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There’s a saying — and Ozzie Guillen just said it again — that good teams win games, and bad teams have meetings.
Guess which thing the White Sox accomplished on Wednesday?
Yes, Kenny Williams gave the Sox a vote of confidence, and the Sox did everything to undermine it, wasting another beautiful John Danks start with piss-poor execution both offensively and defensively.
I liked this Danks quote, a defense of his teammates tinged with a hint of resignation:
“We go into every game trying to throw shutouts anyway,” Danks said. “This season was supposed to be pitching and defense. So, this is the way it worked out. We just haven’t been pitching well enough and scoring enough runs. It’s a team thing.”
Maybe I’m reading too far into it, but that struck me as “I guess I’m going to have to be better than very good.” Hey, I wouldn’t blame him if he were about to throw up his hands, among other things.
Jayson Nix, who made one play Mark Teahen wouldn’t have made with a handsome backhand pick and throw along the third-base line, made a play Teahen would have in the eighth, committing a double-error that allowed the decisive run to score.
Andruw Jones’ 2010 is looking more like his 2009 with every passing day and every weak, unproductive out with runners in scoring position, and incumbent super-slumpers Gordon Beckham, Carlos Quentin and Alexei Ramirez still can’t find traction to make up for Jones’ expected regression.
New faces are finding new ways to kill any hope of momentum, and one wonders how longer Sox executives and coaches can continue to insist they have the talent.
Let me throw two quotes at you that I feel are pretty damning. First, Greg Walker:
“[Beckham’s] swing is pretty simple. It’s a mind thing. He’s put himself in a position where he’s worrying about what he’s doing wrong instead of concentrating on what he does right.”
Walker said he saw Beckham’s problems beginning in spring training.
”He came into spring really hot,” Walker said, ”which shows he’s pretty darn good. Then I saw he started thinking about the pitches he was missing. If you concentrate on the negatives, it’ll eat you up.
J.J. at White Sox Examiner has a nice breakdown of Beckham’s breakdown, and the mental components are there — the strikeout rate, and the chasing of the high pitches. But so are the physical components, like the indirect hand path and the way he pulls off the ball.
At the end of the article, Walker cites Alex Rios as another guy whose problems were all mental. But if they were all mental, then why did Rios make tangible changes after reviewing tape from the high times and changing his hand positioning rather dramatically?
Now, hold this thought while looking at what Kenny Williams had to say:
“There are some guys that we need to lighten up a bit and remember that we’re playing a game. Yes, it’s at the highest level, but you restrict yourself when you’re not allowing yourself to have a little fun at it and go about your business in a more light-hearted way. So hopefully, a couple of guys got that message.
“I’ve seen it before,” Williams said. “What happens is when you have players — especially players who have performed at this level before and are used to a certain amount of success and then they’re not getting it and they walk up to home plate and see their batting average … they take some of their lack of attention and focus up to the defensive end of things, that’s when you can get into trouble.
I’m sure there’s a lot of truth in what Williams and Walker are saying about the Sox not being there mentally. The problem is that it really doesn’t do them any favors when they keep rehashing their theories.
After all, this team was built on fit, Chicago Toughness and related jargon. Mark Teahen was a grinder, Mark Kotsay warmed Guillen’s heart with his team-oriented ways, Omar Vizquel was supposed to show the young guys the ropes. Their physical abilities were questionable, but that was OK, because they were going to bring the mental goods.
And now they’re thinking too much. That’s rich.
I’m deploying the “similarities to 2007” tag because this reminds me all about the Darin Erstad saga. Erstad was 2007 Kotsay, an oft-injured shell of his former self with a terrific beard and off-the-chart intangibles, who would have been fine as a left-handed backup first baseman, but instead was depended upon to shoulder way too much of the offensive load.
Erstad’s world-renowned grit was lauded at the beginning of the season. But lo! That intensity befell him, earning him a label of “uptight” in the second half.
Or … and this is a radical idea … maybe he just sucked. Just like Kotsay and the Gang does right now, regardless of whether you could extract a greased tee from their behinds, as Hawk Harrelson is fond of saying.
Williams saved face in 2008 by trading for Orlando Cabrera and Nick Swisher — two guys with good baseball left to give. Then he shot himself in the foot by dumping Swisher because Swisher showed his bobblehead to teammates. Williams forsaked the physical for the mental, and he’s still paying for it.
Williams and Walker are stuck. If they acknowledge that the team is lacking in ability or mechanically off, it’s an admission of failure and guilt. It also isn’t great for attendance. But the longer they reiterate the problems are all upstairs when mental stability was supposed to be their strong suits, the more it becomes evident that “fit” means [poop].
I’d just rather see everybody come clean. And then I’d like to see the Sox ditch the tone-deaf marketing campaigns (my “Black and White” ad is winning) and focus on acquiring players who are good at making baseball look easy. It may not sell tickets now, but it’ll sell tickets later. It’s better than the current picture. The way things are going now, nobody’s going to show up.
Christian Marrero Reading Room:
*Tip a 40 for The 35th Street Review, which joined Ronnie James Dio and Lena Horne on the list of people and things killed by the 2010 White Sox.
*Joe Cowley can be pretty funny sometimes.
*Sergio Santos says his first taste of true high-leverage work makes him hungry for more.
*Williams says his relationship with Guillen is the same as it ever was.
Minor league roundup:
- Buffalo 10, Charlotte 6
- Dayan Viciedo went 1-for-4 with a double and an RBI.
- Jordan Danks went 0-for-4 with two strikeouts.
- Stefan Gartrell homered, singled and drove in three.
- Lucas Harrell was bad; Alan Embree wasn’t great (2 IP, 1 H, 1 Er, 2 BB, 1 K).
- Montgomery 9, Birmingham 4
- Charlie Shirek was due for a game like this: 3 2/3 IP, 10 H, 5 ER, 2 BB, 2 K.
- Brent Morel doubled, walked and struck out twice.
- Christian Marrero just doubled and walked.
- Myrtle Beach 5, Winston-Salem 0 (Game 1, 9 innings)
- Terry Doyle was OK in his High-A debut: 6 IP, 7 H, 3 ER, 1 BB, 6 K.
- Santos Rodriguez allowed a run on four hits over two innings, striking out two.
- Brandon Short went 1-for-4 with two strikeouts; Jon Gilmore went 0-for-4 with one K.
- Winston-Salem 4, Myrtle Beach 3 (Game 2, 20 innings)
- Justin Greene went 3-for-8 with a double, an RBI and four strikeouts.
- Brandon Short (one walk, two strikeouts) and Eduardo Escobar (two walks, four strikeouts) each went 1-for-7.
- Jon Gilmore went 1-for-8 with a walk and three strikeouts.
- Chase Blackwood struck out six times in nine at-bats, but his single drove in the game-winning run.
- Dan Remenowsky struck out three over two scoreless innings. He allowed just one hit.
- Hickory 7, Kannapolis 3
- Kyle Colligan went 2-for-4 with a solo shot, striking out once. He was 1-for-2 in the stolen-base department.
- Trayce Thompson doubled, walked and struck out twice.
- Brady SHoemaker went 0-for-4 with two K’s; Nick Ciolli went 0-for-3 with a walk and two K’s.
- Miguel Gonzalez tripled, walked and struck out twice.