09/30/07 6:59 PM ET
White Sox end '07 campaign with a loss
Contreras, bullpen struggle while offense held in check
By Scott Merkin / MLB.com
Jim Thome left the game in the bottom of the first inning to a thunderous ovation following a single to center, with the affable slugger even earning a curtain call from the 33,154 in attendance. First baseman Paul Konerko exited in the seventh to another rousing round of applause, and even Magglio Ordonez, the one-time White Sox All-Star and current Detroit right fielder, earned a hearty dose of congratulations after clinching the American League batting title.
In between the moments of good feeling, Jose Contreras struggled, the bullpen melted down and the offense didn't produce much off Nate Robertson (9-13) and reliever Jason Grilli. Sadly, it was sort of business as usual for the White Sox (72-90), who posted their worst record and finished below third in the AL Central for the first time since 1989.
"I just told one of the coaches that we finished off the season the same way we started -- real bad," said manager Ozzie Guillen with a resigned smile, referring to the 12-5, Opening Day loss at home to Cleveland.
"We saw some great things, with [Mark] Buehrle's no-hitter, pretty much Thome's entire season and Bobby [Jenks'] streak [of 41 straight batters retired]," reliever Matt Thornton added. "Just awesome things, but it doesn't make the season better. It's been a rough year, but that's why you come back next year ready to go."
Thornton was one of four hurlers who worked in relief of Contreras (10-17) on Sunday, with all of them giving up at least one run. Thornton could only shake his head in near disbelief when pointing out how Sunday's performance was emblematic of his entire year.
"[A] leadoff walk that scored, a hit to a lefty, a couple of strikeouts and an infield ground ball that got through," said Thornton, whose 4.79 ERA does not give a true indication of the immense talent possessed by the left-hander. "It's all right. We'll bounce back next year."
The miserable 2007 campaign didn't dampen Thornton's confidence, and it certainly didn't crush thoughts of the White Sox being successful following just one important offseason of changes. In regard to personnel decisions, only Joe Crede, Scott Podsednik and Alex Cintron are arbitration-eligible moving into 2008.
Crede figures to be back. Podsednik does not figure to return, and Cintron would be safely classified as undecided. The team also holds options on left-handed reliever Mike Myers ($1.1 million), shortstop Juan Uribe ($5 million) and outfielder Darin Erstad ($3.5 million).
Myers didn't exactly leave a positive impression with Sunday's effort, as he did not retire any of the four batters he faced during a seven-run seventh inning for Detroit (88-74). Mike MacDougal topped off his season with a 6.80 ERA and 83 baserunners allowed in 42 1/3 innings after two of the four hitters that reached base against him on Sunday came around to score.
Simply put, it was a year to forget for the White Sox in regard to the results. But it also was important to remember so the season doesn't play out again any time soon.
"Thank God we're done with this nightmare," Guillen said. "For the rest of my career, hopefully this is going to be the last one that feels this way. You've got to learn, you've got to move on and, hopefully, you can forget about this season."
"It's been a drag for a while, and you don't want to end this way, but there are a bunch of other teams that are going to be going home today that aren't going to the playoffs either," Konerko added. "They aren't going to have a chance at winning the World Series, and neither are we. So you've just got to take some time off, get up, dust ourselves off and have at it again."
Contreras yielded five runs on nine hits over 6 1/3 innings, watching his four-game win streak come to an end and finishing tied for the second-most losses in the Majors. Josh Fields, one of the team's few bright spots, launched his 23rd home run, giving him 67 RBIs in just 100 games.
Yet, this talented team never won more than four games in a row all season and tied with the Reds for the seventh-worst mark in all of baseball. But in the face of these constant trials and tribulations, the White Sox didn't forget their fans.
Sunday's attendance left the season total at 2,684,395, the third-best in franchise history. Players threw T-shirts into the stands after the final out was recorded, and catcher A.J. Pierzynski thanked "the best fans in baseball" for their support.
One sign in the stands, though, pretty much summed up Chicago's thoughts as an entity for the future. It read, "Re-evaluate, regroup and return to glory."
"I take full responsibility about what happened, but I feel proud of my players," Guillen said. "They played real bad, we performed real poorly this year. But I guarantee that they show up every day with the same attitude. It's hard for them.
"Maybe it was the wrong team or the wrong people. I'm not going to sit here and lie. Those guys show up every day and give me the best effort every day.
"Unfortunately, we don't get it done, and hopefully, we learn from that," he added. "It is nothing I have to say against my players. They make me sick, they make me angry and sad, whatever it is. But they always show up the right way."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.