What a difference a few weeks can make. After the first week in June, the Chicago White Sox were left for dead. Pronounced “finished”, and that it was time to start selling off any/all valuable pieces/parts with an eye on rebuilding for next year and beyond. And then, something interesting happened. A very unexpected offensive outburst propelled a lethargic team into a complete 180-degree turnaround and before it was all said and done, the team had run off a string of 15 wins in its next 16 games before finally falling on Sunday from its meteoric streak across the MLB skies, back to baseball relevance and only a mere 1.5 games back from the Division leaders. When the streak began, it seemed an insurmountable 9.5 game chasm that separated the White Sox from the Minnesota Twins, but now a few days of continued winning baseball could actually return this team to the top of the mountain…
Then, another interesting thing happened. As the White Sox prepared for “life after the streak” by traveling to Division rival Kansas City for a 3-game series, having seemingly solved their early season inadequacies by regaining effective starting pitching and solving the mysteries of clutch hitting with runners in scoring position, as quickly as it appeared it all seemed to disappear. It started with a very ineffective starting effort by Mark “the enigma” Buehrle, who clearly did not bring his best stuff to the mound. A good hitting Kansas City lineup took advantage, while the once dangerous White Sox bats went back into slumber mode courtesy of the 3rd career start from unknown right hander Anthony Lerew…who? Exactly. Back were the days where the Sox bats again fell silent at the hands of an unfamiliar hurler doing his one-night impression of the ghost of Cy Young. An obviously poor Kansas City team, with bone-headed base running blunders, and sloppy defense were actually trying to give the game away. And for some strange reason, despite multiple opportunities to seize control of a game just begging to be won, the White Sox just wouldn’t, and looked at times as if it couldn’t.
Then after the sting of another ninth-inning gift rally (an error, a walk, and a hit batsman packed the sacks full of Sox with only 1 out) fell woefully short with two harmless infield pop-ups…it finally dawned on me. This is it. This is the end of an experiment. With first place in sight, thanks to an epic streak producing the baseball version of a mulligan, the White Sox teed up the rest of their season with visions of crushing a driver down the middle of the fairway, and absolutely shanked one into the trees. The answer should be obvious to all who watched the painful agony which was that 3-1 loss to the lowly Royals. The answer was now crystal clear. Instead of reching into the bag for a new ball to tee up, the White Sox needed to run back to the car and get the club that was missing from the bag. We need the DRIVER. What has been missing from this team offensively all season, and was subject of furious debate the entire off-season, a big bat was needed to supplement the others in a marginal lineup.
The DH by committee experiment has officially failed, and it took a now rare start by Andruw Jones, who had been banished to the bench for most of the streak due to “offensive offensiveness”. Jones, who had an unexpected torrid April with the bat, has been absolutely impotent ever since, seeing his average drop more than .100 points to its current level teetering barely above .200. And a failed pinch hit by Mark Kotsay late in the game under-scored his offensive inadequacy with half the share of DH duty with his less than impressive batting average and production numbers. Adding highlight to what should be an additional opportunity to add a stout bat to the lineup via the DH slot, the White Sox decided to occupy the position with light-hitting Juan Pierre, further adding insult to injury of a clear misjudgement by White Sox management in the decision to employ this merry-go-round of designated hitter participants.
So as was prescribed by Roy McAvoy in the movie “Tin Cup”, it is now an obvious time for fans of the Chicago White Sox to ask Kenny Williams to finally put aside the wishes of his manager Ozzie Guillen, and “let the big dog eat”. It’s clearly time for “the lumber” (aka the Number One, aka the Driver in golf parlance)…In other words, give this team what it has been lacking for the entire season, a left-handed power hitter that will again strike fear into the hearts of its opposition. For weeks they were able to pull together a marvelous run of winning baseball leaning primarily on stellar starting pitching, and sufficient clutch/timely hitting, but as we all know very well it is a long season. We will not always be fortunate enough to get a quality start every night, and when the clutch hits are absent as they were earlier in the season, good teams can still find other ways to win (especially winnable games wrought with opportunities)…At this critical point in time, it is apparent to me that this current team is lacking the necessary offense that will certainly be needed to compete for a Division Title. The question is: does anybody else see what I see? Hello Adam Dunn?