It's Sweeps Season for White Sox … or else

The Sox are playing great stretch-run baseball -- and they're still losing games to the Minnesota Twins. This needs to stop now.

Over their last 13 games, the White Sox have nine wins, including a 7-3 road trip. That’s the kind of run that would qualify as “good pennant race play” in almost any season.
Not this season. This season, winning nine of 13 games actually cost the Sox two games in the standings, thanks to the Minnesota Twins. They’re a league-best 39-16 since the All-Star break, and are winners of 13 of their last 16. They have won all five series against the Sox this year.
This proooobably means the Twins are the better team, but the Sox have to treat this as the world’s greatest recipe for regression. Like, the-kind-Grandma-used-to-make great.

Coupon codes for half-priced tickets on whitesox.com:
9/14 – SUN
9/15 – FFN
9/16 – REA

A sweep would go a long way in solving both those problems, wouldn’t it?
Of course, that’s damn near impossible considering 1) the Sox’ generally defeatist attitude when facing the Twins, and 2) Ron Gardenhire will be throwing his three best starters at the White Sox.
Overall though, it’s a level playing field.  Ozzie Guillen is going with John Danks, Gavin Floyd and Mark Buehrle, three of his best four starting the season. He now has Manny Ramirez, which theoretically solves the DH disadvantage the Sox faced all season long against Minnesota.
The fact that Ramirez is around gives us a litmus test of sorts to read after this series is over. Treat Jim Thome as Justin Morneau, and we can get some sort of idea about the difference a DH could have made.
(And I don’t think that’s a stretch: If Thome weren’t on the Twins, Morneau would more than likely be in the lineup, with Thome playing sparingly. It’s not like some chronic condition sidelined him. He took a knee to the head on a double-play turn. Any different roster construction would likely put him out of the way of a wrong-place-wrong-time injury. A butterfly flaps its wings, etc.)
Really, both teams are in good fighting shape, and largely representative of their original quality considering both suffered key losses en route to September, so this series should provide some closure. If the Sox lose the series, that’s the season. And if that happens, then tip your hat to the Twins, because they’ll have played .707-ball over the second half of the season. That will win just about any division that isn’t the AL East (and they’re making a run at the league’s best record, too).
A White Sox series victory would raise more questions than it would answer, especially if Ramirez comes through with an extra-base hit or two. Most of those questions will start with “What if?” But I’d hold back on asking those until post-mortem time, because that’s what October and November are for. In the meantime, I’d be appreciative of the fact that we have meaningful baseball to still talk about.

It comes down to one game

There’s little difference over the final 16 games of the season when stacking the schedules side-by-side.

White Sox Twins
Detroit (3) Oakland (3)
at Oakland (3) Cleveland (3)
at Los Angeles (3) at Detroit (3)
Boston (4) at Kansas City (3)
Cleveland (3) Toronto (4)
.491 .464

Three common opponents, three home series, no powerhouse teams. If the Twins are able to sweep teams like the Rangers, it’s probably awfully optimistic to anticipate an 8-8 finish against this slate.
We may as well use .500 ball, though, because it’s going to take a Minnesota malaise to get the Sox to the postseason. If they play 10-6 ball, the Twins will have earned every bit of their division title.
Winning two of three means the Sox have to win 13 of their last 16 to even have a shot. And when you think it through chronologically, it means the Sox have to win something like five of their first six to both put a scare into the Twins, and maintain the same intensity in the dugout. Winning six in a row after being mathematically eliminated doesn’t really count.
A Sox sweep at least allows us to think, perchance to dream, of a 163rd game. The Sox would be three games back, and finishing with an 11-5 run is highly optimistic, but by no means out of the picture.
And then think that one through. The sweep scenario puts the Sox at 93 wins, which is more than they won with a way better offense and two legitimate division rivals back in 2006. That scenario also means they finished the season winning 23 of their last 32 games. And still, that might not be good enough to play into October. That’s how well the Twins have played.
At any rate, if you can afford to go, I hope you can make the trip to at least one game. This is a team worth supporting, this is a series worth seeing, and we’ve seen worse Septembers. It may end up that the Sox concede the division when the dust settles, but at least the White Sox marketing department is conceding something, too.
**************************
Christian Marrero Reading Room (Twins edition):
*Jerod at Midwest Sports Fans put together a good primer for the series, breaking down the match-ups for all three games.
*Brian Fuentes retired just one batter over his first 2 1/2 weeks in the Twins’ bullpen due to a balky lower back. He did throw a scoreless inning against Cleveland on Sunday without issue, and Jose Mijares has returned from a torn meniscus, too. With Matt Thornton and J.J. Putz apparently 100 percent themselves, all hands are on deck.
*Brent Lillibridge waited in line for “Halo,” and then came home and played it while binging on Mountain Dew until the sun came up. The Twins, meanwhile, were in bed by 7, with Jim Thome in his FOOTY PAJAMAS.
*Many of his teammates were at Ozzie Guillen’s charity event, including Mark Teahen, Alex Rios and Freddy Garcia. It’s been 21 years since “Major League,” and yet all ballplayers still dress up like Jake Taylor when they go out.

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Jim Margalus
Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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fustercluck

“Two common opponents”
*Should be three (CLE/DET/OAK).
Sorry for the pedantry. Will try to bring the pageantry.

fustercluck

just as soon as I feed the old baby these irregular pork rinds

knoxfire30

Half glass full, its exciting just to have a meaningful mid september series.
Half empty, imagine if we had actually tried in april and may… or if thome… or if….
Oh well should be fun, I plan on being there wednesday!

eddiestankysghost

Wow, you aren’t kidding about MN making a run at the AL (and mlb) best record. They’re two games behind TB.

dalton

I know this matters not one iota, but I glanced at this week’s ESPN MLB Power Rankings (or as ESPN calls it: MLB Baseball Power Rankings, for those of you who are into the redundancy thing), Boston is ranked 11th while Chicago is ranked 12th. I mean, I can see why Colorado and SF leap-frogged the White Sox (who fell from 8th to 12th), and even San Diego, despite their recent 10-game losing streak, but Boston? Chicago swept Boston within the last two weeks. Anyone else over the East Coast Bias?
(Reminds me of the cover of SI the week Chicago won the World Series. Featured on the cover were Tom Brady and Peyton Manning as they were about to play an epic Monday Nighter in October (or early-November). Sox were relegated to a 1×1 photo. Even the first paragraph of the article brought up Boston’s championship the year before.).
Someone bring me the head of Bill Simmons…

dalton

Cabal, Shmabal. It’s just a fact of life. NY and Boston get more pub. It’s OK. I’ll live. Just… take… it… one day… at a time. Heh.
Jayson Stark listed his Top 5 MVP candidates for the AL a week or so ago, and among them were Joe Mauer and Robinson Cano, but no Konerko. I know I’m a Sox homer, but Mauer? Nice to see an AL Central guy get respect, but he’s having a far worse season with respect to his power numbers than last year (when he was incredible), and if Cano were playing anywhere other than NY (or Boston), he’d be considered just another excellent yet complementary player. Paulie has carried a Top-5 AL team all season.

therestoomuchlove

In his update from yesterday, Konerko comes in fourth, ahead of Mauer.

dalton

This makes me feel better. Even if he is still after Cano.
I’m not a Yankees hater – actually, because so many jealous fans and writers complain about the team’s unfair advantage, it makes me almost want to root for them at times… almost – but you had better have had one heckuva season to be considered Top 5 for the MVP or Cy Young awards. I’m talking like 1978 Ron Guidry numbers (25 – 3, 1.78 ERA, 9 SHO, 248 Ks in 273 IP. Incidentally, a very cool thing about Mr. Guidry is how even after his SOs dipped dramatically as he aged, going from the 1978 numbers to only 143 Ks in 259 IP in 1985, he still won 20 games or more eight seasons apart.). Where was I? Oh yes, Yankees benefiting from playing on loaded teams. Seriously, how much more “valuable” is Robinson Cano for a team whose lineup also features Mark Teixeira, A-Rod, and (I can’t believe I’m writing this) but Nick Swisher (no, really… what?) than Konerko, who is having a career year and whose only consistent help has been Alex Rios?
Swisher is headed for around 30 HR and 90 RBI. Anyone think Chicago gave up on him too soon?

dalton

Does it show? Am I still wet behind the ears?
Swisher drove me nuts when he was in the line up, but that horse surely has been flogged elsewhere…
With regard to Cano, I’d crap twice and die if Beckham could put up those type of numbers. Gordie is evidently the face of our franchise, and he isn’t half the run-producer Cano is… Then again, look who he has hitting in front of him (Lillibridge, Kotsay, Teahan, Jones…).

pander

If I could hang with any current White Sox player on a regular basis, it’d be Lillibridge. Great stuff.
Just imagine if we’d lost every interleague game, but had won 18 additional in-division games, especially every one against Minny. Would you take that tradeoff, Jim? Cause I’m NOT SURE if Ozzie would.

pander

Also, one of my favorite dugouts. Shame the pics don’t load anymore, but the rest is still touching.

lorenzobandini

I will be at the park tomorrow, cheering for a win, getting pissed when Sox fans a) boo the home team and b) act douchy towards fans of the other team, and overall enjoying myself. I have already accepted that the Sox are the fifth best team in the AL, and a .500 team without Jake Peavy. So whatever else happens is gravy.
I have always said that when you are at the point where you HAVE to have a sweep, the season is over… so relax and joy the games as they are. We won’t have any of this in January.

dalton

Not to quibble, but the Sox are 36 – 26 without Jake Peavy (including the start he made where he tore his lat tendon). I hope he’s strong enough to start in April. If he can pitch like he did in his last four full starts, we’re in business.

soxexile

I think SI puts different covers on the magazine depending on where they’re selling it, although the inside is the same. If memory serves, the sox were on the cover in Wisconsin (where I lived at the time) after they won the WS.

dalton

Entirely possible. I live in Michigan. Apparently we’re all huge Colts fans here.

alwayssox

I die a little with every start Hudson makes.

dalton

Since the Sox/Twins game tonight wasn’t televised where I live, I just happened to be at the Sox’s ESPN page when the screen refreshed to show the score after the bases-clearing double that put the game very much out of reach. Again, I am loathe to have to say this, but congratulations for the Twins. No go win one for the Thomster.

expatnyc

I appreciate the thought experiment, Jim, but I think your argument wobbles. Is Manny really comparable to Thome as a DH?