DAL­LAS: WE HAVE A PROB­LEM

Keuchel sounds the alarm about Sox go­ing through the mo­tions, and An­der­son, Mc­Cann agree with lefty

Chicago Sun-Times - - SPORTS - STEVE GREENBERG sgreen­berg@sun­times.com | @SLGreen­berg

Dal­las Keuchel wasn’t just on to some­thing when he ripped team­mates’ en­ergy and fo­cus lev­els Mon­day in Detroit af­ter the White Sox’ fifth loss in their last six games.

The vet­eran lefty, a 2015 Cy Young win­ner and 2017 World Se­ries cham­pion, was dead on tar­get with a no-bull bull’s-eye.

Keuchel called the Sox “flat,” said they were “go­ing through the mo­tions,” sug­gested they’d taken

“a night off ” and drew a dis­tinc­tion be­tween “pro­fes­sional at-bats” and what­ever the heck the Sox were do­ing while scor­ing a to­tal of 11 runs in that sixgame stretch.

“If you love base­ball,” he said, “show up to the park ev­ery day and make sure that you’re ready to go.”

Oof. That’s go­ing to leave a mark. A good one, hope­fully. Sox team­mates had no prob­lem with be­ing taken to task, ac­cord­ing to a pair of vet­er­ans. Man­ager Rick Ren­te­ria wasn’t crazy about Keuchel tak­ing his crit­i­cism pub­lic — “that’s not my style,” he ad­mit­ted — but an im­por­tant thing to know is that Keuchel aired it out inside the club­house first.

“Ev­ery­body has the right to speak their mind when they wish to,” Ren­te­ria said.

More im­por­tant: Tim An­der­son — who was back Tues­day af­ter a stint on the in­jured list — and James Mc­Cann threw their sup­port be­hind Keuchel’s words. That’s one bat­ting cham­pion and one All-Star catcher, for the record.

“I agree with ev­ery­thing Keuchel said,” were Mc­Cann’s first words in a video con­fer­ence with re­porters.

“Some­body had to say it,” An­der­son said. “So I think it [was] the right time for him to say it. The guys get it, and it’s OK. It’s OK.” An­der­son agreed that a match needed to be lit un­der cer­tain Sox play­ers. Mc­Cann said Keuchel’s crit­i­cism “couldn’t have come from a bet­ter guy or at a bet­ter time.”

So, yeah, we’ve got that covered — Keuchel’s in-house rep is strong.

But what about the larger is­sue? In a

“IF YOU LOVE BASE­BALL, SHOW UP TO THE PARK EV­ERY DAY AND MAKE SURE THAT YOU’RE READY TO GO.” DAL­LAS KEUCHEL

60-game “sprint,” as every­one in base­ball calls this short­ened reg­u­lar sea­son, why aren’t Sox play­ers — the young, in­ex­pe­ri­enced, enor­mously tal­ented core, in par­tic­u­lar — go­ing as hard as they can? Why aren’t they grind­ing out more qual­ity at-bats, show­ing more dis­ci­pline with the strike zone, tak­ing bet­ter ad­van­tage of their strengths?

It’s not like this is an emer­gency with th­ese Sox, not yet, but it could be the death of them if they aren’t care­ful. Wait, that sounds like an emer­gency af­ter all.

“I don’t think we’re hav­ing fun right now,” An­der­son said.

Not good.

There’s no deny­ing rookie Luis Robert’s rare abil­ity even when he’s at the eye of a strikeout storm. There’s lit­tle doubt Eloy Jimenez will hit him­self to an All-Star Game, maybe sev­eral of them, even if he oc­ca­sion­ally ap­pears to be in a lower gear. To watch Yoan Mon­cada is to mar­vel at his col­lec­tion of tools and the ease with which he plays the game — but is it too easy some­times?

Danny Men­dick isn’t go­ing to hit the Sox out of this mess. No of­fense to Danny Men­dick, of course.

The young studs have some an­swer­ing to do.

Just sayin’

Yes, I know the Sox have had a bunch of early in­juries, but that’s no ex­cuse for all the things Keuchel de­scribed. No ex­cuse at all, I tell you!

Did I men­tion I’m play­ing through a hang­nail as I type this col­umn?

Col­lege foot­ball fans across the Mid­west — and na­tion­wide — latched on to one sen­tence in the Big Ten’s an­nounce­ment Tues­day that it was post­pon­ing all fall sports be­cause of the on­go­ing pan­demic:

“The Big Ten Con­fer­ence will con­tinue to eval­u­ate a num­ber of op­tions re­gard­ing th­ese sports, in­clud­ing the pos­si­bil­ity of com­pe­ti­tion in the spring.”

Spring foot­ball? All right, then. Maybe the other Power Five leagues will de­cide fall foot­ball is a no-go and move things to the spring, too? Maybe there will be a play­off and bowl games and ex­cite­ment ga­lore? Maybe this thing has legs af­ter all? Hey, why not?

I’ll tell you why not. But first, con­sider th­ese words from Big Ten com­mis­sioner Kevin War­ren:

“The men­tal and phys­i­cal health and wel­fare of our stu­dent-ath­letes has been at the cen­ter of ev­ery de­ci­sion we have made.”

Peo­ple: There’s no way any­body is con­vinc­ing me play­ers should, can or will play two foot­ball sea­sons with only two or three months’ respite in be­tween them. Pre­sum­ably, that “respite” would have to in­clude some forms of off­sea­son con­di­tion­ing and pre­sea­son camp. Where’s the re­cov­ery time? What about all those play­ers who re­quire surg­eries? What about those who’ve suf­fered con­cus­sions?

What about those who des­per­ately need time to buckle down in their ma­jors?

How many will opt out then? How many will be more de­ter­mined than ever to union­ize?

And all that is as­sum­ing the pan­demic is un­der con­trol. I’m sure it will be. That’s why they call me Mr. Bright Side.

Mean­while, in SEC coun­try, the only thing fans love more than their pickup trucks is com­mis­sioner Greg Sankey. That’s be­cause Sankey is pub­licly hold­ing out hope for a fall sea­son.

I don’t think most Mid­west­ern fans quite com­pre­hend how much more South­ern folks care about their col­lege foot­ball. The Big Ten calling things off is ma­jor news and dis­ap­point­ing to all. The SEC do­ing it would be apoc­a­lyp­tic.

Kyle Hen­dricks start­ing Wed­nes­day for the Cubs in Cleve­land re­minds me of my fa­vorite part of Game 7 of the 2016 World Se­ries: the over-the-top ten­sion in the ball­park, as if no one inside it — or watch­ing from afar — could pos­si­bly have found any room what­so­ever to care about any­thing else.

Nearly four years later, can you even be­gin to imag­ine feel­ing that whole­heart­edly and sin­gle-mind­edly about any­thing?

I can’t. But then, I do have that hang­nail.

PAUL SANCYA/AP

White Sox start­ing pitcher Dal­las Keuchel was frus­trated with his team’s per­for­mance in the se­ries opener Mon­day night against the Detroit Tigers.

CHARLIE RIEDEL/AP

The Cubs play­ing in Cleve­land brought back memories of An­thony Rizzo cel­e­brat­ing af­ter scor­ing on a hit by Miguel Mon­tero dur­ing the 10th in­ning of Game 7 of the 2016 World Se­ries.

Kevin War­ren

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