The Latin phrase, carpe diem, roughly translates into “seize the day.” It figured heavily in the movie “Dead Poets Society,” where Robin Williams’ character urged his students to make it their mantra-to make the most of their opportunities during their lifetime. Had Rick Hahn heeded that call he would have signed Manny Machado and transformed the White Sox both on and off the field.
Machado is among baseball’s elite players and would have improved the Sox performance as few other current players could. Based on the metric Wins Above Replacement or WAR, Machado ranks 28th against all players, past and present, through the age of 25, Machado’s age at the end of 2018. Take a look at some of the players who accompany Machado on this list. It’s an impressive looking neighborhood.
Source: The Ringer (January 19, 2019)
Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda
What made the prospect of signing Machado even more compelling was the absence of involvement by the fat cats. No Yankees, Dodgers, Cubs, Red Sox or others who might have been willing to enter a bidding war. The Sox were in position to put a serious offer on the table that might have discouraged other bidders.
But they didn’t do that. Instead the Sox tried to sign Machado on their terms, perhaps falling victim to the success Hahn had in signing Eaton, Quintana and Anderson to team friendly contracts. By making the last two years of the contract conditional on reaching what appeared to be a reasonable number of plate appearances, the Sox transferred the risk of those final two years to Machado. Yes, as Kenny Williams said, the Sox offer was potentially worth more if Machado reached those numbers but why would he want to assume that risk? Was there a precedent for making the tail end of a long-term contract for a player of Machado’s status performance based? It appears to be either nonexistent or rare.
But the real travesty of not signing Machado is the missed opportunity to dramatically alter the rocky relationship between the Sox front office and its fan base. Rightly or wrongly, Sox fans sometimes feel as if they are involved in an abusive relationship with Sox management. Signing Machado would have been proof to Sox fans that they no longer need to feel as if they are the red-headed stepchild of Chicago sports fandom. It would have given the Sox their face of the franchise, a face that would have given them a real chance to grow its fan base, particularly in the Hispanic community. One Sox fan who was on the radio last Saturday illustrated that missed opportunity. He related how he and his two sons planned to buy Machado jerseys as soon as Machado signed with the Sox. When it didn’t happen, his sons put on their Bryant jerseys and went on with their day.
Does this mean the Sox rebuild is doomed to failure? No, the Sox still have a highly rated farm system and, as Hahn pointed out, the money to spend to build a team that will be perennial contenders. But it is doubtful the baseball cosmos will ever present the Sox with a similar opportunity to electrify the franchise and its fans. Better to have seized the day.