A team can look as appealing as gold on paper, but unless it actually transfers to the playing field, all efforts to put together a winning team go for naught. Would this be the case in this, the 86th season since our last title, or would the Sox win the luck of the draw?
Things did not start off on the right foot. The White Sox were swept in the first series of the season at Kaufman Stadium in Kansas City. Fortunately the next 10 days provided the Sox with much-needed feastings on Cleveland and Detroit—two of the games current bottom-feeders. Of course, everyone plays the Indians and Tigers as well; and, games like those are the ones you have to win if you are going to contend. They eventually got a little revenge for their first series loss to the Royals by taking a series from them in Chicago. The four-game series against Cleveland from April 18-21 was a tale of day and night. Friday and Saturday's games provided great light, as the Sox played things right, while Sunday and Monday's games brought darkness, as the Sox couldn't do much on the field. After that, they went into Baltimore and took the first game before embarrassing themselves in the other two games of the series. Fortunately, they countered the series loss to Baltimore with a series win against Minnesota. After looking pathetic on Friday night, the Sox put forth two solid efforts on Saturday and Sunday, which gave the Sox Round One of the Sox-Twins war this year. The month didn't end on the right foot, as the Sox followed with two losses to Oakland. But, then again, should we expect the Sox to do well against the A's? I mean, they have lost around 17 of the past 20 games against them, so should anything be different? The Sox finished the month of April with a record that isn't anything close to something we should be writing home about: 14-13. So, indeed, April provided many showers for our Sox.
The month of April presented various highlights, lowlights and question marks, which I will note:
1. Esteban Loaiza - Loaiza has notoriously had good outputs in the month of April, but who ever would have guessed that he would exit the first month of the season posting a perfect record of 5-0, along with his league-leading 1.25 ERA? Loaiza pitched lights-out all month long, winning AL Player of the Week honors during April's final week. Hopefully he will continue at this pace.
2. Kelly Wunsch - Wunsch pitched 7 1/3 innings out of the bullpen during April and did not allow a single run charged to his name. In fact, Wunsch only gave up one hit and walked five. Wunsch has been our best pitcher in the bullpen so far.
3. Gary Glover - Glover looked rather spotty as a starter in previous seasons, but it seems as if he's found his niche in the bullpen. Glover pitched 11 1/2 innings in April, posting a 0.77 ERA. Glover has appeared very relaxed on the mound, which has translated to a formidable performance.
4. Jose Valentin - Valentin has been the Sox' best positional player so far. Tying the team with six home runs, Valentin has been our main clutch-hitter. Whenever Valentin is on his game, it seems as if the rest of the team is sparked, so we have to hope that Valentin won't have many "off" days, or we may be in trouble.
5. Carlos Lee - After starting off cold in the first week-and-a-half, Lee pulled it together and began to hit. He has been known to be a defensive liability, however, he is trying hard in left to improve. He's tied for the team lead in both home runs and RBIs. He also became the youngest Sox player ever to hit six career grand slams. Hopefully Lee can continue to improve.
1. John Garland - Garland has had some troubles this season, posting a 2-2 record with a 6.53 ERA. At times, it seems as if Garland has totally lost his confidence. I think he's putting too much pressure on himself to pitch well, since there were high expectations set on him during spring training, that he doesn't just go out there and pitch. If Garland can pitch a game like he did last year in Boston, I think he can pull himself together and still have a successful season.
2. Billy Koch - Kenny Williams traded for Koch simply to solidify our roster at the closer spot; however, Koch hasn't done the job yet. He's only recorded three saves and has a relatively high 7.82 ERA. Nearly every outing of his has put runs up on the board for the other team—Koch has had a knack for serving up home run balls. Sometimes when I see Koch pitch, I see flashes of Keith Foulke before my eyes. I hope things don't turn out that bad for Koch.
3. Paul Konerko - Is this the same Paul Konerko who was selected to the All Star game last year? This so-called "all star" ended the month hitting .244, which isn't anything stellar. His speed on the base paths is nothing to write home about. It's good to see him display some emotion in the dugout, but it would be better for him to transfer that energy into his play. Konerko still can turn things around this year if he starts to see the ball better.
4. Aaron Rowand - On the message boards at www.soxtalk.com, a poster known as ‘Baggio' coined a new term known as the "Heather Line." The Heather Line is named after yours truly, and is reached when a batter's batting average reaches my weight of 125 lbs. Rowand actually did that on the last day of April, and finished the month off with a measly 0.133 average. It is fitting that he found himself in AAA Charlotte soon after.
1. Mark Buehrle - Buehrle came into the season as the ace in the pitching rotation. He, however, has posted a 2-4 record thus far, which leaves a question mark in our minds—is he losing some of his "steam" that has won him nearly 40 games in the previous two seasons? Buehrle, unfortunately, hasn't been getting much run support, which puts more pressure on him to pitch better. Hopefully our offense will be able to help Buehrle get more tallies on the left side of his won-loss record.
2. Magglio Ordonez - Yes, Ordonez has been producing with regards to his batting average (0.284), and is tied for the lead in home runs and RBIs. But, Ordonez could have more RBIs if he wouldn't constantly hit into double plays. It seems as if he's hitting into double plays every game, which means he's the opposite of being clutch. Perhaps he's putting too much pressure on himself since the media had high predictions for him this season. Once he learns to stop hitting into double plays, we might not cringe as much when he comes to the plate with runners on base.
The month of April provided us with several surprises, some things the Sox wish would go away, as well as questions that remain unanswered. There is an old saying that "April showers bring Mayflowers". The Sox certainly had some bad showers during the month of April. Hopefully that old saying is the case here, and that we Sox fans will smell a nice bouquet at the end of the next month.
Heather Marsala is finishing her junior year at Illinois State University, studying to become a high school mathematics teacher. She avidly supports her Blackhawks, Bears, White Sox, and Bulls. Heather plans on writing monthly columns appraising the month that was here at www.soxnet.net. Look for another one of her columns around this time next month. If you wish to contact her, you may email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.