As the 2021 baseball regular season winds down, Chicago’s teams are headed in different directions. While the South Siders are looking playoff-bound, the North Siders are left saying “maybe next year” again after trading away three of their marquee players.
White Sox play-by-play man Hector Molina says he’s optimistic about the young club’s chances in the postseason.
“My concern is injuries and Cleveland is only nine games back and it’s about 28 games left. We know that it’s happened before, sometimes you have 12 games left and all of a sudden you just disappear and somebody takes over,” Molina said. “So I’m really afraid of the Cleveland [Guardians] because they’ve got good pitching and they’re holding the ball better than they were before … other than that, I don’t think we have any problem going into the playoffs if we can keep winning … if we can get 15 out of 28 it’s OK.”
Molina gives high marks to skipper Tony LaRussa, who was a controversial choice to lead the White Sox team at the beginning of the season.
“It’s the loosest clubhouse in baseball. I mean everything, everybody’s friendly there, excited about being first place, probably going to the playoffs for second year in a row and everybody’s coming together,” Molina said. “So I think the influence that Tony LaRussa has been great because he’s a player’s manager and he knows how to deal with talent.”
Cubs announcer Omar Ramos says that as the dismal 2021 season comes to a close, Cubs fans are going to have to wait and see what the team’s moves are for 2022 before getting their hopes up for a future playoff run.
“It’s been a difficult 2021 but you know what, it’s been a difficult time ever since like 2018 when I felt that the offense was broken. There was something that was just not jelling with these players, especially on the offensive side,” Ramos said. “The pitching was pretty solid, especially when we had Darvish on the team and then all of a sudden they just decided to create the overhaul … I think the team realized that they needed to make change and that’s what we saw those crazy changes and they just gave a facelift to the team.”
One of the core players to leave the Cubs was dynamic infielder Javy Baez, who ran into trouble with Mets fans recently after making a “thumbs-down” gesture on the field. Ramos says he doesn’t think the flap is a reflection on how Latino ballplayers are perceived by fans generally.
“There’s a lot of pressure on him. He goes from like an important market like Chicago, which is very tough and then he goes to New York, which I think is probably tougher… I think [there’s] a lot of stress on him, you know, to justify leaving Chicago and going to New York … And unfortunately, when you’re under stress like that — I think he’s a great ballplayer, he’s a good person … I think it was just one of those boneheaded situations and I think his situation is a lot different from the attitude or the conduct from other Latino ballplayers,” Ramos said.
Both announcers say while Major League Baseball is reaching out to the growing ranks of Latino baseball fans, there’s more to be done to encourage fandom across the Latino diaspora.
“When it comes to celebrating the Hispanic community, it goes beyond Cinco de Mayo. It goes beyond Fiestas Patrias,” says Ramos. “I think we need to embrace the Puerto Rican community, the Dominican community, the Cuban community … the Venezuelan community as well.”
“We are Latinos 365 days a year. We should celebrate what we are all year long,” says Molina. “MLB is doing a good job with the Latino players, is doing a good job in places like the Dominican Republic and Venezuela where they established academies. They help the talent that is coming up from those places … You have players from Nicaragua, and you have players from Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela, Panama. I think we’re here to stay and we’re here to influence baseball.”