The chatter surrounding the White Sox is remarkably doom-laden. To a certain extent, that’s natural for any team projected to finish near the top of the league and is instead stuck at .500 a quarter of the way through the season. The White Sox have managed to simultaneously under-perform and over-perform expectations, their record falling short of what the team offers on paper while also comfortably exceeding their -42 run differential. A perfect, aggravating mediocrity.
Baseball rarely promises eventfulness—does the opposite, really, just looking at how often batters get on base—but a good baseball team, or player, makes you believe it anyway. You know, the vibes-based portion of evaluating performance. For example, Tim Anderson possesses so much narrative prowess that Earth recalibrates every once in a while to make him the main character. On a game-to-game basis, this is one of many things the White Sox have failed to consistently show this season: the promise that they can make something happen.
The final game of their home series against Boston on Thursday night made this point plenty clear. Dallas Keuchel, who has not had a great 2022 so far, gave up three runs in the first inning and then three more in the second to drag his ERA up to a tidy 7.88 on the season. If the game were a blowout it may have been easier to write off, but then Andrew Vaughn hit a three-run, bases-clearing double with nobody out in the third. By the bottom of the fifth, the White Sox were down a very surmountable 7-5, thanks to a two-run homer by Vaughn, who might just be a good baseball player. For a moment, just a moment, the team was within striking distance.
It did not last! The game came off the rails in the eighth as the Red Sox built a 14-5 lead that four-straight walks from the White Sox couldn’t offset. Infielder Josh Harrison came out to pitch at the top of the ninth and threw, according to Statcast, a slider, changeup, and curveball. The Red Sox won, 16-7, as the game limped on dying legs to cross the four-hour mark.
That is, of course, one take on the game. I watched most of it with my older sister, a basketball fan who does not care about baseball at all, who was working on a puzzle. This is what she had to say.
At the start: “Whoa, [the commentators] sound so relaxed.”
At various points in the game: “I like how they’re talking about the weather,” and, “They are spending a shocking amount of time talking about the weather,” etc.
After Jason Benetti used the phrase “from whence it came”: “‘From whence it came’! Great phrase.”
After the Nationwide jingle (singing): “Nationwide is on your side.” A few moments later: “Nationwide is stuck in my head.”
Bonus material from the one hour of the Phillies game we watched beforehand: “Bryce Harper sounds like a name I’ve heard before.”
What is the takeaway here? Good question! I tend towards doomer-ism often enough, but I’m also a firm believer in mediating extreme negativity so that it brings joy (see: Pat Beverley), not suffering. In the optimism-inspiring context of “Bryce Harper sounds like a name I’ve heard before”: Rejoice! The White Sox are bad; kick off the commiseration party. At the same time, hold onto the moments of a near comeback occurring at this stage of the season where even the most maddening games can still be pleasantly filtered through idle chatter and soothing hobbies. The White Sox really ought to be better, and I don’t say that in a defeated, scolding sense. Rather, I think that improvement is expected once they get Lance Lynn back, or Luis Robert, or Eloy Jiménez, or when Dylan Cease’s ERA hopefully ends up falling in line with his xERA and FIP, or when the offense remembers how to walk—whatever the bigger picture of watching someone go up to bat and believing that they’ll get a hit is.
In other words, here’s a two-week old tweet from White Sox commentator Steve Stone regarding the state of White Sox doomer-ness:
“Then of course there are a few / others.” Poetry. Words to live by. Take care—don’t bite your own head off on the way out.