Anyone that is a long time White Sox fan knows one true emotion, fear. Fear that anything that can go wrong will go wrong, and the inevitability of another wasted season because of it. I've felt this emotion far too many times in the parts of five different decades I've been observing this team. It's perhaps our one true defining trait as a fanbase. We simply believe that we aren't allowed to have nice things. When a certain octogenarian owns the one sports team you truly care about, what else are you supposed to feel?
There is, however, another emotion that grips me during the months April through October. That is one of pure, unadulterated hatred for the Minnesota Twins. I want all the bad things in the game of baseball to happen to them. So far in 2021, many of those bad things have hit the team from Canada South. Now, I don't root for injuries to guys like Byron Buxton, Josh Donaldson, and others. I more so root for the under-performance we've seen from them as a collective unit. If you could inject that into my veins, I'd most likely be able to take on the world.
Here we are on June 28th. The Twins are coming to 35th/Shields tonight in last place, 11.5 games back of our beloved Sox. These teams will lock up seven times in the next 10 days, in what will likely tell the tale of the 2021 Minnesota Twins season. Our Sox have an opportunity to drive the death nail into the heart of their most hated rival, leaving no doubt that it is time for them to sell off any remaining assets in attempt to revamp for 2022.
Make no mistake about it, these games are pretty significant. On paper, you see two teams at opposite ends of the standings. However, the Twins come into this series having won seven of their last 10 and have started to resemble the offensive powerhouse they've been for the previous two seasons, en route to capturing two AL Central titles. On the flip side, the Sox begin play tonight having lost seven of their last 10 and are limping their way into the All-Star Break. If it wasn't for a bad stretch of play by the beleaguered Cleveland Indians, we wouldn't be able to boast about a first place ball club, because they have looked like anything but that for the last week and a half.
Too Little Too Late?
As of this article's publishing, the Twins are 10 games below the .500 mark at 33-43 (it feels great to type this). According to Baseball Prospectus' famed PECOTA algorithm that Sox fans have grown to hate so much, the Twins have a 10.5% of overcoming their poor start to win the AL Central. The odds are certainly stacked against them. However, I can't help but think back to the 2006 season when they sat 15 games below .500 at one point, only to take the division title on the season's final day. As I wrote above, I'm a Sox fan conditioned to be fearful.
Even if the Twins aren't able to pull off an all-time comeback and capture their third consecutive division title, they have more than enough ammunition to make things uncomfortable for the White Sox and Indians. In many ways, the Twins may very well be the deciding factor in who punches their ticket to October. I think it goes without saying that in spite of all the injuries and issues this team has had in 2021, they are more talented than their record would indicate. Nelson Cruz is still bashing the baseball. Jorge Polanco is starting to heat up, while youngers Alex Kiriloff and Trevor Larnach are going through the ups-and-downs of their first Major League seasons. However, both have shown enough flashes to make people believe they will be key components of the Sox's hated rival for years to come.
The deck is stacked against them in large part due to issues on the pitching front. But, can a depleted White Sox offense muster up enough firepower to kick them while they're down? The last ten days haven't been particularly encouraging, as the Sox are in the midst of perhaps the worst offensive malaise of the 2021 season. It will be necessary for veteran leaders Tim Anderson, Yoan Moncada, and Yasmani Grandal to pick up the slack for an injury-riddled lineup that may very well be without the services of Jose Abreu after he exited Sunday's first game against the Seattle Mariners.
Take Care of Business
The White Sox simply can't look at the Twins the way they would look at a typical last place team. Despite all the injuries that the Sox are dealing with, they have to find a way to overcome and take care of business in these seven upcoming games. A lot of things have gone wrong for the Sox of late, but they have to look past it at this juncture. Much has been written for the better part of, oh I don't know 20 years or so, about the Twins holding a psychological edge on the Sox. There have been signs that the Sox are beginning to turn this tide, splitting the ten games the teams played a year ago, coupled with the Sox taking five of the first six the two have played in 2021.
The Sox truly have an opportunity to drive the steak through the heart of their hated rival and force them to wave the proverbial white flag on the 2021 season. If the Twins come out of this 10-day stretch and are able to pick up three or four games in the standings, it may be the thing that springboards them back into believing they can overcome this deficit. It is incumbent upon the Sox to not allow this to happen.
The Sox have the perfect opportunity to shovel dirt on the Twins season, and it would be great to see a role reversal from much of the last two decades. Admittedly, things haven't been great in White Sox land for the last ten days, but righting the ship against the team I hate with every fiber of my being would certainly be a great start. I'd love nothing more for the Sox to channel their inner Scott Hall and signal the end of the 2021 Twins.