Going into this week's series between the Minnesota Twins and the Chicago White Sox at U.S. Cellular Field, it was universally thought that the White Sox needed to sweep the Twins to maintain even the faintest of pulses in the American League Central race and in the playoff chase in general. Sadly. . .for the White Sox. . .they didn't come close to that, getting pummeled in the first two games of the series by identical 9-3 scores, ceding the Twins an eight-game lead in the division and reducing their Magic Number to 10.
One would think that the White Sox would have the ability to bow out gracefully in this one, and for the most part, their players appear to be doing just that. The people that cover the White Sox, on the other hand? Not so much, no. The general tenor of the Chicago media towards the Minnesota Twins can pretty much be summed up by this article, penned by Rick Morrissey of the Chicago Sun-Times. After spending untold bandwidth or column space (depending on your delivery method of choice) denigrating the Minnesota Twins, Morrissey comes up with this conclusion about your 2010 American League Central champions.
Here's why the Twins aren't getting tons of credit this year, Ozzie: They're an OK team. The Sox are an OK team. The Twins are a little more OK. That's it.
This pretty much exemplifies the Chicago media and their attitude towards their superiors to the north. After all, they're Chicago. . .the Windy City, millions and millions of people, culture and Oprah and so forth. There's no way. . .absolutely, positively no way that little, bitty Minnesota, with their "Fargo"-esque accents and their ice fishing and such, can be better at anything than Chicago. It just bends all laws of reason and probability to even consider such foolishness. We see this a little bit when it comes to the Chicago reporters that cover the Bears in comparison to the Vikings, but it is absolutely rampant among those that cover the White Sox.
Morrissey is half right about his conclusion, in any case. The White Sox are an "OK team." After all, they're 79-66, good for a .545 winning percentage. As a team, they're batting .269, good for sixth in Major League Baseball in that category. (Of course, that figure puts them at fourth in the American League Central in that category, behind everyone but Cleveland, but I digress.) As a team, they have a 4.06 ERA, putting them right in the middle of the majors in that category. Only five teams have walked fewer hitters than the White Sox pitching staff. So, yes, the White Sox are an "OK team," you could say. That's part of why they currently have the 12th best record in baseball. . .just about average.
The Twins, on the other hand, are about as far from "OK" as it gets in baseball at the moment. Nobody in baseball has a better record since the All-Star break than the Twins do, having notched a 41-16 record since the Midsummer Classic. They sit .001 behind the Texas Rangers for the best team batting average in baseball. They've walked the fewest men in baseball. . .again. . .and are nearly 50 walks better than the second-best team in that category, the Philadelphia Phillies. Their fielding percentage is also, again, among the best in baseball.
Oh, yeah. . .have I mentioned that they've managed to do all of this without some guy named Justin Morneau? You may have heard of him. . .former American League MVP, was hitting .345 with 18 homers, 56 RBI, and an OPS of 1.055 before suffering a concussion just before the All-Star break. Yeah, the Twins have done everything they've done over the course of the second half of the season without that guy. They lost an MVP candidate to an injury and aren't sure when (or if) they'll get him back, yet as of Thursday afternoon, they sit one game behind the Tampa Bay Rays for the best overall record in Major League Baseball. Having the second-best record in the game is a pretty far cry from "OK."
The Twins are better than "OK" largely because they've taken care of business against their own division as well. Wednesday night's victory over the White Sox gave them an overall record of 42-20 against the rest of the American League Central this season. Chicago's mark against the AL Central thus far? 30-35. And as long as we're discussing it, in the seventeen head-to-head match-ups between the White Sox and the Twins this year, the White Sox have won. . .five times. They actually have more victories over the Twins at Target Field this season (three) than they currently have against them at U.S. Cellular Field (two entering tonight's series finale).
In a move that reeked of desperation, the White Sox thought that Manny Ramirez could be the one that pulled them closer to the Twins in the division. So much so that they agreed to eat the remaining $4 million on his contract to acquire his services from the Los Angeles Dodgers. In the two weeks since the White Sox acquired Ramirez, he has the same number of RBI as I do. He has the same number of extra-base hits as I do. Meanwhile, the Twins just continue to plug parts into the machine and keep rolling along, whether it's aged slugger Jim Thome. . .thanks again for him, by the way. . .or young upstarts like Danny Valencia.
So yes, Chicago, you've got a pretty "OK" baseball team there on the south side. Nobody will argue that. But maybe the reason the Twins don't get a lot of credit isn't because they're an "OK" team. . .maybe, just maybe, it's because you folks are just too sore a bunch of losers to admit that the little, bitty Minnesota Twins are simply that much better than your team in pretty much every facet of the game of baseball. They hit better than you, they pitch better than you, they field better than you, they scout better than you, they draft better than you, and their front office is smarter than yours.
Enjoy the off-season, Sox fans. . .as is usually the case, you're going to get a jump on us. We'll be too busy watching our team in the post-season. Again.