OPINION: White Sox Face Doomsday Early in 2023

Photo - NBC Sports

It is not an understatement to say the White Sox have been an overwhelming failure to this point in the season. The team has been disappointing in almost every facet of the game. From defense and pitching to player health, the White Sox seem to be finding ways to continue the struggles they have faced in the previous few years. Does the blame fall on the players and manager, or are there more factors at work?

For starters, players have quickly continued showing trouble staying healthy. Eloy Jimenez has already returned from another hamstring injury, which put him on the 10-day IL. The injury came despite his move to DH with the intention of limiting the physical strain on his body and reducing the risk of injury. Upon his activation, 3B Yoan Moncada, the team’s best batter of the year with incredible defensive value, was placed on the 10-day IL, retroactively to April 11th. Hanser Alberto got his chance at the big leagues in his absence and has already frustrated fans. In his 11 chances at third base, he has yielded two errors and -2 runs saved. More notably, a misplayed ground ball led to a confusing play that resulted in Tim Anderson taking contact on a slide while scrambling to cover third base. Anderson was then placed on the IL, citing left hamstring soreness. The 10-day stint is retroactive to April 10th. In the first 16 games of the season, the White Sox have seen three of their four most valuable offensive weapons share time on the IL: same story, different year.

Along with injuries to offensive weapons, the pitching staff simply can not compensate. When the Sox are clicking on offense, it feels like they give up 10+ runs, and when they are holding teams under two runs, they find ways to score 1 or 0. The staff, except a few guys, have had trouble with the long ball and catapulted a historic series of home runs for the Giants into multiple defeats against the Orioles and rival Twins.

The overarching problem with the team is poor roster construction. With a bullpen that is paid at a higher level than they perform and too many players that aren’t in reliable health, manager Pedro Grifol is often left seeking starting-caliber performance from multiple players that shouldn’t be consistently in a starting lineup. Defensive liabilities like Jake Burger and Hanser Alberto may serve as useful Designated Hitters. At the same time, other guys need rest, but they do not consistently perform like starting third basemen. The same problem extends to Elvis Andrus, who certainly earned a role on the team after his performance at the end of last year, but is not the big-ticket free agent the White Sox could have had to improve their middle infield. The front office simply has not constructed this roster in a way that breeds success, and that is tied back to the franchise’s unwillingness to spend money to win.

The White Sox certainly have talent on their team. Dylan Cease has been one of the best pitchers in the league since the start of the 2022 season, Tim Anderson is one of the most reliable hitters in the AL, and Luis Robert Jr.’s speed and athleticism give him a chance to be on SportsCenter’s Top 10 plays on any given night. However, individual stars do not necessarily constitute winning games. They have the talent to keep themselves in games but lack the cohesion and construction to win consistently. One of the most significant stats that exemplifies their inability to rally and get the win: of the 54 innings this year in which the Sox have entered the inning from behind, they have only held the lead, leaving that inning twice, with five ties in that same situation. They have no comeback innings after the 5th inning all year. Alternatively, 6 of their 36 inning leads have been blown in that inning, with four blown leads coming after the 5th inning.

There is still plenty of promise on this team to be excited about the possibilities. Struggling early does not dictate the end of the year. In 2021, the Braves were 44-45 at the All-Star Break and willed themselves to a World Series championship. However, to catch this lightning in a bottle, the White Sox need to keep their best players on the field, and Pedro Grifol needs to find a way to make this talented roster learn how to win instead of how to lose.

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