CLEVELAND — White Sox vice president Ken Williams spoke to the team last weekend.
Manager Tony La Russa agreed with what he had to say.
How could he not? The White Sox are the most disappointing team in baseball.
The Sox continued to stumble during an important road trip with a 4-1 loss Tuesday to the Guardians in Game 1 of a split doubleheader. That followed Monday’s 8-4 loss to the Guardians. The Sox entered Tuesday trailing the Twins by 51/2 games in the AL Central and the Guardians by 11/2 games. After this four-game series concludes, the Sox play four games against the Twins before the All-Star break.
Williams spoke at the occasion of a team gathering to acknowledge shortstop Tim Anderson being named an All-Star starter.
“He spoke up about his observations of the first half,” La Russa said before the game. “And there wasn’t anything he said I disagreed with.”
The gist of Williams’ message?
“We have had our ups and downs and the talent is here to make it more ups than downs in the second half of the season,” La Russa said.
Perhaps. Those watching the Sox’ first 85 games wonder how leading the majors in errors and most defensive metrics, ranking 26th in the majors in homers and 25th in slugging and OPS and running into too many outs on the bases equates to talent.
Teams play good baseball or they don’t. The Sox (41-45) aren’t, so stringing games together with good pitching, hitting and defense have been few and far between.
“Win a couple, lose a couple, here we are again,” La Russa said Tuesday. “We haven’t had that sustained hot streak. So it seems like you’re always grinding, always swimming against the tide. But there is a truism if you follow seasons. At some point your skin has to get tough. You have to have scabs as a team. It’s been rough enough, you don’t walk through the season, show up in October and not have any scars. We keep our toughness going, this is putting stuff in the bank that will pay off later.”
Throughout spring training and April and May, the Sox almost assumed playing in a third straight October was a given.
Not any more.
It’s to the point where things like “team chemistry” are talking points in mid-July.
“A lot of times it gets tested, because of adversity, especially when the adversity lasts for a while,” La Russa said.
“We’ve had the spark but haven’t been able to turn the flame into an inferno,” closer Liam Hendriks said. “That was something we did last year [when the Sox won 93 games and the AL Central title]. But we can catch fire at any point.”
Shane Bieber limited the Sox to three hits and became the first Cleveland pitcher to throw a nine-inning complete game with fewer than 100 pitches since Corey Kluber on Aug. 4, 2018.
Davis Martin, called up from Triple-A Charlotte as the Sox’ 27th man, gave up four runs on eight hits over six innings. The Guardians got three in the third on two-out hits, an RBI double by Amed Rosario and a two-run single to Jose Ramirez.
Rosario doubled in another run in the fifth. Eloy Jimenez singled home Andrew Vaughn in the seventh for the Sox’ first run, bringing the tying run to the plate. But Gavin Sheets rapped into an inning ending double play.