Meanwhile on the South Side: Desperation in May as White Sox Grasping at Straws
This is where the White Sox are at the end of May: The organization and some media are pressing the idea that the current stretch of games against AL Central opponents is their opportunity to get back into the divisional race. A few folks on the Twitter also brought up that the Washington Nationals were 19-31 in 2019 and went on to win the World Series.
Sure, it’s always nice to throw around hopeful scenarios, but there is something desperate when those scenarios are about gaining ground in the worst division in baseball.
Focusing on winning the division is ok, but then you remember that this is supposed to be the “championship window” for the White Sox. When this respite of AL Central foes ends, eight of the next nine series are against teams hovering around .500 or better. The true measure of the team will come when they play the Yankees, Dodgers, and Rangers during the month. A team that is selling the “do some damage” line against the AL Central is in a bit of trouble.
What’s so frustrating about being in this position already is that it was predictable and, potentially anyway, avoidable. The lack of activity in the offseason is once again proving to be damning. Mike Clevenger is out for at least a start, if not more, and is currently being replaced by Jimmy Lambert. Jesse Scholtens, a career Triple-A pitcher, is taking the roster spot and is also being considered to be a starter. The choice of Lambert or Scholtens just emphasizes the lack of depth the White Sox have, from the major league squad through the minors.
It’s not much better on the other side of the ball. The perceived glut of first basemen/DH-type players at the beginning of the season is a stark reality now that the season is underway. The combination of poor play and injuries has created a logjam of mediocre players and poor defensive options in right field. Gavin Sheets, Jake Burger, and Yasmani Grandal have been rotating the DH spot, with Sheets being the best option for right.
There is hope that Clint Frazier can cover some of the right field duties, but that is almost as big a stretch as Scholtens providing quality starts. A current rumor floating around is that when Yoan Moncada and Eloy Jiménez return, Burger will take the DH and Jiménez will be put in right field. The latter was a disaster in left field and this kind of move is just plain scary.
It also begs the question of why Andrew Vaughn isn’t getting more rest time. He isn’t exactly vital to the lineup and between Burger, Grandal, and even Sheets, someone else could play first base every few games. If the imperative right now is keeping Burger’s bat in the lineup, maybe a reshuffle with Vaughn being the odd man out might provide the needed spark.
The truth is, this isn’t an embarrassment of riches, but an overabundance of spare parts. The lack of action in the offseason and the continued underdevelopment of the minor league system have led to where this team is now. The Sox are already looking like a long shot to win the worst division in baseball. At the end of June, we’ll see if even that slim hope was warranted.