Jason J. Connor’s Chicago White Sox Update: July 18, 2019

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It’s been a while since I’ve given my blog the attention it deserves from a baseball standpoint because I’ve been too busy beating my own head against the wall. That will change from this point forward as I would like to put 100% into my blog and keep my life’s focus on the things that are important to me and forget the nonsense.

As I write this entry, the Chicago White Sox are mired in a seven-game losing streak, and not against what you would call “top flight” competition; a three game sweep at the hands of the Oakland A’s (at 55-41 a good bet to make a Wild Card run but nowhere close to being able to compete with teams like the Twins, Yankees and Astros), followed by a four-game sweep at the hands of the 36-62 Kansas City Royals, one of the three worst teams in baseball and the first time the Sox lost four in a row to KC in 25 years.

Since the All Star Break, the White Sox are 0-7 and have lost nine of their last ten overall.

A lot of things have been said about this team since January, some of which have been hushed up and replaced with different statements, and all of them bother me.

For example, early in the offseason, general manager Rick Hahn announced that this year we expected to see “results.” I assumed that meant in terms of the team’s record or in terms of the team’s play. Either/or. In spite of this current losing streak, the team is still ahead of it’s 2018 pace, but that pace was so horrible (62-100 record to end the season) that anything would be an improvement. There has been obvious improvement by a number of players (Jose Abreu and Lucas Giolito were both all stars and had equaled their output, in terms of home runs and wins, respectively, by mid-season).

But the team remains directionless due to their shortcomings in the manager’s chair.

This team is bound and determined to sink (or swim) with Ricky Renteria managing the team. I think his concept of “managing” is making up a different lineup every day regardless of what works and what doesn’t, and making as many pitching changes as possible. That is all that managing a baseball team requires, and he must be the best at it because the very idea of finding a better manager is spat upon by the front office.

Speaking of the front office, they have a bad habit of dishonesty, which I have touched on before. Friends of mine have argued with me that the rebuild had no timetable and I was quite certain there was a timetable for the White Sox rebuild, and announcer Steve Stone spilled the beans on a recent broadcast (and doubled down this afternoon) about the rebuild being a “five-year plan.” Since it started following the 2016 season, that means the rebuild will last until 2021 and the team is expected to be a World Series contender by 2022. OK, fair enough. They should have just said so in the beginning.

Instead, they put on a show about trying to acquire free agent infielder/superstar Manny Machado, down to trying to acquire him via trade from the Baltimore Orioles before he hit free agency. They traded for his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, and signed one of his best friends, Jon Jay, as a free agent. It turns out this was all a smokescreen. I don’t think they ever had any intention of making a legit offer to Machado. Let me explain.

Over the course of the winter, it was announced at one point the Sox had made Machado an offer of eight years, $175 million. This was quickly hushed up and it was announced that the offer was actually for eight years and $225 million. Either way it fell well short of the deal he signed with the Padres, both in years (10) and total compensation ($300 million). The White Sox weren’t even in the same ballpark with their ridiculous offer.

They tried to save face later on and explained that the deal “could have been” worth $350 million over ten years but that they could not afford $300 million over ten years.

Yes, I don’t get that either, other than the fact that the offer was more than likely eight years at $225 million (after he, no doubt, laughed in their face at the $175 million offer) and there may have been two option years valued at $125 million to make it seem that there was a “real” $350 million offer, but simply declining the “option” years would have left it at what it was at face value, far below the market price for a guy in Machado’s position.

So that was all a farce. They never had any intention of seriously pushing to acquire Machado. I’m not saying they didn’t want him, but they wanted him at their massive discount price, not at the price he ended up getting. And as for his brother-in-law (who has since been released), that was an $8 million mistake that I should have seen coming a mile away, because the White Sox declined to tender a $2 million contract to infielder/DH/pitcher Matt Davidson, and had made a point of not discussing his opportunities to pitch in 2019 because they knew all along he wouldn’t be back.

The next lie the front office laid out was they would not be acquiring anyone who didn’t fit into their vision of the future, yet they signed a 34-year old outfielder who can neither hit home runs or steal bases and is a bit of a liability in the outfield. Jon Jay.

Let’s stop being fanboys for a second and think about what this rebuild has meant to the bottom dollar for ownership. According to recent news, the White Sox are second in MLB in rising attendance, which means more money coming into the franchise. And the MLB roster is loaded down with guys making the minimum or there-about, with the exception of Jose Abreu who is the highest-paid player on the team by far.

The Pittsburgh Pirates taught me about that end of a rebuild, the more young players you have making the minimum, the less payroll you’re spending. Ownership likes that, especially if those young players pan out and more people want to go to the ballpark to watch them play. Then you trade them for other young players, making the minimum, when the players in question hit their salary arbitration years and are scheduled to make more money. In other words, acquire the best talent you can that is young enough to not be making much money. And you can do it in perpetuity and call it a “rebuild.”

After the Machado “chase” fell through, the fanboys started thinking who they could acquire with all that cash the team is suddenly flush with and the first name to come up was Nolan Arenado of the Colorado Rockies, which made zero sense as he plays third base which is where Yoan Moncada is now set and he is supposed to be one of the pillars of the rebuild. I guess you could DH Arenado but he’s one of the best defensive players in baseball so that wouldn’t exactly make any sense, but it was a moot point because he signed a $260 million extension with the Rockies the White Sox couldn’t have even begun to afford, and I’m sure the Rockies got a hometown discount on him anyway.

Then Sox fanboys started dreaming of Washington Nationals infielder Anthony Rendon, the guy who will be at the top of the 2019-20 free agent listings. Who also plays third base and presents the same problems as Arenado, as he is negotiating a long-term deal with the Nats, plays third base and is defensively outstanding, as well as being far out of the White Sox contract comfort zone. So, another senseless waste of time.

The fact is, the White Sox fanboys aren’t interested in needs, they simply want a “Jon Lester acquisition.” This is in reference to Jon Lester being the star player the Chicago Cubs signed that put them over the top of their rebuild and lead them to a World Series title. What Sox fanboys fail to mention here is that (a) Lester was a need, as the Cubs starting rotation wasn’t top-notch without him and (b) he had a history with Cubs general manager Theo Epstein, which made his acquisition a lot less surprising.

If the White Sox are taking this rebuild seriously, they know their “Jon Lester acquisition” also needs to be a starting pitcher. The White Sox could have a killer lineup, but their pitching is suspect, to say the least. Both in the rotation and the bullpen. There are a ton of “what if’s” and very little actual production. The lineup is showing actual production, from James McCann and Jose Abreu to Yoan Moncada to Tim Anderson and Eloy Jimenez (when they’re healthy) and some of the legit hole-pluggers in the minors (Luis Robert in center field and Nick Madrigal at second base) could be legit superstars.

The lineup is not the problem. The pitching staff in total is the problem.

The only starting pitcher in this organization to win more than 15 games at the MLB level is Ivan Nova, who is a one-season stopgap and who won 16 games for the New York Yankees back in 2011. He hasn’t won more than 12 games in a season since.

Adding to the lack of production is the insane number of injuries White Sox organizational pitchers have endured in the past couple of years. Those injuries not only can ruin a career, but they’re losing valuable time and experience. And that will hurt.

I am all for this rebuild and I got really tired of the 70 to 78 win seasons, year in and year out with no hope for the future. Now there is hope for the future, even if that future is guaranteed to end by 2027 because all the young prospects will be hitting salary arbitration or free agency in that general time frame and at that point, it’s gonna get ugly again. And this is all assuming there’s no work stoppage in 2021.

I would like to see the team stay the course but begin by upgrading the coaching staff. The only guy on this staff that doesn’t annoy me is Daryl Boston, the first base coach. Everyone else should be replaced by more competent coaches who can teach these kids how to play instead of “here is our 150th different lineup in 150 games… Go up and try to hit a home run every at-bat… I think I’ll burn through the bullpen tonight and worry about the ramifications of it later” kind of bullshit. Because clearly, that ain’t working.

I would like to see all of the top prospects called up within the next year, not to be optioned back down in a week, but to learn at the MLB level and see if the talent matches the forecast. This will not only help in talent evaluation for the players themselves, but also to see where the holes are that will require future free agent signings or trades.

Jon Jay should follow Yonder Alonso out of town and a young player should be getting evaluated in his place. Is Jon Jay going to be with the White Sox in 2022? For that matter, I would guess he’ll be retired by 2022. His spot on the roster is being taken by a guy who has no future with this team. Send him packing and call up a youngster and see if he, in fact, has a future with this team. And I know fanboys will cry about service time and the fact that the team can’t manipulate it if they call the kids up too early.

Too bad. This isn’t a typical situation like most of the other teams are dealing with. And the White Sox have been smart in locking up their young players with long-term, “cheap” contracts that eliminate the worry about things like service time.

Back in the 1990s and 2000s I can remember Jerry Reinsdorf talking about managers or general managers who could take the team from point A, to point, B to point C, with point C being a championship. I wish he would go back and think about that, because there is no doubt in my mind at all that Ricky Renteria is not gonna take this team to point C.

As I said earlier, this may ultimately come to nothing, if there’s a 2021 work stoppage it may cripple this franchise like it did in 1994, though the current franchise has a lot more depth in the minor leagues than the franchise did in 1994, it still took six years for them to redevelop into a contender (2000 AL Central champions) and 11 years to redevelop into a championship team (2005 World Series champions). I don’t think any of us want to sit through a five-year rebuild and have to wait for 2030 for a championship win.

Right now this team should be talented enough to avoid a four-game sweep by one of the worst teams in baseball but that’s clearly not the case. With a series against a really solid Tampa Bay Rays team coming up this weekend, things don’t look good for the streak being broken any time soon. They say this kind of thing builds character, but how much character does a young team need at this point in it’s development? They need to learn to WIN.

I stick by my projection I made seven months ago, this team will finish the year 72-90. That will mean a long and difficult second half, but it will also mean a ten-game improvement from 2018 and that’s nothing to snicker at. Next season, if Michael Kopech delivers and Dylan Cease develops and Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert turn out to be all they are advertised this will be a .500 team and that would be another ten-game improvement. Then if Carlos Rodon comes back fully in 2021 and Nick Madrigal locks down second base and the Sox get their “Jon Lester acquisition,” another ten-win improvement and you have a team with 90+ wins and probably another AL Central Division championship.

It’s there for the taking, but everything has to work out and a managerial change is absolutely necessary. I have no doubt about that. But it’s gonna take some work besides. Yes, I’m annoyed at the current state of affairs, anyone who is a fan would be annoyed at a seven-game losing streak that is not against the best of the best, but it is hopefully just a blip on the radar and nothing more, and things will continue to improve on a year-by-year basis. The foundation is in place, it just needs to work out all the way down the line.

Thank you for taking the time to read. Peace.

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RANDOM THOUGHTS

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Just some random thoughts that are floating in my brain at the moment, since I have been neglecting my blogging duties.

– I did not watch the MLB Home Run Derby last night nor am I watching the MLB All Star Game tonight. I don’t know if it’s burnout or if I am just past the point of caring about games that have no meaning. I think it’s more burnout than anything. Since 2004, when I went hardcore back into baseball and stopped watching all other sports, I have watched roughly 3,000 baseball games. So there is probably something to be said for burnout at this point. So I’m taking these four days off.

– Part of me wants to start watching college sports again and start following UCLA extensively. And the other part of me says I’m 42 and it’s time to leave that behind me. I’ll continue to debate on this with myself.

– I’ve never seen so many people getting into relationships (as per Facebook) as I have in the past two weeks or so. It makes me smile and it makes me happy that people are out there finding something special. I’ve always said, if the world’s population could just double up and I were the odd man out, I’d still be happy just to know everyone else in the world was happy. Maybe that’s happening now.

– In the next step of getting my life back together, I bought a new grill and grilling accessories tonight and am looking very much forward to their delivery. I love to cook and I love to grill and it’s been a long time since I had a bed of hot briquettes waiting for me to throw a steak or a burger on. It’s time.

– If I don’t do something to make myself remember to make an appointment with my optometrist TOMORROW I am going to be walking around blind very soon. I have been on my last pair of contacts for over a week.

– I’m dying to play the Batman Arkham video game series again but I feel like I need to wait until fall, not only because baseball is over but because it’s tradition to start around October. I always went into a Batman frenzy around Halloween and even though I won’t be doing that anymore, it would still be fun to play the games.

– I am SO ready to start exercising full time again, between the herniated disc in my back and my heel spur, I have been in agony pretty much 24 hours a day. I am also sick to death of being 80 pounds overweight.

– Stella, I’m still alive, honey. 😉