It's Monday, September 14th, and the White Sox are in first place in the AL Central with the best record in the American League. We haven't been in this position in quite some time as a fanbase, with a division title within reach. Following an extra-inning loss to the Indians on August 9th, the team was sitting at .500 with a record of 8-8. I posited that if the Sox were going to establish themselves as a viable contender, they would have to make some noise in a 30-game stretch comprised of largely inferior competition.
The team answered the bell by going 22-8 in that stretch, propelling them to a 30-16 record with two weeks of baseball left to play. The South Siders have mashed during this stretch and that high-powered offense has elevated them to the top of the American League Central a game clear of Minnesota, with two to spare in the loss column and 4.5 games ahead of Cleveland.
So we are now getting ready to begin watching a film those of us who were born in the 1980s or earlier have seen plenty of times. The Sox are in control of their playoff destiny and have only those pests from Canada South standing in their way from putting up a division championship banner. However, for much of the past two decades, this movie has eventually turned into a nightmare. It's a new decade with a new Sox team that has a new swagger, and it's time to write a new ending.
Since the start of the 2000 season, our Sox are 167-206 against the Twins. They have won the season series only four times during this stretch, something that isn't likely to change after the four games this week having already dropped four of the first six contests the teams have played so far in 2020. Fortunately for the Sox, they don't need to win the series to capture the division title, although it would certainly help their chances. While this isn't a high bar, the team simply needs to find a way to split a series against a team that has, for lack of a better term, owned them for the better part of two decades.
I'm a guy that usually prefers the quantifiable when evaluating things with this team, however, as a former player (albeit a scrub), I can tell you that there is absolutely a psychological element to a team having your number. Just ask these very same Twins when they see those Yankee pinstripes in October. Whether you're a player or a fan, your mind goes to some scary places when you struggle to defeat a rival. When things are going well, you are waiting for them to fall apart. When things are going poorly, you see no hope and no reason they will improve. This is, sadly, where I'm at with this rivalry. The cast may change, but I fear the ending won't until it does.
We've seen this Sox team buck some trends here in 2020. Luis Robert has shed the stigma of highly-touted prospects under-performing. The team has buried the weak sisters of the division by going 18-2 against Kansas City and Detroit -- a thought that those of us continually invested in this team couldn't have imagined coming into the season. It is now time to exercise one more demon and snatch a division title. In order to do so, this team must beat the Twins.
Dropping this series wouldn't be a doomsday scenario for the team (although getting swept might be), but it would greatly hamper their ability to capture this division. If there ever was a time for this team to break down that mental barrier which has plagued them when they see that stupid interlocking "T, C" hat, this is it.
This has the feel of a different White Sox team for a lot of reasons, but there's one final mental block that the Good Guys must overcome before they can stake claim to this division for 2020 and beyond. I know I've grown tired of this team under-performing against the "Twinkies" and I'm sure most of you have too. It's very clear that this team believes in itself and that they are a confident group. Is this the turning point?
As a fanbase, we have waited 12 years for a series of this magnitude. It's time for the White Sox to rise to the occasion. The cast is different and it is time to flip the script. It's time to exercise the demons and take down the Minnesota Twins. If the Sox are able to do this, they will truly have their destiny in their hands with ten games to play. It's a new era on the South Side, thus it's time to end the Twins era of dominance.