Late-season swoons are never fun. There's just no joy in watching a sudden bad stretch of games burst through the window and hold a knife to the throat of your playoff hopes as everyone screams in terror. But it's worse if you can't even find some poor schmuck to pin a season worth of misery solely on the shoulders of. For example, for the 1993 ALCS defeat, we could simply turn on and sneer at Cy Young winner Jack McDowell for getting shelled in two playoff starts. For the 2008 ALDS, we should probably blame B.J Upton for filleting us; but I blame Javier Vazquez. Why? Because screw Javy, that's why. If you had more than the bare minimum of confidence that the White Sox were winning it all in '08 after you saw Javy Vazquez and Dewayne Wise trot out for Game 1, I have some Scott Ruffcorn rookie cards you might be interested in....I literally have a page of them.
And then there was the 2000 team that got swept in the 1st round despite having homefield advantage. For that indignity, I blame.....you, the fan! For talking yourself into that team in the first place! Has a worse pitching team ever made the playoffs? 4.66 ERA and a 1.464 WHIP. Holy Bethuzema!
I was 13, by the way, and those losses nearly ruined me...stayed at the same height for another five years. Coincidence? I think not.
But who can be shamelessly scapegoated for the most traumatic 6-game homestand in recent memory?
1. The Mercurial Closer - Bobby Jenks
Case for: His stats are really dreadful, he deflects blame out everywhere (including to the fans), and he's ripped defeat from the jaws of victory no less than three times. His back spasms have recently thrown the bullpen rotation into a state of flux, and back pain is a traditional problem for me with weight problems, and women with large breasts. And Bobby has weight problems, and he has large....uh....weight problems.
Defense: Hard to blame a guy for getting hurt, or for the results of games he didn't play in. Bobby just hasn't been right all year long. The strained calf, bereavement list, back spasms, mechanical problems, they've all just piled on him. The guy probably just wants to go home and go to bed at this point.
2. The Would-Be Savior - J.J. Putz
Case for: Well, he's replaced Bobby way too perfectly in blowing back-to-back saves, turning cathartic wins versus Detroit into crushing, standings-ruining losses. Furthermore, he's made me, previously the most respected voice on the Chicago White Sox (to my co-workers), look like an assclown for calling on him to be the closer since March. He also threw a gopher-ball to Brian Roberts to lose the Baltimore series in extra-innings
Defense: Where to start? He's been great all season long and this recent stretch still only raised his ERA to 2.63, the Jenks' injury drastically increased his work load in a year where he's coming off elbow surgery and has been open about how he's appreciated not being overworked up to this point. Plus, someone else could be blamed for what happened on Sunday.....
3. Our Very Own Brant Brown - Andruw Jones
Case for: Perhaps one of the top-10 center-fielders of all time, Andruw Carlos Quentin'd (turned around and around like he was chasing a butterfly, reacted to the ball landing like it was a grenade) a fly ball to center, then dropped a routine pop-up to put the cap on an inning where he could easily be blamed for allowing three runs, and making tens of thousands of men, women, and children burst into tears....including the writer of Sox Machine. Also, his season-long struggles at the plate have stung so bad that the White Sox may reconsider ever signing another over-the-hill, washed-up veteran years removed from his last productive season again......oh wait, that's probably a really good thing.
Defense: Andruw is one of the greatest center-fielders of all-time and has been pretty darn good in the outfield all season long. His sudden Shawon Dunston impersonation was so baffling that there aren't many explanations for it. I say he was either drunk (on a Sunday? The nerve!), or affected by a cloud of evil spirits settling over U.S. Cellular Field because this happened. I prefer to think he was drunk....though that makes the home run to dead center he hit the very next inning a little inexplicable.
4. The Human Sweat Stain - Freddy Garcia
Case for: Freddy has posted a 8.43 ERA in his last five starts, along with allowing 6 HRs, an incredible 34 hits and a WHIP over 2.00 while only completing 21.1 innings. He's torn apart the bullpen, he's destabilized the rotation, he's lost his sense of humor, and sweated out 37 gallons of water while managing to not lose a single pound.
Defense: C'mon, did anyone think we weren't on borrowed time with Freddy's 'Disciple of Livan Hernandez' approach? It's not like he's not focused or not trying. He's just horribly washed-up and has been trying to guile his way through an entire season. The 2 quality outings he's had in this stretch show that he can still be effective, but will also occasionally get knocked around because his stuff is so...so....uh....I wanna call it 'Cream of Mushroom'. He's like Mark Buehrle...but significantly worse.
5. The New Guy - Edwin Jackson
Case for: He's the new guy, and screw the new guy, am I right? White Sox are 8-9 since the trade. Jackson's been poisoning the protein shakes!
Defense: Edwin has probably been the best player on the White Sox since he joined. His 1.38 ERA is a little better than he's actually been, but his K-rate is BOSS. I only brought him up so I could talk about how good he's been. Aaaaahhhhh Edwin, you're the dreamiest No. 5 starter ever.
6. You, the Fan
Case for: After being tepid in your reception to the April-May suckfest, you foolishly bought high after the hottest stretch in the history of time, and ramped up your expectations without any sense of perspective or any foresight of a regression. And now you're booing because they're not eviscerating afterthought NL teams anymore? What the hell were you thinking?
Defense: Blaming the fans is traditionally a mistake of epic proportions, especially seeing as they're the reasons the White Sox exist in the first place. It's kinda like saying the son would have turned out better if it wasn't for his mother. And no fanbase, no matter how fickle in their attendance or egregious in their tendency to do The Wave, deserves what happened Sunday. That was like the last 15 minutes of Inglorious Basterds in terms of bloodletting.
So who's to blame? Well...no one. You can't blame someone before the team is actually out of the race, because until then it's merely a setback on the quest to the division title. Why, I'm sure in a month from now we'll look back on losing back-to-back series at home to the only other teams in our division that actually matter and laugh. Just laugh and laugh and laugh and laugh........