White Sox fans have a right to feel the way they do about the finish
If you're root for the southernmost team, it's OK to be upset that today marks the end of the Major League Baseball season in Chicago.
There's a narrative out there that says White Sox fans are supposed to be satisfied with the season because their team was a lot better than it was supposed to be. Eighty-something wins and relevant September baseball was a lot more than I predicted for the Sox. My 71-win projection was way off base, and while I expected worse for the Sox than most did, the overwhelming consensus was that they wouldn't be competitive.
The Sox were competitive, and then some. They spent 117 days in first place. They've been above .500 since May. They were still alive in the AL Central race on Oct. 1. That's a lot more than what was expected, so there's a large sentiment that Sox fans should be satisfied with the season, even if it will end without a playoff berth.
If you truly feel that way as a Sox fan, that's fine. I'd certainly have enjoyed watching six months of relevant baseball more than I've enjoyed watching my Cubs bumble to 100 losses. But I don't feel that Sox fans are at all obligated to shrug their shoulders and say "Aw, shucks!" after watching their team lose 10 of 13 down the stretch and blow a golden opportunity.
I thought the Sox would stink in 2012 because I thought Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy would likely stink. Rios, by almost any measure, has been the most valuable position player on the team, providing 4.1 wins above replacement and hitting .304/.334/.516 through Monday. Peavy has slowed of late but has still turned in a 4.4-WAR season, taking a 3.37 ERA and a 186-48 strikeout-to-walk ratio into his start Tuesday night. Dunn has had about as little value as a player with 41 home runs and 105 walks, though Monday, could have, but his 1.9 WAR was still a huge turnaround from the -3.0 he finished with in 2011.
It's not too much of a stretch to say that Dunn, Peavy and Rios have been worth the $43 million or so they are being paid this season. Almost nobody expected they'd be that good, just as almost nobody expected the Sox would be as good as they've been. If you'd have told me they'd combine on over 10 WAR in February, I'd have said the Sox should be pretty decent. And that's not even weighing the unexpectedly strong contributions that A.J. Pierzynski, Alejandro De Aza and Chris Sale have made.
It would also have been difficult in February to forecast the AL Central being as winnable as it's been. I wasn't as high on the Tigers as most were, but even I predicted a higher win total (90) than Detroit will actually reach. In the preseason, there were reasons to believe Kansas City and Cleveland might be decent. Both have faded to 90-loss territory, and the Twins never were a factor.
All of this is to say is that the stars aligned pretty well for the Sox in 2012. They were better than most of us expected them to be. Everyone else in their division, one could argue, was worse. They had a three-game divisional lead as late as Sept. 18. On that date, coolstandings.com calculated that they'd make the playoofs 84.5 percent of the time.
One year removed from the epic 2011 September collapses of Atlanta and Boston, the stumbles of the Sox don't seem that incredible. But they've certainly failed to cash in on a great opportunity. Part of it is young pitching fading down the stretch, but part of it is Paul Konerko hitting .242/.321/.411 in September (and .231/.282/.397 in August) and John Danks contributing basically nothing to the cause all year long.
Feel however you want about all of it, Sox fans. I can't fault you if the disappointment and disgust over the last two weeks overshadows whatever feelings of pleasant surprise you enjoyed over the first five-plus months.