Dormant deadline another self-imposed failure for White Sox to overcome

The danger in writing a headline that says “can’t” is that sometimes the subject might take it as a challenge.

On Tuesday morning, I wrote that Jake Diekman can’t be the White Sox’s only trade deadline deal, and by Tuesday evening, Rick Hahn begged to differ with his actions.

At least his words were different

“I’m a little sleep deprived and I’m in a crap mood,” Hahn said. “We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to do more to improve this club. I think you saw a year ago at this time, you’ve seen it for the last several years, arguably the last couple of decades that it’s our nature to try to improve this club at any opportunity we have. And unfortunately we weren’t able to line up on some of our other potential targets. Anyone out there who is feeling a level of frustration or disappointment, I’m there with you.”

… but it’s hard to take Hahn’s pivot to empathy seriously, given that he’s spent most of the last few years striking a confrontational tone with a fan base that dares to desire more.

Regardless of the history, he can’t be “there with us” here because he’s the only party with agency here. There’s no way for me to call up the Arizona Diamondbacks and try to acquire David Peralta on Hahn’s behalf, even though I’d be reasonably well-equipped to do so (I don’t mean to brag, but my printer has a fax function).

It’s entirely on Hahn and his cohorts in the front office, and their inactivity at the deadline reflects a failure at some level(s). Perhaps it’s true that there was no move that required an overpay. If that’s the case, then, sure, no deal is preferable to a terrible one. But if Hahn was surprised by how strongly the market favored sellers, then he failed to assess it correctly. Or he failed to develop a farm deep enough to produce enough players other teams want. Or he failed by hoping the deadline would offer solutions that were more plentiful during the winter.

In the end, a lack of moves is further evidence that “flexibility” is a scam. The smaller, moderate moves never lead to a more decisive action, or more resounding solutions. Instead, the Sox have spent five of the last six acquisition periods making relievers their priority.

2020 draft: Selected Garrett Crochet with the express purpose of fast-tracking him to the bullpen.

2020-21 offseason: Made Liam Hendriks their highest-paid acquisition (although Lance Lynn drew even after his extension).

2021 trade deadline: Swung separate deals with the Cubs for Ryan Tepera and Craig Kimbrel.

2021-22 offseason: Picked up Kimbrel’s option and invested the most money in Kendall Graveman and Joe Kelly.

2022 trade deadline: Acquired Diekman as the lone move.

(The lone exception was the pandemic-tainted trade deadline at the end of August in 2020, when Rick Renteria wanted a starting pitcher and Hahn only brought back Jarrod Dyson.)

There’s reason to believe the White Sox still have enough talent to win the Central, especially if Luis Robert and Eloy Jiménez can ever produce at the same time.

There’s also reason to believe they won’t be able to get out of their own way. Take Gavin Sheets, who hit his 20th career homer in his 128th career game on Monday night. That would normally be a success story for a farm system, except then Sheets yielded a double because he’s an armoire playing right field, which is why his WAR has been underwater the whole year.

Poor defense is one of a few problems plaguing the White Sox the whole season, yet they remain with striking distance of first place. They posted a convincing winning record in July. Given them a couple months, they might be able to win the division by five games.

But the problem is that the Twins made legitimate moves to address their shortcomings. They needed at least one starter, and so they acquired Tyler Mahle from the Reds. They needed multiple medium-leverage-or-better relievers, and they acquired Jorge Lopez from the Orioles and Michael Fulmer from Detroit. The haul required eight prospects, and only one of them was a Day 1 draft pick.

There’s a chance that these moves may not pan out in the way the Twins hoped, but Derek Falvey and Thad Levine were able to patch holes with impact options. They didn’t have Hahn’s problems adding, and now there’s just as real a chance that the gap in action decides the division.

As a White Sox fan — and as a business owner who makes more money when the Sox make the postseason — I’d rather see the Sox prevail. But it’s hard not to be curious about what the landscape looks like in a world where the Sox miss out on October, just because it would be such a profound failure that heads would have to roll … right?

Or wrong. After all, Jerry Reinsdorf didn’t have the appetite to make sweeping changes to the leadership structure when Ozzie Guillen tried to overthrow Kenny Williams in 2011. He refused to make an overhaul when the first rebuild collapsed due to an inadequate roster and multiple embarrassing soap operas in 2016.

Given this track record, I’d rather not be put in a position where we have to rely on Reinsdorf realizing his leaders suck at leading, because there’s no evidence that he notices or cares. Hahn hinted at a greater accountability if these Sox fall short, but he also made it so wide-ranging that it deflects the blame off any specific party

“There’s nobody in this building that is satisfied right now, and how we get to where we need to be will be a group effort, and if in the end it doesn’t work, in my opinion, there should be group accountability,” Hahn said. “Is there anything the manager and coaches can do to make this team better? Sure. Everyone. Everyone is involved in trying to make this team better, and if we fail to get to the ultimate level we feel is appropriate for this team’s talent, all of us, myself included, should be held accountable.”

… and that’s too characteristic of how the White Sox operate to inspire any faith. The Reinsdorf-Williams-Hahn hierarchy serves the same purpose of a chimney, where the undesirable heat gets channeled upward until it disperses harmlessly at the top.

There might be some catharsis and cleansing if the standings truly reflect the inadequacy of this team, but there’s also a chance that Frank Menechino is the only one fired. I’d rather take my chances with this team winning the division, as wounded as their prospects might be afterward. Somehow, this team is so unlikeable that we’re discussing a postseason appearance as the lesser of two evils.

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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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Josh Nelson

I would like to know what Rick Hahn and Tony La Russa think “accountability” means.

Facing the media to answer questions about your lack of ability is not begin held accountable. Losing your job because of your inability to meet expectations is being held accountable.

calcetinesblancos

Yeah it’s clearly just a word to them.

Torpedo Jones

They could potentially be held accountable, but only if they don’t meet the specific goals ownership has set forth. In this case, I suspect there’s no accountability to be had because Jerry presumably didn’t want to spend extra money at this stage. He got to bring back his buddy TLR post-rebuild and the team is reasonably competitive. I assume those are the actual goals Jerry set. In that sense, Hahn’s only negative feedback come review time might be that he’s spending a bit more than Jerry likes on underperforming assets. But I’d guess this truly meets Jerry’s expectations. A deep postseason run would simply be a cherry on top for Jerry.

This is the pain we feel as Sox fans – it doesn’t seem like ownership truly cares about winning, but rather about finding the appropriate balance to make the most money on the team. The disconnect is what we as fans want and what Jerry wants. Sure, he’d like to win another title, but he’s not going to truly go all-in to do so. We, as fans who truly love this team, would clean house on The Renisdorf Bunch because they can’t deliver the on-field success we want. Jerry would likely only have an issue with Hahn if he delivered an ultimatum about TLR being fired or if the team underperformed so miserably that they missed the revenue target.

While they are businesses at their core, sports mean so much more than that. With an owner who cares far more about the business than the achievement of building a championship team, we’re screwed until Jerry is no longer in charge. Our only hope is a “lightning in a bottle” situation.

Last edited 7 days ago by Torpedo Jones
Gus

The one thing we could do is stop going to games. Which I successfully did in the first half, but with them creeping back into this thing it has been increasingly difficult.

calcetinesblancos

Good take; Hahn is giving off the same vibe as many of the Chicago aldermen who whine to their constituents about how much they hate things the mayor is doing while conveniently ignoring that they are the check on that power.

“…it’s our nature to try to improve this club at any opportunity we have.”

Yeah, besides signing the best free agents. Minor detail you omitted there Rick. It’s also comical to see that the team currently seems hamstrung by all the pre-arb extensions given out, among other things. What a mess.

To Err is Herrmann

To borrow a term from existential philosophy, I believe Jerry Reinsdorf and Rick Hahn act in bad faith. There is nothing sincere or genuine about them. I really think the only hope for this franchise is the sale of the team to a new owner. I am lowering my expectations and will just enjoy that there is baseball on the Earth and that there is still a White Sox team on the South Side to follow. But the window of contention is closed as long as we have this “leadership” group in charge. They are not serious about winning.

To Err is Herrmann

P.S. — I would like to add that no matter how the White Sox are doing, it is a real pleasure to read the work of Jim Margalus and listen to Josh and Jim talk White Sox baseball. SoxMachine is my favorite place on the Interwebs, and we are all very lucky to have this team of writers and thinkers to enjoy day in and day out.

a-t

on the flip side: if they do win the division, pointing and laughing at the twins will be 3x funnier

Torpedo Jones

I thought of that, too. The Sox still have a real chance of winning the division. While I would embrace that slice of joy, my cold heart would also celebrate the Twins trading like crazy to miss the postseason.

Though I would still respect that they really went for it, unlike our generally risk-averse front office.

knoxfire30

I remember when they hired Menechino and you almost couldn’t have written a parody of quotes that were given that could of been worse, dude came in and basically said swing at everything, obp is for losers, and homers meh who cares

The entire staff and front office should be gone I would say minus Katz.

Rick Hahn already proved what a massive loser he was not being able to field a competent roster with 4 or 5 stud players signed to very little money. The reward, getting to go thru a total gut rebuild, only to wind up possibly in a worse long term position. Just remarkable the job security that exists under reinsdorf. Its approaching gar/pax hilarity at this point.

patrick

Everybody wants to see the home run and see (Nick) Madrigal hit a home run. I don’t want to get excited, but f— the home run. Let’s hit .300. Then we will worry about the other stuff later.

Of course they also aren’t hitting .300…

GrabSomeBench

I would have preferred to hear the truth in the statement by Hahn. Something like:

I know that fans don’t care if I say I’m a little sleep deprived and I’m in a crap mood. After all, most people are in a crap mood if they’ve watched this pile of excrement that I assembled as a team. We’re supposed to say we’re disappointed that we weren’t able to do more to improve this club. However, we took a chance several years ago by backloading contracts. Most fans don’t realize it but we are paying Moncada 13 million this year and 17 next year to loaf when he hits the ball, which isn’t often. He’s not the only one. When Anderson isn’t picking fights with players on other teams, he’s arguing balls and strikes and hitting umps with his helmet like a moron. We realize now that his fielding last year was a mirage. He sucks at short and we see it every day. He doesn’t play like Jackie it’s more like Jacqueline. You can tell I’m upset with this group of goofballs led by Sleepy in the dugout. Ultimately, we thought we could get by without improving second and right field. We were wrong so I’m not going to tell you the same BS about how it is our nature to improve the club at any opportunity. You are too smart and know I’m pulling your chain. I should be fired along with Sleepy but will probably blame Frank Menchinio or perhaps Hawk Harrelson who told us years ago that it doesn’t matter what kind of lineup you have or what your rotation is if you don’t have a lock down bullpen. That’s really the reason we’ve followed this idiotic course of building a team to lose.

asinwreck

The past couple of years of being a White Sox fan is the first time I’ve had to imagine what it was like to be a Philadelphia A’s fan circa 1948. Except now, the role of Connie Mack is divided between Reinsdorf and La Russa, and the old men have sycophants doing (or failing to do) the work of the front office.

Mack’s kids eventually convinced the old man to retire. Doubt the Reinsdorf kids can convince their enfeebled father to do the same, and we’ll only see substantive changes when he stops breathing.

soxfan

I’m getting strong “Bulls-post-bench-mob” vibes about the Sox these days. The Hahn quotes about flexibility and liking our team and wanting to deal but not being able to and losing out on free agents by misallocating resources are all themes that played heavily on Blog-a-Bull in the GarPax days (and still get some play despite the change to AKME). Obviously Reinsdorf is the common denominator with both teams (and in the Bulls’ case both front offices), so there’s probably something to it.

All that said, it’s not like any of us can/should be surprised by trends that have been obvious for at least 20 years. This is the team, for better or worse, that we’ve chosen to root for.

asinwreck

If only the White Sox hosted the All-Star Game this year so fans could adapt the “Fire GarPax” chants of February 2020 to another national audience.

BenwithVen

What I got from his song and dance was that no one wants our prospects with the exception of like Montgomery, Colas, Vera and maybe Ramos. This is what organizational failure looks like.

Last edited 7 days ago by BenwithVen
MrStealYoBase

The decision-makers have the imagination of a toad. There’s never an outside-the-box solution explored. Fixable problems are left to fester for *years*. Inaction and indecision rule the day.

I know there are intelligent people in the front office, but their collective actions speaks to a total lack of creativity, problem solving, quick thinking, and vision. The organizational structure just seems to suck all of these qualities out of their work.

patrick

I remember post-Crede when 3B was a black hole that they did their utter best to patch with nonsense. And then they found Moncada, who now kind of sucks. RF is about the same, nonsense after nonsense. All of this is millions of dollars in bad money, when they could have just spent almost the same amount on someone that has actually used a baseball bat before.

calcetinesblancos

I always remember how Fields looked promising, or at the very least had legit power and could man the position well, and then right as he looked ready to take the next step they tendered Crede a contract and failed to trade him. So they kept Crede and iced Fields down at AAA lol. Typical Sox horseshit.

Qubort

I think the major failure is the lack of depth in the farm system. When the Sox traded Dane Dunning, even his biggest supporters viewed it as reasonable because there was still Cease, Kopech, Lopez, Lambert, etc that might replace him. The risk that Dunning would become a front of the line starter was tolerable because the Sox still had more rolls of the dice with their depth.

Now if a team wanted Colas, Montgomery, or Sosa, it’d feel like the Sox traded away they’re only chance at a budding star.

upnorthsox

Sox pickup a Tobias Meyers, SP. He had been ok as a Rays prospect but fell off a cliff this yr in the Guardians system. We’ll see I guess but considering the staff in Charlotte, we have our new staff Ace.

Greg Nix

I still remember when the White Sox traded for Charles Johnson. I was so excited to be a Sox fan. This year was a chance to entrench the next generation of fans and they’ve blown it in every conceivable way.

joewho112

I remember when they signed Albert Belle to the largest deal in the league.

ParisSox

I think Hahn will resign if they miss the playoffs. The rumor was that Hahn wanted to resign when he couldn’t hire his manager. Don’t know how true that is, but if they miss the playoffs, I’m guessing everyone remains in place except Menechino. and then Hahn resigns.

Gus

The only scenario I see TLR getting fired results in the aforementioned Ozzie Guillen coming back. Which I would hate because of what you described in 2011.

lifelongjd

When I look at the Sox organization, I see nothing but redundancy. From the big league ball club having 4 first baseman (with 2 playing “armoire” outfield, seriously they made me laugh) and 37 RH relievers, to a minor league system with middle IF and corner outfielders. Rick Hahn talking about flexibility is like TLR opining about Tik Tok.

Hahn has himself totally painted into a corner and it’s his own damn fault. His payroll is bloated on redundant players at positions that can usually be covered by cheaper options. Having a $30-40m bullpen is pure lunacy when it’s such a crapshoot. He’s got a high priced catcher who can’t catch and should be playing first, which is being manned by their best player. Combined these two are making $35m and are blocking the Sox two best young hitters (Sheets and Vaughn) at their natural position. He then has a LF made out of glass who should DH but can’t because of the 4 guys I just mentioned who need to use that spot. Meanwhile he has 3 (!) high priced RH relievers that have been successfully used in succession once, I believe.

Make it stop. I need a drink

calcetinesblancos

It made me think of the armoire in Beauty and the Beast lol.

hitlesswonder

I think the lack of deals was pretty predictable and actually the best possible outcome given the Sox self-imposed constraints.

Just as the Sox are unwilling to sign long-term contracts, they are unwilling to acquire bad money deals (even short-term) as compensation in trading for a useful player. They aren’t going to trade off the major league roster because they have no depth to back fill from. They have essentially no minor leaguers anyone wants outside of 1.5 prospects that they would be loathe to trade.

Moreover, I don’t think Peralta was on their radar because they already see Sheets as that player.

To sum up, the Sox organizational philosophy and lousy minor league system really limits what they can do. It’s natural that flowchart almost invariably leads to the “acquire a reliever” box.

inkyjinx

part of me wants to believe Jerry is so old school that he sees paying a player 35/mil a year is absurd, as they’re playing baseball. and that the decade long contract rarely looks pretty in the 2nd half of it.

most of me thinks he’s just cheap.

but there’s enough of me to think that the talent evaluators are just not very good.

then I realize it’s all that plus bad coaching. ugh.

soxygen

Hahn talked to Merkin about how the team isn’t playing with swagger, a winning attitude, a chip on their shoulder, etc. in the same way that they were back in “twenty twenty ish.” But Hahn had the power to do something at the trade deadline to change that dynamic and he didn’t do it. So, we’re just left to hope that the boys rediscover that swagger on their own.

I’d rather have a front office that conveys a sense of urgency about improving the on-field product, but such is not the fate of a Sox fan.

upnorthsox

This would have been more effective 3-4 weeks ago with the addendum of if he doesn’t see improvement he would use the trade deadline to rectify the issue.

soxygen

Right. The only ways to actively fix the attitude on the team are to shake up the roster or fire the manager. So, you know, do one or the other and stop talking about how you wish you had been able to do something while we all spend our time and money watching this team not run hard to first base.

As is demonstrated every year, sometimes it makes sense for a team to be a buyer and a seller. Hahn’s own assessment of the team makes it seem like that might have been the right approach to this deadline, but then he simply didn’t do it.

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