U.S. Cellular Field in rough shape after brutal winter

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Interesting story today from JJ Stankevitz of CSNChicago.com about the challenge White Sox head groundskeeper Roger Bossard faces to get U.S. Cellular Field ready for Opening Day on March 31 against the Twins. After a brutal winter, it’s not going to be easy.

As things stand, a brutal Chicago winter has left about 30 inches of permafrost beneath the playing surface at U.S. Cellular Field. Bossard needs to thaw the ground down about six to 10 inches for the field to be playable — though the brutal Chicago winter hasn’t loosened its grip to allow that to happen naturally.

So Bossard’s strategy is twofold. After removing about 400 tons of snow from the field over the weekend, he’s working on heating and thawing the playing surface from above and beneath.

Two tarps were stationed on the left and right sides of the infield on Monday with powerful heaters blasting warm air to help thaw the ground. The temperature under the tarps is around 75 degrees, and Bossard said it’ll take three days of constant heat to thaw the required six to 10 inches on those areas of the field.

Crazy stuff. While Bossard remains optimistic that his crew will be able to get the field ready in time, Stankevitz writes that Chicago is expected to get another cold blast this weekend and will experience a low below freezing every day leading into Opening Day. With less than two weeks to go, they could be cutting it close.

The Red Sox start is ridiculous

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The red-hot Red Sox completed a sweep of the previously red-hot Angels last night, outscoring them 27-3 in their three-game series. Last night’s game was, relatively speaking, a close one, with the Sox winning “only” by six runs. They did manage to strike out Shohei Ohtani three times, though, so some style points help make up for the “squeaker.” Also worth noting that they held Mike Trout of all people to a 3-for-11 line in their three-game series. He did not score a single time and drove in no runs.

That series win puts the Sox at 16-2 on the year. They dropped their Opening Day game to the Rays, but then won their next six games against Tampa Bay, which I’d say makes up for it. In between those two series they swept a two-game series from the Marlins and afterwards they took two of three from the Yankees and three in a row from the Orioles. The only thing that even threatened to slow this juggernaut down is the weather, resulting in a postponement of Monday morning’s Patriot’s Day game. Somewhere in here we should notice that they’re doing this with their starting shortstop and starting second baseman on the disabled list.

As we’ve noted many times, their 16-2 record is the best start in the Red Sox’ 118-year history. It’s also the best start for any team since the 1987 Milwaukee Brewers began 17-1 (let us just forget, for the time being, that those Brewers lost 18 of 20 in May of that year). They are the fourth team since 1961 to win 16 of its first 18 games.

The Sox aren’t simply getting lucky here. They’ve scored 116 runs and have allowed only 50, which is a Pythagorean record of 15-3. They lead all of baseball in offense, scoring 6.44 runs a game, leading individually in average, on-base percentage and slugging. They are only three one hundredths of a run behind the Astros from leading all of baseball in pitching, allowing only 2.78 runs a game. They’re winning all of these games because, in the early going, they’ve simply been that dang much better than everyone they’ve played.

No, the Sox are not going to go 144-18, as they are currently on pace to do. Yes, they are going to find a lot more trouble in their schedule once they play the Orioles, Rays and Marlins less, play a healthier Yankees team more and face off against the Astros, the Blue Jays, the Indians, the Twins and some tougher interleague opponents. This is baseball, obviously, and no one makes it through a season without rough patches, long, short and numerous.

Still: this has been one whale of a start for Boston. Those wins are in the bank. It’s been quite the thing to see.