2022 A personal Retrospective

Normally, I would hold my yearly retrospective until closer to the end of the year, like I did in 2020 (which was published on December 18, 2020).

However, it wouldn’t matter if I won the lottery every week for the rest of the year and if Paige Spiranac showed up at my door and asked me to marry her, I don’t think this trainwreck of a year could be saved. It’s been that bad.

It’s amazing to think that three short years ago I sat here and penned a blog about how good I thought the 2020’s would be. I suffered through a miserable decade in the 2010’s, I wouldn’t wish a decade like that on my worst enemy.

The 2020’s have been worse, so far.

The year 2020 brought us COVID and the subsequent illegal lockdown. As bad as that year seemed at the time, it would pale in comparison to what was ahead for me. In 2021, I nearly lost one of my closest friends over personal nonsense, and she and I barely spoke the entire year. I got into a relationship I had no business getting into (the “personal nonsense”) and in September I lost my mother after a battle with dementia.

Which brings us to 2022. And the downhill slide continued.

The nonsensical relationship I was in dominated the first nine months of the year. Even though it was of the long-distance variety, I felt like a prisoner. How to explain what it was like? I cringed when my phone went off, whether it was a text or a call. I cried myself to sleep many nights, which in itself is completely pathetic. I could have walked away at any time, but I didn’t. It’s the same story I’ve lived 15 times before, I’m in a situation that makes me want to die but I don’t have the good sense to walk away.

Mercifully, she walked away in late September, and a weight was lifted off me. But a new one quickly emerged. While I was happy that miserable experience was over, it reinforced something that had been bothering me for some time; I have a 100% failure rate when it comes to relationships. I’ve mentioned this in a previous blog, and it’s something I just have a hard time coming to grips with it. A success rate of 0% over 35 years. I don’t know how anything could be more pathetic. And it will never improve.

Having that black cloud of misery hanging over my head for almost 10 months, I also got to experience what may well be the worst baseball season for the Chicago White Sox I have ever seen, and possibly the worst ever for the organization.

While an 81-81 record doesn’t sound as bad as, say, the Pittsburgh Pirates season (62-100), the Pirates went into their season knowing they were likely going to finish in last place. The White Sox were expected to make a run at the World Series. Instead, they finished 11 games out of first place and failed to make the playoffs.

I preached the entire season that this team wasn’t good enough to contend, but I was met at every turn by fan boys who insisted they’d be just fine and just to wait. I waited, and it went just about like I had predicted it would.

Speaking of fan boys, I have begun to wonder lately if every sports team has fan boys, who refuse to criticize the team no matter what happens. I just don’t understand how anyone could support every move a team makes even when they know it’s the wrong one. A real fan wants to see his team succeed, not just kiss their collective asses every time something happens, good or bad. Do all teams have fans like that?

The stress of that stupid relationship and this stupid ball club got me back into stress eating, something I hadn’t done in over a decade. Now I’m even more overweight and even more miserable, and I’m sitting here again placing all my hopes and dreams on the turning over of the calendar to make everything right again.

I’ve started laying out plans for 2023. I’m once again updating the MLB The Show rosters for next season because I hope to start a franchise next spring with the White Sox. If that fails (again, for what would probably be the 23rd straight year), I have made the decision that it may be time to cut ties with the White Sox, and Chicago in general and bring my world closer to home. I may start following the WVU Mountaineers.

So much time has been spent thinking on this situation. I would be walking away from a lot, friends, important connections, an excellent network of fans and a social media presence. I’d be giving all that up to start again at the bottom, going from Major League Baseball back to the college ranks and a university I’ve barely followed at all since the mid 1990s. But if baseball fails me again, I am truly ready to make the move.

I have also made the decision that, if this happens, I will be ready to completely start over with new social media accounts, email accounts and maybe even a new phone number. This is a move I should have made before 2020 began, but I decided to just push forward with where I am now. I won’t make the same mistake twice.

It’s also time to get back into physical fitness. I bought a new weight bench which I plan to put together over the next several weeks, and starting in January I plan on putting my broken, swollen and disgusting body back together again.

The thing that has made this year so much worse than the previous few is that I have completely lost my desire to do anything. I’ve had to force myself to work on the baseball rosters even though I have wanted to do a franchise on MLB The Show for as long as that has been an option. I want to get back into watching The “Chicago” shows (Chicago Fire, Chicago P.D. and Chicago Med). Can’t seem to do that either.

But I’m finally at what feels like rock bottom and I’m ready to start making the climb back up. And I hope that finally, when that calendar turns from 2022 to 2023, things start looking better than they have lately because I can’t deal with much more of this. I’d rather have another 2020 than another 2022. This year can absolutely fuck off. If I could, I’d wipe it from my mind. While admittedly it wasn’t as bad as 2017, it was still bad enough that I’d rank it in the bottom three years of my life (2017, 2022 and 1996).

So, we’ll see where things go from here. One thing is for certain, there’s nowhere to go but up. But I’ve also said that in the past and was wrong. I just want to be happy.

Peace.

Talkin’ Baseball: My Take On The Sox Machine 2022-23 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.

This year I’m going to do this a little differently, I’m going to list not only what I would do in terms of roster construction, but what I think the team will do as well, because there will definitely be a lack of consensus between myself and the Sox front office.

PREAMBLE

This is going to be a difficult season for the White Sox, possibly worse than 2022. The lack of talent, health, depth and camaraderie are going to sink the team for the remainder of the “contention window.” This team was poorly built and too many players were paid before they had actually accomplished anything, thus we have a roster full of overpaid bums who can’t stay healthy and have no reason to try.

ARBITRATION-ELIGIBLE PLAYERS

Lucas Giolito: $10.8M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)

Dylan Cease: $5.3M (the Sox will tender, I would tender and try to work on an extension)

Reynaldo Lopez: $3.3M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)

Adam Engel: $2.3M (non-tender, I think the Sox will non-tender)

Michael Kopech: $2.2M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)

Kyle Crick: $1.5M (non-tender, I think the Sox will non-tender)

Jose Ruiz: $1M (non-tender, the Sox are in love with him and will tender)

Danny Mendick: $1M (tender, I think the Sox will tender)

CLUB OPTIONS

Tim Anderson: $12.5M ($1M buyout) (pick up, I would trade if possible, I think the Sox will pick up)

Josh Harrison: $5.625M ($1.5M buyout) (buyout, I think the Sox will tender due to lack of options)

PLAYER OPTIONS

AJ Pollock: $13M ($5 million buyout) (No way he leaves $13 million on the table, exercise option)

OTHER IMPENDING FREE AGENTS

Jose Abreu (Made $18M in 2021) (resign, 2 years for $20 million, I think the Sox let him walk)

Johnny Cueto ($4.2M) (let him walk, I think the Sox let him walk)

Vince Velasquez ($3M) (let him walk, I think the Sox let him walk)

Elvis Andrus ($14.25M) (let him walk, I think the Sox let him walk)

MANAGER

My pick: Ozzie Guillen. You want a manager with a successful body of work and championship pedigree? Here he is. You want a guy who knows it’s his final chance and wants to right his previous wrongs? Here he is. I don’t want to hear about what happened in 2011, that’s ancient history. This is 2022.

The Sox pick: Mike Shildt. I know this guy has cooled down considerably as a candidate but here is my rationale: Kenny Williams wants Ron Washington. Rick Hahn wants Joe Espada. I think Tony La Russa will have Jerry Reisndorf’s ear and like the last time the White Sox hired a manager, Jerry gets the final say.

FREE AGENTS

No. 1: Jose Abreu (two years, $20 million). You just don’t let the face of the franchise walk away because you have some kid who was a high draft pick waiting to take his spot. Mark my words, Andrew Vaughn will be more Greg Walker than Jose Abreu or Paul Konerko when all is said and done.

No. 2: Willson Contreras (two years, $32 million). I’m not a huge fan of this signing, but something has to be done. Can’t go into another season with Yasmani Grandal at the top of the depth chart. Let Contreras do the bulk of the catching through the remainder of the contention window, and he can still sign another free agent deal after the 2024 season as a 33-year old.

No. 3: Adam Frazier (one year, $7 million). Frazier is coming off his worst season and should be had for a small amount. He set full-season career lows in just about every category (.238/.301/.311 line with an OPS+ of 80 and a 0.7 WAR) but he plays every day (156 games in 2022 with the Mariners) and his defense is certainly passable (6 errors in 435 chances at second base in 2022). It’s an upgrade from nothing.

As for what I think the White Sox will do in free agency, I see a couple of low-end fifth starter candidates on minor league deals (someone like Jordan Lyles or Michael Pineda), a fourth or fifth outfielder to replace Adam Engel (Ben Gamel? Jackie Bradley? Chad Pinder?). Other than that, and maybe a flier on a bullpen arm or two for “depth,” I don’t see the Sox making any free agent signings. The roster is full.

TRADES

This is the hardest thing to try to forecast, because no one knows who is available or who could be traded for whom.

No. 1: Trade Yoan Moncada and Colson Montgomery to the Seattle Mariners for Eugenio Suarez and Jarred Kelenic. Yes, it’s giving up the Sox #1 prospect and not getting a ton in return but it’s not a straight salary dump and Suarez fills in third base for the remainder of the contention window and Kelenic isn’t the superstar prospect he was two years ago. This opens up some salary room for the White Sox and eliminates one of the team’s biggest issues, and if Kelenic can outplay Gavin Sheets in RF, you could have a solid OF lineup for years (Kelenic, Luis Robert and Oscar Colas) after the contention window closes.

No. 2: Trade Leury Garcia and Bryan Ramos to the Oakland A’s for Tony Kemp. The A’s take on a little extra salary (Kemp is expected to make around $3.2 million in arbitration this season while Garcia will make a little over $5 million in the second year of his three-year deal) in order to pick up a decent prospect in Ramos and the Sox get their replacement for Garcia. Seems like a win/win trade to me.

No. 3: Trade Yasmani Grandal to any team that will take him for any price they’ll pay, and agree to pay half of his salary. Straight salary dump, find some team that could use an occasional switch hitter at the DH position and could be a once-a-week or even emergency catcher, for $9 million. Trade him for some team’s 50th ranked prospect. Anything to get him off the payroll and out of the organization.

As for what I think the Sox will do in the trade market, I think they’ll strongly consider trading Gavin Sheets (likely to the Orioles in a nice homecoming) because he is still a man without a position (he’s a 1B/DH and those spots are filled) and I think they could get a minor league pitching prospect in return, maybe a future piece for the back end of the rotation. I don’t think the front office has the balls to really move a Moncada or an Eloy Jimenez or a Lucas Giolito for anything.

SUMMARY

This would be my every day lineup: Contreras (catcher), Abreu (1B), Frazier (2B), Anderson (SS), Suarez (3B), Pollock (LF), Robert (CF), Kelenic (RF) and Jimenez (DH). Kemp would be my top utility player. For those wondering, I’d either trade Andrew Vaughn or just let him play 1B or DH when Abreu or Eloy need a day off. Remember, he’s making the MLB minimum. At best he’s a .280/20/80 hitter, he’s not the second coming of Frank Thomas.

The pitching rotation: Cease, Lance Lynn, Kopech, Giolito and Davis Martin.

The bullpen: Liam Hendriks (closer), Reynaldo Lopez, Kendall Graveman, Joe Kelly, Tanner Banks, Aaron Bummer and Jake Diekman.

I think the White Sox will try to find someone/anyone to be their fifth starter because they have absolutely no faith in their own homegrown pitchers (Cease came from the Cubs, Lynn from the Rangers, Kopech from the Red Sox and Giolito from the Nationals; Banks and Bummer are the only homegrown relievers), and they’ll sign a guy who is looking to rebound (like Johnny Cueto in 2022 or Ervin Santana in 2019, just showing the extremes of how those kinds of deals can work out).

So, here is what I see the Sox running out there every day:

Everyday lineup: Grandal (catcher), Vaughn (1B), Harrison/Leury (2B), Anderson (SS), Moncada (3B), Pollock (LF), Robert (CF), Sheets/Colas (RF) and Jimenez (DH). Leury will be the top utility player but Danny Mendick is going to get a good look after a solid (but short) 2022 season (.289/.343/.443, OPS+ of 121 and 0.5 WAR in only 97 at-bats).

I can see my version of the 2023 White Sox finishing 85-77, thanks to the power provided by Contreras, Suarez and Kelenic to push a few more runs across the plate. The pitching was middle-of-the-pack and I expect Cease and Kopech to get better, so I think “my” 2023 White Sox could finish second to the Guardians (again) but maybe a little closer (five or six games out).

I see the real 2023 White Sox finishing 79-83, spending the season wondering if Vaughn or Moncada or Robert is going to break out, if they can get anything close to a positive WAR out of second base and hoping Colas finally fills the hole in RF that’s basically been there since Jermaine Dye left. This is not a good team, and removing the best player (Abreu lead the team in WAR, games played, hits and batting average, period) isn’t going to make the offense better, and if you believe that, you’re a moron.

Things may eventually start to look up once Grandal and Moncada and Giolito and Hendriks and the other massive drains on payroll are gone and the Sox could potentially do a legitimate reload in 2025 with all that available cash. However, I have absolutely no faith in this front office. Luckily, as Rick Hahn said, they know when they’re not doing the job anymore so once the guy who has had 2 winning seasons out of 10 as a general manager figures out he can’t do the job, it will get better.

Thank you for taking the time to read. Peace.

WHERE DO I GO FROM HERE?

As I enter the final quarter of 2022, my life hasn’t been this confusing in years.

This has been one of the worst years I’ve had to put it, between my personal life, my spiritual life, my health and my life as a sports fan. In fact, when you put it all together, 2022 may well rank as the worst year of my life. And I can’t wait for 2023 to get here and put an end to this.

To be fair, I need to put the blame where it belongs, right on top of my head. I’m the reason, my poor decisions have lead to everything that today makes my life very confusing and unhappy. But I’ll tackle all of that in my end-of-the-year blog entry. Right now, lets look at the road signs.

This Chicago White Sox season was miserable. A team that was supposed to contend for a World Series championship finished 81-81 and couldn’t even make the playoffs, let alone make an extended playoff run. And I watched all but maybe 5 of those games this season.

In the post season, since 2015, one of my favorite projects has been doing updates to the MLB The Show rosters to upload to the servers for others to use, then I can use it to build my own White Sox roster to play franchise mode on the game, putting myself in the general manager position and making the trades and signings I would make if I had the opportunity to do so.

But I don’t feel the excitement about that this offseason, due to the poor season overall as well as the potential loss of free agent first baseman Jose Abreu, who has been my favorite player on the team since he signed prior to the 2014 season. If he leaves, I am not even sure I want to continue following the White Sox, let alone putting months of work into updating rosters.

So, I look to what I used to do immediately after the season during the White Sox rebuild, I would completely immerse myself in the DC Universe, playing the Batman Arkham video game series, watching Justice League cartoons and The Dark Knight trilogy until the MLB postseason was over, also listening to old Superman radio shows and watching shows like Gotham and the old 1950s The Adventures Of Superman and the 1960s Batman series.

While I’ve started out by playing my way through Batman Arkham Asylum and I’m currently working on Batman Arkham City I don’t have the same excitement I used to have in the past.

Finally, a little project I’ve covered previously in my blog, is my NCAA project, which is basically me running through franchise mode on NCAA Football, NCAA Basketball and MVP NCAA Baseball on the PlayStation, and ultimately moving on to either Madden NFL or MLB The Show after finishing my “college eligibility.” I’ve done the project twice in the past (in 1995 using John Elway’s Quarterback and Tecmo Super Bowl on the NES and again in 2001 with NCAA GameBreaker and NFL GameDay on the PlayStation. At this point, I have everything I need to do the best job I’ve ever done but like everything else, I lack the motivation and desire to do it.

I should say I don’t lack the desire or motivation, because that’s not entirely accurate. I think I’m in the middle of a deep depression based on everything that has happened in 2022 and I’m just waiting for the next “bad thing” to happen. Basically, I’m dealing with a form of mental block.

I have decided, after talking to a number of people, that I’m going to basically take the month of October off before making a decision. I’ll continue playing Arkham City and follow it up with Arkham Origins and at the end of the month, I will make a decision. We’ll see how that works.

In a perfect world, I’d take this month off and focus 100% on the DC Universe and in November, when free agency begins, I’ll start updating my rosters on MLB The Show with a renewed vigor. And there’s every chance that may happen. But the stress of this year has beaten me down physically and spiritually and I need to make improvements there as well. I need to get back into a routine, including a workout program, eating right and finally sleeping again, which is something that I’ve been neglecting for close to 18 months due to my personal life.

On the flip side, I can see me having no desire to do anything when this month-long sabbatical ends. If that’s the case, I’ll know I’m in a deeper depression than I realize. And I’ll have to deal with that when, and if, the time comes. But for now, I want to focus on the potential positives.

So, we’ll see what happens in about a month, and I’ll go from there. Thank you for taking the time to read, I really am not one for posting publicly about my issues, but sometimes just laying it out there is the best way to get it out of my head. Whether anyone sees it or not.

Peace.