The Chicago White Sox have been one of the most disappointing teams in baseball.
A popular preseason pick to win the American League Central, the Sox were officially eliminated from the division title race with Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Detroit Tigers.
Acting manager Miguel Cairo described Sunday’s game as “kind of embarrassing.”
The defeat wrapped up an 0-6 homestand, during which they lost three to the Cleveland Guardians, who clinched the AL Central on Sunday, and three to the Tigers. According to the Sox, it was the team’s first winless homestand of at least six games since May 19-24, 1989, when they went 0-6 against the Toronto Blue Jays and Baltimore Orioles at old Comiskey Park.
A team that started the season with World Series hopes finds itself under .500 at 76-77 with nine games remaining. The Sox are on the verge of missing the playoffs completely, trailing the Seattle Mariners by 7½ games for the final AL wild-card spot.
The final stretch of the season begins Tuesday in Minnesota.
The Sox addressed a major question Saturday, announcing Tony La Russa would not manage for the rest of this season at the direction of his doctors. The question of what’s next will be addressed, general manager Rick Hahn said, “when it’s appropriate to turn the page at the end of this year.”
As for the end of this season, here are three questions for the final stretch.
1. What’s next for Tim Anderson and Michael Kopech?
The Sox placed Luis Robert on the 10-day injured list Saturday with a sprained left wrist, and Hahn said the center fielder would not return this season.
The Sox also have been without shortstop Tim Anderson (sagittal band tear on his left middle finger) and starting pitcher Michael Kopech (right shoulder inflammation).
The Sox have been huddling to figure out what they’re going to do.
“We just recently passed the six-week mark post-op,” Hahn said of Anderson, who went on the IL on Aug. 9. “I believe when the injury originally occurred, we shared that after six weeks we could ramp him up and there’s a very real chance he could return.
“So it’s really a question of does it make sense at this point in the year to try to rush into that two-week window or let nature take its course and send him into the offseason fully healed.”
Kopech went on the 15-day IL on Sept. 17.
“The shoulder is doing well,” Hahn said. “Everything is progressing nicely. He obviously had an issue with the (right) knee (earlier), which was caused by a baker’s cyst, some sort of cyst in the knee. There has been some discussion about the appropriate time to have that cyst removed so in the future it’s not going to flare up as it did unexpectedly this year.
“That’s where conversations are right now. The shoulder is good. At some point we are probably going to address the knee and send him into the offseason ready for next year without restrictions.”
2. How will Cy Young Award candidate Dylan Cease’s season wrap up?
Cease continues to make a strong case for the Cy Young Award, pitching six scoreless innings in Sunday’s loss. It was his 16th quality start of the season. He has allowed one earned run or none in 23 of his 31 starts.
His 2.06 ERA is the second-lowest by a Sox pitcher in his first 31 starts of a season since 1920, behind Wilbur Wood in 1971 (2.04).
“I’ve got a lot left in the tank,” Cease said.
Among major-league leaders, Cease ranks second in ERA, tied for second in opponents batting average (.188) and fourth in strikeouts (222).
“I hope he gets a chance to win a Cy Young Award,” Cairo said before Sunday’s game. “I think it’s well-deserved. He’s been an elite pitcher this year. So I hope he wins it.”
Cease is in line to make his next start this weekend in San Diego. Asked if he wants to make two more starts to end the season, he said, “I’d love to throw as much as I can, but we’ll have to see.”
3. Is this José Abreu’s final stretch with the Sox?
Abreu had a rare day off Sunday.
“He’s a hard head, but we love him because he wants to be out there every day,” Cairo said with a smile. “And that’s the kind of player you want to have on your team, guys who, no matter what, they want to be in the field.”
Abreu, 35, entered Monday tied for the AL lead with 176 hits. He’s fourth in the league with 150 games played.
While the power numbers aren’t what he’s accustomed to, Abreu is tied for second on the team with 15 homers and tied for the team lead with 73 RBIs.
He’s a free agent at the end of the season, and it remains to be seen what’s the next step for the 2020 AL MVP and the Sox after nine years together.