It all comes down to this. The White Sox control their destiny, but by the thinnest of margins. Losing would extend their misery yet another season, but if they win, they can claim the biggest prize the game of baseball has to offer:
The Crosstown Cup.
A loss leads to a season series split with the Cubs, so the North Siders would retain ownership of the hardware for another year. But if the White Sox can knock off the Cubs one more time before the 2020 season comes to a close, they’ll reclaim that Mario Kart-assed trophy for the South Side.
We’ll see how much heart the Cubs pour into it. They’re locked into the National League’s No. 3 seed win or lose. Crosstown Cup aside, they have no vested interest in winning this game, at least if if it comes at the expense of high-leverage pitchers they’ll want fully rested for the wild card round.
For the White Sox, there are so many moving parts to track on the last day of the regular season.
If the postseason started today, the White Sox would hold home field advantage over the New York Yankees as the fourth seed. The Sox’s victory over the Cubs, combined with the Pirates’ shutout of the Indians, means that the White Sox control their own destiny when it comes to second place in the AL Central.
But there’s one more game left, and when the dust settles, the White Sox could be in one of four different seeds, because they can finish anywhere from first to third in their own division.
First place requires help. The Twins remain a game ahead going into the final day, and they’ll play the Cincinnati Reds. The Reds have secured their own postseason berth, but they can finish the day anywhere from fifth to eighth depending on how the standings shake out, so unlike the Cubs, they have something to play for.
At the other extreme, the White Sox have locked in a better record than any of the non-Central runners up, so they’ll be a seventh seed at worst. In between, they can finish in two other positions, after which they’ll have one of six potential opponents depending on how the standings shake out.
Here are the possibilities:
How: White Sox win, Minnesota loses, Oakland loses. The White Sox hold the tiebreaker over the Twins because of their superior AL Central record.
They would play: Cleveland. Whichever Central team finishes in third place has the best record of any wild card candidate.
How: White Sox win, Minnesota loses, Oakland wins. The A’s would have the better intradivisional record by a game, as they went 26-14 in the AL West.
They would play: Houston. The Astros might finish under .500, but they’ve locked down second place in the AL West regardless.
How: White Sox win, Minnesota wins OR White Sox lose, Cleveland loses. The Indians hold the tiebreaker over the White Sox by beating them in eight of 10 games. The White Sox have locked up the best record among non-Central runners-up. It’s just a matter of whether they finish second or third in their own division.
They would play: The Yankees or the Blue Jays. The Yankees can lock in the fifth spot with a win, but if they lose and the Blue Jays win, Toronto leaps ahead due to their superior record in the last 20 AL East games (12-8 to 11-9).
How: White Sox lose, Cleveland wins.
They would play: Minnesota or Oakland. The former if Minnesota beats Cincinnati, since the Twins lead Oakland by one game. If the Twins lose and Oakland wins, the White Sox would head to the Coliseum, as the A’s have the better intradivisional record.
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With so many scenarios in play, all eyes will be on the scoreboard. All games will start at 2:05 p.m. Central in order to level the playing field, so the updates should be coming fast and furious. The good news? All of the teams the White Sox would like to lose are facing credible starters.
And if you’d like the scenario in chart form, @DirtySox on Twitter provided an update this morning:
UPDATED SCENARIO SUNDAY!!— DirtySox (@DirtySox30) September 27, 2020
Thanks to #WhiteSox twitter for pointing out the Blue Jays scenario!!
So potential opponents: Indians, Astros, Yankees, Blue Jays, A’s, Twins. Between this and the National League, it’s gonna be a wild Sunday for baseball#ChangeTheGame pic.twitter.com/IEFMywzWHY
From here, your rooting interests come down to what you consider most important.
If your priority is the AL Central and the highest seed possible, then you’re rooting for a White Sox win, Minnesota and Oakland to lose. That ensures a first-round matchup with Cleveland no matter what.
If your priority is the AL Central pennant while avoiding a team with lethal right-handed starters, then you want a White Sox win, a Minnesota loss and an Oakland win.
If you’re not counting on the White Sox to win the AL Central, yet you don’t want them to back into the postseason, but you also want to avoid a team with lethal right-handed starters in the Wild Card round, you’re counting on a Minnesota win and rooting for a White Sox win, paired with a Toronto win while the Yankees lose. If the Yankees win, you’d have to hope that they bring the reasons for their awful road record to Chicago.
If you want the White Sox to face lefties above all else, then the A’s might be your team. That would require a White Sox loss, a Cleveland win, a Minnesota loss and an Oakland win. With Hill starting for the Twins today, it’s clear that he won’t be a part of any Minnesota wild card plans.
Personally, I think the A’s are flexible enough with pitching assignments to avoid steering their boat into the only truly dangerous course. The White Sox should be on guard for a bait-and-switch, and thus they should resist the four-dimensional chess. Here’s hoping the White Sox win, and if they end up lining up with the Indians for a best-of-three, here’s additional hoping they’ve absorbed the lessons from those four straight losses.
(Photo by Zach Bolinger/Icon Sportswire)