If I was attending Sox Fest this winter I would have one question for Rick Hahn. I would ask the White Sox GM if he is able to call Jerry Reinsdorf at this point in his career? You may recall in July that Kenny Williams revealed that he was the intermediary between Hahn and the chairman of the club. Hahn had not yet reached that level according to Williams. I'm not sure what kind of Scientology model the White Sox work under, but I sincerely hope Hahn has reached level 32 or whatever gives him access Reinsdorf.
I must admit, I'm not sure if Hahn is up to the task. If he's not out of the shallow end of the responsibility pool and everything must be run by Williams, then the White Sox will continue to be about 10 years behind their competition running things from the Williams playbook. It hasn't worked for ten years, well nine if you count 2008 as a success.
Looking within the AL Central and across town there are examples of success. The Royals are on a pretty good trajectory as are the Cubs and those are the main competitions. The Royals are the team you need to compete with on the field and the Cubs are the team you need to compete with in town. On both fronts, however, winning is the main component of any strategy. In absolute baseball terms, that means getting competitive and taking on the Royals. Winning Chicago, however is also dependent on the performance on field. All the marketing, ticket deals, events and Sunday specials are not going to make a dent in the Cubs hold on the city. Which begs the question, is Chicago still a two baseball team town?
I honestly don't know the answer to that question. I'd like to say yes, two baseball teams can thrive in Chicago, but as the numbers for the White Sox decline, that case is getting harder and harder to make. It does, however, make a consistently winning team a necessity if there is any hope for the White Sox to remain in Chicago. Said another way, if I've thought about the possibility of the White Sox leaving, people with greater influence have thought about it too. I can't imagine I'm the first person to think of the Indianapolis White Sox as a distinct possibility.
How do the White Sox realistically close the gap? They need to follow the example of Kansas City and the Cubs. It is apparent that youth systems are a key component to sustained success in Major League Baseball. As we've seen in recent years with the White Sox, the free agent market is a gamble, one that hasn't paid off much for the White Sox. A total rebuild is needed for the White Sox, perhaps a change of ownership. Reinsdorf is too loyal to his people and is reluctant to make changes to front office personnel, except in rare cases. Without a change in leadership, especially the elimination of Kenny Williams, I have very little faith that the people needed to change the culture of the White Sox are currently making decisions for the team.
So we head into the GM meetings and we wait to see what comes next. I don't expect much right now and I think there will be some movement by the winter meetings next month, but it won't be enough. The White Sox will target some middle tier free agents and hope for the best. So far the farm system has produced very little by way of position players and there aren't many signs of that changing next season. I guess my follow up question at Sox Fest would be, why should I care?
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I finally got my podcast working the way I'd like, so if you'd like to hear some US History presented in a lively, fun way, check it out! (warning! the first two episodes audio is not good, but by episode three, I got it!) Episode 19 is up! Get Your History On! Oh and you can get it on iTunes too!