Friday, November 07, 2003

2003 White Sox Season High/Lowlights

High Points
Taking 4 out of 6 against the Cubs - It’s always fun to beat the Cubs. This was the first year I went to the cross-town series as I attended Games 1 and 3 at Wrigley. But the best game had to be Game 1 at Comiskey which I watched at Monk’s Pub. It's great that my boss is a Sox fan.

Twice in that game the Sox intentionally walked Patterson with one out to load the bases for Sammy. Sammy had been struggling the first half of the season so it was probably the smart baseball move to make. But even if it was smart it still had to be insulting to Sammy.

Both situations were intense and the crowd was going crazy. The first time up Sammy struck out. The second time he managed a sacrifice fly. Anyway, Sammy could have changed the game in either at bat but failed. Man, was it enjoyable. The Sox went on to win that game with a walk off home run by Jose Valentin.

Winning 13 out of 14 after the all star break to make up 7 games in 2 weeks - The Sox started the second half on a great run that I thought would propel them to the division championship. But after a 12-1 win at Seattle on August 1, the Sox would basically go on to play .500 ball the rest of the way.

The Sox sweeping the Twins at home at the beginning of July - The last game, the first with Everett and Alomar in the line up, was fantastic. Down to their last out in the 11th, Konerko hit a home run to tie it. Frank then won it in the 12th with his second home run of the night. It was a great at bat against everyday Eddie that ended in a walk off 2 run homer.

Low Points
Being swept by the Tigers (and losing 2/3 to the Rays) - The Sox finally built some momentum in early July by sweeping the Twins at home and then promptly lost 5 of 6 on the road to the two worst teams in the AL. Ugly.

Being swept by the Twins in September - After the Sox won the first two at Comiskey versus the Twins I again became optimistic that the Sox would win the division. Those were big games and the Sox came to play. However, they would go on to drop the next five against the Twinkies. Even worse, the games were hardly competitive. Culprit number 1 was Esteban Loaiza. The Sox ace had two of his worst outings of the year against the Twins which pretty much sealed the Sox fate.

Turning Point
While the head to head versus the Twins was obviously a turning point in the season, the first sense of doom came on Wednesday September 3rd. The Sox were one game up on the Twins. Every knew they needed some breathing space in order to win the division since the Twins had a much easier schedule down the stretch. Things looked good in the afternoon as the Angels built a lead on the Twins. But then something, if not miraculous, then certainly out of the ordinary happened. With 2 outs and no one on base, and Troy Percival pitching, the Twins scored two runs to win the game. The tying run, Dustin Mohr, was out by two steps at home when he ran into the catcher, Molina, and broke his wrist. Stewart then came in to score the winning run in the ensuing mayhem. I was tracking the game on Sportline and I couldn't believe my eyes when they posted the score.

So the Sox needed to win to stay a game ahead. They should have won the previous night against Boston when they left plenty of men in scoring position with less than two outs. The same thing was happening on this night. But then in the ninth they had a chance to win the game. Like the Twins/Angels game this involved a close play at home. Rowand had come in to pitch run at first after Thomas singled. Ordonez then doubled down the line. But Rowand, looking like he’s running in quick sand, gets nailed at the plate. Boston went on to win on an Ortiz homer in the tenth. Just like that the division was tied but the Twins had the clear advantage. That was the turning point of the season.

Now the Sox had to at least win 5 of 7 head to head against the Twins in September to have a shot at the title. Well, they lost 5 of 7 to the Twins. The Sox did end up going 8-5 with their tough opponents down the stretch (NY, BOS, KC) while the Twins went 9-4 against the Indians and Tigers. But it’s not likely the Twins would have dropped 3 of 4 versus the Tigers if they hadn’t already clinched the division.

So while the Sox did go 41-27 in the second half they weren’t able to hold off the Twins. There were some exciting moments in the season but overall it was a disappointment. Look for individual player evaluations in the next few weeks.