CLEVELAND – The White Sox opened a vitally important road trip heading into the All-Star break Monday with a game against the Cleveland Guardians two games under .500, pushing toward a much needed recovery after a poor first half and pushing back against reported issues in the clubhouse.
“You always wonder who the sources are, where the information came from,” manager Tony La Russa said of a USA Today report of whispers of unrest, cliques and lack of player leadership inside the clubhouse. “Not really worth much unless you know that. I’m closer to it than to whoever the sources are.”
La Russa said playing below expectations puts the team under the microscope. The issue for his team, he said, is playing better and winning games.
Closer Liam Hendriks, saying the report “couldn’t be further from the truth,” agreed.
“People are trying to find chinks in the armor,” Hendriks said Monday. “They’re trying to understand why we haven’t been doing what we’re supposed to be doing this year. I don’t think it’s anything tangible, we just haven’t been able to fire. We’ve had the spark but haven’t been able to turn the flame into an inferno.
“That was something we did last year. But we can catch fire at any point in time and be one of the most dangerous teams in this league, I have no doubt about that.”
The Sox have been one of the worst defensive teams all season, have made multiple baserunning blunders and rank in the bottom tier of offenses after being a top-tier team last year when they won the AL Central. They’re 12th in the American League in home runs. Those would be the causes of concern above all else.
Hendriks said there’s too much “talent, pride and passion” in the clubhouse for the Sox to be playing this way.
“That’s why we have no doubt what can happen and God willing will happen in the next couple of months,” he said.
Clubhouse chemistry became a talking point when a video released by the Sox showing coach Joe McEwing telling the team Tim Anderson made the All-Star Game as a starter was a stark contrast to last season’s video of McEwing doing the same when Anderson was named an All-Star for the first time.
Elated players, led by Jose Abreu jumped up and down and surrounded Anderson at his locker in Baltimore last season. This year, the scene was more subdued with players seated at their lockers.
The Sox were coming off a rough stretch, which is why Anderson steered his feelings in the moment toward the team. Anderson was subdued but he hugged everyone in the room, including training staff, which was not on the video.
In any event, the Sox celebrate wins and personal achievements in the clubhouse with player of the game honors, and in the case of pitchers and hitters achieving personal firsts, beer showers and the like.
After losses, the atmosphere can be intense — players are upset after losses and have let it be known before media are let inside.
That said, not everything is seashells and ballons within the team. Mainly because it can’t get on a sustained run of success.
Right-hander Dylan Cease, who will face the Indians in the second game of a day-night doubleheader Tuesday, said the clubhouse is close.
“Oh yeah. Oh, definitely,” Cease said Monday. “It honestly makes coming into the clubhouse and to the park a lot more enjoyable. I consider this a pretty close-knit group, so, yeah it’s definitely not an issue on this team.”
“My comment would be if you haven’t been in this clubhouse don’t talk about this clubhouse,” Hendriks said. “You don’t know what’s going on. The people he’s talking to are obviously ill informed and don’t know what’s going on in here.”