So, I was told by Mark Malone in the newsroom this week that I have officially been kicked off the Chicago White Sox band wagon. My response was simple enough, though — I don't remember ever getting on it to begin with.
I told Malone that I hadn't stopped rooting for the South Siders to do well and that if they made the playoffs, I'd be right there with the rest of the Chisox fans. He then told me there wasn't going to be any room for me on the wagon.
The one thing I have to say about the White Sox at this point is they they have been better than I had originally thought. How much better remains to be seen, but at least they have stayed in the pennant race. Losing six out of seven in the last road trip through Boston and Detroit was a bit discouraging, yet the Sox are right back in first place at press time.
I did not think this Sox team was a first-place team at the beginning of the season by any stretch of the imagination. Of course, I did not project a bounce-back season from either Alex Rios or Adam Dunn.
Rios has been as valuable to the White Sox as (arguably) any player on another team in the league this year. He's played in 95 games and is hitting .314 with 57 runs scored and 58 RBI. Though Dunn is still not hitting for average (.210 at press time) again this year, he has produced with 30 home runs and 71 RBI from the middle of the order.
To be fair, I also kind of supposed Paul Konerko would eventually begin to fall off at the age of 36, but he has continued to amaze me with his durability. One last person that I was extremely unsure of was A.J. Pierzynski and he has also proved me wrong. He's also 36 and has been very solid with a .287 average with 16 home runs and 50 RBI.
Other than that, raise your hand if anyone out there saw Alejandro De Aza being the player he has been, scoring 64 times from the leadoff position?
Anyone? Anyone? ...
Obviously, you can't talk about the Sox being in contention without mentioning the pitching staff. Despite using so many rookie pitchers, the South Siders have been hanging in there with a team ERA of 4.07. That puts them right in the middle of the pack in baseball overall and ninth in the American League.
It's such an odd occurrence to have used so many rookie pitchers to this point that, in a game last week in Kansas City, eight rookies got in and pitched in a win over the Royals. That was the first time in the history of Major League Baseball that had happened.
Still, one has to wonder just how much of that is smoke and mirrors as much as pitching coach Don Cooper and natural talent. The hurting the Red Sox and Tigers just put on the White Sox saw that decent ERA go from 3.79 to what it was going into Wednesday's game.
No matter what, I think the one thing that is safe to say about the White Sox is that they should be able to stay in the playoff hunt for the last 60-plus games of the season. To this point, the way I see it, only seven teams in all of baseball have been virtually eliminated from the postseason at this point.
Still, I had trouble seeing the White Sox as a playoff team at the beginning of the season and I still do now. Makes no difference if that vantage point is from a wagon or not.