I wrote six years ago about Soxfest and pretty much everything I wrote then kind of still applies. The whole point of Soxfest and any fan fest for a sports team is to drum up excitement for the coming year. Like 2013, I don't see the 2019 edition of Soxfest doing much drumming.
If anything, the sport convention model seems a bit pointless. We have moved into a time in American sports, especially in baseball and basketball that not competing is an acceptable course of action, provided the team eventually competes. When this will be is a little hard to pin down, but if we believe in the process the team will one year reward us for our patience. The White Sox, as is oft reported, are still in the rebuild process. This is, if you haven't figured it out, code for "don't expect us to win."
So this year's Soxfest was that odd mixture of youth and nostalgia. Hawk Harrelson was on hand, retired but not retiring. There was a panel of Hall of Famers, but it's not like anyone on the panel was someone new. Harold Baines gets to add "HOF" to his autograph now, but it's not like the guy has been MIA from Soxfests past. Even Ozzie Guillen was brought back, though he's not looking for Ricky Renteria's job. Better update that resume Ricky, just in case.
There were some current and future players on hand, of course. Who will make the big league team is always a fun bit of conjecture, but that is a large part of the season anyway. No need to start guessing in January. As far as current players, who is going to be part of the promised success? Nicky Delmonico? Adam Engel? Daniel Palka? All seem like good enough guys, but don't really scream playoff contender, do they?
The elephant in the room was Manny Machado. Will he sign with the White Sox? What's the hold up? After the weekend, we still have no clue. I'm hopeful the Sox sign Machado, but not very optimistic. What I find a bit disturbing is the sense from the team and even some fans that just by trying to land the big fish is enough. If Machado doesn't sign maybe that's this year's slogan, "Hey! At least we tried in January!" Not sure if that will sell many tickets in June.
I think that's what got me so down on Soxfest and the whole preseason convention thing as a whole. I wrote last time about the massive amounts of money MLB is making and I just feel like for that much money MLB teams, White Sox included, should be trying harder. More than ever, rooting for a professional sports team is rooting for corporation. Attendance doesn't matter to clubs anymore, neither do wins or losses. For most teams the bottom line isn't just the main objective, it's the only one. It's hard to celebrate that in July, let alone in January.
Post Update: For a better explanation of the angst I feel, especially about the current state of baseball, here is Craig Calcaterra's great piece. And his colleague, Bill Baer brings it all home to the AL Central in this piece. Glad to know I'm not alone in my thinking that rooting for corporate interests is boring.