ChiSox seeking help up top
The White Sox upgraded their team with a few additions, but still have a few flaws that need to be addressed.
When asked what tops his wish list, Guillen didn't hesitate to express his desire for an "on-base guy" at the top of his order, while also hoping to light a fire under his current 1-2 hitters, Willie Harris and Juan Uribe. As Ozzie put it, "I've never seen any team in the history of baseball hit more solo home runs than we do." (They came into the weekend leading the majors in that category, with 90.)
He also acknowledged that Uribe's been playing way above even the club's expectations for the first half, considering he wasn't even acquired to be a starting player.
The combination of no true tablesetters, and the huge void created by the simultaneous absences of Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas, two high on-base players, can hardly be filled by Everett or even the current surge of Carlos Lee and continued thump of Paul Konerko. Thomas likely won't be back until mid-September and Ordonez may never play again for the Sox, with free agency looming, a bad knee, and no way to get anything for the injured four-time All-Star, if Williams is unable to sign him.
Jose Valentin may lead all shortstops in home runs, despite missing nearly a month, but he's exclusively a left-handed hitter now and should be platooning, and probably shouldn't be at short. He made baserunning and fielding gaffes against the Twins that directly contributed to Minnesota's sweep in the 10-inning finale Wednesday. Like the rest of the healthy White Sox, outside of Everett, Valentin also suffers from a low on-base percentage. After getting picked off earlier, Valentin dropped a foul pop by Jacque Jones, which Jones followed with a game winning, go-ahead single.
For his part, Hunter took away an extra-base hit from Timo Perez with a leaping catch in the right-center gap leading off the bottom of the 10th, and set the tone for the sweep, if not the series when he barrel-rolled Sox rookie catcher Jamie Burke with a four-run lead in Monday's opener. The collision with Hunter, a former Arkansas high school quarterback, sent Burke to the hospital, and Chicago writers to their laptops, and radio hosts to their microphones clamoring for retaliation. Most of it came from U.S. Cellular Field fans who got in Hunter's face in the on-deck circle in his last at-bat, but he got right back in theirs, and far from being intimidated, said it helped him to stay focused, invited security to "take a break" while he's on deck, and any fan who wanted to come on the field to go right ahead, that would be an invitation to a "bullwhipping." Torii said the collision was all instinct, with no malice, and he tried to tell Burke during the next two days, but he didn't get cleared to play from a catscan and other tests until noon on Tuesday, and used Wednesday's pregame to sleep and continue to recover from a mild concussion. Burke, a former Oregon State placekicker himself, got in the game late in a defensive switch, and Hunter cleared the air from the batter's box.
Newman is still spooked by the Westin Hotel, where the Twins still stay on their visits to Chicago, despite former Twin Quinton McCracken's father dying there, as well as the Cardinals' Darryl Kile. Newman said he couldn't sleep at all Monday, and not much Tuesday either, worrying he may fall asleep and not wake up. He gets flashbacks of brain activity from the three weeks he was asleep to the world, and has no idea how to process them. The other thing he found hard to process was the boxes upon boxes of well wishes and letters he got when he finally got home, intending to answer all of them with the help of his mother, but finally conceded a posted gratitude on the Internet was the only human solution. About the only other residual mental effect the Twins coach suffers from is that if he has to relieve himself during a game, he often forgets to zip his pants, no matter how often the players remind him, and they do, knowing the fans in the stands wouldn't hesitate to point out the dress code violation.
Gary Miller is a reporter and play-by-play announcer for ESPN's major league baseball coverage.
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