Wednesday, Sept. 15, 2010
By Chuck Garfien
Frank Thomas was driving into the city before the game on Tuesday when he suddenly heard a booming sound coming from his luxury automobile, stopping his car dead in its tracks off the Kennedy Expressway.
Little did Frank know that he was living the perfect metaphor of the Minnesota Twins, a team notorious for putting sugar in the Sox gas tank, taking the nuts off their wheels, the air out of their tires, stalling their playoff hopes with the delicate touch of a jack-hammer.
Frank would need a tow truck. The White Sox need something more, like a brand new car, one that can drive around (or over) the likes of Mauer, Kubel, Liriano, and even mans best friend, Jim Thome, who when I told him before Tuesdays game to take it easy on his former team, he laughed and replied, But this has been good for me.
Yeah, we know.
Tuesdays crushing 9-3 defeat makes the White Sox 5-and-11 against the Twins this season. When the season is over, and youre looking for a reason why your team didnt win the division, look no further than that.
The Twins seem to get up for the White Sox every time, Thomas said last night on a spirited U.S. Cellular White Sox Postgame Live. Were their biggest rival. They come to play us like its the World Series every time.
The rivalry officially took shape in 2004 when Torii Hunter famously barreled into Sox catcher Jamie Burke at home plate. Bill Melton has done about 600 White Sox postgame shows since then, and there is nothing on the planet that irks the former South Side slugger more than the pesky Twins.
Maybe because theres nothing Bill can do about it. But the Sox sure can.
Playing the Minnesota Twins is tough, and youll never turn it around until you start to beat them like they beat you, said Melton, who explained that you need to play better defense, with fewer errors, less walks, and make their hitters feel like they are being squeezed in a 7-foot vise whenever they come to the plate.
Thats not happening. Instead, its the White Sox who are feeling the pressure, as well as the pain. Theyve been hit eight times by Minnesota pitchers this season, while the Sox have only hit the Twins three times. In fact, no team in the American League has gotten hit more (71), and no team has hit batters less (30) than the White Sox.
Theres something wrong there. And when the Twins see that, they find a way to make it a right, which annoys Melton to no end.
You look at their averages, you go Well, theyre good, Melton said. But why is this guy not hitting .320? They hit .350 off of us. A lot of it is they just feel relaxed at the plate. They feel good. Theres no pressure on them. You know why? Because they know the White Sox will throw it away.
Manny Ramirez is one of the most clutch hitters in baseball history.
But give him a White Sox uniform, send him to the plate against the Twins, and watch him fold under pressure. Tuesday, Ramirez struck out three times and left six men on base.
Thomas, a former first baseman who became a DH, has one theory:
This is the first time he has ever been a designated hitter full-time. Going down the stretch hes used to playing left field. That has a lot to do with timing also. Its really tough. For the first time, hes not out in left field relaxing, goofing off in the outfield and not thinking about hitting as much.
Manny has to be Manny.
That could have something to do with him, not swinging the bat as well, Thomas said.
Melton has another idea. It might have something to do with the drinking water inside the Sox clubhouse, or more likely, inside the Sox noggins.
The Twins beat the White Sox every year. That becomes a mental thing after a while. I dont care how many times you change your lineups and your players, thats something you always take with you on the field. You wish you could forget it, but you cant.
Nor can Bill, who when I asked him what it will take for the Sox to win the division replied:
It would be a miracle. Its not so much the White Sox, its about the Twins. They just dont lose.
Hes right. One of these days the Sox need to make that a wrong.
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox sluggers Frank Thomas and Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.