CHICAGO -- Backed into a hole because of a stagnant offense, a Swiss cheese defense and a bullpen that has been anything but relief, the Chicago White Sox now have four-plus weeks to get it straight or kiss it all goodbye.
And it might not be just the season that they will bid farewell to, but the entire look of a roster that is among the top third in payroll in all of baseball.
Starting with Friday's three-game series, against the lowly Miami Marlins, the White Sox are entering a portion of the schedule that is the least intimidating they will see all season.
Welcome to a stretch of 27 games over nine separate series against seven different teams with a combined record of 72 games under .500 (127-199). Imagine a hungry predator that has walked upon a field of wounded animals, but is that predator too weak to feast?
Internally, the White Sox's front office is surely looking at the stretch between now and June 20 as the time to see what the club is made of. If the White Sox can't take advantage, then plans figure to be made to sell off some assets and retool a roster that was supposed to be good enough to pounce if the loaded Detroit Tigers showed any vulnerability.
Well, the Tigers have shown that despite a locker room full of megawatt stars, they do have some weaknesses. The White Sox, though, have shown more flaws, with their multitude of issues pushing them into last place in the American League Central until just recently when they emerged from the basement.
There is promise, though, as the White Sox have started to show signs of life at just the right time. They just won a series against the improved Boston Red Sox and were actually poised to sweep their first series of the season before a defeat Wednesday.
On the last road trip, the White Sox won a series at Minnesota and split a four-game set against the Angels with the prevailing thought that they should have taken at least three of the four.
The defense is better and the offense is coming around. There's nothing like approaching a downhill stretch with a little momentum.
After the White Sox face the 13-34 Marlins, there is a four-game run against the 18-29 Chicago Cubs with two games each at U.S. Cellular Field and Wrigley Field. Following that all-Chicago battle, the White Sox head out on an always-tricky West Coast trip to face the Oakland Athletics (25-23) and the Seattle Mariners (20-27).
The A's are the only team in the upcoming stretch that is playing at better than a .500 clip. Nobody else in the bunch is better than seven games under .500.
The White Sox return home June 6 to face the A's again before then taking on the 19-28 Toronto Blue Jays. Fan favorite Mark Buehrle is currently in line to pitch in one of the games in that series against the White Sox. The final games in the stretch come on the road when the White Sox head to Houston (14-33) and Minnesota (18-25).
For those not keeping track, the White Sox will be facing all three last-place teams in the American League and two in the National League, based on the standings after Wednesday's games.
The realistic group that they are, though, it's not like everybody in the White Sox's clubhouse is pouring the milk in the anticipation of digging into all these cupcakes.
“The thing about the American League, or really the major leagues, is that there are no real pushovers,” captain Paul Konerko said. “Because of some of the talent on the field, some of the arms, anybody can beat you.
“We had a situation last year where Houston came in and beat us two out of three and they had a really rough year last year. At the end of the year we could have used those games if we would have won them. We remember things like that.”
The Astros weren't the only beatable group that gave the White Sox fits last season. The Kansas City Royals finished 19-games under .500 last season (72-90), but still had a 12-6 record against the White Sox.
The White Sox have not only had just one winning season against the Royals since 2009, they are just 35-43 against them over the last five years. In fact, the White Sox will face the Royals at the end of the upcoming 27-game stretch (June 21-23) and even though Kansas City is a game under .500 at 21-22, they aren't even included in the list of upcoming winnable games.
Following the Royals will be a quick two-game home series June 25-26 against the 17-27 New York Mets before the White Sox finally face the first-place Cleveland Indians for a four-game series that opens with a June 28 traditional doubleheader.
If the White Sox can play to the percentages and pile up the victories, they could be looking at bolstering the roster by the July 31 non-waiver trade deadline. If they are just mediocre over the next month, the White Sox's front office still has all of July to decide what to do.
But if all goes wrong over the next 27 to 32 games, general manager Rick Hahn could be motivated to start the process of figuring out what White Sox players still have value and what teams might want to offer the team salary relief, prospects or both for their assets.
The time to make a move is now for the White Sox, although Konerko just wants to approach the next month or so with determination, instead of already adding up how many victories they should have by the start of July.
“Every time you look ahead, or think there is something in the bag, it always comes back to bite you,” Konerko said. “Let's show up and play the game like we've been doing it, and if we play well yeah, we could win games, I hope. But this isn't football where you see an easy win on the schedule and it kind of turns out that way. It's never like that.
“We have to bear down. We haven't been good enough this year to be thinking like that. We have to bear down and we still haven't played our best baseball yet. We still have to play our best baseball and we're vulnerable at any time. We have to keep working hard until we're hitting on all cylinders.”