1983 was quite a memorable year for the White Sox. Sure, that was the year that they popularized those red, white, and navy slow-pitch softball looking uniforms; but there was so much more about that team that made the 1983 season so enjoyable.
The Sox were just a fun team to watch that year. Led by legendary manager Tony LaRussa, Rookie of the Year Ron Kittle, and Cy Young award winner LaMarr Hoyt, the Sox won 99 games en route to capturing the American League West division title.
In addition to the uniforms that the team wears today as throwbacks, the 1983 Sox popularized the term “Winning Ugly”, meaning that they always seemed to find a way to win games even when they weren’t playing their best baseball.
The 2016 White Sox have been dominant in some aspects so far this season, as in pitching and defense. How else would a team win 23 of its first 33 games without being “dominant” in at least a few aspects of the game? But like any other team, the White Sox have had their off nights. No matter how good you are, you’re bound to have some ugly performances throughout the course of a 162 game season.
The important takeaway is that the 2016 Sox, much like the 1983 Sox, are finding ways to actually win those games. Television play-by-play announcer Hawk Harrelson often says that in a 162 game season, a team is going to win 60 and lose 60. It’s those other 42 games that matter. This has always been one of my favorite “Hawkisms”. There are nights where everything is clicking, and there are nights where nothing seems to go right; probably about 60 of each. And then, there are nights where teams manage to win games that they probably should have lost and vise versa – “the other 42”. If this theory is true, then it seems like the Sox have been doing a good job of winning those other 42 games so far this season.
Let’s take a look back at the games that the Sox probably should have lost, but still found a way to come out on top in the early goings of this season.
April 5 @ Oakland
On the second night of the season, we saw a microcosm of what we have seen over the course of the past 3 seasons watching White Sox baseball. Jose Quintana has a good outing wasted away by the bullpen. The Sox took a 4-2 into the 8th inning where Zach Duke and Nate Jones were asked to hold the lead for one inning for David Robertson. Duke allowed a base hit to the only batter he faced, Nate Jones hit two batters, and the lead was blown on a two-run single to Yonder Alonso.
Jimmy Rollins quickly came to the rescue in the top of the 9th with a game-winning solo home run off Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle and the Sox prevailed 5-4.
April 23 vs Texas
Trailing by a score of 2-1 in the bottom of the 8th, Todd Frazier led the inning off with a game-tying solo shot. Four batters later, the Sox took the lead on a Dioner Navarro RBI single and were suddenly on the verge of taking a comfortable lead to the 9th inning with runners on 1st and 3rd and one out. But nothing but poor base running ensued for the rest of the inning as runners were thrown out at home plate on the next two balls in play.
Instead of taking a two or three-run lead to the 9th, they Sox gave David Robertson a one-run lead that quickly evaporated due to a leadoff walk, an errant throw by Navarro into center field, and a sacrifice fly.
The Sox prevailed in the 11th inning with a Jose Abreu walk-off single, and they were able to survive shooting themselves in the foot in both the 8th and 9th innings.
April 25 @ Toronto
To begin the in-season search for an eventual 5th starter replacement for John Danks, the Sox handed the ball to Miguel Gonzalez….in Toronto….against Toronto’s ace Marcus Stroman. “Go get ‘em, Miguel!”, Right? Gonzalez was chased after 5 and 1/3 innings, surrendering 5 runs on 11 hits and the Sox found themselves down 5-1 heading into the 7th.
But the 7th inning has been a magical inning for the Sox this season; and the Sox offense suddenly came to life by scoring five runs – all with two outs. The Sox gained a 6-5 lead in the inning and never looked back, setting the tone for an eventual series sweep north of the border.
April 30 @ Baltimore
After the White Sox lost the first two games of the series against the Baltimore, all things looked good for the Sox to pick up the win in Game 3 of the series. The Sox had just rallied for three runs in the top of the 8th to take a 7-5 lead, and Matt Albers had retired the first two Orioles hitters in the bottom of the frame. Manny Machado then hit a routine ground ball to Todd Frazier and Frazier made a good, strong throw across the diamond to 1st base. Inning over, right? Nope. Jose Abreu dropped the throw from Frazier, allowing Machado to reach base. Albers went on to plunk the next batter, and then Zach Duke came in and gave up a two-run double to Chris Davis to tie the game.
Thankfully, Jose Abreu was able to come to his own rescue by singling home the winning run in the 9th inning as the Sox prevailed by a score of 8-7.
May 9 @ Texas
Last night in Texas is perhaps the headliner of this story. The Sox gave the Rangers many opportunities to win the game, and the Rangers could not capitalize.
If I told you to guess the outcome of a game where the Sox were headed to extra innings after having already burned their top 4 relief pitchers with hopes that Dan Jennings and Zach Putnam can win and save the game, respectively, would you have guessed a White Sox winner?
If I told you that the Rangers had the winning run at 3rd base with 1 out in the bottom of the 10th inning, would you have guessed a White Sox winner?
If I told you that David Robertson blew a lead on two different occasions, would you guess a White Sox winner?
If I told you that Robertson and Nate Jones both had their worst games of the season on this night, would you have guessed a White Sox winner?
All in all, the White Sox are finding ways to win games at any cost. If you watched White Sox baseball regularly throughout the past few years, I think you can agree that they would have lost at least 4 of these games in previous seasons. This year’s team is passing the tests of adversity, and they are passing with flying colors. It looks like they have won at least 5 of “the other 42” thus far.