Sweet Home, Chicago

I leave on my annual trip for my home town Chicago this week.  While I’m there, I’ll be seeing three White Sox games in seven days.  Two will be against the division rival Detroit Tigers and the final game will be against the surprising Houston Astros.  Yes, the Blackhawks will be in town for the Stanley Cup, but $500 a ticket far exceeds my budget for sporting events.  (I might go for $300, you only live once, right?)

A month ago, I wrote that it was too early to start writing off teams, in particular my own Chicago White Sox.  I wrote that the middle of June, or as Sox General Manager Rick Hahn said, the 60 game mark, should be a better time to evaluate my team along with all the others.  Well, by the end of my trip, it will be just about the middle of June.  And by then, a fair assessment of Manager Robin Ventura and his crew will be in order.

As I write this, the Sox are 24-27, finishing up a hellish road trip that included 4 cities and 11 games in 11 days.  What I’ve seen so far: a team that is 28th in runs scored per game, 25th in rotation ERA and 25th in bullpen ERA.  Oh, and they are dead last in baseball in defensive runs saved.  Statistically, they are one of the worst teams in baseball across the board.  Yet here they sit, only 3 games under .500 with only one more loss than the suddenly toothless Tigers.

Although the stats say they are a bad team, what do my eyes tell me?  Well, unfortunately it hasn’t looked much better.  As Vice President and former GM Kenny Williams recently said of team play: “It’s been sloppy.  At times it’s been embarrassing.”  Williams was actually being quite nice about it.

Yet with a win against the Texas Rangers to finish their road trip, the Sox could end up going 6-5 over their brutal stretch.  After three games at home against the Tigers and then three at home against the Astros, from whom they took 2 of 3 in Houston, the Sox will find themselves just two games shy of Hahn’s magic number of 60 games.

Admittedly, I’m excited for these two home series because I’ll witness at least a game from each and this could be the final make or break stretch for the Sox.  With the pressure on, it’s time to see if the Sox players can respond.  I can’t and don’t want to make any predictions, but the Sox have one thing in the their favor that can easily help me disregard the bad stats by the end of a winning home trip: the rest of the American League is mediocre.

Although statistics are useful in qualifying players and teams, this year they seem quite irrelevant in a league that has the Astros and Minnesota Twins with winning records and the Boston Red Sox and Seattle Mariners, two preseason favorites, with losing ones.  The Toronto Blue Jays have far and away the best offense in baseball, yet they sit five games under .500.  The Tigers have committed the fewest errors in the league, but they have lost six straight and are desperately clinging to a winning record.  The Rangers have given up the 5th most runs in all of baseball, yet they have the best road record in all of baseball at 17-11.

So although the Sox have played poorly, playing just a bit better may actually get them on the road to the playoffs.  Of course no one wants to root for a mediocre team, but that’s the name of the game these days in the AL, especially with talent spread thin and the introduction of the second Wild Card.

Chicago, here I come.  Give me something just a bit better than horrible.

Featured Image: Via thechicagohomer.com

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