Does anyone remember those talks we had in February and March? We even had them in April after Opening Day. Remember when Chicago White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko said that this season could be considered a success, even if they don’t make the playoffs?
What a long way we have come since those debates on what exactly the expectations should be for a team that wasn’t expected to do much in most people’s eyes. The highest expectation for most was that the White Sox could carry fans until Bears training camp and just stay close enough to keep us interested.
Now we sit in August, and the White Sox are 59-48 at the time of publication, and a game and a half up on the Detroit Tigers. Many would view the Tigers as somewhat of a disappointment this season, but there were those of us who said that their pitching staff might not be good enough to carry them through the season.
The performances of Alex Rios and Jake Peavy were a welcome surprise, as Peavy has not only managed to stay healthy all year, but pitch quite well this season. And then there is Rios. He has undoubtedly been the White Sox MVP this season, even though he doesn’t lead the White Sox in any major offensive categories outside of hits. Rios is hitting .316/.348/.538 this season with 18 HR and 67 RBI. His stats are right up there with team captain Paul Konerko, and the other competition for team MVP, AJ Pierzynski.
Pierzynski is in the final year of his contract, and with a rather weak catching market this offseason, he is set to make big bucks for likely the last time. He already has a career high in home runs at 21, and with the success of Konerko, Rios and the power of Adam Dunn hitting around Pierzynski, he has really been able to produce.
Chris Sale has been much better than many would have expected in his first year as a starting pitcher. Sale is 12-3 this season with a 2.61 ERA in 124 IP. Jake Peavy is 9-7 with a 3.04 ERA, and the number of games he has lost by a run, including a few 1-0 games, would indicate he has been much better than his record. And then there is the biggest surprise of them all, Jose Quintana. Quintana is 4-1 in 14 games this season (12 starts), with an ERA of 2.80. Those three have anchored a pitching staff that has been good for the seventh ERA in the majors, all while pitching in a lively ballpark that is known for its homeruns rather than low ERAs. The White Sox are also third in the majors in quality starts, and not many of them have come from Phillip Humber or Gavin Floyd.
For a long time, the “Wow, the White Sox have made it an interesting summer,” argument was valid. They had done just what many had hoped for, keeping us interested until Bears training camp. That argument doesn’t fly anymore. First-year manager Robin Ventura has his team in a pennant race, and the expectations have been raised. We have seen the ability of this roster, and the White Sox now have to be able to keep themselves ahead of the Tigers.
There are many winnable games ahead for the White Sox. Along with that, they have seven games remaining against the Tigers, four of them at home. They also have 22 games against strong clubs in the Cleveland Indians, Kansas City Royals and Minnesota Twins.
This White Sox team has been an easy one to root for. Very little off-field drama, along with plenty of excitement on the field, has made for a team that has been more successful than many would have been willing to guess. With success comes expectations, and they certainly have been raised. At this point, missing the playoffs would have to be considered somewhat of a failure, as the team has put themselves in the situation to do just that. With a game and a half advantage on the Tigers, all eyes will be on Ventura’s White Sox. We’ll find out if they can handle the pressure that they previously folded under at the hands of a different leader.
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