If you went back in time to the beginning of Spring Training and told a bewildered baseball fan that at the beginning of June, the White Sox were tied with Cleveland in the AL Central, they would have a lot of questions. The conversation would probably go something like this:
Bewildered Baseball Fan: Whoa, that’s crazy. Did the Sox land Manny Machado or something?
You: No, but they did sign his friends and family.
BBF: What about Bryce Harper or Dallas Keuchel or Craig Kimbrel?
You: No, but two of those guys are still available.
BBF: So, did Carlos Rodón figure out things out?
You: He did, but he had to have Tommy John.
BBF: Is Eloy Jímenez hitting a million dingers?
You: No, he’s actually been sub-replacement.
BBF: This sounds like the White Sox aren’t actually good. Wait, so does that just mean Cleveland is really bad?
Coming into June, the White Sox are just one game under .500 after thoroughly embarrassing Cleveland last night. Their Pythagorean and base runs records both put them at a .426 winning percentage, and FanGraphs expects them to win just 72 games.
They have virtually no chance of winning the division. Nobody is catching the Twins, and that’s a sentence I definitely anticipated writing this year. The White Sox almost certainly won’t be making a playoff push this year. But they could make a push for a playoff push.
It will take some serious star alignment for the White Sox to remain remotely competitive for the rest of the year. They’ve had some serious setbacks with losing Michael Kopech and Carlos Rodón to Tommy John surgery, and they’ve also had some misfortune of their own making. Their pursuit of Manny Machado hinged on him wanting to take a pay cut to hang out with Yonder Alonso. Their strategy to bring him in wasn’t unlike a company putting a ping pong table in the break room instead of offering their employees a dental plan.
Again, the White Sox aren’t good. But they might not even have to be good. Aside from the superteams, the American League is exceptionally bad, the Central especially so. The White Sox have the weakest strength of schedule remaining in all of baseball as they can potentially feast on the Royals, Tigers, and potentially Cleveland. The Rays, Red Sox, and Yankees will beat up on each other while the A’s and Angels run up against the Astros.
The White Sox have one of the easiest paths to contention, but they probably don’t have the talent. Lucas Giolito has been much improved. Tim Anderson is annoying dads across the country. Yoan Moncada is having a pretty decent year. But that’s about it. But if Jímenez and José Abreu get things going like they can, and Reynaldo Lopez figures things out, the White Sox could be not half-bad. Not half-bad might be all they need to have a shot at having a shot at contention.