The expedited season is over, and the White Sox have managed to sneak in to the Wild Card playoffs. They almost managed to pull off an amazing comeback on Sunday vs. the evil, ivy-munching Cubs and take the division from the Twins. The Reds managed to upset the Twins to open up the possibility of the White Sox sneaking in, but the South Siders fell short.
Tuesday's a new day, and in their first postseason since 2008, the White Sox are as ready as they'll ever be to face the A's.
Your enemy for this series is the team marked in infamy through Moneyball: the illustrious Oakland A's.
Oakland's postseason struggles are much different than those of the White Sox, in that they make the postseason (five times in the span between playoff berths for the White Sox) but always manage to lose. The best-of-three Wild Card series might bode well for the A's, because they've been endlessly swept out of the do-or-die, single-game Wild Card.
In 2020, the A's finally took back the AL West championship, for the first time since 2013. It's worth noting that in this truncated season the White Sox faced six playoff bound teams, while the A's have only saw three.
The A's are down their core star Matt Chapman, who had hip surgery earlier this month, leaving Tommy La Stella and Jake Lamb to try and fill the hole left by the superstar. Don't sleep on Lamb, though—he's doing his best defensive impression of Chapman since joining the A's in September, and has hit .267 in 45 ABs in Oakland.
Oakland has an abundance of lefties, and though I don't particularly care about lefty/righty, the White Sox sure do. It's hard to ignore how dominant the Sox have been against lefties this season. If the White Sox can keep their slugging going, then they're the team to beat. It's fair to hope that the September slump is in the rearview mirror as the team heads in to Oakland.
Oakland enters the postseason with a bullpen, highlighted by ace closer Liam Hendriks, that holds the lowest ERA in baseball (2.72), and the relievers have only lost five games.
The Sox and the A's are evenly matched in batting average (.252), but if the Sox can wake up the bats again then they could tear through the A's bullpen with ease.
Obligatory note that the White Sox have already announced Lucas Giolito and Dallas Keuchel as the starters for the first two games. Both can work deep in to a game, giving the bullpen a bit of breathing room at the beginning of the postseason. It'd be easier for everyone if strong arms helped propel the team to the next round, but if the White Sox can't simply slug their way through the postseason the bullpen is going to have to be on its best behavior. Garrett Crochet has had stellar outings since joining the team in the last week of the season, and the return of Aaron Bummer has given the bullpen a needed boost. If the White Sox can get their runs in before having to face Hendriks, who's been lights-out for two seasons, they'll be in good shape to take the series.
The 2020 season was weird for everyone, but there was nothing more awkward than Ryan Christenson trying to do an elbow bump with Hendriks in the spirit of social distancing, and ending up making the Nazi salute....twice. On video. What I don't understand is that television isn't a new medium. Games have been broadcast on television for many years, so you'd think he would at least be aware of cameras being on him during postgame congratulations and that a Nazi salute isn't something you want to be filmed doing. Hendriks managed to fix Christenson's arm. Christenson laughed ... and did it again.
This was a really bad look for an organization who considers themselves at the forefront of social justice and racial equality issues. The team has weekly discussions on race, touting the talks on social media. No discipline was announced, and Christenson apologized. By all accounts, it was an idiotic move.
Next up on the list of 2020 shenanigans for the A's was the fight between Ramon Laureano and Alex Cintron (I know what you're thinking: a fight?! In this pandemic?!). Laureano, irritated at having been hit a couple times during the series, exchanged words with Humberto Castellanos after Castellanos hit him. Cintron (by the way, a Houston coach, not a player), meanwhile, decided to throw in some comments about Laureano's mother (because Cintron is actually a toddler in a trenchcoat), which caused the fight between the A's and the Astros. Dusty Baker gave a dusty comment about how words are often exchanged in the heat of the moment that don't result in a fight (Baker, it's worth noting, spent 2020 giving fairly tone-deaf and tepid responses to critiques of the Astros).
Laureano, for what it's worth, expressed regret over the situation and called Cintron a loser. Cintron was suspended for 20 games and was fined for his role in the scuffle, while Laureano ended up with a four-game suspension.
Hear it from White Sox fans
Most White Sox fans don't hate the Oakland A's. They are, after all, an afterthought in the Bay Area in the same way the White Sox are in Chicago. But in the spirit of competition, here's some reasons people do hate the A's.