Forget “The Last Dance.”
This is “The Last Chance” for the 2022 White Sox.
We’ve seen enough faux turning points to be wary of anything big coming out of a dramatic three-day stretch that saw them lose their manager to a health issue, hold a players-only meeting and win a series with the fourth-place Royals. We’ve been waiting for months to see these White Sox play like the team they were expected to be, and there’s no reason to think a switch will magically flip.
But the South Siders did flash positive signs the last two days and talked up the positive vibes that came out of that Thursday morning meeting. They know they’ve got two teams to jump in the AL Central. But they also know that math hasn’t buried them yet.
All the while, sand continues to run out of the hourglass, and if the expected 2022 White Sox are ever going to show up and be a playoff team, the 11th hour has arrived.
“It’s been frustrating this year. We’ve had times where we had a lot of meetings, and it really just comes down to us,” AJ Pollock said after Thursday’s 7-1 win. “We’ve had times where we felt like we were going to get on a roll, and it just never happened. And it probably deflated us a little bit.
“We’re trying to light that spark. When you get guys talking real and you get guys just sharing what’s really going on and not faking it, it felt good. We’ll see what happens. It’d be cool to look back and say that was a turning point. But we know we’ve got work to do.”
Even the White Sox themselves, constant believers in their talent, are justifiably hesitant to point to the last three days as the season’s latest defining moment. Heck, the last time a team meeting was supposedly the turning point, a five-game winning streak was rapidly proven to be a mirage. What followed was 21 runs dumped on them by the Astros and 10 losses in a 12-game stretch.
But hesitancy is not disbelief. And even those who haven’t been here for a frustrating five months, those who joined a third-place team in a seemingly committed relationship with .500, can still see the long-awaited run that allows the White Sox to close the gap on the first-place Guardians.
“The amount of talent in this clubhouse is unbelievable. It’s been probably the most talented team I’ve been on in my career,” Elvis Andrus said after Wednesday’s game, favorably comparing these White Sox with Rangers teams that reached back-to-back World Series, losing the second of those to Tony La Russa’s Cardinals in 2011. “When you have this much talent, it only takes a nice winning streak to get back in the race.
“Everybody knows that we’ve still got (roughly) 30 more games, so there’s no reason to panic. But it’s a great time to stay together and go out there and do our thing.”
The White Sox have given little reason to believe that they can consistently “do their thing” after five months of mediocre results driven by a power-starved offense, an injury-laden roster and a mistake-prone defense.
But as Bruce Springsteen and Dave Edmunds taught us, from small things, big things one day come. And perhaps the seven homers they smacked and the 11 walks they drew in three games against the Royals could be a sign of something. A team that’s been critiqued for chasing pitches out of the zone all year was praised for doing the opposite this week.
“They are swinging at strikes. They are not chasing bad pitches,” Miguel Cairo said. “The guys know that we have to get good at-bats. If we hit the ball in the strike zone, be careful with this offense. This offense is dangerous.”
Still, though, the only reasonable approach when it comes to these White Sox is to believe it when you see it. They know that. They’ve watched every second of disappointing baseball this season, just like you.
As it’s been since April, it’s about them putting the pieces together.
“It’s no secret we haven’t played really good baseball this year. We’ve underperformed,” Pollock said. “I feel like there have been times where we’ve put a lot into it and it just hasn’t worked out and it’s been really deflating. But at the same time we’ve got to keep showing up, we’ve got to keep pushing and pushing.
“We know we’ve got the group. We know we’ve got players that can make that run. We can’t wait. This is it. This is the chance that we can get on a little bit of a run here.”
It’s the last chance.
It’s crazy to think that a team that’s played like this for five months could still have everything in front of them: a chance to repeat as Central champs, a chance to make the postseason and with it a chance to win the World Series.
But that’s the case.
The White Sox are still plagued by injuries, with Tim Anderson and Michael Kopech and Yoán Moncada still on the injured list, Luis Robert still trying to get over a bruised wrist and Eloy Jiménez still dealing with sore legs in the wake of early-season knee surgery.
And yet, a chance. This last chance.
Their manager is away indefinitely as he undergoes medical tests in Arizona.
And yet, a chance. This last chance.
“Just have to get on a roll,” Andrew Vaughn said Thursday. “We have 31 (games) left. See how many we can win, one at a time.”
Get Our Best Sox Content In Your Inbox!
Become a smarter Chicago White Sox fan with Vinnie Duber's Sox Newsletter!
Just drop your email below!