PHILADELPHIA -- White Sox players didn’t race out of the clubhouse after Sunday’s 4-3 loss in 10 innings to the Philadelphia Phillies at Citizens Bank Park.
But only because their luggage slowed them down.
Whereas last season they headed to the All-Star break to recharge for a postseason push, this time it’s more about players and coaches who need a four-day respite from the disappointment.
Whether it has been terrible offense, horrendous defense, injuries, games postponed or delayed by weather or trade rumors galore, the first half qualifies as a case study in misery for the White Sox.
Fresh off Saturday’s doubleheader, all 24 innings of it, the White Sox -- who enter the break with a 37-55 mark and trail Detroit by 14 games -- are looking forward to four days of freedom from their troubles. Asked about the first half, manager Robin Ventura offered a simple assessment.
“Not good,” Ventura said. “Obviously, the record is not what we want. Again, it’s nothing about effort. A couple guys are in some funks, and that’s what happens. It becomes a team funk.”
What a funk it has become.
The White Sox expected to contend for an American League Central crown this season, a wild card spot at the least. The majority of a team that spent 117 days in first place last season returned with the idea the pitching would be even better.
Despite injuries to three-fifths of the original starting rotation, pitching hasn’t been the issue.
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The team’s 4.01 ERA is eighth in the AL and within striking distance of the leaders.
Everything else has been a problem.
The offense has had massive struggles.
On Sunday, Cole Hamels and two relievers held the White Sox to three runs or fewer for the 46th time in 92 games. The team is 11-35 in those games.
Getting on base has been one of the biggest maladies for the White Sox, who entered Sunday with a .302 on-base percentage. Hamels and Co. limited the White Sox to nine base runners.
But even when the White Sox have reached base, they have been a mess with careless base-running mistakes.
Before to the sixth inning, when Alejandro De Aza was doubled off second base, the team had 31 outs on the bases this season. The league average is 30.
But when you consider that the team’s .302 OBP is 19 points below the league average, it suggests the White Sox would have far more mistakes on the bases were they to have extra chances.
The club has also struggled to hit with runners in scoring position, hitting .248 through Saturday.
The defense has been perhaps even worse. After they committed an AL-low 70 errors last season, the White Sox have made 60 already, leading to 38 unearned runs. The White Sox allowed 30 unearned runs all last season.
Ventura has often lamented their defensive woes and at one point noted he sounded like a broken record as the club gave away game after game by affording their opponents extra chances.
Dunn said the break is good regardless of what has happened.
“Any time you get a break, breaks are good,” first baseman Adam Dunn said. “I don’t care if you are 50 games up or 50 games back. There’s a few things that people circle during the year on their calendars: Opening Day and All-Star break are among the top two.”
The break comes at a time when the White Sox are in a precarious spot.
Veteran reliever and leader Matt Thornton has been traded to the Boston Red Sox. General manager Rick Hahn has promised more deals are to come with Alex Rios, Jesse Crain, Jake Peavy, Matt Lindstrom, Alexei Ramirez and assorted others being the most prominent among the rumors.On Saturday, Crain said Thornton’s trade opened the door for others.
“You know it’s going to happen,” Crain said.
Long-time slugger Paul Konerko, who could be in the final season of his career, said there’s an air of uncertainty as the team heads into its final 70 games. The only thing the White Sox know is they won’t push for the postseason come September.
“We don’t know what moves they are going to make,” Konerko said. “They traded Thornton already and you know, there’s a chance that there are more guys that can go. The theme is whoever is here today, you go out there and play hard. Like the guys who played (Saturday), they played their heart out both of those games. That’s really it. I wish we were up 10 games in first and that kind of thing. But it’s just not the case. As a professional, you have that integrity that no matter what the standings are, you are going to come in and play that game hard that day as far as who’s going to be here.”
Fortunately for the White Sox none of them will be here for the next four days.