Sunday, May 1, 2011
Nothing going right for White Sox
By Gene Wojciechowski
CHICAGO -- White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen and his family moved into their new place here a few days ago. So what happens? Their neighbor drops by, gives them a house warming gift of flowers and then, oh, by the way, mentions, "I'm a season-ticket holder for 20 years.''
Figures. Another critic.
"That's what I want to hear,'' said Guillen, smiling, as he recounted the story in his clubhouse office before Sunday's game. "We just move in!''
Get used to it, Ozzie. This is what happens when the AL Central favorite spends the first month of the season in the Jiffy John. The Chicago White Sox won seven of their first 11 games, but only three of their next 17. Those 18 April defeats are a franchise record.
"I regret now moving to Chicago,'' said Guillen, joking (I think). "Why? Because I work in Chicago. Why the hell am I doing moving to Chicago when people are going to ask me stupid questions on the streets, [tell me] 'How bad you guys are.' ''
And it's getting worse. The month of May began the same way April ended -- with another loss to the Baltimore Orioles. It was Chicago's fifth consecutive defeat and its third in a row to the O's. The Sox are now a mind-numbing 10-19 and a stunning 10 games out of first place.
Guillen is left to find tiny victories inside the losses. He talked about the season-high 11 stranded Sox runners as if it were a good a thing ("We don't have the big hit [Sunday], but at least we have somebody on base. That's a good sign.''). And he talked about the near misses in the late innings as if it were a baby step forward ("We make it interesting. We not been doing that for the last week and a half.'').
There wasn't much of a crowd at U.S. Cellular on Sunday (announced paid attendance of 22,029), but it still cleared its throat in the Orioles' 6-4 victory. During Baltimore's five-run fifth inning, you could have heard the boos all the way to Daley Plaza.
"Me personally, they can boo me out of the park, I don't care,'' said Sox outfielder Juan Pierre, who reached base four times Sunday. "Personally, I don't think my teammates should get booed. We're out here giving it our all. But that's the price you pay. The whole 'All In' slogan, the payroll -- we're supposed to go out there and win games. Once we turn it around, it will be OK.''
That's the Sox marketing slogan this year: "All In.'' So far, they've been all screwed up.
Adam Dunn is hitting .171 -- and that's with a two-run, pinch-hit dinger on Sunday. Gordon Beckham is at .208 and Alex Rios is at .155. Starters Mark Buehrle and John Danks are a combined 1-7. And the bullpen has converted only three of nine save opportunities. Yecch.
Guillen, back in uniform after serving a two-game suspension for violating, of all things, MLB's Twitter policy, burned two sticks of incense in his office before the latest loss. Serenity device? Or to try to hide the stink of the Sox's record?
"The expectations -- I think everybody thought we were going to win and not lose a game,'' Guillen said. "But as soon as I got the schedule in January, I know this was going to be a tough road. With the teams we were playing against, you can ask any of my coaches, I said, 'This one is going to be a test.' ''
|Alex Rios is frustrated. A .155 batting average will do that.|
It hasn't been a test; it's been an L-fest. They have a losing record at home. They have a losing record on the road. They have a losing record at night. On grass. On turf. Against right-handers. Against left-handers. Against sub-.500 teams. Against the AL East. The AL Central. The AL West. In extra-inning games.
You name it and the Sox are on the wrong side of the baseball equation. When they hit, they don't pitch. When they pitch, they don't hit.
And yet I'm not giving up my window seat on the Sox bandwagon. Too many pages left on the season calendar. Too many veterans in that dugout.
"I don't think nobody in here thought we'd have 10 wins, but that's where we're at right now,'' Pierre said.
There's no way around it: Guillen's team has reeked more than three-day-old sauerkraut. But the Sox can't be this crummy, can they? At some point they're going to remember how to win ballgames again.
It happened last year. Remember? They went 9-14 in April and 13-14 in May. Then came June and July, when the Sox finished a combined 36-17 to move into the division lead.
"I don't even know where we are,'' Beckham said of the standings. "I haven't even looked. Right now, it's not even important. I can't tell you many we've lost.''
So I told him.
"That's not great,'' he said.
It's embarrassingly un-great. And the Sox know it.
"You look at the lineup, you look at this ballclub and I bet everything I have -- I don't have too much left, I just bought a house -- I bet we're not going to finish the way we are right now,'' Guillen said.
But even Guillen is getting tired of repeating himself. Every day he keeps saying, "We'll be OK.'' And then comes another loss.
The Sox had runners on first and second in the bottom of the ninth. No outs. They trailed by two. What fans were left inched toward the edges of their seats.
And then Paul Konerko and Rios were punched out on borderline called third strikes and A.J. Pierzynski grounded out to second. End of game. Continuation of losing streak.
"There's no way we're going to play this bad any longer,'' Guillen said. "There's no way. We've done everything on the field we could to be terrible. Now it's our time for the ball to bounce our way.''
So far, the ball isn't cooperating. And neither is the month of May.
|The White Sox already are 10 games out of first place in the AL Central. It's hard to watch.|
Gene Wojciechowski is the senior national columnist for ESPN.com. You can contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Hear Gene's podcasts and ESPN Radio appearances by clicking here. And don't forget to follow him on Twitter @GenoEspn.
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