When Eloy Jimenez suffered a serious injury in spring training, White Sox fans were devastated. “There goes the season, how will we ever replace him?” they cried. The news was about as bad as it could be for fans, as Eloy was expected to have a monster season in 2021. All of a sudden, the hopes for a run at the World Series seemed to instantly get rather dim. With no real replacement available, the White Sox had lost a potential MVP caliber player just as the season was about to begin.
However, their sorrow turned to joy when Jimenez returned in late July. The return was earlier than was originally projected. When Jimenez got hurt in late March, the prognosis was for him to miss between five and six months of baseball. So, the earliest he could be expected to return to action would be sometime in late August. So, Eloy beat the doctors’ predictions by returning on July 26th, four months after suffering his injury.
The Eloy Impact
So, as the White Sox continue to prepare for the postseason, it would be interesting to take at the impact Eloy has had on the team so far, and what his impact may be as the calendar turns to October. After all, he is a player that many feel has Most Valuable Player potential, a difference-maker in the White Sox lineup. In addition, he brings much in the way of energy, fun, and camaraderie to the bench. He is one of the cornerstones of this team, and his impact cannot be overstated.
The Eloy Impact – The Injury
Just as the Pale Hose were finishing up their camp in Arizona, Jimenez attempted to rob a home run against the Oakland A’s. Many fans questioned the wisdom of Jimenez trying to make such a play, especially in spring training. After all, it was a meaningless game, and he is not known for his defensive prowess. However, Jimenez is a player who plays hard at all times, so it was not surprising. In any event, the result of his injury was a major problem for Tony La Russa and his staff.
The major impact of Jimenez’s injury was the gigantic hole he left in the Sox lineup. The South Siders were counting on Eloy to be their #2 run producer, behind reigning MVP Jose Abreu. When Jimenez went down, the Sox had to scramble to replace him, both in the outfield and in the lineup. One of the positive impacts of his injury was the early hitting performance of rookie Yermin Mercedes. He was arguably the player who carried the Sox through April. Without Jimenez’s injury, it is possible that Mercedes would never have gotten his opportunity.
While Mercedes had a great April, he faded quickly in May, and the Pale Hose struggled to fill the void in the lineup. La Russa had to mix and match almost on a daily basis, using players like Andrew Vaughn, Brian Goodwin, Leury Garcia, and Gavin Sheets, among others. While each of these players has had his moments, none could come close to the overall hitting ability of Eloy Jimenez. There is no doubt that the Sox missed his production.
The Eloy Impact – The Return
Then, on July 26th, Jimenez returned to the White Sox lineup. While many expected that it would take some time for him to regain his hitting stroke, Eloy showed the Sox, and the rest of the AL, that he would be a force to be reckoned with sooner than later. In just his second game back, Jimenez blasted a game-winning three-run home run against the Royals. Interestingly, it came after an intentional walk to Abreu, perhaps the Sox hitter who missed Jimenez more than anybody else did. Jimenez would no doubt give Abreu the protection he would need to get back to his MVP form.
Jimenez gave the White Sox an immediate boost in more ways than one. Yes, his hitting would be huge for the South Siders; but it was much more than that. He has a presence in the dugout that helps keep his teammates loose. He is just a fun guy to be around, and his fellow White Sox appreciate all the hard work he did just to get back to the lineup. He even made what some may consider the Sox best defensive play this season. Of course, he laid on the field for dramatic effect, as Sox fans everywhere cringed. But he was fine, none the worse for wear.
Ironically, the White Sox, as a team, did not see improvement in their won-loss record after Jimenez returned. This was due to a number of factors, including a dip in the effectiveness of the starting pitching and some slumping hitters. A number of players seemed to hit a wall, and the team has played roughly .500 baseball since his return. Jimenez himself has struggled some of late. Still, there is no denying that Eloy Jimenez has brought energy to the White Sox, both on and off the field.
The Eloy Impact – The Postseason
The biggest question remains for Jimenez and his White Sox mates as the playoffs begin. That question is: what impact will Eloy have in the postseason? After all, the playoffs have been a foregone conclusion for the South Siders for a while now. They are in the process of getting everybody as healthy as they can in preparation for what they hope is a deep playoff run. Certainly, Eloy Jimenez is a big part of that, as well he should be. His bat could be extremely valuable in the search for October.
So, what will Eloy’s postseason look like? How much outfield will he play, and how often will he be the designated hitter? Will he return to the cleanup role, or will he stay in the 5th or 6th spot? While these questions will be answered in time, the most important ones remain: how well will Eloy Jimenez hit in his second year in the playoffs, and can he help propel the South Siders to the top of the MLB mountain? White Sox fans are hoping that Eloy will be swinging a hot bat as October begins. If he is, Sox opponents just might be in a whole lot of trouble. Sox fans, buckle up, it is going to be quite a ride!
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