CHICAGO -- A 32-game stretch that had the potential to salvage the Chicago White Sox's season ended up being a dead weight after all.
With the completion of Wednesday’s 3-0 defeat to the New York Mets, the White Sox just finished a full month of baseball against a majority of teams that were not only under .500, but well under the break-even point.
Only the Oakland Athletics had a winning record at the time the run began.
Just how promising did things look when the stretch started? The White Sox were in line to play five last-place teams, including two from the National League in interleague play. And yet they still couldn’t gain any traction.
Two of the games were rained out and the White Sox ended up closing out the run with an 11-19 record to go from three games under .500 at 21-24 to 11 games under at 32-43.
From fourth place in the American League Central and five games out of first place when it all began on May 24 against the Miami Marlins, the White Sox are now dead last and nine games off the pace.
Only the uninspired play of the rest of the division has prevented the White Sox from falling even further into the abyss, but this stretch wasn’t about how everybody else played, it was supposed to be about how they handled their own business.
John Danks actually returned from a year absence on May 24, the day the stretch of games against some baseball also-rans began, and had a front-row seat to the uninspired brand of baseball.
“I wish we knew what we could do differently,” said Danks, who pitched well Wednesday and still ended up with the loss. “We know we haven't been good across the board in any three of the facets of the game. Each night it's something different. We just haven't been able to put it together. It's definitely frustrating.”
The stretch was expected to be one of main pieces the front office would use to decide if they would sell off assets before the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline and go into rebuilding mode.
General manager Rick Hahn wouldn’t acknowledge what he would do if the White Sox fell flat during a portion of the scheduled that seemed to be tipped in the team’s favor. He has admitted before and since, though, that going into selling mode remains a possibility if the White Sox are clearly not going to be a contender.
There is still a month before the trade deadline, but the White Sox’s schedule now has them playing four consecutive series against teams over .500 with the fourth one against the first-place Detroit Tigers, who they haven’t met this season.
In fact, the White Sox have two series against the Tigers before the end of July, with those six games probably weighing big as to whether or not the White Sox take the leap and start building for the future.
“We're definitely good enough to compete in the Central and in the American League,” Danks said. “We just haven’t played well consistently as a group. One night it's pitching, the next night it's defense. We’ll try to get it turned around tomorrow, or I guess the next day. We're way too talented to be where we are right now.”
The problem is that the White Sox are nearly out of tomorrows and next days. The team has remained competitive for well over a decade, but with a new general manager and the end of the Paul Konerko era likely approaching, it seems like as good of a time as any to head into a new direction.