Posts Tagged ‘chicago white sox’
Sunday, June 29th, 2014
There hasn’t been much to cheer about on the South Side of Chicago since the Pale Hose made their last, once-every-half-century, appearance in the World Series in 2005. The White Sox have flirted with greatness since (they appeared in the LDS in 2008, but lost) but mostly (mostly) have been vainly struggling to recoup their former 2005 triumph.
But this year is different. While the Aparicios are limping along at 38-44 and are trailing the Tigers by 8.5 in the American League Central, the Pale Hose have put together what figures to be a core group of starters that could lead them back into contention for an American League title.
The figure at the center of that dream is Jose Abreu, the celebrated Cuban slugger (with Yoenis Cespades and Yasiel Puig) who Chicago signed to a $68 million, six year mega-deal this last off-season. While baseball analysts mouthed their obligatory “oh yeah, sure” response to the Abreu signing, the vast majority showed a half-smiling, let’s play it safe, disinterest. Jose Abreu?
“For players who haven’t played in the states, it’s a calculated risk, but one we had to take,” Chicago G.M. Rick Hahn said of the signing. “If we are going to get this thing right, and get it done as quickly as we want it done, we are going to have to be bold and be aggressive.”
The pre-season projections for Abreu seemed to suggest that the White Sox were smart in making the deal, as Abreu was thought to have enough power to hit in the .270 range with perhaps 20-25 home runs. In fact, as it turns out, the projections were just flat-out wrong. With the 2014 season just one-half gone, Abreu has already matched those numbers, with a .280 BA and 25 home runs.
“There’s going to be an adjustment period,” Hahn told the press, hedging his bets. “There’s going to be him getting used to the daily grind of a major league season, the travel in the states and the games every day for six-plus months.”
Pretty good? A calculated risk? An adjustment period? Abreu has turned out to be a monster at the plate and, for our money, the most dangerous hitter in the game.
Tuesday, April 29th, 2014
Last week the New York Times published a fascinating, and unusual, look at baseball loyalties. “Using aggregated data” provided by Facebook, the Times published a map of U.S. baseball loyalties, color-coded by team — then accompanied the map with fourteen separate maps showing the boundaries separating the teams.
As the Times explained: “The maps were created using estimates of team support based on how many Facebook users ‘liked’ each team in a ZIP code. We applied the algorithm to smooth the date and fill the gaps where the data was missing.” Put another way: using the maps, readers can find out which team a large aggregate of fans support in a specific ZIP code. The process can get obsessive, but it yields sometimes surprising results.
The Yankees and Red Sox (in particular), but also the Braves (to a lesser extent) have national followings. The Yankees are an “empire” and the Red Sox are a “nation.” The Yankees have more followers in Emery County, Utah for instance, than any of the closest nearby teams — the Rockies, Diamondbacks and Giants (who are third). Alaska? Alaska has a lot of Mariners fans, but the Red Sox and Yankees have a loyal following.
“A popular team like the Yankees has a huge presence in the New York area,” the Facebook entry on the findings says, “but its presence is felt all over the country and indeed the world. Â The ‘Red Sox diaspora,’ despite being from a much smaller city, are also spread all over the country.”
As you might expect, the Braves (the Cobb Country Braves, as we have taken to calling them), dominate the Georgia fan base, but their loyalties extend well to the west and northeast, much as the Rangers dominate nearly all of Texas, except for the ZIP codes surrounding Houston.
We would have thought that the Cubs would have a loyal national following, but that’s not the case. But they dominate Chicago — except for the area around U.S. Cellular Field (on the South Side)) which then trails off into parts of northwest Indiana. But Chicago is, essentially “Wrigleyville.”
The New York Times says that California’s baseball loyalties reflect a group of “city states” — with the area divided by team loyalties based strictly on metropolitan areas. That’s right, but Angels and Padres’ fans are surrounded by the more popular Dodgers and Giants — who have been around longer (even in California) and have won more national championships.
Monday, April 28th, 2014
San Diego righty Ian Kennedy stymied the Nationals’ offense on Sunday, throwing seven innings of three hit baseball and striking out nine, as the Padres went on to gain a split in their four game series against Washington, 4-2. Kennedy outdueled six Washington pitchers in gaining the victory, his second of the season.
San Diego’s offense, meanwhile, was powered by eight hits, two of them from outfielder Cameron Maybin, who was seeing his first action of the 2014 season. “Ian pitched his butt off,” Maybin said after the San Diego victory. “Fun being behind a guy like that who can command the zone like he does.”
The Nationals came up nearly empty against Kennedy, with Jayson Werth the only Washington regular who was able to notch two hits against him. It was a rough day for Washington hitters, but also a rough day for the pitching staff. Starter Taylor Jordan was battling the flu when he took the mound and lasted just four innings.
A host of Washington relievers who followed Jordan to the bump battled San Diego hitters — and their own control. Ross Detwiler gave up four hits in just 1.1 innings of work and Aaron Barrett walked two batters while registering a single out. Jerry Blevins, Drew Storen and Tyler Clippard pitched well, but by then it was too late.
Huston Street notched his league leading ninth save without a blemish, wrapping up the game. “It’s a really good lineup they have over there, and I know that Adam LaRoche had a big series against us, so having Ian pitch so well was very important,” Street said of the victory. “To see him settle down and get into a groove, it put the momentum back on our side.”
The Nationals have Monday off, but will travel to Houston for a short series against the Astros that begins on Tuesday.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: Major league teams dump salaries, they dump old starters and relievers and they dump washed up veterans. But the Arizona Diamondbacks, it seems, dump young and talented starters. How else do you explain last year’s swap of yesterday’s pitching hero, Ian Kennedy, to the Padres back in 2013 . . .?
True — Kennedy was struggling at the time, but he was two years down the road from a 21-4 season. The D-Backs got reliever Joe Thatcher, a minor leaguer (righty pitcher Matt Stites) and a draft pick in return, hardly enough to justify the swap of a proven youngster with electric stuff . . .
Wednesday, September 25th, 2013
Cardinals’ starter Michael Wacha came within a single out of no-hitting the Nationals on Tuesday night, but a Ryan Zimmerman infield bounder put the Nationals in the hit column as St. Louis went on to down Washington, 2-0. Wacha, who entered the game at 3-1 after a swift rise through the minors, threw 112 pitches before being lifted after Zimmerman’s single.
“For a kid to do that against a lineup like that, at this point in the season, it’s hard to get your head around it,” Cardinals’ skipper Mike Matheny said after the victory. Zimmerman, who Wacha struck out twice prior to his single hit, also praised the young righty. “He pitched great. He really had his stuff going,” Zimmerman said.
Zimmerman’s bounder hit in front of the pitcher’s mound and flew over Wacha as the young pitcher reached for it. It hit off his glove, but was fielded by shortstop Peter Kozma, who flipped the ball to first baseman Matt Adams, who swiped at Zimmerman but missed him.
After the hit, Matheny brought in reliever Trevor Rosenthal to close out the game. Rosenthal ended it on six fastballs to Jayson Werth, who grounded out sharply to first baseman Adams. “I guess it just wasn’t to be,” Wacha said of his short-circuited no hitter. “But it was still a pretty special night.”
Wacha’s performance overshadowed a solid outing from Washington starter Gio Gonzalez, who threw seven innings while striking out six and giving up six hits. Drew Storen shut the Cardinals down at the end of the eighth, setting up the tumultuous 9th inning. It was Gonzalez’s eighth loss on the year against eleven wins.
Those Are The Details, Now For The Headlines: “Don’t be surprised if the Indians, losers of 94 games a year ago, turn out to this year’s Orioles,” Sports Illustrated writer Albert Chen said back in March. Cleveland fans apparently didn’t believe him, accounting for the third worst attendance in baseball this year . . .
Wednesday, September 4th, 2013
The Nationals committed three errors and Gio Gonzalez walked three Philadelphia batters, but Washington banged out eleven hits (including a Wilson Ramos three run home run in the top of the 2nd inning) and the home towners went on to down the Phillies 9-6 at Citizens Bank Park.
“It was an ugly game, that’s all I can tell you,” Nationals manager Davey Johnson said. “It’s one of the ugly ones I’ve seen. Gio had a real rough start. He threw a lot of pitches. He hung in there. [The fielders] were sloppy behind him. It’s not the way you win pennants, I’ll tell you that.”
Thankfully for Johnson (although that might not be the best word to use), the Nationals are in no danger of winning a pennant. The win in Philadelphia still left Washington struggling to catch Cincinnati for the last National League Wild Card spot. The Nationals remain 7.5 games behind the Redlegs with 24 games to play.
The Nationals were hoping that starter Gio Gonzalez would give them a solid outing on Tuesday night, as he did during his last outing against Miami at Nationals Park, but the struggling southpaw gave up five hits and five runs (just one of them earned) in 5 2/3 innings on the mound.
Gonzalez, who contended for the Cy Young award in 2012, has been up-and-down all season — with his 5 2/3 innings outing reminiscent of his 3 1/3 innings stint two weeks ago against the Kansas City Royals, in which he yielded ten hits and seven runs.
“I was fortunate to go at least that long, especially knowing that I felt uncomfortable on the mound the whole game,” Gonzalez said of his outing. “You can look at it from both sides: The Phillies had a lot of walks, we had a [few] walks. It was just one of these weird games. You just can’t explain it.”
Tuesday, August 6th, 2013
The difference in last night’s 3-2 Braves victory over the Nationals at Nationals Park came down to a single swing of the bat. In the 8th inning, Atlanta’s Justin Upton sent a 79 mph Tyler Clippard change-up into the left field seats, sealing a tough loss for the home towners.
The Upton home run wasted one of Stephen Strasburg’s best outings of the year, and gave the red hot Braves their 11th straight victory. The Braves extended their lead in the National League East to 13.5 games. The Nationals are now at 54-58 for the season, four games under .500.
Before Upton broke up the game, the Nationals’ Strasburg had been locked in a classic pitchers’ duel with Atlanta’s Mike Minor. The Washington righty left at the end of the 7th inning, after scattering five hits and striking out nine. Minor pitched six inning while giving up eight hits.
The Nationals had a chance to get to Minor but, as so often has been the case during the season, could not take advantage of having men on base. The Nationals put the lead-off runner on base in four successive innings, but could not take advantage.
“Get runners out there, you’ve got to get them in,” Nationals’s shortstop Ian Desmond commented after the loss. “That’s the name of the game. You’ve got to score more than they do, and we didn’t score very many tonight.” The Nationals were 1-10 with runners in scoring position.
Thursday, June 20th, 2013
After losing to the Phillies on Tuesday, Washington Nationals right fielder Jayson Werth sat in front of his locker at Citizens Bank Park and talked about how his team needs to start winning. “You’ve got to show up tomorrow ready to eat somebody’s face,” he said.
Werth said it with a smile, but he meant it — and that’s exactly what the Washington Nationals did on Wednesday night in Philadelphia, as an 11th inning grand slam home run off the bat of Ian Desmond provided a thrilling, and badly needed, 6-2 victory over the Phillies.
Desmond’s home run came after a single from Jayson Werth that scored Denard Span tying the game in the top of the 9th. But unlike the Nationals showing in the first game of the series, when the team also tied Philadelphia in the 9th, this time the Nats’ bullpen propelled the Anacostia Nine into extra frames, setting up Desmond’s heroic blast.
“Ian is quite a character. He got a lot of big hits for us in the past,” skipper Davey Johnson said of Desmond’s home run. “The only thing that I worry about sometimes is that he tries too hard. It seemed like he was a little too geared up, and then when he got to two strikes, he shortened up and he crushed that ball.”
Werth and Desmond’s late innings offensive put a coda on what was one of lefty Gio Gonzalez’s better outings of the year. While the Nationals’ southpaw came away without a decision on Wednesday, he held the Phillies to just two hits over seven innings, while striking out eleven.