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VELAND -- Some of the televisions in the Progressive Field visitors' clubhouse were tuned to the Tigers-Royals game following the White Sox 11-0 victory over the Indians on Monday night.
Players sat together at tables while downing their dinner, watching the final few innings of Detroit trying to lock down the 2012 American League Central title and eliminate the White Sox. There was hope flying against the reality of having a tragic number of one, with one player even rooting for a couple of more bloops and blasts when Royals outfielder Alex Gordon opened the eighth with a single off of Tigers reliever Joaquin Benoit.
Reality quickly won out on this night.
And when Jose Valverde retired Alcides Escobar on a ground ball to shortstop Jhonny Peralta, finishing off the 6-3 Tigers victory, the White Sox had nothing left but two regular-season games and offseason plans to take up their thoughts. It seemed like an underwhelming way to finish what was a predominantly positive run for the organization.
"I told everyone we should walk out of here with our heads held high at the end of the season, because nobody thought we would do anything this year," catcher A.J. Pierzynski said of his team's second-place finish. "To be in it until Oct. 1, and have a chance but need some help, we did everything we could.
"There's nothing we can look back and say, 'If we would have done this, if we would have done that.' At the end of the day, we gave everything we could, did everything we could possibly do and were in the position we wanted to be in. It just didn't work out."
Pierzynski turned in what would be classified as a career-best year with 27 homers and 77 RBIs, differentiating between a career year, because the catcher has consistently produced with the bat over his 15-year career. To be honest, nobody on the team really put up numbers well above their means.
Young players such as Chris Sale, Nate Jones, Addison Reed and Hector Santiago arrived on the scene with authority. Veterans such as Alex Rios, Adam Dunn and Jake Peavy -- who struggled mightily in a forgettable 2011 campaign -- bounced back to create a sort of Comeback Player of the Year triumvirate.
Mix in the steady, one-day-at-a-time focus provided by manager Robin Ventura and his staff, and the White Sox went from preseason also-rans to holding down first place for 117 days overall. Could the season be considered a success? The answer is absolutely, under the guidelines of developing young talent while competing.
Did that success come with blemishes and heartbreak? The answer is just as certain of an absolute, especially with the White Sox holding a three-game lead on Sept. 18, with 15 games to play. A disastrous 2-10 run has a way of altering perspective.
"We weren't good enough the last few weeks, it's as simple as that," Peavy said. "It's a shame you play the way we did for the majority of the season and have it come down to where you don't play well late."
"It's disappointing because you could have done better," Ventura said. "But I'm not disappointed in these guys. You end up where you're supposed to end up. The effort was there. We just came up short."
Guessing at the makeup of the 2013 White Sox roster stands as impossible at this point.
Will free agents such as Peavy, Kevin Youkilis and Brett Myers, to name a few, return to Chicago? Will the White Sox have four southpaws in their starting rotation? Will the team continue to retool while contending or move on to a full rebuild?
In taking a page from Ventura's playbook, those are questions to be answered in the near future. On Tuesday, Peavy will be looking to bring his season's record to .500, and the White Sox will be searching for a strong finish. They are playing out the string, instead of preparing for the playoffs -- a fact confirmed about 40 minutes following the White Sox last out on Monday.
"You take some positives from this season," White Sox reliever Matt Thornton said. "But for me personally, I'm disappointed in the way it has turned out here, right now."