"Why not us?" would seem to be the motto of the opening day of SoxFest, which is shaping up to be every bit the positivist lovefest that, you know, a pre-season promotional event designed to drum up enthusiasm for the upcoming season should be.
Kenny Williams received a smattering of boos when he was introduced, but he also was thanked for the World Series championship in 2005, and didn't even have to fend off any grieving fans wondering why they had to suffer the emotional hit of seeing Mark Buehrle walk away when he clearly didn't want to.
Instead, the White Sox were free to talk like a contending team despite an off-season full of concessions. And there was a lot confidence, and not just of the "Dunn and Rios can't possibly be that bad" variety.
@MDGonzales Mark Gonzales
KW: bottom line, if we hit, we're competing in the division.
@KenWo4LiFe Ken Neadly
Kenny expects 200 plus innings from peavy
@CST_soxvan Daryl Van Schouwen
Ken touts Molina (santos deal) as top of rotation type. Will be in chicago sometime this season
Ok, this is pretty exclusively "best-case scenario" territory
@KenWo4LiFe Ken Neadly
Beckham says he has done a lot of work and feels like hes back to his old self. Says he welcomes change in the clubhouse
And no one can ever really place a firm finger on what's wrong with Beckham.
Jake Peavy does the best job of tying this all together:
""I think it's going to be nice with expectations not being what it has been in the past," said Jake Peavy. "We can certainly sneak up on people and there's enough people in this room, I promise you, to compete. If I get healthy and do what I've done in the past; if Adam Dunn comes back and does what he's done and Alex [Rios] . . . We know what Gordon [Beckham] is capable of, we saw Brent Morel late in the season. We have the pieces here to play with anybody in baseball."
Or perhaps Melissa Isaacson does better:
"Of course, there is no harm in hoping that's what happens with the Sox. But when the hopes involve half the team finding talents they've lost and the other half discovering those they've never had (at least on this level), it is difficult to be very convincing."
Bingo. It's certainly possible for the White Sox to compete, because the answers to all the question marks on their roster could be "yes", but generally any competing team worth its salt doesn't roll the dice on multiple key positions in such a manner. The Tigers didn't scrap together an in-house DH replacement or even a low-cost one year option when Victor Martinez went down, nor did the Cardinals even bank on the promising Allen Craig to step in and provide a reasonable substitute for Albert Pujols.
On Friday, even the Giants, who have cried poor all off-season and refused to make any effort to secure a big bat (unless you count the Melk Man), signed Ryan Theriot on Friday. Ryan Theriot is not any kind of good, and will serve only as a utility player who's a good bet to be above replacement level. However, the Giants have the extremely green Brandon Crawford slated as their starting shortstop, and didn't want to completely punt the position if Crawford craters...because they're competing.
Soit should be a clear indication of how the front office really views the 2012 season when they refuse to even consider a signing of that type.
Paying a premium for a backup player--especially someone like Ryan Theriot--would be pointless in the White Sox situation where they have a top-level starter at shortstop and no great need for a player worth an extra half of a win or so.
"Tapped out," says Kenny Williams.
There's no reason to believe that major league teams are ever being truly forthright about their ultimate budget constraints, but the point is still clear: the White Sox are at their maximum for money they're willing to commit to this year's version. They'll express confidence about they have, but the organizational strategy is conceding with no further effort.
Now, tt's no great detective work to say that the White Sox aren't going for it with all their might; they traded off Quentin and Santos, and let Buehrle walk in free agency, but it seems like they're fully enjoying the benefits of their strange type of rebuilding their situation offers. While a typical rebuilding team might employ low-cost veterans and lower-ceiling youngsters to fill out their major league roster while their prospects develop, the White Sox are still saddled with the expensive veteran vestiges of previous failed pennant races. With no way to move them and the farm system still very much in development, Dunn, Peavy, Rios, and Beckham will get every chance to lead the White Sox into the promised land, just to see if they ever could.
Meanwhile, the real next push for contention by the White Sox remains a ways off.
Tags: Adam Dunn, albert pujols, Alex Rios, allen craig, baseball, brandon crawford, Brent Morel, carlos beltran, Carlos Quentin, Chris Sale, Detroit Tigers, Gordon Beckham, Jake Peavy, Kenny Williams, Mark Buehrle, nestor molina, Prince Fielder, Ryan Theriot, st. louis cardinals, victor martinez, White Sox