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WSI News - WSI Spotlight

Controlling Destiny!
by Hal Vickery

Who would have thought when the Sox had a fifteen-game lead just a few weeks ago that the season’s hopes would depend on this week’s upcoming series with the Indians?

But here we are in mid-September. The Sox are in freefall and the Indians can’t seem to lose. Even when the Sox seem to have a “gimme” series against the Royals, they can’t win the series. On the other hand, when the Indians take on the Royals, they treat them like the garbage team that they are.

There has been an argument raging on the message boards here at WSI. One side seems to think that the main problem with the Sox in recent weeks has been starting pitching. They cite the beatings that have been administered lately to just about the entire rotation. With the exception of Jon Garland’s performance against the Twins Friday night, they’re correct. The starting pitching has been wretched.

The other camp looks at the lack of hitting, especially against good pitching. However, the Sox were scoring against the Royals, except in the final game of the series, as the pitching proponents have pointed out. On the other hand, how many more times do we have to watch Carl Everett and Paul Konerko pop out with men on base because instead of trying to move the runners along, they’re trying to hit five-run homers.

I would argue that the problem with the offense is that the situational hitting has left a lot to be desired. You can’t continue letting lead-off triples die on third. You can’t continue to load the bases and maybe settle for a run. If you do, it comes back to bite you in the butt.

Others have complained about the base running. Complaints have ranged from Scott Podsednik’s recent inability to steal to Joey Cora’s errors in judgment in waving in runners only to see them thrown out at the plate, or in one case involving Carl Everett getting thrown out trying to get back to third.

Others have pointed to the decline of the defense. Watching Jermaine Dye booting the ball allowing the winning run to come in was painful to watch. Just as painful have been some of Tadahito Iguchi’s multiple-error games.

There is a lot of blame to go around. That’s what happens when things go sour. Nothing goes right.

So now the Sox, who for most of the spring and summer had the best record in baseball, are limping towards the end of the season. The most optimistic fans are even going to back-up positions. “Well,” they say, “even if Cleveland overtakes the Sox, we can still make the Wild Card.

Well, just hang on there for a second or two. Let’s say the Sox continue to play the way they have for the past few weeks. Let’s look at the Wild Card contenders.

As this is written, the Sox lead the AL Central with a record of 89-58. The Red Sox are the closest team to the Sox right now with a record of 87-61. That’s just three games behind. The Yankees, who are the other club who could end up as a Wild Card team are 85-62. That’s four games worse than the Sox.

If Cleveland overtakes the Sox, then those two clubs are the possible competition. There is no guarantee that the Sox make it to the playoffs if they continue losing at the rate they have been.

That’s the bad news.

The good news is that the Sox are in control of their own destiny. Starting tomorrow and through October 2, they will play seven games against the Indians, three at home this week and four at Jacobs Field next week. In between they play four at The Cell against the Twins.

Since this is being written before today’s games are played, it’s pretty difficult to predict any scenarios by which the Sox could clinch, so let’s not even go there. However, the point is that the Sox will probably need to win at least four or five of those games to avoid having this race go to the wire.

Now we’ll come to a bit of personal bias. I hate the Wild Card. I always have. The only Sox pennant winner I’ve seen came in the era of two eight-team leagues. That club had to have the best record in the entire league to make it to the World Series. Nowadays, as we’ve seen too many times, you can win the World Series and not even have the best record in your own division.

With a 162-game schedule, using five and seven game series to determine who goes to the World Series is ridiculous. Right now the San Diego Padres lead the NL West with a winning percentage under .500. If whoever wins that division does so with a sub-.500 record, they don’t deserve to go into the post-season.

I won’t go so far as to say that I hope that the Sox not make the Wild Card. After all, that could get them to the World Series, too. However, despite another club in this town having made it to the post-season more than once that way, I have a terrible feeling that the local media will find some way to make any White Sox post-season appearance as a Wild Card team seem to be less worthy than those of that other club.

No, fans, the best way to make it to the post season is to find some kind of way of turning this seeming collapse around and win the division outright. Then the worst we’ll hear from the media and those who repeat whatever they read or hear from them will be, “Yeah, but you almost blew it.”


Editor's Note: Hal Vickery has been a White Sox fan since 1955 when he was five years old. For much of that time he also had a secondary rooting interest in the Cubs, which he has shown the good sense to abandon. When not cheering for or writing about the Sox, Hal teachers chemistry and physics at North Boone High School, in Poplar Grove, IL. Hal commutes there daily from Joliet, where he lives with his wife Lee, and their dog, Buster T. Beagle. Hal's opinions are not necessarily those of North Boone High School, his wife, or Buster T. Beagle. You can write Hal at hvickery@svs.com.

More features from Hal Vickery here!

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