White Sox Rising
May 31, 2012
When the Chicago White Sox swept the Chicago Cubs at Wrigley Field two weeks ago it was fun but, really, can’t an old person with a fly swatter beat the Cubs?
The Sox, however, were apparently emboldened by that three-game ear-gouge of their crosstown rivals because now the Pale Hose are taking everyone to the woodshed, good and bad.
After the Cubs, the Sox took two-of-three at home against the Minnesota Twins then welcomed the first-place Cleveland Indians to town and got all Frankie Muniz on them, too, scoring 35 runs in a three-game sweep.
But let’s be honest, beating teams in the American League Central is like winning a beauty pageant in Rhode Island. So, the Sox hit the road and took on a tried-and-true team from the only division that ESPN cares about, the American League East, and swept away the Tampa Bay Rays in three straight at Tropicana Ghost Town and the White Sox now suddenly sit atop the Central with a 29-22 record.
First baseman Paul Konerko has led the charge with an AL-best .381 average along with 11 home runs and 33 RBI and he has gotten a lot of help. Designated hitter Adam Dunn, who was so bad last year he was nearly traded for a tambourine and some gauze, has already surpassed his 2011 home run total with 16 along with 37 RBI. Alex Rios, A. J. Pierzynski, Gordon Beckham and Alejandro De Aza are all hitting the ball well too, as is leftfielder Dayan Viciedo who, at age 23, could be blossoming into a long-time All-Star.
Yes it’s early, but the joy in Bridgeport is quite welcome for now especially considering this is a White Sox team that many predicted would finish in last place. It could still happen, of course, as there’s no way the Sox are going to keep hitting the way they have the last few weeks and the bullpen and starting rotation still have question marks.
But the Sox have two sensational starters in Jake Peavy and Chris Sale and have a first-year manager, Robin Ventura, who won’t allow his charges to get too high or too low. So while the ride for the next four months might not have the stunning upward trajectory it has had the since the middle of May, it will almost certainly be a smooth trip in the clubhouse.
Now, the burden shifts to the fans. The White Sox are 27th in baseball in home attendance, attracting fewer than 21,000 fans per game to U.S. Cellular Field. If the Sox are going to maintain their $96 million payroll, which is 11th highest in baseball, or go out and get some help before the trade deadline, the fans are going to have to buck up to keep these kids in the game.
This is not to imply that South Side fans, or any baseball fans, have an obligation to shell out their hard-earned money to see millionaires chase a little ball around, especially in a still challenging economy. But if White Sox fans do start digging into their pockets they’ll be doing so for a team that looks like it just might be worth it.