White Sox first half in review – What could we have possibly done to deserve this?


July 11, 2013; Detroit, MI, USA; Chicago White Sox shortstop

Alexei Ramirez

(10) is helped off the field by manager

Robin Ventura

(23) and trainer Herm Schneider after getting injured while running towards first in the sixth inning against the Detroit Tigers at Comerica Park. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

The injustice, the insulated levels of privilege, the unimaginable displays of greed and brutality that go not only unpunished, but rewarded–it’s all a bit much for me to start investing in the idea of karma. Karma through reincarnation allows an escape from seeking reasons and justifications for events in the here and now, but asks for broader leaps of faith that seem unapproachable.

That said, some White Sox fan committed an act of sacrilege unknowably profound in a past life–like, covering some holy alter in pizza puke and then just leaving–and now we have been made to suffer. That is the cause of the 2013 White Sox offense, and there is no room for debate on this matter.

Despite a hell of series against first-place Detroit, the Sox batting line of .249/.302/.384, which placed in the context of the White Sox homer-happy ballpark, represented the worst offense in the American League all season until Houston went and snuck behind them this weekend. If you’d like to be more direct about it, they have scored 342 runs through Saturday. That is also the least.

That’s a simple enough explanation for how the White Sox found themselves in last place in the AL Central, poised to sell off every veteran asset and even a few players who don’t fit that definition. Teams that are the worst at things are often the worst overall, especially if that thing is something as basic as “scoring.”

But there’s a narrative here. After a disastrous early road trip through Washington and Cleveland that saw them go 1-5 while Jake Peavy and Chris Sale were rocked, the Sox dragged themselves back to .500 via a home sweep of the even more hapless Miami Marlins (which included two walk-off wins, lest you think they actually outclassed an opponent).

"“Being .500, we feel like now the only way is up,” (Dylan) Axelrod said. “Good things are happening.”"

They have gone 13-30 since.

An eight-game losing streak, a season-sweep at the hands of the crosstown rival Cubs and three-straight losses to the Houston Astros–where they scored eight runs in three games against the worst pitching staff in the American League–and the horror of what was happening to the White Sox came into a more full view, like a fog lifting off a field of wreckage.

"“For once, I’m speechless,” (Adam) Dunn said. “I don’t know why our offense is sputtering. We got the talent and everything in place. We’re not producing.”"

Lots of confidence is needed to compete in major league baseball, so it’s natural that Adam is shocked, but no one outside the clubhouse has any reason to be. For the umpteenth time, the White Sox were depending on a slate of veterans to rally for one more big year. In return, they’ve gotten the bends of the aging curve they deserved.

That, along with Dayan Viciedo and Tyler Flowers not developing at all has been the death knell for an offense that’s only now showing signs of life, well after the Sox have given up on all ideas of competition and traded Matt Thornton to Boston.

It’s been rough to watch old heroes die painfully, especially Konerko, who’s dealt with back problems while watching his power dissipate, but the window dressing has been even worse. After being one of the sharpest executing teams in baseball in 2012, largely credited to manager Robin Ventura‘s stress on fundamentals and insistence on extra infield practice, the Sox has transformed into an ugly, bumbling mess.

Errors are overemphasized with analyzing defense, but being tied for third in the AL with 58 gaffes is not a good thing. While the Sox actually ranked near the bottom of the league in outs made on the basepaths and are passably efficient at stealing bases considering their volume, but events like Jordan Danks getting picked off second base to seal a loss to the Astros seals in ideas about the Sox being incompetent, lazy and disengaged from every detail-oriented aspect of a game that most everyone loves diving into the details of. The Sox are not just bad, but everyone except those who love GIF-ing bloopers find them offensive to watch.

Even Hawk Harrelson, the bloviating bellwether of the team, has been reduced to admitting that this season “has been hell on me”, as if his meltdowns after events like Gordon Beckham crashing through Conor Gillaspie to drop a would-be game-ending pop-up and insane self-consoling after the Sox blew a five-run lead in the 14th inning–a game that would be their only win in an 11-game stretch–weren’t big enough giveaways on their own.

There’s been one perverse solace throughout, besides Hawk losing it, which is that if things got bad enough, the Sox would finally be forced to do what’s been coming and they’ve been fighting–to purge, burn down, transform and rebuild. Watching long-tenured veterans such as Thornton will be rough, but it’s got nothing on the games played.