WHITE SOX HURLER MARK BUEHRLE TWIRLS A GEM AGAINST THE NORTHSIDERS
One would think that because the baseball team representing the North Side of Chicago has fallen on desperately hard times of late that the South Siders would take pity upon their unfortunate cousins and go easy on them. After all, we all live in the same city, enjoy the same kind of pizza, love the Bears, hate the Packers, and pray to the one God with equal fervor – regardless of how you see Him.
In a perfect world, such would be the case. However, this is not a perfect world, this is Chicago – which explains the royal 6-1 drubbing my Southside heroes gave the Beastly Boys from the Northside yesterday at White Sox Park.
I hadn’t watched the Cubs this year at all which is a good thing because I would have become confused and disoriented immediately. Have they begun broadcasting Schaumburg Flyers games? A better question that Cubs fans should be asking is how is it possible that one of the richest media conglomerates in the world – the Tribune Company – is fielding a team made up of marginal major leaguers, rehab projects, castoffs, and rookies?
Yes, there are a few bona fide players like Juan Pierre, Jacque Jones, and Aramis Ramirez. But Jerry Hairston? Matt Murton? Neifi Perez? The starting lineup that took the field for the Northsiders yesterday could have been confused with the starting nine for the junior varsity team at the local community college so bereft of talent the cuddlies are this year.
No matter. It’s doubtful that the 1927 Yankees could have touched Mark Buerhle yesterday. The White Sox hurler was near perfect, pitching a 2-hit complete game gem. One of those hits came in the first inning – a swinging bunt beat out by the speedy Pierre to lead off the game and led to the only run of the game for the Cubs.
Jerry Hairston (whose father was a fan favorite on the South Side for many years in the 1970’s) then laid down an excellent bunt, placed perfectly between first and home forcing catcher A.J. Pierzynski to field it. AJ’s wild throw to first skipped on by Konerko’s outstretched glove and scooted into right field allowing Pierre to continue on to third with Hairston able to breeze into second. It was Pierzynski’s first error in 150 games, a not insignificant streak. Would that AJ was as good at throwing out baserunners trying to steal.
Buehrle as is his wont, shrugged off the error, getting out the inning with only one unearned run scored by the hapless Cubs on a sac fly by the 3rd place hitter – the not-much feared slugger and journeyman infielder Todd Walker. The fact that manager Dusty Baker has his second baseman batting in the third slot should tell you all you need to know about the potency of his offense. The only other time I can recall a second baseman batting third for any major league club was Tommy Herr for the Cardinals back in the 1980’s. That’s not to say it doesn’t happen (as I’m sure someone will clue me in via comment or email) but it is a rarity in the Major Leagues and usually denotes a weak hitting team.
From there on out, Buerhle was damn near unhittable, retiring 18 out of 19 batters at one point while walking only two batters. The Sox lefty can be one of the streakiest pitchers in the majors and if this performance is an indication of things to come, the Southsiders can look forward to sending the best one-two punch in baseball to the mound every series as the team’s ace Jose Contreras makes his return on Sunday from a short stint on the disabled list.
As for the offense, the quadrumvirate of Podsednik, Iguchi, Thome, and Konerko did most of the damage. Pods and The Guch were on base 5 times for sluggers Thome and Konerko who accounted for 4 of the 6 RBI’s driven in for th game. Thome’s ribby came on a towering, opposite field home run, his 17th of the year, off starter and loser Greg Maddux, a 300-game winner fading toward the end of a storied career. Maddux looked befuddled as his once pin-point control abandoned him and his pitches seemed to find the middle of the plate much more often than in his Cy Young years with the Braves.
Walking 5 while striking out only 1 and giving up 9 hits in less than 6 innings, Maddux’s fastball – never overpowering but always exquisitely spotted – seems to have lost some snap and his breaking ball looked ordinary. I have no doubt he can still contribute to any Major League club which makes me think he very well could be trade bait by July if the Cubbies continue their march to the basement of the National League Central.
The question uppermost in the minds of many fans this weekend is are we witnessing a changing of the guard here in the city? Are the Cubs, once the unquestioned ruler of the baseball universe in Chicago, about to be surpassed in popularity by the surging White Sox?
Not hardly. As long as the Cubs play at Wrigley field, the Tribune Company could put Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs out on the field and fans would still fill the old ballyard to the rim. On the other hand, when the White Sox fall on hard times, their fans register displeasure by ignoring the team and stay away from the less than desirable US Cellular Field in droves. In this respect, it might be helpful to view the Sox as representing American capitalism at its finest while the Cubs exhibit an affinity for the European socialst model.
Sox fans will not buy into an inferior product thus causing the team to lose money in reduced attendance. Sox ownership realizing they are in a competitive environment, then make moves necessary to bring back a winning team to the South Side which, in turn, re-ignites fan excitement in the team resulting in increased attendance and larger profits.
The Cubs meanwhile, like the French, take the laissez out of laissez faire by consistently fielding teams best suited to their fanbase of teenage girls, grandmothers, drunken Gen X’ers, and the Sisters of Mercy whose order requires obedience to God, Mother Superior, and the infield fly rule. Also like the French, the Cubs never seem to fire underperforming employees such as managers who lose more consistently than the French Armed Forces. Unlike the French however, who tend to be a sour, grumbling lot, Cubs fans are all daisies and sunshine, willingly walking into catastrophe year after year with a smile on their face and a childlike faith that the Gods of Baseball will relent in their persecution and vouchsafe their team a chance at immortality.
Alas, it appears that the generally jovial although ignorant Cubs rooters will once again be disappointed this year as they forever fan the flames of hope that one day, the Tribune executives (who laugh behind their hands at the simple minded folk who visit the holy shrine of Wrigley Field while clutching huge wads of ill gotten cash) will field a team worthy of such love and loyalty. Judging by this year’s edition of baseball futility currently playing out the string on the North Side, they may have to wait a while longer.