|2 years after World Series, White Sox among worst teams|
|Written by Admin|
|Tuesday, 28 August 2007 10:36|
That day less than two years ago seems so long ago now.
In a stunning and swift collapse, the White Sox have plummeted to the bottom of the AL Central at 57-74. And with five weeks left this season, the only AL team with a poorer record is Tampa Bay.
Guillen hasn't lost his fondness for talking, but one word that has come tumbling out several times this season is ``embarrassed,'' often used to describe his team's play.
``This year is the hardest year I've ever had in my career, even when I was player,'' Guillen said. ``This is the hardest one, not because we're losing. I feel like we let a lot of people down. We have a better ballclub than what we've shown, and I take full responsibility.''
The White Sox hit another low last weekend, when the visiting Boston Red Sox won four straight by a combined 46-7.
``We've played horrible,'' Guillen said, describing not just the four games against AL East-leading Boston but most of the season.
Some frustration surfaced in the series when catcher A.J. Pierzynski and hitting coach Greg Walker had words in the dugout. Pierzynski said it's happened before, will happen again and was no big deal. He insists he and Walker are fine.
``It's an issue that shouldn't be brought up but is going to be because of the way we're playing. If we were playing better, no one would care,'' Pierzynski said.
Guillen told the team in a recent meeting to keep playing hard. It isn't translating into wins.
``I haven't seen a lack of effort by one person on this team,'' Pierzynski said. ``Every guy runs out balls and everyone hustles.''
But here's how bad it's gotten: The White Sox lost 13 of 15 before beating Tampa Bay on Monday, falling 18 games under .500 for the first time since 1989.
During one stretch starting in late May and running into late June, the White Sox went 5-22.
``I don't like to wish days away. But it will be nice when it's over so we can start playing for next year,'' chairman Jerry Reinsdorf said in an interview with the team's flagship radio station last week. I'm certainly shocked and surprised, but so are most people in baseball. Most people thought we had a team that would contend and we never were in it.''
The reasons are numerous: An offense featuring Paul Konerko and Jermaine Dye started slowly and has been erratic and unproductive. It figured to be among the best in the league, but has been anything but - and is at or near the bottom of the AL in batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage.
The bullpen has been unreliable, even though it was supposed to be a strength. Other than closer Bobby Jenks, who recently tied a major league record by retiring 41 straight batters, David Aardsma, Mike MacDougal, Matt Thornton, Ryan Bukvich, Dewon Day and Nick Massett struggled off and on. The bullpen has blown 18 saves and has an ERA over 5.00.
And then there is the rotation. Two years ago in the AL championship series, Chicago starters pitched four straight complete games to beat the Angels and advance to their first World Series since 1959. But now those days are also long gone, as is one of those starters, Freddy Garcia, traded to the Phillies in the offseason.
Jose Contreras was 11-2 in the second half of 2005 and went 3-1 in the playoffs. He started last season by going 9-0 before the All-Star break but has not been the same pitcher since. Contreras lost nine straight starts this season before beating the Devil Rays and his 16 losses are the most in the majors. He is 11-25 since the 2006 All-Star break.
Jon Garland, an 18-game winner in the each of the previous two seasons is 8-10. And Mark Buehrle, who got a $56 million, four-year contract extension last month and pitched a no-hitter in April, is 9-9. Rookie John Danks, acquired from Texas in the offseason, is 6-12 and winless in August.
Then there were some untimely injuries: Slick-fielding, clutch-hitting third baseman Joe Crede had season-ending back surgery in June, outfielders Scott Podsednik and Darin Erstad have been on the DL twice each, top utility man Pablo Ozuna broke his leg and designated hitter Jim Thome has been slowed by an assortment of physical problems.
The 33-year-old Dye, who like Buehrle could have become a free agent, got a $22 million, two-year contract extension. Right-hander Javier Vazquez was given a $35.5 million, three-year contract extension and leads the staff with 11 wins.
But the future doesn't appear to be the bright one that general manager Ken Williams mapped out during the during the World Series, when he said he wanted to build a team that would be a perennial contender.
And look at what happened to the team the White Sox swept in the World Series: the Houston Astros fired manager Phil Garner and general manager Tim Purpura on Monday after falling near the bottom of the NL Central.
Guillen, who has another season left on his contract and an option year in 2009, will use the remainder of this season to try to re-establish what he thought was going to be a constant - winning. Williams will have to reshape in the offseason.
Guillen promised next year's team will be a good one.
``I don't know who's going to be there,'' he said. ``But it can't be worse than this.''