I know Bill Murray is a Cubs fan, but the Sox have their own version of his movie Groundhog Day taking place every night.
Except instead of Sonny and Cherâ€™s â€œI Got You Babe,â€ itâ€™s Hawk and Rongeyâ€™s â€œTheyâ€™ll Start Hitting Soonâ€ that plays over and over and over amid increasingly more irritated eye-rolls. Right now Punxsutawney Phil would probably lead this team in batting average (and the name on his jersey would only require two more letters than â€œPierzynski.â€)
Every day we see the same sad story of a solid starting rotation, an insipid offense and a grotesque bullpen play out for another Sox loss to a mediocre opponent. (Just wait until the Indians, Tigers and Red Sox come to town!) After former (and future) Sox centerfielder Aaron Rowand punctuated todayâ€™s sweep for the middling Philadelphia Phillies with a two-out, 0-2 grand slam, the White Sox lost for the 15th time in their last 18 games. At 27-35, eight games under .500 for the first time in four years, the Sox have dug their cleats into fourth place in the AL Central.
Still think things arenâ€™t that bad? OK, take the children out of the room before reading this next sentence. Cold hart fact: As of today, June 13, the White Sox are 1.5 games behind the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the American League standings. Ouch, that hurts. With apologies to all those radio astronomers eagerly awaiting the David Price era, a Sox fan with any pride has to be depressed by that fact.
In fact, there are currently eight teams ahead of Ozzieâ€™s crew in the Wildcard race (The front-running Tigers lead the Sox by 9 games). Itâ€™s looking grim, Sox fans. This is bad, guys. This is bad, boring baseball. The losing is bad enough, but can we at least get some excitement or variety? Michael Barrett, for example, always seems to have a fresh way to spark a Cubs loss. A passed ball here, a wild throw there, myriad base running mistakes, a dugout brawl sprinkled in occasionally. The Sox give us the same lethargic pop ups every day.
Injuries and poor performance have forced the Sox to bring new in new blood, hoping for a spark. But minor league call ups Ryan Sweeney, Jerry Owens, Andy Gonzalez and Josh Fields have combined to bat .192 and new relievers Dewon Day, Brett Prinz and Ryan Bukvich have sported a 7.71 ERA and an unbelievable 7.25 WHIP. WSCR radio host Dan Bernstein said it today: â€œThe Sox have turned over the soil a bunch of times and found nothing but slugs.â€
I know theyâ€™re not trying to lose. Illogical fans can fill radio show hours talking about the Sox lack of heart or lack of desire, but thatâ€™s not an issue. Itâ€™s not a question of heart; itâ€™s skill.
Take Mondayâ€™s line up for example. It takes the cake as the worst line up Iâ€™ve seen all season:
Andy Gonzalez hitting 2nd? Juan Uribe hitting 5th? That line up could have a heart the size of Texas, theyâ€™re not going to win any baseball games. Thereâ€™s a reason this club is last in the majors in batting average.
So where does the blame for this disaster go? Ozzie? Kenny? Greg Walker? The players? Donâ€™t worry, thereâ€™s plenty of blame to go around. How about everybody except Nancy Faust. And it looks like weâ€™ll get the rest of the season to talk about it. At this point the Sox should just hang a sign in the front door at 35th and Shields: â€œHelp wanted, all positions. Inquire within.â€
Now, things are bound to turn around a little. This is a bad baseball team, but they have a good stretch left in them to approach .500. But letâ€™s make this clear: a little turnaround, while nice and cute, will not vault this team into contention for a playoff spot. Please, let us not suffer the same torturous fate of all those late â€˜90s Bears teams: late season turn arounds that convince management (and to some extent the fans) that inadequate team could compete next season with very little changes. Major changes are needed.
So look forward to trade deadline sell offs, rising prospects and roster remolding to dominate talk in this column from here on out in 2007. Iâ€™ll try to pimp ideas both obvious (â€œFire Greg Walker dammitâ€) and radical (â€œTrade Konerko and Jenks.â€) Hopefully itâ€™ll be interesting.
Somewhere Bill Murray is laughing.