I drove to Cincinnati over the weekend to visit a dear friend. During my voyage it was quickly made apparent to me that living in Chicago does not necessarily mean I understand The Midwest.
Then again, the sample I drew out was fairly worthless. Most of the state of Indiana does not resemble the selected roadside gas stations I deemed suitable to use the bathroom in. I imagine that throughout the state, the desire for "Tequila makes my clothes fly off!" t-shirts is actually quite muted.
Watching the Indians and White Sox trudge through a meaningless September baseball game in a half-full U.S. Cellular Field, or watching the White Sox in September the last two years, might give the impression that the Sox aren't really into playing meaningful baseball in September. That they haven't been within 3 games of 1st place in the month of September for three years would only contribute to that.
But really, anyone who follows the White Sox year-round knows they're obsessed with playing meaningful baseball in September, and their refusal to ever concede the possibility of it for a year or two, might just be the reason they continue to go without against their will.
The Sox bulldozed a Twins team that's just gutting their Double-A roster at this point for 3 straight wins. The streak featured a doubleheader sweep, a near-perfect game from Zach Stewart (yes), and 1 run scored by the Twins in 27 innings. Then the Sox did their best to suck the buzz out of those triumphs by blowing the final game of the season via gross incompetence.
In another four-game series with the Indians, the White Sox rode 2 Brent Morel home runs (yes) to a victory Thursday, won on an Alex Rios walkoff grand slam (yes) Saturday, and were blown out in the two contests in between.
There is some temptation to express exasperation with Rios delivering a game-winning blow only now when the team is out of contention, after a season of misery, and in the 10th inning, after the team had already blown 4 bases loaded opportunities in the game.
The other walkoff HR Rios has hit for the White Sox was last April, when I had to give my tickets to my sister because of a work function. As such, I'm tempted to say that Alex Rios only hits derisive game-winning homers.
However, this is...
2. Assumes Alex Rios cares about me
3. Assumes Alex Rios has control of anything that occurs at the plate
Search for meaning
I don't mean to beat home this whining narrative about 'the games don't have any excitement', because that's a tired trope that gives the notion that I dislike my profession. That said, here's an example...
Juan Pierre doesn't seem to be coming back next season, whether because he's on the decline, or because 2012 might be a massive salary-dumping year, or simply because Alejandro De Aza can completely replace his contributions and skill set. Yet Pierre started all 8 games this week.
With the White Sox quite far out of contention these days (they'd better be, Guillen's got a vacation planned), and shutting down shop in other areas, it's confusing to see what they're working toward when sure-fire members of the 2012 lineup get multiple days off in the week, and a lame duck continues to extend his team plate appearance lead.
While the schedule trudges on, Jake Peavy and Brent Lillibridge's seasons ended this week. Peavy's due to there no longer being a reason to push his tired arm, and Brent Lillibridge was felled by the age-old danger of Cleveland middle relievers with shaky control.
As heartbroken as Lillibridge was, Jim Margalus rightly stated that his career suffers little as a result. He ends the year on a hot streak, his final hitting line is pristine, and his place in the Bigs is assured.
While the decision to shelve Peavy wasn't even controversial with Peavy himself, a hat tip to reader Charlemagne for pointing out Ozzie's odd stipulation that the decision wasn't his. Seems like posturing on Guillen's part seeing as he endorsed it the week prior.
Dylan Axelrod will start on Wednesday in Peavy's stead against Detroit. Hoo boy.
Guillen's is still steadfast that he wants a new deal to keep going, is bolting from the city on a vacation once the season ends, and is still apparently trotting out the notion that his hands are tied by the large contracts in regards to playing Dunn.
"I (thought) about it," Guillen said. "But, hey, this man is making $14 million and he has to earn it. He has to earn it. The reason we bring Dunn here is to hit with people on base. I think about it, yes I did.
"That's a lot of money to pinch-hit (for). Blame him. A lot of people were blaming me. No, blame him. That's the reason we bring him to this ballclub, to hit with people on base. Well, he didn't do the job today."
I guess everything else has been tried with Dunn this year, why not try 'Publicly offer him up for slaughter' and see how it takes?
This off-season shapes up to be a hairy one. (Edit: After reading Jim's piece today, I realize I could have been more direct here. Yes, if ownership has any notion of firing Guillen, it really seems like Ozzie is willing provide the ammuniton. Free of charge! What a guy!)
It's a credit to Dayan Viciedo that he can have an utterly discouraging week and post a .384 OBP in the process. He hasn't had an extra-base hit this month, is taking huge, wild, off-balance swings, and while his strikeout rate is acceptable, it's not going to be ideal going forward since he's a below-average walker. Naturally, he's still wildly outproducing Rios and Dunn. He also flashed the Dayan Cannon on an outfield assist. Juan Pierre recorded one the previous day, so maybe they're not that hard.
Alejandro hit .429/.478/.667 for the week, and stole three bases. He was thrown out twice too, but that does nothing to ruin the 'Juan Pierre with pop' label I gave him. It does take him down just one notch from 'Golden God', though. 27 years-old counts as a kid in this organization.
Tyler Flowers didn't get a hit this week, which wouldn't be so bad if he hadn't gone to the plate 17 times. He managed to walk and get plunked twice each, but prolonged, whiff-filled slumps are not how one steals jobs from respected veterans.
Phil Humber continues to make a smooth transition back from the DL, tossing 6 innings, walking none, and even striking out 7 before being curiously pulled after only 73 pitches. Of all the pitchers to earn the kid gloves treatment, Phil Humber! What a season, what a perplexing, goofy, dadaist season.
Zach Stewart nearly threw a perfect game against the moribund Twins, instead settling for a one-hit shutout with 9 Ks. He followed it up by struggling to spot his slider, and only lasting 5 innings Sunday versus Cleveland. Who knew Edwin Jackson reincarnated would have such luscious curls?
Dylan Axelrod gets tossed into the fray this week. Who's excited? Possibly Dylan!
Konerko's slugging percentage keeps slipping, but he's now sitting on 29 HR and 98 RBI after his grand slam on Thursday. Yield to your master, Traditional Power Benchmarks!
Alexei Ramirez now has 29 doubles, Gavin Floyd labored his ERA all the way down to 4.35, and Gordon Beckham didn't strike out all weekend. He's stuck on 100.
The week starts out with a 3-game home set with Detroit. It's three games, and the Tigers' magic number is 7. They can't clinch it in U.S. Cellular. White Sox Baseball - Occasionally Steering Clear of Indignities
After that, it's a four game set against Kansas City, where the Royals will offer up Felipe Paulino and a remarkable array of soft-tossing lefties.
Remember, this is still baseball, and watching baseball is better than watching squash 11 out of 10 times.
Tags: a.j. pierzynki, Adam Dunn, Alejandro De Aza, Alex Rios, Alexei Ramirez, baseball, Brent Lillibridge, Brent Morel, Cleveland Indians, Dayan Viciedo, Detroit Tigers, dylan axelrod, felipe paulino, Gavin Floyd, Gordon Beckham, Jake Peavy, Kenny Williams, Minnesota Twins, Paul Konerko, philip humber, Tyler Flowers, U.S. Cellular Field, White Sox, zach stewart