September 16, 2008
Since there's no delicate way to go about this, I'm just going to put it out there: Labeling whatever the White Sox and Twins are currently engaged in as "a pennant race" is akin to standing at the finish line of a marathon six hours after it started and describing all the Oprah acolytes straggling toward the finish as "runners."
It's true. The lumbering and plodding we're presently witnessing from Chicago and Minnesota isn't easy on the eyes and if it weren't for the NL West, the AL Central race would be the go-to punchline for wise-aleck bloggers like myself.
But at least even the Los Angeles Dodgers are looking alive and registering a pulse as the postseason nears. No longer content to meander along with the middling D'backs, they've ripped off an impressive few weeks to seize control of their own destiny. They may have not had an impressive start, but they're making up for it.
When you turn toward the AL Central, though, you see the exact opposite. To look at the Sox and Twinkies is to see two teams either unwilling or unable to put together any type of impressive surge as the calendar creeps closer toward October. As we head into tonight's games, Chicago leads by 1.5 games, solidifying my hunch that both teams are just clutching and grabbing each other until they can land a knockout blow during the three-game series at the Metrodome from Sept. 23-25. Any attempts to separate one from the other has been met with severe cases of inconsistency and allergic reactions to winning streaks. Since Sept. 1, the White Sox are 6-7 while the Twins are 5-8. What's more is that Minnesota's last four-game winning streak came from Aug. 19-22 while Chicago has to look all the way back from July 22 to July 26 to recall the last time they strung four Ws together.
I know that both teams have major problems and shortcomings, which is why the expected duel on the AL Central backstretch has yet to (or maybe will ever) materialize.
The White Sox are old, crumbly and hurt and are being led by a manager who believes that expanding the rosters means everyone should get a turn, even in the middle of a tie game at Yankee Stadium. Ken Griffey Jr., the aging outfielder who was acquired simply because GM Kenny Williams always wanted to hang out with the future Hall of Famer who shares his first name, is manning center field while looking lost at the plate.
The Twins, meanwhile, are in the middle of a devil-created 10-game road trip only a week after they returned from a 14-game road trip and are realistically still in rebuilding mode after losing both Johan Santana and Torii Hunter during last offseason. While they're again being built to be extremely competitive and scary, this wasn't necessarily the year everything was going to come together.
Of course, it's still possible that both teams could get one last wind and put together a memorable two-week sprint to the finish that we were all hoping for. In their own different ways, both Ozzie Guillen and Ron Gardenhire can be good motivators. If they weren't, their teams wouldn't have taken advantage of the disappointing years from Detroit and Cleveland to get to this spot.
But up until this point, we haven't seen it. It's almost enough to make you ask the question, "You guys know there's a division out there to be won, right? Hello? Anyone?"