Southsiders to South-sliders: Pinpointing what went wrong for White Sox

Entering this season, so many people looked at the White Sox’ assembled talent and thought their road to the playoffs would be an easy one. Sadly, the Sox organization was part of that group.

Sure, Carlos Correa was joining the Twins, but that wouldn’t be enough to jump over the reigning American League Central champions. The Tigers spent a lot of money, but didn’t have nearly enough pitching. The Royals were beginning a complete overhaul. That left the Guardians, a spunky young team loaded with pitching. This team had its own “Hall-of-Famer baseball person” at the helm in Terry Francona.

But alas, this was a team that wasn’t ready to peak quite yet.

Or so we thought.

Let’s go back to May 9. That Monday night changed things for the Guardians. It was a night that should have served as a warning for the Sox –a night that was a harbinger of what was to come.

The Sox were cruising along with an 8-2 lead entering the ninth inning. Their win probability was more than 99%. That’s when things fell apart. There were four total errors for the Sox in the game, including two in the ninth inning. That allowed a couple runs to score and loaded the bases for Josh Naylor. Manager Tony La Russa made the smart move, asking Liam Hendriks to shut the door, but things just got worse. Naylor sat on a Hendriks fastball and hit a grand slam to tie the score. Naylor would add a three-run homer in the 11th to seal a 12-9 victory.

Naylor became the first player in recorded baseball history to produce 8 RBI in the eighth inning or later. This is the night that he became a legend. And it seems to be the night the Guardians became believers.

It wasn’t that long ago that the Sox were that team. They used to be a hungry, talented bunch with a ton of swag. People miss those times like they miss the old Kanye. Organizationally, they wanted to change the game, but they’re the ones who changed. They got paid. They got sloppy. They got lazy.

Throughout the season, the Guardians created a blueprint for beating the Sox. Other teams took note and copied the formula. Man-for-man, the Guardians maybe weren’t as talented, but if they played hard enough, that could make up the difference. In every game between the two teams, you could see Cleveland players taking an extra base and putting stress on the Sox’ putrid defense. The Guardians didn’t wilt. Nor did they genuflect in the presence of the Sox.

Once the All-Star break arrived, they were ahead of the Sox in the standings and believing they could win the division.

Jump back in the time machine and let’s make a quick stop to a week ago Tuesday. By then, all the perceived fear of the Sox was gone. Cleveland walked into “The Rate” and stomped the Sox in a three-game series. It was supposed to be the last stand for the “South Side Nine,” but they reverted back to the team that we’ve seen most of the season. The Guardians announced themselves as a deserving champion and the Sox looked like a bunch of quitters.

On Sunday, the Guardians completed a remarkable run; cutting their magic number from 12 to zero in six days. That was in large part due to the Sox getting what they deserved: an 0-6 homestand featuring new Sox villain Javier Baez of the Tigers putting a final nail in the 2022 season’s coffin.

The Guardians’ celebration for winning the Central was filled with champagne and cigars. It also included them openly mocking the White Sox.

In one video, someone can be heard screaming, “Fire Tony,” and everyone laughs. In another video, someone screams “(bleep) the White Sox!” Everyone cheers. Strangely enough, Sox fans can probably relate to both sentiments.

The right team won the division. The petty mocking felt like justice. It’s exactly what the ’22 White Sox deserved.

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