Earlier this month, Mike Petriello of MLB.com wrote about the upcoming three-batter minimum required of pitchers, and how it stands to greatly reduce the kind of slogs that were especially prevalent in games managed by Rick Renteria after the All-Star break.
Days before he published the article, he issued a self-deprecating teaser on Twitter:
These always register to me, these asides that regard an ingrained feature of my daily life for the last 13-plus years with an excitement befitting the retrieval of a raccoon that died under a deck (see also: Deadspin’s “Blight Sox” tag). In both cases, the subject did something that probably prompts an action, but the smell will go away if you ignore it long enough. Those who respond sooner get commendation and/or pity.
At any rate, I had a sense of what Petriello was talking about because I’d started poking at the same topic, so I took a stab.
Again, this is also fairly common. The first thing the White Sox generate from a third party is sympathy, and that’s if they evoke anything at all. As the wild success of the “2005 Happened” t-shirt shows, even the most cursory acknowledgments of existence aren’t a given.
The greater baseball world still finds the White Sox very easy to forget. For instance, take The Athletic’s annual MLB poll. I imagine the survey’s answers would look a little different if players really considered them, or were independently judged for their credibility. That said, it does give you an indication of who and what is front of mind.
Look only at the manager categories. The top answer to Question No. 7 …
Which manager (aside from your own) would you most want to play for?
Top result: Joe Maddon, Cubs (21.7%)
… was almost the top response to Question No. 8::
Which manager (aside from your own) would you least want to play for?
Top result: Gabe Kapler, Phillies (18.3%)
Runners-up: Joe Maddon (16.1%), Buck Showalter (7.5%), Mike Scioscia (6.5%)
Perhaps Maddon is indeed that divisive, and that’s part of a reason why the Cubs front office is laying his track out of town. But when you look at these lists, whether the topic is managers or players, the ones who attract support or derision are the ones who have made an impression, one way or another.
Between the two categories, 22 active managers were mentioned. Renteria was one of the eight to not receive a vote for either side.
He’s not alone in being stranded. The White Sox, whether individually or collectively, only surface once in the survey, and I’m not counting this:
15. City you most enjoy visiting on road trips?
Top result: Chicago (23.7%)
I’m counting this:
16. City you least enjoy visiting on road trips? […]
“When I say Chicago, I mean the White Sox. Chicago as a city is fine, the Cubs are fine.”
Even if you wanted to be charitable and first figure that Guaranteed Rate Field is a house of horrors for opponents, the White Sox’ record at home the last two years is 69-93.
No, this is where the White Sox are entering the 2019 season. They had a chance to blast back into relevance with a major free agent signing, but it wasn’t a price they were close to willing to pay. The Sox instead continue to abide by a more Puritan form of rebuilding, where immediate gratification is treated as sin, at least until its future expenses are capped. Just like 17th-century New England, the White Sox rebuild requires faith that thankless toil automatically converts into eternal reward somewhere down the line.
If you don’t believe in rebuilds by default — or at least one engineered by Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn — then your only choice is to Rambo your way out of it. When Petriello told me to “seek help,” the first thing that came to mind was a line from “First Blood: Part II”:
Granted, that might prove his point. Is following the White Sox in 2019 really like being double-crossed and left for dead behind enemy lines, with jungles, mountains and a triple-digit body count standing between you and freedom? I’m not saying it is. I’m also not positive it isn’t.
At least Eloy Jimenez is here. He has his work cut out for him as the lone significant difference between this year’s Opening Day roster and last year’s. He should be allowed time to get his sea legs, but at the same time, the White Sox’ most direct route to relevance goes right through him, so brace for the exhilarating tension between zealousness and zealotry.
He’ll also need help, and there are ways he can get it — Yoan Moncada and Lucas Giolito improving, Michael Kopech having a smoother Tommy John surgery rehabilitation than Zack Burdi, etc. The problem is that 2018 gave us a clearer idea of what this rebuild looks like when median projections become aspirational, and if Jimenez gets caught in that quicksand, anybody will tell you that ain’t good.
Fortunately, the AL Central is worse. The White Sox are by all mathematical accounts a 70-win team, FiveThirtyEight gives them a 5 percent chance of making the postseason, and yet two other divisional rivals project to be uglier. I’d call it ironic that the ennui enveloping American League teams from Cleveland to Kansas City is the most exciting thing the White Sox have going for them, but it’s more appropriate to call it fitting, because the White Sox have required a healthy dose of irony for quite some time.
Here’s hoping 2019 is the last of it. It should be the last of it. Nevertheless, remain vigilant against the worst-case scenario. It has a way of finding us. To paraphrase the wise words of one John Rambo, to survive bad baseball, you gotta become bad baseball.
Happy Opening Day!
Once more unto the breach, dear friends, once more
Good stuff. Love the new graphic by billyok, too!
Happy Opening Day everyone, and great article Jim.
I know I am not supposed to be excited after the ugly offseason, but I can’t help myself. There are so many what-ifs on this team, it’s hard for me not to dream.
I’m cautiously optimistic that this year will at least be watchable. A lot of things have to go right, but I’m always optimistic at the start of the year. Moncada is going to be a star- I think he takes several steps in that direction this year. We need someone to really surprise us this year, whether it’s one of our many below average players on the ML roster, or someone in the high minors who makes a big jump this year. Hope springs eternal!!
I’d also like to include witch burning from 17th century New England after this offseason’s front office failure.
This organization has perfected the art of remaining obscure through their own incompetence.
Hey, the original Rambo only had like, 1 or 2 people killed in it. Rambo 2 is when the series became the shirtless, roided up kill fest that most think of when they hear the name. So maybe the the Sox will experience an equally huge explosion in their win column as they move from their own personal First Blood to First Blood, Part II (which probably should’ve been called Second Blood, but that’s just me).
“When I say Chicago, I mean the White Sox. Chicago as a city is fine, the Cubs are fine.”
I call BS here. Visting Chicago to play on either side of town shouldn’t make much difference to a visiting player. The team is likely to be staying at the same downtown hotel and, if anything, the visiting accommodations at GRF are much likely better than at Wrigley. I’m guessing the player in question has a specific axe to grind with the Sox.
It’s a lot easier to enjoy the restaurants if you play a day game (where you get out and can head out for dinner) than if you play a night game (where you get done and kitchens are closed at most places)
But yeah, the visitors clubhouse at Wrigley was kinda legendarily awful. I think they ripped it out and have a new one now?
I also wouldn’t be surprised if it’s someone who knows nothing of the city, and thinks the south side is nothing but 24/7 gang violence from the lake to the city limits.
Rick Hahn starts off an interview with “It’s not all about the win totals….”
I always tell my college students that the path to good writing goes through bad writing. So as another season begins let’s keep in mind that the path to good baseball always proceeds through bad baseball, even if the current path that we are on is excruciatingly long and seemingly without end.
The exchange with Mike Petriello leads me to conclude that we do not pay you enough, Jim.
The Sox has a chance to win over a generation of fans if they made the postseason a few years in a row after 2005. That was their best chance at some momentum and sustainability in the city. Now with what the Cubs are doing, the Sox truly are irrelevant in so many ways.
The White Sox are DEAD LAST in playoff percentage rate, out of all 3 teams. They have made the playoffs less than 8% of their 118 year history. The Cubs are sitting in the middle of the pack at around 20%.
I live outside Chicago now, and I always get two responses when I say I’m a White Sox fan: “Why not the Cubs?” And “Oh yeah, I forgot Chicago had another team!”
The Sox have one of the worst-rated parks in the majors with the worst stadium name in sports with a company with the worst logo for sports. And a crap front office. Look at what the A’s, Twins, and other small market teams have been able to accomplish? The A’s are the best equivalent to the Sox, being the ugly step children in a 2-team area and what is rated as the only stadium worse than G-rate. But at least they make the playoffs to kee some momentum. When they get their new stadium (and the design looks gorgeous), they’ll be in much better shape.