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Some things I thought while watching portions of a generally unexciting Crosstown Classic this week:
-If you missed the game and only saw Cubs manager Dale Sveum's post-game press conference, it would be impossible for you to figure out from his statements, attitude and facial expressions (or lack thereof) whether the Cubs won or lost.
-Maybe Sveum was hired to manage the Cubs precisely because of his ability to go into a catatonic state as a strategy for surviving a 100-loss season.
-Sveum makes notorious quiet White Sox skipper Robin Ventura seem effusive and energetic by comparison.
-When compared to anyone else, Ventura is in no way effusive and energetic, and has a habit of tempering both positive and negative observations so that you end up having no idea how he really feels about how the Sox are doing.
-Come to think of it, almost none of us have any idea how we feel right now about how the Sox are doing...
-Is the lack of energy among the managers to blame for the Crosstown Classic losing its luster?
-Crosstown Classic may be more fun with characters like Carlos Zambrano, Ozzie Guillen and Michael Barrett. We're not asking for those characters back, though.
-A.J. Pierzynski seems as feisty as ever, but no one is taking the bait.
-At times, Jake Peavy seems like the player-manager of the Sox, and Ventura seems like one of his assistant coaches--or maybe one of Don Cooper's assistants.
-Not many people were buying the Sox as a first place team before the Cubs arrived--now, no one is. Peavy was right to say the Sox shouldn't be losing to a team like the Cubs, and hopefully the rest of the players will be motivated by their player-manager's challenge.
-Gavin Floyd finally showed up, just in time to save the Sox from being swept by a last place team. Can he pitch that well against a team with even a marginally better record?
-Adam Dunn really has rebounded back into the player we knew and loved, you know, the guy whot hit three or four tape-measure homeruns a week and struck out every other at-bat.
-Orlando Hudson is not the answer for the Sox at third base, but he's a better guess than Brent Morel, at least until someone like Kevin Youkilis comes to town.
As hard as it is to have faith in the Sox staying in contention, there is little reason to panic just yet about falling out of contention.
-Phil Humber needs to pull a Brent Morel and go on the DL for the good of his team. Update: He did go on the DL, and call-up Dylan Axelrod could be one of the Sox' most important players in the next few weeks.
-Kosuke Fukudome looks out of place with the Sox, getting too few at-bats to go on one of his patented 10-game tears before slumping into worthless mode. Update: The Sox DFA'd him later in the week.
-Most of the Sox apparently had not heard what a poor fielder Matt Garza is.
-Geovany Soto has still got it. Unfortunately, he is injured too frequently to actually use it.
-Travis Wood is starting to look like a player who was worth trading Sean Marshall for, never mind he was one of three players the Cubs got for Marshall.
-Between the Sean Marshall trade and the Carlos Zambrano trade, the Cubs had received no wins and mostly headaches until this past week.
-Whatever happened to Joe Mather?
-If first base were 88 feet from home plate instead of 90, Tony Camapana would be hitting .600.
-David DeJesus is starting to become everyone's favorite Cub--God help him...
Here are a few White Sox highlights from the first month of the season:
-Phil Humber pitched a perfect game.
-Jake Peavy pitched two complete games and went 3-1 with a 1.67 ERA. He pitched well enough to go 5-0 for the month.
-Adam Dunn had five homeruns and 16 RBI.
-Alex Rios hit .311 for the month.
-A.J. Pierzynski had four homeruns, 17 RBI and hit .309 for the month.
-The Sox won a series against division-favorite (and World Series-favorite, according to most people) Detroit.
Given our uncertainty before the season started, how could we possibly ask for more? Several players we were worried about being a liabilities have responded. If you didn't know better, you would say the highlights above belonged to a first-place, 18-4 team.
As it stands, the Sox spent a day or two in first place during April, and were running a close second as the month ended. Their record for April was a bland (like Robin Ventura) 11-11. Again, any of us would have been glad to be handed that first-month fate on Opening Day. But, the highlights suggest greater potential.
The Sox have two main problems right now. One is a disjointed, inconsistent offensive effort that has kept them out of a few winnable low-scoring games featuring masterful efforts by their starting rotation. The other is a shaky closer. Hector Santiago gave up as many homeruns in a month--four in just 7.1 innings--as some great closers give up in a season.
The offensive inconsistency could be traced in part to the handful of player who didn't get the memo about starting the season in strong fashion, though even some of these dreary performances come with a slight upside:
-Gordon Beckham is playing his customary role hitting below
.200, though he showed signs of life in the foggy first game of May against
Cleveland last night.
-Brent Morel, who had a great sprint training stretch, opened horribly, hitting below .200. He had just 13 hits in April, though he managed to score 11 runs and did have eight hits in his last eight games of the month.
-Brent Lillibridge has not been the super-sub he was last season, though he does lead the team with six stolen bases.
-Dayan Viciedo is hitting just .211, though he has flashed a little bit of power with three homeruns.
-Alexei Ramirez is hitting .207. There not really an upside here, except we know he always starts slowly.
The closer situation, while annoying, is not completely dire because the Sox have a lot of options. Yes, this is exactly what I said last season before every single option dissolved before our eyes, but it's new season right?
All of this makes me believe the Sox could finish May with a slight winning record.
I'm slogging through a weekend full of work, and haven't had much time to say anything about Phil Humber's perfect game yesterday. I don't know that I have anything original to add to the conversation in this brief post, but what I love about this particular gem is that it was one of those games that was so unexpected, and came with a great back story: A former first round pick who never realized his potential used probably his last Mulligan to barely make a team last year with a great pitching coach who saw something worth saving.
A fast start last year led to a decent, but unremarkable 2011 season for Humber, and more than a few of us probably wondered if that was all he had left. Maybe that's why this USA Today story on Humber's perfect game focuses on how he apparently is just another nobody who got lucky (and if you watch enough replays of the half-swing and dropped third strike, you may feel the same).
But the thing about no-hitters, perfect games and baseball glory in general is that you don't always have to be someone like Babe Ruth or Greg Maddux to do something truly great. Maddux never had a perfect game. A lot of the greatest pitchers never had perfect games. Sometime the stars align for those who try their hardest, sometimes they don't.
Maybe Humber got a little bit lucky, as all pitchers of perfect games do (just ask Mark Buehrle and DeWayne Wise). Maybe the real story here isn't perfection, but perseverance.
Top 5 from the ArchiveTriple Header
- July 2012
- June 2012
- May 2012
- April 2012
- March 2012
- February 2012
- January 2012
- November 2011
- October 2011
- September 2011
- August 2011
- July 2011
- June 2011
- May 2011
- April 2011
- March 2011
- February 2011
- January 2011
- December 2010
- November 2010
- October 2010
- September 2010
- August 2010
- July 2010
- June 2010
- May 2010
- April 2010
- March 2010
- February 2010
- January 2010
- December 2009
- November 2009
- October 2009
- September 2009
- August 2009
- July 2009
- June 2009
- May 2009
- April 2009
- March 2009
- November 2008
- October 2008
- September 2008
- August 2008