Chicago White Sox
The White Sox are making a bit of a deal out of last year being their "first playoff appearance since 2008," but that was in the mini-season of 2020 with its 60-game schedule and its five Wild Card teams. So whether that should count or not is a subjective question. The palehose were knocked out of that tourney early, losing the Wild Card series to the AL West-winning Oakland A's, and are out to show they deserve to be seen as playoff contenders even in a full season with normal playoff rules here in 2021.
On paper, the Sox do look pretty good as the season begins. They took a big hit when one of their young stars, Eloy Jiménez, tore a pectoral late in spring training, but even without him many experts (and some others) pick Chicago as the team to beat in the AL Central. They have a solid starting rotation led by Cy Young candidate Lucas Giolito, a potent lineup featuring defending AL MVP José Abreu and outstanding shortstop Tim Anderson, and a few young stars in the making in Luis Robert, Nick Madrigal, and perhaps Andrew Vaughn. (Vaughn is a curious case; like the Mariners, the White Sox haven't been shy about promoting prospects to the big leagues ahead of schedule, and Vaughn is being thrown in the deep end as the regular left fielder despite having just 37 games at rookie league and Class-A ball under his belt and never before playing the outfield. He was a first baseman and relief pitcher in college and strictly a first baseman in his very brief minor-league career, but with Jiménez out, the opportunity is in left field.) UPDATE: Anderson will not play in this series after injuring his hamstring in Sunday night's game against the Angels.
There are some new faces among the Southsiders, not the least of which is their new/old manager, Tony LaRussa (see below). Also joining the Sox for the second time is outfielder and on-base machine Adam Eaton, returning after four years as a Washington National. Speedster Billy Hamilton, starting pitcher Lance Lynn, infielder Jake Lamb, and closer Liam Hendriks also bring some veteran presence to the team. It's a solid club, and they have confidence. "A few of us were just mumbling among ourselves that this is easily the best squad we've ever been on," said pitcher Michael Kopech, himself returning from Tommy John surgery as a reliever. "The entire bullpen is focused and talking among ourselves about how good we can be." Starter Dallas Keuchel concurs, saying "We have a chance to be really special this year. Top to bottom, this is probably [the] most talented group [I've played with]."
|vs. AL West||1-3|
Who’s Hot & Not
Since Opening Day
.643/.643/1.000, 1 HR, 6 RBI
.313/.353/.375, 1 RBI
.250/.368/.438, 1 HR, 3 RBI
.143/.333/.214, 8 K
.182/.308/.273, 3 K
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|9/15/19||SEA 11, CWS 10|
|9/14/19||SEA 2, CWS 1|
|9/13/19||CWS 9, SEA 7|
|4/7/19||SEA 12, CWS 5|
|4/6/19||SEA 9, CWS 2|
|4/5/19||CWS 10, SEA 8|
|6/22/18||SEA 8, CWS 2|
|6/21/18||CWS 5, SEA 0|
|6/20/18||SEA 3, CWS 1|
Tony La Russa: No, you have not entered a time-warp and it is not 1983. The manager of the White Sox from late 1979 to early 1986 left Chicago to spend a decade steering the Oakland A's and 16 years at the helm of the St. Louis Cardinals, winning six pennants along the way and earning himself a plaque in Cooperstown, but now he's back. Why return to managing now, ten years after his last game with St. Louis? "He needed to manage again," said fellow ex-manager Jim Leyland of La Russa. “He saw the game the way it was going and didn’t like it. He told me, ‘I really don’t have the right to complain if I don’t do something about it.’ So now he’s in position to do something about it.’’ What didn't he like? What will he do about it? He's criticized others for over-reliance on analytics, though he's no stranger to them himself. "You have tons of information," La Russa said, "but you have to trust yourself and the staff to make decisions. It’s too dynamic of a game not to have the ability to make an adjustment."
At 76 years old, La Russa is the third-oldest manager in MLB history and some Sox fans feel like he's obsolete. Michael Baumann wrote that La Russa's experience is "about as relevant as Casey Stengel's" for a modern club. In a piece for The Ringer, Baumann went on to opine, "Had [White Sox owner Jerry] Reinsdorf exhumed Stengel, draped a jersey over his bones, and endowed those bones with the authority to make pitching changes, the White Sox might have been better off." La Russa is too old-school, say some, not accepting of flamboyant players or modern attitudes. Well, maybe. If he leads these White Sox to a division title, will these complaints persist?
La Russa isn't without off-field issues either, having been arrested for driving under the influence in 2007 and again back in February and finding himself on the wrong side of history by criticizing Colin Kaepernick's choice to kneel during the national anthem in 2016, endorsing Arizona's "papers please" minority-harassment law in 2010, and appearing with ultra-conservative mouthpiece Glenn Beck at a Washington, DC, rally while claiming "the gist of the [event] is not political." If nothing else, he figures to give White Sox beat writers and bloggers plenty of material as the season goes on.
Evan Marshall: This righty reliever has been something of a late bloomer, turning in terrific performances in Chicago since 2019 after struggling to get to and stay in the big leagues for years before that. He was in Seattle's organization in 2017, pitching mostly in the minors but taking the mound for the Mariners in six games and putting up numbers not uncommon to Seattle relief pitchers: 9.39 ERA and a 2.217 WHIP. Now 31, Marshall seems to have found a home with the Sox, though his 2021 campaign has not started well.
|Chicago White Sox||(1901 - present)|
|World Champions:||1906, 1917, 2005|
|League Champions:||1919, 1959|
|Division Titles:||1983, 1993, 2000, 2008|
Lucas Giolito: Giolito's uncle is television writer Mark Frost, co-creator of the cult favorite Twin Peaks.