BALTIMORE —When the White Sox woke up Thursday morning, they were in last place, wishing they could somehow swap places with the Minnesota Twins.
Who expected that in February?
An 11-game, four-city trip that started with two ugly losses in Toronto figured to turn up the heat on manager Robin Ventura’s imaginary hot seat. Those once lofty winter expectations that were starting to show cracks in May only figured to completely crumble at some point in June.
“It’s good to have expectations,” Ventura said. “We’ve kind of been on the other side of that where we didn’t have expectations — it’s not as fun to not have expectations.”
True, but the Sox sometimes don’t seem to know what to do in their renewed world of expectations.
They split a doubleheader with the Orioles on Thursday at Camden Yards, making up two games that were postponed because of Baltimore’s riots in late April. The split —a 3-2 victory back by Chris Sale in Game 1 and a sloppy 6-3 loss in Game 2 —should temporarily calm the Sox’ emotionally spent fan base.
The Sox are creeping up on June and remain on the wrong side of .500. For a team that made more meaningful moves than any other club during the offseason, the idea of a midseason selloff didn’t seem a likely scenario in 2015.But too much time in last place changes priorities, and the Sox know the calendar is starting to work against them.
If general manager Rick Hahn is forced into becoming a midseason seller instead of buyer, that means something drastically went wrong here. There is no positive spin the Sox can put on that.
The immediate finger usually points at the manager, but Ventura enjoys a certain job security in chairman Jerry Reinsdorf’s strange world that Tom Thibodeau never did as Bulls coach.
Reinsdorf was in an ornery mood Thursday, and fired Thibodeau despite another Bulls’ playoff run. Would that bad mood cross over to the Sox and Ventura, whose team can’t even talk about the playoffs with a straight face these days?
Ventura is a former beloved player for this family who earned an unbreakable bond with Reinsdorf. Thibodeau was simply another employee with no discernable emotional ties to the chairman. It’s a kind of job security that is unique to Reinsdorf’s world.
A Tom Thibodeau can be fired. A Robin Ventura? Well, that’s a little stickier issue (see the Ozzie Guillen saga for reference).
So Sox fans, increasingly showing their frustration, are stuck with Ventura.
And Ventura’s Sox entered their doubleheader last in runs, home runs, total bases, stolen bases and slugging percentage in the American League.Their team ERA was 13th out of the 15 teams in the AL. The Sox committed a couple more errors in Game 2 and struggled to behave on the bases. Their brand of baseball is far from pretty.
Who expected that?
And now June is approaching. It’s a month that makes decisions for teams that can’t seem to make up their minds whether they are buyers or sellers.
Does Ventura place any significance on the next calendar page flipping?
“We’ve been trying to put a significance [since] May 1,” Ventura said with a shrug. “I’m tired of what significance means. We’re trying to figure out today and how we’re going to win today … That’s about as far as anyone needs to go and analyze.
“If you’re not winning a lot of games, it is what it is. You’re trying to figure out how to start something and feel good about it.”
A weekend series in Houston against the AL-leading Astros will help decide how good the Sox feel about things come June.