Sunday, July 24, 2005

Pleasantly Ambivalent

Games 95 through 98 - Red Sox

Red Sox 6, Chicago White Sox 5
White Sox 8, Red Sox 4
Red Sox 3, White Sox 0
White Sox 6, Red Sox 4
Record: 54-44

I'm a bundle of contradictions this evening. The Sox lost today, but I'm moderately pleased with a split against the league-leading ChiSox. The Sox are in first place, but I'm mostly wondering how far they'd be in front if they hadn't played to such an indifferent pace. I cringe at the thought of Alex Cora getting meaningful late-inning at-bats several times in the last week, but I have no good suggestions regarding better options on the current (and please, Theo, make it temporary) roster.

This whole season's been like this for me. Pre-October, if the morning papers revealed the Sox up 1 1/2 games on the Yankees in late July, I'd vascillate between excitement and terror. Now, I spin wildly from content to exasperated - I'm no longer waiting for the collapse to come, but I'm still mildly disappointed.

Lots of new faces on the Sox roster, as Alex Cora, Adam Hyzdu, and Tony Graffanino joined the squad, with Alan Embree leaving for good, Kevin Youkilis going to Pawtucket, and Eeyore hitting the DL. Cora's a fine defensive player, and Graffanino's one of those solid-if-not-spectacular glue guys that help fill a 25-man roster - he won't hurt the team, if nothing else. Hyzdu's good for having an interesting last name that might be useful in a blog headline at some point. "Growing Like Hyzdu", for example. "Do Your Ass Cheeks Get Numb From Sitting on the Bench for Weeks at a Time? Hyzdu." Feel free to play along at home.

Even as I'm mildly alarmed at the mediocre nature of the Sox bench at the moment, I refrain from panic, as I feel confident that the Sox front office will make moves to solidify the roster for the stretch run. Lots of talk about A.J. Burnett, but I've never been sold. The best move for the Sox in terms of the starting rotation is clearly to get Curt Schilling ready to take a turn every 5th day - there's not a free agent starter available who'll provide a bigger boost. Schilling in the rotation assumes that the Sox get a quality arm in the back of the pen, so that's where I'd like to see Theo focus. I don't have to get into the value of guys like Dave Roberts on last year's roster - and this year's in woefully lacking. In Theo We Trust.

It was bittersweet to see Embree kicked to the curb relatively unceremoniously. In the parlance of SoSH, he was 1 of the 25, and for that, I'll be eternally grateful. In the remorseless calculus of high-stakes professional sports, though, he was simply no longer contributing to this team's success - in fact, he was preventing it in many cases. And that's the hard truth that both he and the front office had to recognize. So long, Hombre - hope that you can lift your arm to comb your hair when you're 45.

Guess a few moments on the series with the ChiSox are warranted at this point. For all the hullaballoo surrounding the Southsiders, you can color me unimpressed. Yes, they pitch well in all phases - solid starters, strong bullpen, which will make them a threat in any short series. They just don't have the sticks to scare anyone with a good pitching staff. And Ozzie Guillen strikes me as the kind of guy who's just insane enough to do something stupid under white-hot post-season pressure. Fine team, but they don't scare me. (Crow tastes very good with a pinch of cayenne and a pat of garlic butter, for future reference.)

If not for a random and highly unexpected appearance from Bad Wake (which followed 6 innings of Very Good Wake), the Sox could easily taken 3 of 4 from the Pale Hose. It's good to see Manny swinging the bat like a demon, and very good to see Wade Miller go 7 strong in a 3-0 shutout win. The bench, as stated above, is a bit of a drag on the offense , which made a difference in today's game, as Cora batted with 2 on and 1 out, and waived (EDIT: should be waved - talk about a Freudian slip) impotently at a Cliff Politte fastball. All in all though, today was a shoulder shrug. The Sox went on the road against the best team in the league, record-wise, and gained ground on both their closest pursuers. Not a bad weekend in the Windy City.

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