Fair or not (no one cares which), series against the top contenders in the league are viewed as referendums on the state of a team. It seems wrong-headed off the bat, given that the White Sox are perfectly capable of having their season derailed by hemorrhaging losses to the Royals and A's.
Yet among the reasons for continuing to wait through the summer on the Sox to attain their-much-rumored-about "true talent level", was that even throughout all their troubles, they managed to bloody the Cleveland Indians repeatedly and sweep the Red Sox in Fenway.
They may have been a sleeping giant, but if prodded, they could at least be counted on to wake long enough to break the stick that was poking them.
So it probably wouldn't be fair to dismiss the White Sox four-game pantsing in front of mostly (barely) their home fans at the hands of the New York Yankees as a blip, not when so much of it rang true.
Facing the Yankees elite offense, the White Sox were clearly tasked with cleaning up against New York's vulnerable starters, as surely winning a slew of 2-1 games was off the menu for the week. Predictably, given a set of reasonable hurdles to clear, this team crashed into them like bowling balls.
C.C. Sabathia ambled into U.S. Cellular with nothing bearing a passing resemblance to his best stuff, and threw 8 innings of 2-run ball. Phil Hughes brought in an ERA over 8.00 and a season of discontent, and came out the other side with his best start of the season--6 shutout innings on 65 pitches. Ivan Nova, who once struck out only 4.89 hitters per 9 innings in A-ball, whiffed a career-high 10 and left to applause. All this happened while the Sox didn't draw a single walk...in four games. They're now 5th-worst in baseball in waiting out for free passes.
It appears they just don't let you in the major leagues if you're not capable of filleting the White Sox.
Even Wednesday's 18-7 drive-by-shooting said something lasting about the 2011 squad; removed of super-human efforts by the pitching staff, they immediately stopped resembling a competitive team.
The White Sox offense was tried, and found wanting...or found guilty of playing too many sub-replacement players. Whichever. It's the same crap sandwich either way.
It's been said, and repeated, and regurgitated on command, that it wouldn't be right to bring in someone like Dayan Viciedo up on the basis of 'saving the offense', as if all roster movements double as distress signals, or that distress signals are offensive to sub-.500 teams. Surely no one would argue that it's ideal--especially with Dayan, months removed from his hottest peaks, is currently re-finding his form after an injury--but simply regular playing time would be a lot better than what a lot of prospects have been handed.
Between the daytripping Alex Rios, Adam Dunn's war with the Gods, and the eternally-pressing Gordon Beckham and the continual destruction of his plate discipline, it's hard to conceive how much more disastrous the White Sox envision pinning the slightest hopes of improvement on an unproven rookie would be over the current options.
But I digress, and somehow maybe the White Sox can step away as well from their latest naked march through the town square. As much as they offered, the Tigers stopped a bit short of erasing every bit of their DNA from the playoff race.
A typically impossible trip to Minnesota awaits, and the Sox very well could be a 4th place team in the worst division in baseball before Sunday morning dawns anew, and I'd be very tempted to call that 'it', should such a thing occur.
6.5 games is a lot, probably too much. But until the White Sox are behind three below-average teams, they're not dead.
Just badly, badly burnt.