Fun as it's been to watch the Cubs on their dash toward the playoffs, I've been every bit as involved with the White Sox the last few weeks, even as they've trudged home, hard-pressed to match the woeful 72 wins Baseball Prospectus's Nate Silver predicted of them. No mystery there; I simply have more invested -- literally if not emotionally -- in their success.
Back in midsummer, I rashly bet my Sox pal Kate a bottle of Blanton's to her bottle of Rebel Yell that the Sox would finish ahead of the even-more-woebegone Kansas City Royals. That's a ratio of a little more than 3-to-1, to judge from the prices listed at Sam's. The Sox fell into a tie for last in the American League Central in late July, but then rallied with nine wins in thirteen games, so it looked as if they might actually catch the Minnesota Twins for third instead. Yet that was when the bottom fell out, most awfully with an eight-game skid in mid-August that sent them into the basement. It's been back and forth ever since, never more frustrating than when they split a four-game series in Kansas City last week.
So I've cheered Jose Contreras's revival and Josh Fields's heroics against the Twins' Johan Santana, which led to an AL Player of the Week Award for the rookie, as much as every homer by the Cubs' Alfonso Soriano, Derrek Lee, and Aramis Ramirez. Even Jim Thome's 500th homer was noteworthy mainly for being a game winner. With the Royals' 3-2 loss to the Orioles tonight, the Sox have a one-game lead with KC coming to Sox Park tomorrow. This week's three-game series figures to be as exciting -- to me, anyway -- as the Cubs' final and potentially division-clinching sets in Florida and Cincinnati.
So for Sox fans looking to put some excitement back in the last week of a miserable season, I'd advise finding a way to bet for -- or against -- the Sox. Even if I lose, I'm hoping that Kate will offer me a snort of the good stuff to ease the pain.