Unlike last night, this was not a game that I could begin writing a recap before the end of, as the fate of this game was continually in doubt, and what was taken away from this game would be colored heavily by the extra-inning result. Would this be example of steely resolve from the Sox veterans after falling behind in the 9th? Or would it be another cache of missed opportunities and wasted efforts? A 3-run HR by Alex Gonzalez resoundingly confirmed tonight to be a case of the latter. Now instead of high-fiving, celebrating, hugging in the shower even though it makes some guys very uncomfortable, and thinking to themselves "We overcame a lot of mistakes and still did it!", the Sox must reflect on how thoroughly broken their modus operandus is night-in, night-out, and also why J.J. Putz's splitter suddenly stopped splitting in the middle of the 12th inning, resulting in a walk, single, then a long home run.
Kenny Williams has repeatedly stated that he cannot possibly know what kind of team he has until after 60 games. This statement always seemed reasonable to me for two reasons. First, it's essentially just a shade over a two month sample size. Teams can have a bad month in a season and be fine, teams that have two bad months typically don't make the playoffs, it's a crucial difference. Secondly, 60 games didn't seem like too late to act, as it was unlikely that a team would be completely eliminated from contention after such a span...especially in the AL Central.
However, with the Twins seemingly well on their way to their 3rd really good year in a row*, and the White Sox on the low end of even the most cynical projections for their performance, maybe there isn't nearly as much time as we think. If we can't be sure of what we do have after 30 games, can we figure out what we don't have?
*(Is there anything more annoying than having the small-market,
hyper-fundamental underdogs as your arch-rival? Could they be more
wholesome/possibly Canadian? Every time I tell someone I hate the
Twins I get looks like I just proposed that we all attack a field full
of kittens with poison-tipped axes. Why is no one planting a brick of
heroin in Joe Mauer's gym bag right now?)
A leadoff man
Given that Gordon Beckham is dangerously close to changing my pet nickname for him from the Great White Hope to the admittedly mean-spirited Great White Dope, perhaps I should say that the Sox lack a top of the order. While Beckham has at least been walking at a good rate, Pierre and his hitting troubles are so intense that Konerko has a 49% chance of coming up with the bases empty and 2 out every first inning. Pierre and Beckham have been so bad that they combine to have less total bases than Alex Rios. What's worse, is that the risk that was taken in promoting Beckham was not that he would fail off the bat and need to be sent down, but what is occurring now; that he would succeed initially but lapse later on and need to be sent down after a prolonged stint in the big leagues, shattering his confidence. Hear me out, I know Jesus of Nazareth is probably a more popular choice to be sent down to AAA Charlotte than Beckham, but he's batting under .200, hasn't had an extra base-hit this month, and leads the team in strikeouts. Striking out can be a sign of swing problems, and it can also mean you're overmatched.
As Hawk Harrelson will often say, in AAA the players throw just as hard, have just as good of stuff. The hitters hit just as hard, and run just as fast as they do in the major leagues. The difference is consistency. The White Sox are bankrupt in terms of consistent performance, completely pitching themselves out of games some nights, and delivering sterling efforts on others like tonight's 8 inning, 3 run performance by Mark Buehrle tonight. On the offensive side, the hitting is more consistently bad, but also has the potpourri of patient efforts like Wednesday's dissection of Brian Bannister via drawing walks and 2-out hits, Thursday's 3-hit dead on arrival performance against Dana Eveland, and tonight where the Sox scored 4 runs on three homers and did nothing else. For a team that is inconsistent to the point of being 11th in the AL in ERA and dead last in batting average, perhaps the Sox are lucky that their production has such leaps and bounds, as to produce at this level at a steady rate would possibly mean a 10-20, or 8-22 record. It probably isn't a great sign that one of our bigger problems is one of the things keeping us from being worse. No, I'm pretty sure it's a horrible one.
The Sox are frustrated. Extremely frustrated. As they should be. Yet comments reflect an incredible level of doubt, rather than resolve. There are no players coming out in public yet stating how things are definitely going to turn around, and the Sox are clearly still in the mode of spinning their wheels in the mire and screaming in panic. Gordon Beckham commented, "I'm so frustrated with the way that I'm playing that it's gotten into
my head mentally and it's causing my body to look like I don't want to
be out there." While he went on to state that he did not feel that his recent play was indicative of his game as a whole, there's no language discussing remedies or improvement. John Danks remarked "We're plenty talented, it's just a matter of us playing to our
capabilities. I don't know how much longer they are going to give us to
right this ship." So not only does the team not see the light at the end of the tunnel, they already feel the axe being settled over their heads. Teams succeed playing loose and relaxed, and the Sox could not be farther from that...except for Alex Rios, he's been great.
Finally, the last thing that the Sox definitely don't have, is a major league pitcher in Randy Williams. He's terrible.
Catch me on WGN Radio this Saturday at 11:30am. Tune into 720 AM. Do it.