At the start of the season I thought the chances of the White Sox contending for the American League Central Division title were about the same as me being recruited to dance in the Bolshoi Ballet. I thought the chances of the White Sox contending for last place in the division were much more logical. But here we are in the closing days of the regular season and the Sox are in first place and while they are still looking over their shoulders at the threatening Detroit Tigers they are in the catbird seat, as the old redhead Red Barber used to put it.
Go figure. The Tigers were bigger favorites than the house in Las Vegas and the Sox were fielding a team only general manager Kenny Williams loved. Props to Williams, we was smarter than everyone else.
On paper the White Sox had outstanding pitching. However, it was more theoretical than based on recent proof. The starting rotation could be, might be, excellent, but only if everyone pitched up to his potential and no one got hurt. Well, that has pretty much happened. There was no way to know what Chicago would get out of Adam Dunn. Signed to fill a hole at designated hitter, and given millions of dollars for the privilege, in 2011 Dunn turned in one of the worst hitting seasons since Neanderthals roamed the earth with clubs. How to know he would rebound with around 40 home runs and maybe 100 RBIs. (Even if his average flirts frighteningly with .200 regularly.) Oh yeah, the White Sox had a completely untried manager in Robin Ventura and now he is bucking for manager of the year.
The White Sox have had numerous opportunities to fold in recent weeks, but haven’t. The Tigers have had numerous opportunities to rally over the same time period, but haven’t been consistent enough to take over. The Tigers were runaway division winners last year when Justin Verlander was the closest thing to a god on the mound. Verlander seems to be throwing just as well this year, but the Tigers aren’t scoring the runs for him. Miguel Cabrera is a potential MVP at the plate. Prince Fielder was a daring free-agent acquisition who has done his job. But they don’t get enough help.
Detroit trails Chicago by just two games going into the weekend, so it’s not impossible that the entire situation could be reversed by Monday. However, the White Sox seem to get just enough rotation performance from Jake Peavy, Chris Sale, and Gavin Floyd as they need given their one weakness–the bullpen. At bat, veterans like Paul Konerko and A.J. Piersynzki have been steady all year and Kevin Youkilis was a good pickup from the Red Sox.
All summer we have been waiting for the Tigers to kick in with the afterburners and motor away from the Sox. It hasn’t happened yet and with time running out fast it may never happen. The White Sox have done the hard work this year setting the pace. They deserve this title more than the Tigers. They just have to keep doing what they’ve been doing to hold them off for another dozen games.