A lockout robbed the White Sox in ’94, will it happen again?
The Chicago White Sox/MLB is currently in the midst of its first lockout since the 1994 season. According to MLB insider Jeff Passan, negotiations have made little progress. Bob Nightengale also tweeted that no future negotiating sessions have been scheduled.
2020 was an indication that the animosity between the two sides is real. These issues are going to take time to hammer out. If the MLB and players union aren’t even on speaking terms, the start of the baseball season could be in Jeopardy.
Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report to spring training on February 17th and exhibition games are slated to start on the 26th. Unless the current situation improves, this could have major ramifications on the 2022 White Sox.
This would be the second time in as many lockouts that the White Sox World Series chances were directly affected. Flashback 28 years ago and the White Sox were sitting atop the American League Central standings.
The 2022 Chicago White Sox doesn’t want the same fate that the 1994 team had.
Skipper Gene Lemont had guided a stacked White Sox roster to a 67-46 record. The previous year the White Sox won 94 games and took home the American League Western Divison crown. They made it to the American League Championship Series where they were defeated by the eventual World Series champion Toronto Blue Jays in six games. The White Sox felt 1994 was their year to take the next step.
The team looked primed to do just that. Their lineup was stacked. Julio Franco, Craig Grebeck, Darren Jackson, and Frank Thomas were all batting over .300. Ozzie Guillen was batting .288 while his fellow middle infielder Joey Cora was batting .276.
Lance Johnson had 26 stolen bases and led the American League in triples. Future Hall of Famer Tim Raines had 101 hits and 10 home runs. Robin Ventura posted a .282 batting average with 18 home runs and 78 RBIs.
Frank Thomas was having another MVP caliber season. The Big Hurt had a team-leading 113 hits, 38 home runs, 101 RBIs, and 109 walks. The team had a .287 batting average. That was the third-highest in the MLB. They also scored 5.60 runs per game which was good enough for fourth-best in the league.
The pitching staff was anchored by Wilson Alvarez and Jack McDowell. Alvarez had a team-best 3,45 ERA and 12 wins. McDowell racked up 127 strikeouts and posted 127 strikeouts. The staff as a whole posted a combined 3.96 ERA. The bullpen was held down by Josè DeLeon and Roberto Hernandez.
Then the season was cut short and never resumed. On August 11th, the stadium lights went out and were not turned back on for the rest of the season. Arguments between the MLBPA and MLB took center stage in place of the action on the field. The 1994 White Sox had a World Series opportunity pulled out from under them. It still stings to this day.
It is yet to be seen if the current lockout has as drastic of an impact like the one that canceled the season in 1994 did. However, it still has implications for the 2022 season. For starters, the White Sox need to add a few pieces to their roster to vault them into serious World Series contenders.
Like the 1994 White Sox, the current iteration of the White Sox roster has a solid core that is primed to take the next step. It is a mix of young studs, battle-tested veterans, and an MVP first baseman.
The 2022 White Sox will also have a much more talented pitching staff. They still have holes in right field and second base that need to be patched up. By the time the lockout ends, general managers like Rick Hahn will not have much time to operate.
The players on the current rosters are also unable to communicate with coaches. It has been well documented the impact Ethan Katz has had on the White Sox pitching staff. Pitchers are unable to contact him about offseason workouts or check in with their progress. This could be especially impactful for Micheal Kopech who is making the switch into the starting rotation.
The potential of a delayed start to the season could also have an impact on team health. Injuries decimated the White Sox in 2021. With an improved division, they are going to need everyone at full strength.
In 2020, injuries saw a significant uptick because players had to ramp things up quickly. This was after a similar dispute between the MLB and players union that resulted in uncertainty if the season would even be played.
Like everyone involved, all fans can do is play the waiting game. Let’s hope this current lockout doesn’t derail the White Sox World Series aspirations like the 1994 lockout did.