This is it for the Chicago White Sox.
I know it’s not even the last week of June but there is no way to avoid it. They have already given back all the wiggle room they banked at the start of the season with a tremendously bad 10-26 stretch heading into this week’s series in Boston.
They have until the All-Star break to prove to their front office, their fans, and to themselves that they will be a factor for the rest of the season. The good news is, the schedule favors them.
There are 17 games between now and the break counting the final two games in Boston. Twelve of those games will be played at US Cellular Field. Not that the Sox have been world beaters at home with just an even 17-17 mark, but it’s supposed to be an advantage right?
Here’s how the rest of those games break down:
Five of those games are against teams that are above .500 as we stand today. Those happen to be the next five games against Boston and Toronto. And the Sox have already taken the first two from the Carmines and swept the Jays in Toronto earlier in the year, when things were much happier in Sox-Land.
After that, the records of the teams the Sox play in the final 12 games before the All-Star break is 116-166 (.411). Two of those teams are well under .500 in the Twins and the Braves, who have the two worst records in the majors. Both of those series are at home for the Sox.
The other two series are against the Yankees (34-36) and the Astros (36-36).
So it really boils down to this next couple weeks for the White Sox. Can they win enough games against inferior opponents to get themselves back above .500 and within striking distance of a playoff berth by the break, or will they continue to struggle and fall to a place where they aren’t worth saving?
For the Sox to take advantage of this stretch they are going to need to probably win 10 to 12 of these next 17 games. That would put them between three and five games over .500 heading into the All-Star break.
That certainly feels doable considering six of those games are against the two worst teams in baseball. You could win those six and go 5-6 in the other 11 games and that would get the job done. Or win five of those and go 6-5 in the other eleven. The point is if the Sox beat up on the bottom dwellers, and they are 6-0 against the Twins this year, then they don’t need to be great against the other teams.
If they can manage to do that, and end up three to five games over .500 at the break, then they should be well within striking distance of a playoff berth.
If that is the case, I believe that the front office will go out and try and address the team’s needs. These needs start with another middle of the order bat, preferably a left-handed one. They also likely include at least one relief pitcher. There will be options for both on the market, including ones that could help both this year, and the next.
However, if the Sox do not play well over the next 17 games and end up below .500 at the All-Star break, I don’t think it makes a lot of sense for the front office to go out and trade prospects to try and acquire enough pieces to right a sinking ship. In that scenario, you start looking at who the Sox could move to try and acquire some younger talent. And no, they aren’t trading Chris Sale, so just stop with that.
The White Sox are not as bad a team as they have been the past 36 games. They also aren’t as good as they were the first 33 games. They are somewhere in the middle, but so are most of the teams in the American League.
It’s up to the Sox to show they are worth getting behind, and they have 17 games to do it. Which team will show up, the team from the first 33 games, or the team from the next thirty-six? Whichever it is might determine the course of the organization for the next several years.