Remember 2005: Don’t lose faith in the Sox just yet
BY RICK MORRISSEY firstname.lastname@example.org September 2, 2012 10:44PM
Not even having Chris Sale on the bump could keep the Sox from being swept. | Duane Burleson~AP
Updated: October 4, 2012 6:19AM
There is still every possibility the White Sox will hold off the Detroit Tigers and win the AL Central. OK, maybe not every possibility, but a lot of them.
Or a few.
Admit it: The confidence tank is a little low. Don’t feel bad about that. It’s perfectly understandable. After a 4-2 loss in their game in Detroit on Sunday night, the Sox have lost six of their previous seven games and 12 of their last 13 in Motown.
The Tigers’ sweep put them in a first-place tie with the Sox, which might not that big a deal if not for the fact that the Tigers are healthier, more talented and blessed with better pitching. But this is baseball, and baseball, as much as some people want to turn it into a complex math problem, is bizarre and unpredictable. Unpredictability is the Sox’ best friend.
I want to remind you about the 2005 season, which you might recall was the World Series year. Remember? I do. I believed in that team for the first 51/2 months, even as Sox fan after Sox fan fell away while the team went through a horrific late-season slump. A 15½-game lead turned into a 1½-game lead.
And Mr. Confident lost his steel-reinforced certainty that 2005 was going to be the year for the Sox. After a season spent laughing at the Sox faithful who were marinating in their angst, I fell into the pot myself. I wrote that the team had lost it.
“The Sox have wiped out all the good feelings they had built up in the first four months of the season,’’ I said at the time. “They have taken away the feeling that anything is possible and replaced it with the feeling that anything catastrophic is possible. They have made the playoffs something to dread. Stunning.’’
Yeah, well, about that.
I was kinda, sorta, totally wrong. You know what happened. The Sox held off the Indians to win the division title, then went 11-1 in the playoffs behind a suddenly dominant pitching staff and won the World Series.
So I’m not going to make that mistake here. This team has defied predictions all season. You might recall that Sports Illustrated looked into its crystal ball and saw a 95-loss team. Two questions: Who uses a crystal ball anymore and how could anybody be so wrong about a team?
Well, I have been and will be again. That’s guaranteed. That’s baseball. I’m not sold that the Sox have enough to hold on in September, but I’ve been around this team enough to know that manager Robin Ventura and his players don’t care what you or I or Peter Gammons are sold on. They just play.
But … when you compare pitching, the Sox look beat up, worn down and overmatched. Aside from Chris Sale, nobody looks dominant. Max Scherzer and Justin Verlander look dominant for the Tigers whenever they inhale.
Gavin Floyd is hurt. Jake Peavy is pitching on experience and Super Glue. Sale is sailing into uncharted waters in terms of innings pitched. Rookie Jose Quintana has been impressive, but the most important word in that sentence is “rookie.’’ Francisco Liriano didn’t pitch well Saturday.
But here’s a warning, and this is for me as much as it is for you: Don’t make the mistake of counting this team out. Don’t panic after a bad series or a bad stretch. Look at the entirety of the season, at what this team has accomplished. It doesn’t mean you should be satisfied because no one thought the Sox would be in first place at the beginning of September. It means you should think about what has gotten the Sox this far and how it can carry them even farther.
Alex Rios and Adam Dunn have had bounce-back years. Yes, Dunn did pick a fine time to tweak his oblique muscle, but let’s wait to see how he responds in the next week before stepping out onto the ledge. Obtaining Kevin Youkilis has been one of Ken Williams’ best moves. A.J. Pierzynski is having a career year in terms of power numbers. Paul Konerko is busy being Paul Konerko. The bullpen has been good. Sale has been wonderful. If all of that turns off in September, then it wasn’t meant to be. But I don’t think it will turn off.
The Sox have a total of 15 games left against the Twins, Indians and Royals, who were a combined 58 games under .500 going into Sunday’s action.
It’s OK to be concerned. It’s not OK to panic. That would be an insult to this team, which has stayed calm the entire season. Let’s follow the Sox’ lead, even if that lead looks fragile.