by Mike DePilla
It appears the Manny Bump is over.
After a promising 7-0 start to this difficult road trip with their new DH, the Sox fell listlessly to the Tigers for the third straight game today, putting the playoffs all but out of reach with only 22 games to play. Tuesday and Wednesday's losses were bad but bearable, today's loss feels like a season-ender.
Yes, Freddy's back was balky, Teahen's D was awful and Gavin's stuff was flat, all of which accounted for a large part of the three-game losing streak. But where are the bats? In the last two games, the Sox five through nine hitters went a combined 0-for-30, and as a whole the team scored five runs. That's just not going to cut it.
After the Sox ugly loss last night, Cheat from South Side Sox got his recap up quickly, and it was deadly accurate. As probably the most representative post, this about sums it all up. If words aren't your thing, Jim at Sox Machine made this handy flow chart for you.
Teahen's glove is so bad that there is no way his league-average bat can make up for it. He's bad now, and he will continue to be bad next year and the year after. The only difference will be that the Sox will be paying him more money to be bad in 2011, and even more money to be bad in 2012. Ken Williams will desperately try to find a way to make it seem like he is worth his contract, or at least get some justification of value, by finding a significant place for him on the 25-man roster.
But the hitters need to have a better showing as well. Out there this afternoon, it looked to the untrained eye like the Tigers were the team fighting to make the playoffs and the Sox were the aimless also-rans. The Tigers had 13 hits today, all singles. Floyd didn't have his best stuff and tried to work the Tigers hitters away, away, away. The Tigers hitters responded by taking what was given to them, lining singles to the opposite field to scrap together rallies. In short, they had a plan, and they executed it.
The Sox, meanwhile, looked lost once again against a barrage of off-speed pitches. Rick Porcello, who had lost three times to the Sox already this season, did step up his game with good command on his pitches this afternoon. But it is just such an easy book on the Sox: throw 'em off-speed pitches away and watch them stay off balance for the whole game. Why don't the Sox ever adjust to this glaring weakness?
Back to 2010, things are looking grim for the Sox. An 7-3 road trip, in a vacuum, has to be considered a success. However, there is the problem of the Twins. Consider: the Sox played 10 on the road, including three in Boston, while the Twins played nine at home. The net result of it all for the Sox was losing a game and a half game in the standings. They played .700 ball on the road and lost ground; you can't really fault the team for that.
On their just-completed homestand, the Twins went 6-1 in one-run games (8-1 overall). That is an insane success rate, and it's unlikely they could duplicate it on the road, where they are only 35-34 on the season. However the Sox have fallen significantly behind now, and just making up two or three games by regression won't get them the AL Central title. Though they were 3.5 out, the Sox still controlled their own fate in the division as of just a few short days ago, which made the difficult situation more acceptable. That's out the window now.
To stay in contention, the Sox will basically have to sweep the upcoming homestand: three vs. the Royals, three vs. the Twins and then three vs. the Tigers. Out of those nine games, the Sox can afford to lose maybe one, and it can't be against the Twins. (It probably shouldn't be against the Royals either.) At the same time, the Twins will have to drop one of three in Cleveland, get swept by the Sox, and then drop one at home to the A's. If that holds (the Sox go 8-1, the Twins go 4-5), the Sox will be two games out on September 20 when they head to the west coast for six games.
Supposing the Sox get lucky and take all nine at home, or the Twins lose two to either the Indians or A's, the Sox deficit could be only one game, which would certainly be manageable. But if the Sox can't pull off a six-game winning streak after today, it's just about over.
When Ken Williams traded rookie pitcher Dan Hudson to the Diamondbacks in a clear overpay for struggling, expensive starter Edwin Jackson, many Sox fans were upset. Turns out, Jackson has been filthy with the Sox, justifying his GM and pitching coach's faith in him. At the same time, Hudson has mowed down the NL West, but been dismissed as feasting on weak competition.
Can we put the "Dan Hudson is only pitching well now because he's in the NL" thing to rest now? The guy is flat out dominating the league.
Last night Hudson made his eighth start for the DBacks. He went seven innings against the hard-charging Giants and allowed only one run, making his a perfect 8-for-8 in quality starts for his new team. He's never walked more than two batters in any of those games and has struck out six or more five times (including three with nine or more). Look, I get that the kid was struggling in the AL pennant race, but there's no reason to dump on him for succeeding in the lesser NL.
The Sox got what they wanted in the deal, as Jackson has been dominant as well. But let's not pretend they didn't pay dearly for it.
Lastly, an interesting link brought to my attention last night. What if a different company instead of US Cellular had bought the naming rights to Comiskey Park and a different plan for renovation was put in place?
According to Lee Bey, it almost happened. Bey writes that the Sox worked on a naming rights deal with Household Finance Corporation in 2001 that would have brought some different stadium fixes. The deal fell threw, and US Cellular entered the picture in 2003.
Among the renovations under the original plan that never were built: a monumental ballpark entrance at 35th Street, a mall-like concession concourse, and "a faux Chicago street with complete with fake storefronts and building facades," seen here.
Some of that might be a bit overboard, but I still think that grand entrance in left field is a fantastic idea. Hopefully that it is still under consideration for future development. The Cell has come a long way in the last seven years, but there is still room to grow and change moving forward.
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