I was heading to work Wednesday afternoon when a buddy sent me a message to rib me over the fact that the White Sox bullpen had just blown a 3-1 lead in the eighth inning of what wound up a 5-3 victory over the Kansas City Royals.
This gentle fan-to-fan banter is commonplace in my life and presumably, at times, in yours. But it nonetheless caught me off guard as it got me thinking about the absurdity of the interaction given the circumstances. As the White Sox have slogged through a not unexpectedly unsuccessful 2017 season, I’ve scarcely been affected by the result of any singular game. That comes with the territory of rooting for a rebuilding team. You look at what transpired over the course of a game and hope the players you believe will matter in 2-3 years perform in a way that has you feeling good about their development. You’re still happy about the wins, whether they’re thanks to Lucas Giolito and Yoan Moncada or Adam Engel and Mike Pelfrey. You’re less pleased with the losses (unless you’re doing it wrong, in which case I can’t help you). But you watch, because you like baseball and you’re a White Sox fan and it’s something you’re just used to doing in July and August and September.
The reason the interaction caught me off guard, I think, is because as I’ve become so accustomed to that level of rooting interest I often forget that, oh yeah, wins and losses still matter. I was also reminded of this Monday when our friends at BP Kansas City posted a series preview in which David Lesky wrote about how important it was for the Royals’ sinking playoff hopes to take a series from the cellar dwelling White Sox. Oh yeah, the results of these games still matter to some people.
It’s a strangely simplistic way of viewing the season, but something I’ve just gotten comfortable with throughout 2017 (as well as during the latter halves of most recent seasons). My reaction to soft-natured ribbing about the White Sox blowing a lead is to look at how Giolito, Moncada, and Tim Anderson performed. “Oh well, at least Giolito tossed six innings of one-run ball and Moncada and Anderson had two hits each.”
I do this sometimes without thinking because I know that those are the guys who are supposed to make September games meaningful in the years to come. Giolito, Moncada, and Anderson, as well as Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon are the players everyone dreams will be throwing important pitches and taking important at-bats for the White Sox down the road. You could argue this for a number of other plays if you want — the red-hot Yolmer Sanchez, the disabled Leury Garcia, the handsome Nicky Delmonico, Avisail Garcia. But, really, it’s those first five, as well as a few who haven’t yet donned White Sox uniforms in games that count, who matter, even if wins and losses don’t yet.
This is not a new line of thinking. We’ve written in this space a number of times how despite a losing season, there are reasons to watch and reasons to find optimism as the White Sox sit 29 games below .500 with 17 games to play. The results are an afterthought, but seeing Giolito battle through six innings with subpar stuff is meaningful, just as it was in a different way when he eviscerated the Rays last week. Seeing Anderson battle through personal strife to turn around his season since the beginning of August, or Moncada show the tools that made him a top prospect, despite poor BIP luck thus far, matters.
So much can change between now and when the White Sox begin to show signs of fielding a competitive team, but regardless of how far down the road it is, what matters in September today are important developments toward a future where a September blown lead against the Royals is worth caring about.
Lead Photo Credit: Patrick Gorski-USA TODAY Sports