Wake up, White Sox? Dallas Keuchel isn’t the only one noting problems with effort so far

It’s not like this is an emergency with these Sox, not yet, but it could be the death of them if they aren’t careful. Come to think of it, that sounds like an emergency.

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Chicago White Sox v Milwaukee Brewers

Eloy Jimenez can rake like nobody’s business, but he doesn’t always have his game in high gear.

Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Dallas Keuchel wasn’t just on to something when he ripped teammates’ energy and focus levels Monday in Detroit after the White Sox’ fifth loss in their last six games.

The veteran lefty, a 2015 Cy Young winner and 2017 World Series champion, was dead on target with a no-bull bull’s-eye.

Keuchel called the Sox “flat,” said they were “going through the motions,” suggested they’d taken “a night off” and drew a distinction between “professional at-bats” and whatever the heck the Sox were doing while scoring a total of 11 runs in that six-game stretch.

“If you love baseball,” he said, “show up to the park every day and make sure that you’re ready to go.”

Oof. That’s going to leave a mark.

A good one, hopefully. Sox teammates had no problem with being taken to task, according to a pair of veterans. Manager Rick Renteria wasn’t crazy about Keuchel taking his criticism public — “that’s not my style,” he admitted — but an important thing to know is that Keuchel aired it out inside the clubhouse first.

“Everybody has the right to speak their mind when they wish to,” Renteria said.

More important: Tim Anderson — who was back Tuesday after a stint on the injured list — and James McCann threw their support behind Keuchel’s words. That’s one batting champion and one All-Star catcher, for the record.

“I agree with everything Keuchel said,” were McCann’s first words in a video conference with reporters.

“Somebody had to say it,” Anderson said. “So I think it [was] the right time for him to say it. The guys get it, and it’s OK. It’s OK.”

Anderson agreed that a match needed to be lit under certain Sox players. McCann said Keuchel’s criticism “couldn’t have come from a better guy or at a better time.”

So, yeah, we’ve got that covered — Keuchel’s in-house rep is strong.

But what about the larger issue? In a 60-game “sprint,” as everyone in baseball calls this shortened regular season, why aren’t Sox players — the young, inexperienced, enormously talented core, in particular — going as hard as they can? Why aren’t they grinding out more quality at-bats, showing more discipline with the strike zone, taking better advantage of their strengths?

It’s not like this is an emergency with these Sox, not yet, but it could be the death of them if they aren’t careful. Wait, that sounds like an emergency after all.

“I don’t think we’re having fun right now,” Anderson said.

Not good.

There’s no denying rookie Luis Robert’s rare ability even when he’s at the eye of a strikeout storm. There’s little doubt Eloy Jimenez will hit himself to an All-Star Game, maybe several of them, even if he occasionally appears to be in a lower gear. To watch Yoan Moncada is to marvel at his collection of tools and the ease with which he plays the game — but is it too easy sometimes?

Danny Mendick isn’t going to hit the Sox out of this mess. No offense to Danny Mendick, of course.

The young studs have some answering to do.

JUST SAYIN’

Yes, I know the Sox have had a bunch of early injuries, but that’s no excuse for all the things Keuchel described. No excuse at all, I tell you!

Did I mention I’m playing through a hangnail as I type this column?

† College football fans across the Midwest — and nationwide — latched on to one sentence in the Big Ten’s announcement Tuesday that it was postponing all fall sports because of the ongoing pandemic:

“The Big Ten Conference will continue to evaluate a number of options regarding these sports, including the possibility of competition in the spring.”

Spring football? All right, then. Maybe the other Power Five leagues will decide fall football is a no-go and move things to the spring, too? Maybe there will be a playoff and bowl games and excitement galore? Maybe this thing has legs after all? Hey, why not?

I’ll tell you why not. But first, consider these words from Big Ten commissioner Kevin Warren:

“The mental and physical health and welfare of our student-athletes has been at the center of every decision we have made.”

People: There’s no way anybody is convincing me players should, can or will play two football seasons with only two or three months’ respite in between them. Presumably, that “respite” would have to include some forms of offseason conditioning and preseason camp. Where’s the recovery time? What about all those players who require surgeries? What about those who’ve suffered concussions? What about those who desperately need time to buckle down in their majors?

How many will opt out then? How many will be more determined than ever to unionize?

And all that is assuming the pandemic is under control. I’m sure it will be. That’s why they call me Mr. Bright Side.

† Meanwhile, in SEC country, the only thing fans love more than their pickup trucks is commissioner Greg Sankey. That’s because Sankey is publicly holding out hope for a fall season.

I don’t think most Midwestern fans quite comprehend how much more Southern folks care about their college football. The Big Ten calling things off is major news and disappointing to all. The SEC doing it would be apocalyptic.

Kyle Hendricks starting Wednesday for the Cubs in Cleveland reminds me of my favorite part of Game 7 of the 2016 World Series: the over-the-top tension in the ballpark, as if no one inside it — or watching from afar — could possibly have found any room whatsoever to care about anything else.

Nearly four years later, can you even begin to imagine feeling that wholeheartedly and single-mindedly about anything?

I can’t. But then, I do have that hangnail.

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