Chicago White Sox
With the unexpected and precipitous fall of the Minnesota Twins, the White Sox are the prohibitive favorites to win the American League Central this year. They have owned at least a share of first place since May 4th and had it to themselves since May 7th, but recently have begun to slip a bit. Chicago has dropped six of their last nine games, losing three games in the standings in the process, but they're too good a team for the slide to continue much longer—hopefully the Mariners can keep it going just a few more days.
Switch-hitting third baseman Yoan Moncada leads the White Sox offensively, coming into this series with a .399 on-base percentage, while defending AL MVP José Abreu tops the Sox in the categories of home runs and RBIs with 12 and 53. Shortstop Tim Anderson is a free-swinger but connects a lot, especially at home at the former Comiskey Park, where his line is an eye-popping .344/.390/.488. Oh, and he steals bases, too. One more interesting stat line belongs to veteran catcher Yasmani Grandal; the former All-Star is only batting .172, but his OPS is nearly .800 thanks to 54 walks and 11 homers.
Though the M's will miss staff ace Lucas Giolito in this series, they still have to face some serious pitching. Scheduled to start the three games are left-hander Carlos Rodón, who owns a no-hitter this year (back in April against Cleveland) and a season ERA that has yet to top 2.00 all year; veteran righty Lance Lynn, whom the M's saw a few times he was in the division with the Texas Rangers and struggled against (Lynn is 3-1, 2.53 in five starts vs. Seattle) and who also had a sub-2.00 ERA until his last start (a 7-3 loss to Houston); and southpaw Dallas Keuchel, who has the worst ERA and WHIP of any White Sox starting pitcher at 3.98 and 1.340. Keuchel had been one of the various former Astros to be suspected of using SpiderTack and the like, and it will be interesting to see if his season numbers end up significantly different from previous campaigns. Things get a little less intimidating when looking at the relief corps, but the Sox bullpen still has some fearsome arms in it—former Oakland A Liam Hendriks has 19 saves already to go with an unreal strikeout-to-walk ratio of 16.3-to-1, and the comically named southpaw Aaron Bummer has been solid along with right-hander José Ruiz in setup duty.
Anderson is the clubhouse leader of the squad and he sets a competitive tone. "We are serious," he says of his team. "I don’t think it’s [a] secret. You just try to have that right mindset and mentality to go out and treat every game like it is an elimination game." He functions almost as a player-coach, offering his ear when someone needs help and taking the initiative when they don't come out and ask. "Everybody knows I’m here to try to make them better and not try to talk down to them. Just to push them and try to get the best for my teammates. Try to get the best out of each and every one of these guys."
|vs. AL West||6-8|
Who’s Hot & Not
Last ten games
.314/.368/.457, 3 XBH, 6 RBI
.326/.341/.419, 4 2B, 1 SB
.158/.179/.184, 11 Ks
.175/.233/.275, 12 Ks
.167/.279/.222, 9 Ks
Last 3 series vs. Seattle
|4/7/21||SEA 8, CWS 4|
|4/6/21||CWS 10, SEA 4|
|4/5/21||CWS 6, SEA 0|
|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|
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 gone well—he comes into this series having surrendered 15 earned runs in 26 innings.
|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.
Tim Anderson is one of four players in history to be named AL Player of the Month who was from the state of AL (Alabama), succeeding Delmon Young, Willie Wilson, and Lamar Johnson.
Yermin Mercedes: The Sox rookie started his big-league career with a bang, going 8-for-8, the first player in the history of the American League to start a career with eight consecutive hits (no National Leaguer has done it at least since 1900, but no confirmation that it's never been done in the early days of the senior circuit). A week into the season he hit the longest homer of the year so far, 485 feet. He was riding very high in April, held hitless in just three games all month (one of which he was walked three times and another in which he only had two plate appearances), but then came a hefty dose of reality—after finishing April with a line of .415/.455/.659, the young Dominican started a steep fall and has batted just .189/.253/.264 since May 1st.
Liam Hendriks: The new White Sox relief ace has always been known as a goofy jokester, so when he posed on team photo day wearing teammate Eloy Jiménez's batting helmet and gloves everyone got a good chuckle. But he was also making a statement: he wants a hit. "I just want one hit. I want the ball, I want to put it on my wall, and that's it." Before the Australian signed as a pitcher, he also played the outfield and, in his words, "could hit a little bit." Count him among those who don't want to see a universal DH dilute the game.