Dorfman: For White Sox It’s New Season, Old Problems
Chicago White Sox
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By Daniel I. Dorfman–
There is no way to judge a baseball team after four games, but when glaring problems that have haunted a franchise for several seasons resurface, two words come to mind: uh-oh!
The White Sox are going to be without Adam Dunn for a few games due to his emergency appendectomy. His absence from the heart of the lineup will make the team somewhat offensively challenged, but if he is gone for just a few games, they should be able to mix and match to overcome his loss. But after their 2-2 start, the same concerns about the Sox for months/years have not been assuaged by what has transpired thus far in Cleveland and Kansas City.
One of the many reasons why the Minnesota Twins have dominated the Sox for so long is the Twins never seem to beat themselves. Year in and year out the Sox have more talent on paper, but the Twins find ways to win. So what has happened in both of the Sox losses so far? The Sox beating themselves.
In Sunday’s 7-1 defeat at Cleveland the Sox were up 1-0 when Alexei Ramirez tried to lay down a bunt to put a couple more runners into scoring position. It wasn’t pretty, and by now everyone has seen the Sox hitting into their first triple play since 1978. This is Ramirez’s fourth season in the majors. He should be able to bunt by now, or Ozzie Guillen should know it is pointless to let him attempt one. There is no sense in just handing outs to opponents even if the “book” calls for certain plays in certain situations. Logic dictates there will be times Ramirez will be asked to bunt again, but if it is just folly to try and ask him to do so, perhaps the “book” should be closed.
Moreover, the “Adventures in Baserunning,” which has been a staple of White Sox baseball for almost as long as the exploding scoreboard, popped up again last night in a crucial situation. Brent Lillibridge was pinch running for Dunn in the 12th inning last night when he meandered from second and got caught in a subsequent rundown. The fact that Lillibridge was called safe and then ruled out was strange umpiring, but it does not excuse the fact he never should have been caught like that in the first place. If the Sox are going to make a run and try to outlast the Twins and the Tigers, they have to be able to perform the fundamentals of the game. The Twins have six AL Central titles to two for the Sox since 2002. That speaks volumes about who plays the game better even if the talent is one sided on paper.
Finally, there is the matter of the bullpen. While it may have been overhauled, that does not necessarily mean it has been improved. For fans who have had nightmares of Scott Linebrink and Octavio Dotel, their fears have not been eased by what they have seen with Will Ohman. Anytime a team has a a 14-0 lead shrink down to five, as was the case on Opening Day in Cleveland, is troubling. Chris Sale has not been blowing people away, as evidenced by the two-run homer he surrendered to Billy Butler last night at Kaufmann Stadium, and we are still waiting to see if Matt Thornton can assume the role of closer, since an opportunity has yet to present itself.
Obviously, there is no way to draw any definitive conclusions four games into a season where the Baltimore Orioles are undefeated, the Royals are 4-1 and the Boston Red Sox have yet to scratch.
But for White Sox fans who are excited about a new era of baseball on the South Side, given the team’s financial commitment, the concerns of years past have not been eased by what has been seen so far.
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Daniel I. Dorfman is a local freelance writer who has written and reported for the New York Times, Philadelphia Inquirer and the Boston Globe among many other nationally prominent broadcast, online and print media organizations. He is also a researcher for 670 The Score. You can follow him on Twitter @DanDorfman To read more of Daniel’s blogs click here.