Sunday, April 20, 2014

Wishing Buehrle back on Sout’ Side

It’s early in the baseball season. Nowhere near enough ball games have been played to be able to say a team is doing well. Or poorly.

But I couldn’t help but notice the record of pitcher Mark Buehrle in Toronto (what with four wins, no losses and an earned run average of 0.64) and wish the Blue Jay were still wearing black socks.

THE FORMER CHICAGO White Sox pitcher achieved enough here during his career (a pair of no-hitters, a World Series appearance and all those Opening Day starts) that he’s always going to be remembered primarily for what he did here. His stints with Miami, Toronto and any other ball club he ever pitches for (maybe someday the St. Louis Cardinals he rooted for as a kid) will be the add-ons of a professional career that is very impressive for a guy who was drafted in the 38th round out of a junior college in Missouri where he played ball for a year.

But you have to admit he’s had an impressive season’s start – most recently pitching just over seven shutout innings Saturday night against the Cleveland Indians.

Starting pitching may not be the White Sox’ weakness this season. But you have to wonder how much better the South Side ball club would have in 2014 if that 0.64 ERA were done here.

For those of you who don’t comprehend, an earned run average figures how many runs he gives up in a typical nine-inning stretch. Thus far, he gives up about two-thirds of a run.

HE’S BOUND TO have a bad outing eventually that will shoot his ERA up to a more normal-sounding figure (something that starts with a “3.” rather than a “0.”

I’d definitely think that 2013 wouldn’t have been quite as atrocious if Buehrle had been around, ensuring that losing streaks didn’t get quite so long if he had been pitching.

But ’14 is ’14. The White Sox seem to be on their way to being a team that will win about 80 ballgames – and no more.

Although as evidence of how early it is in the season, Buehrle’s Blue Jays ball club is 10-8 and in first place in their division (tied with the New York Yankees), while the White Sox are 8-10 and in fourth place – only a half-game ahead of the Cleveland ball club that Buehrle beat.

ON THIS EASTER Sunday (when perhaps we should have higher ideals in mind than the doings of a mediocre ball club), we should wait for the next significant holiday (Memorial Day) before we start seriously paying attention to the standings.

Maybe then, Buehrle himself won’t have quite so impressive a record. Or maybe he’ll be even better.

And maybe, by chance, the 35-year-old who likely has another two or three seasons left may wind up returning to Chicago for a career-ending stint that would make some fans happy while waiting for the White Sox to put together a team that would actually contend for a league championship.

Which I still suspect will come to the South Side and Bridgeport before it manages to work its way up to Lake View.


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