Wednesday, August 25, 2010

This Season is Ovaaaaaaaaaaaaah (8/17)

The ultimate homer sometimes lets true feeling show
I gave up on this team in early May.  Did that mean I stopped watching or making the trek out to the ballpark formerly known as Comiskey?   No, I sat through and painfully watched as Gordon Beckham waved his Louisville Slugger at sliders in the dirt.  I witnessed a promising starting rotation repeatedly not live up to preseason expectations.   I winced at the thought of the words Alexi Ramirez and routine ground ball being uttered in the same sentence.  I heard Ozzie stumble his way around poignant questions about possibly rebuilding for the future.   To me, the season was lost but I kept watching because A.)  That’s what a true fan does and B.) I love individual stats and wanted to see if Rios and Konerko could keep up their torrid starts and C).  I think it is funny listening to a Hawk Harrelson during a broadcast when he makes the decision to no longer hide his disgust for what’s going on in the field.  Though there really seemed to be no hope, I was still able to muster up some enjoyment from watching my beloved Sox, even with the errors, blown saves, and Mendoza-like batting averages being part of the overall package.

Honestly, If a crazed mad man came to me and told me “If the Sox are never able to sneak into first place, I’ll give you fifty grand buuuuuuuuuuuttt If they get hot and get back into the race, I get to punch you in the face repeatedly until you die”, I would have jumped at the opportunity in a heartbeat.  I would have pushed down on the red button with all my might and screamed “Deal” at the top of my lungs and laughed my way to the bank.  I mean really, why pass up easy money?  I was that confident.

Fortunately for the Sox and myself (real me, not hypothetical situation, glass is half empty me), something miraculous and unforeseen happened in Mid-May.  The starting rotation began to put together quality start after quality start, which plummeted their team ERA faster than Enron stock circa 2001. Batting averages which were once clustered around the .200 mark became somewhat respectable again.  Most important of all, the glove work of Omar Vizquel at third base had a flu-like contagiousness to it as Alexei Ramirez put together the best stretch of defensive play at shortstop in his young career.  Even the thought to be severed relationship between Ozzie and Kenny seemed no longer to be an issue.  Instead of divorce and separation, winning counseled the White Sox brass to a peaceful reconciliation. 

Winning streaks of 11 and 8 games combined to give the south siders a 25 and 5 record in their last 30 games which put them into first place by the all-star-break.  Both the team and I couldn’t have been more alive (Real me that is, hypothetical me had been beaten into the afterlife by aforementioned crazed man).  Even after the break, we were able to extend our lead in the division over the piranhas of Minneapolis.  Instead of watching and wondering how they were going to find a way to lose, my optimism soared as I now thought “when and how are we going to take back the lead from these chumps?”  We were now the Alpha Dog, and the once might Twinkies had been reduced to Suzy Q’s.  Man… life was good.

Just as I started to get playoff tickets lined up, disaster struck.  The bullpen collapsed.  Bobby Jenks couldn’t get any outs and found as many new ways to blow a save as Jenna Jameson found to blow something else.  JJ Putz (pronounced puts unfortunately), who earlier in the year had put together an incredible streak of scoreless appearances, looked to be the answer to our prayers.  Instead, he “Jamesoned” a couple of games and has had many Sox fans questioning the pronunciation of his name.  Even the reliable Matt Thornton has looked shaky as of late.  I can’t even be happy about the promise of rookie Chris Sale, because the rest of his mates in the pen simply aren’t getting it done. 

This brings us to Tuesday in Minnesota.  Heading into the series, we (I mean the sox, I hate when fans say we like they have anything to do with it) were three games back in the loss column.  Though they had been struggling, I still had reason for optimism.  Just a couple months ago, we were 9.5 games back and were able to make that up in no time.  Three games is nothing in the grand scheme of a baseball season.  We still have a fairly good chance right?  Wrong.

Delmon could learn from them
The loss on Tuesday was the epitome of a backbreaker and a dagger to the heart of our playoff aspirations.  In the bottom of the eighth, it looked like the Twins would once again beat us in a close ballgame.  Up one run, Delmon Young raced to the plate to try to extend the lead to two.  The ball beat him to the plate by a good twelve feet.  He had two options.  One, he could have slid into home, be out, and look like a complete pussy to all his teammates.  Two, he could try to barrel through AJ and hope to dislodge the ball from his mitt (the right baseball play) ala Kit vs. Dottie of League of Their Own acclaim.  Instead, he made up his own option which was the “don’t try to score, and instead try to inflict damage on AJ’s face with forearms” option.  While novel, his choice was bush league, and to me, could have been just what the Sox needed to right the sinking ship and switch the momentum back to our side.  For awhile, it appeared that it was.  After Alexei Ramirez homered to lead off the ninth and tie the game off of Twins closer Matt Capps and his RBI single in the top of the tenth which gave the sox the lead, all the Sox recent troubles had been forgotten.  At that moment, I thought to myself, “Man, if they could just find a way to close this game out, then that cheap shot by Young may be looked at as the defining moment of the 2010 campaign.” 

Wishful thinking on my part because the real defining moment of the season was the walk-off two run homer by former Sox slugger Jim Thome in the bottom that inning.  To me, this sealed the Sox fate for good.  What could have been a turning point for us (them I mean, God I hate when fans do that) ended up being the exact opposite.  Right as Thome hit the ball, I turned off the television immediately, not even wanting to see the final result.  I knew the moment the ball left his bat that it was destined for the right field seats.  As confident I was in that, I’m even more confident in my assertion that Sox are once in for all, done.  I gave up on them before and they surprised me, but this was just too crushing of a blow.  I’d bet my life on it…..again.        

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