The White Sox left a trail of mixed messages in the first half, and the road to the finish will be just as winding.
A team that can go through stretches of 23-10 followed by 7-20 and then 16-12 is frustrating to follow, manage and predict.
And it could be confounding to retool in the second half to meet the playoff hopes that ushered in 2016.
“It was good, then it was bad, then it started getting good again,’’ manager Robin Ventura said Sunday. “We were playing good baseball, then we didn’t play good baseball, and now we’re playing better baseball.
“I think, for these guys, they put [the streaks] out of their minds and now you’re just continuing to go every day. Every day’s a new day. I think once you’re lived through it, you can see that the sun comes up the next day and you get back after it.’’
Truth be told, the Sox players, hierarchy and especially Ventura lived and died through much of the first half, especially the bad stretch. That can haunt a lesser team and a manager facing the added burden that each game in a bad stretch might be his last.
General manager Rick Hahn deflected the pressure off Ventura, and it’s not likely to increase in the second half, win or lose, given that Ventura is in the last months of his contract.
It might well be Ventura who decides what his future with the organization will be after this year.
Until then, a trip to the playoffs is the overriding demand, and it will figure into a critical month of July, when Hahn must decide how much to retool, and at what cost, before the trade deadline Aug. 1.
Those decisions will be influenced not just on how the Sox play, but on how the rest of the American League Central plays, as well as the teams contending for the two wild-card spots.
At the very least, the Sox will have to play better within their division (they’re 14-19) with 43 games left against the Central.
Injuries are an unknown for every team, but the Sox know they’ll start the second half without starter Carlos Rodon (sprained left wrist).
There are other unknowns, some potently positive and others unclear.
Will James Shields turn out to be Hahn’s sly early coup that bolsters the rotation? He pitched well again Sunday, allowing only two solo homers in 7⅔ innings in a 2-0 loss to the Braves.
“This is the best he’s been since he’s been here,’’ Ventura said of Shields, who won his previous two starts.
“I just go start-by-start honestly. Even when I was struggling, I wasn’t putting too much emphasis on any start. Being consistent and on the same page with [catcher Dioner Navarro] has been great.’’
Even without trades, the Sox will be different in the second half if Justin Morneau can return healthy. Morneau, signed as a free agent last month, is on a rehab assignment in the minors.
“I think for him it’s always going to be about his pace and what he feels like he can handle and where he’s at,’’ Ventura said of Morneau, who missed most of last season because of a neck strain and concussion symptoms.
There are other positives, including what rookie Tim Anderson might provide for a full half and how a rebounding Jose Abreu will help the offense.
“We feel really good going into the break,’’ Shields said. “Our team as been playing really well as of late, and hopefully we’ll hit our stride after the break.’’
Follow me on Twitter @toniginnetti.