Some of you are thinking about this picture.
Some of you are wondering what this picture is doing attached to a baseball article.
Some of you might think I'm a little off for this one.
You're wondering, "Why, Chris, do you have a swimming picture up for this White Sox piece?"
Because Sunday night's men's 4x100 meter swimming relay serves as a poignant and timely analogy to the AL Central division race—for both teams.
It was all over...
Admittedly, I have not been as excited for this year's Summer Olympics as I have been in the past. I'm a runner, a track athlete by trade, and as a young kid, I followed with interest the victories of Carl Lewis, Marion Jones, Michael Johnson and his gold shoes, Jackie Joyner-Kersee, and decathlete Dan O'Brien.
I was glued to the TV for every event, no matter if the U.S. was the favorite or not.
This year, however, I just haven't been interested. Until now.
On Sunday night, at Beijing's Water Cube swimming facility, the American 4x100 meter relay team looked finished. Michael Phelps' first leg time put the U.S. in second, and while Garrett Weber-Gale swam like a man possessed, third man Cullen Jones was soundly outpaced by Frenchman Frederick Bosquet.
Going into the anchor lap, Jason Lezak was a full body length behind Alain Bernard, who looked to deliver on his promise and "smash the Americans."
At the same time, Phelps' quest of eight gold medals looked to fading away.
But a strange thing happened on the way to defeat. As the swimmers reached the final turn and the announcers gave the French the victory, Lezak, for some odd reason, continued to swim his hardest. He didn't coast in, even though Bernard had him by a quarter-second. He didn't cash in his chips. He kept going.
Matter of fact, he started to swim faster. And faster. And faster. And as the wall came into view, he pulled one more time, kicked as hard as he could and touched the wall—hundredths of a second before Bernard.
The U.S. had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat, and won the gold medal.
These are the times
"So what, Chris?" you're asking. "What does this have to do with the playoff race?"
As the Twins hold that slender half-game lead over the White Sox heading into tonight's action, we see a pair of teams who have had similar seasons, almost in reverse.
Twins' ace Francisco Liriano just returned from surgery and rehab a few weeks ago, while Sox pitcher Jose Contreras just had his season end due to a major injury.
The Twins had injuries to position players early in the year, leading to the emergence of Denard Span. The White Sox's recent run of injured players has led to the breakout season of Alexei Ramirez and the return of Juan Uribe.
And most importantly, in a division where they were predicted to finish third and fourth, the Sox and Twins are fighting it out for the division lead. And much like the race on Sunday, it doesn't matter how they got there or who's in the lead on the final day.
All the matters is who touches the wall first.
How it all stacks up
I came to write about the White Sox, but when you have a history dating back to the beginning of the decade, you have to talk about the Twins. And to the untrained eye, it would appear that Minnesota has the advantage.
Their young pitchers (Slowey, Blackburn, Perkins) have done well their last few outings, and Liriano is Liriano. They've made good showings against the Sox this season, and all the rest of the games between the two teams will be on Twins' turf—literally.
But the White Sox have shown that they have no quit in them. Twice in the past three weeks, they've been on the canvas versus the Tigers, one strike away from defeat, and twice, they've pulled out a victory.
After last year's debacle versus Boston, the White Sox earned a series split with the so-called "Right" Sox (as the signs said), and had John Danks gotten out of the seventh inning, they might have won the four-game set.
The Fighting Sox will not give up. Even with their starting third and first basemen out or struggling, pitchers on the shelf, and Ken Griffey Jr. not living up to his billing as a hot bat late in the season, the Sox are still contending.
After breaking even last week at 3-3, and especially after losing the weekend series to KC, some (including myself) are questioning whether the Sox are cut out to finish strong and put the Twins in the rear-view mirror.
I have resolved that the Twins will not be in the rear-view mirror anytime soon, and neither will the Sox. Last week, I said that the ChiSox needed a winning streak or a run of 7-3 or 8-2 to set the Twins back on their heels. This week, they have a prime opportunity to do just that.
While the Twins do have the tough Yankees for two more (and an uphill battle versus Mike Mussina tonight), they are at home until next Thursday and have a great opportunity to get hot.
The Sox have been matching Minnesota step for step, and winning three versus Kansas City would put the Twinkies on the hot seat for sure. Plus, a road-series win this weekend versus the A's would be good for the team and the fans, who are always uneasy under the lights of the Oakland Coliseum.
"We got 'em right where we want 'em!"
Those words spring to mind when thinking of that iconic swimming race from Sunday night. I don't know if Jason Lezak is a Broncos fan or not, but Keith Bishop's quote surely rang true as Lezak stunned the French in Beijing.
The White Sox have can do the same in the last month and a half of the season. It would be easy for the Twins to see the Sox as banged up and out of it at this point. They have the home-field advantage when it counts, and the Sox have been hard-pressed to win at the Triple H Metrodome.
However, I wouldn't be surprised to hear that Nick Swisher has a sign up somewhere in the Sox clubhouse with those words on it.
"We got 'em right where we want 'em."
Beast of the Week: D.J. Carrasco. While the Sox made an easy choice in his entrance music (Lil Wayne's "Go DJ"), they might need to pick a new Weezy song soon: "Fireman." Carrasco has been just short of stellar for the Sox in holding down the opposition.
He came in and did his job Saturday night against Boston after Contreras went down, and kept the South Siders in the game. Let's hope the Vinyl Spinner can get a quality start Thursday against the Royals.
Until next time, let the Sock fly on and as always, keep waving the Pennant.
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