I could have probably found a happier time to jump into this than during a losing streak but that’s where we are. I guess it’s better just to get it out of the way.
Let’s begin by remembering what we were told during the offseason, and I don’t mean the mistruths about how the Sox were going to be a big-time player in free agency. Admittedly, not all of that was the fault of the White Sox organization, as free agency has completely changed and the rug may have been pulled out from under the Sox.
I can’t count the number of times I heard Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and even talking heads like Chuck Garfien have reminded us, the fans, that 2018 was rock bottom. It was all uphill from there. That was the worst of the worst. A 100 loss season, it would get better from there. There would be real improvement during the 2019 season.
Well, here we are. Ten games in, the White Sox have the worst ERA in Major League Baseball. The starting rotation is worse now than at any point last season, and the bullpen is already overworked only 90 innings into the season. Ouch.
Amazingly, the offense ranks 15th in batting average, right in the middle. In spite of the horrible starts by Welington Castillo and Yolmer Sanchez and the ungodly bad opening to the season by Daniel Palka. That’s 1/3 of the starting nine. Of course, if you take the incredible numbers that Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada have put up out of the equation, suddenly the Sox drop to near the bottom of the league in offense.
And, of course, we can’t overlook the coaching staff. Rick Renteria is in completely over his head, Don Cooper lost his “magic touch” a decade ago and Todd Steverson never had one to begin with. But, as we know, there’s little accountability on this team. Never has been. The last manager to actually be “fired” was Jerry Manuel, in 2003.
Coop has been in the organization since 1988, for some reason. But, even if the White Sox were to end the season with the worst ERA in baseball, it doesn’t matter. We learned that last year when the White Sox set a record for strikeouts in a season by hitters and looked lost at the plate most of the time, unable to make adjustments or do anything to help themselves at the plate. Doesn’t matter, Steverson is still there.
Since the day he was hired, I have wondered how much actual due diligence the White Sox did before hiring Rick Renteria. I still think this was a move made to “get one over” on the Cubs, figuring how cool it would seem when the White Sox rebuild was complete and they won four straight World Series titles with a manger they filched from the Cubs. Except they didn’t, because the Cubs didn’t want him, they hired a better manager.
From where I’m sitting, Renteria has a credibility problem. He’s out here trying to lead a team of youngsters, but he’s pushing 60 and has no body of work to earn the respect of these players. If I were running a rebuild, I would either hire a manager who is closer in age to these kids, or find an older manager who has had some on-field success and let him use that to impress these players. Renteria fits neither of these prerequisites.
Renteria built a reputation as being a “good teacher” and, while he may be, I have seen no proof of that and what does that have to do with being a good field manager?
I’m also tired of the old “he’s never had any talent on the team’s he’s managed” nonsense. How much actual “talent” was on the 2005 Chicago White Sox? Yeah, there were 4 All Stars on that team but none of them are Hall Of Fame players and Scott Podsednik was a fan vote selection. Even Barack Obama, as a state senator from Illinois, recognized the club on the senate floor while announcing there were no “superstars” on the team.
Yet they won the World Series without a team full of great players. Great players do not a great team make. A good team can beat a great team if they outplay them strategically and are lead by a manager who knows what he is doing, at least sometimes.
The 2019 Chicago White Sox will be lucky to win a series this year against anyone. When the bullpen has been completely overworked ten games into the season with a number of built-in off days, it makes you wonder what’s going to happen when the team plays seven weeks straight with two built-in off days. I think it may get even uglier.
A large part of my apprehension with the rebuild is the fact that I watched the Pittsburgh Pirates “rebuild” from 1993 to sometime around 2007. Back then, it wasn’t referred to as a straight “rebuild” but as a “five-year plan to contend.” So the Pirates cleaned house and started rebuilding with youngsters. After three years some of those youngsters reached the Major League level and produced, and were promptly traded for prospects and the “five-year plan” was rebooted and started over. And again, prospects came up, produced and were traded and the plan was reset. This went on for years. I lived it.
Can that happen in this day and age? Yes, absolutely. Because we, as fans, have been conditioned to accept five years of losing for the hope of three years of contending before it has to be blown up and rebuilt again. The White Sox are not the Yankees or Dodgers or teams that can just contend for 25 years at a time before having to reload.
Suppose next offseason Rick Hahn, KW and the brain-trust decides that the team is short of Minor League talent and maybe it would be a good time to trade Tim Anderson while his value is high for three or four prospects. Then, maybe Yoan Moncada. “Yeah, we’ll push our window back a few years but we’ll score six or eight prospects and only lose two players in the process.” The Pirates pulled that for an entire generation.
There is also the fact that there is no accountability with this franchise.
Robin Ventura managed out his contract in spite of the fact that he was completely in over his head and had no managerial ability whatsoever. Rick Renteria has never had a winning season anywhere other than the minor leagues a decade ago but he’s still managing at the Major League level. Todd Steverson’s career achievement is the single-season strikeout record, but he’s still there. The pitching staff is awful, but Coop’s still employed. So what does it take to actually get fired? Maybe the White Sox would consider relieving Renteria of his duties if they could sign Joe Maddon and get one over on the Cubs again?
It’s legitimately tough being a White Sox fan, especially at times like these.
Then there’s the possibility of a work stoppage and the ever-present danger of the club moving after Jerry Reinsdorf either passes away or sells the team.
At that point, I would be out. I’m not following the team if they move to Portland or Las Vegas or Montreal. I would probably just quit watching baseball altogether and go back to watching college football and basketball and forget about baseball. Of course, there’s a good chance that may happen anyway if there’s a work stoppage in 2021.
Do I still have faith in the rebuild? Yes. I trust the process and I think it was well done. But it was well done under the idea that we would sprinkle in some free agents at the spots that the prospects didn’t develop, and that’s looking increasingly unlikely with the large number of stars who are signing contract extensions. Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn like to remind us that we have the option of trading prospects for established players, but where do you dig that hole in order to fill in another one? Team’s don’t want to trade for bust prospects or guys who haven’t reached the MLB level and they’re pushing 30.
As I have said, this rebuild was conceived on a razors edge, unless 80% of the prospects pan out, there are going to be holes on the roster that could sink the team going forward. And this comes two years after Rick Hahn said he expected “25%” of the Sox prospects to become full-time MLB contributors. The Sox can’t afford that. They don’t have the ability to fill in all those holes, and they don’t have the talent to reset the rebuild.
So, we’ll spend the next five months seeing what happens. I’m not changing my preseason prediction, I think this team will finish 72-90 and ahead of the Tigers and Royals in the AL Central. While that may not seem like much, it’s an improvement of ten games over the 2018 “rock bottom” season. Of course, it’s not out of the question this team could lose 115 games and what the end result of that would be, I don’t know.
Hopefully the team will go into New York on Friday evening and look better than they did in Chicago against the Rays. But I don’t think I’m gonna hold my breath.