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Back on Sept. 5, Lance Lynn struck out 11 Seattle Mariners over seven innings in a 3-2 White Sox winner, and his reconfigured curveball helped him run up that particular tally. The Mariners whiffed on six of nine swings, the second consecutive start in which anybody trying to connect with Lynn’s now-sweeping breaker failed, and failed hard.
I wrote about that curveball, showing the shifts in the data and compiling video reels showing the difference, and it was one of the few times during the 2022 that I felt edification sifting through that stuff. Just about every other investigation this season sought to understand why a player was struggling, or how an injury manifested itself in performance, so it was refreshing to see a player improve and evolve.
Still, it didn’t matter.
After throwing a season-high 20 curveballs against the Mariners, Lynn threw 5, 9, 11, 7, and 7 in his five starts the rest of the way. It got 0, 0, 2, 0 and 0 whiffs each time out. It made a difference for a couple evenings, but then it stopped being a significant factor.
That more or less summed up the experience of writing and talking about the 2022 White Sox as a whole. Any genuine enjoyment evaporated in short order, replaced by an endless discussion over how much of the roster is physically compromised.
Another example: The AJ Pollock trade, which appeared to salvage the White Sox’s questionable decision to exerciser Craig Kimbrel’s option. His Opening Day ended with him with him botching a difficult-but-catchable fly in right to lose the game. The next day, he pulled a hamstring. The White Sox placed him on the injured list, but they opted against a rehab stint because they wanted his bat in the lineup as quickly as possible, and he ended up posting a .413 OPS over the next three weeks while being a member of the Gang That Can’t Run Hard.
When the Sox landed Pollock, I accounted for the possibility of disappointment, or else he wouldn’t have been available for Kimbrel. I just figured that any shortage of production would stem from being out of the lineup, as he was good for missing a month or two in each season. After the early-April hamstring issue, Pollock stayed playable the rest of the way, but the abundance of his middling production resulted in the worst possible outcome both in terms of finances (his player option grew by $3 million because he topped 500 plate appearances) and entertainment (0.6 WAR by either measure).
Then there’s Leury García, whose season effectively came to a merciful end when Tony La Russa’s came to a cruel one. Miguel Cairo saw what La Russa couldn’t — that García wasn’t up to the near-regular responsibilities La Russa foisted upon his favorite — but by that point, it was too late to matter.
There was never a point in caring about this team, because everything public-facing about them reflected complacency. Rick Hahn didn’t improve the team during the offseason, settling for utility guys and relievers until the 11th-hour additions of Pollock and Johnny Cueto. After the games started counting, nobody on the field or the dugout reflected any particular urgency to right a listing ship. When players didn’t hustle when hustling would’ve made a difference, when regulars were rested an inordinate amount, when a roster was multiple players short because of a reluctance to use the injured list, when relievers were spared consecutive days and the lesser choices lost the game, there was a faith that the organization’s supposed edge in “talent” would win the day.
Then it’s October, the White Sox are trailing the Guardians by double digits, and Lucas Giolito is fully realizing that everybody wasted the last year of José Abreu’s White Sox career.
The White Sox were run into the ground by a Guardians team that didn’t see a point in bolstering the roster over the winter. The Baltimore Orioles also held off on meaningful additions as they waited for a bigger opening in baseball’s toughest division, and they finished with a better record than the White Sox. Spotrac says the White Sox’s total payroll commitment for 2022 was $208.3 million. The Guardians and Orioles, owners of the third-and second-lowest payrolls in baseball, spent $147 million combined.
If it feels bleak, it’s because it is. The hope was that a record payroll would compensate for what the Hahn front office has lacked in problem-solving ability, but it turns out he’s bad at spending, too. Now he’s faced with having to cut costs, so that puts a premium on talent evaluation that has been uniquely terrible for more than a decade. With Hahn and Kenny Williams insulated from anything approaching accountability, everybody and everything is stuck until proven otherwise.
Fortunately, you’ve stuck by Sox Machine. Despite the utterly uninspiring product — or maybe because misery loves company — we set new highs in membership, readership and listenership. We sure would’ve appreciated the rocket fuel a successful rebuild brings, but we’ll take progress in the absence of it everywhere else.
None of that is taken for granted, because a season like this one forces everybody to reconsider where they’re spending their time and treasure. I’ve certainly asked that question of myself — not because I’ve considered quitting, but because I want Sox Machine to accurately reflect the state of things while being worth visiting, lest I overestimate the market share and tolerance of the Discerning Sadsack.
Thanks to everybody who supports Sox Machine, whether it takes the form of Patreon contributions, sharing our work with friends and family, or making the discussions a great marketplace of ideas. If you do support our Patreon, sign up for our Town Hall event on Oct. 25, where we’ll talk about 2022, share our goals for the 2023 season and answer questions you have along the way.
Thanks to Josh, Patrick, Ted, Greg and Bennett for their help in helping providing posts and podcasts for daily reading and listening throughout the season, and thanks to the FutureSox crew for providing their robust coverage of the farm system underneath our umbrella.
Also, thanks to Laurence Holmes and Dan Bernstein at 670 The Score for inviting Josh and I to be featured weekly guests throughout the season. Both of us will be on the Bernstein and Holmes Show at 11 a.m. today for a super-sized segment, a grand finale for a decidedly un-grand season.
If you just started visiting Sox Machine this year, there’s no reason to stop now (unless it’s for your own well being). We’ll still be writing about the White Sox every day here, first by dissecting the 2022 season. In a couple of weeks, we’ll unfurl the Offseason Plan Project, which might be the most dramatic and varied one yet. I look forward to your ambition or your resignation, both of which are sure to be creatively stated because all of us have plenty of practice in voicing our frustration in new and exciting ways.