-- When the Chicago White Sox finally ran out of champagne and cigars late Sunday night, someone no doubt realized they probably ought to get going, so they boarded buses that took them to the airport and, finally, back home to Chicago. The newly crowned American League champions left behind one thoroughly trashed visitors' clubhouse at Angel Stadium of Anaheim, and a similarly trashed Los Angeles Angels squad, but the White Sox themselves looked like they could have partied, or played baseball, all night.
Perhaps never before has the relative fatigue levels of two playoff opponents played such a critical role in the outcome of a series as it did in the White Sox' trouncing of the Angels in five games in the AL Championship Series, which propelled the White Sox to their first World Series appearance since 1959.
While the Angels entered the ALCS on the heels of an unprecedented three-games-in-three-cities-in-three-time-zones jaunt -- thanks to a rainout in New York and their difficulty in dispatching the New York Yankees -- the White Sox had enjoyed three full days off heading into the series, by virtue of their three-game sweep of the Boston Red Sox in the division series.
That disparity was reflected in the teams' respective performances on the field. While the White Sox looked stronger and more potent than any team has a right to be this time of year -- especially their starting pitchers, who accounted for 441/3 of the 45 innings in the series, including four straight complete games -- the Angels were admittedly flat, batting just .175 and scoring 11 runs in the five games.
"We just had," said White Sox first baseman Paul Konerko, the series' most valuable player, "a second boost of energy."
A similar situation could present itself for the World Series, as the White Sox were back in their living rooms Monday night, watching Game 5 of the Houston Astros-St. Louis Cardinals National League Championship Series and waiting to find out which of those teams will be the visitor Saturday night at U.S. Cellular Field, in what will be the first World Series game in Chicago in 46 years. The White Sox would not mind at all if the Astros and Cardinals beat themselves up for a few more days, the way the Angels and Yankees did.
If anything, the White Sox have to be worried about having too much rest. Of the 25 players on their ALCS roster, only 14 were used. Their bullpen's entire output in the series amounted to seven pitches -- all of them thrown by Neal Cotts in Game 1. Starter Jon Garland, who pitched on 12 days' rest in the ALCS, could be looking at a 10-day layoff before his first World Series start, depending on what Manager Ozzie Guillen does with his rotation.
"I'm going to have to call some people and see if I can set up some games this week," White Sox General Manager Ken Williams joked to reporters after his team's clincher in Game 5. "I've got to get our pitchers some innings." Turning serious, he added, "You hope to get one complete game and give your bullpen a rest, but this is ridiculous."
In an age of bullpen specialists and $10-million-a-year closers, four straight complete games from a starting staff in the postseason -- in order, Mark Buehrle, Garland, Freddy Garcia and Jose Contreras -- would have seemed impossible before the White Sox did it in the ALCS.
According to the Web site BaseballProspectus.com, not only are the White Sox the first team to pull off that feat in the postseason since the 1928 Yankees -- but it has also been 13 years since any team even accomplished it in the regular season. That would be the 1992 Boston Red Sox staff, led by Roger Clemens.
"The way baseball is set up now, with closers and specialization," said White Sox catcher A.J. Pierzynski, "you're probably never going to see that again."
"You might have to go back to Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale, that group," said Angels Manager Mike Scioscia, referring to the Los Angeles Dodgers pitching staffs from the late 1950s to the mid 1960s, "or the group Baltimore had in 1966" to find a similar performance.
It was only a few weeks ago that people were calling the White Sox a bunch of chokers, as their lead in the AL Central, which was 15 games at its peak, had been whittled to 11/2 games by the hard-charging Cleveland Indians in late September.
However, since that low point, the White Sox have gone 15-3, including a three-game sweep at Cleveland on the final weekend of the regular season, the sweep of Boston in the division series and the five-game vanquishing of the Angels in the ALCS.
"It was going to be one of two stories," Konerko said after Sunday night's clinching victory. "Either we get overtaken by Cleveland, a nightmare ending. Or we play well enough to hold on and win the division. Everyone in the clubhouse knew, as soon as we got that done, it was a huge weight lifted off our shoulders. There's no doubt we're a better team having gone through the struggle."
However, the White Sox are also better off for having had almost no struggle whatsoever in beating two very good playoff teams with a minimal amount of stress or strain.