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Race to the Bottom 2023: Game 42

Five years after the inaugural study, it’s the return of an occasional series tracing the 2023 club’s attempt to avoid becoming the worst White Sox team in history

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Brett Ballantini started at South Side Sox in 2018 after 20 years of writing on basketball, baseball and hockey, including time on the Blackhawks and White Sox beats. Follow him on Twitter @BrettBallantini and email your site feedback to brettballantini@yahoo.com

My neighbor has birdhouses on his property that are meant to help some endangered bluebirds with propagating, nesting, something like that. Some spring seasons, the juvenile birds, aggressive as all get-out, begin attacking our large (and even small) picture windows.

Every morning, as early as 6 a.m. it/they start banging and thumping at the windows, angry at the reflection of a rival bird that does not exist. I am writing in the middle of the night and thus not at my sharpest. But there is a metaphor for White Sox fandom in there, somewhere.

And metaphors aside, when this series was created in 2018, just like the first time these birds attacked my house, I didn’t think the crisis would pop up again, so soon.

Here we are. Welcome to the 2023 edition of Race to the Bottom.


So here we are again, taking a dive into the 2023 team as it attempts to avoid becoming the worst White Sox club in franchise history. At different junctures, we’ll take a snapshot of how this 2023 team shapes up against the very worst White Sox team ever (1948) and three other close “rivals” (1932, 1970 and 2018).

The returns through 42 games? Well, there’s a reason this series got dusted off and pulled out from the archives.


2018 White Sox ⚾️ 12-30 ⚾️ 46-116 pace ⚾️ 5th (last) place, AL Central ⚾️ 9 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 62-100
Know why the 2018 White Sox lead this listing, as the worst of the contenders in this edition of Race to the Bottom? Because through 42 games, the 2018 squad remains the worst in 123 years of White Sox baseball.

But like their 2023 counterparts, the 2018 White Sox had won just two series at this juncture in the season, but won Game 42 to raise their record to 12-30. It was the last of the SSS “Methups,” and Star Wars Night (on May 19?) to boot. There was a Daniel Palka sighting, as he slammed a triple to drive in two, and José Abreu clocked a home run. This was one of Lucas Giolito’s good 2018 starts, as well. I mean, go ahead, click on the game story; the cast of characters is downright frightening, and will make you more depressed that 2023’s high-voltage club, with actual “stars,” is just two games better than this ragtag amalgamation.

1948 White Sox ⚾️ 12-29-1 ⚾️ 45-113-4 pace ⚾️ 8th (last) place, AL ⚾️ 16 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 54-106-2
Ted Lyons managed this motley crew of White Sox, who would finish with the second-worst winning percentage in team history. Only a single tie keeps this 1948 club from sharing the embarrassing spotlight with the 2018 club for worst 42-game start in club history. Game 42 came on June 7, and the White Sox earned a loss without even playing a full nine innings — it was a 7-1 setback in seven innings at Washington. It being a night game, presumably rain forced the premature end; but in front of just 5,909 fans and with the Pale Hose falling behind, 6-0, in the fourth, perhaps everyone just wanted to get home. The White Sox mustered just four hits, none for extra bases.

2023 White Sox ⚾️ 14-28 ⚾️ 54-108 pace ⚾️ 4th (of 5) place, AL Central ⚾️ 9 1⁄2 GB
The White Sox lost Game 42 in a squeaker against the Houston Astros, 4-3, dropping another series. The club failed to win any of its first nine series of the season, and now has won just two of 13 overall. The run differential is already -71, and this most recent loss dropped the club to a season-worst 14 games worse than .500. This club may be “better” than 2018, but its longest losing streak (10 games) already tops that of 2018 (eight games).

For worst-start historians, the 2023 White Sox are tied with 1978 and 2001 for the third-worst start in franchise annals. (Amazingly, the 2001 club rebounded to finish with a winning record, at 83-79. So there’s hope, 2023 Chicago 9!)

1932 White Sox ⚾️ 15-27 ⚾️ 58-104 pace ⚾️ 7th (of 8) place, AL ⚾️ 14 1⁄2 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 52-109-1
This was a crazy scheduling season, as the White Sox just wrapped up a eight-game road trip with a 6-5 win in Cleveland — and were about to come home to a 22-game homestand (they would go 8-14, keeping up a relatively bright pace early for this ultimately horrible club).

As for this 15th win, making them the second-best of these Racers to the Bottom, Ted Lyons got the complete-game victory despite a heavily-trafficked (13 hits, two walks) effort. Offensively, the South Siders shocked 24-19 Cleveland with a five-spot in the sixth inning to pull ahead, 6-3. The onslaught came courtesy of just three hits (including a two-run single from Lyons).

1970 White Sox ⚾️ 16-26 ⚾️ 62-100 pace ⚾️ 5th (of 6) place, AL West ⚾️ 12 1⁄2 GB ⚾️ Actual 162-game finish: 56-106
On May 16 — so, essentially 53 years ago to the day — the White Sox stood at 15-17, apparently with hope to sidestep the 106 losses that were to permanently scar the 1970 club. Ten games later, the White Sox had dropped all but one, including a Game 42, a 7-1 loss in Kansas City that began a 13-game road trip. The game was tight, befitting these two atrocious clubs, at 2-1 in the eighth. But in the K.C. half, hell broke loose and the Royals plated five. The culprit was Danny Murphy, who came on in relief of a solid Jerry Crider start (two earned over seven innings, no walks, 59 game score) and didn’t retire a single batter. The mauling swelled Murphy’s ERA from 4.29 to 6.43, and rendered any hope of a longball evening things up in the ninth (Bill Melton was up third for the White Sox) moot.


[For the 1932 and 1948 teams, records are extrapolated from 154 to 162 games.]


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