10/20/05 12:30 AM ET
A World Series kinda town, Chicago is!
Behind four horsemen, White Sox punch Fall Classic ticket
Under-appreciated nationally, perhaps even under-publicized locally, the White Sox qualified for the World Series for the first time in 46 years with a stunningly effective -- and at times even dominant -- run through the 2005 American League playoffs. They swept the defending World Series champion Boston Red Sox in the Division Series and then took four out of five from the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim in the AL Championship Series.
The White Sox not only played their way into the national consciousness. They also carved out some history for themselves that will distinguish this team for decades to come.
They finished off this Series on Sunday night in what has become typical White Sox style, with a 6-3 victory over the Angels. Jose Contreras produced a determined and ultimately victorious performance. It was the fourth straight consecutive complete game for the Sox, the first time that had been accomplished in the postseason since the New York Yankees did it in 1956. One of those complete games was Don Larsen's perfect game. That is about the only thing that the Chicago starters did not accomplish in this Championship Series.
There will be residual complaints about the umpiring costing the Angels in this Series. This carping will miss the point and miss it badly. The White Sox starting pitchers cost the Angels this Series. There were some controversial calls here that went in favor of the Sox. But when you win a Series, 4-1, you aren't winning on marginal calls. And maybe, if you haven't won a World Series in 88 years, the law of averages might owe you the occasional break.
Angels manager Mike Scioscia was once again classy enough and astute enough to avoid the argument and to give credit where credit was due.
"They played a terrific Series," Scioscia said. "They outplayed us and they deserve to move on. So we tip our cap to them.
"We obviously had great expectations coming into this Series and it didn't pan out for us. We did everything we could, but they played at a high level where they deserved to beat us and they deserve to move on and we congratulate them."
White Sox starters pitched 44 1/3 of a possible 45 innings in this Series. You could say that you just don't see that anymore, but you just did. The basic strength of this team, its pitching, is the best strength of all to have in the postseason. And this wasn't just terrific postseason pitching. This was postseason pitching that was epically, historically great. It defied the contemporary game's modest expectations for starters. It put this White Sox team not only in the World Series, but on a postseason level all by itself for the last half century.
"With the experience I've had in the playoffs, whether I was managing or playing, I've never seen four horses like that come out of the gate and pitch so well," Scioscia said. "You might have to go back to Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, that group [of Los Angeles Dodgers], or the group Baltimore had in '66, I guess. These guys pitched tremendous baseball. We had our hands full with trying to do some of the things we wanted to do offensively, and they got the job done."
The White Sox were the best team in the American League by record, and yet, they probably received more attention for a second-half slide in which their AL Central lead dropped from 15 games to 1 1/2. Foiling their most vociferous critics, the White Sox never choked. They didn't even panic. They regrouped and finished the regular season playing some of their best baseball. Counting the last five games of the regular season, the Sox have won 12 of their last 13.
This, apart from the pitching, is what defined them, and there are few better ways to be defined: They struggled and they overcame. They met adversity and they eventually rose above it.
"I think there's no question about that, the way it all came down at the end," slugging first baseman Paul Konerko said. "There's no question we're a better team, I think, having gone through the struggles. But it certainly wasn't fun when we were going through it."
Maybe the White Sox carried a modestly-sized chip on their shoulder coming into this October. They had earned it.
"I think it's great because we proved a lot of people wrong, and I think I like that," manager Ozzie Guillen said Sunday night. "We took a lot of beating this year, my team, and we just kept playing.
"Good thing my players don't listen to what I was saying to the media, and we stick together. I think [my players] deserve it, they earned it."
This franchise has been defined for many seasons by having teams that were good, but not quite good enough. It has also been defined as being the Second Team in the Second City. There is a ton of built-in frustration and injustice built into that situation, too.
But Saturday night, the Chicago White Sox will open the 2005 World Series in U.S. Cellular Field. They will play against the Houston Astros, who have three outstanding starters of their own.
This story deserves a happy ending, the first World Series championship in 88 years for the South Side. But whatever happens next, these Chicago White Sox are front and center in the baseball world. Their brand new 2005 identity is there for all to see: These are the White Sox that went 7-1 in the American League postseason, the team making October victory almost routine, with all those pitchers completing all those games. It's a long way up from being "the other team in Chicago," but it just might be worth the wait.
Mike Bauman is the national columnist for MLB.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.