A game and a half is not much. Nothing at all, in fact, in the spring when everyone is fresh and keen and baseball is fun, when the clubs are all crowding on each other's heels and everyone has a shot at the old flag. September is then a future so distant you don't even think about it.
These days, I can't help but think about March.
The middle of March was nothing out of the ordinary in south central Illinois: rainy, chilly, windy. Kids were salivating about the approaching spring break and the adventures of Cabo, Cancun, or South Padre.
I was thinking about being stuck at home in Chicago all week with nothing to do except work on my Com Theory project.
March was so different from now. Back in March, the Sox were losing to the Diamondbacks in Tucson.
Back in March, Nick Swisher was the big story.
In March, we all had the sour taste of 2007 in our mouths.
In March, no one knew who Carlos Quentin was, and Alexei Ramirez was just some dude that Jose Contreras had helped get out of Cuba.
Back in March, the Tigers and Indians were going to murk everyone and spend September deciding who was going to get the division title and the Wild Card bid.
I can't help but think of March.
The best laid plans of mice and Bud
A game or so isn't much in midsummer either, although the fun has long vanished and baseball is a grind. Because a game won or lost then can easily be picked up later.
Many a person has told me that ESPN constructs the matchups they want for sports and for the major playoffs and then does their best to make it happen. A lot of my friends told me that the Lakers-Celtics series was a small conspiracy.
If so, the Sox-Twins duel is not going to generate a lot of money. But that doesn't mean that the games will have any less meaning.
These are two teams with a lot of pride, a dramatic (though fairly recent) rivalry, and a lot on the line. For to the victor goes the spoils, and for the loser, there is no consolation prize. The Wild Card is for the East as usual, and tell you the truth, the AL Central division winner might not make it out of the first round of the playoffs anyway.
However, just making it to October is enough of a reward. Because all know anything can happen in October.
Dreaming of Soxtober
I've seen the White Sox go to the playoffs three times in my life. In '93, I was more concerned with the trials and tribulations of the Power Rangers and Michael Jordan to be involved with the White Sox.
In 2000, I was convinced they could mow down anyone in their path, and was so devastated when Sweet Lou and Carlos Guillen stonewalled the Incredible Foulke.
In 2005, I was rewarded for sticking it out. But something was missing; something was hollow. Maybe it had all been too easy (August and the Tribe's charge notwithstanding.)
Now, the White Sox are on the cusp of the playoffs yet again, and this time, they've had to fight and claw all season to be where they are. As much as I've wanted them to pull away and bury the Twins, they haven't. The Fighting Sox lost their fire somewhere between Cleveland and New York, and it's a toss-up as to whether they can spark it again tonight.
Last week, the Sox put the final nail into the paper Tigers and then took one on the chin in New York. But they took two of three from the Royals, demonstrating the team they've been all season: able to beat the bad teams but floundering against the good ones. Still a 5-4 week is not bad, even in the last weeks of the season.
After all, the Sox are up two and a half, just like JJ wanted.
Do we have a chance?
A game isn't much even in late August, when the injuries mount fast and the best men are overworked and tired, and all the pitching staff is thin and drawn; even then a game or so is no great handicap.
The Fighting Sox are long removed from early June, when they manhandled the Twins in four straight at Comiskey. Jose Contreras was still with the team. So were Pablo Ozuna and Nick Masset. Dewayne Wise was chilling in Charlotte, and Carlos Quentin was killing the baseball.
Now, TCQ's controlled fury is on the bench and Contreras is long gone. And that is a cause for concern.
The big Cuban had routinely been lights-out in September, and he was poison for the opponents in 2005. Without Jose, the Sox don't necessarily have the shutdown hurler they need.
Without Carlos Quentin, the Sox don't have a clutch hitter who can get the big double or even single. Jermaine Dye is in a small slump, putting the onus on Paulie K and Jim Thome.
On the other side, Alexei Ramirez and D-Wise have stepped up as of late, even if it is the "big home run" that management has lamented the past years. And the starting pitchers have thrown everything out there these last weeks.
No one has a marked advantage going into tonight's series. Both the Sox and Twins' bullpens have had their struggles lately. The Twins starters' have suffered, but their offense has picked them up in key situations. The White Sox have had good pitching, but the offense seems to scuffle if they get behind.
Both teams have an equal shot.
There's no place like dome
October is beckoning to the Fighting Sox with open arms, but they need to win two of three in Minnesota. No predictions on a surprise sweep here; it would only be fanciful dreaming. Past that, a series win at home against Cleveland clinches the division, and that's more than possible with a pair of September callups starting.
The Sox control their destiny going into this matchup with the Twins. And that's more than anyone could have dreamed back in March.
But in the final weeks of the season, a game and a half is as big as twenty. - John R. Tunis, The Kid Comes Back
Beast of the Week: Dewayne Wise. Kenny Williams looked like a genius again when D-Wise gave Marcus Thames and the Tigers a Rick James-backhand into the visiting bullpen on Sunday night, and was the only bright spot for the Sox on Monday night in New York. The guy has speed and a hot bat, which the Sox will need to take on the Twins.