It's been mentioned on just about every media outlet in the country now, but the Chicago White Sox were dead in the water five weeks ago. On June 10, they were 9.5 games out of first place and looked like they could become sellers faster than the Cubs.
And then the last 30 games happened.
The Sox have won a ridiculous 25 of their last 30 games, and watched Paul Konerko and Matt Thornton in the All Star Game from the top of the Central Division.
Let's look forward at the second half to see why Sox fans should be excited.
Carlos Quentin has been absolutely murdering the ball lately. Six of his last seven hits before the break left the building, four of which were in games I attended personally (put that on the board). If he continues to hit, and field, like the guy that was an MVP candidate a couple years ago, he could carry the offense by himself.
But what's different this year than in 2009 is that these Sox don't need Quentin, or any other one player, to "carry" the team.
Alex Rios was picked up for nothing last year, and GM Kenny Williams was blasted nationally and locally for doing so; Rios came with a huge contract and underwhelming numbers, and played the role of hot garbage down the stretch for the Sox last year. But he leads the team with a .306 batting average and has 15 homers, 49 RBI and 23 stolen bases already.
Paul Konerko was an All Star, and he deserved to be. His 20 home runs and 63 RBI are just better than Quentin's 19 and 61, and he continues to be a consistent first baseman for the Sox. Indeed, Konerko and AJ Pierzynski might be two of the major reasons the Sox are going for broke this year.
After the 2010 season, both Konerko and Pierzynski can become free agents. Both have been leaders on the field and in the clubhouse for the Sox since they came to the South Side, and in the wake of their recent hot streak it appears that Williams is in a position to buy and put some pieces around the studs on his roster to make a run at the World Series.
Could Adam Dunn be a target?
The pitching has been awesome as well. Even with Jake Peavy out for the rest of the year, Sox fans should be thrilled with the pitching staff Williams put together for manager Ozzie Guillen and pitching coach Don Cooper. Mark Buehrle continues to be the most under rated pitcher in baseball, and John Danks has developed into one of the better young lefties in the game.
Meanwhile, "washed up" Sweaty Freddy Garcia is 9-3 already, leading the team in victories. Gavin Floyd, who started the season very poorly, has been exceptional over the last few weeks, and threw two great games last week (both of which, again, I personally attended).
The Sox starters have been helped by a fantastic bullpen that, despite his All Star Game performance, has been highlighted by Thornton being untouchable. Between Bobby Jenks and Thornton at the end of the bullpen, the Sox have been good. Add former All Star closer JJ Putz, who appears to be healthy again after a rough year for the Mets, and the back end of the Sox bullpen is filthy.
Between a potent offense, exceptional pitching and a GM that has the stones to make the necessary moves to keep this team in the mix, the White Sox could be the next team to spark the playoff fires in Chicago.