Sox, Twins opposites in AL Central now, maybe not later originally appeared on NBC Sports Chicago
The White Sox are in first place after spending the spring talking about their desire to win the AL Central and the World Series.
Not that it's been all sunshine and lollipops through the season's first 30-plus games. But with one of the game's most productive offenses and one of its most dominant starting rotations, all is well on the South Side after a 4-1 road trip through Cincinnati and Kansas City.
The same cannot be said of the Minnesota Twins, the team everyone assumed the White Sox would be jockeying with for the top spot in the standings this season. The Twins have one of baseball's worst records, only the cellar-dwelling Detroit Tigers owning fewer wins coming into Tuesday.
After the White Sox spent the offseason talking about being the best by beating the best, their first clash of 2021 with the back-to-back reigning Central champs is not quite as lustrous as it was believed it would be.
Tim Anderson got everyone hyped up several times over, providing bulletin-board material by calling the White Sox "hands down" the Central's best team.
"We have a pretty good shot of whooping on them," Anderson said in February.
But the Twins, who suffered an early season COVID-19 outbreak, haven't played good enough ball to be in the White Sox same stratosphere right now.
Of course, it doesn't mean it will end that way.
A team's season is rarely defined by its record on May 11, and though the White Sox and Twins might be at opposite ends of the division standings right now, the envisioned back-and-forth brawl between the rivals for Central supremacy is hardly off the table at this point.
"It's way too early," White Sox manager Tony La Russa said Tuesday. "I mean, whatever the results, there's so much time to make up for it.
"Right now, we are both trying to accumulate wins. The way you accumulate is to concentrate on the series you are playing. Whichever way this series goes, it doesn't say anything about what's going to happen in the second half of the season.
"Just right now, we have something going, and the Twins are in our way."
A weekend sweep of the Kansas City Royals calmed the choppy waters around these White Sox, a couple pummelings of the team closest to them in the standings establishing them as the division's current kings and doing a bit to make folks forget the furor from just days before, when La Russa copped to not knowing a detail in the extra-inning rule and sent Twitter into a tailspin.
Outside of that day, though, when the bats went missing in Cincinnati, the White Sox responded quite impressively following the injury that knocked Luis Robert out for months, and now their engines seem to be fully revving in time for the Twins, who limped into Guaranteed Rate Field losers of four of their last five.
Even with the White Sox bullpen the subject of frequent fan anguish, things could be worse. The Twins signed former White Sox closer Alex Colomé and have already demoted him from the job after he piled up three blown saves in his first five chances. The White Sox 'pen owns the 17th best ERA in baseball, hardly the "elite" rank they were looking for. But the Twins rank 25th and second to last in the American League.
But you don't have to crank the dial on the wayback machine to find midseason surges that followed early season stumbles. The most notable example, of course, is the 2019 world-champion Washington Nationals, who were in fourth place in the NL East as late as June 16 that season.
That's not saying the Twins are destined for the same outcome, of course. But even if the current trends continue this week on the South Side, that doesn't close the book on a summerlong duel between these two squads.
Before the season began, the White Sox viewed this Twins team as the one it needed to take down to capture the flag in the AL Central. That's how they'll view them this week, too. And it could still be how they view them until the champagne's popping in September.