And while it may be a little premature to draw parallels between the two squads, there is one striking similarity that can’t be denied:
The ‘83 Sox finished 60-25 down the stretch, while starting a very pedestrian 39-38. This team has gone a transcendent 26-5 since beginning the year an ugly 24-33. In order to match the ‘83 team, they’ll have to go 49-24 in the second half.
Current Sox hitting coach Greg Walker played his first full season on that ‘83 team. I recently had an exclusive with “Walk,” and we discussed that unforgettable Sox season.
“I think the turnaround started when our starting ptiching got consistent, because there was no other way were going to get back in it,” Walker said when I asked him if this year’s team was reminiscent of ‘83.
“You’re usually working from in front, it takes all the pressure off our guys and puts it on the other team,” he continued.
The 83 Sox had a slogan “Winning Ugly.” And in some ways you could say the same about this team. They certainly win a lot of one-run games and “National League style baseball,” as they dominated the NL during interleague play. I wouldn’t say the Sox overall team numbers are ugly, but they certainly are not superlative. They’re 6th in the AL in run differential, second in their own division. Minnesota, 3.5 games behind them in the division are +38, the White Sox are +28.
The White Sox aren’t a superior hitting team (.257 team batting average, 9th in the AL) and even though pitching is the team’s number one strength, they’re only a middle of the road in ERA, 4.01 6th best in the AL.
“This game has to be played in an aggressive relaxed mode. Early in the year we were playing tight. We were playing like we had to get it done, we weren’t loose and saying I got this,” Walker said explaining the mental change in the White Sox during the 2010 season.
“It’s just a totally different mindset, and I give credit to our players, they weren’t very good mentally earlier in the year, but theyworked hard and kept working through it, and now we’re decent,” Walk continued.
Like ‘83, this year’s team strength is starting pitching. On offense, there are a couple similarities. Julio Cruz was the speed element back then. Juan Pierre, the MLB leader in stolen bases, is that today. 2010 gets power from Paul Konerko, Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios and to a lesser extent Andruw Jones. In 1983, it was Ron Kittle, Carlton Fisk, Greg Luzinski and to a lesser extent Harold Baines.
“When we came into the year I felt we had enough offense, but I didn’t feel like we had very many players who felt that good about the year they had in 2009. Whether they were coming off injuries, whether they hadn’t played, or like Rios who came over and didn’t play well down the stretch. Luckily, he showed up at spring training ready to go.
Quentin coming off a bad year last year, Teahen changing over from Kansas City to Chicago- that’s a big change, Andruw Jones hadn’t played in a couple years, there was a lot of stuff going on,” the White Sox hitting coach said.
So the White Sox got hot, but can they stay hot? A big factor determining whether or not the Sox can stay in first place is how they respond to the loss of Jake Peavy for the season.
“Nobody likes to lose a #1 starter, we know it’s not an advantage for us, but the general belief is we can overcome. We realize in the clubhouse that Hudson’s pretty good, he seemed to handle the pressure last year. He could have easily made the team in spring training, we just had more starting pitching than we needed. You’d like to have him as a luxury, not come up until September, but most teams have injuries. But you got to deal with them, move on and not give in to them,” Walker said.
Written by Paul M. Banks, President and CEO of The Sports Bank.net , a Midwest focused webzine. He is also a regular contributor to Chicago Now, the Chicago Tribune’s blog network, Walter Football.com, the Washington Times Communities, Yardbarker Network, and Fox Sports.com
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