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Seeing the Sox

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Here's a couple photos taken from the Scout Seats at The Cell Monday night, when Mrs. SBW and I made our annual pilgrimage. The Great and Powerful Oz is on his way back to the dugout after arguing a close play at second base. Mark Buehrle started for the Sox and wasn't bad (6 IP, 4 ER), but didn't get the win.

Meanwhile, the pre-game buffet was great as usual, though one of my favorite Scout Seat rituals is my mid-game stroll back to the ice cream cooler for an Oreo ice cream sandwich. This time around, I sent the Missus back to fetch me "an ice cream sandwich" when she went back to go to the bathroom, but she came back with a standard-issue Good Humor style ice cream sandwich.

Nothing wrong with that, mind you, and those bar-style treats take me back to the days in the 1970s growing up in Grayslake when the ice cream man came down our street once a week, with his truck playing that mind-numbing jingle the whole way. My standard order was an ice cream sandwich, my brother favored Push-Ups (even though he probably doesn't remember), my dad liked the chocolate ice cream bars with the thick plank of solid chocolate in the middle and my mom liked the toasted almond bars.

Anyway, while I wouldn't normally turn down any old ice cream sandwich, I was aware that the Powers-That-Be with the White Sox organization usually are very attentive in such matters, making sure a wide variety of food choices are available. I have in the past enjoyed both the Oreo sandwich and the Toll House chocolate-chip cookie variety while watching from the Scout Seats (the cooler also features drumsticks, but the less said of those the better), so I went back and, sure enough, my frozen, racially-integrated treat was waiting for me. Good stuff. (I gave the original and now rapidly melting, plain-old ice cream sandwich to Mrs. SBW, who gladly ate it, lest I consume two, which I clearly would have done.)

By the way, the Sox won 8-7, though not before Scott Linebrink tried to give up the game. He has since been demoted to middle relief (finally).

Peavy headed to southside?

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In a potentially shocking move, San Diego stud Jake Peavy could be headed to the Southside in a major trade, acoording to multiple reports. The shocking aspects are numerous: It was the Cubs who since before spring training were rumored to be the team closest to a Peavy, and there has been speculation that deal still might happen as the season and the Cubs sale unfolded.

The reports suggest Peavy may be concrned about picthing for Ozzie, which is ironic because this year Ozzie has been pretty lenient with his pitchers, letting Contreras get booed out of multiple games and failing to light a fire under slumping Gavin Floyd and John Danks. Personally, if I was Peavy, I would be more concerned about pitching in the little league park that is U.S. Cellular Field after having a good run in San Diego's Petco Park, one of the most pitcher-friendly ballparks around.

It's not clear the trade will actually happen, but if it does, you have to wonder who and how many the Sox are giving up. Where exactly can the afford to shed bodies right now?

And, I wonder how stunned Jim Hendry is...

Getz gets my bets

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I have been a critic of White Sox 2B Chris Getz since last year--or more accurately, not a critic of Getz so much as a critic of what seemed like a campaign by Kenny Williams starting as early as last October to push getz as the Sox starting 2B this year.

Getz seemed to have a bit of speed, a decent glove and contact-hitter potential, but GM Kenny touted him as a regular 2B even before the free agent market began last fall. At the beginning of spring, it looked like Gordon Beckham could challenge the commitment to Getz, but after Beckham faded a bit, Getz came on strong with a great spring training and truly earned the starter's job. In yesterday's opener, he batted second and went 2-4, and with lead-off man DeWayne Wise going 0-4 with 3 strikeouts, I'm betting that Getz is ticketed for the lead-off spot soon, possibly as early as tonight.

Other random notes from the opener:

-Buerhle was in fact struggling, but the Royals helped him out be leaving 11 men on base.

-The Sox left 12 men on base, and it seemed like even more at the time.

-The Sox drew 0 BBs. Gil Meche will not help you out in that department, but the Sox need to remember that patience is a virtue.


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Chicago is unbeaten so far this baseball season, with the record standing at 2-0 after the White Sox pulled off a thrilling (at least the 8th inning was thrilling) 4-2 victory over the K.C. Royals today. Both Chicago teams have won their openers. 161 games left.

I didn't catch as much of the game as I hoped, but saw some great defense and hitting from Josh Fields, and of course, Jim Thome blasted a three-run homer in the bottom of the 8th for the winner. Mark Buerhle wasn't his usual efficient self--cause for concern after a lousy spring. It seemen like Buehrle had someone on in every single inning, though I haven't looked that closely at my TiVo or the box score yet.

Meanwhile, it appeared like Gil Meche, always tough, was mowing through Sox hitters in a fairly quick game. But, you can always count on The Farns to give up a big homer at just the right time.

I'll follow up a little later with further observations...

Opening Day: Hits and misses

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Well, because the White Sox postponed (perhaps prematurely) their opener by one day, I am left on the bench, unable to make the trip down to the Southside because of a prior work commitment. It's the first time I will fail to report for a Sox opener since, I think, 1999.

Too bad for many reasons, but also because today is about as nice as early April weather gets in Chicago. Brightly sunny, high 40s. I'll be watching out of the corner of my eye later on, but it won't be the same.

The Cubs started off on time and according to plan last night in Houston, winning 4-2 behind a surprisingly effective Opening Night performance by Carlos Zambrano. We got Big Z, the effective dominator, rather than Zammy, his rodeo clown evil twin. By mid-game, Zambrano had struck out 5 of 7 batters and looked about as good as he did during his no-hitter against the Astros last September in Milwaukee.

Still, Piniella pulled him after he put the first two men on in the 7th inning. The bullpen was good: Aaron Heilman limited the damage to a run, and Neal Cotts finished off the 7th; Carlos Marmol pitched through a walk in the 8th; and Kevin Gregg started his tour as a Cubs closer with two hits and a sacrific fly, but settled down and locked down the win.

Offensively, there was both power and efficency, as Alfonso Soriano led off the game (and the Cubs season) with a home run, and Aramis Ramirez later led off the 2nd inning with a solo shot. Why do pitchers--and especially a pitcher as effective and experienced as Roy Oswalt--throw so many fastballs to Soriano? Maybe it's the old adage that you need to establish the fastball and your location before doing anything else, but it's the top reason why Al-So has so many game-starting HRs. It doesn't make much sense to have him lead-off--never has and never will--but every time he starts a game with a homer, he makes it harder to argue the case against moving him.

Mike Fontenot also had three hits and scored a run on a sacrifice fly from Ryan Theriot--that was the efficiency part. Zambrano's win was his first career Opening Day win--we are looking for signs already...

Bronx bombed; Snow show?

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The Cubs are winless at the new Yankee Stadium. Of course, their record there is only 0-2, and the games don't actually count yet, but today's 10-1 loss came as close as you could get to actually counting, since it was the final pre-season tune-up for Monday night's opener in Houston.

Rich Harden looked pretty awful, pitching only 3.2 innings, giving up 7 earned runs, 3 HRs and 4 BBs while striking out 2. He'll have another 10 days or so to fix whatever went wrong before his next start, though when Harden doesn't pitch well, it's hard not to think the worst.

The Cubs looked pretty sluggish in both games at the new stadium, scoring early Friday night and then fading to a 7-4 loss in which it was Ted Lilly's turn to give away runs. In today's game, former Yankee Alfonso Soriano looked pretty swell, hitting a HR and going 3-4. He has generally looked better as spring has sprung, which can't be said for several of his mates. In both of these games, the Cubs seemed to be soaking in (and literally soaking) the new Yankee digs more than anything.

We're looking forward to Monday night anyway, and the hope that Carlos Zambrano remembers whatever he was doing so right when he no-hit Houston last September.

Meanwhile, we're also looking forward to Monday afternoon, when SBW will be heading down to the Cell for the White Sox opener. But, will there be baseball? Snow has been forecast for that morning, with driving winds and temps in the low 30s around mid-day. Ouch.

I love our teams, but they need to open on the road every year and stay away from home until mid-to-late April--it just means more home games later, right? My pal The Commish and I have been to many a Southside inaugural, and have had our share of good and bad weather. One year, we had a 70-degree day for the opener sandwiched between two much colder days. Then in 2006, we barely got to see the World Series Championship banners get hung before the game was delayed by drenching rains.

Maybe Mother Nature will cut us a little slack, but it doesn't look good. If they do start Monday, at least it might be quick: No. 56 will be on the mound setting his typically brisk pace.

Your 2009 Chicago White Sox

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I was waiting a while to post my thoughts on what the off-season may have in store for the White Sox, partly because I couldn't get over how quickly White Sox GM Kenny Williams tried to promote Chris Getz as a starting second baseman next season. Within a day after the ALDS-concluding Game 4 loss, the papers speculated on the Sox' plans for 2009, and Williams strategically mentioned the injured and somewhat forgotten Getz as a possible key figure next year.

That's assuming everyone's favorite new player, Alexei Ramirez, moves to shortstop with the departure of free agent Orlando Cabrera. This is the one change for next year that everyone seems to agree will happen.

The other news of the past week that had me re-thinking various scenarios was Junior Griffey's knee surgery and the likelihood that he will play another year somewhere. Would the Sox consider picking up his option and operating a power/speed platoon of Junior and B.A. or Jerry Owens (remember him?) in center field? I'm probably the only one who feels this way, but I still kinda like the idea of a healthier Junior hitting in The Cell. But, with the reality of the rest of the line-up, it's not going to happen.

Since I lasted posted, my friend The Commish weighed in with potential conservative and aggressive designs on the 2009 Sox. I like his idea of pursuing Willy Taveras a lot, and that's just the kind of speedy CF and lead-off man the Sox need to play Ozzie Ball. He had a bad year hitting in Colorado (.251) but still stole 68 bases. Take a few more pitches and bunt a little more, and he could end up with 80 SBs. I agree the Sox would need to ship Dirty 30 to make it happen, which would be fine, though the Rockies could want one of our young pitchers and a speedy outfielder (B.A., Dewayne Wise, Owens?) instead. Dirty 30 will have a better 2009 than his horrible 2009, but I would still rather see the first deal than the second.

However, trading 1B/OF Swisher would make it harder to do another attractive deal--moving Paulie to the Angels, as The Commish suggests in his more aggressive scenario, for crafty, speedy, useful lead-off man Chone Figgins. I think it would be a coup, and would give the Sox their 2B replacement for the Missile.

There's also a possibility, however, that the Sox may re-commit to Paulie the way that he has promised to re-commit to getting in better shape for next year. If they did somehow trade both Swisher and Paulie, it would be imperative for them to sign a 1B free agent like Kevin Millar or Tony Clark (forget Texeira). Thome is no longer a full-season option at 1B.

That's a lot of different pieces falling into place. If Paulie-for-Figgy doesn't happen, you still need to fill that 2B spot, if only because there are proven second baseman better than Getz on the free agent market:

Orlando Hudson
Mark Loretta
Mark Ellis
Ray Durham (!)

Then, there's the issue of 3B--re-sign Joe Crede or take a shot with Josh Fields or Juan Uribe who somehow manages to keep providing enough value to hang around? Could the Sox do the above deals AND sign a free-agent second baseman, which would move Figgins to 3B? Wow... I don't see all this falling into place at all. Here's my three different scenarios:

Your 2009 Chicago White Sox starting line-up

Likely version:

CF Taveras
SS Ramirez
LF Quentin
DH Thome
RF Dye
1B Konerko
C A.J.
2B Getz
3B Fields or Uribe

Radical version:

2B Figgins
DH Thome
LF Quentin
RF Dye
C A.J.
SS Ramirez
CF Taveras
1B Millar or Clark
3B Fields or Uribe

Totally radical version:

3B Figgins
2B Hudson or Loretta
LF Quentin
DH Thome
RF Dye
C A.J.
SS Ramirez
1B Millar or Clark
CF Taveras

In my likely version, I want to be clear that I think Kenny is sticking to this idea of Getz starting at 2B despite the other possibilities. If he then pushes hard for Taveras and gets him, he'll call the off-season a success and watch his own free agents go bye-bye. That would be a step in the right direction, but not what the Sox will need to win it all next year. Move Paulie while you can and pack the line-up with speed.

One last thing: Jake Peavy apparently is available. Trading young pitchers and position players for him sounds like a Kenny Williams move, but Peavy I think would not do as well in The Cell or in the A.L. Could the Sox, as The Commish says, trade Gavin Floyd, maybe Clayton Richard and others for Peavy? If not, I predict the sox will have three southpaws--Buehrle, Danks and Richard--in the starting rotation next year.

Sorry, folks, problems with Blogger again yesterday morning prevented me from making some timely comments on our city's one, very lonely postseason win. As it turned out, there wasn't much time to enjoy the celebration after the White Sox' 5-3 Game 3 ALDS win over the Rays, as barely 24 hours later, those same Rays were celebrating their first play-off series victory on our own carpet.

But, let's not gloss over Game 3: Danks proved to be the big-game pitcher we knew he could be. He mostly mowed down a Rays line-up that no one else seemed to have an answer for, striking out seven in 6.2 IP. The few jams he got himself into, he managed is way out of, and was one out from notching 7 IP when he gave up a two-run shot to B.J. Upton, who had been silent the whole series until then. For once, the Sox bullpen held, as Matt Thornton and Bobby Jenks kept the Rays in check the rest of the way.

Ozzie was aggressive with the base-running plan, unless it was all the players. With the bases jammed with piano movers (Thome on 3rd, Paulie on 2nd, Junior on 1st), the Missile hit a sacrifice fly. Thome scored, but the real surprise was seeing Paulie, who seriously must be the slowest man in the league, tag and take 3rd, while Junior, whose aged thickening around the middle belies his nickname, took off and made it to second. They may have both been seriously winded, but their improved position helped them score on a double by DeWayne Wise, who might have been ALDS MVP in a parallel universe. It's hard to believe the Great and Powerful Oz didn't have something to do with the tag-up calls, but he didn't let on after the game that this was the case, and in true Ozzie fashion, blabbed that he thought Junior didn't actually tag.

Wise also had a stolen base, and so did B.A., who replaced Junior in the sixth when the future HOFer walked. I thought at the time that with Junior building a nice afternoon with two hits and a walk, Ozzie was really taking a chance removing his bat from the line-up so early against the comeback-kid Rays, but it proved to be a golden move when Juan Uribe came up with a two-out hit that scored B.A.

Game 3 was great overall effort, and the Sox looked as ready for big things as they did going into Game 163 the week before...

The Commish and I were at Game 4, sitting in the upper tank, and I have to say it is a very strange experience watching another team celebrate like that on your field. Painful, yes, but almost more strange than painful, as it's a bit like watching a silent movie (at least for those of us too far up to hear what the Rays were probably yelling and laughing about) or maybe a car crash on the other side of the expressway. The Rolling Black Out tried to keep emotions high throughout yesterday's contest, even with a four-run deficit that looked like an eight-run spread the way the Sox were hitting (which is to say, not much), but by the bottom of the 9th, there was mostly a lot of sighing, and I have never heard a ballpark more quiet than when the fans were exiting and the Rays were dancing for the cameras around the pitcher's mound, celebrating their 6-2 victory. The most touching moment may have been when the handful of fans still left starting cheering "Let's go, White Sox!" as Bobby Jenks and a couple other bullpen pitchers made their way across left field toward the clubhouse. The Sox were done, but the appreciation wasn't.

The Sox offense never had it yesterday against Andy Sonnanstine, one of those guys with a 4+ ERA who suddenly becomes unhittable in the postseason because everyone is too amped up to wait for his 78 mph junk. The last time I saw the Sox flail this badly was in Game 1 of the 2005 ALCS (yes, the only loss of the play-offs) against well-traveled junkball tosser Paul Byrd.

Unfortunately, Gavin Floyd couldn't stay even, giving up 2 HRS to Upton in two straight at-bats. In the 4th inning, the ex-Cub factor reared its head when Cliff Floyd doubled home a run and later score. The Great and Powerful Oz pulled Floyd for young Clayton Richard, who managed 3 IP, 1 ER in another performance that suggests a 5th rotation spot may be in his future. Octavio Dotel turned in an out-less performance and was charged with a run, but the damage was done. All the Sox could muster were solo HRs by Paulie and JeDye in a toothless, four-hit attack.

Some fans on the train ride North tried to keep it together by bragging that the Sox had lasted longer than the Cubs this postseason, but for most, the 3-1 ALDS series provides little to console. What's at stake is so much bigger than cross-town rivalries, as this postseason has painfully made clear. SBW began with the hope, now brutally dashed, that we would see our "great in 2008" Cubs and Sox teams meet for the MLB title. We're embarrassed about the end result, but we'll continue to carry the torch for both teams into the off-season and into 2009. Check back in the days to come as we talk about potential off-season moves for both teams, and list some of our favorite moments from the season that was.

One more thing: I said I would tell you on the eve of the Windy City World Series who I would root for, the Cubs or the Sox. I guess I don't have to tell you now, but I will... my next post.

Harden, harder, hardest

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You know how some people are social smokers? Well, I'm something of a social Catholic, which meant I wasn't about to miss the Boys' Night Out event at Wrigley Field Tuesday night for the lcoal mens' church group I've latched onto through my brother. The evening started as I noted in a previous post, with a visit to Tai's on Ashland, where we stretched out livers and stomachs in preparation for the big game. We chatted about the Farns' reputed 2003 visits to Tai's, and recent neighborhood sitings of Ryan Theriot's Escalade (Do you think he ever lets Fontenot drive it?). In any case, once we got to the game, our boys were on their best behavior, and so were the boys in royal blue pinstripes.

Rich Harden was Harden-like (7 IP, 10 Ks, 1 ER, 0 BBs). There was some talk after the game that maybe he's better than that fella CC up north, but without discounting Harden's massive talent, CC--or is it CG?--is a much stronger finisher. This one was still just a one-run game when Harden left, and that single run came on an unlikely sac-bunt down the 3rd base line by Harden himself. Geo, on 3rd at the time, crept toward home, but didn't seem to build a full head of steam until the ball was in the glove of Joey Votto at 1st base. Harden got credit for the RBI, but Votto's wild throw may have been the difference. The Cubs had two baserunning blunders earlier and for a moment, this play looked dicey. Of course, none of that mattered after the Cubs went up 5-0 in the 8th.

Meanwhile, 9.92 miles south (according to MapQuest) the White Sox did their part to bring us closer to an all-Windy City World Series, beating Lowly Seattle 5-0. The Sub-Mariners can now say they are so bad they got beat by Clayton Richard... We're kidding--Richard looked great in lowering his ERA out of the double-digit territory and getting his 1st MLB win during the same week he was supposed to be pitching in the Olympics. (Oh, well, maybe that Phelps kid can hold down the open bullpen spot in Beijing.)

What's harder than facing Rich Harden? Overcoming a 15-run attack, which is what the Sox bought down on the Sub-Mariners in the Wednesday matinee today (Final 15-3). The Missile again fired one into the seats as the Sox hit 4 HRs in a game for the 4th time in a week. Even that Griffey kid is starting to hit. Junior hit his 609th career HR to tie him with Sammy (You remember Sammy, don't ya?)

Both our teams are cruising right now, but remember who they are playing. The hardest tests still remain: The Sox have road trips to Tampa and Boston coming up, and a whole bunch of division games next month, including three the final week against the Piranhas. The Cubs have 12 next month against the Cards and Beermakers, 6 against Houston and 4 against the Mets. Yikes...
Consecutive visits to the Friendly Confines and The Cell this week got me thinking about what I like and dislike about both stadiums. In my next post, I'll elaborate...

Lucky 13 and The Wave

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The Sox put up another 13, after spotting Lowly Seattle three runs in the 1st, and later allowing the Sub-Mariners to get ahead 4-3. The 1st inning showed the Sox' weaknesses--rickety innings from otherwise solid starters, and poor decisions in the field by otherwise stellar fielders. After allowing two men on base, Buehrle was about to get out of the 1st with no damage done on a tailor-made DP ball hit to him, but Cabrera and Ramirez seemed not to have discussed who would cover 2nd. Ramirez ended up catching the ball, trying to swipe his foot across the base, which was a good foot in front of him, and throwing out Adrian Beltre at first base. Buehrle, shaken, gave up a two-run-scoring single and later another run on a double.

Despite great hitting, fielding and pitching, on-field decision-making often haunts this team, whether its Ramirez trying to look to smooth, outfielders misjudging balls or Uribe winging ill-advised throws after good glovework. Yet, the early mistakes didn't hant the Sox Monday night, as Buehrle was serviceable and the offense exploded for the second straight game, adding 4 HRs to their league-leading total and stringing the hits together in between. As Ozzie put it to reporters after the game: "When the peoples on base, we getting good at bats, when the peoples on base."

The Missile (otherwise known as A-Ram, the Southside version) bolstered Rookie-of-the-Year numbers with another HR, and C.Q. added to his league-leading tally, hitting his 35th. O.C. and Dirty 30 also had swats. This is the sort of team that doesn't fear falling behind 3-0, and shows toughness in coming back that will help them in an inevitable stand-off with the Piranhas. Early on, they hammered the ball, but directlty into Mariner gloves. Still, instead of feeling like frustration, it only seemed a matter of time...

And then there's The Wave: Used to be you would never see such a thing on the Southside, with the fans to cool to attempt it and too into the game to even thing about it. You don't even see it at Wrigley, mostly because everyone's too drunk or occupied with phone conversations. But will the game well in hand Monday night, The Wave rippled its way from left field on, and almsot immediately pulled in everyone in the park (but not me, of course). Mrs. SBW was so excited about The Wave, she literally fell out of her chair (see, it's dangerous).

Winning a World Series brings respect and pride and also mainstream popularity. The average baseball I.Q. on the Southside, always so much higher than on the Northside, has dipped a bit, and the broadening of the fan base also has brought out some fans who shows extraordinarily little pateience (calling for Buerhrle to be yanked in the 1st), and others who allow their self-absorbed chats to be disturbed only by the occasional HR or antics like The Wave. It makes me miss the hyper-knowledgable Sox fan of old, who would comment on how fielders were positioned, and would wait until between innings to stand up and hit the concession stand, rather than upset an entire row and block views while the Sox are at bat.

But, what can you do? Winning the World Series is worth losing a little bit of what made the Southside experience so cool.

Tonight, it's onto Wrigley for the Cubs vs. Reds, starting with a trip to the Kyle Farnsworth Hall of Fame at Tai's Til 4. See, the object at Wrigley, despite a team that now expects to win, is still drink first, and hope a game breaks out later...

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