Forget June wake-up call — White Sox are in crisis mode now

In the years after the White Sox’ 2005 World Series title, chief executive Ken Williams was notorious for expressing disappointment in the underachieving performances of his teams as the trade deadline began to approach.

SHARE Forget June wake-up call — White Sox are in crisis mode now
Andrew Vaughn is congratulated after a home run in the first inning Friday against the Rays at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Andrew Vaughn is congratulated after a home run in the first inning Friday against the Rays at Guaranteed Rate Field.

Nuccio DiNuzzo/Getty Images

In the years after the White Sox’ 2005 World Series title, chief executive Ken Williams was notorious for expressing disappointment in the underachieving performances of his teams as the trade deadline began to approach.

His talk of breaking up the Sox usually would come around June 1, with a large slate of home games coming up, and unintentionally would serve as a spark for players, who’d often respond with an impressive win streak that propelled them toward playoff contention. But then the Sox would sink into quicksand by trusting the same players who’d gotten off to slow starts.

Earlier this week, speaking with the Sun-Times, Williams expressed frustration over this year’s horrendous start in a familiar, ominous tone. Although he claims to still have faith in this team, it might as well be June 1.

The decision to keep players from last season’s 81-81 team stemmed from the belief they could rebound after sluggish seasons, or heal more effectively from injuries with the help of a rebuilt medical staff. That has yet to crystallize, with the exception of free-agent signee Andrew Benintendi.

Manager Pedro Grifol expressed disappointment Thursday in the lack of defensive focus in the Sox’ 14-5 loss to the powerful, skilled Rays — a sign that the next five months will be challenging for a new coaching staff determined to treat each game with equal importance.

“This is a team game, and you’re fighting for each other,” Grifol said before Friday’s 3-2 loss to the Rays, which dropped the Sox to 7-20. “There’s a guy on the mound that’s competing, and we all have to help him get three outs and get off the field. It’s important for us to reflect and fix mental lapses. Mental lapses are not acceptable. Physical stuff, we’re OK with.”

Reinforcements are on the way in the next month. All-Star shortstop Tim Anderson could return by next week; the Sox are 2-14 since he hurt his left knee April 10.

Third baseman Yoan Moncada took batting practice Friday but probably is a week from starting a rehab assignment while he waits for discomfort in his lower back to subside.

Hard-throwing lefty Garrett Crochet, coming back from Tommy John surgery, will start a minor-league rehab assignment Sunday for Double-A Birmingham, and elite closer Liam Hendriks, recently declared cancer-free, might not be far behind. Their returns would stabilize a bullpen that has handled multiple roles with mixed success.

But a nine-game deficit in the American League Central, even in late April, doesn’t bode well for a team that hasn’t won consecutive games since last Oct. 2-4, when it was simply playing out the schedule.

Since earning a playoff berth in 2021, the Sox have drifted further from their mission of winning a World Series. Trading some players for prospects would help them hit the reset button. Right-hander Lance Lynn could help a struggling Cardinals rotation with his experience. A healthy Aaron Bummer would be coveted by several contenders looking for a lefty with an impressive career 67.3% ground ball rate and a contract that runs through 2024 with two team options. A Dodgers operative noted last week that Anderson would look good in blue.

Moving such players for value might not be easy because of poor starts and injuries. But there comes a time to cut your losses, as the Sox did with Dallas Keuchel and Leury Garcia.

It’s time for them to flip the calendar to June and perform with a greater sense of urgency.

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