I don’t blame any White Sox fan for not paying much attention these days. The Hawks have been exciting to watch, the NBA playoffs even without the Bulls have been pretty good and Game of Thrones in making people scream with horror and delight. In all honesty, though not much of a better team, the Cubs are more compelling viewing these days. The White Sox aren’t just bad, they are boring and predictable.
Going through the (fairly) regular line-up, the White Sox currently have three automatic outs each time they are up in Dunn, Keppinger and Flowers. Considering that is one third of the at bats in a game, just by virtue of putting those players out there, the Sox have conceded three innings, making a win a lot harder than it should be. Seriously, when Adam Dunn gets two strikes in an at bat and you need a cookie are you pausing the DVR? Waiting for the at bat to end? I doubt it and why should you? Adam Dunn with two strikes is like watching a wave approach the shore; it may take a little time, but inevitably it is going to crash.
When I look at the White Sox in the field I’m reminded of a conversation a friend and I had about women’s sports and sport viewing in general. My argument is that people refuse to watch women’s sports not because the participants are women (I’m sure some idiots reason that way, but I digress) but because we, as humans, like to see the best at any endeavor. Given the choice, do you go to the Bolshoi or the Joliet Community Ballet? It is the same reason that Simon Kuper quipped in one of his books, “American soccer interest is alive and well and sitting on a couch watching Manchester United.” The MLS is a fine, fun league. It is also light years below the best leagues in Europe. I bring this up in regards to the White Sox because if, according to my proposition, we like to watch excellence, then we are not getting excellence watching the White Sox play defense. The error count is high, but that is a pretty arbitrary decision. It is just the poor play in general that is hard to watch; the missed throws, bad positioning and poor decisions made on a nightly basis are just painful.
I’ve seen and heard a few people who are still optimistic about the White Sox. Feeling assured that it is not too late because over the recent eight game losing streak the Sox only lost two games in the standings is fool’s gold. Even before the streak, when the team was at the airy heights of .500, what aspect of the team inspired confidence that they could make a push for the division? The offense has been the worst in the American League for the better part of the season, same goes for the defense. The starting pitching has been a small beacon of hope, but now Peavy is out for four to six weeks. Dylan Axelrod currently leads the team in games started. That isn’t good. Between him and Hector Santiago they have seventeen starts and they have done well, but I don’t think it will last. Even if they do keep it up, the offense and defense are so poor, it doesn’t really matter.
The other sort of optimistic, or at least fantasy thinking tact some White Sox fans have been taking is that the White Sox should have a fire sale and start over. There is a couple things wrong with this thinking. First, which players are attractive to other teams? Alex Rios might get some interest, but he has a bit of a burdensome contract so maybe not. I can’t imagine anyone taking on Adam Dunn and I highly doubt he will move on waivers either. And don’t expect the White Sox to outright release him. I don’t think Reinsdorf is cheap, but I also don’t think he will be willing to eat the remaining two years of Dunn’s contract. I’ve seen a few comments that Alexei Ramirez might be moved, but his one home run and downturn on defense isn’t going to get much in return. A few pitchers could be attractive, but that would thin the already skimpy staff. Before the injury, Peavy was mentioned, but missing up to six weeks really seems to hurt his “help right now” appeal. The overall strategy of “trade the underachievers for prospects” doesn’t seem that plausible. Actually calling the White Sox players underachievers is being kind; they simply aren’t very good. Getting much in return for bad players doesn’t usually happen.
So what are the White Sox to do? I think exploring the trade market isn’t a bad idea, knowing full well there won’t be much coming back. Next, and here is where it gets complicated, the White Sox need to give up the strategy that Kenny Williams espoused during his tenure; the rebuild on the fly while trying to compete model. It can be successful (2005!) but it doesn’t build a sustained success. The next time the White Sox make back to back post seasons will be the first time (yes, 1994 they finished first, but no playoffs that year, thanks Bud!) The White Sox need to rebuild and I think it needs to go beyond just players. Honestly, thus far the Rick Hahn regime hasn’t shown much. Hiring Buddy Bell inspires no confidence in me. A long baseball pedigree with a lot of bad teams doesn’t seem to be evidence that he knows how to rebuild a farm system, let alone create a championship at the top level.