Despite media’s efforts, White Sox downplay meaning of Tigers series
BY RICK MORRISSEY Sports Columnist June 9, 2014 10:37PM
- WATCH: Gillaspie on Tigers: 'Didn't know who was in first place'
- WATCH: Adam Eaton on setting tone at top of White Sox order
- WATCH: Adam Dunn on series vs. Tigers
- WATCH: White Sox GM Hahn on signing draft pick Carlos Rodon
Updated: June 10, 2014 5:15PM
Do not, under any circumstance, suggest to the White Sox that their four-game series with the Tigers is important. Not if you value your limbs.
If you do happen to make the mistake of saying the series carries some weight, quickly try to correct yourself, lest you look like a fool, especially being limbless and all.
If the Sox had gone any more out of their way Monday to downplay the meeting with the first-place Tigers, they would have been in Kankakee. They do not want this to turn into a referendum on their ability or their season or just about anything else.
It was interesting being part of the media throng that bounced from player to player to manager Robin Ventura to general manager Rick Hahn before the series opener. That throng was hoping to find someone who saw things the way it did — that this was, like, the biggest thing ever! For early June! When nothing else was going on in town! In another season in which the Cubs are awful!
But nobody was biting. Had Mike Tyson been here, he wouldn’t have bit.
“I have no idea how [the Tigers] are doing,” third baseman Conor Gillaspie said.
Come now. The team that is in first place in the American League Central? The team that has won the division the previous three seasons? No idea?
“Obviously, I knew we weren’t in first place, but other than that, I couldn’t tell you anything else,” Gillaspie said.
Yes, but the Tigers have what the Sox want. Can we agree on that?
“People are trying to make this into something that it’s not, and that’s kind of a must-win series,” designated hitter Adam Dunn said.
They’re right, of course, all of them. One series in early June is not going to make or break a 162-game season. It probably won’t make or break a week, unless it’s the last week in a pennant race.
But some series are good for temperature-taking, which is why a lot of people were carrying thermometers Monday night and asking the Sox to stick out their tongues.
Let’s see what these Sox are about. A 6-5 victory was a nice way to start, even more so because it included a Jose Abreu home run. Almost everything in life is improved by an Abreu dinger.
The Sox raised their record to 32-33, good for third place, 3½ games behind the Tigers and good enough to stir up a conversation in a city that wasn’t expecting many baseball conversations this season. The starting pitching has been excellent of late, and the hitting has been good at times. The defense has been bad — not 2013 bad, but bad in a way that will haunt them if they don’t clean it up. Left fielder Alejandro De Aza’s attempt to pull in a deep ball in the ninth Monday was painful to watch.
And here the Sox are, sort of contending.
“You’ve got to be pleasantly surprised where we’re at right now with all the injuries we had early — a lot of key injuries, obviously,” Dunn said. “The injury excuse is no longer. We’re getting everybody back healthy.”
That includes Abreu, who had been out with an ankle injury. It says something about how good Abreu had been that there had been focus on his pre-Monday 1-for-12 mini-slump. Dunn can slump like that by turning over in bed. Abreu’s 2-for-4 night included the two-run homer in the fifth.
The Tigers will tell the Sox how good they are and whether their dreams are realistic, if they have any, not that they’ll tell us. The Tigers are what the Sox want to be someday. If the Sox and their fans find that idea offensive, they might want to take a look at the standings over the previous three seasons. The team’s best finish in that span was second, in 2012.
The Sox might dismiss the hoopla surrounding this series as silly, but it’s not silly in the context of what the team might do in July, when decisions often are made about whether to buy or sell. Hahn knows that.
“The chances to win out there are sacred,” he said. “We’re not going to forsake a real chance to win. At the same time, we remain mindful of our longer-term goals.”
In the meantime, would somebody give us a heads-up when a big series comes along?
“I would love to,” Ventura said. “But you’re in the beginning parts of June …”
Yeah, we know.