- Paul Boucher
- The future for the White Sox: Avisail Garcia and Jose Abreu, after Garcia homered in August against the Orioles
Chicago baseball fans who wish they could say that at least their team’s better than the chumps on the other side of town will have to wait till next year.
With yet another come-from-ahead loss on the south side, to the Royals, the White Sox yesterday blew their one-game lead on the Cubs, who beat the Brewers in Milwaukee. The city’s baseball teams thus finished deadlocked for the season, each 73-89. There will not be a playoff for the lesser of two evils.
Actually, both teams made progress this year, but that was easy after they set the bar so low in 2013. The Sox, 63-99 last season, improved ten games; the Cubs, 66-96 in 2013, improved seven. Sooner or later one of these teams is going to stumble into a .500 record.
Call me a dreamer, but that could happen as soon as next season, and either club could do it.
The Sox have one of the best hitters in the game in Jose Abreu, who should be a unanimous pick for Rookie of the Year. On Saturday night, after the retiring Paul Konerko was honored, the 27-year-old slugged his 36th homer, surpassing Ron Kittle’s 1983 record for Sox rookies. Abreu hit .317, drove in 107, and led all of baseball in slugging (.581). The south-siders also have a promising right-fielder, 23-year-old Avisail Garcia. They have Chris Sale, whose 2.17 ERA was second in the American League, just behind the Mariners’ Felix Hernandez (2.14). Sale, who’s still only 25, will soon be joined in the rotation by the team’s top draft choice this year, southpaw Carlos Rodon, whose explosive slider has scouts buzzing.
The bullpen is lousy and there are a couple of big holes in the batting order. But the Sox can afford a free agent or two this winter, now that Adam Dunn has finally departed.
One of the highlights on the north side this year was the late blooming of Jake Arrieta, who at 28 went from unexceptional to unhittable. He toyed with no-hitters regularly and finished the season with a flourish. On September 16, he shut out the Reds on one hit, and doubled and scored the winning run; eight days later, he limited the Cardinals to one unearned run and two hits in seven innings, and tripled in the winner.
- Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
- The future for the Cubs: Jorge Soler, homering against the Reds earlier this month
The Cubs have more budding stars than the Sox. Jorge Soler, the 22-year-old right-fielder, hit .306 with five homers in 23 games, and third baseman Kris Bryant, also 22, will join him in the lineup next year after being all-everything in the minors. Javier Baez looked less ready than Soler. The 21-year-old middle infielder whiffed 92 times in 208 at bats and hit .168; it was as if Dunn hadn’t left town but had moved to the north side. Baez needs to quit swinging so hard that he collapses to one knee.
First baseman Anthony Rizzo, only 25, is already one of the best players in the game, and still improving. The bullpen was excellent, and shortstop Starlin Castro could bring the team a badly needed starter this winter.
A final note about Dunn. I mentioned earlier this month, after the Sox traded him to the A’s, that he led active big-league players in games played without ever making it to the postseason—he’d played 1,978 games at the time. He’s planning on retiring after this season, so this was his last chance. Yesterday the A’s beat the Rangers, 4-0, to squeak into a wild card berth by a game over the Mariners. Dunn was zero for three with a strikeout. But he’d finally made it to the playoffs, precisely on his 2,000th game. If Dunn can do it, maybe one year soon the Sox or Cubs will too.