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By Daniel I. Dorfman-
(CBS) Watching the White Sox is like looking at an accident on an expressway. You know you shouldn’t, but you can’t help yourself.
With Cleveland and Detroit not pulling away in the AL Central, the Sox somehow stay in contention. They remain tantalizingly close, but it is hard to think they will ever be able to conquer the offensive problems and the mental mistakes and play solid consistent baseball.
Last night’s game in Kansas City was a microcosm of White Sox baseball — 2011 style.
The frustration is coming out in public from within. By now, everyone has heard Ozzie Guillen’s meltdown after last night’s game regarding the ineffective offense. Then pitching coach Don Cooper was angry on the Score this morning because he was asked about the offense. These incidents will be the headlines, but there were many other things that occurred last night at Kaufmann Stadium that also demonstrated why this club is likely to be around .500 or below at the end of the year.
The day got off to an interesting start. First, Adam Dunn tells Yahoo! Sports: “If I’m not having fun anymore, I’ll go home.”
There is nothing else to say about Dunn’s performance this year. He is hitting .158 and there is no reason to believe he is ever going to get out of this funk in 2011. But because of his salary, the Sox are going to continue to play him. To get the popular phrase going around right now, “it is what it is.” But it is scary to think his confidence is so shot that even the thought of quitting is entering his mind. The Sox are likely stuck with him for three more seasons. At some point there has to be some hope for some production even if it comes in 2012. Dunn’s quotes don’t sound like someone who thinks he can turn things around.
Then there was last’s night’s display of ineptitude on the field beyond the lack of offense. In the top of the sixth, the Sox had a 1-0 lead and got two men on with one out. Alexei Ramirez hit a ball almost to the centerfield warning track, but Brent Morel, who was on second, stayed there and did not tag up even though he easily could have beat a throw from Melky Cabrera. Now, the play did not come back to hurt the Sox as Paul Konerko flew out to third with two out on a nice sliding catch by Alex Gordon, but Morel’s mental gaffe is the type of play that epitomizes White Sox baseball.
The word is “careless”.
More dumb baseball occurred two innings later as the score remained 1-0 and once again the Sox had two on and one out. This time, Juan Pierre lined out to first and 44-year-old Omar Vizquel got caught off second to end the threat. That is embarrassing for any player, but for someone like Vizquel, who can tell firsthand stories about playing with Luke Appling, that is really awful.
The eigth inning was hardly a tour de force for Vizquel. In the bottom half of the frame, with Gordon on first and one out, designated hitter Billy Butler singled to right-center and Gordon raced around second. Alex Rios threw to third, but Vizquel cut off the throw, presumably not to allow Butler go to second and get in scoring position. There was a look of complete shock on Konerko’s face after seeing what had just occurred. I can’t climb into Konerko’s mind to know what he was surprised about, but maybe just maybe, he was thinking that Vizquel shouldn’t have cut off the throw since it appeared there was a chance to get Gordon going into third. We’ll never know for sure, but it looked as though the throw was on line and Gordon, who scored the tying run, could have been caught.
How does the game end? In the bottom of 11th when the Royals scored after two were out and no one was on. Gordon scored on a wild pitch from Sergio Santos that looked like it could have been stopped by A.J. Pierzynski.
So a terrific effort by John Danks was wasted and Chris Sale did a decent job out of the bullpen for three innings and it all went for naught. Most importantly, Detroit and Cleveland both lost so the White Sox lost a chance to pick up a game on both teams and remain 4.5 games behind.
As Guillen ranted, the offense was once again lousy last night as his team made journeyman Bruce Chen look like Tom Glavine for the second time this month. But the offense is only part of the problem. As shown by the examples listed above, the Sox seemingly always find ways to beat themselves, whether not executing on the base paths, failing to move runners or making poor defensive decisions. The Sox do all of those things in addition to having a dormant offense. That is explanation enough why they are a mediocre team.
The way the Sox play, they make you want to turn away, but as long as they remain within striking distance of the division leaders, there is hope they eventually will turn the corner and make August and September interesting. At least that is what the heart of a Sox fan says. The head and the eyes tell a very different story.
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.