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Game 160 Preview: Kansas City Royals vs. Chicago White Sox

Hey, we're going to finish ahead of those South Side slobs!

For me, as for many of you, the Chicago White Sox are my most hated team in the league. They dress in black - traditional garb for bad guys. Their infamous rowdy fans once tried to beat up our first base coach. Their color analyst - Hawk Harrelson - is the most annoying homer in baseball. For many years they employed the most hated player in baseball - A.J. Pierzynski. They consistently seem to go against conventional sabermetric wisdom, and yet confound the numbers with successful seasons, or at worst, mediocrity.

I grew up with the crummy old White Sox of the late 1980s. It was Carlton Fisk and Harold Baines and a group of cast-offs and never-weres, with a farm system that was failing to produce any kind of homegrown talent. From 1975 to 1989, the White Sox finished ahead of the Royals in the standings just once - in 1983, when they won the division title. The Royals were the class of the American League West, trading division titles with the free-spending Angels until the Twins and Athletics developed enough homegrown talent to compete with K.C. The White Sox were bottom-feeders, a team for the Royals to beat up on en route to a division title.

Then the White Sox wised up and finally began producing good young players. Frank Thomas. Jack McDowell. Alex Fernandez. Robin Ventura. They won 94 games in 1990 while the Royals lost 86 games. The Royals began loading up on old veterans while busting in the draft. The White Sox would win 86 games each of the next two seasons before finally breaking through and winning the division title in 1993. The Royals would lose 90 games in 1992, the first time they had lost that many games in over two decades.

Over the next twenty seasons, Chicago would have just six losing seasons, would never lose more than 90 games, and would never finish in last place. They would make four playoff appearances, including winning a championship in 2005. The Royals would have just three winning seasons, would lose 90 or more in twelve seasons, and would finish dead last eight times. 1995 would be the last time the Royals would finish ahead of the White Sox.

Until this year.

Once again, the White Sox are the team that looks old with few promising stars on the horizon while the Royals look loaded with good young players. Kansas City will enjoy their first winning season in a decade, while a sweep will give the White Sox their first 100-loss season since 1970. Only 33 year old slugger Adam Dunn and young outfielder Avisail Garcia (who has just 150 plate appearances all year) have a league average OPS+ in the White Sox lineup. If the Royals hold them to nine runs or less this weekend, the White Sox will fail to score 600 runs in a full season for the first time since Jimmy Carter was President. Despite having Cy Young candidate Chris Sale, the White Sox are tenth in runs allowed per game. But hey, their closer has 39 saves! Closers are so important to winning.

The White Sox dropped 17 of 19 games to the Indians this year, so when you are bored out of your mind watching the Indians in October, these are your culprits. Kansas City and Chicago have split their season series this year, which leads you to wonder about missed opportunities against lesser opponents. Ah well. Speaking as fans that know the experience all too well, enjoy the cellar Hawk.