The White Sox have put themselves in the position where the perception is they ultimately will sell off parts and Chris Sale knows this.
The four-time All-Star has seen his team headed this direction each of the past two seasons as the July 31 nonwaiver trade deadline approaches. Outsiders believe they’ll soon be there again with a Jeff Samardzija trade almost certain.
While Sale has an advantage over most of his teammates -- he’s confident he won’t be traded -- he said he has learned to block out the noise. Not only do he and his teammates think they’re still in the postseason picture after winning nine of their last 12, but Sale wants to avoid any diversions to stay effective.
“I don’t have Twitter,” Sale said this week from the All-Star Game in Cincinnati. “I don’t have Facebook. I don’t have any of that crap. I don’t read it. I don’t pick up the newspaper. It’s all distractions, really. It’s a bunch of stuff that people write that don’t know what they’re talking about -- no offense. I don’t pay attention to it. I have a job to do and that’s be a pitcher for my team.”
The White Sox face an uphill battle to even be in consideration for the playoffs. They open the second half 5 1/2 games out in the wild-card race and currently sit in eighth place for the two spots.
Their performance has surprised opponents, who struggle to see how a team with such a strong rotation finds itself in the position it’s in.
“They’re a good team," said Pittsburgh ace Gerrit Cole. “We’ve all been in those situations where stuff doesn’t go your way. They’ve got really good players, good approach. I don’t foresee them playing like that the rest of the year. They’ve got a good squad. They’ve got the most dominant starter in baseball, they’ve got one of the best closers. Adam LaRoche and Melky Cabrera and Jose Abreu, they have a tremendous team. Unfortunately they’re where they’re at right now, but there’s plenty of baseball left. Anybody can get hot, especially with a team with those names. Don’t count them out because they’re really, really good.”
Josh Donaldson said it’s all about the pitching. Donaldson’s Toronto Blue Jays came to town last week with the hottest offense in baseball only to have Sale, Samardzija, Jose Quintana and John Danks hold them to eight runs in four games, three of which they lost. Few teams have done that to Toronto this season, Donaldson said.
“When you walk out of there you realize they have some top-of-the-line starters,” Donaldson said. “To me their pitchers are pretty darn good.”
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David Price said the Detroit Tigers have endured a similar struggle as the White Sox this season. He believes Detroit, which has won seven of the teams’ 12 meetings, is better than their current 44-44 record. But given how many talented teams there, he’s not surprised when any team struggles or when another unexpectedly flourishes, like 49-40 Minnesota.
“It’s just whether or not they come together and do it night in and night out,” Price said. “On paper (the White Sox) have a very good team and that’s always surprising, just like the Tigers right now. We’re not a .500 ballclub by any means. We haven’t played our best baseball yet.”
Sale thinks the only way that will continue to happen for the White Sox is if they avoid the distractions. Over the previous two weeks, Sale said White Sox players had begun to do the little things necessary to win. He believes they’ve gotten over the shock of their poor start and “everything has just kind of been clicking,” he said.
The key now is for them to continue to play the same way and shut out what everyone else has to say.
“That’s kind of the mindset we should all take is let’s not worry about what this guy says or that guy says,” Sale said. “Let’s worry about what we as a group are doing and do that together and if we keep winning it’s going to be hard to split us up.”