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White Sox Fri Sep 28 2012

White Sox Face Eleventh Hour of 2012 Season

Sox_200.pngSure, there are six games left in the season. Yeah, Detroit's closing out the regular season on the road. And naturally, this is baseball, stranger things have happened, it's not over 'til it's over, and all that.

But it just looks more and more like the Tigers will eke out a division title just as the White Sox ran out of steam. Heading into the weekend, Detroit leads free-falling Chicago by two games in the AL Central.

Thursday night's game was just a small sampling of many of the issues that have plagued the Sox this season. Jake Peavy had a strong outing where he willed himself to 115+ pitches, but a few mistakes put a blemish on his evening. The Sox lineup was able to get guys on base fairly easily, but couldn't bring them in (10 men left on base). They had a baserunning gaffe. The bullpen caved and yielded a late lead. Adam Dunn struck out in a big spot.

The Sox's trump card over the second half has been twofold: As long as they didn't go into a complete funk, they could keep a lead in the division because the Tigers, for whatever reason, could never get over the hump and get hot. Chicago could lead the division by two games and go on a 5-11 run, yet still lead the AL Central by a game (like what happened earlier in the month). Then, the Sox could go on a mini-hot streak and right the ship a little.

Well, those were the days for the South Siders.

The Sox are in their worst funk of the season -- 1-8 over their last nine, including four games at home -- and the Tigers have finally put it together. They just swept the Royals at home. Apparently, Kansas City isn't as pesky against Detroit as they are against Chicago.

Sadly for the Sox, I'm not sure what they can do. Changing up the lineup and pitching rotation would be pointless shuffling, since no one is hitting the ball exceedingly well lately. They don't have anyone on their bench or in the long-relief spots that is starter worthy. I don't think this veteran-heavy team is dogging it, so effort isn't an issue. Robin Ventura is not a rah-rah guy, so an Any Given Sunday type of speech wouldn't work. Or have any chance of happening.

The Sox are on a cold streak, have stiffened up to a certain degree, contracted some sort of mental block that doesn't allow them to rally or get a clutch hit, and the deeper-rooting problems are starting to become clearer -- that the team has lived on the solo home run, that their patchwork pitching staff's magic is starting to wear off, and that a certain percentage of this season's success has been based on luck.

I don't mean that in a bad way at all. Chicago's 82 wins have been no accident (in fact, their Pythagorean W-L suggests they should be two games better), but they simply are where they are -- two games back with six to play -- because of where their stadium is located. They're in the AL Central: Two teams are rebuilding, one has totally flopped, and the other has largely been a disappointment. In the other two American League divisions right now, 82 wins is a fourth-place team. It should also be noted that the White Sox have essentially been eliminated from a wild card spot, which, in theory, should be easier to get than a division crown.

My point is, the Sox have overachieved for much of this year. Check some of the pre-season predictions, and track some of Kenny Williams off-season moves, and you'll see that no one thought much of the club before Opening Day.

I definitely was impressed by the team this year. Several veterans had bounce-back years, so many rookies and young guns thrived in getting regular playing time. Even first-year skipper Ventura had an enormous impact on the team. It was amazing to see this team win with a higher degree of difficulty than, say, the Tigers.

The fact is, maybe the Sox just aren't a playoff team. It wasn't meant to be. Though the season's not over yet, and stranger things have happened, the Sox could just be playing for pride this next week.

If something strange happens, so be it.

 
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