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By Joe Lemire
Ozzie Guillen is channeling Ricky Bobby. And that's definitely not a good thing for White Sox fans.
When asked if he was surprised Chicago was tied with Kansas City for last in the division, Guillen gave an answer very reminiscent of Ricky Bobby's motto, "If you're not first, you"re last."
The White Sox manager said:
"Not really. Especially when we left for spring training we thought we had a pretty good ballclub. This is not an excuse, but if you don't finish first, it doesn't matter.
"That's the way I look at it. I said that last year. If you don't finish first, who cares where you finish? Second, third, fourth, you go home. Second place you got better hopes than last place, but it's not any different. The only difference is the next year you pick higher in the draft. But besides that, it's not any different. You go home and watch baseball like everybody else."
For starters, second place in the AL Central -- particularly this year -- means a very good shot at the wild card. As recently as 2003 and 2004, wild card winners Florida and Boston emerged from the wild card to win the World Series. But apparently that's not enough hope for Guillen, who sounds only concerned with the 2008 amateur draft.
Of course, with a 43-55 record and 14.5-game deficit even in the wild card standings, it's no surprise that Chicago won’t make the postseason this year -- Baseball Prospectus gives them a .00585 percent chance -- and that several White Sox are being actively shopped (even if G.M. Kenny Williams is holding his cards close to the vest).
Their starting pitching has been pretty good, particularly Mark Buerhle, Jon Garland and Javier Vazquez who, at the ages of 28, 27 and 30, respectively, should continue to have several more productive seasons. But of their Opening Day starters, only Joe Crede (29) and Juan Uribe (27) were under the age of 30. Crede was batting .216 before undergoing back surgery -- making room for 24-year old prospect Josh Fields at third base -- and Uribe is batting a cool .222. With Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye having down seasons and not getting any younger, this is not a lineup to build around for the future.
With the trading deadline approaching and Guillen conceding that he's not surprised the White Sox have faltered, it's definitely time for Williams to listen to any and all offers, move the veterans for young players and hope for the best in next year's draft -- Guillen's already planning for it.
If you can make it to Kansas City tonight -- and I'm sure there are still tickets available -- it's George Brett Pine Tar Night! To commemorate the 24th anniversary of Brett going berserk, the Royals are giving out 20,000 T-shirts with fake pine tar stains.
Royals shortstop Tony Pena Jr. has not walked in his last 236 plate appearances. That is not a misprint. More troubling is that last weekhis general manager supports him. Dayton Moore said, "I couldn't care less if he walks again all year. I don't want him worrying about that. The biggest mistake that players make is they start focusing so much on their weaknesses that they don’t maintain their strengths." I do hope that getting on base qualifies as a strength for most position players, so maybe Pena needs to take a different approach at the plate.
OK, one more Royals link and then I'm done. Today's sure sign you're a small-market team: a popular fan blog posts a poll asking, How many Royals will be traded?
Actually, I lied. I'd be remiss to neglect to mention this -- tucked low in this New York Daily News story is the note that Kansas City has the best ERA in the majors since June 24. In the past month, the Royals have won series against Boston, Detroit, Los Angeles and Seattle -- four of the five top teams in the AL.
Fresh off being AL Player of the Week, Curtis Granderson went 3-for-3 with a walk, HBP, HR and four RBIs playing in his hometown of Chicago last night.
Apparently groundballs can beat you too. In looking at Jake Westbrook's game log, you can see that the hard luck Cleveland pitcher is doing a good job keeping the ball on the ground. Westbrook's yielded just homer in July with a 45:17 groundball-to-flyball ratio, including a 15:1 mark in last night's 6-2 loss to the Red Sox. Yet, he's 0-3 with a 6.38 ERA in the month.
In the New York Penn League this week: the two AL Central affiliates, the Oneonta Tigers and Mahoning Valley Scrappers played each other! The O-Tigers took two of three in the series. And pitching seems to be contagious. Since Guillermo Moscoso's perfect game, Oneonta's starting pitchers are 6-1 with a 1.92 ERA.
Don't forget about today's AL Central twinbill: Tigers at White Sox at 1:05 p.m. and again at 7:11 p.m. central time. (The second start time seem curious? Don’t forget that Chicago sold the rights to its start time to 7-Eleven.
Labels: AL Central
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