CHICAGO – Begging and even pleading at times, Manny Ramirez asked to not be considered the savoir.
As it turns out, he knew what he was talking about.
Ramirez won’t carry the White Sox into the playoffs this season like he did in 2008 with the Dodgers. He can now say “I told you so,” but being right like this is nothing to be proud of.
Ramirez struck out three times Tuesday as the White Sox lost the opener of their long-shot series against the division-leading Twins and are now seven games out of first place with 18 to play. They haven’t been eliminated officially, although only the calculators are saying this is still a race.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way, not with a guy like Ramirez bursting through the door to be the hero. The White Sox claimed him and the $4 million or so remaining on his contract figuring it was the worth the gamble.
They could have saved a few bucks and achieved the same result, but they took a calculated risk and it failed to produce. Ramirez doesn’t have an extra-base hit in a White Sox uniform and even worse, he doesn’t have an RBI.
So after playing just 12 games with the White Sox, does Ramirez deserve to get ripped as the team’s downfall appears to be complete?
“When you don't do good, you deserve to get criticized; that's part of the game,” manager Ozzie Guillen said. “You've got to take it. But in the meanwhile, we have to understand he didn't play in a little while and he got good at-bats, he just struck out. He's fighting for his at-bats and everybody out there too. All those guys are fighting right now. Today we just came up short.”
Afterward, Ramirez showed his disdain for the interview process, with short, shoulder-shrugging answers. He did do his best not to make any excuses by saying he feels good at the plate and he feels close to getting in a groove.
In the end, he couldn’t help himself, ultimately reminding everybody that his playing time has been limited this season.
“Like I said, I don’t look for excuses,” Ramirez said. “I got a long time that I haven’t played. All I have to do is go out there and battle.”
Instead of the front-office being applauded for laying it all on the line with the Ramirez addition, they’ll likely get ripped. Ramirez wasn’t the right fit they’ll say and the White Sox will be reminded of it as they pay his deferred salary for the next few years. He was damaged goods they’ll add, spending three separate stints on the disabled list this season.
Tuesday’s problem was actually a microcosm of the second half ride into mediocrity when the White Sox struggled to get the key hit and the bullpen charted a rocky course.
How many chances did the White Sox blow on Tuesday?
Paul Konerko tripled [yes, tripled] in the fourth inning with one out and didn’t score.
The bases were loaded with one out in the sixth inning, but the White Sox scored just once, and that run came on A.J. Pierzynski’s double play grounder.
Trailing by a run in the seventh inning, the White Sox loaded the bases with one out. They didn’t score when Konerko and Ramirez had back-to-back strikeouts.
Konerko was willing to make a case for his new teammate’s struggles.
“I don’t think anyone is questioning Manny can hit,” Konerko said. “If you are, then you don’t know the game. So, we’ll stay behind him. He’ll get his hits as he goes. It’s not as easy, those at-bats late in the game. … This game is tough to when you are not in there every night through the course of a season, no matter what you’ve done in the past.
“It’s tough to come down hard on someone like that. That’s just my opinion.”
In the big picture, though, the White Sox were victims of their own surprise midseason success. A lousy opening two months was followed by a blazing stretch when the White Sox won 26 of 30 games at one point.
The consensus was that they weren’t as bad as their 22-28 record in April and May and they weren’t as good as their hot June and early July. Indeed they have been somewhere in between those two portions of the season, going 29-27 since winning their first game of the second half, which put an end to their 26-victories-in-30-games run.
Ultimately, the starting pitchers couldn’t keep up the blistering pace they had going in the middle of the season, and the bullpen was ravaged with injuries to key personnel, including back and forearm issues for closer Bobby Jenks, a sore knee for J.J. Putz and elbow inflammation for Matt Thornton.
So do the White Sox have their backs to the wall?
“We are through the wall right now,” Konerko said. “You know, before the series, you know it’s tough and you have to probably sweep. But you just continue to play hard and who knows, we get the next two and keep battling until they tell you you can’t battle anymore. It’s what you get paid to do and what you do as a baseball player. It’s not something in my world you make conscious decision if you play hard or you don’t play hard.”
By the numbers
9: White Sox victories against the American League Central in their last 22 games against division opponents. Tuesday’s defeat dropped them to 30-34 against the AL Central. The White Sox have lost eight of their last 10 games to the Twins and are 5-11 overall against them.
“Sometimes you just get beat. I got beat tonight on that last at-bat. I did everything I wanted to. I’m swinging the bat great. I did everything I wanted to do and the guy beat me. I can live with that. I wish they were all like that. That’s the way it is.” – Konerko, on striking out with the bases loaded and one out in the seventh inning.
White Sox right-hander Gavin Floyd (10-12, 3.91 ERA) will make his 30th start in the middle game of a three-game series with the Twins. He matched a career high by giving up 13 hits in his last start at Detroit, taking the loss. He is 0-3 against the Twins this season with a 7.41 ERA, giving up seven runs over 5 1/3 innings in his last start against them Aug. 18 at Minnesota.
Floyd will be opposed by Twins left-hander Brian Duensing (8-2, 2.02), who picked up the victory in his last start, giving up one run over eight innings against the Royals. Seven of his nine starts have been quality and the Twin are 6-3 in those nine starts. He is 2-0 in four appearances against the White Sox this season but doesn’t have a start against them.