It’s been written in the pages and bytes of many publications that, while certainly not a bad team, the 2009 White Sox stand little to no chance of realizing any true success; that if the Sox’ best days are in fact ahead of them, they’re quite a ways ahead of them, as in next year or maybe even the year after that. Even today, SI.com’s Tom Verducci writes that by virtue of being a sub-.500 team entering June, the Sox are pretty much done thanks to what history suggests. To some extent that’s true, but there’s also something larger at work where the Sox’ fortunes are concerned.
It’s not that the Sox are necessarily out of it (unless you actually believe the hype about the Detroit Tigers) but to win the Central this season seems almost pointless in the context of how other comparatively-situated clubs have fared.
Think for a moment about past teams in similar positions to these White Sox. Highly flawed teams that don’t really play in impossible-to-win divisions but also don’t rely on that certain brand of baseball that wins big games against good teams. The 2005 Padres; the 2007 Cubs; even our own 2008 White Sox. For all their sub-par seasons and Division Champion t-shirts, what did any of those teams really have to show for their efforts?
“2006 Cardinals!” some will say, and it’s true those Cardinals had a fairly miserable season leading up to their shaming of the Tigers in that World Series. It’s also true their problem was the exact inverse as the Sox: the 2006 Cardinals went 48-39 in the first half until injuries and Jason Marquis handed them a 35-39 second half. More specifically, those Cardinals were also 34-19 on June 1; rather than 3.5 games back, they actually sat alone in first place, five games up on the Cincinnati Reds.
So again, what historical encouragement do the Sox really have to assume they’re still in it? All things considered, none, but the irony would be that a team realistic enough to slash payroll in anticipation of poor ticket sales will not acknowledge the grim reality facing them when it comes to the game itself. Which, if you think about it, would be a good thing – at least until the first week of October, when it inevitably becomes a bad thing.