September, the Central, and the Sox.
Swimming upstream (Jerry Lai-US PRESSWIRE)
Despite the victory last night, September has been a cruel month for the White Sox this year. With the win Chicago moved to 11-15 on the month and have plunged rapidly from a rather commanding 3-game lead over the Tigers to a 1-game deficit with very little time remaining. Hope is not lost, as they can clearly still recover and make the playoffs. But to me, I’ve seen a September like this before, and second place seems to be the default condition of the franchise.
In 2003 the White Sox held a 2 game lead over Minnesota in the AL Central on September 1st. They were a vastly superior team, holding an edge in run differential of +56 to +3, boasting a strong trio of starters in Loaiza, Buehrle, and Colon. They managed to limp through September at 13-12, however they lost their last 5 games against Minnesota that month and wound up 4 games out by the end.
In 2006, the White Sox started September 5.5 back on Detroit, which would seem like quite the deficit. However, they were one game up on the Twins who would wind up lapping both Chicago and the Tigers to win the division, whereas the White Sox would tread water at 12-16 and finish 6 games out.
Despite the fact that since its creation the AL Central has been a weak division– usually boasting either one strong team or none at all, and only capturing the Wild Card once since its inception – the White Sox have struggled to excel. The White Sox finished second in the Central in 2010, 2004, 2003, 2002, 1999, 1998, 1997, and 1996. By contrast, they have only managed to take home the prize in 2008, 2005, 2000, and 1994 (kind of).
I have not given up hope on the White Sox for this season, and nor should you. Hey, in 2008 and 2005 they managed to stave off the competition and hold tough through the end of the season. However, the White Sox have come up short in September before, and some sort of force inevitably seems to drag them toward the silver medal position.