After having to hold my final toldja for an extra week or so, at last I get to boast about picking the White Sox to win the American League Central Division this season back on April Fools’ Day. True enough, I picked them as a fall back simply because I didn’t think the Detroit Tigers and Cleveland Indians were as strong as advertised, and they weren’t. I also didn’t think the Minnesota Twins could retool that fast on the fly after dealing Johan Santana, and they almost proved me wrong. Yet I did believe the Sox would be good enough to win on their pitching, defense, and power, so it was gratifying Tuesday not only that they beat the Twins in the division playoff game, but that they did so on just those qualities.
Starter John Danks was spectacular, moving pitches in and out at the beck and call of catcher A.J. Pierzynski, and befuddling the Twins by leaving his turned-over fastball in the bag and instead cutting the ball inside to the Twins’ right-handed hitters. The defense was stellar. Ken Griffey Jr.’s throw to the plate to nail Michael Cuddyer in the fifth was nothing special — it would have taken a popgun arm on the order of a Juan Pierre or a Kenny Lofton to allow a runner to score from third on a fly that shallow — but Pierzynski’s snag of the short-hop throw and hanging on through the collision with Cuddyer was true grit, especially the way he got up brandishing the ball for Cuddyer as if to say, “Here it is, now you wanna punch me?” Brian Anderson’s final-out diving, gliding catch as a defensive replacement for Junior echoed off my previous told-you-so II. Then there was Jim Thome’s game-winning moon shot onto the concourse behind the hitting background in straightaway center field in the seventh. And it was all played before a sold-out “blackout” crowd dressed in black, so that Sox Park looked as if it were playing host to some dark rally out of “The Lord of the Rings” movies.
The only thing that made it even better was I told you so, and picked four of the division winners out of six and five of the playoff teams out of eight. That said, I also picked the Boston Red Sox to beat the Cubs in the World Series–I might have to reassess that now. The White Sox have as good a chance as anyone, and they’re probably the team the Cubs would least like to face, especially as potentially four of the seven games would be played not at the sun-soaked friendly confines of Wrigley Field, but before the dark hordes at Sox Park.