Will White Sox have last laugh with a shortened season?

Five questions to consider as the White Sox approach a year that will be cut in more than half.

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Talented young players like Eloy Jimenez, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease (background) will make the White Sox fun to watch. (AP)

It isn’t easy being a White Sox fan, is it?

This is the franchise whose team was in first place in 1994, fresh off a division-winning season in 1993 when a work stoppage put the kibosh on what was shaping up as a triumphant return to the postseason.

Twenty six years later, a pandemic wipes out more than half the regular season, putting an abrupt halt to spring training two weeks before Opening Day for a team on the cusp of turning a corner after three throw-away seasons of a rebuild. At the very least, the Sox would be fun to watch with developing young talents such as Yoan Moncada, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Lucas Giolito, Tim Anderson, Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech on the rise or poised to emerge, not to mention proven new additions Yasmani Grandal, Dallas Keuchel and Edwin Encarnacion. At worst, they were only a season away from being on their way.


Of all the rotten luck.

Adding insult to fans already feeling like the unlucky and forgotten ones came yet another slight from national media. Trivial stuff in the big-picture view of what’s going on in the game and in society in 2020, sure, but was the latest slap in the face necessary? ESPN’s “Long Gone Summer” told us Sammy Sosa’s career started with the Rangers but failed to mention that Sosa spent parts of three seasons with the Sox.

This after ESPN overlooked the 2005 Sox’ remarkable 11-1 postseason record on multiple occasions, as well as first-ballot Hall of Famer Frank Thomas on a list of most top-four finishes in MVP voting.

Anyway, if you know a Sox fan, give him or her a hug and let them know a shortened season very well could give the Sox the last laugh.

The randomness of a shortened season with more playoff teams could give middle-of-the-pack teams with high-ceiling young talent such as the Sox the last laugh.

They could be in for a fun couple of months.

Here are five questions to consider as the Sox prepare for them:

What will the Sox’ opening day lineup look like?

Here’s what the lineup looked like the last time the Sox played 264 days ago in the 2019 season finale, a 5-3 win over the Tigers that left them with a 72-89 record, good for third place in the American League Central:

Yolmer Sanchez 2B, Anderson SS, Jose Abreu 1B, Moncada 3B, Jimenez LF, Zack Collins C, Welington Castillo DH, Daniel Palka RF, Adam Engel CF, Ross Detwiler P.

Here’s how much an improved unit was looking as spring training was winding down:

Anderson SS, Moncada 3B, Abreu 1B, Grandal C, Encarnacion DH, Nomar Mazara RF, Jimenez LF, Robert CF, Leury Garcia 2B, Giolito P.

Does the short season hinder or enhance the Sox’ chances of making their first postseason appearance since 2008?

Off the bat, a substantial increase in the number of teams that make it would help for obvious reasons. Regardless, it stands to reason the best teams with the deepest rosters would benefit from the longest season. The shorter the season, the greater the chances for teams with less depth to convert one hot streak into a good enough record to qualify. What category do the Sox fall in? Somewhere in the middle, with a nice group of young arms touting the potential to sustain a couple of lengthy streaks that would loom large in a shortened schedule.

The bulk of games would be against AL Central and National League Central teams. The AL Central has two rebuilding teams in the Tigers and Royals serving as viable record-enhancers.

Will right-hander Michael Kopech and lefty Carlos Rodon be ready from the start after Tommy John surgery?

Physically, yes. They only need time to regain in-game sharpness. Adding them to the mix of Giolito, Keuchel, Cease, Reynaldo Lopez and left-hander Gio Gonzalez creates instant depth among starters and relievers. And don’t forget: Other guys who are close to recovering from Tommy John include top prospects Dane Dunning, Jimmy Lambert and Ryan Burr.

While they were away, the Sox landed two first-round-caliber hard-throwing pitchers in the draft, taking left-hander Garrett Crochet of Tennessee with the 11th pick and snagging Texas high school right-hander Jared Kelley when he dropped to the second round.

Will Luis Robert be the AL Rookie of the half-year?

Robert is a huge X-factor in the Sox’ lineup, an all-world minor-league center fielder who hasn’t played an inning in the majors. The Sox expect him to struggle early as he adjusts to major-league pitching — and he might need 50 games to do so. The shortened season would be a strike against him, unless his immense talent triumphs over all.

What’s in it for the fans?

Games on TV and radio only, at least initially. If stadiums are opened over time, social-distancing will be enforced, plastic will cover most of the seats, bleachers will be closed, players won’t give autographs, drinking fountains will be closed, concessions will be credit-card only, Kid Friendly sections will be closed and health screenings will be given to fans entering ballparks. Let’s hope there is progress toward games with fans. For now, we’ll take what we can get.

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