To watch the Chicago teams this season has been much like pouring alcohol on an open wound. Except the pain from the open wound eventually goes away (unless it's too late, it gets infected, and you go to Valhalla). Watching these two teams run around on the field like Keystone Kops hasn't just been embarrassing, it has been enraging.
Let's start with the White Sox.
Rewind to the offseason. As you may have noticed a few years back, I begged the Chicago Cubs to pick up Adam Dunn, Three True Outcomes hero and even more importantly, left-handed power bat. Ultimately, a Chicago team did pick up Dunn. Sadly, if you're a Cubs fan who hates the Sox, which personally I find ridiculous, he went to the South Side.
Now, let's examine this for a second. The Chicago White Sox finally get a lefty power bat who isn't completely done (no puns intended, and I'm looking at you, Griffey) while the Cubs waste 10 million dollars on a low-average, high-power hitter.
Dunn, however, has not lived up to his lofty expectations. At the time this article is being written, Dunn's stats are .163/.293/299, 11 HR/44 RBI. This man signed a 4-year, $56M contract. Keep in mind that last season, with much less protection in a worse ballpark, Dunn went .260/.356/536.
One of the theories making the rounds in Chicago is that the change in leagues is affecting Adam. Now, I like Adam Dunn. I think he's one of the most underrated players in baseball. But let's be honest here. Up until recently, I had no doubts that Dunn was clean. I also want it known that I don't care about steroids at all unless it's to denigrate Barry Bonds, a man I loathe.
It just looks weird that upon going to a team that hits (or once hit) home runs by the bushel, you suddenly can't launch the ball over the right-field wall. Oh, and that you're on a pace for 265 strikeouts. And that an OBP machine (before this season, Dunn's LOWEST OBP was .354, which is above average for your random major league baseball player) suddenly can't get on base to save his life and the lives of everyone around him.
It's par for the course on the Good Ship White Sox, though. Paul Konerko and Carlos Quentin, to a lesser extent, have carried the White Sox offense. In a division where 84 wins could take it, a division that the Twins don't have a chance in Hades of winning this year, Ozzie Guillen is having Alexi Ramirez bunt. That's right, bunt.
Guillen is playing small ball in a league where that works for the Angels and very few others, and worse, with a team that has 114 home runs, fifth in the AL, which is somewhat of an indication that the Sox do not have the pieces to play small ball.
And then, according to lists, four of the nine slots in the Sox lineup are in the 16 lowest OPS slots in the AL. To put this in perspective, you replace four slots in a potent lineup with four random slots in the '98 Cubs lineup. That Cubs team, I should remind you who are old enough, that had no business winning the wild card that season.
I said after the Sox won their first World Series since the disgraceful 1919 season that Ozzie had five seasons of job security. The five years ended last season, and Ozzie's job security should now be questioned. At this point, the Sox are the biggest disappointment in baseball. It's not hard to see this, but at the same time, it was not expected that this offense could be this bad.
Let's look at this logically. You cannot win in baseball today without some semblance of offense, and the offense you do have must match what you can do.
Ozzie playing small ball with a team that, looking at their pieces with an exacting eye (Konerko, Alex Riios—who has also stunk— Dunn, Quentin, Ramirez, etc), sounds like a team Earl Weaver dreams about makes about as much sense as Milwaukee choosing between Prince Fielder and Ryan Braun. No matter what choice you make, it's a bad one.
Sadly, the Cubs make things worse.
If they were as good as the Sox, that would be one thing. Being 18 games below .500 is the football equivalent of a 4-12 season where you get destroyed by a 300-point differential. Making matters worse is that the six-game winning streak they had been on proves nothing.
This is a horrendous team made much worse by the fact that it steadfastly refuses to rebuild. Or play Tyler Colvin. We'd rather waste money than play a potential all-star.
Firing Jim Hendry would help. Hendry got the Cubs into this mess by dealing out no-trade clauses like they were M&Ms. The team could rebuild, and become competitive through its farm system (i.e.Tampa). Or it could if it wasn't run by a complete no-talent goofball.
Watching the Cubs play baseball has been excruciating. Worse, there's no chance that things will improve, since current manager Mike Quade went to the school of Billy Martin, Tom Ricketts has no money, and Wrigley Field needs renovation. The Cubs are poor talent evaluators of position players (Brian Dopirak. Ryan Harvey. Need I keep going?) and now that Hendry can't fleece poor teams, the Blues are singing the blues at Addison and Clark.
But it's NOTHING compared to how fans feel. For 103 years, Cubs fans have cried in their beers praying for a winner. And what do they get? Nothing! Since the last time the Cubs were even IN the world series, television as we know it was invented. The corporation that owned the team was "afraid to spend money" and then spent it wrong, and then dumped the whole mess in Ricketts' lap.
In New York, they at least expect ONE of their teams to win. The Yankees spend the money, but they tend to spend it correctly. Same with the Red Sox. In Chicago, we don't expect to win, we expect to "compete." Only in Chicago, though, do we get the owner we want...and things get WORSE.
As a baseball fan, I find myself watching other teams. Enjoying their highlights. But then the Cubs or the Sox come on, and I change the channel because I know—I KNOW—how it ends.
For nearly 15 years, I've tried to deal with this team and have a culture of optimism. In the end, though, all the optimism in the world can't get past one fact: The Cubs suck, their culture blows, and this lovable loser crap did much more harm than anyone expected.
I hate watching this team. I hate watching the Sox. I feel like a vessel's going to pop in my head when I see the middle relief crash and burn, when Matt Garza can't win unless his offense shows up, when the offense fails with runners at 1st and 3rd, when Mike Quade takes guff from his players—HIS PLAYERS—without doing anything at all.
I've had it with this team. It doesn't care. It has never cared. And instead of trying to win, it strives for "good enough to win the division." That has to end. For this team to ever be competitive, it must stop giving second-tier guys first-tier money. Good enough has to leave the vocabulary. But I don't believe it ever will.
And what drives me crazy is this a city with two teams. That doubles the opportunity to have a good team. Second-biggest city in the country. Sure doesn't play or feel like it.
The saying goes: "Be careful what you wish for." As fans, we should have listened.
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