White Sox

White Sox said to have one of MLB's easiest schedules, but not so fast

White Sox said to have one of MLB's easiest schedules, but not so fast

MLB Network put up the raw numbers, blasting across the screen of anyone watching the league's hour-long schedule-reveal show Monday night that the White Sox had baseball's fourth easiest schedule in the shortened 2020 season.

Really? It doesn't seem that way when you look at it.

I understand the mathematics behind such a declaration. The White Sox nine 2020 opponents — their four division rivals from the AL Central and the five teams from the NL Central — had a combined winning percentage of .477 in 2019. The White Sox, you'll remember, lost 89 games last season, so the nine teams with the South Siders on their schedules got a mathematical boost, too. And it wasn't shocking, then, that the entire top four on MLB Network's list of the easiest schedules this season were Central Division teams from one league or the other.

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The Minnesota Twins were at the top of the list, their group of nine foes unburdened by their own 100-win pedigree from a season ago. The Cleveland Indians came in next, followed by the St. Louis Cardinals, then the White Sox.

What that tells me? Obviously the bottom three teams in the AL Central did not pile up the victories last season. The 89-loss White Sox actually finished third, with a couple members of the Triple-Digit Loss Club behind them in the Kansas City Royals and Detroit Tigers. The NL Central wasn't so hot last year, either.

But do last year's records dictate this year's fortunes? Of course not. And certainly that's what the White Sox are hoping after the breakout seasons from core players in 2019 paved the way for an avalanche of offseason additions. Their expectations are sky high on the doorstep of this 60-game sprint to the postseason as they look to leap out of rebuilding mode and into contention mode.

So to answer the question: Do the White Sox have an easy schedule? I don't think it looks very easy.

They'll see the Twins 10 times, and though, in a fit of somewhat inexplicable unbalanced scheduling, seven of those games of will be played on the South Side, home-field advantage will be minimized with no fans in the stands. The Twins might have questions about whether their starting rotation can be as menacing as their thunderous lineup, but my god, is that lineup good. The Twins launched 307 home runs out of big league ballparks last season, including a whopping 27 of them out of Guaranteed Rate Field. And now Nelson Cruz has a new slugging buddy in the middle of that order, with Josh Donaldson signing up this winter. The perennial MVP candidate was back to his productive ways with the Atlanta Braves last season after a few injury-impacted campaigns, and his career numbers against the White Sox are scary good: a .333/.435/.686 slash line — that's an 1.122 OPS! — with 15 homers and 35 RBIs in 44 games.

They'll also see the Indians 10 times, and that same unbalanced scheduling works against the White Sox this time, with seven of the 10 games played at Progressive Field in Cleveland. The South Siders have struggled to win games there in recent seasons, dropping 18 contests at The Artist Formerly Known as The Jake in the past three years. The Indians might have dealt away both Trevor Bauer and Corey Kluber in the last 12 months, but they still have what is arguably baseball's best starting rotation: Mike Clevinger, Shane Bieber, Carlos Carrasco, Zach Plesac and more. Yes, the lineup is not nearly as formidable, but they still boast two MVP types on the left side of the infield in Francisco Lindor and José Ramírez. The road to the AL Central crown runs through the Twin Cities, but the White Sox have to leap over the Indians, too, to get to the top of the division standings. And that's no small feat. The White Sox penultimate series of the season is a four-game set in The Cleve.

While we already knew the White Sox were going to play a bunch of games against the Twins and Indians this season, these ones are magnified. The shortened season means that instead of their games against the Twins and Indians making up 23 percent of their schedule, they account for a third of it. Every game holds more weight in the 60-game setup, but none will be more important than these 20.

Getting to see the Royals and Tigers an equal amount is a positive, sure. Those teams combined for 217 losses last season and don't figure to be much more of a threat this year, even though the 60-game schedule could make for some truly wacky shenanigans. Even still, the White Sox lost their season series with the Royals last year, going 9-10 against them.

RELATED: White Sox 2020 schedule: 5 key series during 60-game race for AL Central crown

But it's those games against the NL Central that really don't hold up to the idea that the White Sox have it easy in 2020. There are four teams in that division that not only look capable of giving the White Sox some fits but look capable of winning the NL Central altogether.

That includes the Cubs, who the White Sox play six times, accounting for 10 percent of their 2020 schedule. That includes a three-game set on the South Side to finish off the 2020 regular season, when playoff spots could be on the line, setting up potentially the most meaningful Crosstown series since the 1906 World Series. The Cubs have questions like any other team, particularly when it comes to how much they can get out of their starting rotation. Already, they're down former White Sox hurler José Quintana after he injured himself while doing dishes. But if first-year manager David Ross gets enough from his pitching staff, a lineup featuring MVP types like Kris Bryant, Javy Báez and Anthony Rizzo seems to be strong enough to do a good deal of damage.

The defending champion Cardinals are the White Sox opponents in the Field of Dreams game, and while that will be mostly a showcase for Major League Baseball's ability to construct a baseball field in the middle of a cornfield, it will also be the first of a three-game series between two teams with playoff hopes. Almost certainly the White Sox will run into excellent young pitcher Jack Flaherty, who's not only the Redbirds' ace but also Lucas Giolito's former high school teammate. There's a no-brainer of a pitching matchup for the nationally televised game in Iowa.

The Cincinnati Reds are a trendy pick to rise up and even win the division — it's my prediction, so make of that what you will — after an offseason of splashes that brought sluggers Nicholas Castellanos and Mike Moustakas to the banks of the Ohio River. White Sox fans — and White Sox pitchers — likely don't have fond memories of either's time in the AL Central. Eugenio Suárez led the NL in home runs last season, and that Joey Votto guy has put up some gaudy numbers in his career that some might argue are verging on being worthy of Hall of Fame consideration. But it's that 1-2-3 in the Reds' rotation that really sparkles: Bauer, Sonny Gray and Luis Castillo, who have all gone to the All-Star Game once in the last two seasons.

The Milwaukee Brewers could be sliding backward with their seeming refusal to go out and acquire impact starting pitching, but that hasn't stopped them from making the postseason in each of the last two seasons. Christian Yelich is going to be around for a long while after getting a big contract this offseason, and they still have some real good bullpen pitchers. Two of their offseason acquisitions this year should be familiar to White Sox fans: Omar "The Narv Dog" Narváez and Avisaíl García, who both reached career highs in homers in 2019 and combined for 42 of them. The whole team should be somewhat familiar by the team the White Sox play four straight games against them in early August; the White Sox will play hosts to the Brew Crew in an exhibition game July 22 at Guaranteed Rate Field.

The Pittsburgh Pirates should not strike fear. They're rebuilding again, and the White Sox will gladly take four games against them, even if Josh Bell could cause some headaches for White Sox pitchers. But absent the Bucs, the NL Central is no joke of an opposing division for the White Sox or any team looking to win the AL Central title by the end of September.

With a heavy dose of the Twins and Indians and a smattering of dates against as many as four contenders in the NL Central, I wouldn't call the White Sox schedule easy. Are they better off than they were back in March? Probably, as this 60-game slate doesn't feature the Los Angeles Dodgers, Arizona Diamondbacks, Houston Astros, Oakland Athletics, Los Angeles Angels, New York Yankees or Tampa Bay Rays — potential playoff teams, the lot of them.

But the White Sox have a lot of questions still to answer about themselves and little margin for error with every game meaning as much it does. Buckle up, folks. Players are already describing this shortened season as possibly having a playoff atmosphere from Day 1. And with few exceptions, the opposition could have that feel, too, for a group of South Siders looking to snap the franchise's postseason drought.


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Ozzie Guillén hates Nick Swisher, with his whole heart

Ozzie Guillén hates Nick Swisher, with his whole heart

If you didn't know, Ozzie Guillén has strong opinions and that includes former players he dealt with.

On the White Sox post-game show, host Chuck Garfien asked Guillén who he disliked more, Carlos Gomez or Nick Swisher.

"Oh my God, nobody can compare that with Nick Swisher," Guillén responded. "I hate Nick Swisher with my heart."

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Guillén declined to elaborate, but then added: "I think he hates me back, there's nothing wrong with that."

And finally Ozzie gave some kind of reason.

"I never talked to him, I was managing him, but I don't like the way his attitude was all fake. And I don't like fake people."

Then Chuck pointed out Swisher was only with the White Sox for one year and Guillén had thoughts about that to.

"It was one year too long," Guillén said.

Guillén doubled down and said he thinks others players would agree if they were honest, while clarifying he didn't hate him as a person and thought he was a good player.

The White Sox way wasn't the Swisher way, and there was friction.

Ozzie also admitted he might of misused Swisher.

"I played him center field and batting first or second, that guy has to be in right field batting tenth."


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White Sox end streak, stay confident: 'We are going to do the pushing around'

White Sox end streak, stay confident: 'We are going to do the pushing around'

The White Sox winning streak is over.

So why was Danny Mendick so chipper after a 1-0 loss to the Milwaukee Brewers on Wednesday night?

His three hits might have had something to do with it. He was just about the only offense the White Sox mustered against Adrian Houser and a pair of relievers.

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But it seemed to stem more from the different feeling surrounding this year's White Sox team.

Mendick got a taste, however small, of the rebuilding years at the tail end of the 2019 season. After Yoán Moncada and Tim Anderson and Lucas Giolito and Eloy Jiménez broke out the way they did during that campaign, Rick Hahn's front office complemented them with a host of impact veteran additions during the offseason. Throw it all together, and these White Sox have the look of a potential contender, something backed up by the way they played during their six-game win streak.

That's over now, though Wednesday's game had the same kind of playoff feel that the first two games against the Brewers did on Monday and Tuesday nights. The White Sox might not have played any games that felt like these in the last three years. Now there have been three in three nights.

So yeah, something's changed.

"I’ll tell you what, just the energy in the clubhouse," Mendick said Wednesday, asked about the difference between 2019 and 2020. "When we show up to the field, there’s more confidence.

"It’s not like we are going to get pushed around. It’s more like we are going to do the pushing around.

"Everyone is just prepared. Everyone shows up to the field ready. They know the opponent. We know what they are going to bring. I feel there’s just more, how do I say this, more education. We have more veterans. We have guys who are really focused on baseball, and it brings a lot to everybody."

RELATED: White Sox manager Rick Renteria finally has talent — and knows what to do with it

The six-game win streak turned the White Sox slow 1-4 start around in a hurry. In this shortened, 60-game season, every game means so much and even modest winning or losing streaks could tug the entire season in one direction or the other. The White Sox went from getting their brains beat in by the class of the AL Central to the third best record in the American League as of Wednesday morning.

They've showed what they're capable of, too. They blew out the Kansas City Royals, scoring a combined 20 runs and knocking out a total of 35 hits in back-to-back wins last weekend. Then they went to Milwaukee and won a pair of nail-biters, getting clutch hits from José Abreu and Jiménez to back strong efforts by the bullpen Monday and Giolito on Tuesday.

Wednesday, it was one of those newly arrived veterans, Dallas Keuchel, who shone. He logged seven one-run innings, the first White Sox starter to pitch in the seventh inning this season. If it weren't for the unusually cool conditions on the South Side, the outcome might have been different. Luis Robert and Moncada dialed up back-to-back deep fly balls in the eighth inning that both could have easily gone as go-ahead homers on a normal summer night.

The clutch hits could have kept on coming. And the knowledge of being competitive — the "belief," as Giolito keeps putting it — prevented the White Sox from feeling down after another fine effort Wednesday. It will likely do so every night for the remainder of this short season.

"The thing that probably has impressed me the most is the resiliency of the club," Hahn said Wednesday. "Obviously, those of us who have watched this team over the last several years, and certainly in the early phase of the rebuild, knew that feeling that you would get early or midway through games where you would feel the lead was perhaps insurmountable. I think looking at this club through the first 10 or 11 games so far, it feels like we're not out of any ballgame, regardless of what the deficit may be.

"I think that's a great testament to not just the veterans that have been brought in, but the growth of the young guys and the mentality I'm sure you've all picked up on going back to (spring training in) Glendale."

Part of the reason additions like Keuchel, Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnación looked so good during the winter was the playoff experience these guys have. While the White Sox core doesn't know what it's like to win at the big league level — not even Abreu does, who played for six losing White Sox teams before signing a new multi-year deal in the offseason — these guys do. They're all veterans of pennant races and playoff runs that go all the way to the end of October. Keuchel's got a World Series ring on his resume.

Experience with the highs and lows of a winning season might not be quite as valuable in this most unusual of seasons. But before the White Sox can be championship contenders, they actually need to do some winning. After a combined 284 losses in the last three seasons, even a six-game winning streak can mean a lot.

But whether they won or lost Wednesday, it didn't seem like the result was going to sway their belief. These White Sox are here to compete and live up to the high expectations they set for themselves dating all the way back to the end of an 89-loss season in 2019.

"We've been hot, and eventually it's going to come to an end. But man, we were right in the ballgame. That's all we can ask for," Keuchel said. "Game in, game out, we know that we're going to be in those contests.

"If we can win series, that's a playoff recipe."


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