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Syndication: Akron Beacon Journal Jeff Lange / USA TODAY NETWORK

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Know Your Enemy: Cleveland Guardians

This heritage is not exactly proud

Luis Robert Jr. is red-hot. Jake Burger is back and is raking. Yoán Moncada continued his hot start after a brief injury. If you had circled this AL Central showdown at the beginning of the season, well, this is what you would have hoped for.

But then, that’s from just those three guys. Not anything else. Everything else about the White Sox has been garbage.

Cleveland comes to town amidst some bad vibes and worse baseball on the South Side. These are two underachieving teams, one of which is desperate to turn things around and the other of which still has some hope.

The Sox are 1,115-1,111 all-time against Cleveland. So no matter what, we’ll still be ahead after this three-game showdown. Take that, Guardians!

So How Are They Doing, Anyway?

If you were to talk to someone from Cleveland — and don’t, unless you absolutely have to — they’d tell you that the Guardians aren’t doing that hot! That at 19-21, the season is not what they expected after last year. That losing a series to Detroit last week really sucked! They’d be very unhappy. They’d blame injuries and some underperformance.

Of course, we would trade positions with them in a heartbeat.

Tell that to your Cleveland interlocutor. It will make their day. And then you can end the conversation and quickly wash your hands.

Right now Cleveland has a lot of trouble making the ball leave the yard. They are 28th in the baseball in runs scored and dead last in home runs and OPS. (The Sox, oddly, are middling in homers and runs scored). Decent pitching has kept them hovering in a bad division.

How bad? Check out the five-lowest OBP teams in baseball.

26. Seattle: .304
27. Cleveland: .303
28. Kansas City: .300/White Sox: .300
30. Detroit: .294

Are the Hitters Fearsome? Need I Worry About Dingers?

Look, you know the drill. I just told you that Cleveland can’t score runs and really, really can’t hit dingers. They have 23 total dingers! That’s almost 50 behind Tampa. The Sox have hit almost twice as many homers, and only suit up like three guys who can hit the ball out of the park. If you are playing Cleveland, you would think, dingers are the last thing we have to worry about.

But you know the drill. Every single person reading this is thinking that Josh Naylor and José Ramírez are each going to hit like seven bombs in the three games. It’s destined. It is written in the stars. It will have happened. It feels like it has already happened, each bomb bringing with it the shuddering sense of the uncanny. Have we already lived this? Are we dead, and looking backward? Or is this merely the future perfect colliding with the terrible present?

It sucks.

Guarians vs. White Sox
Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

And the Pitching Matchups? What of Them?

When I started this piece, the matchups were TBD. They have since announced them. Honestly, I liked the hope of the unknown better than the thudding certainty of reality.

Tuesday May 16
Sox: Lance Lynn (1-5, 7.51) has been even worse than his numbers.

Guardians: Shane Bieber (3-1, 2.61 ERA) hasn’t quite duplicated his insane 2020 season, but falls short only by the standard of that greatness. He’s still a top pitcher in baseball.

Wednesday May 17
Sox: SP4 (2-3, 4.79) has numbers approaching DFA, if Lynn wasn’t so bad.

Guardians: Peyton Battenfield (0-4, 4.65) is not pitching terribly. His ERA comes from one bad start and an ugly relief outing. But again, the Clevelanders refuse to score runs.

Thursday May 18
Sox: Michael Kopech (1-4, 5.74) You know, these are just depressing.

Guardians: Logan Allen (1-1, 3.43) doesn’t walk a lot of guys and strikes out more than one per inning. Do with that info what you will.

Why Do We Hate Cleveland?

When we were very young my dad told us kids that Cleveland didn’t exist, that it was a big joke and a made-up place. Who knows why exactly he did this. I think it just made him laugh, a fun thing to do with little mushminded twerps. The reason he decided to tell us a real city didn’t exist, I don’t know — like so many of the reasons why fathers do anything, like so many of the mysteries that exist between father and son, it is unanswerable, lost always to the still and sad silence of the grave. Why he chose Cleveland, though is pretty fucking obvious: It sucks!

Cleveland looked at its fellow Lake Erie towns like Buffalo, Erie, and Toledo, and said: We can do worse. We can build right up to the lakefront and leave no public land. We can build a skyline that was outdated before it was finished, somehow both crowded and weak. We can have a town that makes you feel, even on the sunniest day, that you are somehow in a smokestack-themed amusement park.

Cleveland is grim without being dark, scuzzy without any sex, run-down with zero romanticism. Even its attempts at being cool — the Rock n Roll Hall of Fame — have the charm of a theme restaurant. There has never once been “Cleveland sound” or a “Cleveland scene” in any sector of the arts. Its most famous authors are deep underground or long dead — or usually both. Ask someone to name a famous band from Cleveland and they’ll spit in your eye. It has one title in the last 70 years across all sports. Save for all the dead fish in Lake Erie, it has left zero impact on American culture.

It’s like it doesn’t even exist.

Why Do We Hate the Guardians?

Look, you’ll see it in the tweets, but it is mostly because they always, always beat us. I know that we have a FOUR-GAME LEAD in the all-time, but that is a historical accident. Since the 90s, Cleveland has either been much better than us or has somehow still had our number. Since 1990, we are 257-281 against them, but it feels much worse. Even today, all you have to say is “Josh Naylor” and Sox fans will know the moment this rebuild went off the rails.

Also, a lot of their fans probably miss the insanely racist Chief Wahoo and think that the name change made the team “woke.”

But the worst thing they ever did was blow a 3-1 lead in the World Series. God.

Let’s Hear It From White Sox Fans!

Just, like, the whole general vibe

The terrible certainty of knowledge

Cleveland-y Reasons

Many Reasons

The heart of the matter

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