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Even Sunday's 8-0 victory over the Indians, highlighted by Jose Contreras' best pitching performance since May, can't disguise that the White Sox are baseball's most disappointing team.
While their victory broke an 11-game road losing streak, the Sox have dropped 18 of their last 22 games and set off shouts of "quitters" from fans tired of watching the team with the major leagues' worst batting average and third-worst earned-run average.
But Jim Thome, the most veteran player on the Sox with 15 years in the big leagues, asks fans not to believe everything they see. He says the players are not simply going through the motions while counting down the days.
"It's tough, because when you lose, people might look at it and say, 'Oh, they have a lot of quitters,' " Thome said. "Well, that's untrue. [Just] because you're losing games doesn't mean you're quitters.
"I can tell you this right now: We have a lot of guys in here that don't quit. As a player, you understand when you're not doing well ... you're going to hear things like that. You have to understand that it comes from people who care and also want us to win.
"That's OK to make those comments, but I can tell you from the inner circle of things, that's not the case."
Thome is convinced that, without injuries to Joe Crede, Scott Podsednik, Darin Erstad, himself and others, the Sox would at least be in the middle of the pack.
"No excuses, but if all those guys are healthy, it would have been different," he said. "Things have just not gone our way. Clearly, that doesn't mean you give up. Whether you play in September or April or spring training, either you have it in you or you don't, and that's to have a positive attitude and keep going."
Obviously, the Sox don't have the enthusiasm they had in 2005, but lack of runs and blowing leads has come from lack of talent. That makes a team look lethargic, prompting Saturday starter Javier Vazquez to question his teammates' desire.
"That's the first time someone else besides me has come out and said it," manager Ozzie Guillen said. "It's good for the ballclub when someone else says we need to step it up, saying it seems like we are ... flat.
"This is like [going] to school for the last two days. It's like, 'What do we come here for?' But as soon as you take the field, you have to play your game. You have a lot of things to play for, especially the people who pay to watch you."
There may not be many new paying customers at home the rest of this season, despite Sunday's performance by Contreras, whose record is now 8-16. With his offense tying a season high with 18 hits—all singles except Erstad's home run—Contreras shut out the first-place Indians on four hits in 6 2/3 innings. The last time he allowed no runs in a game was May 10 at Minnesota.
"Good for him and good for us," Guillen said. "Every time he throws strikes, he has success."
Asked the last time the Sox had won such a lopsided game, Guillen laughed and said, "July of 2006."
Still, the Sox are within six losses and/or Cleveland victories from being officially eliminated in the Central Division.
"Anybody who [predicted this] in spring training when we put this team together, I would call them crazy," Guillen said. "But we deserve and earned this situation."