Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Future Is Now
Former Bear, Ram, and Redskin coach George Allen popularized the phrase, but Ozzie Guillen bought into it last night. Playing only three regulars, Oz handed the ball to Brandon McCarthy for the first time as a starter since one outing early this season. The heir apparent to a slot in the rotation of the future didn't disappoint. He earned the win by giving up only one run on two hits and a walk while striking out eight in 5.1 innings of work. Knuckleballer Charles Haeger, himself a September callup from the minors, pitched a scoreless 1.2 innings of relief (the game was called with the Sox ahead after seven, 2-1, on account of rain). Rookies Jerry Owens, who collected his first two hits, Chris Stewart, who gunned down Grady Sizemore twice, and Josh Fields, also played as part of last night's youth movement. Subs Ross Gload, Alex Cintron, and Rob Mackowiak, gave Konerko, Uribe, and Anderson a breather. By garnering their 88th win of the season, the 2006 Sox moved into a tie for 22nd place for most wins in franchise history. The next three games are against the Twins in Minnesota though, so additional victories will be hard to come by. Go Sox!

Wednesday, September 27, 2006


The Cleveland Indians and long-time nemesis C. C. Sabathia embarrassed the White Sox yesterday. The Sox once-potent offense managed only four hits, and since none of them was a home run, was shut out, 6-0. Javier Vazquez, who is slated to pitch the last game of the season in Minnesota on Saturday morning -- they need the extra time to convert the field for football as the Golden Gophers host my law school alma mater University of Michigan -- gave up six runs on six hits. This season is becoming more painful with each passing day. Last year The Update didn't want baseball to end; this year, the last game can't come soon enough. What went wrong? We'll start taking a look at that once all the games are in the books, but here's a start:

  • This year, the Sox have a losing record, 38-39, away from the Cell, and that's only likely to get worse as they play out the string with one more in Cleveland and three against the always-tough Twins, who still have something to play for. Last year they were Road Warriors.

  • This year, they are are .500 (17-17) against the A.L. East, a bit above that (19-15) against the West, and only a hair above the break-even mark (37-35), and as noted, likely falling, against the Central. If it weren't for their success against the N.L. (1 4-4), this year's Sox would be in real trouble. Last year, they took care of business against their own division and had a crown to show for it.
Meanwhile, congrats to Update favorite Frank Thomas, who led the Oakland A's to the A.L. West title. The Big Hurt's 38 homers on a offensively challenged team should -- but, unfortunately won't -- get him serious M.V.P. consideration. If you look at how he played when Oakland got hot, it's clear that he's got the V part down in the M.V.P. formula. Good luck, Frank in the post-season.
Well, the Sox players and I now have something in common. We're all looking forward to playing golf on Sunday. Go Sox!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006


"Over? Did you say "over"? Nothing is over until we decide it is! Was it over when the Germans bombed Pearl Harbor? Hell no!" If only the Sox had John "Bluto" Blutarsky's spirit then this might not be over. But they don't and it is. The Sox officially were eliminated from the American League Wild Card race yesterday. Their October hopes "ended not with a bang, but a whimper," 14-1. (First Animal House, then T. S. Eliot's The Hollow Men. What a Renaissance publication The Update is!) Either their loss or Minnesota's win would have been enough to guarantee the Twins a post-season berth, along with the Tigers; both happening just added insult to injury. In truth, this has been over for a while. The Sox have played .500 baseball since June 16, when they were 42-25. That's more than three months of mediocre performance. It's actually kind of amazing that they made it to the last week of the season before the Tigers and Twins clinched. All of this goes to show just how special last year really was. Go Sox!

Monday, September 25, 2006

13 (Wild Card)

The Tigers eliminated the White Sox from the Central Division race over the weekend, despite the Sox winning two out of three games from the Lowly Mariners (The Update has decided to capitalize Lowly since it seems to have officially become part of Seattle's name, but you wouldn't know it from the way they play against us.) The Magic Number posted above is for the Wild Card, and the Sox are on the verge of being eliminated from that derby as well. Minnesota has whittled its own Magic Number for clinching a berth in the post-season to two. That means the Sox pretty much -- but not quite -- have to win their remaining games and the Twins have to lose theirs. If it happened, it would be up there with the 1964 Phillies for the biggest collapse in baseball history, and there's no reason to believe the Twins will pull an El Foldo -- or that the Sox will win out.
So let's just enjoy what we can about this season, starting with a home attendance record of 2,957,414 or an average of 36,511 per game. If only an average of 526 more fans had attended each game, the Sox would have broken the Three Million mark. Hey, it's the last week of the season and the team still hasn't been mathematically eliminated yet. They've already won the 24th most games in franchise history and there are six left to play. Winning all of those would move this year up to a tie for 12th place and would also signify that Hell had frozen over. But we can still dream, can't we? Go Sox!

Friday, September 22, 2006

16 (Tigers and Twins)

The Sox are running out of steam and so is the Update. It's hard to write these things when the team loses, and it's especially hard to write them when the team is out of the race for even a Wild Card. And out of it they are. (Very Yoda-like sentence construction that was.) Losses by Detroit and Minnesota cut the Sox Magic Number to 16 over both teams, but it's too far away from zero to matter anymore. What counts is what the Tribune calls the Tragic Number, i.e., the number of opponent's wins and Sox losses that will clinch for the other team. The Sox TNs vis-a-vis the Tigers and Twins are four and five, respectively. Last night, they lost despite Javier Vazquez's decent performance -- 12 Ks and only three earned runs in 7.1 innings. Shaky defense, no hitting to speak of, and bad relief pitching (Neal Cotts and David Riske allowed five inherited runners to score) were the ingredients in a recipe for disaster, 9-0, to the lowly Seattle Mariners. With the Sox having lost six of the last seven, precisely at a time when they needed to win six out of seven, it's hard to muster the enthusiasm to say it, but here goes: Go Sox!

Thursday, September 21, 2006

17 (Tigers and Twins)

Like sands through an hourglass .... No, this isn't the start of Days of Our Lives; it's the end of the 2006 Chicago White Sox. The Sox came into the series with Detroit effectively needing to sweep the Tigers, but instead got Meat Loafed, losing two out of three. The loss last night was a microcosm of the entire season. The Sox starter (this time Jon Garland) dug himself a hole early, behind 2-0 in the third inning. The relievers were largely ineffective, with Matt Thornton giving up a hit to the only batter he faced, and Neal Cotts serving up a gopher ball -- his tenth of the season. The Sox scored all their runs on homers; Ozzie Ball was nowhere to be seen. In short, they looked a whole lot more like the 2004 White Sox than the 2005 World Series Champions.
The Tigers' Magic Number over the Sox is down to five, and the Twins' is six. That means Detroit just has to play .500 ball the rest of the way to ensure that the Sox can't catch them -- even if the Good Guys win all their games -- and Minnesota has to go 6-5 to do the same. It ain't gonna happen, but that won't stop the Update from saying: Go Sox!

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

17 (Tigers and Twins)

When they're good, they're very good. That's been the frustrating thing about following this year's edition of the White Sox. Last night, the Sox combined masterly pitching -- another eight-inning, one-hit effort by Freddy Garcia (his second in a row) and a one-hit, strike-out-the-side inning of relief by Bobby Jenks -- with a potent, four-home run offense -- A.J. Pierzynski's 16th, a Grand Salami (the team's 10th this season); Tadahito Iguchi's 16th; and back-to-backers by the Big Boys, Jermaine Dye (43rd) and Jim Thome (41st) -- to defeat Central Division leader (by a half game) Detroit, 7-0. This is how they could -- some will say "should" -- have been playing for much of the season. Unfortunately, the Sox are running out of games to turn it around. (Wink, wink. The baseball gods may be nearby, so we must pretend to think that there is no hope.)
The Sox find themselves five games back of the Tigers and 4.5 behind the Twins. While their Magic Number against both of those teams is 17, their elimination number is a measly seven vis-a-vis Detroit and eight with respect to Minnesota (which beat Boston last night). It appears that the Good Guys have been reduced to the role of spoiler (the gods are still lurking) and have another chance tonight to put a dent in the Tigers' chances of winning the Central Division crown. Jon Garland looks to improve his record to 18-5 and the Sox look to continue on life support for another day. Go Sox!

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

19 (Tigers); 18 (Twins)

Stick a fork in the Sox. They're done. Former-ace Mark Buehrle continued to pitch poorly last night, and the Sox lacked the offense to compensate for their woes on the mound, as the Tigers won the opening game of a crucial -- for the Sox -- three-game series. The only bright spots were a triple play in the first inning (the team's second of the season), Josh Fields's home run in his first major league at bat, and Jim Thome's 40th dinger.
The loss leaves the Sox six games behind Detroit and 4.5 games back of Minnesota. Instead of talking about the Magic Number, it's time to focus on the Elimination Number. Any combo of Detroit wins and Sox losses adding up to seven will eliminate the Sox from the Central Division race, and the Twins' number to eliminate them from the Wild Card race is nine. With only a dozen games left, if the Tigers play .500 ball, the Sox will have to go undefeated. If Minnesota goes 7-6 (they've got a game in hand), the Sox must win 11 of the remaining 12. A tall order and one the Good Guys don't seem up to filling. The Sox have been mediocre for a good part of the season now -- playing .500 ball for over three months, i.e., since June 17. Even worse, they're just 27-35 since the All-Star break, which is the same record that the Kansas City Royals have compiled since then. Yikes!
Maybe it's too early to look to next year, but the tentative schedule just came out. The Sox open and close at the Cell in 2007 with six-game homestands. Out of respect for the family, the Update will wait until the team is officially dead before delivering a post mortem, so in the meantime, Go Sox!

Monday, September 18, 2006

19 (Tigers); 18 (Twins)

The map says Oakland, but White Sox fans know that for their team, it's Choke Land. Over the weekend, for the 21st, 22nd and 23rd time in their last 27 games against the Moneyballers, the Sox lost to the A's. Frank Thomas continued to make the Sox sorry that they ever let him go, leading his new team to a sweep over his old team. Out of consideration for sensitive readers, the Update won't go into the gory details of Chisox ineptitude. Suffice it to say, the season is on the line. The Sox almost have to sweep the Tigers and may need to do the same thing to Seattle on this homestand. The team's Magic Number is down below 20, but the number of games remaining to get it to zero is dwindling fast. The smart money says they won't do it -- but if Update readers were the smart money, they wouldn't be Sox fans. The bottom line is the Sox are five games back of Detroit and four games back of Minnesota. It's either win now or have the same chance to win the World Series that the Cubs have -- none. Go Sox and Go Now!

Thursday, September 14, 2006

20 (Tigers); 19 (Twins)
For the second time in two years, Freddy Garcia took a no-hitter into the eighth inning only to watch it slip away. Last year, Jacque Jones homered to end the No-No, and the run he scored proved to be the winning run. Yesterday, Adam Kennedy singled to center to end Garcia's bid for a perfect game, but failed to score. Neal Cotts pitched a perfect ninth to seal the 9-0 victory over the Angels.
If Garcia's pitching performance hadn't been so noteworthy -- another in a recent spate of fine efforts by a Sox starter -- the White Sox batters would have been the lead story. Apparently, the Good Guys thought that they were starring in a remake of that old Wrigley's gum commercial, as six different players doubled their pleasure, doubled their fun by stroking two-baggers: Tadahito Iguchi, Jermaine Dye, Paul Konerko, Joe Crede, Juan Uribe, and Brian Anderson. The team had fifteen hits all told, with every spot in the batting order notching at least one safety and led by Captain Konerko's 4 for 4.
The lead was so comfortable that Ozzie was able to play four of the new guys: Ryan Sweeney, Josh Fields (his Major League debut), Jerry Owens, and Chris Stewart. Sweeney was the only one to actually bat, and he went 1 for 2.
Both Detroit and Minnesota lost yesterday, so the Magic Numbers dropped to 20 and 19 respectively. The Sox now trail the Tigers by three games and the Twins by 1.5. Thanks again, Oakland for beating Minnesota (who lost Francisco Liriano for the season), but it's time to stop rooting for Frank Thomas and friends as the Sox begin play with the A's tomorrow night after an off day today. The Sox are four games over .500 on the road and Oakland is 13 games over .500 at home, and Oakland has not been very hospitable, so the Sox have their work cut out for them. Once they finish up in the Bay area, the team heads back to the Cell to face the Tigers in a crucial three-game series and Seattle (28-42 on the road) for four.
Speaking of home, there is a very outside chance of the Sox reaching three million in attendance. It requires there to be a playoff game and an average attendance of 38,286 for the remaining eight games. While neither of those is likely, no one would be surprised if the Sox were to host a one-game playoff, and the team has exceeded the required attendance figure 32 times in 74 home games this season. (If you're wondering how this season's attendance compares to last year's, the answer is the Sox outdrew their total for last year in their 65th game this year. This year's worst attended game outdrew 17 games played at the Cell last year.) So, Go Sox, and Go Sox Fans!

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

22 (Tigers); 21 (Twins) (Day Two)
Remember when Mark Buehrle had that record-tying streak of quality starts? And remember how he hasn't been able to come up with a quality start lateley? And remember how the Update has been telling you that the White Sox win a very high percentage when getting a quality start? Well, Buehrle returned to form last night, throwing seven innings and allowing only three runs (on eight hits), but the Sox didn't hold to their form, losing to the Angels 4-3 in extra innings. Bobby Jenks, who has been very hittable lately, took the loss. Jenks gave up two hits and walked two of the seven men he faced, in yielding the game-winning run. What seemed automatic for most of the season -- a shut-down performance from Bad Bobby -- now seems fairly iffy. That's not the formula for success. Nor is a 1 for 13 performance from the 3-4-5 hitters, like the Sox got last night from their Big Three.
That was a game the team needed to win, as both Detroit and Minnesota rallied to pull out victories. The loss combined with the rivals' wins left the Magic Number the same, but dropped the Sox to four games back of Detroit and 2.5 back of the Twins.
The only good news is that the Sox won the coin flip that gives them home field advantage in any playoff games. The whole system is very complex, but if the Sox tie with one of the other two teams and both are assured of being in the post-season, then head-to-head records determine the outcome. The Sox have clinched the advantage over Detroit and can do so over Minnesota by sweeping the Twins, admittedly an unlikely possibility on the road. If there is a three-way tie among the Sox, Detroit and Minnesota, then it gets really complicated. Here's the rule (and if you understand it, explain it to me):
Scenario #8: There is a three-way tie for highest winning percentage among Division winners and a tiebreaker is required to determine home field advantage in the Division Series.

The tied Club that has a better record against both of the other Division champions during the championship season will be deemed to have the higher winning percentage. The tie between the two remaining Clubs shall be broken as follows:

The first tiebreaker will be head-to-head competition between the two Clubs during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intradivision games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half plus one of intraleague games during the championship season. This process will be followed game-by-game until the tie is broken.

If none of the three tied Clubs has a better record against both of the other Division champions during the championship season, then the Club deemed to have the higher winning percentage shall be:

The tied Club with the higher winning percentage in head-to-head competition among the tied Clubs during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intradivision games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half of intraleague games during the championship season. If the Clubs remain tied, then the tied Club with the higher winning percentage in the last half plus one of intraleague games during the championship season. This process will be followed game-by-game until the tie is broken.
Go Sox!

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

22 (Tigers); 21 (Twins)

He's baaack! Jose Contreras pitched his second consecutive eight-inning, one run game, to lead the White Sox to a 3-2 victory over the L.A. Angels. Bobby Jenks picked up his 40th save of the season, but not before allowing hits to the first two batters he faced -- making it six in a row that have hit safely against him over the last two games. The Sox used three of their four hits for the to game to score all their runs in the fifth inning. A.J. Pierzynski doubled in Jim Thome, who had walked, for the first run. Joe Crede singled in Paul Konerko, who had singled and advanced to third on A.J.'s two-bagger. Rob Mackowiak plated A.J. with a sac fly to right for the third and final run. The pitchers and defense did the rest.
The win allowed the Sox to cut the idle Tigers' lead to three games and the Magic Number to 22. The Magic Number over the Twins dropped to 21, but the Sox still are 1.5 games behind Minnesota, which triumphed over Frank Thomas's A's. Big Frank hit another home run, his sixth game in a row with a round-tripper, to bring his total to 36. C'mon Frank, beat those Twins. And we need to do our part out in Disneyland. Go Sox!

Monday, September 11, 2006

23 (Tigers); 22 (Twins)

The Sox took two out of three from the Indians over the weekend, but it should have been three out of three. Yesterday, Javier Vazquez, not an Update favorite, pitched well enough to win (two earned runs on four hits over seven innings), but for the second night in a row, the relievers couldn't shut down Cleveland. Unlike Saturday, however, the Sox didn't have a huge margin to play with. They lost to the Tribe 5-2, after hanging on for a 10-8 victory the day before and squeaking out an 8-7 win on Friday on A. J.'s walkoff home run.
Having played .500 ball since June 21, the Sox find themselves with a Magic Number of 23 and only 3.5 games back of the slumping Tigers. They have a slightly better Magic Number of 22 against the Twins, whom they trail by 1.5 games for the Wild Card lead. Unfortunately, the Sox head out to California to play the Angels, the team immediately behind them in the Wild Card race, and the A's, their long-time nemesis. The first-place A's are being led by none other than Update favorite, Frank Thomas. The Big Hurt has homered in five straight games and is up to 35 on the season. He's also batting .281 with 97 RBIs. I know there's no room for two DHs on a team, but I sure miss seeing his name in our lineup. Even Kenny Williams will be rooting for Frank and his teammates now, as they play in Minnesota. Texas, which at least has a winning record, is in Detroit. The Sox can still do this, but it's got to start now. Go Sox!

Friday, September 8, 2006

28 (Tigers); 24 (Twins)

You can't spell BueHRle without HR. And two HRs are what Mark Buehrle gave up yesterday in a poor starting effort that dashed the hopes of all Sox fans who thought that his -- and the team's -- slump might be over. The poor pitching performance, complemented by a non-existent offense, led to a 9-1 loss to the Indians. The Sox wasted the chance to gain ground on the Twins, who lost to the Tigers, so they remain a half game behind Minnesota in the Wild Card race. Detroit's victory returned the Tigers' lead over the Sox to 5.5 games. They get another chance tonight against the Tribe, while the teams ahead of them engage in internecine warfare. Go Sox!

Thursday, September 7, 2006

28 (Tigers); 25 (Twins)

Now that's more like it. Jose Contreras gave the ChiSox a third well-pitched game in a row, scattering four hits and allowing just one run in eight innings, but this time the Good Guys actually scored enough runs to win -- 8-1. Dustin Hermanson, the Hermanator (as the Update called him last year), took over in the ninth, making the most of his first appearance of the year by retiring Boston 1-2-3. The offense got off to a good start, scoring -- much like a Chicago election -- early and often. Jim Thome began the scoring barrage with his 39th home run and Jermaine "MVP" Dye regained the team lead by banging his 40th a little while later. Every starter, other than just-called-up leadoff man Ryan Sweeney (0 for 6) recorded a hit, with Thome again leading the way at 4 for 4 (sounds like the old Moses Malone prediction about the NBA playoffs -- Fo', Fo', Fo'). Speaking of Thome, the Update figures that the Red Sox manager gets his defensive strategy for the Thome shift from the Beatles, as in "Get back, Loretta!" (Mark Loretta, Boston second basemen plays as deep in right field as Manny Ramirez ordinarily plays in left. Okay, that was a lot of work for not much humor, but on days we win, the Update has to at least try.)
Since Tampa Bay beat the Twins for the first time in forever and the Tigers lost again (only nine wins in their last 28 games), the Sox gained ground in the standings and Magic Numbers on both rivals. They trail Detroit by 4.5 games, with a Magic Number of 28 for the Central Division crown. They're back within a half game of Minnesota, with a Magic Number of 25 for the Wild Card. Best news is that the Tigers and Twins play each other starting tonight, so the Sox have a great opportunity to tighten things up even more by beating Cleveland. Since it worked yesterday, the Update is sticking with the alternative closing: Just win, baby!

Wednesday, September 6, 2006

30 (Tigers); 27 (Twins)
The White Sox continued to defy the odds in the wrong way. Going into the game against Boston, the Sox were 53-8 when they outhit the opponent, 47-4 when they held the other team to under four runs, 58-10 when they get a quality start, 40-17 when their starter lasts at least seven innings, 21-1 when their starter makes it through eight innings, and a perfect 20-0 when giving up fewer than two runs. Well, all of those things happened in yesterday's game, as Javier Vazquez -- yes, Javier Vazquez -- painted a complete-game, one-run, three-hit masterpiece, yet the (Very) Pale Hose lost 1-0 to the Red Sox. That's two excellent starting pitching efforts in a row that their once dominant offense has wasted. Hitting coach Greg Walker needs to work some magic starting now.
With the loss, the Sox fell to 1.5 games behind the victorious Twins in the Wild Card race and failed to pick up ground on the faltering Tigers, who lost yesterday as well. The Magic Number against Detroit drops to 30, but remains 27 versus the Twins. And the season is dwindling down to an uncomfortably few number of games for a team trying to catch up. There's only one solution: Just win, baby.

Tuesday, September 5, 2006

31 (Tigers); 27 (Twins)

I hate to have to do this, but it's time to add the Wild Card Magic Number. After a Labor Day weekend in which the White Sox squandered a chance to tighten Detroit's lead to an uncomfortably small margin, the Sox find themselves on the outside looking in at postseason play right now. The Tigers stretched their lead back to 5.5 games and the Twins edged ahead of the Good Guys by a half game, despite neither of those competitors playing well either. Detroit's Magic Number has shrunk to 20 over the Sox (it's 21 over the Twins) and Minnesota's Magic Number is down to 26 to eliminate them from the Wild Card chase.
I won't tell you what a lock the Sox were statistically to have beaten KC or how unusual it was for Bobby Jenks to have blown a save or for the team to have lost a game when they outhit their opponents, because the Sox have been defying the odds quite a bit lately -- and not in a good way. They need to take a few lessons from the Washington Nationals, who though out of any kind of race and with many of their players having been traded, came back to win four games in a row after trailing by two or more runs after seven innings. That's the first time since 1923 that a team has shown that much resilience or, if you prefer, heart. The Sox, who have the postseason sitting before them on a silver platter, need to show a little bit of either of those qualities. And lest anyone be confused about which Sox I mean, let me close by saying something more specific than usual: Go White Sox!