CHICAGO — They’re the better team.
Over the past two days, the White Sox have pitched better, had more opportune hits, shown more hustle, have pounded the ball into the stands repeatedly, taken advantage of miscues in the field, and used the rowdy energy of back-to-back banged out houses to pull ahead 2-0 in this best-of-a-handful ALDS. The series now moves back to Friendly Fenway Park, where the World Series trophy may still be on display. Call in advance. Space, and particuarly time, may be limited.
I’m not going to tell you anything new by letting you know that Tony Graffanino’s error might have cost them this series. You know the story by now. With a runner on first in the fifth, Graffanino misplayed a possible inning-ending double play ball when he came up empty going down for a grounder that had already passed his glove. A couple of batters later, Tadahito Iguchi liked what he saw from David Wells and went yard for a 5-4 lead. In turn, the Red Sox responded with less fight than a Swiss pacifist.
“I was explaining to one of my kids,” White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen said. “He asked me what you do in that particular thing. I said you’ve got to stay back.”
Good point. Hey, Oz, you available for infield drills tomorrow afternoon at the Fens?
Try as you might, it is difficult not to place this loss squarely on the shoulders of Graffanino. To be fair, he wasn’t the one with whiplash after serving up the meatball that Iguchi slammed into a delighted crowd. It wasn’t quite Buckneresque, but it will do just fine for the whipping post needs of Red Sox Nation. Would second baseman No. 134 of the past 10 years please step up to the plate in Dustin Pedroia?
Whatever. Blame aside, let’s not look at this as a game that Graffanino blew, because that folks is, as they say, only part of the story, and the second half will be erroneously lost in a region looking to lay blame rather than bestow credit.
“We never give up,” Guillen said. “I know we’re going to score some runs. They had one bad inning, and we took advantage. Those guys never lose faith, and they were pulling for each other and that’s why they win.”
Sound familiar? Why is it that the Pale Hose are sounding like a more tailored version of the Idiots that charmed an entire nation a year ago at this time, while the original group is one that sounds like a broken home? Not only did we have the Curt Schilling someone-doesn’t-like-me fiasco of a week ago, but now we have the likes of Johnny Damon and David Ortiz basically calling out Matt Clement for his ineffectiveness.
Terry Francona has to come out and tell the media how loose they are every day. That’s great. But that aspect of these guys used to breed confidence among them. I’m not so sure that is the case any more.
Oh, and for those people who thought the Red Sox could win a World Series with a team predominantly built around offense, Boston has been outscored 19-6 thus far in this series.
So, yes, New England will blame Clement, blame Francona, blame Theo, blame the mayor for not doing his little cookie curse business on Yawkey Way. And to be fair, or not, there’s some backing there. Or maybe that’s just because I need to know if the results will be delicious for Red Sox Nation.
But take a step back from the vigor of your “fire him, release him, trade him” tirade, and watch what the White Sox bring to the table. The baseball world has really ignored them long enough, wouldn’t you say? Winners of 99 games, Ozzie’s boys were doubted as the Cleveland Indians made a charge at a slumping club that seemed to have had its best days in early summer. Yeah, well those were good, but these early fall days ain’t so shabby either, even if the air is at hot as the Fourth of July in a Florida swamp.
Like it or not, the way they pitch, play defense, and take advantage of opportunities, as dwindling as they may be, is a perfect blueprint for what gets you deep in October. Yes, with two at home, the Red Sox could still pull this off, another ALDS comeback in the works. But make no mistake about it. The White Sox are the better team here.
The best team doesn’t always win. The White Sox respond, “To hell with that.”