King Kaufman’s Sports Daily

White Sox and Indians square off in Central Division chemistry showdown! Plus: WNBA Finals, NFL prediction embarrassments.

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The Chicago White Sox are on the verge of an epic collapse, a historic pratfall, unless they get their act together in a hurry.

Leading the American League Central Division by 15 games on Aug. 1 and nine and a half on Sept. 7, the White Sox have let their lead over Cleveland shrink to three and a half entering a three-game series at home against the Indians Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.

If the White Sox don’t turn it around, they’ll be added to That List. Actually, they won’t even get that. It’ll be the Indians who get added to That List, the list of teams that have overcome massive deficits.

You’ve seen versions of That List: The 1914 Boston Braves, 1942 St. Louis Cardinals, 1951 New York Giants, 1978 New York Yankees, 1993 Atlanta Braves, 1995 Seattle Mariners, for example — teams that have trailed by double digits in the second half of the season and won the pennant or division.

If the Indians add their name, the White Sox will be a footnote, along with the ’42 and ’51 Brooklyn Dodgers, ’93 San Francisco Giants and ’95 California Angels, who all lost double-digit leads.

But their lead was so big, so late — nine and a half games a week into September! — that the Sox could find themselves mentioned in the same breath as the 1964 Philadelphia Phillies, the gold standard of nosedivery.

How can this be? Well, some observers have been waiting for the White Sox to collapse all year because even when they were playing .660 baseball, they weren’t outscoring people like a .660 team, meaning they were probably a little lucky, and luck tends to even out over a 162-game season.

As Chris De Luca of the Chicago Sun-Times put it, if the White Sox can avoid one of the biggest collapses in baseball history, they could end up being the most disrespected team ever to lead wire-to-wire on the way to a first-place finish.

What I’m interested in, as you might guess, is the chemistry question. The White Sox, along with their pitching and speed, had chemistry in spades in the first half. Sure, there was the odd Frank Thomas eruption and the constant fear that Carl Everett would do something Everettesque, but for the most part manager Ozzie Guillen, cocky and loudmouthed, kept ‘em loose and kept ‘em winning.

Until they started losing, when Guillen turned into a black cloud and started bad-mouthing his team.

The hard-charging Indians have them some great chemistry now. Opposing teams have commented about how loose they seem for a young team in a pennant race, how they’re not panicking or getting too keyed up, or, in the words of starter Kevin Millwood, who played on six division winners in Atlanta, “trying to squeeze blood out of the bat.”

Manager Eric Wedge, with his one inning at a time philosophy, is getting a lot of credit for that. But wait, wasn’t Wedge the manager in July, when the Indians went 13-16 and — if not for the White Sox playing sub-.500 ball in the month and a half since — dropped out of the Central Division race?

So which team has the chemistry, after all? Is the White Sox’s chemistry just on hiatus, and can they get it back in time to hold off the Indians? Is it the Indians who have the better chemistry, enough of it to complete the historic comeback?

As always, we won’t know how to assign the chemistry until the results are in.

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Championship time [PERMALINK]

You following this championship series?

What do you mean what championship series? I’m talking about the WNBA Finals. The Sacramento Monarchs lead the Connecticut Sun two games to one in the best-of-five, with Game 4 Tuesday night at Arco Arena.

All three games have been close, and the Monarchs — my favorite team, I’ll tell you in the interest of full disclosure, because they are the WNBA version of my favorite NBA team, the Kings — really should have won in a sweep, but they kicked away a lead late in Game 2 in Connecticut and then stunk out the joint in overtime.

Good thing for the Sun that the WNBA Finals have been expanded from best of three, which was insultingly short, to best of five, which is still too short, but better.

I’ve been following the series, though I haven’t watched every minute, there only being so many of those in a day.

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If you haven’t been watching, or if you’re rolling your eyes that we’re now on the sixth paragraph of an item about the who-cares WNBA Finals, you’d better not be one of those people who writes me during the NBA season to say you don’t watch anymore because fundamentals and teamwork are a thing of the past.

WNBA teams are wonders of teamwork and fundamentals. They play the kind of basketball that, supposedly, used to be played in the good old days of the NBA. Sure, it’s slower than the NBA and far more earthbound — kind of like in Bob Cousy’s time — but you don’t see a lot of me-first attitude or “thuggish” behavior, to use a popular term. Just pure hoops.

I know you NBA critics are glued to your sets.

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Math is hard [PERMALINK]

A graphic teasing the halftime show during ESPN’s Sunday night football game had the Los Angeles Angels leading the Oakland A’s by three games in the American League West.

A few minutes later, on the halftime show itself, following highlights of the A’s win over the Boston Red Sox, a graphic said the A’s trailed the Angels by a game and a half.

At the time both graphics appeared, the Angels’ lead over the A’s was two games.

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The accidental media critic [PERMALINK]

Indians pitcher C.C. Sabathia on his team’s wild-card race against the New York Yankees: “There’s no pressure on us. Nobody expected us to be here, except us. All they talk about on ‘SportsCenter’ is the Yankees, that they’re not in the lead.”

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Overnight ratings [PERMALINK]

Introducing a new Monday feature: Overnight ratings. It’s an impressionistic review of my Friday NFL predictions, not what I got right and wrong, but what I got really right and really wrong, expressed as “Told you so” and “Did I say that?”

I suspect elbow room will be at a premium in the latter category.

Told you so: Titans! Chiefs.

Did I say that?: Bears and Lions (“I think the Bears will win a low-scoring struggle”), Bengals and Vikings (“I think Culpepper bounces back this week — and the Vikes still lose a good one”), Chargers.

Special wishy-washy category: “Carolina was surprised by an inspired Saints team last week, and they’re probably a good bet to get all inspired themselves and surprise their old February foes, which is why I’m taking the Pats.”

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