Piranha Finger Puppet Night!

class=img_thumbleft> It was Piranha Finger Puppet Night here in the Dome, and thousands of merry children were given little green toys to play with and ignore the game on the field. And where at first it seemed as if the collective magic of a bunch of urchins biting at the opposition wouldn't have an effect on the diamond, eventually their hoodoo worked. For the piranhas did their part, helping to tie the game while the big bats won it for the Twins, 7-4, on Justin Morneau's walk-off three-run homer in the tenth.

Now, I don't know if this is a league-wide thing, but it certainly seems like the "younger" teams--like the Twins as opposed to the White Sox--have to rely on sugar-coated gimcrackery as Piranhas and TC Bears to keep their fans amused. I'm pretty sure the Tigers don't have goofy, faux-Disneyland mascots, nor do they have this fuzzy-wuzzy piranha thing to describe their lesser players. The White Sox don't either, but what they do have is an abundance of curmudgeons in the stands, which is sort of a mascot in itself (though one that's woefully undermarketed). These grumps are one quality of this franchise that I've always found interesting.

Talk with a White Sox fan prior to their miracle 2005 season, and there was a distinct lack of self-pity, unlike their brethren on the North Side. They didn't bemoan the fact that the Sox had gone as long or longer with a championship than the Cubs or Red Sox, nor that they had built the last of the ugly stadiums. There was never a curse with these fans, the fault of their incompetence didn't rest on the shoulders of Billy goats or Bambinos. No, it wasn't anything other than riotous mismanagement and the hard knocks inherent in the sport of bat and ball.

(Except this one guy I once interviewed, a doctor who felt the spirit of banned Black Sox shortstop Buck Weaver enter into his body during a game and knew that the Sox would never win unless Buck was reinstated. He is currently in the process of trying to build a Black Sox museum and spending lots of money to do so.)

Something tells me that if you were to talk to the typical Sox fan today--and by 'typical' I mean the guy who's been watching these bums since he was a kid and not just on the still-rolling World Series bandwagon--he'd be grouchy, grumpy, insisting that the woes of this Chicago White Sox can be found in nothing so mystic as lousy hitting.

And, man, is their hitting lousy. The White Sox--who were supposed to have big bats this year, if nothing else--suck at the plate. They make the Twins look great, and that's saying a lot. Their numbers are atrocious: the Sox have scored the fewest runs in the American League (110), lowest average (.222), the worst average with runners in scoring position (.219) and the worst on-base percentage(.305). Curmudgeons feed off stats like those, sit scowling at home and the park, and don't wonder why life is as it is. Just sucks, is all. Have a beer and watch the exploding scoreboard. And know that good luck charms and silly little finger puppets don't mean much in the game of bat and ball.

Give the Twins credit for hanging on and playing well. It looked, at first, as though the Sox were going to steal this game away from the Boof. A pivotal error (on Boof's part) and a string of cheap hits in the sixth inning took Bonser's effective performance (and Morneau's second-inning blast, the first of the night) and turned it into a 4-1 deficit that lasted until the eighth inning. Bonser gave up only eight hits, one walk, and seven K's--and four of those hits were in that sixth inning, and three of them would've been taken off the board if he hadn't thrown the ball away on a toss to third. With the extra out, the Sox pounced, scoring three times on as many cheap singles.

For a moment it seemed as if the Sox would also benefit from the Twins usual practice of trying to suck even worse than their opponents. Through seven innings, Javier Vazquez kept our bats cool, giving up only four hits against his own single walk and seven strikeouts.

But in the eighth, Ozzie Guillen relied on White Sox reliever Mike MacDougal, who must surely have a place in the hearts of Southside existentialists who see this game as more evidence of the pain and futility of life. MacDougal gave up three straight hits before wandering out, head low, and then watched as, two outs later, Torii Hunter knocked a hit that tied the game and kept his hitting streak alive at 22. The Twins had to be content to wait until the tenth, when Castillo hit a double, Hunter was intentionally walked, and Morneau did his heroic deed, sending a towering home run into the upper deck in right. Maybe this marks the point where the MVP resumes his style of play from last year. It took some time and a talking to last season before he turned it on. One can hope, one can hope.

So it was a night with a little bit of everything: grumps, mascots, good luck and bad, errors, decent and lousy pitching, Texas league hits, a coach whose first name is Razor (that's an aside), an intentional walk on Nick Punto (!), a 22 game hitting streak and a walk-off homer. Not to mention Piranha Finger Puppets.

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