Levine: Are White Sox Playoff Contenders Or Pretenders?
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By Bruve Levine–
(CBS) – With just 50 ballgames left in the 2014 season, this is usually the time you separate the men from the boys in the pennant race. All that said, are the White Sox a real part of the playoff picture?
At 54-58, Chicago is 5 1/2 games behind Toronto for the second wild-card slot. No deals at the trading deadline can be viewed either way for the White Sox brass, who have made significant moves in personnel over the last 12 months.
With no movement, the club’s 25-man roster had a chance to exhale and take stock in the squad’s position in the race.
“Individually for guys in here, it is a relief,” captain Paul Konerko said. “Unless you’re in a situation where it is being on a mostly (bad team) and you’re really out of it, most guys probably prefer to stay the whole year where they are at.”
Konerko spoke with knowledge as a leader in the clubhouse, as well as a trusted confident of the White Sox front office staff.
“There is kind of a plan for the club,” he said. “I don’t think anyone in here thought we would go out and get someone just for this season. We know the other teams in the league are good. We feel like we can make other teams work hard, to earn what they get. Can we hang in there? Hopefully so.”
Real playoff contenders can put a long streak of wins together. So far, the White Sox haven’t been able to do that in 2014. In fact, they haven’t been over .500 since June 4, when they were 31-30. Still, there’s a resilient way they approach each game and late-inning situation in which they trail.
“I was happy we didn’t make any moves to strip it down more,” Konerko said. “This being my last go around, I would rather keep what we have. I feel like we are pretty competitive, we have a chance to win and make it tough on some people. If that is the ceiling (then) it is better for us than going the other way.”
The White Sox may still, as there captain calls it, go “the other way” during waiver claims that continue through the month of August.
“Everyone knew there was speculation around at least two guys (Gordon Beckham and John Danks),” catcher Tyler Flowers said. “For whatever reason that didn’t pan out. We have had a good time this year competing together and digging ourselves out of holes as a unit. I think you are watching the evolution of a team and growing together as a group.”
Adam Dunn was one of the veterans whose name keeps coming up in talks about possible waiver deals. Dunn has been relegated to playing against right-handed pitching, only as a part of the designated hitter platoon with Konerko.
“I will never be surprised when things happen or don’t happen,” said Dunn, who was traded by Cincinnati to Arizona in August of 2008. “It is a tough situation because we are not out of it by any means, but people forget any of us can still get traded. As a player you don’t sit around and worry about it. For the most part you see people take a deep breath, and are happy to still be here.”
With essentially three solid starters in the rotation and a still-evolving and too often-struggling bullpen, the chances of the White Sox playing in postseason appear remote.
“The last month or two our weakness in the bullpen and on offense has become our strength,” Dunn said. “I don’t think we are a bad team but at the same time, I don’t think we are the best team in baseball to hit the field every day either.”
Bruce Levine covers the Cubs and White Sox for 670 The Score and CBSChicago.com. Follow him on Twitter @MLBBruceLevine.