On July 31, 1997, the White Sox traded Wilson Alvarez, Danny Darwin, and Roberto Hernandez to the San Francisco Giants for a gaggle of minor leaguers. Trailing the Cleveland Indians by just three and a half games in the American League Central at the time, it would go down in the annals of South Side history as the infamous “White Flag Trade.”
“Anyone who thinks we can catch Cleveland is crazy,” Jerry Reinsdorf explained.
To be fair, he was probably right. That Indians team was part of a pseudo-dynasty and advanced to the World Series. The White Sox, meanwhile, were a game under .500 team when they made the trade and finished a game under, too. They, like the 2012 Sox, were a team that was a bit of a hodge-podge with regulars like Jorge Fabregas, Dave Martinez, and Jaime Navarro in the starting rotation.
The Indians, we often forget, won only 86 games that year. The 2012 Tigers won 88. As Detroit looks more and more likely to represent the A.L. in the World Series, there is something oddly similar about 2012 and 1997. Sure, Kenny Williams took a different tack than then-GM Ron Schueler, as Mr. Williams surely does not know the meaning of “white flag.” But the day the Sox acquired Kevin Youkilis (June 24), they were 38-34. After later adding Francisco Liriano and Brett Myers, they finished only a few games better at eight over .500.
The upshot: sometimes going for it looks the same as giving up in the end. Still, let’s count our blessings that we got a pennant race out of an 85-win team.
There’s nothing crazy about that, Jerry.