It is the end of the year, and as is tradition in covering anything, there’s the need to remind everyone what happened month-by-month as though the world has some form of amnesia. Everyone knows, of course, that while some drink to remember, most drink to forget. Drinking = writing on the internet. Also “Hotel California” is a terrible song and apologies for referencing it.
But everyone was there for 2021, and if you’ve forgotten anything about it, it wasn’t worth remembering. The service provided to you today, courtesy of a questionable mushroom risotto, is a recap of everything that happened next year to the White Sox. No spoilers about anything outside of the White Sox, of course, but suffice to say that by the end of the year you’ll be used to the new mandates and won’t be embarrassed by the smells.
A quiet month with the lockout still going for the duration, Rick Hahn continually signs minor league free agents first to build depth, then out of boredom. In a fit of extreme boredom, Hahn signs 14 free agents for other teams as well. In a fit of boredom to the point of minor insanity, Hahn signs Kenny Williams three foster dogs. Williams laments that a fourth dog, who was related to one of the acquired dogs and the best friend of another, didn’t join his family as “we had the best offer”.
Ethan Katz spends his time pouring over the mechanics of the staff and then remembers that he was just there to get an oil change and tire rotation. The mechanics are a little irritated by the constant harassment from a customer, however, one of the mechanics can suddenly change tires faster than ever and expects a big contract from an East Coast shop.
The players, locked out, begin training with Rick Renteria, who changes the routine and who is allowed on certain equipment in ways that don’t make much sense. Danny Mendick’s legs become so large as a result that he can no longer walk or run but can hop over a box truck.
The lockout shows signs of thawing as the players agree that the owners can pay them to play baseball. The owners balk at this condition but grudgingly agree in order to preserve their rights to charge the players per toilet paper square. The Padres contingent shrugs this off and agrees to go back to brown pants.
Meanwhile, the players have ditched training with Renteria and moved on to Lance Lynn’s training regimen, which consists of creative swearing screamed on the hour and eating meat. Danny Mendick is arrested for public indecency when he combines Lynn’s famous catchphrase with trying to manage a slippery footlong kielbasa while training in a public park. He kicks his way out of jail and misunderstands the phrase “going on the lam” as “going on the Lamb” to the chagrin of his former teammate Jake.
Frank Menechino alters his approach and mindset about swinging…during a weird Valentine’s day.
With Spring Training delayed, the lockout gets close to ending when the players agree to a universal form of currency to be paid with. The owners push hard for that currency to be gift cards from Costco, but with AMC Theaters and Cheesecake Factory locations shutting down due to the Tau variant, it is agreed that the currency will be gold bars. There is an immediate concern that the White Sox will thereafter drip with too much swag to play in an actual game.
Side note: the pandemic variants continue but everyone misses the version known as Omicron Prime, where a symptom was being the temporary leader of the Autobots and being able to transform into a truck that Danny Mendick can jump over.
The players have moved on to training Liam Hendriks-style, which consists of throwing baseballs through concrete, carrying thousands of meals to those in need, and playing with animals at the shelter. In a mixup, Danny Mendick is fed a thousand meals and adopted by Kenny Williams from a shelter.
Meanwhile, Rick Hahn trades for James Shields’ Cleric in Dungeons and Dragons, but Shields wins the campaign thanks to the unknown young Paladin Hahn gave him.
The lockdown ends after both sides realize that they had agreed on everything in December but couldn’t understand each other from 6 feet away and through a mask. When asked about the Zoom calls it is revealed that Rob Manfred had muted everyone and forced them to listen to his 7-novel series about a sports commissioner named Fred Manrob that solves crimes in space. Mets owner Steve Cohen licenses the rights and celebrates by extending Max Scherzer for three more years and a cut of the merchandising.
Speaking of contracts, the free-agent frenzy resumes with the Sox almost signing Michael Conforto, Josh Harrison, Carlos Rodon, and Carlos Correa. Instead, the Sox sign Kenley Jansen and immediately Bob Nightengale reports that they are going to try and flip him for a second baseman.
The Sox do manage to trade Danny Mendick to the WWE for an autographed picture of Charlotte Flair and two upper-level seats to a Smackdown taping in 2025. The Sox also announce that Mendick, immediately released by the WWE after winning the RAW Championship, was signed to a two-year deal and will compete for the starting 2B job during spring training.
As Spring Training gets underway, the players report having all turned to the Yoan Moncada training regimen, wherein they recorded albums and looked damn cool for no less than 3 hours per day but may not have actually practiced the game. Danny Mendick’s album goes platinum and the Sox make an actual trade sending Dallas Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, and Jake Burger to the Mets for Jeff McNeil and SP Tylor Megill and agree to pick up most of Keuchel, Kimbrel, and, oddly, James McCann’s salaries. Steve Cohen celebrates by signing Jerry Reinsdorf for 3 years and $365 Million.
Injuries strike again to poor Adam Engel, who was establishing himself as the starting RF until his right foot fell completely off. He’s placed on the 10-day IL. Eloy Jimenez is given a shock collar and zapped every time he approaches the wall. Leury Garcia is named the Sox DH, having shown up looking suspiciously like Edwin Encarnacion.
The Sox finish Spring Training and start the now truncated regular season to much fanfare and an empty home stadium as Cook County now requires a vaccine card, a library card, a skin sample, a negative test for at least 5 diseases, ten days of dialysis, a fresh flan, and a rare orchid that only blooms once every twelve years and is found in a haunted cave on a lost island in the Atlantic Ocean in order to enter anything other than a garden shed.
The Sox get off to a hot start as Andrew Vaughn, now the Sox starting 2B while Jeff McNeil plays RF, hits over .400 to start the season. In the minors, Yermin Mercedes is also hitting over .400 and in spite of calling three no-hitters and throwing out 67% of runners against him, is left in Charlotte because Zack Collins is hitting .287 against righties and hasn’t thrown out a runner.
In addition to Vaughn’s hot start, the lineup benefits from having Eloy to start the season combining his power with Luis Robert’s all-around game and Yasmani Grandal having an OPS of .948 in spite of hitting .075 to start the season. Robert actually hits a ball hard enough to end the pandemic, prompting the City of Chicago and Cook County to allow people to wave at neighbors from their own living room without showing a vaccine card.
On the mound, Dylan Cease takes the next step, showing Cy Young-level stuff and throwing into the 6th inning each start. Lance Lynn and Lucas Giolito are as advertised, while Michael Kopech makes a smooth transition to starting by being allowed to throw up to 70 pitches in a single game. Surprising 5th starter Reynaldo Lopez wins his first four starts by scattering a few solo home runs across 5-6 innings each outing.
In the bullpen, Liam Hendriks screams so loud after his first save of the season that George Halas awakens from the afterlife and fires Matt Nagy and Ryan Pace.
The Sox are in first place in spite of pressure from the Detroit Tigers and a resurgent Twins team. The Sox lose 2 of 3 to the Royals in KC, allowing the Tigers to close the gap to 1.5 games. Meanwhile, the Guardians have lost all games by forfeit after being glued to a bridge.
Tony LaRussa is given praise for putting out a consistent lineup that seems to maximize the players’ strengths while keeping Yermin Mercedes in Charlotte. Among the moves that TLR is praised for is the decision to bat Luis Robert twice, once while dressed as Leury Garcia.
The injury bug strikes again as Ryan Burr pulls a hamstring that somehow only Adam Engel can feel. Lucas Giolito and Lance Lynn each miss a couple of starts, but Leury Garcia and Andrew Vaughn fill in nicely.
As All-Star voting starts up, Tim Anderson is leading the league in hitting but 5th in SS voting because part of the CBA states that salary determines All-Star votes. For that reason, Max Scherzer is named “all-time pitcher” for the game.
The Sox hit the All-Star break in first place, after opening the lead over the Tigers to 3.5 games following a trip to Cleveland where Danny Mendick was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The Sox send Cease, Hendriks, Robert, and Grandal to the game to play and Reynaldo Lopez to throw to Eloy in the home run derby.
At the trade deadline, Rick Hahn’s keyboards are all modified to prevent him from trading for another closer. Reminiscent of 2005, Hahn trades for Geoff Blum, but in this instance, he trades Darrin Jackson in a swap of radio color analysts. Overall, with the team riding high the only deal made is for a small bullpen piece and extra outfield help with Adam Engel technically limbless.
By the end of the month, things are going just swell…but in August they’ll swelter…
The dog days bite and bite hard. The team suffers several losing streaks and the pitching staff seems tired. Dylan Cease gets routed on the road and Lucas Giolito loses three straight. Hendriks blows back to back saves, with one rescued by an Eloy walk off. The Tigers catch the Sox and tie for first place entering the last week of the month.
Tony LaRussa comes under fire for the swoon. Sox Twitter goes nuts as Dallas Keuchel wins his fifth straight and Nick Madrigal comes close to DiMaggio’s record. The team is blasted by the media for not committing more draft and free agent capital to help Justin Fields and for not getting any real return from trading Robert Quinn. Ooops, that’s the Bears, but apparently once training camp starts some places forget there’s a Southside of the city.
Things hit a low point after a four-game sweep by Houston, a team buoyed by signing recently reinstated and released Trevor Bauer and then hitting him with a garbage can every time someone throws a fastball. That catharsis combined with Ethan Katz not letting anyone throw a change-up leads the Astros to the sweep.
Following a couple of brutal losses to the Orioles, the Sox limps home for Labor Day weekend. After a team meeting and a surprise concert from Danny Mendick, the team remembers that they’re actually really great at baseball and steamrolls the Diamondbacks, Royals, and Twins, taking 8 of 9 and opening a lead on the Tigers who get smacked around by the Mariners and a miffed Royals squad.
With the Tigers reeling, they lose 5 of their remaining 6 with the White Sox during September, and the Sox clinch the division on September 24, 2022, with a 6-3 victory over the Tigers. It is their third consecutive trip to the postseason, and the first time clinching at home in seemingly forever. After striking out Robbie Grossman, Liam Hendriks pumps his fist hard enough that the International Space Station develops a hole. Eloy Jimenez is allowed to celebrate in a giant bubble.
The Sox take advantage of a weak September schedule to finish on a high note and spend most of the closing series against San Diego watching the AL West Race, where the Mariners have a chance to knock the Astros from the playoffs. The Sox assume that their road is easier against the Rays and wildcard winners Boston and Toronto; the Astros being out and the Mariners in feels better.
Danny Mendick gives a concert in celebration that ends abruptly with him getting hit on the head by a ball Robert hit in early July. At the moment of impact Mendick’s guitar is flung at Adam Engel, who dives out of the way and on landing regains perfect health in a freak chiropractic event.
The Sox, armed with the second-best record in the AL, draw the Mariners in the ALDS while the Blue Jays get the Rays after taking the Wild Card game. The Jays blast through Tampa in 3 games; the Sox play with their food a bit and take the Mariners in 4, only losing a Michael Kopech start after Kopech is only allowed to go 3 innings. This sets up a rather epic ALCS:
Game 1: Sox 5, Jays 3 – Three homers by Luis Robert sink the Blue Jays. Robert, who is widely considered by the national media to be behind Vad Jr. in the MVP race, pretty much tells Vladdy about it every time he reaches base. For his part, Vlad’s 3-run jack against Garrett Crochet in the 7th is a nice answer, but Graveman and Hendriks slam the door in the 8th and 9th and Vlad doesn’t hit again until Game 2.
Game 2: Blue Jays 4, Sox 0 – Reynaldo Lopez gets the Game 2 ball and Vlad Jr. immediately deposits that ball in the left-field seats. Vladdy hits for the cycle while Jose Berrios and two relievers hold the Sox to 6 hits, four of which are Luis Robert singles. The Sox lose 4-0, and Tony takes heat for starting Leury Garcia in RF even though he doubles twice but misplays Vlad’s triple badly enough that Vlad Guerrero Jr. can get to third base while stopping to autograph each base for a Liam Hendriks charity event.
Game 3: Sox 11, Jays 2 – Dylan Cease vs. Hyun-Jin Ryu, and Robert stays hot by going 5 for 6 with 3 doubles. Andrew Vaughn, Tim Anderson, and Jose Abreu all homer for the Sox, who blow out the Jays 11-2. Because this happens during a Bears game, Justin Fields is credited with 6 of the Sox runs and oddly, Leury Garcia has 45 yards and a touchdown.
Game 4: Jays 2, Sox 1 – Lance Lynn gets a chance to put the Sox in control of the series and goes 8 strong, giving up 2 runs on a Bo Bichette bomb. Kevin Gausman matches him with Yas going solo in the 9th, and the close Blue Jays win is described as a heart breaker by Tony, but the description given by Lance Lynn earns him a lifetime achievement award in swearing from the Kennedy Center.
Game 5: Sox 5, Jays 4 – Lucas Giolito battles through 6, the bullpen of Aaron Bummer, Kendall Graveman and Liam Hendriks back him up nicely. This is considered the Moncada game, as he drives in all 5 Sox runs with Robert scoring three of them. Danny Mendick sings the National Anthem and it is immediately clear that he’s been Milli Vanilli’ing the whole musical career thing. It is revealed that Yermin Mercedes was really the guy, but because Tony thought Yermin was breaking unwritten rules of music theory, he replaced him with Mendick.
Game 6: Jays 5, Sox 4 – Michael Kopech starts and goes 5 innings untouched, but the 6th inning he gets touched pretty hard for 4 runs. The Sox can’t get a run across and the Jays get lucky bounces off Aaron Bummer and score in the 8th. Fox play-by-play announcers Adam Amin, AJ Pierzynski, and Adam Wainwright make the joke that the whole inning is a Bummer, and are immediately whacked with a golf club three stooges style by a visiting Hawk Harrelson. Hawk blames Joe West.
Game 7: With it all on the line, Lynn starts and Cease is ready to come in if needed…the teams go back and forth, trading leads and getting big outs. The game goes 15 innings and with the Sox as the home team, there’s reason for hope. Bad weather makes home runs a near impossibility but Eloy, Robert, and Grandal all come within inches of ending it. With Kendall Graveman on inning 3, Vlad Jr. tattoos a one-out pitch that Eloy jumps up and partially robs, keeping it in the park but not making the catch. Vlad stays at second, but Eloy leaves the game. Rattled, Graveman skips a sinker past Grandal before striking out Bichette. Tony brings in Lopez, who with Giolito are the last guys available. Lopez gives up a cheap pop-up single that scores Guerrero. And then a bomb to Randal Grichuk. Down 2, the Sox get Anderson and Grandal on when Robert sends a screaming single that holds Yas at third. Eloy would have hit next, but instead his replacement Leury Garcia grounds into a season-ending double play. Danny Mendick and Yermin Mercedes, now recording as the unfortunately named duo MenCedes, write a touching ballad to commemorate the season.
What? They didn’t win the ALCS. It happens. The Jays win it all over the Phillies in remarkably the same way they did in 1993, and the Sox start the off-season with Rick Hahn promising to make improvements while extending Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson. The Sox strike early, signing SP Aaron Nola and OF Andrew Benintendi, but settle into mostly minor deals after that. The Sox are mentioned in the sweepstakes for a resurgent Noah Syndergaard, and loose chatter about Ketel Marte, but most fans just remain angry at Rick Hahn for trading Fernando Tatis Jr. and Nick Madrigal.
With the end of the year rapidly approaching, the Sox remain poised to compete the next season. With full access to the team all off-season, the Sox train hard and head into 2023 ready for a fourth straight trip to the postseason.
Heading into the holidays, the big surprise is Tony LaRussa announcing that he is retiring after the 2023 season, citing his desire to tour with MenCedes and being unable to keep up with Frank Menechino’s lifestyle. Miguel Cairo is notably absent for a bit before re-emerging looking oddly like Rick Renteria.
And so it begins again…
Featured Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto