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Smallball Will Take Time to Get Right

by Mike DePilla
Monday, April 12, 2010

So the Sox managed to squeak out the finale against the Twins 5-4 yesterday afternoon, thank goodness, with four of their five runs coming courtesy of the longball. Curiously, the only other win of the season thus far, Opening Day, came with two homers as well. So the Sox are 2-0 when they hit two or more homers in a game, and 0-4 when they don't.

However, don't draw any connections from that or Ozzie will pummel you with a baseball bat and probably tell you to go root for the Cubs.

Despite the Sox offensive struggles, it is indeed too early to make anything of anything. (Imagine if the Sox started off like they did last year: scoring one run in 18 innings against the Royals.) But JJ of White Sox Examiner put into words my general feeling about the over sensationalized, glamorized and generalized "Ozzieball":

"The idea of having an offense that can do things on the base paths is noble. But [...] for an offense not based around home runs to work, a team needs good hitters who can drive in runners who are in scoring position."

Smallball is all well and good, and I'm sure Ozzie will be smiling like a proud papa when we actually see some of it. But the idea is to replace homeruns with base hits, not ground outs to second. Bunts and stolen bases might put you in position, but hits are what bring in the runs and wins. Smallball, Ozziedball, etc., will only go as far as the hits will take them. Additionally, teams that win with Smallball typically have much better fundamental defense than the Sox have shown so far.

Of course not every team comes out of the gate firing on all cylinders--the most fundamentally-sound teams reveal themselves over the course of a long summer. Take for instance Minnesota: the Twins have typically been mediocre at best in the first half of the season this past decade, only to come out of nowhere for extended hot streaks after the All-Star break when they've been counted out. Hopefully the Sox will round into shape similarly.

Homeruns are the instant gratification; smallball requires patience. But both require real hitting.

Tonight it's on the road to an overlooked house of horrors: Toronto. The Sox have lost their last 10 games north of the border as part of the extended "Dome Syndrome", part of which is just a self-fulfilling prophesy. If the Sox are able to turn around their fortunes in the dome over the next four games it would go a long way toward showing this team truly is different and more versatile than previous models.

How will Alex Rios fare in his homecoming? One good sign already: Rios and Andruw Jones are both in the starting outfield tonight, but this time Jones is in left and Rios in center.


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