White Sox still in the hunt in spite of themselves

USA TODAY Sports

It's 2011 in the AL Central until further notice. Will the White Sox heed the warnings?

After being outscored by the Cubs 24-6 over three games, the White Sox may have limped out of Wrigley Field with a battered run differential and bruised egos ... but their position in the AL Central standings remained relatively unharmed.

Both the Sox and the Detroit Tigers lost three games in four days -- the only difference is that the Tigers opened up their two-and-two set with the Pirates by taking the first game before losing the next three.

So the White Sox, struggling all season to hit and often faring worse in the defensive department, somehow are 24-27 and just 4½ games back of the Tigers.

That's why this season reminds me much more of 2011 than 2007. Back in 2007, a 25-27 record was good enough to trail first place by 7½ games. By June 17, they'd breached the 10-games-out threshold and never crossed back.

In 2011, the Sox needed 106 games to climb back over .500, and yet despite carrying a losing record for the large majority of that time, they often found themselves between 3½ and 5½ games back. I used the phrase "contending by accident" to describe that team, and it applies for the moment here.

The fortunes of these Sox can turn in a hurry, but considering the Sox won't play the Tigers in earnest until after the All-Star break, they have an awful lot of time to pretend to have credibility. But as long as they keep compounding the on-field as the Sox keep making the same management mistakes as they did in 2011, there's no chance of them flipping the script.

Speaking of which, here's Adam Dunn admitting that he couldn't play successfully through his back pain:

It's an injury that probably caused Dunn to alter his swing or approach, to his detriment in the short term.

"You know, yeah, probably," Dunn said. "Until you get put in the situation, like the back thing, where you come out of a game and you are feeling good swinging the bat good, then we lose that game. ... That's what we do.

"Is it smart? Looking back, no. It was stupid. But I can't. I'm done trying to convince myself that I could lay low and pull myself and sit down. I can't do it."

So it's official: That's three straight seasons where the Sox allowed a key figure to come back from an injury days (or weeks) before the normal recovery time, only to see all parties realize it was a really bad idea all around. It might be Dunn instead of Jake Peavy this time, but the spirit of 2011 is strong in this season indeed.

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