I’m not sure if the White Sox fully grasp how much Chicago needs them right now, or at least how much the city needs the idea of someone like them.
The big idea was that the Sox were going to help sports fans forget the ugly blot of rebuilding projects going on around town. They were going to get us through the miserable spring weather and, along with the defending WNBA champion Sky, were going to help put further distance between us and the memory of the pandemic’s isolation.
The kind-of important part of the equation was that the Sox had to win games in order for them to obtain the civic healing properties I’m trying to bestow on them. As of Friday afternoon, they were 11-13, which isn’t as bad as it was before they took two games from the lowly Cubs.
Before I get to what ails the Sox – hint: “ails” is the crucial word here – let’s visit the teardown outbreak that is Chicago sports.
The Cubs refuse to use the word “rebuilding,” but if that isn’t what they’re doing, then their three victories in the last 14 games suggest that they might want to start. They’re not going to be lifting any trophies anytime soon at Wrigley Field
The Blackhawks have hired former Cubs executive Jeff Greenberg as an associate general manager, and nothing says “rebuild” quite like hiring a baseball guy with an Ivy League law degree to break down the numbers for you. They’ve gone so far as to say it might take three to five years to turn things around, which wouldn’t stretch the patience of Hawks fans so much as it would put them on a medieval rack.
The Bears are … I don’t know what the Bears are doing. Actually, yes, I do. The Bears are doing the Bears. They’re in that part of the cycle in which hope centers around a new coach and a new general manager. Happens every five or six years at Halas Hall. They finished 6-11 last season, and they’re asking fans for patience during this difficult time. They haven’t won a Super Bowl in 36 years. “This difficult time” is on a continuous loop in Lake Forest.
After a very nice start, the Bulls petered out down the stretch this season, losing eight of their final 10 games, including four of five against the Bucks in a first-round playoff series. The early taste of success was great, but how the season ended lacked flavor and nutritional value. The arrow might still be pointing up for the Bulls, but it could use some major sharpening in the offseason.
So, um, White Sox? Yeah, you’re needed. Immediately. And by “immediately,” I mean, “like three weeks ago.” So far, the season has been 10 shades of awful. Even if a Chicago sports fan doesn’t have a dog in this fight – even if you’re a Cubs fan who wishes despicable things upon the Sox – what’s transpired in the first month of the season for the South Siders has been ridiculous. A plague of injuries has taken down Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada and Andrew Vaughn, among others. Flamethrower Garrett Crotchet underwent Tommy John surgery in early April. Lance Lynn hurt his knee during spring training and has yet to pitch this season.
In non-injury bad news, the Sox have had trouble fielding the ball. They haven’t been able to score runs. They probably have bad breath. It’s been an almost total system shutdown.
The good news? Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson are hitting well. Dylan Cease has looked like the pitcher he was supposed to be when the Sox acquired him in the 2017 Jose Quintana trade. But there’s not enough good news, not nearly enough.
The Sox don’t have the full weight of Chicago’s hopes, dreams and need for escape on their shoulders, only about 20,000 tons of it. The injuries have been a massive problem, obviously, but the Sox haven’t been taking care of the things that have nothing to do with tendons, ligaments and muscles. Their 22 errors in (24) games heading into Friday’s series in Boston were tied for the most in the big leagues. Anderson has seven of them at shortstop. That reflects poorly on manager Tony La Russa, who prides himself on running a tight ship. So far, he’s piloting a riverboat casino.
Whenever there was a preseason conversation about World Series contenders, the Sox were in it. It’s much too soon to write them off, but it’s well past time for them to get their act together. Injuries hurt them last season, and injuries have helped bury their dream of a fast start to this season. But that doesn’t fully explain a puny .221 team batting average. Or a major league-low 51 walks.
The weather figures to improve soon (please?). People figure to be out and about more after two-plus years of relative confinement. If the Sox figure things out, it’ll be a nice communal mood boost. No pressure, guys.