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Chicago White Sox v Pittsburgh Pirates

When do you start to worry?

Or: Is it too early to panic?

A look that sums up this season’s justified nerves.
| Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the hated Twins, the Sox were standing at 5-6, so close to their old friend, .500. If they won, they’d be 6-6, with a divisional series win already in hand — not bad considering the injuries and some particularly pathetic starting pitching. You could start to see the season turn around.

Or, they could fall to 5-7, still hoping to scrape a series win in the division and not lose yet another set. We’d already be looking up at the division, with some pathetic starting pitching, slapstick defense, some big LOB numbers, and of course the mounting and predictable injuries. Unlike I, writer, musing in-game, you, reader, will know the outcome when you read this — and I have a feeling that your emotions are roughly synchronous with what I described.

Of course, 6-6 and 5-7 is barely different at all over the course of a baseball season; it’s like asking if Chicxulub murced the dinosaurs on a Tuesday or a Wednesday. Even if the Sox sweep and move to 7-6, it’s little more than nice. Another week of good or bad baseball can make today’s concerns become yesterday’s irrelevance — just ask the little rodents who smugly watched the dinos dissolve into badland boneyards.

An asteroid absolutely wipes out the earth
Pictured: Byron Buxton vs. Lance Lynn
Wikimedia Commons

So then, the question becomes: When does it start to matter? Or, a more important question for White Sox fans: When do we start to worry?

Right now most of you are saying “I ALREADY HAVE BEEN WORRIED” or “I’ve been worrying about this team since Oct. 5, 2022” or, most likely, “I have reached a state beyond worry, beyond grim acceptance, and into a Nirvana of disconnection.”

The last one is probably right and good and proper and just as far as shouted responses to questions written on the internet go, you weirdo. After all, the things we have worried about — the inability to avoid injuries exposing a years-long lack of depth, the need for everyone to hit to their highest percentile to avoid disaster, an insanely expensive bullpen that can be lights-out or in the dark — are what is already threatening to sink the season.

Being a game or two worse than .500 to before taxes are due isn’t that much cause for concern, not in today’s game. The Phillies ended April at 11-11 last year, and never really made much hay in the NL East, but kept their heads above water and got hot at the right time. The Astros are struggling, but if they had a rough week or two in the regular season you wouldn’t blink an eye.

But of course, I hear you saying, we clearly aren’t the Astros, despite splitting with them to open the season. We’re the White Sox — a .500 franchise coming off a .500 season in the middle of a supposed contention window, the epitome of frustrated mediocrity, and everything we all knew could go wrong is already going wrong. It doesn’t matter how many teams have started out 5-6 and made the playoffs — we aren’t those teams.

Chicago White Sox v Houston Astros
We’re not this team.
Tim Warner/Getty Images

And so, I think, “When do you start to worry” isn’t really based on odds and probabilities alone. We weigh the future by what came in the past; the overture isn’t always the opera but it usually is. Even though we know that baseball is a game of accretion — tens of thousands of at-bats and pitches slowly making up games and series and weeks and months and a season — it is impossible not to look at the first two weeks and think, “This, this is how it will be.”

It isn’t just human nature to worry. Lucas Giolito’s brutal struggles confirm both our fears and the analysis of his slumping, illness-wracked 2022. Eloy’s and TA’s injuries confirm … well, that they miss a lot of games. The problem with runners left on base both heightens our throat-choking cynicism and the raw fact that the Sox were terrible in scoring situations last year. None of this is made up, none of it is just the rush to seem wisely distant on Twitter.

But then … in the first inning on Tuesday the Sox loaded the bases and Andrew Vaughn drove in two. Maybe things will turn around. Maybe we don’t need to worry. Maybe a mediocre start is just a start. Maybe the Sox will be one of those teams whose rough April becomes part of the legend. Or maybe this is all a myth, a legend I’m writing to forget reality. Maybe they should have driven in more than two.

I don’t know how this game will turn out. None of know how the season will go. Each game is going to add a little bit more knowledge, as the shape of the season turns visible, as fuzzy and ill-formed vibes become grim or wonderful realities, and as the days grow longer and then shorten again, and the only sure and certain thing is that we’ll all say we knew this would happen.


When do you start to worry?

This poll is closed

  • 8%
    I am not worried.
    (13 votes)
  • 25%
    (39 votes)
  • 21%
    I’ve been worrying about this team since Oct. 5, 2022
    (33 votes)
  • 45%
    I have reached a state beyond worry, beyond grim acceptance, and into a Nirvana of disconnection.
    (70 votes)
155 votes total Vote Now

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