To be honest, after the 2018 Chicago White Sox got their “Kopech bump” and were among the hottest teams in baseball at the end of August, it seemed there would be no more editions of this series.
But, with a seven-game losing streak (within reach of the season-high of eight, back in June), this year’s club is again flirting with 100 losses (currently, the Hose are still tracking scant percentage points shy of the century mark).
There is some sentiment out there that this series is depressing. Believe me, I can’t wait to do a season-long study in 2019, comparing that club to other surprise 90-win White Sox teams, like 1990. And I really can’t wait to track the 2020 club, in its bid to become the second 100-win White Sox team in history.
But for now, it’s not yet Christmas morning. We got coal in our stockings this year. And, like it or not, a team that is currently the sixth-worst in 118 years is newsworthy.
I hope to retire Race to the Bottom forever, after this. But, here we are.
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As the 2018 team attempts to avoid becoming the worst White Sox club in franchise history, Race to the Bottom takes a look at how it compares to the very worst White Sox team ever (1932) and two other close “rivals” (1948 and 1970).
Race to the Bottom archives:
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And how about some good news, to start? The 2018 club has officially “clinched” being better than 1932 and 1948, and, with 56 wins, can’t finish worse than the 1970 club, even if the 2018ers lose out. So in a sense, the 2018 White Sox have “lost” the Race for the Bottom.
1932 White Sox ⚾️ 46-99 ⚾️ 51-111 pace ⚾️ 7th (of 8) place, AL ⚾️ 56 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 53-109
Holding steady as the Worst White Sox Team of All Time is 1932, who went 9-22 since the last update (Game 114) and has fallen two games worse over 162-game pace. The 1932ers don’t mess around.
Game 145 was on September 19, a 7-4 loss to the Philadelphia A’s in the nightcap of a doubleheader sweep. The game was originally set for August 9, but wet grounds at Comiskey Park pushed the game a month. Yet even after the loss, the White Sox were still 5 1⁄2 games better than the last-place Boston Red Sox, although both teams were hopelessly behind the New York Yankees, already with 104 wins and a .698 winning percentage.
Philadelphia was no slouch, winning its 91st game on this day to firmly embed itself in second place. George Earnshaw threw a complete game win at the South Siders, improving to 19-13 and notching a modest 53 game score. Earnshaw was buoyed by a relentless A’s offense, which scored in every inning from the second to the seventh.
On the Chicago side, leadoff man and center fielder Liz Funk went 3-for-5 with an RBI and a double, while catcher Charlie Berry went 3-for-4 with three runs, two RBIs, a double and a homer. At third base, Red Kress committed his 36th error. Starter Charlie Biggs took his first loss of the season (1-1), getting knocked out of the box in the fifth after five earned runs in four innings, eight hits, zero Ks and a 24 game score. Starter Red Faber mopped up for three innings of relief.
Two seasons later, the Earnshaw would be swapped to the White Sox for Berry.
1948 White Sox ⚾️ 47-97-1 ⚾️ 52-109-1 pace ⚾️ 8th (last) place, AL ⚾️ 43 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 53-107-2
In the month since the last update, the 1948ers duplicated the 1932 crew by going 9-22, which shaved one win off of 1948’s projected finish.
There was joy in Comiskey on this day, however, as the White Sox reared up and knocked off the New York Yankees, 4-2, in a Thursday matinee in front of 2,746. The Yankees were mired in a dogfight with the Red Sox and Cleveland for the AL pennant, and the loss knocked New York a full game back in the race. Despite being some 42 games worse than the Bronx Bombers, on this day the White Sox were superior.
And that superiority came due largely to a surprising source: starting pitcher Frank Papish. Papish brought a 1-7 record and Giolitoean 5-plus ERA into the proceedings, and promptly handcuffed New York on six hits, in a complete game win, finishing with a 63 game score. Papish issued more walks (seven) than hits, so the Yankees had plenty of opportunities to score. But surprisingly, for a New York lineup stocked with Joe DiMaggio, Yogi Berra and the like, Yankees third baseman Billy Johnson’s double was their only extra-base hit (and just one of just two extra-base hits in the game).
The key play came in the ninth, when pinch-hitter and future White Sox stalwart Sherm Lollar tapped out a single for the Yankees, and Papish promptly induced a 3-6-3 double play from Stuffy Stirnweiss.
Papish also helped his own cause, opening scoring in the third inning with a sacrifice fly to score third baseman Don Kolloway.
The White Sox were keyed by a three-run fourth inning, giving them all they’d need for the victory. Shortstop Luke Appling went 2-for-4, while both right fielder Taffy Wright and Kolloway went 2-for-3 with an RBI.
1970 White Sox ⚾️ 52-93 ⚾️ 58-104 pace ⚾️ 6th (last) place, AL West ⚾️ 35 1⁄2 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 56-106
Since we last checked in, the 1970 Sox went 10-21 to “improve,” at least relative to 1932 and 1948. But, no worries, that “improvement” still saw the 1970 team worsen their pace by two games. And it was saving its best for last, as the club would finish the season with just three more wins (3-12).
But, on this day, there was glory: A team the 1970ers trailed by 36 1⁄2 games, the first-place Minnesota Twins, were snuffed out, and at Metropolitan Stadium, to boot. In fact, the White Sox would win the next day, 8-7, completing a sweep of the weekend and claiming a series win.
Game 145 was a 5-3 victory, on the arms of young star Bart Johnson, with a save from Wilbur Wood.
The White Sox jumped on future Hall-of-Famer Bert Blyleven early, collaring him with the loss after seven innings, six hits, three earned, two walks, four Ks and two homers, for a 55 game score.
Pale Hose first baseman Gail Hopkins hit a solo shot in the second, while third baseman Syd O’Brien clocked a two-run homer in the third. And for insurance, Bobby Knoop drilled a two-out, two-run double in the eighth to help salt the win away.
Catcher Duane Josephson was no fan of Blyleven’s curveball, however, striking out three times in the game as part of an 0-for-5 day. And Carlos May had an interesting day on the basepaths; he stole third base (SB No. 8) in the fifth, but was picked off of first base on a wild pitch in the ninth.
Johnson improved to 3-5 with eight innings of 10-hit ball, three runs (one earned), three walks and 10 strikeouts, for a 61 game score. Wood earned his 20th save, with an inning of one-walk, two-K relief.
2018 White Sox ⚾️ 56-89 ⚾️ 63-99 pace ⚾️ 4th (of 5) place, AL Central ⚾️ 26 GB
Just like in the last report a month ago, the 2018 team continues to trend upward relative to the three worst teams in White Sox history. This time around, the White Sox went 15-16, helping shave five losses off of their season pace.
Hopefully, the latest downturn here in September will not cause the White Sox to assume the role of fourth-worst White Sox team of all time. With any sort of strong kick, the White Sox can remove themselves entirely out of the Top 10 worst White Sox teams ever — but they’ll need to finish 11-6 to do so.
Yesterday, it was a flat performance by the offense against rookie Brad Keller, and a rocky outing from Michael Kopech replacement Dylan Covey, that saw Chicago fall for a second straight time to one of the two teams in baseball with a worse record.
On the “plus” side, that No. 3 pick next June is more and more assured.
[For the 1932 and 1948 teams, records are extrapolated from 154 to 162 games.]