Chicago White Sox Continue To Tread Water in AL Central

Joe SlowikCorrespondent IAugust 21, 2009

CHICAGO - JUNE 28: Jermaine Dye #23 of the Chicago White Sox follows through after hitting the ball against the Chicago Cubs on June 28, 2009 at U.S. Cellular Field in Chicago, Illinois. The White Sox defeated the Cubs 6-0. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

I would like to think that the Sox are going to win the AL Central. I honestly think they have the best team in the division on paper. They have one of the best pitching staffs in the American League as well as a lineup full of dangerous hitters.

However, with every day that they fail to gain ground in the AL Central race I start to wonder if they're ever going to play well enough to win this thing.

The Sox have been floating two or three games behind the Tigers for most of the second half, including their two-and-a-half game deficit entering today's games. They haven't fallen significantly farther back, but then again they've rarely been within a game of the lead either.

They seem to win just enough games to keep it close but not enough to make significant progress in the race. They are an inconsistent team that you can never seem to predict.

Just look at their results from the past month as a prime example.

They started that stretch with a four game series against a strong Tampa Bay team. They managed to win three of them, including Mark Buehrle's perfect game, to climb into a tie with the Tigers. Sure, Jenks blew a save that could have given them the lead, but they still seemed to have momentum on their side.

Things changed drastically when they went to Detroit. They had a real chance to take a lead heading into a rough stretch in the schedule, but they dropped three out of four to fall two games behind the Tigers. Things didn't get any better the next series, where they were swept in Minnesota, continuing their usual struggles in the Dome.

Some people were writing off the Sox season at that point, and I can't totally blame them. Things looked pretty bleak, and they had a seven game home stand against the first place Yankees and Angels coming up next.

So, of course, they somehow rallied to go 6-2 over that stretch and stayed within shouting distance of the division lead at that point. You would think that things were about to turn around with winnable games against the Indians and Mariners looming, right?

Wrong. The Sox of course lost both series because they can't stand prosperity. The rubber game in Seattle, a 14-inning pitchers' duel where seemingly everything went wrong for the Sox, was especially maddening.

Though the Tigers managed to keep their lead thanks to two late rallies against the Mariners, the Sox took care of business the last two series. They won both series against Oakland and Kansas City.

However, one can't help but wonder how long that will last. After a series against a suspect Baltimore team this weekend, the Sox enter a brutal portion of the schedule that features 12 games out of 15 games against winning teams. What makes matters worse is that the other three are against a Twins' team that they never seem to beat in their stadium.

Will the Sox come out of this stretch alive and go on to win the division?

I'm not going to pretend to know anymore. If they stick with recent trends, they'll drop two of three to Baltimore, win five of seven against Boston and New York, win one at best in Minnesota and win at least three of the remaining five against Boston and the Cubs. I would believe just about any potential result though.

The Sox have more than enough talent to win this division. Yes, the back end of their rotation has been an adventure of late, the bullpen doesn't always get the job done, and the defense is often atrocious.

However, they're not exactly chasing the 1927 Yankees. The Tigers are only a slightly above average team themselves and have gone 15-16 since the All-Star break.

The Sox still have the potential to make the playoffs, and given the strength of their rotation they could be dangerous if they do make it.

However, they will have to get out of their own way if they want to reach that goal.