Putting Chicago's ugly baseball season to rest
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Ah yes, the 2013 season in Chicago. I remember it well.
It would be nice not to. Can that be arranged?
Theory: if I write down some of the notably horrific occurrences, cataloged for eternity, they can live on this page and get out of my head.
It's worth a shot.
Closing eyes, concentrating, envisioning a festering trash heap of baseball refuse. I see …
• Gordon Beckham dropping an infield pop fly in the ninth to allow a game-tying run in late June. Chris Sale was denied a win.
• The brothers Upton in Atlanta homering back to back off Carlos Marmol to tie and then win game 5 of the season. That was foreboding.
• The White Sox bullpen allowing 5 hits and 3 walks to blow a 6-run lead last weekend in Detroit. Chris Sale was denied a win.
• Starlin Castro's June. He had a .204 OBP, with an OPS impossibly below .500. This was the beginning of a cavalcade of columns trying to figure out what was wrong with him. It was eventually obvious that an experiment to help him improve failed miserably this year, which indicted many.
• Chris Sale's June. In 6 starts, he gave up 34 hits in 42.1 IP, had an ERA just above 3.00, struck out 53, and allowed an OPS against of just .571. The White Sox, however, scored 13 total runs in those 6 games and lost 5 of them.
• The Cubs designating Michael Bowden for assignment to make room for Matt Garza's return in late May, then putting an unused Shawn Camp on the DL the very next day. "Obviously (keeping Bowden and putting Camp on the DL) would've been the obvious move." Obviously. No worries; no one wanted Bowden, who came back, only to be DFA'ed again in September. The point is that the bullpen was both bad AND mismanaged.
• The White Sox hitting their season peak for hope with a sweep of the Florida Marlins on May 24th. They were 24-24. They lost 8 in a row, 10 of 11, and 17 of 22, and then never got better than 9 ½ games back of the Detroit Tigers.
• A mostly calm Cubs clubhouse and dugout, sullied by three incidents in five days in September. It culminated with Kevin Gregg's bizarre trip to the press box to explain himself, and an apology to management that saved him from being released.
• Jeff Keppinger going a stunning 140 plate appearances into the season without a single walk. That first walk did drive in a go-ahead run in extra innings. Keppinger's batting average remained higher than his OBP until the 39th game of the season.
• Alfonso Soriano's contract finally being unloaded to the Yankees, at a time when he had evolved to impress with defensive improvement and veteran maturation. Somehow, even achieving a goal like that ended up feeling empty.
• Hawk Harrelson, taking advantage of innumerable opportunities to exceed his own record for disgusted silence at the end of hideous, crushing losses. There were three separate instances of more than 60 seconds, as his genuine pain manifested in nothingness.
• You needed two things to celebrate a playoff spot in the NL: champagne and the Cubs. Three teams celebrated their success over the course of six days.
• The 2013 season also brought tales of 1948. In that 154-game season, the Sox lost 101 games. The Cubs lost 90. Their combined total was the worst in city history, until now.
On the positive side:
There were some good things this year. My nature is usually to put the focus there. But if the initial theory holds, a list would send them away. Can't risk it.
Let's hope for a productive off-season.
Let's hope for conceptual clarity for the White Sox, and free-agent dollars well spent.
Let's hope for prospect progression for the Cubs, with more visible emblems of hope by April.
Let's hope we don't see the likes of 2013 ever again.
• Matt Spiegel co-hosts "The McNeil & Spiegel Show" 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday-Friday on WSCR 670-AM. Follow him on Twitter @mattspiegel670
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