The White Sox finally got serious, and just in time for baseball to become anything but.
Three years of intentional losing, amassing prospects and draft capital, manipulating service time to extend team control, resisting significant free-agent signings until no productive season could be wasted on a poor projection. The White Sox staged all of this in order to carefully assemble a roster that could go to battle for several seasons with only minor tweaks needed in between.
If only Major League Baseball were half as deliberate.
The league waited until hours before the first game of the season to establish how many teams could make the postseason (it was 10, now it’s 16). One of its 30 teams still has no idea where it’s going to play its home games, if it plays any home games (Update: They now have a where, but not yet a when). One of its biggest stars missed the first game of the season because of a positive COVID-19 test, then took multiple other tests that didn’t count toward reinstatement because MLB teams have the resources to attempt to allay their own fears.
The White Sox did not build their team for this world. In fact, in a league where 53 percent of the teams can make the postseason and only three seasons would have required every October participant to have a winning record, the White Sox’s scorched-earth rebuild now looks like overkill, as though they sewed a tuxedo by hand when the invitation now only requests “no jeans, please.” And look, If the Royals sneak in with an ironed pair of black Wranglers, nobody’s going to give them the boot.
LISTEN: Sox Machine Podcast: 2020 Opening Day
RANKED: The 30 most essential 2020 White Sox | The 29 next-most essential 2020 White Sox
That should mean the Sox are adequately equipped for a season like this, but their attempt to #ChangeTheGame might be hard to distinguish from a game that’s making it up as it goes along. The league is rushing into a season after a summer training camp in which they mostly played against themselves, and even intersquad exhibition games didn’t require three outs in an inning. MLB finally has to confront the national anthem debate after years of demographic dodging. The fans are cardboard, so at least they won’t be able to boo.
Baseball shouldn’t be impervious to 2020’s stresses, and it was dumb to pretend that it should somehow be able to rise above it (those knocking baseball’s infighting to get a season off the ground are now fretting about the NFL’s attempts to avoid paying players everything they’re owed). Now that the season’s here, Opening Day feels a little bit like opening Pandora’s box, and I’m trying not to assume the ways these forces will most likely manifest themselves.
Let’s think about Rick Renteria. I’m more inclined to overlook his tactical shortcomings and instead notice the job he did maintaining standards for a team that was talent-short on purpose. Entering 2020, his lineup looks largely bunt-proof, his bullpen has an array of fallback plans, and the front office has invested in veterans who are touted for their talent, rather than vague leadership attributes. After four years of managing teams designed to acquire high draft picks, I feel generally bullish about his ability to steer the team toward wins, or at least not get in the way.
But can he and his staff successfully enforce public health guidelines? Judging by Don Cooper’s unwillingness to let the mask stay over his nose and mouth for longer than 30 seconds, probably not. But hey, even George Washington struggled to get his troops to dig latrines far enough away from camp so dysentery wouldn’t run rampant, so I’m not expecting Renteria to ace his first test as the club’s newly appointed hygiene director. I’m going to grade him on the rebuilding curve, where it’s not his fault if he’s given a task he’s not equipped for. Failure just can’t be for a lack of caring.
This is the backdrop for a season that probably shouldn’t be happening, so it’s fitting that the results can be viewed like those of a rapid antigen test. The positives are likely positive, especially if they’re provided by the expected sources. Negatives are going to need corroboration from a more rigorous, time-intensive exploration before plotting future courses of action. If Yoán Moncada throws down another 6-WAR performance (prorated, of course), that’s great. If his delayed start foreshadows a mediocre season, that’s 2020, baby. Watch it and weep.
I’ve negotiated the cognitive dissonance about this season by being happy that the guys on the ground will get a chance to try. Most of them have a limited chance to make the most of what they’ve got, and all of them are at least verbally respecting the threat of COVID-19. Will they have the discipline to pull it off? Even if they do, will it matter? Best-laid plans have been set ablaze all year long by forces beyond individual control, and the White Sox won’t be immune.
All they can do is care, and try. That’s not a hashtag Tim Anderson will wear on photo shoots, but it has resonance to me when realizing the White Sox are actually talented this time. For years, trying is all the White Sox had, and consequently, all the White Sox were. In a year where everything is trying, this would be a great time for Renteria’s emphasis on effort to finally pay off.
(Photo by Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire)
It’s Opening Day! I’m so excited for this season to get started. I don’t know if it will finish, though I’m very optimistic it will. And I don’t really concern myself with the fact that there are no fans and that 53 percent of the teams will make the playoffs. It’s White Sox baseball! We get to watch Eloy and Yoan and Timmy and Robert and Giolito and Grandal… I’m going to enjoy it until the season ends, one way or another.
Longest. Offseason. EVER.
I’m super excited with baited (& masked) breath.
Let’s hope the latrines don’t assplode.
As latrine disasters go, it could be worse
Erfurt latrine disaster
In 1991, a few days before the park opened, every person in the building was assigned to a washroom with walky-talkys at 1:00 PM. On command, we flushed every toilet we could for 60 seconds. Kinda fun.
Since Jim has already nodded towards the excremental turn in history, now’s as good a time as any to point out that the major figure in nineteenth-century public health was the uncle of the man who pioneered baseball statistics. (A relationship discussed in this fine book.)
Good luck and good health to all as MLB decides to play ball.
Actually Talented This Time — book the billboards!
Have you ever been positive without a laundry-list of qualifiers, Jim? Today probably isn’t the day, but you should try it some time!
These are a few of my favorite things
On the Score just now, Laurence Holmes spoke to Rick Hahn, and
Dan Bernstein talked to the Trib Writer who did “The Top 20 Beef Sandwiches”.
I’ve had six, and got some good tips!
That’s a very large lunch.
How’s the old saying go? “Feed a cold, starve a flu, and if you even slightly suspect you have COVID1-19 entombed that sucker in a gastric compost heap of finely shredded, we’ll seasoned beef.”
As someone who currently is running a fever — prob not Covid based on symtoms, but still scary — I like this old saying. I could kind of go for a sandwich and a Sox win right now actually.
One of the lousy things about this pandemic is how every little cough or ache or slight uptick in temperature gives one pause. Things you wouldn’t have thought twice about a year ago now make you stop and wonder. Stay safe!
Michael Kopech’s wife is pregnant, so there’s the rest of that puzzle, probably.
Great news all the way around. If it’s a boy, they can name him Tommy John Kopech. Corona Kopech if it’s a girl.
Hopefully Coop can get some sleep now.
I like the idea of Coop as an anonymous source in US Weekly, and that’s why Kopech kept it quiet.