Sweet home Chicago? Not for the White Sox, who need to get cooking at the Rate
The Sox began the current homestand with a 13-17 mark at home, third-worst in the American League. Want to point to an area in need of major improvement? Start right there.
Maybe what has been missing for the 2022 White Sox is a team-wide home run ritual. Think: the Padres’ “Swagg” chain, the Red Sox’ laundry cart or the Blue Jays’ “Barrio” jacket. Watching the Jays’ jacket-clad Raimel Tapia strut the length of the dugout Monday after homering at Guaranteed Rate Field — his teammates admiring him giddily — it was impossible not to appreciate the swagger.
Just spitballing here, but perhaps a Sox player who puts one in the seats could get a bucket of giardiniera poured over his head? Would sport peppers be better? There’s always an au jus or mustard bath to consider.
The point is, the Sox need something — especially when it comes to protecting their home turf. Last year’s team was 53-28 on the South Side, the best home record in the American League. The Sox began the current homestand with a 13-17 mark at home, third-worst in the AL. Want to point to an area in need of major improvement? Might as well start right here.
“The bottom line is we like playing at home,” manager Tony La Russa said, “and hopefully that will be a first-half stat that becomes dramatically different from here to the end.”
The Sox responded to Tapia’s long ball with three of their own and won the series opener against the Jays 8-7, but it never should’ve been that close. Lance Lynn looked good on the mound, Tim Anderson came off the injured list hitting like always, Andrew Vaughn kept swinging like an All-Star and the Sox built an 8-2 lead. Blowing all of it and losing would’ve been catastrophic, the biggest gut punch in a season full of them — again, especially at home — for a division favorite that gets lightheaded and passes out every time it sniffs .500.
The Sox won the first two home series of the season, against the Mariners and Rays, and that was still the entire list before the Jays came calling. Dropping an ugly series to the Royals in April was a sign of things to come. The Sox were toyed with by the Yankees in losing three of four and being outscored 32-15. They were clubbed mercilessly by the Red Sox, twice giving up 16 runs. They lost a rubber match to the Dodgers after La Russa’s truly embarrassing two-strike intentional walk to Trea Turner to bring up Max Muncy. They lost twice to the Rangers in extra innings, gagging on a 5-0 lead in the first of those games as “Fire Tony!” chants came from the crowd.
“Let’s be honest,” closer Liam Hendriks said, “I think we’re all surprised that it’s only a few games under .500 with how much we’ve sucked here at home.”
And that’s putting it nicely.
“Too many times when you try to explain something, it sounds like an excuse,” La Russa said. “But in those 30 games that we’ve played here, it was tougher to win than in some of the road-trip games. So the effort was there, but we came up short.”
There’s still time for the Sox, of course, just as there was for La Russa’s last World Series team, the 2011 Cardinals. They were essentially a .500 home team into September and didn’t really heat up — home or away — until the last three weeks of the regular season before winning it all. What does that have to do with these Sox? Probably nothing, but it’s a thought to hold on to in case it helps get you through the night.
More recently, the 2021 World Series-winning Braves demonstrated that home records don’t necessarily mean a whole lot. Of their modest total of 88 regular-season wins, only 42 came in Atlanta. The Braves’ .525 home winning percentage ranked 10th in the National League and 19th-best in the majors. What does that have to do with these Sox? Probably nothing, but there you have it.
Somebody probably should start tearing open a bunch of jars of giardiniera.
“It’s just a different year, so of course the numbers are going to be different,” Anderson said. “They’re not always going to be the same. They’re not going to always be better.”
But, honestly, they couldn’t be much worse. Especially on the heels of last season — have we mentioned that 53-28 home record? — it just wasn’t supposed to be this way.
“I know experts have to pick who’s going to do [what], but they’re just guessing,” La Russa said. “They don’t know. There are too many dynamics.
“All I know is, if you’re good enough and you stay strong in your heart, your guts and your mind, you can be in contention. And that’s what we believe.”