White Sox ’24 — hours of misery, as season of suffering drags on

One of my favorite scenes in Bennett Miller’s 2011 “Moneyball” features a title card that says simply, “The Streak.” What follows is a montage of highlights of the 2002 Oakland A’s as they go on a 20-game tear, accompanied by play-by-broadcast and radio/TV commentary from the time, e.g., “Something strange is happening in Oakland, you cannot argue the point right now.” At one point, the camera scrolls through the list of victories, W after W after W, including three in a row over the White Sox in mid-August.

Watching, experiencing, oh, let’s just say it, SUFFERING through the 2024 White Sox season, I feel like we’re in a Bizarro Superman version of “The Streak,” with L after L after L after L after L . . .

It’s not just the losing. It’s the way they’re losing. Missing the cutoff man, committing balks, blowing 5-1 leads on consecutive nights against the Cubs, getting shut out eight times over a 22-game stretch, surrendering walk-off homers — these White Sox have a unique way of ticking you off and breaking your heart at the same time.

On June 1, Aaron Judge of the Yankees had half as many home runs as the entire White Sox roster. (The Sox have had a bit of a power surge of late and are all the way up to 25th in MLB in homers, and they now have more than twice as many homers as the Yankees slugger. Take that, Judge!) The Sox are 30th (out of 30) in batting average, 30th in runs, 30th in OBP, 30th in slugging, 29th in ERA and 29th in WHIP. Game after game, there’s usually at least one name in the Sox’ bullpen or starting lineup that gives me pause and has me clicking over to Baseball Reference to find out who this or that fellow is and what he has done in his career to date.

I’m a die-hard, lifelong White Sox fan. I attended my first game on July 29, 1966, and I have the original scorecard from that game framed on my office wall. (Yankees 2, White Sox 1. Mickey Mantle homered.) I wrote a book about being a White Sox fan called “Sox and the City.” As a kid and a teenager playing ball, I wore No. 11 in honor of Luis Aparicio, and later No. 15 in tribute to Dick Allen. I’ll forever be appreciative of that magical 2005 season — but that was nearly two decades ago. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a White Sox team this bad, and yes, I remember the 56-106 team of 1970.

On the field, off the field, around the field, the Sox are approaching the level of comically, entertainingly bad, a la the Mets in their inaugural season of 1962, who finished 40-120, just 60½ games behind the Giants. At 20-57 (and counting) entering Saturday, the Sox are on pace to have one of the worst records in the modern era. Just a few of the classic lowlights from the 2024 campaign to date:

• At 2-13, the Sox had the worst start in franchise history. In a span of fewer than two weeks, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert and Eloy Jimenez all got hurt running to first or rounding first.

• The biggest social-media star in the entire organization this year has been the “Campfire Milkshake.” It’s never good when an enormous dessert concoction is getting more love on X and Instagram and Facebook than, say, a BASEBALL PLAYER.

• New play-by-play announcer John Schriffen, who has a solid set of broadcast skills and unbridled enthusiasm, has unfortunately had a series of bumpy moments, e.g., when Tommy Pham had a home-plate collision with the Brewers’ William Contreras and a near-brawl ensued, and Schriffen exclaimed, “We ain’t taking that. We ain’t taking that from the Brewers. I don’t care how many L’s we have this year, we ain’t taking that!” Wait, what? Somewhere, even Hawk Harrelson must have been cringing.

• About that collision. It was Pham who went out of his way to slide into Contreras, actually running onto the infield grass as if trying to initiate contact, rather than trying to avoid the tag. After the game, Pham (who once slapped Joc Pedersen over a fantasy football dispute) told reporters, “There’s a reason why I do all kinds of fighting in the offseason, because I’m prepared to [mess] somebody up. You can take it as it is.”

OK. Far be it from me to poke the bear, er, the White Sox, but a baseball player working on his hand-to-hand combat skills in the offseason makes about as much sense as a UFC fighter working on hitting the curveball between bouts.

• I’ve long admired catcher Martin Maldonado’s ability to handle pitchers, as well as his on-field demeanor. How can you not love a guy who once wore a clip-on tie over his chest protector to celebrate Father’s Day? Having said that (in the immortal words of Larry David), whenever Maldonado is in the lineup for these Sox, it’s like giving away free outs. In 111 at-bats entering Saturday, Maldonado was batting .090 with one home run, five RBI and an OPS of .279. For comparison’s sake, let’s take a look at Gary Peters’ 1964 season with the White Sox. In 126 at-bats, Peters hit .208, with four home runs, 19 RBI and an OPS of .594. Oh, and Peters also had a 20-8 record with a 2.50 ERA and a WAR of 4.2, because he was a pitcher. Just saying.

• While all this stumbling and bumbling and fumbling has been going on, the White Sox have been campaigning for a new stadium project on “The 78” in the South Loop. Timing, meet tone-deaf.

• On the bright side, 24-year-old Garrett Crochet has emerged as an electric presence on the mound, leading the American League in strikeouts and ranking second in WHIP.

In fact, Crochet has been so good, the Sox might actually do the right thing and NOT trade him before the deadline.

• • •

I’m not going to do one of those columnist-stunt deals where I renounce my White Sox loyalties, pledge allegiance to Wrigleyville and start learning all the words to “Go, Cubs, Go.” As all Chicago-area baseball fans know, you’re born into being a Sox fan or a Cubs fan, and while a handful of fans have made the switch for various reasons, they are the exception that proves the rule. All I can do is commiserate with my fellow Sox loyalists and try to find a few glimmers of hope, whether it’s Luis Robert hitting upper-deck bombs when he’s healthy, or Crochet having an All-Star season, or some promising young prospects showing progress in the minors.

I’m telling you, watch out for the White Sox in 2027. They could be .500 or even better!

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