Our White Sox made their long-awaited return to ESPN's Sunday Night Baseball last evening, with an unfortunate 5-4 loss to the Cleveland Indians. For the most part, it was a well-played ballgame that didn't go the Sox way due to an inability to execute in a few pivotal spots. It capped a week that saw the Sox go 3-4 and lose another series to the Tribe, bringing their overall record to 8-8. The Sox are now 3-6 against their two primary division rivals in Minnesota and Cleveland, which is sub-optimal, to say the least.
There is a lot of consternation within the fanbase (yours truly included) for a variety of different reasons. Simply put, the team hasn't played inspiring baseball for the past week and has seen multiple games slip away that could've ended up in the win column. The frustration is warranted due to the roster overhaul we saw this winter, yet we are seeing more of the same. This season has the feel of underwhelming seasons past. A lineup of established veterans with high-upside youth mixed in has greatly under-performed aside from a two-game barrage in Kansas City. The injury bug has hit the South Siders pretty hard to this point, as well. Through 16 games, this team has missed its starting shortstop for ten games, it's left fielder, two starting pitchers, its best reliever, and its rookie second baseman of the future for varying amounts of time.
Injuries have been pretty widespread throughout the league to this point, and to be blunt, no team outside of the Dodgers can really withstand these many injuries to key players. We can debate whether or not the front office did a poor job (again) of insulating itself with quality depth, but there simply comes a point where you just can't overcome losing this many bodies.
With all of this and everything that has gone wrong so far, this team is still 8-8 and only two games back of the first-place Twins. If you take a step back for a moment and think about that, it's actually kind of remarkable. The multitude of injuries and under-performance from players like Yasmani Grandal, Edwin Encarnacion, and Jose Abreu would lead many to believe this team's record would actually be worse than it is, yet here we are.
Issues have been compounded by games like Saturday, in which Drew Anderson was to be heavily relied upon.
The idea that White Sox would try to get 3-4 innings from a player that was a waiver claim against a division rival, whom you are directly competing against for playoff positioning, is indicative of a breakdown in the team's process. Following Saturday's debacle, Ricky Renteria essentially stated this team wasn't going to put its young talent in positions that they may not be prepared for at this point. The overarching theme of this organization is that it's simply not just about 2020 but beyond, which makes things crystal clear to me. We were told "every game counts" this year, but it appears only to a certain extent.
Given that Nicky Delmonico saw more action in a pivotal role and Drew Anderson was called upon against a division rival, it's clear that this organization sees 2020 as nothing more than another developmental year. It's apparent that they believe they have enough talent to squeak by and be the seventh- or eighth-best team in the AL, which would "earn" them a spot in the expanded playoffs. So I suppose we should get used to more decision-making that will make us want to pull our hair out on an occasional basis.
The positive news for the White Sox in the face of all the things I've outlined above is that they are still positioned well to see the postseason. In order to make this come to fruition, they have to capitalize on a break in the schedule over the next 30 games. During this time frame, the Sox will see the following opponents:
- Tigers (10)
- St. Louis Covids (3)
- Cubs (3)
- Pirates (4)
- Royals (7)
- Twins (3)
That is hardly a murderers' row of opponents. This is where the Sox are going to have to make their move.
We know this team has talent on paper, but it is going to be imperative that they capitalize on this soft schedule over the next month. This team is designed to beat up on weak pitching staffs, and they will see plenty of them in the foreseeable future. That needs to start today in Detroit.
I think it goes without saying that the Sox have not performed up to their talent level to this point. That can happen to any team over the course of a normal baseball season, but when it happens for one that was as hyped in a shortened season as the Sox, it can lead to frustration over the smallest things.
Things haven't gone according to plan so far, but the Sox can absolutely right the ship. There needs to be a sense of urgency from everyone associated with this club, from the front office all the way down to the players. They were able to navigate a challenging early-season schedule, so they are in a spot to make up some ground and position themselves well in the coming weeks.
Despite all the issues we've seen through two-plus weeks of baseball, this thing can turn around quickly. If it doesn't, the hard questions will only get louder from a fanbase that is simply out of patience regardless of circumstances.