A bad clubhouse? Complacency? White Sox All-Stars weigh in heading into second half

“Nobody really knows what’s going on,” Tim Anderson said. “It’s just a lot of people with a lot of opinions, and we’re on the inside laughing.”

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White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson during the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

White Sox shortstop Tim Anderson during the All-Star Game in Los Angeles.

Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images

LOS ANGELES — White Sox closer Liam Hendriks knows complacency when he sees it. Better yet, his wife, Kristi, does. It has become a rite of spring for her to push and prod the slow-starting right-hander in Arizona until he gets it in gear — and it’s a good thing, because he admits he needs it.

Complacency is “the mind killer,” as the colorful Hendriks puts it — and it, not a rudderless, clique-filled clubhouse, is at the heart of what went wrong for the .500 Sox in the season’s first half and what must change from here.

“We thought we would just roll out of bed and be able to do what we did last year, and that is something that has proven not to be true,” he said. “And that is actually going to be better for us in the long run. We’re putting the work in now to make it the exact opposite of what happened last year, where we came out of the gates strong and then faded toward the end. We started a little slow this year, and hopefully we can storm through at the end.”

The best teams, of course, don’t have to function — and malfunction — in one of those manners or the other. Showing up good and staying good is a wonderfully uncomplicated way for a team loaded with talent to navigate a season. Injuries have hurt the Sox, but every team has them. Klutzy, unfocused play has bitten them in the behind for four months, and what clubhouse worth its salt tolerates that?

All-Star Tim Anderson is having none of the bad-clubhouse business.

“Nobody really knows what’s going on,” he said. “It’s just a lot of people with a lot of opinions, and we’re on the inside laughing. But we understand when you’re going through a lot of things, there’s going to be a lot of opinions, and the biggest thing is to not really buy into those opinions. Just stay the course and stay focused and keep rallying around each other as brothers.”

Brothers who will share in infamy if the 2022 postseason arrives and the Sox are watching along with the rest of us as the Twins or Guardians get knocked around by a real American League contender.

“We know we’ve got to get on it,” Anderson said. “I don’t think there’s a whole lot of talking [needed] — we’ve got to go out and do it. Talking about it don’t really change it. We’ve got to go out and play to our potential.”

Anderson doesn’t concur with Hendriks on the “complacency” front.

“Can’t really just say it was this, it was that,” he said. “It’s baseball. Things happen. Sometimes you get beat by a bad club that isn’t supposed to beat you. It just wasn’t our time.”

Hendriks — who really should consider talking for a living in his post-playing days — had no trouble digging into it more deeply than that. First, the complacency that could be felt from the get-go:

“As a team, you just go through the motions, and at the start of the year there wasn’t that kind of urgency,” he said. “I think it’s fantastic to have the urgency going forward, making sure it looks like we’re trying.”

Trying? Yes, trying would be nice.

“We’re always trying,” he elaborated. “We’re always giving it our best. But you can always find that little extra degree when your back’s against the wall.”

Also: the injuries. The Sox had no trouble withstanding some major ones last season, coasting to a division title. This year, they’ve used them like a crutch.

“We lost some guys and then we let that affect ourselves a little bit mentally,” Hendriks said. “Now, we’re getting back to where we need to be. We’re getting a little healthier but, more importantly, we’re getting in the right headspace of being kind of antagonistic and angry and, instead of being reactionary, we’re being proactive and taking the fight to the other teams.”

Are they really, though? One good series in Minnesota to end the first half is still just one good series. 

Sox players have had team meetings to discuss their underwhelming play, according to Hendriks, but there hasn’t been one particular moment when the dynamite went off. To an outside observer, it seems the least Sox players could’ve done by now was topple a few lockers, beat a Gatorade cooler or two senseless and maybe even hurl loud, foul language in one another’s directions. But what does an outside observer know, anyway?

“I think we can tap back into what we’re capable of and everybody can max out and be the best they can be,” Anderson said. “If everybody’s at their best, I think we’ll be in a good spot.”

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