CHICAGO – It appears as if the Chicago White Sox can’t even master the art of a losing season as they have put together a winning stretch this month that could downgrade their draft pick slot next June even further if it continues.
The Houston Astros, who are in town for a three-game series, have already drafted No. 1 overall in each of the last two seasons and look to have a third consecutive top pick already wrapped up as they started the day with a baseball-worst 43-86 record.
At the start of August, the White Sox appeared to be headed for a high pick as well, as they were 29 games under .500 as of Aug. 4. At that time they had a firm hold on the second worst record in baseball and were gaining on the Astros’ stranglehold of the No 1 selection with a 10-game losing streak.
Since that point, though, the White Sox have delivered a 14-6 record and now have the third worst record, moving past the Miami Marlins in the overall standings. They were a half game behind the Cubs for fourth worst at the start of play Monday, while they were three behind both the Minnesota Twins and Toronto Blue Jays, and 3½ behind the San Francisco Giants.
While the players push forward with improved play, the concept of downgrading their draft pick is not lost on them.
“Obviously that makes sense, but that doesn’t mean we’re going to go lose,” Gordon Beckham said. “The more we lose the better pick we have in the draft; that’s a no-brainer, but that’s not the way you play sports. That’s not the way handle things.”
If there were more guarantees in the baseball draft, perhaps it would make more sense to call off the dogs. High baseball draft picks are less of a sure thing than in football or basketball.
And the White Sox’s own history shows that the best players don’t have to come from the top five picks in a draft. Paul Konerko, one of the best offensive performers in franchise history, was a 13th overall pick by the Los Angeles Dodgers in 1994. And he was also drafted as a catcher.
Frank Thomas, who could be a first-ballot Hall of Famer when the voting is compiled this winter, was a No. 7 overall pick in 1989. One year earlier, Robin Ventura was a No. 10 overall selection.
Those numbers, though, have nothing to do with the White Sox’s desire to play better. A winning environment through the end of the season has its own value as the White Sox have already given playing time to Avisail Garcia, and plan to do the same with Leury Garcia. Both were obtained in trades over the last month.
“Both those guys have come over from teams that have won,” Ventura said. “It’s just part bringing them in and being able to win games. That’s good. They’re winning-type players and I think (GM) Rick (Hahn) did a good job. You’re getting guys that are coming here, playing hard and can do the right thing.”
Besides, the White Sox have already shown some head-scratching play, from the bullpen’s early struggles, to the poor defense and base running, all the way to the inconsistent offense. They know they have a better brand of baseball inside of them and they are finally showing it.
“I think it’s important to finish the season strong for a lot of reasons but mainly because we have some younger guys in here that are trying to get some confidence,” Beckham said. “In my mind it’s important for everybody to finish strong and try to do the right things: hit the cutoff man and do things that will end up being big things down the road.
“I think we just need to keep doing what we’re doing because we’re playing well. We’re still making errors every once in a while but we’re picking the other person up and I think that’s important. You just have to keep grinding it out but I think we’re in a great spot to really finish up strong and hopefully carry that into next season.”