THE BREAK-UP I COULDN’T HANDLE: THE 2022 MLB LOCKOUT

I tried. Lord knows, I tried. I tried, and I failed.

Knowing there was going to be an MLB work stoppage as far back as 2019, as my friends and I discussed regularly on Facebook. I started taking steps to ween myself off of baseball and get into something else. But that was an exercise in futility.
Starting in the summer of 2021, I started trying to push myself toward other sports I had enjoyed in the past. The NHL, and college football, basketball and baseball. I figured if there was a baseball strike or lockout, I’d have something to do.

At first I started following the Chicago Blackhawks, as I had been a huge NHL fan back in the 1990s and early 2000s. I also tried to follow West Virginia University and UCLA football and basketball, but no matter what I tried, it kept coming back to baseball. Baseball has had a stranglehold on me since 2006, and it’s not letting go.

I basically stopped watching the NFL in 2004, the sport was changing so much I was losing interest on a weekly basis. I had been a fan of the Cleveland Browns since the late 1980s, and the Chicago Bears for several years before that. My college sports fandom hung around until the mid-2000s, and absolutely cratered during all of the conference realignment of the second half of the 2000s.

By that point my time was completely consumed with baseball, And for the past 17 years or so I’ve made a point of following baseball 12 months out of the year, whether it was spring training, the regular season, the post-season or the offseason, I was always involved and following the happenings on a daily basis, 365 days a year.

I’ve always had such an easy time letting things go. In 2005, after almost 25 years as a fan of professional wrestling, I had reached the end of my ability to care. At the time I had posters of Stone Cold Steve Austin and The Rock in my man cave, a VHS and DVD collection anyone would have been jealous of, a closet full of wrestling t-shirts and a massive action figure collection I displayed. I watched wrestling six days a week (WWF and WCW had their flagship shows on Monday, WCW Thunder on Wednesday, WWF SmackDown on Thursday, ECW on TNN on Friday, and syndicated shows from WWF and WCW as well as independent Pittsburgh-area wrestling shows on the weekends. My only day off was Tuesday, so I would spend Tuesday watching wrestling videos or playing wrestling video games.

You might say I was all in. And then I was all out.

Some people laughed and said I was such a huge fan there was no way I could walk away. But I did. I sold my entire video collection, donated my shirts to Goodwill and sold the vast majority of my action figures and posters. And I never went back. That was 17 years ago and I have had no interest in ever going back. It’s dead to me.

Football and basketball became nothing but thug sports over the years. I read more stories online about arrests than I did transactions or scores.

But I always had baseball. So I absolutely sunk my entire life into baseball and the Chicago White Sox. But don’t misunderstand; I first became a White Sox fan in 1991, when I was a freshman in high school. We’re talking over 30 years. This didn’t happen overnight. Overall, I’ve been a baseball fan since 1988, as I followed the Pittsburgh Pirates prior to jumping on the White Sox bandwagon. While I did follow many sports during the 1990s and early 2000s, baseball was usually number-one on the list.

But now I’m at a point where I can’t picture my life without it. By this point most people are thinking “just wait it out, there will be baseball at some point.” Which, yes, is true, but I’m at the point where I don’t want to hand my money to MLB anymore, they’ve already gotten thousands and thousands of dollars out of me. I was ready to start handing money over to anyone else. I bought an insane amount of Chicago Blackhawks gear (which I still intend to use in the future) as well as WVU and UCLA gear.

So when the deadline came to get a new collective bargaining agreement signed between MLB and the players union, I figured it was time to move on. I was able to do that for roughly 24 hours. And now I’m just physically ill at the thought of moving onto something else because my heart isn’t into it. I want spring training and regular season baseball. And I’m trying to figure out what I can do to fill that void.

I’m still willing to give UCLA sports another go, my favorite college team since the mid 1990s. But at this point, I don’t know how I can get myself mentally motivated for it. My best hope is March Madness, but I feel no real urgency or desire the way I feel for MLB spring training to get underway. I know part of this is because everywhere I look in my house there’s a White Sox logo staring back at me. That’s definitely not helping.

So if jumping ship to UCLA doesn’t work, I figure I’ll do a variation on what got me through the lost 2020 summer due to COVID: I’ll start on a video game. I haven’t played Grand Theft Auto V yet, so I think I’ll start on that. I will also watch Chicago Fire/PD/Med on a nightly basis and that should help me to pass the time as well.

Ultimately, I hope UCLA can extricate me from this mental prison, and I plan to start putting that in motion very soon. But if it doesn’t, all is not lost and at least I know, once and for all, that I won’t be going back to college sports or the NFL ever again.

I have decided, though, that it would be a real good idea to leave baseball alone as soon as the season is over and get back to following the NHL, the Hawks in particular. This should alleviate some of my problems and give me something else to do besides baseball every minute of every day all year long. It can’t keep going like this.

This lockout needs to end, but if it doesn’t I’ll get through it, one way or another.

Peace.

My Take On The Sox Machine 2021-22 Offseason Plan Project

Every year the Sox Machine blog posts a template for what is known as the “offseason plan project,” where anyone can give their thoughts on what they would like the White Sox to do in the offseason, in terms of whether to tender or non-tender eligible players, sign or not sign pending free agents, propose trades and things like that.

Rather than filling it out and posting on their blog I just decided to pinch their template and fill it out myself, which will make my offseason plans blog a lot easier to follow along with. I don’t want this to end up being 5,000 words like my last entry. And I need to point out, this isn’t what I think the team is going to do, this is what I would do.
I did this last year as well, and was horribly wrong with all of my predictions, so we’ll see how it flies this year. I think things are a little more “defined” this year with the roster so there won’t be a lot of changes except in the bullpen and at second base.

So, here we go.

PREAMBLE

The White Sox are still the class of the AL Central, though the Detroit Tigers are closing the gap and closing it fast, especially with their young pitching. I still see the White Sox winning the division by at least five games, however.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

The number after the player name is what MLB Trade Rumors projects the player will receive in arbitration.

Lucas Giolito: $7.9M – Tender. This is a textbook example of a “no-brainer.” Lance Lynn, Giolito and Dylan Cease are the backbone of the rotation.

Reynaldo Lopez: $2.8 – Tender. He did a great job in the spot I said three years ago he was made for, a long reliever and spot starter. Now that “bullpen games” are a thing, it’s nice to have a former full-time starter in that spot.

Evan Marshall: $2.3M – Non-tender. Some people say bring him back on a Minor League deal since he’s about to have Tommy John Surgery. I say don’t bother, thanks for the help the past few years but it’s time for you to move along.

Brian Goodwin: $1.7M – Non-tender. I like Goodwin alright but at this point he would be a fifth or sixth outfielder and I don’t see that being worth $1.7 million.

Jimmy Cordero: $1.2M – Non-tender. This guy’s career was nearly ruined by Ricky Renteria, but he’s not worth $1.2 million at this point. I would extend a Minor League deal and an invitation to Spring Training, however.

Adam Engel: $2.2M – Tender. Last season I wanted to see Engel start full time in right field, but the Sox brain trust decided that signing Adam Eaton was the answer. I said that wasn’t a good idea, come to find out it wasn’t a good idea. I do like the idea of bringing back Engel but just as a fourth outfielder, pinch hitter and pinch runner.

Jace Fry: $1M – Non-tender. This guy has pitched in 162 games at the Major League level. He has a career ERA of 5.04. He shouldn’t be anywhere near a million dollar salary.

CLUB OPTIONS

Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option. These were already announced but I’m giving my theory behind what I would have done had I been in charge.

Craig Kimbrel: $16M – Pick Up. Yes, he sucked with the White Sox but lights-out closers don’t grow on trees and he’ll be worth something to someone, a team that’s smart enough to use him where he’s comfortable, not as a set-up man. The Sox won’t get a return anywhere near what they paid, but getting anything back at all is a bird in the hand.

Cesar Hernandez: $6M – Pick Up. Yes, he sucked with the White Sox (is there an echo in here?) but given his salary and the lack of good available second basemen, I’d absolutely have brought him back and given him a chance to make us forget 2021.

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

Try to retain, or let go?

Leury Garcia (Made $3.5 million in 2021) – Resign – I would bring Leury back at the right price, as insurance at second base and as my main utility player. Having said that, he would NOT play every day or even close to that. Once or twice a week, unless he’s filling in for someone injured.

Carlos Rodon (Made $3M in 2021) – Let Go – So long, Carlos. His inability to stay healthy for a full season in seven years is not lost on anyone, and the idea of him getting a three or four-year deal in this economic climate in baseball is a joke. He’ll get a one-year “prove you can stay healthy just once” deal and I wouldn’t be surprised if he didn’t get another one-year deal for 2023, or maybe a one-year deal with a club option or vesting options if he pitches a certain number of innings.

Billy Hamilton (Made $1M in 2021) – Resign – I like the idea of bringing Billy back as a fifth or sixth outfielder because there is no one equal with the glove or the speed that he can bring to the roster. I wouldn’t want to see him starting for an extended period but he definitely has a place on the roster.

Ryan Tepera (Made $950,000 in 2021) – Resign – He was absolutely lights out with the Sox in 2021 (and with the Cubs, as well) but he’s going to make up for his paltry salary. Given the lack of arms in the White Sox bullpen right now, I would offer Tepera a two-year deal for $8 million as a starting point and be willing to go two-years for $12 million at most.FREE AGENTS

List three free-agent targets you’d pursue during the offseason, with a reasonable contract.

Ryan Tepera (White Sox relief pitcher) – For the reasons mentioned above. There are few better relief arms available on the market and the White Sox bullpen has been decimated. Hold on to one of the best. Two years, $8 million.

Leury Garcia (White Sox IF/OF) – As I said above, I don’t want to see Leury on the field every day unless there’s an injury. He’s the longest-tenured player on the team and deserves to see it through. He can also play any position on the diamond except first base and catcher and play them well. His bat isn’t gonna win a Silver Slugger anytime soon, but it’s far superior to Danny Mendick and years of experience counts for something too. He’s also go the hottest wife in the organization but that’s neither here nor there. Two-years, $8 million.

Collin McHugh (Rays relief pitcher) – I acquired this guy in 2020 on MLB The Show because (a) he’s got a career ERA under 3.80 and is 20 games over .500, (b) in 37 games last year, including 7 starts, he had a 1.55 ERA and (c) he was born in Naperville. This is the guy you want in your bullpen as a contender, not Jose Ruiz.

TRADES

Propose trades that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them.

Dallas Keuchel and $10 million to whatever team will take him for whatever they’ll offer. Some of you will no doubt think I’m crazy but I didn’t realize until just a few days ago that Dallas Keuchel does NOT have a mutual option in his contract, he has a VESTING option: If he pitches 160 innings in 2022, he will then be under contract in 2023 for $20 million. If you think there’s NO chance of that happening, he pitched 162 innings in 2021. Get a Minor League player who ranks between 15-20 on his club and get this guy out of town, fast.

Yoan Moncada to the Seattle Mariners for one of their Minor League outfielders. The Mariners are loaded with top-shelf Minor League outfielders and their starting third baseman for the past decade, Kyle Seager, is a free agent. While I’m a fan of Moncada, his salary more than doubles in 2022 (from $6 million to $13 million) and tops off in 2024 at $24 million. For that kind of money, I’d like more than .263/14/61 and 157 strikeouts. This will also give some payroll relief going forward. I’d give Jake Burger every opportunity to take over at third base, even if that means hitting him in the 9th spot in the order and letting him work through whatever issues he’ll have, just like the Sox did with Robin Ventura over 20 years ago. Robin had an 0-41 streak at one point during his rookie season but they didn’t lose faith and he became one of the best third basemen in franchise history.

Craig Kimbrel to the Philadelphia Phillies for MiLB IF Logan Simmons and LHP Kyle Dohy. These two are not top prospects for the Phillies but given Kimbrel’s poor two months with the White Sox, it’s definitely not a bad return. Dohy made it to the Phillies last season after a tough year at AAA but you can always find room for a LHP in the bullpen. Simmons is more of a long-term flier, he can play second, short and third and he’s only 21 years old, showing good power (21 home runs in 413 career Minor League at-bats) and speed 14 stolen bases). He won’t help now, but when the next rebuild begins in 2024 or 2025, he could be a good piece to have on hand.

SUMMARY

My lineup will consist of Yasmani Grandal at catcher, Jose Abreu at first, Cesar Hernandez at second, Tim Anderson at shortstop and Jake Burger at third, with Eloy Jimenez in left, Luis Robert in center and Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets platooning in right. Vaughn and Sheets would also split the DH role with whoever needs a day off. The bench will consist of Zack Collins, Leury Garcia, Adam Engel, Billy Hamilton and a couple of current minor leaguers as depth pieces.

My rotation would consist of Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech and Jimmy Lambert, with a mix of Reynaldo Lopez and Garret Crochet handling long relief and spot starts. Aaron Bummer and Ryan Burr handling set-up duties with Liam Hendriks closing. The rest of the bullpen would consist of Tepera, McHugh, Matt Foster and whatever Minor League arms have a good Spring Training, possibly Jimmy Cordero.

I know the fan boys are going to hate this, because I’m sure they’re sitting with their phones right now just waiting to hear that the White Sox signed Marcus Semien to play second base and Nick Castellanos or Michael Conforto to play right field. I absolutely guarantee none of those moves are going to happen. The payroll currently sits around $140 million, and that’s before those arbitration numbers are figured in.

This is why I think now is a good time to try moving some excess payroll. Moncada is not so dynamic that he’s worth the money he’s going to be making the next three seasons, Keuchel could be making $38 million over the next two seasons (and definitely making $18 million in 2022). Tim Anderson, Eloy Jimenez and Luis Robert are also due raises each year for the next few years as well, and the White Sox only have control over Lucas Giolito until 2024.

I’d love to see the White Sox just go balls out with a $200 million payroll but that has never happened and it’s never going to happen, at least not this decade. So if you’re looking for free agents, don’t look for the $200 or $300 million deals, look for the one-year or two-year deals for under $20 million to fill in the holes. The rebuild is over, for now.

And for everyone who wants to crucify me every year for saying the Sox aren’t signing any $100 million free agents, just remember that they never have, even when they had the payroll flexibility to do so. And by 2024, this team, just as it is now, will have an astronomical payroll, and at that point, a new rebuild will begin. So hopefully, over the next couple of years, the White Sox can get to (and win) a World Series. They have the talent.

Thank you for reading, and God bless.

2021 Chicago White Sox Season Review

I decided that this year I would do an immediate review of the Chicago White Sox season rather than waiting and letting things settle down and taking emotion out of the equation. I wanted to allow myself some feelings in the review instead of being so academic about it. So, immediately following the White Sox ALDS Game Four loss to the Astros, I went to work.

Looking at the big picture, it was a reasonably successful season for the White Sox. A 93-69 record and the American League Central Division title was almost expected, but winning the division by 13 games was not. The Sox were the only AL Central team with a record over .500 and the Minnesota Twins, two-time defending champions, bottomed out with a 73-89 record and a last-place finish. On the surface, it was a dominating performance by the Sox.

But if you look a little closer, you see just how much of a down year it was for the division. The Detroit Tigers and Kansas City Royals are embarking on rebuilds, the Twins just imploded and the Cleveland Indians were unable to overcome injuries to their starting rotation. And the White Sox, in general, feasted on their division rivals. They were not as good against teams over .500 and that was a known issue when the team headed into the playoffs.

Manager Tony La Russa was a surprise, as much as a Hall of Fame manager can surprise, as a lot of fans thought he would be a poor fit with the team. That was not the case and he had an exceptionally good season, and should finish in the top two for AL Manager of the Year. I hope he’ll be back in 2022 because the options to replace him do not instill much confidence.

The lineup was expected to be a juggernaut and fell well short of expectations. Part of this, of course, was due to injury, as RF Eloy Jimenez, C Yasmani Grandal and CF Luis Robert all spent extensive stretches on the injured list. White Grandal and Robert seemed to catch fire after they returned, Jimenez seemed lost after his return from the IL. Shortstop Tim Anderson and OF Adam Engel also spent time on the IL and injuries were a year-long issue for the franchise.

Among the players who were able to remain healthy, 3B Yoan Moncada saw his numbers take a precipitous drop from 2019 (.315 with 25 home runs and 79 RBI in 149 games in 2019 compared to .263 with 14 home runs and 61 RBI in 144 games in 2021). First baseman Jose Abreu put up extremely similar power numbers (33 home runs and 123 RBI in 2019 with 30 home runs and 117 RBI in 2021) but saw his batting average lose more than 20 points.

The pitching staff was supposed to be one of the league’s best and fell far short, both the starting rotation and the bullpen. Lucas Giolito was an early season Cy Young favorite and finished the year with an 11-9 record and a 3.53 ERA, while Dallas Keuchel completely fell off, with a 9-9 record and an unsightly 5.28 ERA. Lance Lynn and Carlos Rodon both had solid seasons but injuries were an issue, leaving Dylan Cease (13 wins and 226 strikeouts in 165 innings) as the de facto ace, with Jimmy Lambert being the only legit minor league option.

The White Sox bullpen carried the team at times, as closer Liam Hendriks lead the American League in saves (38) despite giving up more home runs (11) than walks (7). The trade deadline move for All Star closer Craig Kimbrel was a complete and total bust, as Kimbrel’s splits between the Cubs (0.49 ERA, 64 strikeouts, 13 walks) and White Sox (5.09 ERA, 36 strikeouts, 10 walks) were shocking. Future starters Michael Kopech and Garrett Crochet were solid but their time in the bullpen should end, if not next season by 2023 at the latest.

The future, however, isn’t as bright as the fan boys would have you think.

No, I’m not expecting a Twins-style fall-off. The Sox will still be contenders. But there are problems and they are significant. For starters, the Sox are going to be looking for a right fielder for the third straight season. The White Sox tried a committee in 2019 after letting Avisail Garcia leave, then brought in Nomar Mazara in 2020 and Adam Eaton in 2021, all small-minded moves made on a budget and all failed miserably and the hole still remains.

Second base is also a question mark now with the trade of former first round pick Nick Madrigal to the Cubs in the Kimbrel deal and the deadline acquisition of Cesar Hernandez from the Indians, though Hernandez hit only .232 (compared to his .270 career average) with three home runs in 53 games. Hernandez has a $6 million club option for 2022 and may return anyway despite his lackluster season due to lack of options and his reasonable salary. Which brings me to the biggest issue this offseason: The payroll.

As of this moment, the White Sox 2022 payroll stands at $141 million, an astronomical sum for this club, and not counting potential free agents or any players with club options, like Hernandez and Kimbrel (for the record, Kimbrel’s option is valued at $16 million). Many of the players the club signed in previous years to long-term extensions are due for large raises, not the least of which is Moncada, who will go from making $6 million in 2021 to $13 million in 2022. Jimenez and Robert will both see their salaries double and Tim Anderson is set to get a $2 million raise. Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo Lopez should both expect raises as well.

Adding those numbers to the big salaries for Abreu, Lynn, Grandal and the basically-worthless Keuchel (all of whom are scheduled to make more than $18 million in 2022) will absolutely handcuff the White Sox when it comes to potential free agent upgrades.

The fact is, the 2021-22 free agent class isn’t exactly outstanding, other than the shortstop class, which the Sox have no use for. Second base and right field, the spots the White Sox need help the most, are generally weak, minus second baseman Marcus Semien who should easily score $20 million annually in free agency and right fielder Nick Castellanos, who can opt out of the remaining two years and $34 million on his contract with the Cincinnati Reds. There is no way the White Sox can afford to sign top-shelf talent with the current payroll situation, so they’ll likely continue to do bargain bin shopping and hope to catch lightning in a bottle.

It’s also only going to get worse as by 2024 Moncada will be earning $24 million, and Jimenez and Robert will hit the $10 million mark by 2023. The payroll will be completely out of control by 2023 and at that point I expect a tear down and likely anyone on the roster besides Robert and youngsters like Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets and Kopech and Crochet is likely to be traded for prospects and some payroll relief.

There is no doubt in my mind that 2021 was the year for the White Sox to win the World Series. The division was winnable (though I never imagined winning it by 13 games) and there was no clear-cut dominant team in the American League. Instead, the offense fell flat on it’s face for a large portion of the season and the pitching struggled and another first round playoff exit was the end result. So while it feels like it was a reasonably successful season, the finish was basically the same as last season other than the division title. And things will get a lot more difficult in the division next season as the Twins and Indians attempt to rebound and the Tigers and Royals take the next steps in their rebuilds. While the White Sox should still win the division in 2022 I can’t see next year’s playoffs going much better than the 2021 version. And chances are the Wild Card teams will both come from the AL East again, so finishing second in the AL Central won’t be worth anything.

Besides second base and right field, decisions have to be made regarding the backup catcher situation (where I would keep Zack Collins, but that’s just me), the rotation (where Carlos Rodon is a free agent and Dallas Keuchel is an $18 million question mark) and the bullpen (I can’t see Kimbrel’s option being picked up and Ryan Tepera is a free agent). Also, super-sub Leury Garcia is a free agent and he played all over the diamond in 2021 and drove in 54 runs.

There is also very little talent in the minor leagues that is Major League ready, and the system itself ranks next to last in Major League Baseball, just ahead of the Washington Nationals. While Jared Kelley, Norge Vera, Sean Burke and Matthew Thompson all have future potential, none are even close to being Major League-ready and there are few bats that figure to ever make the transition. The fact that Jake Burger is still a highly-ranked prospect at age 26 shows how thin the talent is in the organization. This lack of depth, on both the MLB and MiLB levels, will hurt when injuries strike.

It’s not going to be easy in 2022 but the White Sox should win the AL Central and make the playoffs again, but another first-round exit is likely. I can’t see Tony La Russa managing more than one more season, and I’m anxious to see what direction the franchise goes in 2023, whether they go “outside the family” for a manager or hand the job to bench coach Miguel Cairo for the inevitable rebuild that should begin in 2024, or 2025 at the latest.

In closing, I’ve been a White Sox fan for 30+ years and that’s not going to change. And while it isn’t pleasant knowing the White Sox likely won’t make it to a World Series during the early to mid-2020’s, its still nice to be able to at least have the chance by being a consistent playoff participant. Hopefully next year the team will show some kind of sense of urgency, even though I don’t think it’s going to matter in the long run, I have no doubt 2021 should have been “the year” and it was, without question, the best chance for a World Series win.

Thank you for reading, and forever, GO SOX!

Updated Thoughts On The 2020-21 Chicago White Sox Offseason

OAKLAND, CALIFORNIA – SEPTEMBER 30: Yasmani Grandal #24 of the Chicago White Sox is congratulated by Jose Abreu #79 after Grandal hit a two-run home run against the Oakland Athletics during the eighth inning of Game Two of the American League Wild Card Round at RingCentral Coliseum on September 30, 2020 in Oakland, California. (Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images)

As a longtime Chicago White Sox fan, I can say this offseason has been quite a roller coaster ride. The disgust over the deciding third game of the 2020 American League Wild Card series against the A’s turned into absolute euphoria at the announcement that manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper had been relieved of their duties.

That quickly turned to surprise and confusion when general manager Rick Hahn did a 180 on his “what we’re looking for in a manager” talk, telling the press he wanted to hire a manager with recent championship experience, only to turn around and pass on the guy he was describing (A.J. Hinch) to bring back a nearly 80-year old Tony La Russa.

In turn, that negativity quickly turned around with the hiring of pitching coach Ethan Katz, who turned the career of Lucas Giolito around completely and will hopefully be the breath of fresh air the White Sox pitching staff has needed for five years or more.

While I really did think Hinch was the goal, I can live with La Russa for a couple of years managing the team because I know he’s well-schooled and one of the most successful managers in the history of the game. No one will out-manage him. But I do admit I’m worried about what comes after La Russa leaves the dugout, who will replace him.

As to the roster, I was never stupid enough to believe the White Sox would drop $30 million a year on Trevor Bauer, though I did think maybe there was a chance they would loosen the purse strings for George Springer, not at $30 million annually but maybe at or around $20 million. As it turns out, the purse strings are still quite taut, as instead of spending $30 million on one player, the White Sox will spend $15 million for two, acquiring starting pitcher Lance Lynn from the Texas Rangers and signing retread Adam Eaton as a free agent, with Lynn making $8 million in 2021 and Eaton pulling down $7 million.

So far, these are not the moves of a major market team gearing up for a championship run. These are the moves of a small market team who thinks they have enough in the tank to make a one-year run at a championship before it all comes crashing down.

Rick Hahn had said on numerous occasions that the White Sox would not be taking on “rentals,” or players with one year (or less, depending on when they were acquired) of control in exchange for younger talent that they had multiple years of control over. In a trade that reeks of Kenny Williams, the White Sox traded former Top 100 prospect Dane Dunning (who is basically under control until 2027, the last year he’ll be arb eligible) for ONE YEAR of Lance Lynn. And if Lynn goes out in his first Spring Training appearance and his elbow pops? The White Sox are just plain out of luck, without much depth behind him.

Big market championship teams have depth. They can overcome a serious injury and still make a run. If the White Sox were to lose one of their starting five, it’s anyone’s guess where they’re going to get a replacement. Pull Garrett Crochet out of the bullpen and stick him in the rotation to work 200 innings? To put that into perspective, in three years at the University of Tennessee, Crochet worked a total of 132 innings. Jonathan Stiever? He has worked a total of 173 minor league innings. Of course, there’s always Reynaldo Lopez.

After those three, there is literally nothing. A major injury would be a disaster. Two major injuries would cripple the franchise in 2021 and possibly beyond, especially if the injury turned out to be a Tommy John situation. These are dangerous waters.

There is also the back end of the White Sox bullpen, as they are rumored to be pursuing Oakland A’s closer Liam Hendriks (or at least the Chicago press is hoping they are) while the White Sox own closer for the past two years, Alex Colome, is also a free agent. While the smart money says they’ve GOT to bring one of those two in to close, there’s also the possibility that they hand the job to Aaron Bummer and his $3 million contract.

Again, this is what small market teams do, they make due with what they can.

The offense can be otherworldly, assuming catcher Yasmani Grandal doesn’t get injured, third baseman Yoan Moncada bounces back from COVID-19, Luis Robert makes adjustments from his poor final month of the season and Eaton shows his three year regression with the Nationals is a fluke rather than a trend (everyone already knows what I think).

Barring injury, there’s no reason this team can’t win the American League Central with the team they have. But one catastrophic injury, especially in the rotation, and their goose is cooked. I’m still hopeful of at least one more starting pitcher as well as one of the two closers mentioned earlier and maybe an extra outfielder who can split time with Eaton or Jimenez in the outfield and also spend time at DH. I think the perfect pick for that spot would be Michael Brantley, of the Houston Astros. A veteran and a winner, with a .297 career batting average, he could play a day or two a week in the outfield while Eaton or Jimenez serves as DH, and then DH himself while those two play the outfield.

This would also be good for top prospect Andrew Vaughn, who has never played above Class A and if he were handed the DH job with no safety net and failed, now you’ve got another hole in the lineup. Brantley would solve a lot of problems in one signing. You also can’t overestimate having a winning veteran in the clubhouse with a young team.

So at this point (December 18, 2020), I’m underwhelmed with the White Sox offseason so far. The bungled managerial hiring, trading seven years of Dane Dunning for one year of Lance Lynn and bringing back Adam Eaton were all poor decisions, but none of them should have lasting implications, as I doubt La Russa lasts more than two years in the dugout and Lynn and Eaton will both likely be gone in 2022, regardless of Eaton’s option.

However, a lot can be rectified by signing Brantley and either Colome or Hendriks, as well as another starter, preferably either Jose Quintana or James Paxton, who can fill in the back of the rotation, allow Dylan Cease to hold down the fifth spot as he works to regain his lost command, let Michael Kopech get himself back into game shape at AAA Charlotte after a full two years off and move Reynaldo Lopez into a swingman role as a long reliever and spot starter, a role I think he would excel in because he still has outstanding stuff.

Next year (2021) will mark 30 years I’ve been a Chicago White Sox fan, and while it’s been great to experience the 2005 World Series title and the division titles in 1993, 2000, 2005 and 2008 and the Wild Card appearance in 2020, that’s not much to show in 30 years. I’m hoping the 30 years going forward, and especially the next five or six, will exceed the previous 30, but this team needs to develop a winning attitude, not so much on the field as they do in the front office. So I’ll wait to see what happens between now and February before I make a final grade on the White Sox offseason. But there definitely needs to be some more improvement and it would still be cheaper overall than signing Trevor Bauer for $30 million.

Peace. And GO SOX!

2020 A Personal Retrospective

You don’t have to scroll too far back in my blog to see what high hopes I held for 2020. The beginning of a new decade, and putting an end to the worst decade of my life. It felt like the right time and the stars were aligning to make 2020 a real direction-changer for me. It was going to be the beginning of something special.

Well, we all know 2020 wasn’t exactly the “best year ever.”

However, I’m also going to be the first to admit it was far from being the “worst year ever.” Yes, there were challenges and things didn’t always work to plan. But 2020 was still a far cry better than, for instance, 2018. And it was perfection when compared to any year between 2010 and 2017. So I’m not here to bury 2020, just to remember it.

I will say the first six weeks of the year were as close to perfect as they could have been. I was so happy. I was working on my MLB The Show rosters because I wanted to kick off MLB Spring Training on the actual date and play a full season on the game in franchise mode, so when the offseason hit I could make the transactions as I saw fit.

And this plan worked up until COVID-19 shut down baseball for almost five months.

At some point in mid-February it felt like everything changed. Where as everything had been so perfect those first six weeks, there was a negative connotation to everything and when we went on lockdown, it felt like everything had fallen apart. My new year/new decade triumph wasn’t a loss, but it was shaping up to be far from what I had anticipated, which I am sure was the case for everyone on earth, not just me.

One of the highlights of February and March was getting Doom Eternal for my PlayStation 4, as I was a huge fan of the original Doom games dating back to the Super Nintendo in 1996. And I was so happy with Doom Eternal that I also bought the Doom Slayer’s Collection, which covered several of the games for the newer consoles I hadn’t played before.

March, April and May were enjoyable because I played Red Dead Redemption and Red Dead Redemption II all the way through to completion, back to back. But I played II before I because I wanted to play the games in chronological order in regard to the timeline of the games. I also was neck-deep in watching old western shows and movies.

Looking back, I wish I had taken that time to play my baseball season on MLB The Show and saved the Red Dead Redemption games for winter.

June and July are a complete blur. I have no idea what I was doing during that time. Clearly nothing constructive. I wasn’t even taking time to smoke cigars or watch Star Trek or do any of the other things I wanted to do even before baseball had been rescheduled. The very idea that I just threw time away like that annoys me to no end.

August brought “MLB Training Camp” and a sixty-game season. So I got a couple of months of baseball and that was enough to whet my appetite for MLB The Show, so when the season ended I downloaded the latest roster and began making all the real transactions (and a few of my own with the White Sox that weren’t made in reality but that I wanted to do) so that when Spring Training 2021 comes, I can do what I wanted last year.

I was also concerned when the season ended about what direction I was going to go in terms of entertaining myself for the winter. I used to play one of the Grand Theft Auto games to completion back in the late 2000s and early 2010s, and in 2015 began a yearly tradition of playing a Batman Arkham game as soon as baseball season ended.

This year I thought about immersing myself in Spider-Man games, shows and movies. I bought several Spider-Man video games, as well as the early 1980s cartoon series and the 1994 cartoon series, as well as the original movie trilogy on Blu-ray.

Then, by a complete fluke, I happened onto the show Chicago Fire. And I realized I had my winter all sewn up. So I bought eight seasons of Chicago Fire, seven seasons of Chicago P.D., five seasons of Chicago Med and one season of Chicago Justice on DVD. I started watching them in chronological order, along with the Law & Order: Special Victims Unit crossover episodes. As of today (December 18), I am 111 episodes into a 448 episode marathon, with new episodes set to begin in January 2021.

Enjoying these new shows has definitely been the highlight of the year for me, because I haven’t watched a “current” show since Family Guy debuted in 1999.

So, as 2020 comes to a close, I can’t say I’m altogether thrilled its over, like a lot of people can, but all the same I’m ready for a new year. I’m also ready to do the things I neglected to do in 2020, like working on my White Sox franchise on MLB The Show, smoking cigars and just enjoying life. And working myself back into good physical shape.

In closing, on a scale of one to ten, I’d give 2020 a six. I can’t really complain but I did miss out on a lot of opportunities I’d hoped to take advantage of. The major positives (finishing both Red Dead Redemption games and beginning my fandom with the Chicago shows) definitely outweighed the negatives this year. And I guarantee no one on earth is looking at 2020 ending the way they had anticipated or wanted. Hopefully 2021 will remedy that situation and everyone can move forward with their hopes and dreams.

Peace.

My Take On The Sox Machine 2020-21 Offseason Plan Project

Every year the Sox Machine blog posts a template for what is known as the “offseason plan project,” where anyone can give their thoughts on what they would like the White Sox to do in the offseason, in terms of whether to tender or non-tender eligible players, sign or not sign pending free agents, propose trades and things like that.

Rather than filling it out and posting on their blog I just decided to pinch their template and fill it out myself, which will make my offseason plans blog a lot easier to follow along with. I don’t want this to end up being 5,000 words like my last entry. And I need to point out, this isn’t what I think the team is going to do, this is what I would do.

So, here we go.

PREAMBLE

I have no question whatsoever that this team is a World Series contender. The Sox need depth more than they need any front-line players, so I will be using that as a guide through this exercise.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

The first number after the player name is his 2020 salary and the second is what MLB Trade Rumors projects the player will receive in arbitration.

Nomar Mazara: $5.6M | $5.9M – Tender. I can’t believe I’m saying that under the circumstances, but since he’s under team control for one more year, let him be in a legit platoon with Adam Engel. When I get to free agency, I’ll expand on this decision.

Carlos Rodon: $4.5M | $4.5M – Non-tender. It’s almost funny that a team with starting pitching depth problems would non-tender a former #3 overall pick but this guy has never made 30 starts at the MLB level (and was called up in 2015). Let him be someone else’s problem.

Lucas Giolito: $2.5M | $5.3M – Tender. That’s a no-brainer. However, I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not going to rush in with a contract extension offer just yet. I want to see how he reacts to not having James McCann carrying him through a game.

Reynaldo Lopez: $1.7M | $2.2M – Tender. But I’m moving him to a long-reliever/spot starter swingman role. I think if he’s asked to do less than go five innings, he may be a lot better at his job.

Evan Marshall: $1.3M | $1.9M – Tender. That’s getting a little expensive for a middle relief type, but the guy’s been pretty much lights-out the past two years (2.49 ERA in 2019 and 2.38 ERA in 2020).

Adam Engel: $1M | $1.4M – Tender. See Nomar Mazara. Engel has improved every year and is absolutely worthy of a chance to get some legitimate playing time again, even if it is in a platoon. And sometimes platoons just work themselves out and one guy separates himself while the other flounders.

Jace Fry: $800K | $1M – Non-tender. Dude had a career-low ERA in 2020, but it was still 3.66. That’s the first time since his 2017 call-up he’s had an ERA below 4.00. A million dollars is a little steep for that kind of production. And in spite of the ERA drop, he walked 12 in 19.2 innings. No, thanks.

Yolmer Sanchez: Uncertain – Non-tender. Anyone who knows me knows what I think of Yolmer. While he was more subdued and professional in 2020, I just don’t think he is of any real value. Danny Mendick can do his job just as well, just with more speed and more power (but admittedly less glove).

CLUB OPTIONS

Write “pick up” or “decline” or “rework” after the option.

Edwin Encarnacion: $12M – Decline. A .157 batting average and 19 RBI in 44 games? He gone. Now hand the everyday DH job to Andrew Vaughn, because he was drafted for his bat, not his glove.

Gio Gonzalez: $7M ($500K buyout) – Decline. A 4.83 ERA and declining stats over the past several years says this was likely Gio’s last hurrah. At least he finally got to pitch for the White Sox. It wasn’t worth the wait.

Leury Garcia: $3.5M ($250K buyout) – Pick Up. My main reason is to have a buffer in case Nick Madrigal has issues post-surgery or if he gets injured again. Leury can play all over the diamond (except 1B, C and P) and that kind of versatility is valuable.

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

Try to retain, or let go?

Alex Colome (Made $10,532,500 in 2020) – I would do everything I could to hold onto Colome. Outstanding closers are not as easy to find as some people think, and I would definitely NOT hand the job to Cody Heuer or Matt Foster, or even Aaron Bummer just yet. Yes, I know the White Sox caught lightning in a bottle in 2005 with Bobby Jenks but let’s not tempt fate twice. Better to have an experienced, successful closer.

James McCann (Made $5.4M in 2020) – I was one of the few people who were stoked when the Sox signed McCann prior to the 2019 season, because I knew he would be a massive upgrade behind the plate. The offense came out of nowhere. In a perfect world, the Sox would have given him an extension last offseason and used the money they spent on Yasmani Grandal to acquire more pitching. Now, I let McCann walk and get a starting job (which he deserves) and the payday that comes with it (which he deserves) and let the trio of Zack Collins, Yermin Mercedes and Seby Zavala compete for the backup job.

Jarrod Dyson (Made $2M in 2020) – Absolutely no reason to hold onto Dyson.

COACHING STAFF

Here’s a first: Pick your manager and pitching coach, with any elaboration.

Manager: A.J. Hinch. No-brainer. How often do you get a chance to hire a successful manager who’s not even 50 years old and has won a World Series in the past few years? Cheating scandal aside, there’s no question he’s the best option available.

Pitching coach: Matt Zaleski. May not be Hinch’s first choice, but Zaleski has gotten rave reviews from all of the pitchers he’s worked with as the pitching coach with AAA Charlotte. He’s also young enough to mesh well with the MLB staff.

FREE AGENTS

List three free-agent targets you’d pursue during the offseason, with a reasonable contract.

Marcus Stroman – Immediately steps in as the number three starter and improves the rotation. I’m sure he and Tim Anderson can mend fences when it comes to winning a World Series together. Four years, $68 million.

Jose Quintana – Immediately steps in as the number four starter improves the rotation. He’s clearly on the downside of his career (even though he’s only 31) but I still would say he’s a lot more dependable than Dylan Cease, Dane Dunning or Michael Kopech at this point in time. These two moves should allow Cease to take over as the fifth starter and let Kopech and Dunning head to Charlotte to increase their workload and build arm strength. One year, $5 million.

T.J. McFarland – Here is your replacement for Jace Fry. Put up less-impressive numbers overall than Fry in 2020 but limits the walks (in his last full season, he walked 20 in 56 innings in 2019) and that’s more important than anything else. One year, $2 million.

TRADES

Propose trades that you think sound reasonable for both sides, and the rationale behind them.

I really don’t see any trades that would make sense unless the White Sox decide to move on from Nomar Mazara and don’t think Adam Engel is the answer and no one on the free agent market is worth a flier. This team is solid top to bottom and only need a few tweaks here and there (mostly depth moves).

SUMMARY

My lineup will consist of Grandal at catcher, Abreu at first, Madrigal at second, Anderson at shortstop and Moncada at third, with Jimenez in left, Robert in center and Engel/Mazara in right. Vaughn will be the everyday DH. The bench will consist of Zack Collins, Danny Mendick, Leury Garcia and a couple of current minor leaguers as depth pieces.

My rotation would consist of Giolito, Keuchel, Stroman, Quintana and Cease. Colome will close, with Foster and Bummer serving as set-up men. Lopez will serve as a swingman. The rest of the bullpen would consist of Heuer, Marshall, Crochet, Jimmy Cordero and McFarland.

I wanted to make this post much more in-depth, as I had last year but at the moment that was impossible due to a personal situation. I’m showing multiple symptoms of COVID-19 and not knowing what the future may hold if I do, in fact, have the virus, I wanted to at least have something up for the post-season in case I don’t have a chance to actually experience it. Thank you for reading. Peace.

The Jason J. Connor 2020 Chicago White Sox Season Wrap-up and Off-season Preview

CHICAGO, ILLINOIS – JULY 16: Manager Rick Renteria of the Chicago White Sox watches during Summer Workouts at Guaranteed Rate Field on July 16, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)

All I can say is “wow.”

I had planned on doing a season-ending critique of the 2020 Chicago White Sox, much as I had last year, but had planned on waiting until after the World Series. Today’s situation, however, made me move my timeline up a bit.

October 12, 2020: The Chicago White Sox announced they were “parting ways” with manager Rick Renteria and pitching coach Don Cooper, and that the rest of the staff was basically waiting to see if the new manager would retain them. This really came out of left field, as it was pretty much set in stone all season that Renteria and his staff would return until he decided it was time to move on.

Of course, maybe he did. The whole “parting ways” thing really doesn’t give us much insight into who made the decision and what exactly went down. The White Sox are becoming notorious for playing things close to the vest, as Renteria received a contract extension that was not mentioned until months after it had been signed, and no information about length or amount was ever discussed openly.

So first, I’ll touch on the 2020 season and then I’ll move into my top five picks to replace Ricky Renteria, with an “honorable mention” dark horse candidate that most people probably would never even consider.

When I think of the 2020 season, looking back a year or a decade from now, I’ll always think of this team winning in spite of it’s manager. I’m not sure I’ve ever seen that before. This team is so talented that the worst tactical manager I’ve seen in 32 years of watching baseball couldn’t derail this team from a playoff birth. With the exception of DH, third base and right field, this team was exceptional.

Third base should fix itself, once Yoan Moncada recovers fully from COVID, assuming that people do fully recover. Since we don’t know what the long-term effects of the virus are, we can’t really say he’ll immediately bounce back to his 2019 form (.315/25/79). While he only missed eight games in 2020, his numbers took a nosedive (.225/6/24, which would project out to .225/19/75 over a 162 game season).

Moncada clearly looked like he was fighting every day to make contact. If he is able to recapture his health, there’s no reason he can’t bounce back.

Designated hitter and right field are a different matter. I was stoked when the White Sox signed Edwin Encarnacion, I figured there was no reason he couldn’t come in and drive in 45 runs and be the best DH the Sox have had since Jim Thome left town. Instead we got a .157 batting average and 19 RBI in 44 games. A total waste.

Right field was even worse. While I was really happy about the Encarnacion signing, I hated the acquisition of Nomar Mazara from the day it was announced. I saw Mazara for what he is, a worse version of Jason Heyward, a guy who looks like he should be a .300/40/120 hitter who, for whatever reason, just isn’t. In a full season, Mazara is a .260/20/70 guy. He has a track record. There is no “untapped potential,” he’s been the guy he’s going to be for the past five years. There’s nothing hidden in his ability.

I will admit I was impressed with his glove, as I was under the impression he was not much of an outfielder but he played reasonably well, displaying a soft glove and a strong arm. But as much as his defense improved, his hitting tanked.

This was the first spot where I started to ask myself “why does Renteria insist on playing this guy so much when there’s a better option on the bench?” Adam Engel hit .295 in limited time, has a far better glove (even taking into account Mazara’s improvement) and showed himself to be at least a borderline option to start in 2021.

I had figured all season the Sox would retain Mazara because he’s eligible for arbitration and would surely not be so foolish as to take his case to a hearing, considering his .228/.295/295 slash line. However, after the Renteria firing, I now am not so sure this team won’t just cut it’s losses and non-tender him. Which just makes the whole acquisition that much more ridiculous because they could have Steele Walker in the system and instead may end up with absolutely nothing. Those are loser moves.

The rest of the team, from Jose Abreu’s incredible MVP-caliber season to Tim Anderson’s chase of a second batting title that ran out of gas to James McCann’s excellent second-showing to Eloy Jimenez continuing to improve to the solid debut seasons of Luis Robert and Nick Madrigal, this team is really solid top to bottom.

That said, Madrigal will improve on his base running and defense and Robert will improve on his strike zone judgment; neither is a finished product.

The pitching was amazing considering the shortcomings. The Sox had only two legit starters and a collection of maybe’s to fill in the other three slots. But they were able to overcome that with a lights-out bullpen that may be the best I’ve ever seen. My hope is that if they can’t sign closer Alex Colome they’ll at least make him a Qualifying Offer, which would give the team an experienced closer again in 2021 and give Colome a nice raise ($18.9 million) for the outstanding season he had. But works needs to be done.

Rick Hahn has been vocal about the faith he has in his young pitchers, mentioning Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Dane Dunning and Garrett Crochet in particular. I have faith in Cease and Dunning and Crochet, but am not really sure what Kopech will bring to the table, assuming he ever makes it to the table to begin with. He needs to learn that there’s more to life than women and get his head screwed on straight.

So if I were serving as general manager of the White Sox heading into the 2021 season, there are a few obvious areas of need. One, maybe two starting pitchers. A decision to make at closer. A bullpen arm or two to compete with the likes of Jimmy Cordero and Jose Ruiz. A decision about James McCann. And Nomar Mazara. And what to do with the DH spot and whether or not to exercise the option on Edwin Encarnacion.

I’ll begin with the pitching situation. The obvious #1 option on everyone’s board is Trevor Bauer, and no question he would be an incredible addition to the White Sox rotation. However, if his goal is to be a vagabond for the rest of his career, and sign only one-year contracts, I’m going to pass. The White Sox are more than one player away from a World Series-contending team, so signing a guy who is a “final piece” doesn’t make sense if you only get one round into the playoffs and then he leaves.

I’m OK with the names I hear most often after Bauer: Jose Quintana and Marcus Stroman. Yeah, they’re not the biggest names in the world but since we already have Ace 1 and Ace 1-A, we don’t really need to go out looking for a top of the rotation starter. The Sox need back of the rotation production and these guys are both viable options. Neither will be particularly expensive and could be easily jettisoned if one of the younger options (Cease or Kopech or Dunning or even Jonathan Stiever) locks down a spot.

As much as I like James McCann, it’s also time to let him walk. He’s earned an opportunity to be a #1 starting catcher somewhere. Had I been running the team last season there is NO WAY I would have given that massive contract to Yasmani Grandal, I would have given McCann an extension and used what was left over to bolster the pitching staff. Grandal was a luxury this team really didn’t need under the circumstances.

But now that he’s here, we’re stuck with him and hopefully there won’t be a massive decline in his skills as he’ll turn 32 in November.

Since I would also not even consider exercising Encarnacion’s option, my roster would consist of Grandal and Zack Collins at catcher and a platoon of Jose Abreu and Andrew Vaughn at first base and designated hitter. I don’t see the need to add anyone to this mix, though if Collins fails as the backup catcher, bring up Yermin Mercedes or Seby Zavala and give them a fair shake. There’s lots of depth at the position.

As for right field, my plan there would be the same as it was a year ago. Sign Yasiel Puig. He could probably be had for next to nothing and chances are he’ll give you .265/25/80 and steal 15 bases, far better production than the team has gotten at the position in several years. Worst case scenario, just hand the job to Adam Engel.

This team has proven it is talented enough to win in spite of these holes, but there’s no need to have them when upgrades are available and cheap.

Now, to move on to the managerial vacancy and what I see ahead.

First, I’ll give my top five options as I see them and my darkhorse candidate and I’ll explain who I think will actually get the job and why I see it that way.

DARKHORSE CANDIDATE:

CLINT HURDLE

Yes, this will probably be eye-rolled over but hear me out.

You want someone whose been a winner recently? This guy lead the Pittsburgh Pirates to the playoffs three years in a row, a team that hadn’t been there in 21 years. He also has a World Series appearance on his resume with the Colorado Rockies.

I would imagine his age (63) would be the biggest obstacle to his hiring but he’s known as a player’s manager and his resume is excellent. Definitely worth a look.

CANDIDATE #5

JOE McEWING

I think Super Joe is more than qualified to be a Major League manager, and it has shown itself when he’s stepped in for Renteria. The team plays hard for him and he seems to have a plan. He also likes to use the running game, which for some reason Renteria never did, even though this team is loaded with speed and could dominate teams with it, as the old St. Louis Cardinals teams of the 1980s did during their run of success.

But I think Joe may have the same stench of losing on him that Renteria does, not because he’s a loser but because he’s so closely identified with this team during the rebuild, first as third base coach and then as bench coach under Renteria.

CANDIDATE #4

JOEY CORA

A former White Sox player, Joey Cora has done it all in his career except manage at the MLB level. He’s been a minor league manager, MLB coach (including serving as Ozzie Guillen’s bench coach in 2005) and has even served as a broadcaster for MLB Network during the 2013 World Baseball Classic. For whatever reason, he’s never gotten a shot at managing an MLB club and currently serves as third base coach of the Pirates.

Cora should have gotten an MLB managerial job a decade ago, especially coming off serving as bench coach for a World Series team. Not sure what the problem is.

CANDIDATE #3

ALEX CORA

The pluses and minuses here are obvious, as the younger brother of Joey Cora has excelled as a coach and manager, winning two World Series in two years, as a coach with the Houston Astros in 2017 and as manager of the Boston Red Sox in 2018.

Then there’s the sign stealing scandal that caused him to lose his job with the Red Sox heading into 2020. That’s likely to follow him wherever he goes and be a detriment to the team that hires him. Honestly, considering the firing of Ron Roenicke, I think the Red Sox will bring Cora back into the big chair again and move forward with him.

CANDIDATE #2

SANDY ALOMAR, JR.

Much like Joey Cora, I think Sandy Alomar, Jr. should have had a MLB managerial job a decade ago. A former catcher (which is always considered a plus for a manager since they’re basically an on-field manager and handler of a pitching staff), I can’t for the life of me understand why he hasn’t been hired as a manager. It was rumored that the White Sox wanted to hire Alomar to serve as bench coach under Robin Ventura (a job which subsequently fell to Rick Renteria) but Alomar didn’t want Ventura to be feeling the heat if the team played poorly and his replacement was right there.

There’s another angle to the Alomar story, and that’s the health of Indians manager Terry Francona, who missed a large portion of the 2020 mini-season with health problems. If Francona is unable to return, Alomar would certainly be his replacement, I can’t think there would be any second thoughts about making that move.

CANDIDATE #1

A.J. HINCH

The obvious choice. World Series winning manager who is only 46 years old and famously has a degree in psychology from Stanford University. The only downside to Hinch is the cheating scandal with the 2017 Houston Astros and the bad blood that will follow him wherever he goes, much like Alex Cora. But I think it will be worse for Cora than it will be for Hinch, as Cora has been guilty of the charge twice.

Like Alomar, Hinch is a former catcher and one of the best bullpen managers I’ve seen, he’s basically the polar opposite of Ricky Renteria. He’s originally from Iowa and has seven years of managerial experience in spite of his age.

There’s literally no downside here. The guy has a .558 career winning percentage. He’s managed three 100-win teams in his career.

There is also the elephant in the room with Ozzie Guillen, who I think is a better choice than Hinch, because of his connection to the team and the city, the fact that he’s bilingual and the fact that he’s won here before. But Rick Hahn was quick to mention that he would not be considered for the job. At first I thought this was ridiculous, but the more I think about it, the more I understand why they made this decision.

Let’s take a recent example of how managers deal with things today. Late in the 2020 season, Renteria put pitcher Carlos Rodon into an unwinnable situation, pitching him out of the bullpen in an important game when he hadn’t worked out of the ‘pen in five years and was just coming back from injury. The move backfired badly and Ricky was quick to go to the press and say “put that one on me,” meaning the criticism.

Let’s be honest, first, Ozzie would never have made a move that ridiculous. Ozzie was an excellent bullpen manager. Second, if a guy went out and completely blew it, Ozzie wouldn’t think twice about going to the press and saying “Rodon really blew it today.” That was about accountability. That’s not really popular in today’s world.

So maybe if this team was a little older, Ozzie would be perfect. But these are still “kids” in the grand scheme of things and I don’t think they wanted Ozzie throwing them under the bus while they’re still “growing.” And I kind of understand that.

Naturally, there will be other candidates besides these and the manager may end up being someone we haven’t even considered. I’m thankful that Rick Hahn mentioned he wanted someone who had experience because that eliminates guys like A.J. Pierzynski, Jim Thome, Frank Thomas and Paul Konerko, who have no business managing a team that’s on the cusp of being a legit World Series contender for multiple seasons.

As this coming year will mark 30 years that I’ve been a fan of this franchise, I have kind of become cynical when anything happens, expecting the team to make the worst decisions but they seem to be growing out of that, so I’m not going into the offseason automatically expecting the worst. I did expect them to keep Nomar Mazara and platoon him with Adam Engel in 2021 just because they had a year of control left, now I’m not so sure. They finally seem to be at the point where they know they can contend and they’ll do the best they can to win. Today’s decision proves that point beyond dispute.

I now want to address Renteria and Cooper. I was never a fan of Renteria’s hiring, and made that clear publicly on a number of occasions immediately after his hiring as well as in the three years since. I always thought of his hiring the same way I looked at the White Sox hiring of Eddie Stanky 50 years earlier or the White Sox trade for Ron Santo in the early 1970s, it was just a way to “put one over” on the Chicago Cubs.

“We’ll take the guy you couldn’t win with and we’ll win with him.”

Naturally I don’t have any personal dislike for Renteria. He’s a good coach and seems to foster a good vibe in the clubhouse. He seems to be a good teacher. But he’s as poor of an in-game strategist as I’ve ever seen. While most managers are playing chess, he seems to be playing 52-card pick-up. Some coaches are just not cut out to be managers and yet they still get opportunities. Lloyd McClendon is a good example, as he proved to be a poor manager with the Pittsburgh Pirates but somehow has gotten opportunities since, with the Mariners and as a interim manager with the Detroit Tigers.

Ricky will be known from here on out as a guy you hire when you do a rebuild and get rid of when it’s time to compete, since it’s now happened twice. The Cubs were smart enough to get rid of him before they were ready to make the jump. The White Sox held onto him a year too long but at least they wasted little time in fixing that.

Coop is a different situation entirely. For whatever reason, the front office was always enamored of Coop even though I think his abilities were grossly overrated. When you look at the parade of guys who were either stars before he got a hold of them (Mark Buehrle was a 16-game winner the year before Coop was promoted to the MLB staff) or were legit starters that saw their careers point down with Coop (Javier Vasquez and Jeff Samardzija). The only two starters that Coop really developed who amounted to anything were Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, which isn’t much to brag about in 19 years.

We were told how great Coop was almost daily from Steve Stone and Rick Hahn and now he has a chance to go get another job and prove it. I think enough people realized that the 2005 staff was loaded with good veteran pitchers who were successful before they came to the White Sox and his recent failures (Samardzija, Reynaldo Lopez and Dylan Cease dealing with regression, Lucas Giolito going to his high school coach for help) have rightfully tarnished whatever reputation Coop had cultivated in the past.

This is a “what have you done for me lately” world we live in and Coop hasn’t done anything of note in a long time. And I’ll stick to what I’ve said throughout the mini season of 2020: This team won IN SPITE of the coaching staff, not with it.

So, in closing, this should be a really fun off-season. In a perfect world, the White Sox will hire A.J. Hinch and sign a couple of back-of-the-rotation starters, resign Alex Colome and bring in a legit right fielder who is more production than “untapped potential.” This team can be dominant for a good five or six years, so it’s time to put the pedal to the metal and go out and win. The Renteria Era is over. The Winning Era has begun.

Peace. And Go Sox. #ChangeTheGame #WhiteSox



EDIT

After writing this blog I heard that the White Sox are entertaining the idea of talking to former White Sox manager Tony LaRussa about the job.

I can’t even begin to express how ridiculous that idea is. LaRussa is 76 years old and hasn’t managed in nine years. Who in their right mind would want to take a young club and saddle them with a manager who was born during World War II?

There is no way LaRussa could interact with the baseball player of the 2020s, there’s a cultural divide there that’s unbridgeable. And there is an example of the White Sox trying that once before, with disastrous results: In 1976 the White Sox rehired former manager Paul Richards, who had managed the team from 1951 to 1954. He was 67 years old (a decade younger than LaRussa) and hadn’t managed since 1961, a layoff of 15 years. He was totally unprepared for the job and the Sox finished 64-97.

LaRussa was a great manager a generation ago. But his time has passed and the very idea of even discussing the job with him makes me cringe. Don’t do something so ridiculous when you have a great, young team that’s ready to contend.