Not since the 2006 season after the Chicago White Sox captured their first World Series title in 88 years was the buildup before Opening Day as anticipated as this season.
Whether it was the marketing campaigns declaring the entire organization to be "All In," or the idea that the White Sox would be playing in a weak division that they would easily mow through in little time, Chicago fans were gearing themselves up for a big year.
Thirty-three regular-season games have passed and the White Sox are as low as they could possibly be. They have the worst record in baseball at 11-21 and are matching their win total with the number of games back that they are from the upstart Cleveland Indians.
The team has been equally bad on the road and at home. The hitting ranks in the bottom half of the league at this point, to many people's surprise. Brent Lillibridge leads the team in batting average with a mark of .321. That would be quite the accomplishment if he had more than 28 at-bats on the season.
There is not one regular hitter over .300 at this point. Paul Konerko is in the neighborhood at .296, but he does not have a lot of company.
Juan Pierre, Alexei Ramirez, Alex Rios, A.J Pierzynski, Gordon Beckham, Adam Dunn and Brent Morel are all hitting at .250 or below. Some of these players are well below the Mendoza Line at this point (cough, Dunn).
The bullpen has been a whole different kind of mess this season that could not have been dreamed up in Don Cooper's worst nightmares. It is not entirely their fault, but some of their doing has led to John Danks having a 0-5 record thus far. Yikes.
What is worse for this White Sox team is the lack of fight that they show in close games. Watching teams like the Royals and Indians win last-inning games every night with what were thought to be less-talented teams has to light a fire under the players, right?
But, these are not the '05 Sox that had the clutch gene soundly built into their DNA from spring training through the last pitch in Houston. Not one player on the team has done what was expected of them, outside of team captain Paul Konerko.
Yes, these underachievers are getting close to the threshold of no return—the un-official point where it cannot simply be labeled a "slow start" and people cannot say "The bats will warm up in May."
By the day, the Indians are showing that they are the true-life version of the Major League team from the movie, and everyone knows the Twins will not go quietly into the night with outstanding manager Ron Gardenhire.
The next couple of weeks are when the White Sox truly have to go "All In," or several players could be on the way out. Any number of players from starters Mark Buehrle, John Danks or Gavin Floyd could exit the South Side. Several position players could be on the move as well if the Sox decide to go with the youth movement.
But if they throw up the white flag, it would be perceived as a organizational disaster.
They invested heavily in Konerko (three years, $37.5 million), Dunn (four years, $56 million), Pierzynski (two years, $8 million) and Rios to deliver now to pack U.S. Cellular Field. The economic losses of an empty ballpark in the summer of 2011 would reverberate greatly for years to come for the Sox.
Perhaps that is not an option the team can even look at anymore. They crossed that bridge when they invested so much on aging players who have yet to perform this season, and it seems they cannot go back.
But, sports are built for the unlikely to happen. Just maybe these hitless wonders can find their stroke in those humid summer months and rise from one of the poorest starts in the long history of the club.
So, White Sox fans will have to sit back, relax and strap it down. The month of May is not make-or-break time historically in the MLB because of the long 162-game schedule—but for the White Sox, it surely is.
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