What does this Sox team look like when it’s clicking on all cylinders? It’s a trick question because we haven’t seen it. To put that another way: The ragtag Cubs entered Tuesday on a seven-game winning streak — longer than any the Sox have put together in 2021.
At least three things have been missing from this very good — but not always great — White Sox season.
One: competition in the division. The Indians have been treading water since June. The Tigers and Royals are on the upswing, if “on the upswing” can be defined as no longer being out of games before the end of batting practice. The Twins? Somebody probably should’ve stuck a mirror under their noses months ago.
“Why do you think we haven’t been pushed?” manager Tony La Russa asked a questioner. “We’ve been pushing ourselves.”
Two: a full deck. Due to injuries serious and less so — and all over the roster — the Sox haven’t gotten to play with one yet.
And the third thing missing: winning streaks. What does this Sox team look like when it’s clicking on all cylinders? It’s a trick question because we haven’t seen it. To put that another way: The ragtag Cubs entered Tuesday on a seven-game winning streak — longer than any the Sox have put together in 2021.
Not since the Giants in 2014 has the eventual World Series winner rolled into the playoffs without at least one streak of seven or more wins on its résumé. A quirky thing about those dynastic Giants: They didn’t have a single seven-game winning streak when they won it all in 2012 or 2010, either. But every champ since the Giants’ run ended has been streakier — in a good way — than these Sox so far.
Even in a 60-game season last year, the Dodgers crossed the “seven” threshold. (The Sox did, too.) The 2019 Nationals ripped off eight straight to end the regular season, absolutely roaring in. The 2018 Red Sox had nine- and eight-game streaks as part of a blistering 17-2 start. The 2017 Astros and 2016 Cubs went big with 11-gamers (and separate seven-gamers). And the 2015 Royals wasted no time, starting the season 7-0.
What does it all mean? Perhaps nothing bad as far as the Sox postseason hopes are concerned.
“Consistency is the thing that you strive for,” La Russa said, “and we’ve had a consistent mindset.”
Then again, in 2005 the Sox had one seven-game winning streak and — count ’em — three others that were even longer than that. Now that was a team that could get red-hot. This year’s team hasn’t managed that yet. One would like to believe a higher Sox gear actually exists.
What happened to the Cubs being left for dead, anyway?
Frank Schwindel happened. A 29-year-old rookie with a vacuum cleaner salesman’s name, a big bopper’s game and, yes, even some growing fame happened. Cubs fans are stopping him on the street these days, and it’s no wonder. You can’t spell Schwindel without the “W-I-N.” And to think, the last time I typed that line, I was being a real smart-aleck.
In his first 33 games (123 at-bats) since joining the Cubs at the trade deadline, Schwindel has put up cartoonishly good offensive numbers: 10 homers, 30 RBI and a slash line of .374/.421/.699. By the way, that’s six homers and eight RBI shy of what Kris Bryant, Javy Baez and Anthony Rizzo combined for post-deadline in their first 80 games with their new teams.
“Ridiculous,” acting manager Andy Green said.
“He’s ‘Frank the Tank,’ ” teammate Matt Duffy said.
“It’s the most fun I’ve ever had,” Schwindel said.
Schwindel’s tear is arguably right there with Bryant’s gigantic August in 2016, when he ran away with the NL MVP race. In 27 games that month — the best one of his career — Bryant had 10 homers, 22 RBI and a slash line of .383/.472/.748.
Rizzo’s best month came in 2016, too: eight homers, 21 RBI and a slash line of .378/.467/.744. And the best 123-at-bat stretch of Baez’s career — his monster start in 2018, when he was MVP runner-up — produced 10 homers, 32 RBI and a slash line of .285/.325/.650.
All of which is to say: Schwindel is every bit as good as those guys.
No, not really.
But he’s a hell of a story.
• Is this the year I finally relent and play fantasy football?
Good God, no.
If I want to fantasize about football, I’ll imagine Northwestern didn’t get run over by Michigan State, Illinois didn’t spoof itself by losing to UTSA and Wisconsin, my alma mater, didn’t gag away its opener against Penn State.
• Did you catch what Bears coach Matt Nagy said about how he’ll handle the Andy Dalton-or-Justin Fields decisions going forward?
“If you just keep it super simple and don’t overthink it, [then] it will take care of itself.”
Translation: “Has anybody seen my Magic 8-Ball?”
• You know you’re dying to know.
Rams 23, Bears 16.
Fields starts in Week 3. Bears win seven. See you next year.
And print it.