The Chicago White Sox are going to win the American League Central in 2021.
Very few people would disagree with that statement.
The team has a 10-game lead over the second-place Cleveland Indians with roughly a month remaining in the regular season, and the Indians (66-64) likely aren’t a threat to make any noise.
— MLB bot (@MLBbot2) September 2, 2021
Unless something insane happens, it’s only a matter of time until the White Sox will be able to celebrate a division title.
But that doesn’t mean they should take their foot off the gas.
Chicago has legitimate World Series hopes, and if it wants to realize those aspirations, it needs to take care of business the rest of the way.
Here are three mistakes the team can’t afford to make.
3. Health-Related Setbacks
There’s a necessary balance between prioritizing health and remaining competitive.
The White Sox still have a lot to play for (we’ll get to that in a minute), but they also need to make sure they don’t lose any key players to injuries that can be avoided.
At this stage of the season for Chicago, players shouldn’t be pushing through injuries or rushing to get back from the injured list.
#WhiteSox SS Tim Anderson is expected to return from the injured list as soon as he is eligible to do so, and he would be playing if these were playoff games. It’s a VERY cautious approach that also allows Romy Gonzalez to audition for the 2022 utility role!
— NOT St*ve C*shek (@NOTCishek) September 1, 2021
The top priority should be to have a healthy roster going into the postseason.
2. Losing A Sense Of Urgency
When a team clinches a division title too soon, losing a sense of urgency can be a valid concern.
It’s said too often, but postseason baseball is a different animal.
It can be hard to show up in October and play with an energy that matches the moment when you locked up the division title almost a full month prior.
The White Sox can’t lose focus now.
They need to keep their eye on the prize and show up in the playoffs with the same level of intensity they’ve played with all season long.
If they do that, they’ll be in great shape to make a deep run at the World Series.
1. Blowing Home-Field Advantage For The Playoffs
As mentioned, there’s still a lot on the line for the White Sox from here on out.
The No. 1 and No. 2 seeds in each league get home-field advantage in the division round of the playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Rays are running away with the No. 1 seed, but there’s a big-time race going on for the No. 2 seed.
It involves the White Sox and Houston Astros.
Currently, the Astros are 78-55, and the White Sox are 78-56.
Houston has a one-loss advantage right now.
The Astros also lead the season series against the White Sox by a 5-2 margin, and the two teams won’t play again in the regular season.
That means that if the two clubs finish with the same record, the No. 2 seed will go to Houston.
Chicago needs to take this race seriously and try to finish with a better record than the Astros.
It’s certainly a realistic goal, especially considering the fact that the White Sox have an easier remaining schedule than the Astros do.
The objective will also give the team a reason to keep its energy up as the postseason approaches.