It was a cool breezy night on October 1st, 2008. The crowd, both anxious and rowdy, was fully clad in black, forming a massive dark force known as a "black-out". The Chicago White Sox and the Minnesota Twins had failed to separate from one another after 162 games, and the 163rd tie-breaker game between the squads had an uncanny game seven playoff feel to it.
It was a pitching duel, 0-0 through seven, until the mountain of a man and future hall-of-famer Jim Thome stood at the plate. In a thundering blow, he sent the pitch over the center field wall and catapulted the White Sox to an inning-later division title.
Two years later, one realizes how much things have changed.
Thome put the first nail in the half-formed coffin of the White Sox by way of his 12th walk off home run Tuesday night, a feat that ties the all-time record. Define irony.
With Matt Thornton on the mound, a straight-throwing fireballer, savvy White Sox fans could detect the peril approaching as Thome stepped towards the plate. Without much of a pitching arsenal other than his usually well-placed 98 MPH fastball, Thornton goes to his trusty pitch. And this proved to be a critical mistake.
The Peoria native Thome has made a career, and a heck of a one at that, at pounding straight fastballs over fences. There's a reason why he has unbelievable statistics against guys like C.C. Sabathia. So when he stepped to the plate, sitting at 11 career walk of home runs, and a fireballer who only throws a fastball is on the mound, the game was more or less over.
At first, I placed all the blame on both Thornton for his pitch selection and Ozzie Guillen for leaving Thornton in the game for so long. But after I cooled off, I realized that this downfall was inevitable.
Guillen had little to nothing left in the bullpen other than Tony Pena and Scott Linebrink, and he had to be careful not to use up his bullpen should the game have gone many more innings. Linebrink would have been a flat out stupid option in this situation, and Pena is debatable, but with Thornton being a left handed pitcher, which Thome has historically struggled against, Guillen played the statistics and lost.
The problem was that his odds were so low that he was doomed to fail no matter what. And so was Thornton. He's a power pitcher and always will be. Never expect him to throw a successful first pitch changeup, it's just not happening.
The Baseball Gods orchestrated that game perfectly, and Sox fans are beginning to wonder if it is time to throw in the towel and succumb to the sinking of their ship after yet another close loss on Wednesday.