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Hopefully the last mental health break I’ll need for a while. Or: The 2011 White Sox are still baffling on every level. And, I have stuff to say.

So, as you may or may not have heard, the White Sox were crushed, humiliated and put on display by the Yankees last week.

Which obviously meant that the next logical step was to go to Minnesota and squish the tar out of the Twins, who were previously 7-1 against the White Sox.

Seriously, when it comes to this team, I don’t even know anymore.

But, we’re into August and all I can do is take it one day at a time and enjoy the things that are worth enjoying, and stop worrying about the other things and just try to ignore the big picture.

And, hey, there were some good things this weekend. And some bad. To get it out of the way, let’s start there.

1) Adam Dunn continues to defy logic, time, space and several of the laws of physics while he continues to have pretty much the worst season in the history of all mankind.
2) After Paul Konerko took a pitch to his knee, he missed a few games and has been limping around the DH role for a few and he’s said that he’s not really feeling any better. This is why (other than Carlos Quentin, who has turned plunking into a sport), I never, ever want my players to “take a pitch”. The short-term gains of getting on first just aren’t worth the risks. Get well soon, Paulie.

But, onto the good!
1) Carlos Quentin, when streaking, can carry a team. A 2 HR day in Minnesota, followed by a random day on the bench, followed by a 2 double day seems to indicate that he’s on a hot streak. We’ll take it.
2)Alex Rios appears to have changed his wonky batting stance to something approaching normal – for the second time this season. It worked (temporarily) when he did it earlier this year. Let’s hope it sticks this time.
3) Brent Morel took a 4 pitch walk. AND worked a count to 3-2. In the same game. This is momentous, trust me.
4) Brent Lillibridge had started taking practice grounders at first base last week, just in case. And, well, with the other option at first being Adam Dunn while Konerko is injured, Lillibridge made his first appearance there on Saturday as a defensive replacement for Adam Dunn (and homered on his only at bat) and started there on Sunday (and homered on his first at bat) and was pleasantly adequate. Lillibridge just needs a catcher’s helmet and he can be the White Sox version of Don Kelly. (AND – momentously – he also singled in the same game. 2 HRs and he still remembered he doesn’t ALWAYS have to swing for the fences. Progress!)
5) Alejandro De Aza is a pleasant surprise so far. The Minnesota announcers would like to take him for themselves.
6) We met Zach Stewart, who was solid – not spectacular – but did exactly what we needed him to do. He pitched well enough to win and gave Jake Peavy a day of rest to be, well, the old Jake Peavy and own the game from start to finish.

Basically, the Twins/White Sox series was summed up perfectly by Jim Margalus at SouthSideSox.com.

In case you missed it, the White Sox didn’t just sweep the Minnesota Twins this weekend. The White Sox:

Beat them at Target Field.
Beat them with sellout crowds at Target Field.
Had better starting pitchers.
Had a better bullpen.
Had a better offense.
Played better defense.
Beat them with the long ball.
Beat them with the running game.
Let the Twins lose.

That was fun. Let’s do it again sometime.

Before I digress for a long moment, let’s pause to take a look at Brent Lillibridge and his shiny new first baseman’s glove.

And, on a different note, I didn’t say a ton about “the trade” around the time, but I read an article that sorta iked me, so now I have stuff to say.

Basically, the article implied that the whole trade was a ploy to get Tony LaRussa to the White Sox next year. Let’s ignore the fact that Ozzie’s option has been picked up for next year (since, yes, he could be fired).

What the White Sox had to do this trade deadline:
1. Dump salary.
2. Get *something* for one of those 6 starting pitchers. Hopefully one who is a free agent next year.

What the White Sox did:
1. Dumped salary.
2. Picked up a strongly-rated prospect (who fits right in on Redneck Row) and a quality right arm for the pen who was born in Chicago, so if he doesn’t go back to TOR, he might stick around. And, you know Ozzie always loves some good pitching.
3. Did not blow up their bullpen – which has been pretty much lights out since May – unlike TOR, which had almost no one essential and they could afford to send whoever it took.
4. Did not take on yet another OF. Cheap or not, there’s still nowhere to put him. And, if they had to move half their bullpen, who would they send? Bruney wasn’t going to cut it, Ohman probably wouldn’t either, Sale is supposed to be a starter next year, Santos is the cheapest closer in MLB and I’m pretty sure that Thornton and Crain are a little too pricey to replace – even with lesser options.

What the Cardinals needed:
1. Short term gains in pitching.
2. To get rid of a player your manager didn’t get along with.

What the Cardinals did:
1. See above.

What the Jays needed:
1. Alex Anthopoulos has had his eye on Colby Rasmus. And, AA gets what he wants.

What the Jays did:
1. Picked up a good pitcher they could fire to St. L (since the Jays don’t really have any established arms to send).
2. Handed over a few replaceable bullpen arms and an outfielder – none of whom were part of the future of the Jays.
3. Took on a relatively large contract they could easily afford for an INF they don’t really need.
4. Acquired Colby Rasmus.

So, Tony La Russa may or may not be coming to Chicago, but looking above, it doesn’t seem like the whole thing was a complicated conspiracy to get Colby Rasmus away from Chicago AND St L at the same time. It seems like everyone sort of got what they needed and – sure, AA probably won in the end – but, there’s no reason to think there was any more to this trade than there seems.

But, maybe I’m naive.

On to Baltimore!

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Almost no time for baseball right now. Or: Thank heavens for the web gems.

So, I’ve been working the night shift all week, which means: no baseball for me.

But, things have been going well this week. I’m psyched. I am beyond psyched that the good Gavin Floyd came back from the All-Star break. Even if he continues to stupefy me. 3-hit the OtherSox, but getting lit up by the equivalent of the Minnesota Twins triple A team.

Regarding “the trade” – Not a bad deal, considering it was pretty remarkable that the White Sox found someone to take on Mark Teahen’s salary (I’m pretty sure Mark Teahen might be the 3rd highest paid player on the Blue Jays right now). I was pretty sure that was an impossible task. I’m glad that Alex Anthopolous was willing to pocket Mark Teahen’s salary to buy low on Colby Rasmus, because that might have saved at least one other White Sox player from hitting the trade market. The entire trade was, obviously, a salary dump. But, at least they picked up a righty for Ozzie to potentially use a little bit so he can stop panicking that he’s wearing out Jesse Crain, even if Jason Frasor was sad to be leaving Toronto and grew up as a Cubs fan. :) And, Zach Stewart has the potential to turn into a nice little project for Don Cooper. Maybe he’ll end-up as a two-inning man, but at least is a potential option in case there’s some sort of injury to the injury-prone starter who-shall-remain-nameless.

And, now I can go back to dreading the remainder of the non-waiver trade period and hope the White Sox can stave off a fire sale.

I definitely had more that I wanted to say about the trade (also the Toronto aspect), but this week has sucked the life out of me and this is really all have the energy for. Really, I can probably summarize it as: I’m glad Mark Buehrle’s not a Cardinal right now.

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Happy Father’s Day. Or: Another non-White Sox post

So, for a change, I’m going to talk about a utility player today. :)

(Oh, stop laughing.)

So, this is one of the non-White Sox that holds a special place in my baseball life and is definitely worth a little attention on Father’s Day. This is John MacDonald.

Johnny Mac has played for the Blue Jays for the last 5 years (after a long stint in Cleveland with one Omar Vizquel). He’s your typical super-sub, with gold glove-worthy defense, but a bat that keeps him out of the line-up most days, barring injury to someone in the starting line-up. And, he’s definitely grown to be beloved in Toronto. He’s a generally all-around nice guy (Canadians love that!) and Blue Jays fans know that when he’s at 3rd or SS, it’s going to be an easy day for your left outfielder. And, it’s nice to see that, instead of leaving him on the bench for a possible defensive replacement move today, he gets to start the day at 3B.

In 2010, John MacDonald came back from bereavement leave 5 days after losing his dad to cancer. Before his dad passed away, his dad had told him that John was going to hit his next home run for him. John is not really known for his power-bat and he told his dad that it could happen quite a few years from then in a weekend softball game. He had only 13 home runs in 12 MLB seasons, and hadn’t hit one that year.

His first game back was on Father’s Day. In his first at-bat (a pinch-hit in the bottom of the 9th), he knocked a 2-run homer over the left field wall.

The Jays had too big of a deficit to overcome in that game, so they didn’t win that day, but that’s not the point of this story.

The radio announcers said it best: “We were all up here in the booth, blowing that one out.”

Happy Father’s Day for anyone with something and someone to celebrate or commemorate today.

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A Blue Jays interlude. Or: Some people really can (and will) do everything.

So, I have nothing to say about last night’s epic White Sox disappointment other than I am very glad that Detroit, Minnesota, and Cleveland all lost, too (only KC failed to lose, preventing the entire AL-Central from getting smoked yesterday).

And, in an effort to move on, I’m going to talk about something fun from the AL-East.

So, imagine that you are John Farrell – former pitching coach for the Boston Red Sox – and you are now the manager of the Blue Jays. And, it’s the top of the 9th and the Boston Red Sox are in Toronto and are leading your Jays 16 – 4 and they are beating the snot out of your pitchers: your starter only lasted 4 innings (giving up 9 runs), and you’ve breezed through pretty much the rest of your bullpen (giving up 7 more).

So, what do you do now? Obviously, you move your recently called up from triple-A utility infielder from second base to the mound.

(Clicking on the photo will take you to the clip @ MLB.com)

I have said it before and I will say it again. I love the utility players. I love watching someone busting their butt every time they get a chance to play, I love watching people show off what they can do when they’re put out in the action, I love watching people who are up for doing whatever they are asked to do, and, I have to admit, I also love when the entire game gets turned on its head like this – giving the devoted fans who stuck around to the bitter end, something to smile about today.

Way to go, Mike McCoy (who apparently only has to play 1B and catcher to hit every position on the field). Grabbing a double on a day where your team only managed 6 hits and you and your 60 mpH curveball & knuckleball threw the hot Red Sox lineup for a bit of a loop. 1.0 IP, 12 pitches with 9 for strikes, and a 0.0 ERA. You totally deserved that standing ovation.

This is one of the things I love about this game.

(Also: In other random highlights from today’s game:
My 2nd-fave Blue Jay (behind utilityman John MacDonald) Jose Molina showed off some awesome base-running as he slid into home with one of the smartest slides I’ve seen lately. You can tell that he’s always thinking like a catcher.

And, in other oddities from the game, if things weren’t going badly enough for the Jays, the home plate umpire started calling out people after 2 strikes. When things aren’t going your way, it’s hard to catch a break.)

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Toronto, Part Two. Or: Let’s not do that again sometime.

Trapped at the ballpark today, surrounded by 18,000 Jays fans and not being able to change the channel…

Instead, I am going to post a link to a video from yesterday – the first time in his 23 year career that Omar has played first base.


“We talked about it in Spring Training. [Guillen] said I might have to play some first base this year, and I was like ‘Come on, you’ve got too many guys out there that can play first,'” Vizquel said. “I never thought I was actually going to have a chance.”

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Today was almost a double-header. Or: More wacky Canadian hijinks. (Up close and personal.)

Before I talk about today (which, believe me, I will), I have to mention one thing about last night’s 4-2 loss in Toronto. I had to laugh a little in exasperation when John Farrell tried to argue that Mark Beurhrle was pitching too quickly. Ordinarily, I don’t have much to say about the newly-minted Blue Jays manager, but that was slightly silly. I know that his current superstar likes to take the opportunity to stretch out every muscle in his back as frequently as possible (and, I have truly nothing but respect for Jose Bautista and the amazing numbers he is putting up, and he really seems like a very genuine person, from most accounts), but I’m not sure that the little-used rule that says that the batter can’t wander in and out of the batters box and has to be ready when the pitcher sets, has a clause about the time that a pitcher must wait between successive pitchers. (Correct me if I’m wrong.)

His speedy nature is the thing I like best about watching Beurhrle pitch. Sign, Set, Throw. No rituals, no head-shaking negotiations with the catcher, he just gets the sign, and he’s ready to go. All business, all the time. He did a great job and, as always, it was a pleasure to watch him pitch.

Now, onto today. Game one of my two-day adventure to The Rogers Centre Sky Dome.

I’m now going to try to talk about 14 innings of baseball in 200 words or less (and fail miserably. Bear with me, there were a lot of memorable things about today. Because I am biased. And, I was there. Which always makes it more memorable.)

The Highlights:

  • The LINE-UP. Getting to T.O. and getting this twitter update? Was awesome.
    However, at the end of the day, the starting line-up almost became irrelevant in the face of the way the game ended up unfolding. I was kinda bummed that I was missing both Gavin Floyd and Mark Beurhrle, but getting Omar (get well soon, Beckham!) and Lillibridge in the line-up for my first game of the season was exciting. Omar is, well, Omar and Lillibridge has been such a spitfire this year, I was looking forward to seeing the both of them.
  • Getting to hang out and watch the Sox just having a good time during batting practice. Even Dunn almost seemed relaxed.
  • The roof was open in time for the game. Everything’s better with the roof open.
  • Falling behind thanks to current Home-Run King Jose Bautista’s 20th HR of the season so quickly in the first inning didn’t sting so much after Brent Lillibridge stepped up to the plate at the top of the second and BLAM! A 2-run HR of his own.
  • Watching Edwin Encarnacion hobble (literally) to and from the plate for a pinch-hitting appearance that was met with boos was kind of a downer. He and Adam Dunn could proably have a chat, though I wonder if it would end up helping or hurting both of them. But, man, he sure had the same beat-up expression on his face.
  • The completely over-the-top booing EVERY. SINGLE. TIME. Rios came to the plate was almost unbearably obnoxious. I was embarrassed on behalf of my hometown.
  • Jesse Crain, being pulled into the game in a typical post-Thornton-meltdown 2-on, 2-out, Jose Bautista at the plate, Juan Rivera on deck scenario, finally gives it up. Just like Sergio, it was bound to happen to him eventually. But, he’s still my clutch-man. Getting it right 9-times out of 10? He’s more than earning his salary in my book.
  • My biggest (biased) source of frustration today? Well, since I was sitting behind third base, I had a stellar view of the Jays’ outfield not having a clue what to do with Lillibridge’s extra-base hit in the 8th. And, also, of Jeff Cox punking out at third base put up the stop signal when there was more than enough time for him to make it home for an inside-the-park homer. The Jays’ defense had clearly given up on the play (seriously. They were practically having a conversation), sure that Lillibridge’s speed would have him halfway to home. The outcome ended up the same, when Lillibridge scored on a passed ball about a minute later. BUT IT’S THE PRINCIPLE OF THE THING.
  • Did I mention Chris Sale pitched 3 great innings of relief? In a pressure-situation? Who knew?!
  • When I get done here, I am adding Brent Lillibridge’s almost-blooper-turned-wacky-defense to my ❤ defense page. It was the only time today I missed having the instant replay.
  • So we’re in the top of the 11th, and in comes Quentin to pinch hit for McPherson (who was in after pinch-running for Konerko in the 9th) and signalling the offical start of Dugout Musical Chairs.

  • Carlos Quentin to RF –> Brent Lillibridge from RF to 2B –> Omar Vizquel from 2B to 1B and Sergio comes into the game for 2 familiar-looking awesome innings. At this point, it is important to point out that it appears Omar is using Adam Dunn’s first baseman’s glove.

  • Because, for the final out of the inning, Patterson (more on him later) grounds out to Omar’s giant novelty-sized glove and he bobbles the ball a couple of times before flipping it to Santos, who was ready and waiting.
  • At this point, I will take a break from the long-winded recap and draw your attention to the header across the top of my blog.
    1. Jesse Crain – check. 2. Omar Vizquel – check. 3. Sergio Santos – check. 4. Brent Lillibridge – check.

  • And, at some point in the 12th inning when pretty much the only thing missing (for me) from this game popped up onto the LCD running between the second and third deck: Gavin Floyd was in the bullpen. CHECK. Finally. It only took 13 innings, but when he came in, Ozzie finally made good on his promise of beefing up the bullpen with the starting guys. And, the people in front of me finally clued in that I wasn’t rooting for Toronto. My hat was very subtle, obviously.
  • As Ozzie pointed out after the game, pretty much nothing happened offensively for the Sox (or the Jays) until the bottom of the 14th when Corey Patterson (the strangely, but wisely, appointed DH) blasted a walk-off homer in Gavin’s second inning of relief. (Who, up until that point, was pitching like the Dr. Jekyll half of his pitching personality.)

In conclusion: a long, LONG game (I actually *had* to get up and stretch during the 14th inning stretch. My lower legs were starting to go numb). Ups and downs for everyone. And, if I have to watch a loss, at least it wasn’t a one-sided shutout and there was lots of good baseball to be had (and, okay lots of less-than-good as well). And, at more than 4 hours, I certainly got my (ticket and gas) money’s worth. My “drama-rama” (for noteworthy games) and “some people can do everything” (for my utility players) tags have never been more appropriate. At least for me. After today, I’m WIPED.

And, now, it’s time for me to eat some dinner, catch up on the rest of the league, and start hoping for a win tomorrow, when I do it all over again.

Go Sox!

(and, if you made it to the end of that, I feel like you deserve a cookie. and, thank you.)

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North-of-the-Border 9th inning drama. Or: The Sox play the Jays and wacky hijinks ensue.

It’s no surprise to anyone who has watched any appreciable amount of White Sox baseball so far in 2011 that we have had (more than) our fair share of late inning drama.

It’s also (apparently) no surprise to everyone who has watched any of the Blue Jays’ action, that the same could be said about them.

Scoreless until the 5th, when A.J. Pierzynski singled, Omar Vizquel singled, (Beckham popped out) and Juan Pierre singled to Bautista in RF and AJ managed to beat the throw (seriously). The Jays tied it up in the 6th and that’s where it was when Jesse Crain came out to replace Phil Humber in the 8th. Patterson on first, Bautista at the plate and two out. A typical “let’s call Jesse” scenario, really. And, typically, Bautista walks and Jesse Crain makes it out of the inning safely.

Which, obviously, opened the 9th inning floodgates.

The thing that was the surprise was that, often, the Sox have let it slip away in the end, and the Jays have a tendency to come roaring back.

But, today, Alex Rios ends up with a single, but reaches second on a throwing error (I have a soft for Johnny Mac and was surprised it was him who opened the door) and then third on a wild pitch. Gordon Beckham gets HBP and then steals second (no, really!) and then both of them score on a ANOTHER throwing error. 3-1 Sox, and that’s where it ends (after Santos comes in and turns off the lights on the Jays).

Other random oddities about tonight?
-Juan Pierre had all of our RBIs
-AJ, Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, and Omar had all of our hits
-Quentin and Konerko, (and Dunn) were 0-fer
-the ChiSox caught someone stealing (on a sketchy call)
-the ChiSox stole 2 bases
-Phil Humber pitches 7.2 awesome innings, Jesse Crain walks Bautista and gets Rivera to ground out and manages to bag the W (and, hey, I’ll be happy any time Crain gets a win – and he deserves it for saving the collective butts of the White Sox on a very regular basis – but, at times, the win/save/loss/hold/etc rules are still some of the most non-sensical rules in baseball).
-It’s entirely possible that AJ actually has more friends in Toronto than Alex Rios. Wowie. Apparently the Jays fans know how to hold a grudge, sheesh.

It’s like this entire game was turned on its head, like Canada is opposite-land.

Today’s post deserves photos of the pitchers because, when you get down to it, it really was a pitcher’s duel.

See you on the flip side, y’all.

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