Friday, July 23, 2010
By Chuck Garfien
You swim in confidence, you drown in negativity.
Those were the deep thoughts coming from Don Cooper back on June 2 as he strolled through the White Sox dugout amid a torrential downpour of criticism that had the Sox sinking in the AL Central standings.
Lifeboats were standing by, not to mention a casket, a coroner, and the cast from the TV show Six Feet Under.
Ive seen it so many times. Confidence is the ingredient, Cooper said. Everyone has tough times. Tough moments.
And while the White Sox have magically changed the trajectory of their season since those dark, spring days, the team's pitching coach doesnt have to look far down his roster of arms to see a pitcher currently submerged in that same negativity, flooded by criticism that he can no longer be trusted to do his job.
In the hypersensitive world of modern day sports, one bad game is considered terrible, a second is downright appalling, while a third equates to the death of the players first born.
Maybe thats an overstatement, but often the reality is that when youre a struggling athlete not meeting a citys expectations, the heat you feel isnt the sun on your face, but a burning fireball of disgust and distrust by a countless stream of fans who have invested their hearts and souls into the uniform youre wearing, and if you continue to let them down, those same fans will no longer see flesh inside that uniform, but a skeleton.
Youre officially dead to them.
Thats sports. And right now there are many of you holding onto your shovels, ready to bury Bobby.
My advice would be to chill out! But I know better.
Its easy to roast your closer after he gives up four runs in the 9th inning in a heartbreaking loss to the Twins, especially when he follows it up by losing another game three days later with two runs in the 11th against the Mariners.
Its easy to condemn him because his name is not Mariano Rivera, and hell occasionally blow a save or two in a week, bringing your world to a crashing halt. Its painful. I know. Imagine having to talk about it live on television moments after it happens without using a single word of profanity.
Its tougher to recall and appreciate what your closer did before the mess, converting 15 straight saves during the Sox torrid hot streak. Remember how downright filthy Bobby was for those few weeks?
Okay, maybe you dont.
Look, Im no dummy. Neither is Ozzie Guillen. Jenks is struggling.
Something has to be done right now, which is why the Sox will turn to Matt Thornton, J.J. Putz, or even Sergio Santos in closing situations in the near future.
But what happens if or when one of those saviors takes the mound and blows a save or two. Then what? Bring back Shingo Takatsu?
I agree with Ozzie that the Sox are a better team with Jenks as their closer, and with the set-up guys lined up in front of him. But right now, they cant go there. The boat has a hole in it.
Speaking by phone on Friday before the White Sox took on the As in Oakland, Cooper did not dance around Jenks problems. He went right at it, with a fastball down the middle.
The bottom line is this, Bobby has struggled his last two outings, Cooper said. The nature of being a closer is youre on the line, and when you dont save the game, youre kind of the goat. What were going to do is simply keep our options open with the other guys that are throwing the ball well. Wed be nuts not to keep our options open. In the meantime, well try to get Bobby throwing like he did during that streak again, and I think its going to happen.
After Wednesdays extra-inning loss in Seattle, Guillen expressed concern over Jenks fading velocity. But as the pitching coach, Cooper has a much different take.
I dont look at (velocity) to tell you the truth. When Im watching the game, I dont look up at the board and say, Oh, thats 93 (miles per hour), thats 97. I just look at, Does he have enough out there in his hand that day? You take the ball 70 times during a season, there are going to be times when you have your A stuff. There are going to be times when youll have your B stuff. You might even have your C stuff. You still got enough to get it done. The bottom line is, (Jenks) hasnt gotten it done. But theres enough coming out of his hand to get major league hitters out.
So for the moment, Cooper continues to swim in confidence, while watching Jenks as he dog paddles in negativity. The water in Lake Michigan can be murky. The same with our local media.
When you fail, unfortunately the best story in Chicago is not a guy whos soaring, its what kind of crash hes going to make when things are not going well.
Jenks has fallen. Hell eventually get up. The question is, do you have his back, or an arrow pointed directly at it?
Chuck Garfien hosts White Sox Pregame and Postgame Live on Comcast SportsNet with former Sox slugger Bill Melton. Follow Chuck @ChuckGarfien on Twitter for up-to-the-minute Sox news and views.