now the job security, or lack thereof, of manager Robin Ventura is the buzz on the South Side. The cries of, "It's still early," have been silenced, while the questions about Ventura's ability to lead this team have taken center stage.
The club performed poorly during spring training, and not much has changed during the first month of the season. Help is not coming in the form of any trades or acquisitions. Hahn already has done that. The next move will be in the dugout.
To his credit, Ventura is unflappable, but anytime players such as Jeff Samardzija and Jose Abreu begin talking - as they did last week - about how it's not Ventura's fault, then you know that the guys in the clubhouse realize their manager is in trouble.
Forget about whether Ventura bunts at the right time or hits-and-runs when it's appropriate. The bottom line is that for the third straight season this team does not execute the fundamentals.
Consider that a guy like Ron Gardenhire, who managed the Twins for 13 seasons while winning six division titles, is currently unemployed. Ozzie Guillen called his teams "the piranhas" because they played the game right, were fundamentally sound, and nipped opponents with the little things needed to be successful. Or, to phrase it another way, the exact opposite of our White Sox.
Gardenhire is just 57, and his last four teams in Minnesota all lost more than 90 games after his talent pool had pretty much dried up. Whether Gardenhire specifically would be a good fit is debatable, but what's not up for discussion is that either Ventura or someone else - preferably an experienced big-league manager - needs to demand that his players execute the fundamentals or take a seat.
The situation can change quickly if, for instance, the Sox take two of three from the Tigers and then the Reds, who come to The Cell this weekend. If not, Rick Hahn will be pushed to do something to turn things around.
The Sounds Of Silence
Random thoughts while watching the Orioles embarrass the White Sox 8-2 last Wednesday at an empty Oriole Park at Camden Yards . . .
* What looked like 100 or so boisterous fans were lined up outside the outfield gates in left center field, from where they got a decent look at the game. They sure didn't appear threatened by what was happening in their city. They cheered when Chris Davis hit a three-run homer off Jeff Samardzija in Baltimore's six-run first inning. They stuck around until the end of the game. Nothing seemed extraordinary except for the fact that there were 47,000 empty seats inside the park.
* The game was played in 2:03 even though the teams accounted for 10 runs, 15 hits and six pitchers. MLB wants to speed up the game? Play 'em in empty stadiums. But wait a minute. I think the idea is to make the games less boring for the fans so that more of them will come to the ballpark. So forget that one.
* Actually there were three people in attendance - the trio of scouts sitting behind home plate. The Sox telecast missed a unique opportunity by not having Steve Stone take a mic down to the seats to converse with these guys during the game. Who better to analyze and opine on why Samardzija got lit up or why the Sox can't hit? All without being interrupted by rowdy fans, vendors or kids asking for autographs.
However, none of the three even were identified. How difficult would that have been? You rarely hear scouts being interviewed. This would have been a perfect setting, but spontaneity and creativity would have been required.
* On a pop-up between first and home, because of zero crowd noise, we clearly heard Jose Abreu shouting, "I got it! I got it! I got it!" This from someone who's not supposed to speak English. He speaks it well enough that Geovany Soto and Conor Gillaspie got out of the big guy's way.
Conversely, we failed to hear much infield chatter. Do the infielders still "talk it up?"
Any time a team like the Sox gets in a 7-0 hole by the third inning and manages just four hits for the entire afternoon, they look lethargic, uninterested and defeated. Combine that with a silent infield, and thoughts of "Are these guys paying attention?" and "Where's the fire?" creep into a fan's brain.
If there was one game when Sox fans watching on TV had a chance to hear the infield chatter, it was last Wednesday. We heard the umpire calling balls and strikes, but nothing from our guys.
* Hawk Harrelson talked about his love of Baltimore. He loved playing there. He loves the crab cakes. He loves the city. He said that the "ugly" events from Monday night upset him. At no time did he acknowledge what led up to the violence - the death of Freddie Gray, which has now led to charges against six police officers. Hawk should stick to baseball.
* There has been a lot written about whether any of the Sox' three games in Baltimore should have been played. One consideration on the part of MLB was that this was the only trip to Baltimore that the White Sox were scheduled to make. Obviously now they have to return. A doubleheader on May 28 will accommodate the two postponed games.
However, a third game would have been a problem, not so much because no open dates exist, but because the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that teams can't be scheduled more than 20 days in a row. Wednesday's game would have created problems in that regard.
The way things turned out, the Sox would have been fortunate to have the game postponed.
Roger Wallenstein is our man on the Sox. He welcomes your comments.
1. From Mark Schaeffer:
Subject: Dead Team Walkin'.
I have never seen a major-league team so lacking fundamentally (including the '62 Mets).
Forget the terrible starting pitching and lack of hitting (clutch or otherwise); this team is dragging like its the middle of August. I know players play and managers make out the lineup, but this team looks unprepared to compete on a daily basis.
I predict Robin will be gone by June 1 with Mark Parent named skipper for the remainder of the season. Jerry likes to stay in-house with his managers, but maybe Gardy takes over next year.
Editor's Note: To White Sox fans pining for Ron Gardenhire, let me say that Matt Spiegel got it right on The Score on Monday morning when he described why that would be a bad hire - namely that Gardy is an old-school manager who still eschews the analytics that have become so important to the game. It was one thing when he led teams of hungry young kids who were supremely sound in their fundamentals; it was another when the talent stopped coming and Gardy consistenly got out-managed by not adapting to the sabermetric era.
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