The crosstown rivals are both defending division champs stuck in the middle of the standings as they gear up to go head to head.
Christina Kahrl: Given that both of these clubs made the postseason last October, and both of them are not in first place now, how disappointing has baseball been for Windy City fans, and what do you think each team should do about it?
The players most likely in 2009 to suck away some little bit of hope for their respective teams.
Recently, I examined last season's Replacement-Level Killers, affixing the title that Jay Jaffecoined to a group of bungling batsmen, floundering fielders, and helpless hurlers whose poor play torpedoed their teams' chances of reaching the playoffs in 2008. Last year's lowlights deserved a look, but with three weeks of baseball under our belts in 2009, we've already begun to turn our attentions to what certain players haven't done for us lately (sometimes a touch too eagerly). As promised, I've come up with a list of candidates for the 2009 Replacement-Level Killers squad, predicated not on what we've seen so far in limited action, but on what we're likely to see in the months ahead.
Over the course of a lengthy season, avoiding replacement-level production often hinges more heavily on timely, effective responses to poor performance and injury than on selecting the best candidates from an available pool of Opening Day starters. In many instances, an appearance on the list represents not so much a criticism of the player in question, as an indictment of the managers (both general and otherwise) who put him in a position to fail despite his known limitations (although in certain cases, such as those of J.R. Towles or John McDonald last season, the extent of the collapse likely could not have been foreseen). However, in general, teams act rationally by awarding the bulk of the opportunities to the most capable players on hand, which not only makes their occasional failures to do so more frustrating, but renders forecasting the identity of the Killers difficult.
For those of you keeping score, don't try all of this at home.
So, I admit it, I do some of the things that I shouldn't do behind the wheel. Consider my lot yesterday-running late because of that compulsive need to finish yesterday's article, I'm driving down 31st Street and crossing the Dan Ryan before hanging that eventual left that puts me in the promised land of Parking Lot A (easy in, easy out) and a quick run to the elevator and the press box to follow Game Four of the ALDS, and Ed Farmer's announcing the lineups on the radio, and I realize that there's just no way I'll make it in time. I keep score as another matter of compulsiveness, and I realize that the school bus that's parked in the left turn lane isn't going to evaporate no matter how much I expend telekinetic energy in that direction.
So, waiting for the indolent traffic cop to eventually feel inspired to unsnarl the same snag that's been there for the last 10 minutes, I reach to my bag, fetch a pen, unsling my scorebook, and get the lineups down in my book. It's Ed at his most cooperative, and I'm reassured that, yes indeedy, neither Ozzie Guillen or Joe Maddon is doing anything funky in Game Four in the ALDS. It's another Hinske-free day, another moment for Dewayne Wise to try and enjoy the benefits of the BP reverse curse.
Forgive me a second, as I doff the analyst's cap. As is, I lack the gifts of a Silver or a Sheehan, or a Davenport, Fox, or Woolner. Instead, bear with me as I simply go over a trip to the ballpark yesterday. One that just happened to be in an October, and one that just happened to be in my favorite place, Chicago.
In a long life as a fan and a somewhat shorter career as a writer, there are many things I've done, but many things I still had yet to do. While I have caught a foul ball (promptly handed off to the nearest kiddo), and made the trek to the Cactus League a couple of times for spring training, I haven't seen a no-hitter in the flesh, for example. Obviously, some things are not like others—random luck can put you in the right seat and/or at the right ballgame, while time and/or money can put you in Phoenix in February or March, or at a playoff game in October. Even so, I had yet to experience a post-season ballgame in the flesh. That changed yesterday, courtesy of the White Sox, as the always-crisp crew of Scott Reifert in Communications and Media Relations played host to the Fourth Estate for Game Three of their ALDS, and generously made space for Nate Silver, Kevin Goldstein, and myself among the ranks of the chattering classes.
The Sox played their way into October with two dramatic wins this week, while the Rays won their division with six dramatic months. Who holds the advantage?
Each year, the White Sox graciously host a University of Chicago alumni event, where Christina Kahrl and I speak to 150 or more nerds in the U.S. Cellular Conference & Learning Center. The group gets tickets to the game too-which usually means a contest against the Orioles or the Royals, or perhaps a thrilling interleague tilt against the Pirates; clubs that don't motivate many Chicagoans to give up an afternoon from their short summers to come out to the ballpark.
Don't stop believing in the AL Central, the Orioles' annual late-season wing-clipping, and instant replay on the job.
White Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen was chatting with a group of reporters this past week, when the talk turned to analyzing the remaining schedules of the two contenders in the American League Central. Some felt that the Sox had the easier path to winning their first division title since 2005, a season in which they also won their first World Series since 1917. Others believed that the Twins had the clearer path to a second AL Central crown in three years.
Picking all 64 All-Stars, plus news and notes from around the major leagues.
The All-Star Game is still nine days away, but this year's event is already on the verge of becoming the most-hyped Midsummer Classic ever. The game will be played at Yankee Stadium in the Yankees' last season in the venerable Bronx ballpark. Major League Baseball and the Yankees plan to boost the event's memorability factor by bringing in more than three dozen Hall of Famers for a dizzying array of events and ceremonies.
How different ballparks affect velocity, whether pitchers use the fastball more early in games, and the challenge of quantifying plate discipline.
"Plate discipline though is difficult to measure. Good plate discipline can mean swinging at the first pitch, fouling off the fifth, taking the tenth; it's about hitting when it's possible to do so and walking when not. If it's possible to hit, a walk is a relative failure. Ultimately though, because information as to just how many juicy pitches players swing at and how many unhittable ones they take is non-existent, though walks are an imperfect measure, they will have to do."
--John Hill writing for The Cub Reporter weblog in 2005