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Sox eliminated from playoffs
The last day the White Sox shared a piece of first place in the American League Central, catcher A.J. Pierzynski was punched by Cubs counterpart Michael Barrett.
But that blow paled in comparison with the manner in which they were eliminated from the playoff race Monday night and ended the last chance to defend their World Series title.
The Sox displayed their worst performance. Cleveland's 13-hit attack was just part of the problem in a 14-1 humbling at chilly Jacobs Field in which the Sox had just five hits and made three errors.
"Nothing is as high as last year," said first baseman Paul Konerko, who might take the rest of the season off to rest a lower back that has ailed him since May.
"I've never been on a low comparable to how good it was last year when we won. But once you win like that, it makes it worse. In the years where we didn't make the playoffs and hadn't won the World Series, it's definitely disappointing.
"But now that we've all won one, it definitely puts a lower feeling than 2001-02-03, where we didn't make the playoffs but had good teams and didn't do it. We didn't know what we were missing. Now we know what we were missing."
The Sox's decline was steady and then sharp. After falling out of first on May 21, the Sox were still 26 games above .500 and only two games behind Detroit at the All-Star break.
But they hit a skid in September, losing 15 of their last 24 games with the offense, pitching and defense rarely meshing.
In the meantime, Minnesota overtook them for second in the AL Central on Sept. 4 and pulled away while the Sox lost eight of their last 11.
"When you're talking about the playoffs, it's nice to have a nice cushion," Konerko said. "We played very well the first half, and I think if we would have built up a 10- to 15-game lead
"But you have to tip your hat to those teams. We were right there, and Detroit was right in front of us, playing well. So it was one of those things where we ran out of steam, I guess. Why? I don't know. We tried as best we could."
The Sox fell behind 4-1 in the first inning Monday night. Casey Blake's grand slam off rookie left-hander Boone Logan in the sixth prompted manager Ozzie Guillen to employ his reserves.
"A disappointing year for me, no doubt," Guillen said. "I get paid to win games, and I didn't."
Starting pitcher Jon Garland (17-7) was more blunt about Monday's performance.
"I'm embarrassed for myself," he said. "Going up and doing that is hard to dothrowing fastballs down the middle.
"We weren't prepared. We didn't come ready to play baseball. We just didn't look good."
Designated hitter Jim Thome, who hoped to win a World Series in his first season with the Sox, was philosophical.
"It's just frustrating because when you're good as a team, you expect to go a little farther," he said.
Konerko, 30, said he might have to back off on his off-season sport of golf to embark on a back-strengthening program.
"I'd like to take about a month [off] because we went longer last year, and probably one of the mistakes I made was I knew we went longer and I didn't want to be behind," Konerko said.
"So I jumped back into stuff quickly, and I probably should have taken a little more time so something never calmed down.
"This season it hits you. You're not 22 and have to be in better shape."