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May 2011 Archives

Is it wrong that Ozzie Guillen's latest rant solicited nothing more from me than a chuckle and a shake of the head?

By now, we should be used to Ozzie going off on one thing or another. This rant was a bit different because it targeted fans, but to me it still has a lot to do with frustration over a team that isn't nearly living up to expectations, and especially with the two members of that team--Adam Dunn and John Danks--who are having the worst seasons of their respective careers.

Here are some of the choicest words:

"They only remember the 2005 team (that won the World Series) in 2020 when we come here in a wheelchair," Guillen said. " 'Oh, yeah, thank you.' As soon as you leave the ballpark, they don't care about you anymore. ... The monuments, the statues they have for you, they pee on it when they drunk. ... 'Thank you for coming' for 30 minutes for all the suffering you did all your life, day in and day out..."

I strongly urge watching the video clip. It is vintage Ozzie.

I do think some portion of Sox fans can be pretty unforgiving. I know they take pride in their right to boo a poor performance, but it's a bit much when you hear calls to yank beloved icon Mark Buehrle after he has given up a couple runs--something I have defnitely heard at games in the last year.

I want to believe there is some code in the rant for the players, not the fans, to understand: Forget that this club has a World Series in its recent past. Even if you do something good today, you need to have a short memory and attack the next day with a hunger. You aren't as good as you think, and you need to get better. You can't just wait to get hot.

I am not even surprised that Ozzie took to Twitter to disown his comments even though they were televised on Comcast SportsNet. It just seems like something he would do. Yesterday's 13-4 loss was pretty terrible, mostly because of Danks, though the in the 9-8 loss that stirred Ozzie's ire a bit the day before (in retrospect, we should have seen Sunday's rant coming) the Sox actually showed signs of life.

There have been some signs lately that Cleveland and Kansas City may fade, and that Minnesota may be mired in a prolonged slump. I think a lot of Ozzie's ranting is directed at trying to wake up a club that has a huge opportunity right in front of it, but so far is falling short.

Arrrgh!

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I was looking on the bright side yesterday when I said the Cubs could score (though "hit" was what I really meant), and they have had several games recently when the line-up exploded, but it's also true that that have had completely listless efforts, and they have now had two in a row against that team they find so hard to beat, the Pirates.

Mustering only three hits, they lost today 10-0 after yesterday's 4-2 loss, which was saved from being a shutout at the last minute by an Alfonso Soriano two-run homer.

On days like this, it looks like Mike Quade's job might be in trouble. Maybe it should be, though I think he's done okay with what he's had to work amid injuries with a mix of veterans with bloated contracts and newbies eager to impress.

If things do get worse, someone will have to pay, and that definitely could be Quade, though I don't see who would be a viable replacement. The Ryno ship has sailed. Bobby Valentine? Who might the Rickettses think is worth paying for?

Given the latter question, I think Quade's job is safe for now.

There may only be disappointment in Chicago today, as the Bulls' NBA Championship dreams were stopped cold by the Miami Heat. This latest letdown comes not long after the Blackhawks failed to make it past the first stage of the playoffs, and both our baseball teams have more or less limped through the first couple months of their seasons.

Yet, there may be reason to be happy in Mudville. I will gloss the two most disappoint baseball players in town right now (Adam Dunn and Aramis Ramirez) and cut to the top 10 reasons why we should feel good about baseball in Chicago right now:

1) Neither team is really out of contention: The White Sox are 8.5 games back and in third place, while the Cubs are in fifth, but only 6.5 games back.

2) The Cubs can score: Sure, they have been unable to solve Kevin Correia and the Pittsburgh Pirates yet again, but for the most part they string together hits like crazy for a team now running mostly on youth and whose best power hitter (A-Ram) is once again powerless. Even Carlos Pena is hitting better than last year, though not by much.

3) The Sox can pitch: The bullpen woes of April are mostly a thing of the past, and the starters, most surprisingly Phil Humber and this new call-up Jake Peavy, are delivering. Even the winless John Danks pitched great last time out.

4) Tony Campana and Reed Johnson: Their bats will definitely cool off, but the dirty uniform club sure is fun to watch right now. Campana seems like a threat to beat out any grounder, and Johnson knows his core audience sits right behind him.

5) Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez: The Sox quiet bats have ruined many a game for them, but these three in particular have each had stellar individual performances in the last week or so, with CQ's 3-HR game being the highlight. One of these games, they're all going to click on the same night and the Sox will score about 17 runs.

6) Jeff Samardzija: I can't believe I just wrote that, but the guy has been delivering out of the bullpen. I guess we'll have to put up with the hair.

7) Sergio Santos: For a guy who wasn't supposed to be the closer, he is doing everything he can to keep things locked down in the 9th inning.

8) Darwin Barney: Get that RoY award ready. With the exception of a few dumb errors, he has been terrific at the plate and in the field. He and Starlin Castro have gotten the Daily Double tag for this year. Is it too early to say Barney is Scottie Pippen to Castro's MJ? Probably...

9) Ozzie Guillen: He has survived what now looks like a brief stretch of very ugly play by the Sox, and has stayed out of trouble himself. What more can you ask?

10) The weather: It can't get any worse, right? C'mon summer! We're pullin' for ya!

Boston black-eye

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The Cubs took one out of three in Boston last weekend, which was better than I had expected, and the single inning in which they scored eight runs Saturday night may have been worth the price of admission for the whole weekend.

What they lost, more than the Friday and Sunday contests, was one of their top character guys, Marlon Byrd. He suffered a horrifying fastball to the face, and is now on the 15-day DL--and probably out much longer--with facial fractures. Over the last two seasons, Byrd had become essentially a singles hitter in a line-up that doesn't need anymore of them, but he's got great hard-working style. Not seeing him in center field for a while is one more reason not to go to Wrigley during a season when many are already staying away.

The other injury of note from this weekend was Matt Garza, who missed his scheduled outing because of elbow soreness. So far, there's no new information, but I'm sure we're all waiting for the other shoe to drop. Over his last three or four games. Garza had become the Cubs' most consistent starter.

These injuries are sure to weigh on Mike Quade, who has been making increasingly strange decisions. His latest was to play Alfonso Soriano in the outfield during the trip to Fenway, rather than DH him. At this point, the Cubs might want to think about giving Soriano as little time in the field as possible. His bat has been relatively hot all season, and if you do your best to hide his most glaring weakness, you might just be able to unload him to a contender in the second half--with some cash to cover his other glaring weakness, of course.

The Cubs and White Sox both ride surprising series sweeps into the first weekend of interleague play. Granted, both sweeps were only of two-game series, but given the opponents, we'll take it.

The Sox took two from the first place Cleveland Indians, reminding us of how good the Sox looked in the first two games of this season before things came tumbling down. Wednesday night's gem by Jake Peavy was followed by a resounding offensive effort backing up Gavin Floyd in an 8-2 win Thursday.

Is it enough to get the Sox back in the division race? Given how early it is, and the fact that the sweep took them from 10 games out of first to eight, with a 20-25 record--yes. The beginning of interleague play last year sparked a major run of victories for the Sox, and they seem poised to repeat that effort. This time, the question is whether or not they will be able to keep it going after the interleague games are over.

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The Cubs swept the Florida Marlins by scores of 7-5 and 5-1 in what was their final appearance at Insert-Brand-Name-Here Ballpark in South Florida. The Marlins had been one of the best teams in the National League until the last week, so this two-game run may qualify (perhaps sadly) as the best thing the Cubs have done all year.

Was it Mike Quade getting tough on the guys in Cincinnati? His post-game meeting was followed by probably the worst game of the year--four errors and seven unearned runs--so maybe not. I prefer to give credit to the arrival of Tony Campana, or as I would like to start calling him, Sam Fuld 2.0. (Or, maybe Reed Johnson, Jr.)

Fuld has cooled from his all-star start in Tampa, but I still miss him every time I see Alfonso Soriano misplay a flyball or jog lazily to first base. Who knew the Cubs had a Fuld-in-waiting? Campana already has a key hit, an impressively speedy charge home to score a run on a groundball, and overall appears to be a reassuring late-inning presence in the outfield (While we haven't seen a Fuld-like Web gem from him yet, that kind of thing is reportedly within his abilities). He seems just the kind of scrappy, runty fella who should help the Cubs develop a sense of underdog motivation (they are already underdogs, just not motivated enough).

The Sox host the LA Dodgers this weekend in the rematch of the 1959 World Series, which to be honest, is barely worth mentioning anymore. With the exemption of Matt Kemp and Andre Ethier, the Dodgers have been underwhelming, and the Sox should win the weekend.

The Cubs, as you may have heard, will play the Red Sox in Fenway Park, returning there for the first time since the 1918 World Series. That wouldn't be worth mentioning either were it not for some recent speculation about whether or not the Cubs threw that Series. They may have a tough time, considering the Red Sox are on a run after a poor opening to the season. I'm looking forward to seeing Campana play the Green Monster, since Soriano likely, thankfully, will be DHing.

Peavy throws a gem

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Jake Peavy threw his best game as a member of the White Sox, shutting down the American League-leading Cleveland Indians 1-0 in a complete game shutout. Needless to say, he was dominant start to finish, with eight strikeouts, no walks and only three hits.

I was actually surprised to see him come back for the ninth inning since he hadn't gone that deep in a game in a while, but why not? I guess if he was going to rip another chest muscle or whatvere, it robably would have happened by then. I liked that move by Ozzie Guillen, even though Sergio Santos has been settling into the closer job.

The Sox offense didn't contribute much, but that's just fine. I'm probaby a little too high right now on the possibility that this Peavy thing might actually pay off.

The sixth man

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Can we say at this point that Phil Humber is the best sixth-in-the-rotation pitcher in the majors? It's an easy one, since no other team has made a strategic decision to use such a rotation.

Whether you like the idea of a six-man rotation, or hate it (as former pitcher Mike Marshall predictably does), it's clear that Humber is doing a fine job for the Sox. He was the winner again last night as the Sox beat Oakland 4-3. Humber is now 4-2 and seems to be getting better every game--he adidn't allow a walk last night.

Manager Ozzie Guillen said he might stick with a six-man starting group at least until June 1. It's not a practial idea for later in the season, but for right now, I don't mind the idea of giving Mark Buehrle and Jake Peavy in particular a bit more rest, and giving John Danks a little more time to figure out what the heck he is doing wrong this year.

Things are coming around for the Sox. They have won three out of four, and have had a pretty successful West Coast trip for a team that looked like it was about to fall apart when it left town. The West Coast tour can a be a season killer for the Sox, but this time, it looks to have been exactly what they needed,

Back on track?

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Technical difficulties and a lack of interest in the plight on certain Chicago teams--more the latter than the former--has kept me away from SBW for a time, but I'm hoping to re-engage for some Darwin Barney-like production in the coming days and weeks.

So, what's worth talking about?

--The White Sox may be getting back on track a litte bit. Sure, they lost last night and John Danks remains a shocking 0-for-2011, but runs were plentiful in the previous two games against the Angels. Alex Rios, Gordan Beckham and Adam Dunn showed some potential to come out of extended slumps, and Carlos Quentin has been seen swatting again. Seems like just days ago, we were wondering when Ozzie Guillen might be fired. Take note, though, that the Sox are still more than 10 games out of first place and been contending for worst record in the majors on a regular basis.

--Jake Peavy is back. I really started to wonder, with his recovery setbacks and the Sox' plunge into loserdom, whether he would ever play for the Sox again. So, maybe it's all part of a grand rebound in the making for the Southsiders. Stay tuned. I was starting to kind of like Phil Humber starting.

-On the Northside, Geovany Soto is going on the DL with the dreaded groin strain. Such setbacks are starting to feel like the story of his career. MIght we see young Wellington Castillo sometime soon?

--The Cubs have been contending in the National League Central Division in the early going mostly because every other team had nearly the same lukewarm record they did. Now, the Cardinals may be separating themselves, and the Cubs' inability to score runs despite numerous hits and string together any more than two victories, is leading them toward and extended stay well under the .500 mark.

--On the plus side, the starting rotation is rebounding from a pretty horrible start--we are mostly looking at you, Ryan Dempster. If Dempster, Matt Garza and Carlos Zambrano can all get n the same page one of these weeks, we may yet see our three-game winning streak.

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