Things are not going well at 35th/Shields. After dropping two of three games to the Royals, marking nine losses in the last 10 games, the Chicago White Sox are now 7-11. I know everyone wants to say that it's early and there's a lot of baseball to be played. While those statements are true, this team is reaching a potential inflection point in its season already. Something hasn't been right with the Sox for the last week and a half, and if they don't snap out of it soon, things could get ugly early.
This recent stretch of bad play is reminiscent of the dreadful 2011 "All In" season that became a slow death march by late April. Yes, the 2022 club has suffered devastating injuries in the early going, but nobody around the league is feeling sorry for them. They have no choice but to right the ship -- a task that starts this weekend -- because if they can't, the dreams of Soxtober 2022 could be put to bed by late June.
Running The Gauntlet
All winter we heard about how the AL Central was going to pose no threat to this White Sox team. I even wrote that I believed it would take a catastrophic set of circumstances to prevent the South Siders from repeating as division champions and reaching the postseason for a third consecutive season. Well, we've had a catastrophic set of circumstances befall this team between injuries, bad luck, and generally poor performance. As is the case with this beautiful game, just when you think you've been smacked in the face enough, you have more adversity that you must overcome.
Starting Friday, the White Sox will embark on a grueling 50-game stretch that runs through June 22. During which, they will stare the teams many believed to be their competition to winning the pennant in the face. The Sox schedule over that span includes the Angels (4x), Red Sox (6x), Yankees (7x), Rays (3x), Blue Jays (6x), Astros (3x), and throw in the Dodgers (3x) for good measure. That's 32 games of a possible 50 against viable postseason contenders.
Essentially, it will be sink or swim time for this team. They've been ravaged by injuries to this point, yes, but they have no choice but to find a way to overcome them. Otherwise, any optimism that may be remaining about this team will completely dissipate before Independence Day. The Sox have already dug themselves a hole with their bad play, particularly in the division (which wasn't supposed to be the case), and they now are faced with running a gauntlet of postseason contenders for the next month and a half.
Cream Rises To The Top
The prevailing narrative that surrounded the Chicago White Sox last season (and all winter) was that they were unable to play with the heavyweights of the American League. This largely stemmed from poor showings against the Astros and Yankees, but alas, it has not stopped following the Pale Hose. Sitting at 7-11 with what was believed to be a soft schedule to open the year, a season that started with so much optimism is potentially on the brink of disaster.
Since late October of 2020, we were told that Tony La Russa's championship pedigree would be an intangible that would help push this team to the top of its championship window. Well, now would be the time for that to come to fruition.
Don't mistake that comment as me saying the failures to this point are solely a function of TLR, because they aren't. He has played a role in this poor start, having exacerbated issues that are taking place defensively and in the batter's box. But if there ever was a time for a manager of his pedigree to show why he has a plaque in upstate New York, now would be a great time.
You're Either Counted On Or Counted Out
Make no mistake about it, there is still a lot of baseball to be played in the 2022 season. Having been a White Sox fan for all or part of five different decades, I can tell you that this team has never inspired confidence that they can dig themselves out of a deep hole. That is why the upcoming 50-game stretch will tell us whether or not we can make vacation plans for the month of October, in my opinion.
If they continue this miserable brand of ball they've been displaying for the last week and a half, the vibe at the ballpark will be miserable and we will be left to start contemplating things like *gasp* trading Lucas Giolito or Jose Abreu. I don't want to go down that path, but this is a reality we must be prepared for.
Hopefully, Luis Robert and Yoan Moncada return in short order. Seeing Lance Lynn follow suit in the coming week would be a positive development as well. And ideally, Jose Abreu and Yasmani Grandal will begin performing at their career norms to create the dynamic offense we all expected.
This is still a very talented team on paper, but they simply cannot afford to dig themselves any deeper of a hole. The time is now to right the ship. It's not going to be an easy path, but the end goal of raising a championship banner was never going to be an easy one.
Teams and individuals often show what they are truly made of when faced with adversity. The 2022 Chicago White Sox are facing that adversity earlier than most any of us anticipated due to injuries and poor performance.
Their next obstacle will be overcoming a schedule that has the potential to bury them. Can they get things back on track so that we all look back on this putrid stretch as a momentary blip on the calendar? Sure, but there is no time to waste.