The Pale Hose are coming to town.
Does anyone still call them "The Pale Hose?" Did anyone ever?
The White Sox are scuffling along at 29-36, which is the second worst record in the AL. You will notice that they've allowed just 2 more runs than they've scored, which suggests they might actually be just a little bit better than their record suggests. They haven't done great in close games (5-7 in one-run games) and they did win a couple of blowouts by exceedingly hefty margins: 16-1, 12-1, 11-2. The Sox are probably pretty close to being a league average team, and if Jose Quintana ever figures out what's wrong they might even be a little bit better than that.
The Jays will see Quintana in tonight's opener, matched up with Joe (Please) Biagini. Over the weekend, the Sox will trot out some familiar names wearing new duds: old Met Mike Pelfrey opposes Marcus Stroman on Saturday and the Unsinkable James Shields is supposed to come off the DL to face J.A. Happ on Sunday.
Despite the 2-5 mark, this is easily the best Pelfrey has looked since 2010. Granted, Pelfrey has looked so absolutely awful every year since then that his continued employment in the major leagues always seemed somewhat of a mystery. It's not exactly a high bar to clear. Shields spent nine full seasons being about as durable and dependable a starting pitcher as you could imagine before his disastrous 2016 campaign. This year, he turned in three strong starts in April and then went on the DL for two months with a lat strain.
The White Sox offense is led by Jose Abreu, who you probably know about, and three 26 year old hitters who've never accomplished anything whatsoever in the major leagues before these past two months. Right fielder Avisail Garcia sports a nifty .343/.381/.558 slash line, with 10 HR and 48 RBI. Where did that come from? This is his third season as a regular, and until now he's hit rather like Kevin Pillar if you take away the speed and turn half of Pillar's doubles into singles. And centre fielder Leury Garcia, a little guy who runs pretty fast but not very effectively, had hit .188/.225/.237 in his first looks at AL pitching, 155 games scattered over four seasons. This year? .298/.345/.459. Go figure. Then there's DH Matt Davidson, who leads the team with 14 HR. He was stuck for three years at AAA Charlotte, and with good cause. While he did hit a few dingers, he also batted .199 and .203 in his first two full season cracks at AAA before figuring out a few things in 2016.
The White Sox, of course, have the dubious distinction of being the American League franchise that played the most consecutive seasons without winning a championship. Entire generations of fans were born, lived, got old and died during the 88 years that passed between their titles in 1917 and 2005. Only the Cubs subjected their fans to more seasons without a championship.
It's a mark that's going to stand for a while. Cleveland has the longest active streak of no-titles, and theirs only goes back to 1948. At 69 years and counting, it's the third longest such streak in AL history, trailing the Sox White and Red. The only other AL teams ever to manage streaks in excess of 60 years both packed up and left town along the way (St.Louis-Baltimore and Washington-Minnesota) and can you blame them?
As you've probably noticed, the Jays have had a losing record ever since this season began. Five times they've had an opportunity to pull even at .500, and five times they've gone out and lost (at 0-1, 1-2, 26-27, 28-29, and 31-32.) So tonight could be the night! Sixth time's the charm?
It's been frustrating and in this year of frustration we always cast our thoughts back to the 1989 team. Those of us who were there also remember an epic struggle, full of setbacks, as that group clawed their way back toward the break-even point. They didn't get there to stay until the middle of August - and they still won 89 games and the division title.
As you probably know, the 1989 Jays dug themselves an even deeper hole than this year's crew. Unlike this year, it wasn't the first two weeks of the season that were the problem, as they went 6-6 out of the gate. No, it was losing 18 of 24 over the next month that dropped them deep under water. Still, from that horrendous 12-24 mark on May 14, it took them just over a month to get back to .500 at 36-36. Huzzah? No. They instantly lost four in a row, which eventually became 9 of 11, falling all they way back to 38-45. The long march began again. In late July Dave Stieb beat Nolan Ryan and they were back at .500 (50-50, in fact.) Naturally, they lost the next day. They made it back to .500, and lost again. Twice. On 8 August, Mauro Gozzo's ML debut got them above .500 for the first time since April. Naturally, they lost 3 of their next 4. Finally, In mid-August, they went into Fenway at 58-59: Gozzo beat Boddicker to even the season log. Stieb beat Smithson to get them above .500, and David Wells completed the sweep. Those were the first 3 victories of a 31-14 closing kick. This year's team is probably going to have to get that kind of hot at some point.
Steve Pearce is supposed to be returning to the lineup tonight, which probably means Dwight Smith shuffling back to Buffalo, unless they surprise us all and DFA Chris Coghlan or reduce the size of the bullpen.