Nation STATion: Good, bad and ugly of Sox slump

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Nation STATion: Good, bad and ugly of Sox slump

By Bill Chuck
Special to CSNNE.com

So when I told my wife that I was going to write about the good, the bad, and the ugly about the Sox, she said, Good luck finding nine good things to write about.

Yes, I know things are pretty grim right now, but I think I can find one positive note about the Sox for every two that are bad.

So, here are nine pieces of good news, not-so-good news, and really Lackey news, er, I mean lousy news.

Good: Jonathan Papelbon has been good all season long, but in his last 21 appearances he has been brilliant. In 22 innings he has allowed five hits (thats a .070 batting average against) and no runs walking two while striking out 28. I dont know whether he will be back with the Sox next year but I do know that this season has made him more expensive to sign.

Bad: From July 18 to September 1, Dan Wheeler made 15 appearances covering 16.1 innings; he allowed just one run for a 0.99 ERA. However, in his three appearances this month hes pitched 3.2 innings and allowed five runs.

Ugly: After his appearance on August 5, Matt Albers had a 2.15 ERA, since then it has been downright ugly. In 16 appearances Albers has pitched 15.1 innings and allowed 22 runs. Over that time frame he has had a 12.91 ERA and opponents have hit an ugly .361 against him.

Good: What about that Marco Scutaro? At the end of action on August 5, Scutaro was hitting .259. Since that time, Marco has gone 40-115, a .348 pace to bring his average up to .288. Hes hit .375 in September.

Bad: As much as this hurts my man-crush to write this, Dustin Pedroia has had a bad month. Pedey is hitting .217 this month with 15 hits and 14 whiffs. He is the engine that makes this team run. When the Sox win he is hitting .355, when they lose he is hitting .213.

Ugly: Its just ugly how miserable Kevin Youkilis is feeling and looking. Since August 17, Youk has appeared in just 10 games and hit only .167. Its painful looking at him and you get the feeling there wont be a whole lot we can expect from him the rest of the way.

Good: Adrian Gonzalez is having an MVP-caliber season. Hes hitting .333 with 26 homers and 111 RBI and has been stellar all season in the field.

Bad: For the first time this season, Adrian Gonzalez is really slumping. According to the redoubtable Ken Rosenthal, A-Gons shoulder is hurting and its affecting his ability to go to the opposite field. Over the last 19 games Gonzo has gone 14-for-64 and that .219 average has resulted in just three homers and even worse just eight RBI. Not only that, hes struck out 22 times.

Ugly: Gonzo hit nine homers in 29 games in May; since the start of July, in 69 games, he has hit 10. In June, Gonzalez hit .404. In July, he hit .373. In August, he hit .283. So far in September, he is 13-for-52, a .250 average. Thats not the only monthly decline. In May he drove home 31 runs, since then his monthly totals are 25, 19, 13, and this month 8.

Good: Jacoby Ellsbury has truly come into his own this season. His .318 average is his highest for any full season and his 27 homers are more than the career 20 he had entering the season. Entering play yesterday, the Sox were the only team in the AL with the leadoff batters in the lineup hitting over .280 (the number one hitters in the Sox lineup this season were hitting .306). That production is due to Jacoby. With 37 steals, Ellsbury has become the first player in franchise history with over 25 homers and 35 steals in the same season.

Bad: I can live with the fact that the Sox have grounded into 77 double plays with one out and 47 with no one out, that happens when you have so many runners on base. But the Sox pitchers put a lot of runners on as well and the Sox have turned just 108 DPs, the fewest in baseball. That is not a knock on the Sox infielders. In Pedey and Gonzo, they have the best fielding right side of the infield in baseball. However, the ground ball to flay ball ratio for the Sox pitchers is only 0.74 and thats the third worst in the majors. The Sox ground out to air outs ratio is 0.95 also the third worst in baseball. Now all this is not totally ugly because the Sox and the Phillies have the highest percentage of air outs (pup-ups and liners) to the infield with 17. But the groundball rate of being turned into a DP is only 8, tied with the Cubs for the lowest in the majors. The Sox pitchers are simply not helping themselves get out of jams.

Ugly: Juan Pierre of the White Sox was caught stealing yesterday for the 15th time breaking a tie with Jacoby for the most caught stealing in the majors. The being caught stealing is just a reflection of the lack Sox overall team speed. Coming into play yesterday, Boston had a runner on first when a single had been hit 322 times, the Angels 229 times, approximately 100 fewer times. Yet, both the Angels and Boston have been able to advance a runner to third on that single 85 times. Boston has had a runner on first 122 times when a double has been hit. Texas has had a runner on first 84 times when a double has been hit. Yet, they have each scored that runner 47 times. The short wall at Fenway can only claim a portion of the guilt. The fact is that the Sox are a station-to-station base running team and that makes run production even more difficult when batters are slumping.

Good: Josh Beckett has had a great season and when he sprained his ankle his presence was missed all the more. His 2.50 ERA is the best of his career. His WHIP of 0.996 is second in the AL only to Justin Verlanders 0.91. He has been a bulldog on the mound and the Bostons best starter.

Bad: Okay, bad is an exaggeration when it comes to describing Jon Lesters last nine appearances, but he hasnt been as good as the Sox have needed him to be. In those nine games, Lester is 4-4 and the Sox are 4-5. His ERA is a more than decent 3.05, but he also only pitched 55.1 innings, thats just 6 innings an appearance. The problems, in part, are his 27 walks, 50 strikeouts and the 972 pitches hes thrown. Pitching to contact should be a goal for Lester next season.

Ugly: I like to think that the new age of On-Base-Percentage arrived in Boston in 2004, when batters walked 659 times. In 2005, they walked 653 times. In 2006, they walked 672 times. In 2007, Sox batters walked 689 times. In 2008, they walked 646 times. In 2009, they walked 659 times. In 2010, they walked 587 times. This season they have walked a pretty good 544 times. While the Sox lead the majors in OBP at .348, their OBP this month is .331 because since they are not walking as much as usual and their hitters are slumping (.265 this month), they are not getting runners on base. Maybe they should have a team outing and go see Moneyball.

Good: Mike Aviles has proven to be a really great addition. He was picked up to perhaps steal a base or two and it turns out he has played third, short, second, right field and left field and has the hottest bat on the team. Granted that isnt saying much but Aviles is really hitting well, .364 since joining Boston at the trading deadline. Thank you, Theo.

Bad: When you see Josh Reddicks .289 batting average you say, Thats not bad, Bill, what are you talking about? But Im talking about the .233 batting average since August 4 and seven RBI. I cant believe he is actually getting fans to actually miss D.L. Drew.

Ugly: The bench this season has been not particularly a strength this season. Subs in games this year have hit .229. Pinch hitters have hit .153 with two homers and six RBI, obviously not much better than the players they replaced.

Good: Tim Wakefield winning his 200th game and taking the pressure off of Tito to keep him in long enough to get the win.

Bad: This has not been a good season for Tim Wakefield. Yesterday, Wake gave up six runs but only two were earned and his ERA went down from 5.13 to 5.08. Wake has only won once now in his last 10 games (nine starts). Hes pitched 58 innings and given up 44 runs and even though 12 were unearned his ERA is 4.96 and thats not good (also known as bad).

Ugly: The Sox have no one better than Wake to join the rotation. Thank you, Theo.

Good: The Sox still have a two-game lead in the wild card race

Bad: The Sox only have a two-game lead in the wild card race

Ugly: We didnt think there could be a worse month than April when the Sox went 11-15. With 10 games left the Sox are 4-13 this month and would be elated to finish 11-16.

Good: The Sox play the Orioles (62-89) for a four-game set to finish off the home season. The Sox have won 23 of their last 28 at home against the Os and are 8-3 overall against Baltimore this season. In addition, in game one today they face Jeremy Guthrie who is 8-17 and has the most losses in baseball. In the second game they face Brain Matusz who is 107 with a 9.84 ERA.

Bad: The Sox have Kyle Weiland on the mound in the day portion of the todays twinbill. Weiland is still looking for his first major league win and has a 7.58 ERA. In the second game, the Sox are throwing John Lackey out there. Lackey is looking to avoid having the worst ERA of any Boston pitcher with at least 20 starts. Lackey has a 6.19 ERA in 26 starts and is currently slightly worse than Ramon Martinez 6.13 ERA in 27 starts in 2000. Ramon is Pedros brother and I wish that Pedro was on the hill tonight.

Ugly: The Rays resume play at the Stadium tomorrow. I cant believe my ears but is that Red Sox Nation shouting, Lets go Yanks!?

Hang in there, Nation.

White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

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White Sox suspend Chris Sale over uniform flap

CHICAGO - The Chicago White Sox were set to wear throwback uniforms. Chris Sale had other ideas.

The White Sox suspended their ace five days without pay for destroying collared throwback uniforms the team was scheduled to wear.

The team announced the punishment on Sunday after Sale was scratched from his scheduled start and sent home the previous night.

The suspension comes to $250,000 of his $9.15 million salary. He was also fined about $12,700 - the cost of the destroyed jerseys - according to a person familiar with the penalty. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because no statements were authorized.

"Obviously we're all extremely disappointed that we have to deal with this issue at this time both from the standpoint of the club as well as Chris' perspective," general manager Rick Hahn said. "It's unfortunate that it has become this level of an issue and potential distraction taking away from what we're trying to accomplish on the field."

Sale was not expected at the ballpark on Sunday. He is eligible to return Thursday against the crosstown Cubs at Wrigley Field, though Hahn would not say if the left-hander would start that game.

The Major League Baseball Players Association declined comment, spokesman Greg Bouris said. Sale could ask the union to file a grievance.

FanRag Sports first reported Sale was protesting the 1976-style jerseys, which were navy and sported unusual collars on a hot and humid night.

Sale then cut up an unknown number of jerseys before the game and was told to leave the stadium. With not enough usable 1976 jerseys available, the White Sox wore white throwback uniforms from the 1983 season.

The incident comes with the White Sox in a tailspin after a 23-10 start and Sale's name circulating in trade rumors.

"The actions or behaviors of the last 24 hours does not change in any aspect, any respect, our belief that Chris Sale can help this club win a championship and win multiple championships," Hahn said. "It does not move the needle one iota in terms of his value to this club, his value to any other club that may be interested in his services or the likelihood of him being moved or kept whatsoever. None of that stuff is impacted at all by these events."

The incident does raise some questions in general about throwback uniforms, how players feel about them and whether they should be forced to wear jerseys that aren't comfortable - particularly starting pitchers.

"If I'm playing with Chris Sale I want him to pitch," Colorado Rockies outfielder Carlos Gonzalez said. "If he wants to play with no shirt, we play with no shirt. I just want him to pitch."

New York Yankees pitcher Chasen Shreve said: "Pitchers like their stuff. Me, it doesn't bother me, but for him, obviously it does. It's crazy. I don't think I'm that bad."

White Sox pitcher James Shields wouldn't comment on whether players should be made to wear throwback jerseys. But he did say: "I don't really mind the throwbacks. I haven't had any issues with that."

Manager Robin Ventura said players occasionally wearing uniforms they don't like comes with the job.

"But you wear it," he said. "If you want to rip it after, you can rip it up after. I've seen guys rip it up after."

Hahn said throwback uniforms the White Sox wore last season were a bit baggy so the team took measurements in spring training so they would fit the players better. He also mentioned the money the uniforms generate.

"Part of the element of being in position to win a championship is the revenue side of the operation and respect for their reasonable requests to increase revenue," Hahn said.

This wasn't the first flare-up involving the 27-year-old Sale, who is known for his competitive streak and strict training regimen.

He was openly critical of team executive Ken Williams during spring training when he said Drake LaRoche, the son of teammate Adam LaRoche, would no longer be allowed in the clubhouse. Adam LaRoche retired as a result, and Sale hung the LaRoches' jerseys in his locker.

He was also suspended five games by Major League Baseball last season for his role in a brawl at Kansas City that started with a flare-up between teammate Adam Eaton and the Royals' Yordano Ventura. Sale went to the Royals clubhouse after he got tossed and was seen pounding on the door.

Hahn said the punishment was unrelated to previous incidents. He also said the two had a "very candid" meeting in his office with Sale after the pitcher had some exchanges with staff members in the clubhouse and that both "expressed remorse." They spoke again on Sunday.

"At that point last night Chris stood by his actions," Hahn said. "Part of what makes Chris great, part of what makes him elite, is his passion and commitment. We've seen that sometimes spill out from between the white lines. Yesterday was one of those instances and it unfortunately led to events that required discipline."