Turning a diving play at third base into a routine-looking final out or delivering a strong throw from left field to first base to double off a runner just doesn't have quite the same broad-based entertainment appeal of a 450-foot home run. But through the first five games of the 2008 season, airtight defense has played as much of a role in the White Sox success as their balanced offensive attack or strong work from the bullpen.
Take Joe Crede, as an example. He's swinging the bat with the same level of authority as he did during the final week of Spring Training, which still isn't at the level to which he was accustomed to in 2006 before the back surgery. His defense at third, on the other hand, has been as flawless as ever, as shown by his lunge to the left on Brandon Inge's grounder with two runners on base to close out Saturday's win.
Finding that comfort level at third, upon his return during Spring Training, has been a key for Crede in keeping up his Gold Glove-caliber play.
"With everything we were able to do in Spring Training, and with the way my back felt, I was able to go out there and do everything and was able to get myself in great position," said Crede of his slick defense continuing at the hot corner.
"Offensively, there are a lot more aspects of it as far as, obviously, different pitchers out there," Crede added. "I can't really put a finger on why one feels a little better than the other. But as a player, you're always striving to feel good on both ends."
During the first two games of this weekend set, Carlos Quentin picked up an assist in the fourth inning Saturday when his throw from medium-deep left field hit first baseman Paul Konerko on the fly to double off Edgar Renteria on a hit-and-run situation. Jermaine Dye also took a hit away from Renteria in the ninth inning of Friday's win, with his sliding catch in right preserving Bobby Jenks' second save and stranding two runners.
Even Nick Swisher, who came in known more for his power, on-base potential and tremendous clubhouse demeanor, has shown steady glovework in center field. Swisher made a diving catch on Ivan Rodriguez's sinking liner for the second out of the ninth on Saturday and helped facilitate the team's first win in Cleveland with a running catch of Franklin Gutierrez's second-inning drive to left-center that would have scored a run if not for Swisher's wall-crashing effort.
He had a .200 average entering Sunday night's series finale. But Swisher was contributing in other ways.
"I'm just trying to do whatever I can to help the team," Swisher said. "I always go back to that cheesy clichÈ, 'Do whatever you got to do to help the team win,' whether it's me going to center, left or first or designated hitter if someone needs a day off.
"But it's been fun. With this park and the amount of grass that's out there, I definitely wouldn't want to be playing there every day."
Scott Merkin is a reporter for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.Less