MINNEAPOLIS – The dark space below the .500 mark is no place to be.
Not for a team in its championship window. Not for an organization that, six years ago gave in to being “mired in mediocrity” and worse and launched a rebuild that left its fans patiently waiting through seasons of 67-95, 62-100 and 72-89 from 2017-19 before finally making a wild card series in 2020.
The White Sox, after a lackluster 4-0 loss to the Twins Tuesday, extended their free-falling losing streak to seven. The loss, featuring two hits against right-hander Bailey Ober who recorded a career high 10 strikeouts, followed series sweeps by the younger, livelier, hungrier AL Central champion Cleveland Guardians and the last-place Tigers. The Sox are reeling toward a losing season after two on the right side of .500. Tuesday’s loss dropped the Sox to 76-78 and let the third-place Twins (75-79) creep to one game.
Acting manager Miguel Cairo, who was ejected for arguing balls and strikes in defense of starter Lance Lynn (five innings, four runs, 10 hits) knows where he wants to finish.
“I want to finishover .500; I don’t think we’re a below-.500 team,” Cairo said before the game.
We shall see. Playing for pride?
“You said the word right there,” Cairo said. “You’ve got to have pride when you’re playing the game. They’re professional baseball players, big leaguers. There’s a reason why they’re here, and they’ve got to show that they want to finish strong.”
“For me, definitely [want to avoid an embarrassing] losing record,” AJ Pollock said. “We want to finish in front of [the Twins] for sure. Just finish the last nine games strong. Take it to the finish line no matter what.”
The Sox play three in San Diego after this series, then finish at home with three against the Twins. It could be their eighth losing season in the last 10 for a franchise that enjoyed three postseasons, 2008, 2020 and 2021 since the 2005 World Series. They won once in each series to go with nine losses, falling well short of the parades general manager Rick Hahn talked about during planning stages of the rebuild.
Fans were willing to let bygones be bygones when the Sox, after patchwork upgrades and tinkered rosters just good enough to maybe be in contention around the trade deadline, did what everyone felt was the right thing by tearing things down to the studs. They traded their most valuable assets, Chris Sale, Jose Quintana and Adam Eaton, for a stable of prospects who thrust their otherwise lagging minor league system to the top of the organization charts.
They lost on purpose and the fans didn’t care, eating up every news item they could find on prospects Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Dylan Cease and Eloy Jimenez. After they graduated to the major league team, the Sox’ organizational rankings fell back to the bottom but the expected payoff at the major league level came to an abrupt halt this season, manager Tony La Russa’s second and very likely his last.
The Sox were eliminated from contention over the weekend, and any push to finish over .500 reminds of 2018, when they desperately tried to fight off the 100-loss monster but got gobbled up losing their last five games, culminating with a sweep in Minnesota.
Lucas Giolito said no matter how it ends record-wise, they need to reacquaint themselves with having fun. That could be difficult with losses mounting.
“Honestly with these last games, just have fun playing and for all of us find what makes competing fun,” Lucas Giolito said. “Be free and loose and get that good feeling, end on a high note and take that to the offseason for whatever individual work we need to do.”