White Sox hit road at critical time

David Banks

Difficult 11-game trip could cement Sox as sellers if they don't come home ahead

The White Sox might be two games below .500, but they're still one of the more .500 teams you'll ever see.

They just wrapped up a 4-4 homestand with Wednesday's victory over the Giants. They won series against the scufflers (Detroit and San Francisco), and got clobbered by the hot team (Kansas City). By the shape of their performances, they seem to know their place.

You have to carve up their record to find ways they're not .500. For instance, they don't break even on the road. They're 14-19 away from U.S. Cellular Field, and now they have 11 consecutive games to add to that ledger in what could be a season-shaping road trip.

Starting tonight, the White Sox will play four in Minnesota, three in Baltimore and four in Toronto. None of those places have been particularly hospitable to the Sox over the years. In other seasons, a 5-6 record would qualify as good enough. You know, hold ground, then try to make hay during a much more favorable July.

But taking on any amount of water risks becoming untenable. A 5-6 road trip means the Sox return to Chicago to face the Angels -- who sit in the first wild card spot -- at 40-43. That's a hard team to shop for in July.

You could write them off in most cases, but the AL Central race looks more like a box of puppies for sale. In early May, some Tigers fans at Bless You Boys wondered if Detroit could wrap up the division by Memorial Day, while Royals fans were tired of being blamed for the negativity the Royals inspire with poor play and worse excuses.

Skip ahead a month, and the Royals are leading the Tigers by 1½ games while Brad Ausmus is apologizing for gallows humor gone awry after the early seven-game lead vanished. Who knows what to make of those two teams right now, and they're not the only ones standing in front of the Sox. They also have to contend with the Indians, who have some obvious positive regression candidates on their roster, and could slingshot past the Royals and Tigers after drafting off them. Weirder things have happened during this first half.

Along the same lines, the White Sox might look at a team like the Royals and say, "Why not us?" The immediate response is, "Because it hasn't been you." Based on Rick Hahn's comments to The Score 670 on Wednesday, we have a good idea which way the front office is leaning:

"We're not going to delude ourselves, or wishcast the rest of our season. We're going to have to have real reasons to feel like this team's capable of winning a championship before we start doing anything that conceivably would compromise our longer-term goals."

The comments are measured enough to avoid dismissing his team's chances, because there are enough competitors and veterans who want to be taken seriously.

(Repudiate!)

But they have to start turning that thinking into doing in order to convince the front office to add to -- or, at the very least, not subtract from -- the 2014 product. And unless they're counting on pulling off the greatest July in history, the climb back over .500 will have to start with this road trip. There's no time like the present, even though the present says this schedule is no time to start thinking big.

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