Friday, September 30, 2011

The Season Leaves And So Does Ozzie

  79-83. 16 games behind Detroit and in third place. No White Sox fan anticipated that scenario. Were expectations too high? Were they overall an under performing team? It was a combination of both. Fans visioned the ultimate team or so called "Dream Team" that many organizations try to assemble. When someone pays $127 million for something they expect incredible results. If not they will promptly return whatever they purchased. With baseball that is simply something you can not do.
Going into the 2012 season the White Sox management will have to work with what they have and it will be very difficult because on paper what they have is a well rounded ball club, but when moved from the paper and onto the playing field they are a whole different team. It will be the job of Kenny Williams, Jerry Reinsdorf and the rest of the organization to figure out what key element was missing. That will play a major role in the compilation of a winning 2012 ball club. But right now I'm sure even more so then contemplating 2012, the Sox management is haunted by the 2011 season as the disappointment flows through the halls of the front office.
Under performance was the main reason for the downfall. Players such as Adam Dunn and Alex Rios did not pull their weight. Dunn had an unprecedented slump, that was very unpredictable and truly surprising considering his talent and years of consistency. Historically his numbers should have been on par if not better than Paul Konerko's 2011 season, which was very commendable, sporting a .300 Average, 31 home runs, and 105 RBIs. After coming out of the gates strong against Cleveland with a 14-0 lead in the 4th inning, the line-up looked even better then people had thought, with every player reaching base and making solid contact. Of course it had only been one game but it seemed as though the Sox were a serious team after that display. The bullpen showed major warning signs when they yielded 10 runs to Cleveland in just a handful of innings.
  After winning the second games of their first series the sox lost their first game and that became a pattern over the next week. The much debated closer spot was given to Matt Thornton, a natural set-up man. Even though the offense did their part, he blew consecutive saves and the White Sox's record suffered moving from what could have been a decent start to just mediocre. The early devastation really hurt the dynamic of the club and definitely affected confidence. After that it was very difficult for the White Sox to get into a hot streak. Adam Dunn had an appendectomy which no doubtingly affected his initial game and he was never able to get into a groove.
  The White Sox held the worst record in baseball after April and May and went into a minor winning period which at least put them back into the race going into July. Even though they were multiple games out the season was still alive. After the All-Star break the team seemed to have new life, beating Justin Verlander by a large margin their first game back. With some fair play in July they were able to get with-in striking distance and a 500 record. Fans were beginning to slide into U.S. Cellular seats again. But then they fell into an unbreakable pattern that displayed the same scenario over and over. 500 and with-in striking range was a popular place in July. Even having the opportunity to play against Detroit they were never able to capitalize on this. Fans were discouraged time after time and then a fire sale came into question near the non-waiver trade deadline. The White Sox continued their All In motto setting out for the playoffs. After falling below 500 they were hammered by the Yankees and much hope was lost.
  Then they went into another small hot streak and were back at 500 with games against Detroit approaching in September. By mid-August the division was wide-open and the White Sox were just 3.5 games back. Any team, Cleveland, Detroit, and the White Sox had the chance to take control and come away with the division. Detroit became that team and the White Sox progressively fell back in the standings. They had ample chances when they played Detroit in September but lost the majority of the games ending their playoff hopes. A bid for the wild card was out of the question and both Cleveland and the White Sox became small stories in the Central compared to Detroit's dominance that was very similar to what transpired between Minnesota and the Sox in 2010. Detroit simply took charge and that is what propels teams into the playoffs. Since early June, they had charisma and ate away at Cleveland's leas that seemed almost insurmountable.
  Many factors played a role in the White Sox's disappointing season but mainly it was a matter of being in sync. Aside from being very streaky the White Sox failed to have stellar pitching and hitting at the same time. At first pitching was the problem, then when their pitchers were excelling the negative focus switched over to their hitting aspect. This seemed to happen throughout the season and many teams find success when these two components match up in a positive way, it makes it easier to win ball games.
  Another season surprise was Ozzie Guillen's departure. He was known as a figure with a vibrant personality and gave the press a field day with his unexpected and outgoing quotes. He also earned a reputation as an arguing manager, and was famous for ejections. But in the minds of White Sox fans he remains the manager who led the Sox to their first world series in over eight decades and he will forever be thanked for his contribution to that title and the amazing season in general. He also led them to another division title in 2008 but was never able to add to his victory list. After rejecting his 2012 coaching option for what he described as strictly financial reasons, he like Lebron James "will be taking his talents to South Beach." White Sox fans and management wish him the best of luck with the Marlins. Pitching coach Don Cooper filled in as interim manager for the concluding games of the season and it is unclear who will fill Ozzie's spot. Many other questions loom, including the future of Mark Buehrle and what the entire team may look like in 2012. It should prove to be another interesting off season, testing Kenny Williams and the rest of the organization. And it is time to move on, because as far as the post season goes the White Sox are All Out.