All Fingers Point at Manuel

Jerry Manuel loves to send Bartolo Colon out to the mound for nine innings: Colon's five complete games rank second in the American League. It wasn't surprising, then, to see Colon firing warm-up pitches before the bottom of the ninth Thursday night. Holding on to a 4-2 lead, Colon was rapidly closing in on his sixth complete game. Sox faithful, however, saw No. 6 deteriorate into complete shambles.

Typically in a close game, a manager calls for a reliever after the first runner reaches base. After Durham's single to lead off the ninth, it made sense to keep Colon in to face Bonds. After all, Colon had sat Bonds down on strikes in Barry's previous 3 at-bats. Unfortunately, in his fourth trip to the plate, Bonds clubbed a 2-run game-tying shot.

At this point, Manuel decided to shrug off the scoreboard and let Colon carry the team. In a tie game, Manuel most definitely should have called for a reliever (probably Marte, who has been doing rather well in the closer's role of late). Instead, Manuel opted to carry on with Colon. Benito Santiago then singled, making a call to the pen seem absolutely necessary. After a fielder's choice, Manuel watched, lackadaisically, as Colon gave up another single, balked, and then preceded with the intentional walk. The game had reached a superfluous and startling pinnacle.

With powerful right-handed shortstop Rich Aurilia coming in to pinch hit, Manuel went with lefty Damaso Marte. Why not Billy Koch? Sure he has had some rough performances this season, but why not go with a hard-throwing righty who is showing vast improvement? Marte would have been a nice call with the bases empty and a clean slate, but bringing in the lefty to face Aurilia, with the bases loaded, was absurd. Aurilia is a career .286 hitter against southpaws, and has fleeced five homeruns off lefties this year. The battlefield being set as such, Aurilia fired the deciding bullet - the grand slam, signaling defeat for Colon, White Sox, and whatever coaching "strategy" Manuel had pulled out of his …er … playbook.

Who is to blame here? Colon? Obviously not - you can't possibly blame the big ace for running out of gas. Marte? How can you blame Marte? He was put in a mismatch and was simply beat. Manuel is to take the fall for this one. All signs were pointing to the Sox playing real baseball again, but Jerry put a stupidly dramatic end to the good times last night. While Manuel was asleep in the dugout, the White Sox lost the rubber match of a series that could have ended with a decisive, momentum-sustaining victory.

Why is Manuel still wearing a White Sox hat today? Losing a crucial series at a crucial point in the season must have no effect on the bosses upstairs. If Manuel does not feel comfortable using Koch, what business does Kenny Williams have being a White Sox executive? How can Williams not be searching the Jobs section after trading for a star closer that now suddenly won't even be given opportunities to close?

Perhaps Neil Cotts will salvage the trade for Koch, but last night Neil Cotts was no help to the White Sox. Nor is Billy Koch if Manuel will not give him opportunities. Sorry, Jerry, I think I have seen enough of your managing. It's too bad for Sox fans that Big Jerry can't get enough of it.

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