Thursday, October 27, 2005
April 4, 2005
CHICAGO (AP) -- Mark Buehrle was in a hurry on Opening Day.
Working quickly, throwing strikes and letting his fielders get involved, Chicago's lefty was in rare form.
"We have a good defense, so let them put the ball in play," Buehrle said Monday after pitching the White Sox past the Cleveland Indians 1-0.
Buehrle retired the first 12 batters and allowed just two hits in eight innings. The first White Sox season opener at home in 15 years took just one hour and 51 minutes to play.
"Buehrle was as good as I've ever seen him," Cleveland manager Eric Wedge said.
Playing its first season opener at home since the final year of old Comiskey Park in 1990, Chicago finally broke the scoreless duel in the seventh, thanks to an error by Indians shortstop Jhonny Peralta.
Paul Konerko doubled down the left-field line, moved to third on Jermaine Dye's fly to right and scored as Peralta misplayed Aaron Rowand's one-out grounder. Peralta was the first player other than Omar Vizquel to start for the Indians at shortstop since 1993.
"If the guy throws the ball, I'm going to be out probably," said Konerko, a slow runner.
"He started to run and I started to go into the ball. I couldn't catch the ball," Peralta said. "It was a little bit tough. It played hard off the field."
Shingo Takatsu pitched a perfect ninth for the save.
How perfect. A magical season, ending the way it started, with a 1-0 triumph. Great (brilliant?) starting pitching, a strong performance out of the bullpen. And a defense so great it'll make ya believe. Yes, we had 200 homeruns and some timely clutch hitting, but the 1-0 score was a sign that this really was how it was meant to be. Grinders. Win or die (Dye) trying. Don't stop believing. Oh wow.
Peter Gammons just named this team one of the 5 best of the last 25 years. (The '98 Yankees were the best, we were named comparable to the '84 Tigers, '99 Yankees, and one other team I forget.) Based on what they accomplished: 11-1 in the playoffs, wire-to-wire leaders in a division that was better than the vaunted AL East, their pitching, a record 37 games to start the season in which they had a lead in a game (WOW!), offensive balance, and their defense.
This is gonna be a long post, so bear with me. A few years ago when I lived a few blocks from the park and worked there for a year and a half, I discovered the cult that is White Sox Nation, and it was a weird, wild, exciting place. I was something of a tourist, but I was there, and thrilled to be there. I only went to one game this year (that was a White Sox loser) but followed every game, even when I was at a Doves concert or canvassing in the suburbs. DR showed a lot of patience throughout the season & I'm thrilled he was able to share it with me. And it was a team impossible not to love. Fun, tight games. And best of all - they did it as a team. So here's to the team:
* Man Soo Lee, the Babe Ruth of Korea, adding that perfect extra aspect to the internationalism of the team as the bullpen catcher.
* Art Kusnyer, the bullpen coach. Obviously did a great job, because our bullpen was amazing pretty much throughout the year.
* Greg Walker, the hitting coach. Nobody hit .300, but nor did anyone have really debilitating droughts, and in the playoffs, when it counted, the patience shown at the plate was the difference in most of the games.
* Harold Baines, the bench coach. The only member of the current team with his number retired, a crucial connection with the teams oft-ignored history.
* Joey Cora, third base coach, who seemed unable to put on a stop sign for almost the entire season.
* Don Cooper, on whom I developed a tremendous crush over the past month.
* Ozzie Guillen, the starter for the American League in the All-Star Game, 2006. More and better things will be written about him than I can do justice him.
* Ken Williams, the architect. Any team with a black general manager, a latino manager, and a white leadoff man/base stealer is okay by me. Ken? You win. Brilliant.
* Jerry Reinsdorf, you earned a lot of fans back tonight. Thanks for trusting Ken & Ozzie.
And the players:
* Shingo Takatsu - I hope he gets a ring. He had 8 saves this year and only one blown save, but he started us off on the right track when it mattered. The only player to start the season with the team not to end it with the team.
* Brian Anderson, Joe Borchard, Ross Gload, Pedro Lopez, Raul Casanova, Jamie Burke, Jeff Bajenaru, Jon Adkins, Kevin Walker, David Sanders - apparently you played at least once for the Sox this season (some more than others, Brian, Ross & Joe). Yay for that!
* Brandon McCarthy - Started rough, showed scintillating stuff toward the end. If not for you, we would have missed the playoffs. If we somehow repeat as champs next year, it will be because of you.
* Timo Perez - Nice to have a lefty off the bench who can play so many positions.
And those with iconic playoff moments:
* Pablo Ozuna - stole 2nd when everyone knew he was going to in the Pierzynski game, and scored the winning run.
* Chris Widger - walked in the insurance run in Game 3 of the World Series & caught a lot of different pitchers into the wee hours of the morning.
* Willie Harris - singles against Lidge & scores the only run in Game 4 of the World Series.
* Geoff Blum - I was down on him, but all is forgiven with his single postseason at-bat. Hope he sticks around!
* Carl Everett - 12 hits in the postseason was nice but being on the top step for most of the playoff was great. Yelling "MOTHERFUCKER" at Roy Oswalt in game 3 after he hit Crede? Priceless.
* Aaron Rowand - my favorite. The ultimate grinder. Not enough clutch hits but he's persevered for years on this team and apparently hangs out in my building (where I work) at Jake Melnick's! And he was born 5 years and a day before my brother, both in Portland, OR, so SHOUT OUT TO BRO BEN! Iconic postseason moment: the infield hit leading to the insurance run in Game 3 of the WS.
* AJ Pierzynski - hee hee. You know that one. He has an entire GAME named after him.
* Juan Uribe - The Catch for the 2nd out with a runner on 2nd in Game 4.
* Tadahito Iguchi - The 3 run home run after Graffanino's error.
* Paul Konerko - Nice Grand Slam, there Paul-eeee. Yarr.
* Jermaine Dye - Not the fabulous single to score the only run in Game 4, not the phantom hit-by-pitch, but his at-bat against Oswalt in the 5th inning of Game 3. THAT won the series for us.
* Scott Podsednik - Nice little trade there, Ken Williams. The MVP of the season to me, the difference maker in the team, the All-Star extra player, and oh yeah, a Game Winning Home Run. Heh.
* Joe Crede - A star is born. Iconic moments - his glove throughout, that double against the Angels, and the homer to start things off in Game 3 of the WS. The people's MVP.
* Luis Viscaino - 0.00 ERA in his one inning of post-season work.
* Cliff Politte - Best batting average on the team (1.000 in his only at-bat) during the regular season. Other than a little bit of a let-down in Game 3, he did his job quite beautifully in the Series.
* Damaso Marte - Shut up me and all the other Sox fans with his work in Game 3.
* Oswaldo Hernandez - Bases loaded, no out, 8th inning in Fenway? Bring in El Duque. El mago.
* Dustin Hermanson - Gutted out a terrific regular season, but less than perfect yesterday. No matter, give that man a ring.
* Neal Cotts - A star-making turn this week on a big stage. ERA? 0.00.
* Freddy Garcia - Closed out the Red Sox. Closed out the Astros. Complete game against the Angels. Road. Warrior.
* Jose Contreras - The ace, from nowhere.
* Jon Garland - 11-3 strikeout to walk ratio in two postseason games. Weeks off in-between starts, and gems.
* Mark Buehrle - Win & a save in two straight games. All Star starter, All Star Winner. Nice little run.
And finally (and oh gee it's late):
* Frank Thomas - He knows he played his part this year. More importantly, the future Hall of Famer and best Sox player in history became part of the team and showed his love of the franchise and the city. You deserve this ring more than anyone.
* First-base coach Tim Raines. I loved seeing my favorite player ever's jersey whenever a Sox got on first. Congrats, Rock.
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