by Mike DePilla
Thursday, August 27, 2009
So... a quick summary. The indifference I first had for this team when they were mediocre talent-wise (April through July) first turned into love after getting Peavy and Rios (first weeks of August) then turned into intense anger when they refused to capitalize and play to their abilities (mid August) then turned into sadness when I realized that I no longer found reasons to invest emotionally in the team (late August) and has now, tragically, turned back into indifference now that they showed no willingness to change course with the playoffs on the line.
To quote Pete Townshend, "Why should I care, why should I care?"
It's like falling out of love with a girl you thought was the one. At first you're so mad at her, because the situation seems like it should be perfect. Why can't you just *&%$#@! make it work?? But when you sadly realize that everything's there but it's just not gonna work, you need to remove your level of attachment until emotionally, you're just not there. It's sad, but it's nature's way of lessening your ability to get hurt.
When Alex Rios or Jermaine Dye goes a listless 0-for-4, or the team loses two games at home to the Orioles, the leagues worst road team, or Jayson Nix doesn't know what base to throw to, or Jose Contreras can't pick up a dribbling ball or anther runner is stranded at third with less than two outs, or the vaunted bullpen implodes in the late innings, why should I expect any better? Why should I care?
But, like any girl you loved until you tried to convince yourself you shouldn't, they always have another chance. Even when you think they're dead.
Suppose this team suddenly realizes what they're doing and gets their proverbial "sh*t together." What if they sweeps the Yankees this weekend or the Twins next week? Or what if they come back home and beat up on the Red Sox on Labor Day weekend in front of 35,000 at the Cell? Am I not going to be there for them?
So I guess the singer/songwriter I really should quote to sum up my thoughts on this team is Jeff Tweedy:
"I don't care anymore. I don't care anymore. I don't care anymore... but you never know."
I've been on the "Fire Greg Walker" bandwagon since the beginning, but it's not like Walk is trying to make the Sox hitter worse. He's just not making them better. The problem is a bigger, philosophical one.
During telecasts, Hawk Harrelson has told the story of Ted Williams calling the Fenway Park office on game day only about a million times. "Stone Pony, he'd call askin' three things. Number one, who's pitching for the other team, and he wanted, wanted, it to be their ace. Number two, which way is the wind blowing. And number three, who is the home plate umpire."
If you can't name the three things Teddy Ballgame asked every afternoon, just wait about three innings and Hawk'll tell you again.
Nonetheless, there actually is a great lesson in there. Williams was the smartest and most prepared hitter in the game. Does anyone get the impression the Sox hitters do anything like that?
The impression the Sox hitters give is that they step up to the plate and just look to launch the ball into the sky. Fastball, curveball, knuckleball, runner on third, bases loaded, bases empty, one out, two out, no out, 3-1 count, 2-strike count, first pitch... anytime.
I know the Sox have the natural talent, and I know they study hitting and game film and all that. But the minute they step up to the dish, all situational approaches go out the window and it becomes pop up derby.
Will these players ever learn that different approaches are requires for different pitchers, different counts and different situations?
When the Sox have a runner on third and one out, Sox hitter nearly always end up with two strikes because they are swinging out of their shoes trying to hit a homerun that, worse case scenario to them, ends up as a sac fly. So even if they get a cookie, they over-swing and foul it off. Then they get to two strikes, squeeze the sawdust out of the bat, and fail. How many times have we seen it?
Could someone, anyone, try to instill a line drive approach in these hitters?
Homeruns are nice, no one is denying that. But they are not fool proof. They are subject to ballpark conditions, weather and streaks. Opposite field singles and double are nice and dependable.
The Sox should change their organizational philosophy to reflect this, and bring in a new hitting coach to try and reinforce it.
Speaking of attitude and preparedness adjustments, hopefully this last week will dispose of the "winning series" notion. As noted before, the Sox are yet to sweep a series in 2009.
A lot of people accuse the Sox of not having that "killer instinct," and we've certainly seen them just phone it in when they've already taken 2 games of a series. There is a definite "tip your cap" level of acceptance in the blood of many recent Paul Konerko-led Sox teams.
But at some point they have to take each game as one game- because they all count in the standings- and not be complacent with a series win. If you're OK with just winning series, you're OK with missing the playoffs. Its as simple as that.
If 2 of 3 against the Royals or A's counts as a "hot streak", that is plain and simple not going to be good enough to offset a cold streak, and let's face it, this is a streaky team that is going to lose some series. They are note exactly the model of consistency.
So how about going for the jugular once in a while and squeezing every last ounce out of a favorable match up?
Maybe they think too big picture. When there's a runner on third and one out, I don't care what you did the last 2 games, or who you play tomorrow, I just want you to get the doggone run in and win today.
But...but... even with all that said, with all the negativity, disappointment, underachieving and disgust, the simple fact remains that this team, however flawed, is still only a 5-game winning streak away from winning the division.
It seems so odd to think of how close they are, considering how their grotesque slump has turned us all into pessimists. (Ozzie himself said yesterday "it feels like we're 20 games out.") But it wouldn't take a Colorado Rockies-like surge to get them back in contention. They're not trying to catch the Yankees or the Angels. They have 6 games left against the Tigers.
This team can still win the AL Central. That might be the most frustrating part of it all.
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