All-Patreon All-Star Break: What does a successful/failed rebuild look like?

Today’s the last day of the All-Star break, and so it’s the last day of the All-Patreon All-Star Break. The first three installments:

  1. Could Dylan Covey be an opener?
  2. How is The Rebuild holding up?
  3. What are you watching in the second half? 

The last one is a doozy from Mark Hope:

It’s the offseason between the 2025 and 2026 MLB seasons. The rebuild has gone one of three ways:

1. Tremendous success – at least one World Series championship and several consecutive AL Central titles. It’s clear this team is one of if not the elite team of the 2020s. Several current prospects are consistent all-stars and one may even be an MVP.

2. Success – An AL Central title or two and a couple Wild Card game appearances. They’re a great team but clearly not in the top tier. Plenty of ASG appearances and even some sporadic MVP votes.

3. Failure – One or two Wild Card appearances and maybe an ALDS but it’s clear they aren’t the dominant team in the division let alone the league. Continued futility with ASG starters. Players they have traded or not re-signed have moved on to far more successful careers on other teams and most current prospects are competent if unspectacular players.

Under each of these scenarios what is the mindset of the fanbase and the organization? What does the media landscape look like and how is the franchise viewed regionally and nationally? Are we discussing large scale renovation of GRF, a new stadium somewhere in the Chicago region, or are we steeling ourselves against the prospect of the franchise moving to Las Vegas (or Portland, or Montreal, etc.)? Assume that the current ownership group is still in charge at this point.

Let’s start with the last one first, because it gives me a reason to shoot down fearmongering.

Failure

There’s no reason MLB would ever let Chicago drop down to one team. Not as long as there are 30 teams when it wants 32. Not as long as there are at least two other markets that aren’t drawing and can’t come to terms and financing on a new stadium.

A lot of the franchise’s value is tied in being in Chicago, which shows when you look at how the Rays have struggled. The Rays went to the postseason four times over the course of six years from 2008 through 2013, including an American League pennant, and they never drew even 1.9 million in a season. The White Sox topped 2 million fans in seven straight seasons starting in 2005, and they only made the postseason twice. If the state called the White Sox’ bluff and let them move to Tampa Bay in the late 1980s, Chicago would’ve been a prime place for expansion afterward.

Another example that isn’t in Florida: The Indians barely cracked 2 million a year in 2017, one year a 102-win season and a seven-game loss in the World Series. Just because the Sox haven’t been able to tap into built-in advantages doesn’t mean they lack them, and it’d be hard for a new franchise elsewhere to capture that kind of drawing potential.

The stadium issue could get ugly late next decade, but I think a lot can change between then and now – ownership, Chicago population movement, Chicago traffic movement, autonomous cars, etc. – where it feels a little flimsy to speculate. I don’t see it being a breaking point given bigger stadium issues elsewhere not forcing movement. (My bigger somewhat-neurotic fear is that Jerry Reinsdorf is once again an easily traceable source of ownership aggression in another labor stoppage in 2021, which makes it 1995 all over again.)

The White Sox are a 118-year-old team still in search of its first heyday. Nobody knows what attendance figures would be if they made the postseason two years in a row or three out of four. If the Sox moved for some reason, Major League Baseball wouldn’t want to cede the entire market to the Cubs because of diminishing returns. Even if Sox fans are a minority of the area’s population, that energy is still more valuable to the league when it’s invested in a second Chicago franchise.

(Plus, I might be the last Sox fan to ask about a move to Montreal, as it’s my second-favorite city and waaaaaaay closer to my house. Vive les Bas Blancs!)

Success

Mentioning the attendance bump from projectable, sustainable winning, I think non-championship success would be enough to reset the franchise, produce stars and get them drawing to where fan-shaming is no longer an issue. Consecutive postseason appearances are paramount.

The White Sox introduced a lot of their best fan-service initiatives – a get-in-the-park pricing tier, Family Sundays, the 1983 uniforms – after disappointing turnouts for big series in 2012. Of course, that was just in time for them to plummet in 2013. These things should’ve helped buoy attendance numbers, but they haven’t sniffed .500 since, so we haven’t seen their effects on gate numbers for a team with bankable momentum.

The one thing about this outcome is that it requires the Sox to avoid another widescale rebuild at the end of it. If they have a good five-year run and then have another three-year outage, it’d undo a lot of the goodwill. Ideally, the White Sox end up with an annual winning team like the Cardinals. What they want to avoid is an outcome like the Royals, where it takes longer than expected to come together, burns bright for two years and then fizzles out. Winning the World Series goes a long way to make it a success, but in a two-team market, the cost of falling off the map is greater.

Tremendous success

If the White Sox pull off a rebuild with a championship and a Cubs- or Astros-style sense of invincibility, then it’s Chicago’s Golden Age. I think the Cubs’ inherent advantages make it difficult to knock them out of the top spot, but the White Sox can be 1A since they have different strengths that would play up. I’d call them the Angels to the North Side’s Dodgers, but the Sox have the ingredients for their own (inter)national profile on the strength of the aesthetic alone. Go into a sports store in Europe or Asia and you’ll likely see way more Sox caps for sale than Cubs caps.

A successful team also makes it easier to negotiate a stadium. That’s great for us, but not great for the public good. A successful team that draws 2-3 million fans to 35th and Shields might take the suburbs out of play, although again, who knows what the hot spots will look like around 2030.

Ultimately, I’d call the rebuild an unqualified success if it falls somewhere between these two outcomes. A World Series title should be the goal, obviously, but it’s not the end-all-be-all for this rebuild. The 2005 team is the stuff of (local) legend, so the effects of a Royals-like single title in a short run are diminished.

What the 2005 team didn’t accomplish was giving Sox fans a team whose chances they liked over the greater part of a decade. That’s new ground for this franchise, and that’s where the greater value is. If it happens to win a World Series, terrific. For the time being, their regular presence in postseasons will make it harder to forget about the title they already won.

Thanks to Mark and 180something others for their support of Sox Machine, especially during a season like this. If you’d like to support Sox Machine, sign up here.

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Jim Margalus

Writing about the White Sox for a 16th season, first here, then at South Side Sox, and now here again. Let’s talk curling.

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Anohito

Be the first team to go to back to back postseasons in franchise history and that should be good enough. We’ve already seen enough bad history, let’s see some good history damn it! And of course World Series would be great.

vanillablue

I gotta say that “failure” still seems like the most likely scenario here. The Cubs and Astros succeeded through completely rebuilding their organization in all phases. I don’t think the Sox have done that, nor will they – they simply aren’t an organization that would ever clean house and bring in outside people to start over. Collecting prospects is nice, but would the Sox ever turn over the keys to an Epstein or Luhnow (or Zaidi)? Intentionally tanking should yield a lot more than a few brief playoff appearances like the Pirates, but it’s hard to see anything more than that with an organization that really has not had sustained success over the past 20 years and is keeping the same people in place.

lil jimmy

2026
Starting next summer, the Sox are prepared to participate fully in the International signing period. We look to draft early again next year.
By 2026 the ownership will be recomposed with Reinsdorf gone. Replaced by the Wirtz family.
A new stadium will be announced near the United Center. 43,000 plus seats, with an open Center field view of the Skyline. 70 Boxes, double decks in Right and Left. The upper deck will start where the Club seats start now.
The new location so much easier to get to for Fans North and West (like me) as well visitors staying in the downtown hotels. That Stadium will open in 2029
It will be glorious!

Josh Nelson

West Loop is expanding so quickly that the Reinsdorf family better buy the land now before it gets scooped up.

lil jimmy

Wirtz owns half the city. They are the largest property owners in Chicago. I am sure they have standing offers to anything close by there already. Or already own and rent.

dwjm3

Are you just speculating for the fun of it or is there a rumor out there that they would have interest in building a stadium that direction?

lil jimmy

Well informed speculation.
1) The lease on the Cell allows dropping the improvement clause in 2027.
2) Jerry and Rocky co-own the United Center.
3) The Lots are in place and Wirtz owns other surrounding property.
4) The city does not want them heading to the burbs. They will play ball.
5) Wirtz sees what’s happening in Wrigley and would follow that game plan.
6) Perfect location.
7) El’s on either side, all three expressways lead there.
8) Everyone makes money

KenWo4LiFe

Screw you north and west side losers. Getting to the UC is a pain in the ass from Tinley Park. And I’m concinved 60 percent of the fan base is in Tinley, orland and oak forest. So to hell with the rest! 

Trooper Galactus

That settles it. I vote they move to the UC.

lil jimmy

I have no idea where Oak Forest is. So blow me.

WBWSF

I’m told that there are 3 groups of people who want to buy the white Sox. One of them is the Wirtz family. I wish it would happen as soon as possible. I hope to live to see the day when there is a White Sox stadium near the United Center.

dwjm3

Interesting…They would certainly be an upgrade from Jerry.

Marty34

I know the Pritzker’s were extremely interested in buying an out of town team a few years back and suddenly backed out. Speculation was that Selig / Reinsdorf told them that they want local buyers for teams.

Josh Nelson

Who are the other two?

Blow my Gload

I’m potentially definitely not not one of the other buyers.
Maybe.

WBWSF

Andrew Berlin still wants to own a MLB team and the other person owns a Coca Cola bottling plant in the Chicagoland area. (I didn’t retain the name of the person)

Lurker Laura

Sounds fabulous, but I admit, I will miss the South Side.

David I

I would LOVE for the Sox to get a downtown stadium or one in a location like you mention.  It’s sad they couldn’t snag the land on Roosevelt and Clark that has been empty for ages and was offered to the Sox for a new stadium in the late 80s.  That would have made it right near the loop and Grant Park, making it walkable from Olgilvie and downtown.  

Even though I lived in Addison, I’d hate to see the Sox become a suburban team.  Having a PNC-like downtown stadium with a skyline view is the best way for sustained Sox success in terms of attendance numbers.  It’s all about the neighborhood hangout and ease of access.  Tourists downtown would drop by for a game, etc.  

I’m dying to see a new stadium and the beginning of an unstoppable Sox brand in my lifetime.

NateDPT12

“The White Sox are a 118-year-old team still in search of its first heyday.”  

Ugh, you really know how to twist the dagger, Jim.

It’s an amazing testament to what’s happened the last 10 years that you guys are legitimately pinning for the Wirtz family to buy the Sox.

lil jimmy

I’ve met Rocky, his dad, and his dad’s dad. Rocky is the best by a mile.
Also, not pinning, predicting.

Marty34

It’s more like 35+ years . . .

itaita

Stadium will not be an issue for location. It will be a floating hoverdome that will cruise around the south side to offer quicker transport for people across the area on a set rotation. Think of the stadium from Super Baseball 2020 but floating a few hundred feet off the ground.

The controversy comes from its offseason home floating around the north side loudly blaring classic Hawk calls with several logo spotlights shining onto the ground and rerunning the Sox sweep over the Cubs in the 2024 WS.

dwjm3

Will every restaurant be Taco Bell in this version of the future you are presenting?

Trooper Galactus

Fuck the Verbal Morality Code!

dwjm3

hahaha

karkovice squad

In Europe they’ll all be Pizza Hut.

Just kidding. They’ll all be combination Pizza Hut and Taco Bells.

Gutteridge70

Several time in my lifetime the in the late 60’s to late 80’s mlb actively wanted the Sox out of Chicago to Milwaukee, Seattle and Tampa… on all those occasions the team was near bankruptcy. Fortunately for Jerry he did not move the team to Florida. As bad as the Sox have been, Forbes rated them the 14th most valuable franchise in the MLB. This is due to the fact they are a Chicago team. A few winning seasons would move the franchise into the top 7. I am not a Reinsdorf hater but if the team is sold the Witz family would be my top choice. Also I suspect that if the new stadium had been build in Addison like the Jerry wanted, would want to move the team back into the city just the like the kickie ball team that moved to Bridgeport and has regretted it ever since. In regard to the Reinsdorf group the failure to move to Tampa and build the new stadium in Addison have been a blessing to them .

Gutteridge70

sorry Bridgeview … Big Difference

35Shields

I really hope the Sox aren’t looking to get a new stadium in the 2020s. I feel cheated that I missed out on Old Comiskey and I think it’d be similarly lame to abandon the site of the ’05 WS, Buehrle’s Perfect Game, Frank’s 400th, etc.

If the do get a new stadium, I hope it’s still in Armour Square. I think it’s cool that the Sox have been in their neighborhood longer than any other American sports team.

Shingos Cheeseburgers

Thanks for answering my question!

My forecast is we see a period of success like the 2000s, minus the WS plus a couple of other playoff appearances. I also wholly expect them to be playing in a new stadium in either NW Indiana or the far southwestern suburbs by the end of the decade after a new owner fails to get the city or county to pony up public funds for a new stadium. 

I’d also be fine with them moving to Montreal as the Expos were my first love and Youppi! rules. 

KenWo4LiFe

I think we are a little ahead of ourselves calling an Alds and a wild card a failure. I’ll be happy if we can win 85 games.