Good morning, frents!
So I've been watching baseball for a long time and I can tell you this: If an old guy with a cane is the only guy receiving votes for postseason MVP, your team did not have a good playoff appearance.
Also: I'm starting to think that cane might not have been magic after all?
Astros 10, Sox 1
Houston wins series 3-1
Sky at Mercury (8, ESPN)
Hawks at Avalanche (9, TNT)
Series gone South
Well, that's a wrap on the 2021 Chicago White Sox season.
It was a campaign our old friend Hawk Harrelson might've said was the right size, but wrong shape. The club won 93 games during the regular season, lapped the rest of the AL Central by double digits and captured their first division flag in 13 seasons. Sox fans fell in love with a young and personable club, pride was restored as the crowds returned to the South Side.
But when it came to crunch time, the Sox couldn't steer out of the slow-moving skid that defined much of the second half. After a late Sunday night party, Tuesday's 10-1 loss to the Astros in Game 4 served as a depressing but proper denouement.
Tony La Russa called the season "bittersweet" because of its ending.
"Unavoidable" is another word for it when you consider:
- Houston scored a total of 31 runs during the four games.
- The Sox scored 12 runs in the Game 3 win — and only six total over the other three games.
- Sox starters — the team's top strength all season — lasted only 12 1/3 innings, giving up 14 runs for a 10.22 ERA.
- The lineup didn't record an extra-base hit in the first two games and then only two in Game 4 — a homer and double from rookie Gavin Sheets. (Yasmani Grandal and Leury Garcia were the only other Sox to hit homers in the series.)
Last, but certainly not least: The Astros looked and played like a team with superior analytics, better development and five straight ALCS trips to prove it. Their history with cheating makes that tough to swallow, but it's the truth.
It still leaves you with a crummy feeling, though.
We already knew the Sox had successfully emerged from their rebuild with a core capable of earning postseason invitations. And we know that the best way to win a World Series is to earn as many of these trips as possible.
But this is one shot already taken, one arrow in the quiver spent.
The Cubs got their title on the core's second chance and then never reached the World Series again. The Rays' operation has been a model of efficiency for most of the time between Sox playoff appearances and they're still looking for the franchise's first ring. The Dodgers spent hundreds of millions on payroll over the past decade before finally taking the title during a pandemic-shortened season last fall.
For all their success, the Astros still only have one crown. The Giants and Red Sox, meanwhile, were able to capitalize and grab a handful.
The Sox are still in that spot where it remains to be seen if they'll be a consistent postseason participant — and a dangerous one. To reach that territory, Jerry Reinsdorf must understand the measuring stick isn't the rest of the small-market AL Central but the organizations that are well-oiled and well-financed (Rays excepted) and always seem to find their way into October.
The best things you can say about this ALDS is 1) the Sox got a good look at the measuring stick up close and 2) the team got an extra day of $45 parking fees to aid an offseason spending spree that will hopefully be buoyed by projections of higher attendance and more sponsorships in 2022.
One other positive: Jose Altuve's three-run homer off Liam Hendriks in the ninth on Tuesday would make for a good prologue to the 2022 World Series championship video should the Sox regroup and retool to make it that far.
And there's still no reason that isn't still a reachable goal.
Sure, there will be plenty of time to gripe about Tony La Russa the manager and an offseason that thought Adam Eaton was enough to answer the position player problems. There will be time to debate the solution at second base and what to do with the futures of Carlos Rodon and Craig Kimbrel.
But the Sox will be back at the table in February with a good hand after busting out spectacularly on the last one.
May they take the next five months to figure out how to play this next one.
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"We got a big taste of what it’s like to play at home in the playoffs, and I don’t think anybody is going to forget today and Sunday night ... That burns a fire, and that makes you want to do it again and with a different outcome." — Gavin Sheets
News and results
Hawks: Season opens in Colorado tonight
One season ends, another begins. What timing. This kind of crept up on us, but here are your water cooler talking points:
- The Hawks are looking for their first playoff appearance in a full season since 2016-17 and had quite the offseason to try and end that drought.
- New goalie Marc-Andre Fleury is nicknamed "Flower" and may one day end up in the Hall of Fame. His case could be sealed (if it's not already) with some success in Chicago.
- The future of the franchise is a highly-paid No. 1 d-man in Seth Jones and Alex DeBrincat is here to score more goals ahead of his next big contract. The team also needs a big breakout season from presumed franchise cornerstone Kirby Dach.
Oh, and Jonathan Toews is back after missing last season, which is fantastic. He's my favorite Chicago athlete not named Walter Payton and I'm going to enjoy the rest of his career while I can.
Two more notes:
- No Nathan McKinnon for the Avs tonight. The superstar tested positive for COVID and will miss the first two games, at least.
- The game is also on TNT, which is going to take some getting used to. ESPN is also a new TV partner, which means their old NHL theme song is back. You should watch last night's return if you're interested in running through a wall at any point today.
Let's do that hockey.
Sky: Looking for a 2-0 lead in Game 2
The WNBA Finals will arrive in Chicago this weekend and the bandwagon is filling up. Only verified resale tickets are available on the team's website, many of them posted for hundreds of dollars!
Whether or not Friday's Game 3 will be a clinching opportunity remains to be seen. The Sky can take a commanding lead with a win in Phoenix tonight, but the Mercury should be better rested than they were on Sunday afternoon.
1. Sean Desai and his defensive charges are among the risers in Brendan Sugrue's weekly Chicago Bear Stock Exchange. Midway Minute
2. Elias Schuster with a deep dive on Ayo Dosunmu, what kind of player he is and what kind of player he can be in the NBA. Bleacher Nation
3. Five reasons the Hawks will make the playoffs. NBC Sports Chicago
4. Congrats to our friends at La Vida Baseball, the Chicago-based, Latino-focused site that just raised $10 million to further its mission. Sportico
5. An immersive tour of "The Office Experience," which opens Friday at The Shops at North Bridge WGN-TV
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