Wednesday, May 04, 2005

White Sox 4, Royals 2

The White Sox took home a 4-2 win and became the first team in the majors to reach 20 wins on Wednesday despite their No. 2-through-5 hitters combining to go 1-for-14. Jermaine Dye picked up some of the slack in the six hole with a 2-for-3 night, while A.J. Pierzynski and Joe Crede clouted home runs from the seventh and eighth spots, respectively.

With only six hits and two walks, it’s probably not a game the Sox deserved to win, especially with starter Freddy Garcia walking a tightrope by allowing eight hits and two walks through 6 1/3 innings. But they all count, so they’ll take it.

Maybe the best thing the Royals have going for them is that first baseman Mike Sweeney went 2-for-3 with a pair of doubles and two RBIs, lifting his average to .321. He also leads the majors in doubles with 10.

It’s not the kind of “good thing” for the Royals in that they need him to play better to help them win games. It’s the kind of “good thing” where they need him to play better so they can ship him out of town.

Sweeney is owed $11 million this season, as well as each of the next two years. He’s also due a $1.5 million per year raise if he’s dealt anywhere. What looked like a good deal after 2002, when Sweeney signed for five years and $55 million, is now an albatross.

Because Sweeney has played below his .877 career OPS the last two seasons while also missing more than 50 games each year, he’s not considered a good risk for a contending team looking for long-term help. But if the Royals are resigned to paying off a chunk of the contract, how well Sweeney plays will help determine how much they’re on the hook for.

Putting on a Royals hat for a minute, I don’t think it would be a good idea for the Royals to pay a significant amount just to get rid of Sweeney. He wouldn’t bring much in the way of prospects, and given the Royals other 1B/DH options, they’re better off eating the money and leaving the guy that’s been the face of the franchise out there, even if it amounts to little more than a PR move.

But Royals owner David Glass probably doesn’t see it that way. If he could get by with paying half the contract and sticking league-minimum guys out there like Calvin Pickering, he’d rather do that because he’s still saving almost $20 million bucks over three years. And that’s the Wal-Mart way.

The Sox aren’t looking for a first baseman (imagine for a minute how ultra-Christian Sweeney would get along with Ozzie Guillen swearing in his face), so this really only effects them in that they might get to play an even worse Royals team later on this year.


Why are we here again?:
Apparently, the only purpose Neal Cotts had in Wednesday’s win was to come on in the sixth inning and walk Ruben Gotay. After getting nobody out, he was relieved by Cliff Politte.

I haven’t written a word about Cotts in a while, and that’s because nobody has seen him since April 24. Since back-to-back bad outing against Cleveland raised his ERA to 8.10, he’s brought that back down to 3.86, despite a still scary WHIP of 1.71.

Nothing personal against Cotts, but I still don’t know why he’s with the Sox instead of at Charlotte. Is it really in his best interest to only get sporadic mop-up work? He’s on pace for only 42 innings this year.

More importantly for Sox fans, is it important to waste a roster spot on a guy that’s going to come in for a couple games, not pitch very well, and then not see action again for another week or so?

So once again, here’s a call to let Cotts learn his trade very fifth day for the Knights.

Closing the door:
Dustin Hermanson pitched 1 2/3 innings to pick up his fourth save. Nobody is using the expression “closer by committee,” at least not loudly, but that’s how it’s working out for the Sox. Shingo Takatsu has seven saves and Damaso Marte has one.

I could quibble with some of Guillen’s bullpen decisions, especially ones that involve brining a guy in for only one batter before rotating another guy in, but I think he does deserve some credit for being flexible.

GM Kenny Williams also deserves some credit, too, for giving Guillen a lot of good options. Consider:

-- It was back in spring training of 2002 that he picked up Marte from the Pirates for Matt Guerrier. At the time, some Sox fans complained Williams was giving away yet more pitching prospects to the Pirates (that deal came on the heels of what shall be called the Todd Ritchie Fiasco). Marte has since been signed to a cheap, long-term contract.

-- Politte was brought in before 2004 on a one-year deal with an option for this season. He pitched well and despite the fact that the Sox declined his option, Politte came back on another bargain-basement 1-year, $1 million deal.

-- Takatsu is making $2.5 million this year after making peanuts last year. Despite his 7.04 ERA in this young season, he’s still got a 2.83 career ERA and is 26-for-28 in save opportunities since coming Stateside.

-- Dustin Hermanson signed a 2-year, $5.5 million dollar deal that was ridiculed pretty roundly by baseball pundits. He has yet to be scored on in 13 innings this season.

It’s still early, and especially with relievers we’re talking about small samples sizes, but combined, that foursome has struck out 10.33 batters per 9 innings. So we know the ability is there.

Joe Crede has hit a mini-slump, getting only two hits in his last 16 at-bats, but his home run tonight was encouraging. Paul Konerko is now hitless in his last 22 trips to the dish.

Carl Everett cooled off with an 0-for-4 night, but Jermaine Dye teased us with the idea that he might just come out of his season-long slump with his strong night.

Timo Perez has been slumping since 2001. If not for 49 at-bats with an .802 OPS in 2000, we might call this a career-long slump. Or we might say he sucks.

Scott Posednik’s on-base percentage is back up to .359 with a hit and a walk in four trips to the plate. He also stole a base and is now 11-for-12 in that department.

A tangent on that though: The generally accepted break-even point for stealing bases is 80 percent, though I guess you could argue that it’s a few percentage points lower because it gets guys in motion and puts more pressure on the defense.

The Sox are now 30-for-40 in stolen bases on the season after three successful attempts on Wednesday, which means at 75 percent, they’re not quite to the point of being effective. But at least they’re not giving away runs.

Around Baseball:
Have the Yankees really given up 28 runs in three games to the Devil Rays? We knew the pitching was going to be so-so with Kevin Brown and Mike Mussina getting old, plus the high-dollar additions of one-year wonders Carl Pavano and Jaret Wright… but his is just getting ugly. UGLY. Even the fifth-best offense in baseball isn’t bailing that staff out. … The Brewers, once again my pick for surprise team of 2005, bounced the Cubs again tonight. The Cubs have lost four straight and are now looking up at the Brew Crew in the standings. … Barry Bonds out at least two more months. With the Giants playing only .500 ball without him, they’re probably screwed.

On Deck:
Jose Contreras goes against Zach Greinke. This will be fun to watch if for no other reason than the pitcher.

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