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Thome was my homey

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You knew it was going to happen this way at some point: Jim Thome hit a come-from-behind game-winning two-run homer to beat the White Sox last night. As much as I like Thome, I can't be happy for him as a Twin. Great guy, but now he's a fish.

The pain is a bit harder to take on this one because Thome is the Twins DH, and the Sox could use a good DH right now to better compete with the Twins. When Thome was traded to the Dodgers ;ate last year, it was the right decision by GM Kenny Williams. It freed the Sox up to explore new DH options that might also be useful defensive players, and was an acknowledgment that Thome likely no longer had the stuff to be a full-time DH.

But, now, DH is a real sore spot in the line-up for the Sox, and Thome actually is playing full-time--mostly because Justin Morneau is injured. I'm not saying Thome should be the Sox DH, or that the Sox should have tried to get him back in the off-season. So, settle down, Ozzie. The problem, however, is that the Sox ended up not doing much of anything at DH except claiming they could bat anyone in that spot. Mark Kotsay has been the most frequent DH, and despite what people say about Kotsay being a tough out, he's still hitting only .233 (though, surprise, he hit a homerun last night). Mark Teahen might be a decent option down the stretch.

They still may have other options to acquire a DH before the season is over. But, they apparently don't think Jermaine Dye is worth the money, or Carlos Delgado worth waiting for. I'm fine with it not being Thome, but now he's making the biggest rival better while the Sox are still spinning their wheels looking for an answer.

Dog days

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The White Sox are now 5-3 in August. A winning record is something to be happy about, but I was really getting used to winning streaks, and the rest of the month is starting to look very tough for a team that went 18-8 in July. Not only are there six games against the Piranhas in the next two weeks, but four more games against the Orioles, who are proving difficult to vanquish in the current four-game set, and a three-game series against the Yankees at the end of August. The remaining eight games this month are against supposed division powder puffs Cleveland, Kansas City and Detroit (Yes, the Tigers went from contender to powder puff just this week).

On top of that, those fighting fish from Minnesota have been in top form of late. Former Sox DH Jim Thome has been key to some of their recent wins, which just plain hurts me to think about when the Sox really could be using him right now.

I know a lot of Sox fans are probably more worried about the closer situation and the unstable Bobby Jenks than the DH situation. I'll admit I am dreading the potential for Jenks to be closing one-run games against the Twins. But the Sox have a stable of closers--Jenks, J.J. Putz, Matt Thornton and Sergio Santos. Even Tony Pena fits the mold in a pinch. The best thing manager Ozzie Guillen can do is keep 'em guessing.

I guess after a huge mid-season run, during which the Sox have the best record in baseball since June 9, I'm a little concerned about a letdown still coming their way. In any case, the Sox are still in first place by half a game as of today, so enough negativity.

Skinny Bobby

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A week ago after the Cubs Convention, we were talking about the newly-slimmed Geovany Soto. At SoxFest over the weekend, the Seattle Sutton award went to Bobby Jenks, who in photos and reportedly in person, appeared to have lost quite a bit of weight (I haven't found a story yet in which he said how much he lost, though some blogs have mentioned the magic number as 30 pounds).

Several stories during the weekend talked about Jenks having gained maturity and a new willingness to carry on direct conversation with the media. The Melissa Isaacson story I linked to above mentions that he quit drinking and has gotten some religion. To each his own in both departments, but after hearing all of this news, I feel less like Jenks will be the big question mark for the Sox this season (I may move that question mark over to Alex Rios or the team's general lack of power).

I feel generally pretty good about the mostly modest changes that the Sox made during the off-season. I might feel even better is they pull the trigger and re-sign Jim Thome to a limited DH role, though I'm not expecting that to happen. But, in any case, the pitching staff is looking solid from top to bottom, and the speed-plus-defense game-plan looks ready to go. I'm liking the 2010 White Sox better every day.

A little flag-waving music?

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So, Kenny Williams denied that shipping out Jim Thome and Jose Contreras were white-flag trades, even after he indicated he was looking to help Thome get a World Series (sort of implying he wouldn't have that chance if he stayed with the White Sox this season). Then, it's reported in the Tribune and elsewhere that the GM shopped a number of guys last week.

Kenny being Kenny, he said he was just trying to wake up his team, and the 4 wins that followed those trades suggested he did. The debate about whether or not the GM gave up and whether or not he was being sneaky is over-shadowing the fact that both moves were timely and correct. The Thome move is certaintly hard for fans to swallow, and the Sox only got one iffy minor leaguer for him, but it sets the Sox up well for next year, and is already giving Manager Ozzie Guillen more line-up and field position flexibility. It's been interesting seeing Carlos Quentin and Scott Podsednik in the DH role this week, the latter hinting at a creative way of redefining the DH spot with small-ball speed.

The Sox are no worse off right now without Thome. They dropped today's game to the Red Sox, and Podsednik went 3-4 on the DH spot. Rather, they lost because the rest of the line-up only managed 3 hits and Paul Konerko, Alex Rios and Quentin are pretty well mired in slumps.

Meanwhile, the Tigers had another amazing late comeback win and are looking awful tough to beat. The Sox are now 8 games out of 1st place. They play only division foes after Sept. 16, and with 6 games left against the Tigers, and 3 left against the Twins, it's time to hope for the best that those games will actually mean something when the dates arrive. For that to happen, the Sox need to get some help from the Tigers, while also refusing to think about whether or not their GM has waved the white flag.

Thome-time is up

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Kenny Williams is as hit-and-miss with trades as any other GM, but the Sox' main man has got to be 10 times more coldly decisive than the Cubs' Jim Hendry, who is sometimes artful and imaginative where Kenny is more pragmatic. And a pragmatic GM is what Sox fans want, even if doing what must logically be done hurts sometimes.

Trading Jim Thome was probably something that had to happen now, even though many of us would have loved to see the hometown boy (sort of--Peoria) and all-around great guy hit his 600th career homerun while in a Sox uniform. But, Thome's also 39, and the already limited dimensions of his value are growing fewer.

Some may say the Sox players already hung out the white flag. If not, this may be it, though the Sox have some able-bodied and speedier players they can get in the line-up a bit more often (Jayson Nix?). Jose Contreras was traded, too, but the Sox may soon get an upgrade with Jake Peavy coming back--assuming he comes back this season. Best to re-assess this season after the exit from Minnesota, however that turns out.

Sox: Swoon update

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The Sox just lost to the Yankees 10-0, and much like the Cubs have looked lately, the Sox to a man looked slow and lost in this one. So, maybe there is no reason to believe they still have a chance this season.

You know how I go hot and cold on our teams when they start swooning, but this was the worst Sox game I have seen in a long time that didn't take place in the Piranhas' Horror Dome. The Sox were almost no-hit by none other than Sergio Mitre--who they beat earlier this month--and Chad Gaudin (yes, folks, two Cubs rejects). And the one hit by Jim Thome really was a once-in-a-blue-moon misplay by Yanks 1B Mark Texeira (or maybe not even a misplay if you get a chance to see the replay).

Meanwhile, Jose Contreras continues to... decompose. He's basically reserving a spot in the rotation for Jake Peavy, but isn't even doing that much anymore.

C.Q. is back, B.A. is gone

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Carlos Quentin officially is back from the disabled list, and to answer your next question, yes, Brian Anderson was indeed sent down to the minors to make room for him. In recent games, as B.A.'s average has again headed south while Scott Podsednik was still managing to somehow channel the 2005 version of himself, it has become clear that Pods would move over to centerfield when C.Q. returned.

At least, that's what we think is happening. Tonight's line-up for the first of four games against last year's hated play-off foe, the Rays, was not yet posted as of this writing. Maybe we'll also see a variation in coming games with C.Q. DH-ing against lefties, though Jim Thome has been hot enough lately, hasn't he?

Bombs away

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Four homers brought some life to the Crosstown Classic South Friday, though the game will be remembered more for the dugout-clubhouse verbal altercation Lou Piniella and Milton Fradley got into in the 6th inning that resulted in Bradley being told to "go home," according to Lou.

Don't expect Bradley to stay home though, unless he's planning on retiring. The incident happened after Bradley threw his helmet after flying out and allegedly busted another water cooler (I think the Cubs players need to start bring their own water bottles to the games with their names on them, like you see in Little League).

I'm guessing this was a tension release on the part of both Bradley, who is still slumping, and Pinella, who basically was called a wimpy wuss in the newspaper yesterday. We'll see, but Piniella claimed Bradley would be in the line-up today.

The incident overshadowed the Cubs' perilous 5-4 win, which included all the Cubs's scoring on 2 homers, a Jake Fox 2-run shot and a Geovany Soto 3-run dinger. Fox homered in his second consecutive game and is making a brilliant case for more playing time when interleague play ends and the line-up loses a hitter. Could Bradley be the one to pay the price? Soto was revealed as a one-time pot smoker (What else is there to do during the World Baseball Classic?), and seems to be a new man at the plate with the burden of secrecy off his back. He has homered twice in three games (He only got 1 AB in the homerless game), and 4 times in his last 8 games.

Of course, it would not be a Cubs game if Carlos Marmol didn't try to give it away. He walked 3 men in the 8th inning, and gave up a single (though it should have been caught by the napping Alfonso Soriano) and a 2-run double by Jim Thome. Sean Marshall relieved him with the bases loaded to face pinch-hitter A.J. Pierzynski, and when Marmol arrived in the dugout, he threw his glove hard against the wall, but was not reprimanded by Lou as far as the TV cameras could tell. Marshall threw one pitch to A.J., who grounded into an inning-ending double play.

Perhaps feeling left out of the post-game gossip, Sox manager Ozzie Guillen called out A.J. for having a "bad at-bat" swinging at the first pitch. There certainly is a case to be made that A.J. occasionally attempts to do too much when he's looking for a big hit, though you shouldn't send him up there expecting patience. He has only 12 walks this year, and only 180 in his entire career (that's about 1.5 seasons' worth of walks for Thome, to put it in perspective).

Thome was the big contributor for the Sox, with 3 RBIs, including a homer off Cubs starter Randy Wells, who now has recorded a win in his last 2 starts after much earlier frustration. Jermaine Dye also had a solo shot, but the Sox otherwise showed only a glimmer of the energy that produced 16 runs in the previous 2 games against teh Dodgers.

Meanwhile, Jose Contreras actually pitched pretty well for a guy who gave up 5 runs (4 ER). He struck out 8 and only walked 1 in 7.1 IP. The homer by Geo in the 7th was the obvious big mistake, though it came after Paul Konerko botched a difficult-but-playable grounder that could have nabbed at least 1 out. Contreras also appeared to have a back problem, though he didn't come out of the game, and not much was made of it later.

24 good reasons for 17 runs

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The Sox won two of three with strong pitching and just enough offense in the right spots before they left for one of those nerve-racking West Coast road trips (albeit a quick one, to play the Angels). Generally speaking, the Sox have had a ton of offensive trouble this year, and the Angels have put together some strong pitching outings.

What a surprise then to see the Sox explode for 17 runs on 24 hits. The Sox only had four walks, but it was more impressive the way the attacked pitches down the center of the plate before the Angels pitchers could really establish themselves. Patience certainly is a virtue at the plate, but it's also nice to see batters so confident and so unwilling to let an opponent settle in that they attack the ball.

Scott Podsednik continued to hang tough, with a 4-5 outing, and Alexei "The Missile" Ramirez may finally be airborne, going 4-7 with another all-around strong game that raised his average to .243. Jim Thome, Jermaine Dye and Paul Konerko were the predictable homer contributors. John Danks pitched well enough for the second game in a row, though he had an unsightly 6 walks, but there wasn't much he could do to lose this one.

The only bad moment in this game was a big one, when Carlos Quentin pulled up lame legging out a double, his nagging foot injury suddenly terribly worse--he had to be helped off the field. The Sox have been missing C.Q.'s bat most of the year, and even when he's been in, he's been off. Looks like Pods will be getting more PT, which is still a good thing, but for how long?

Scotty Pods is back

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Scott Podsednik is back in black. After a brief stop in the minors the White Sox called him up (and sent down Jerry Owens) for what likely will be the swan song to Scotty Pods' career. The only question: How long will it last?

If tonight is any indication, Pods is feeling comfortable with the organization which he helped drive to World Series Championship glory back in 2005. He was 2-4 with an infield hit, and caused enough havoc on the basepaths to draw a balk. He also had a nice hit-and-run on his second hit.

Who know how long it will last, but with Owens shipped and Brian Anderson injured, we're likely to see more of Pods in the days to come.

The Sox won, by the way, 4-3, behind gutsy pitching from Mark Buehrle against the team he no-hit last April, the Texas Rangers. But, tonight was almost as impressive, as Buehrle held the Rangers to 3 runs in a park that usually yields many more.

Jim Thome had a bases-loaded double to score 3 of the Sox' 4 runs, and Chris Getz tripled to score Podsednik in the 7th inning immediately after the balk brough him to 2nd base.

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