My Final Analysis Of The Manny Machado/Chicago White Sox Fiasco

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After what feels like an eternity, we’ve finally reached the end of the road on the Manny Machado Magical Mystery Free Agency Tour. Obviously, it did not end as we all wanted it to, with Manny signing a reasonable contract with the White Sox and taking over at third base. Instead, it ended in a clusterfuck with the White Sox supposedly offering more money in the form of incentives and option years and San Diego Padres finally winning the battle with a straight ten-year, $300 million deal and an opt-out after five years.

Now I could sit and complain and be aggravated that, as usual, the train has left the station and the White Sox are still standing in the baggage area looking stupid. But I’m not going to do that. Do I think adding Machado would have been a coup? Of course. Is it the end of the world? No. We still have a stacked minor league system. The future should be bright, regardless of the fact that Manny won’t be playing on the South Side.

I’m more angry about the fact that the White Sox had the option to spend the kind of money they are rumored to have offered Machado (between $320 and $350 million according to various stories I have read, had he reached his incentives and had his options exercised) but now there isn’t much available to spend that money on. The best option for this team, with a gaping hole at third base, was Mike Moustakas, who took a pitiful $10 million to stay with the Milwaukee Brewers. And given the way their respective stadiums play, Moose may well end up hitting more home runs in 2019 than Machado will. Ouch.

The White Sox have needs. Lots of needs. So far none of the “prospects” that have been called up have come close to meeting expectations, let alone exceeding them. Carson Fulmer, the 8th overall pick in the first round of the 2015 MLB Draft, looks like a bust on every level, carrying a 6.68 ERA over 67 1/3 innings at the MLB level and a 5.04 ERA over 319 2/3 innings at the minor league level. Our 2016 first round pick, catcher Zack Collins, has a .232 career batting average over 924 minor league at-bats. The Sox second round pick in 2016 was considered a steal, but rolled up a 6.31 ERA in 14 minor league starts. Of course, our 2017 first round pick, Jake Burger, suffered two Achilles tendon injuries in less than a year. None of these players are close to being MLB contributors.

I would also be remiss not to call out our prospect acquisitions, including the haul from the Chris Sale trade (Yoan Moncada and his .235 batting average and league-leading 217 strikeouts in 2018, as well as Michael Kopech and his Tommy John surgery, which pushes his development back a full year) and the Adam “Dickhead” Eaton trade (Lucas Giolito and his 6.13 ERA over 32 starts, but did lead the team in wins with 10, and Reynaldo Lopez, who looks like the best of the bunch after compiling a 3.91 ERA over 188 innings and looked like a legitimate ace at times). Clearly, this team has a lot of needs.

There is also the possibility that the rookies who have had success at the minor league level won’t translate that success to the big league level. Moncada was once considered the top prospect in baseball. At this time, Eloy Jimenez is considered the third-best prospect in baseball, but what if he also hits in the .230s? None of these prospects are guaranteed stars, if any player came close, it would have been Moncada, who was the consensus best prospect and considered the front-runner for AL Rookie Of The Year in 2017.

A year, incidentally, in which he hit .231 in 54 games at the MLB level.

The White Sox need way more than one $300 million player. The only OF spot that seems secure at this moment is CF, where Gold Glove finalist Adam Engel hit .235 but did hit a robust .260 in the second half. Left field awaits Jimenez. Right field belongs to Jon Jay, who, despite whatever spin the White Sox front office wants to put on it, was signed to help lure Manny Machado. The only possible power option with a track record in the OF is Daniel Palka, who will more than likely regress and is more of a left-handed platoon DH option than a full-time starting outfielder. Like I said, this team has needs.

The starting pitching simply swapped Big Lame James Shields for Ivan Nova. Nova is an upgrade in that he has FAR superior control to Big Lame James, but is also susceptible to the home run ball. The bullpen, on the other hand, did get a bit of a makeover and should be the strength of the team. But you have to get late in the game with a lead for that to matter, and as of now, I don’t know where the runs are going to come from.

While I’d love to see the White Sox be a year-in, year-out contender, not only in the standings but also in the free agent pool, at this point I just think it’s better to tone it down a tad. A 100-loss team like the White Sox, with little improvement throughout the roster and probably staring down another 100 loss season, doesn’t need a $300 million player right now. That’s like putting $3,000 Vossen rims on my 1992 Jeep Cherokee Sport.

At this point, I would like to see the White Sox sign another free agent starter (Gio Gonzalez?) and take the ball out of Dylan Covey’s hand every fifth day because we already know what Covey’s capable of (5.18 ERA over 21 starts and six relief appearances). A power upgrade in the OF would also be a blessing (Adam Jones?).

In closing, yes, I’m disappointed that we didn’t sign Machado. I’m disappointed that we won’t sign Bryce Harper and that next year we won’t sign Nolan Arenado. Who may not even make it to the free agent market anyway. I’m annoyed that we’re coming out on the short end of the stick, as usual. Especially if the Phillies sign Harper, we’ll be the only team that was in on both, and the only team that came out with absolutely nothing to show for it. Of course, if you scroll back you’ll see that three months ago I said this would be the end result, so I was mentally prepared for it, but that doesn’t make it any easier.

I’ll suffer through another poor season with my Sox friends and in a couple of years, if everything breaks right, we’ll be celebrating a nice window of contention where we could be seeing a Sox World Series win at any time. And we’ll forget this point in time ever happened. And it will all be worth it. So here’s to that day. GO GO WHITE SOX!

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Some Changes I Would Like To See To The MLB The Show Video Game Franchise

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I had hoped this blog would be about the start of Spring Training and the final destination of Manny Machado and Bryce Harper, but since that never-ending saga is, well, never-ending, I figured I would take the time to address something else that’s been on my mind lately: The state of the MLB The Show PlayStation franchise.

I began playing the Sony MLB offering back when it was known simply as MLB, in 2000, which featured Mo Vaughn on the cover (apparently in those days it was easier to get an Angels player on the cover than it is now, since Mike Trout is clearly this generation’s Mickey Mantle). In those days, the game was stripped down to the absolute minimum, no franchise mode, a “minor league” system that amounted to three players per team, etc.

Prior to owning a PlayStation, my game of choice was Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run for the Super Nintendo, back in the days of games that either featured real players and was sponsored by the MLBPA but had no real teams or games that featured real teams and was sponsored by MLB but featured no real players. KGJWR featured all the real MLB teams but with made-up player names, including “Big Magoo” in place of Frank Thomas with the White Sox.

Going back even further, my game of choice was Baseball Stars on the NES. Most people seemed to prefer the RBI Baseball series because it was licensed by the MLBPA, but I liked Baseball Stars because it was completely programmable. You could create your own team, players and league as well as having the ability to trade players. Back in 1993, in the days before the current generation of fantasy baseball or games like The Show, a friend of mine and I spent a whole weekend holding a player draft, creating a team, creating a minor league team, and playing a full season on Baseball Stars. It was a lot of work but definitely a lot of fun in the end.

When I bought MLB The Show 07 (featuring David Wright on the cover) for the PlayStation 2, I was dumbfounded. I thought it was everything I could ever want in a baseball video game. Real teams and players, just like the previous generation simply known as the “MLB” series, but with real expanded minor league teams and league rules, to an extent.

Now, I need to point out that, of all the gameplay options on The Show, I am a Franchise guy. I like the concept of playing GM better than the Road To The Show option (where you create yourself as a player and work your way through the system). I also don’t bother with all the bells and whistles including the card collecting and that kind of thing. I’m a baseball card collector in real life and have an extensive collection, I don’t need to collect “pretend” cards.

This is not a complaint, I have no issue with this being part of the experience, but it brings me to my first issue with the MLB The Show series:

Make Different Versions Highlighting Different Aspects Of The Game

As it is now, you can buy three different versions (though I’m cheating a bit because one is an online version and two are physical versions) but why not make MLB The Show: Franchise, where you can play the game in franchise or season mode, without all the extra card collecting and packs and stubs and things that I have no interest in.

Make a second version, or even an expansion pack, featuring the cards and all the extras that have nothing to do with playing baseball.

Release The Game When Spring Training Begins

As one who enjoys playing Spring Training games, there’s no reason why, in this day and age, the game can’t be released a month early. With downloadable patches and rosters, the game could be updated throughout Spring Training and give games like me a chance to play the Spring Training games in real time, with up to date rosters, which I do anyway because I spend the winter updating rosters on the previous year’s game, then I play Spring Training through and then transfer my saves to the NEW game once it’s released near Opening Day.

As an example, Madden NFL 19 was released on August 10, 2018. The NFL season didn’t begin until September 6. The preseason began on August 2 with the Hall Of Fame game. Why can’t Sony release The Show on a similar schedule as EA releases Madden?

Make Saved Rosters Transferable

I do my updates on saved rosters. It would make the game a lot more easy to play if I could just transfer those rosters to the next year’s game like I can transfer my season or franchise saves. This seems like a no-brainer to me, considering that, when you transfer franchise saves, the roster is going along with it, it’s just not transferable individually.

Work on that.

Upgrade The Managerial And Coach Hiring Options In Franchise Mode

While you can trade players from one team to another, and sign free agents, you cannot hire another team’s manager or hitting coach or pitching coach. That is ABSURD. Instead, you have the option of hiring your manager and staff from a list of computer-generated made-up names. There is NO excuse for this. The option to hire another team’s coach should be no different than signing another team’s free agents, it should be part of the experience.

Allow Non-Roster Invitees During Spring Training In Franchise Mode

This could be a little trickier but certainly not at all impossible. As each team has it’s MLB roster, AAA roster, AA roster and A roster, add a roster of NRI’s for spring training that can be added to the main roster if need be and released to the free agent pool if you decide not to keep them. Once the regular season rosters are set, the NRI roster would just disappear until the end of the season. There are a huge number of available free agents on the game, so this isn’t impossible by any stretch, and it would add another level of realism.

Make Regional Or Downloadable Covers For Each Team

Too much is made of the cover athlete and this year showed just exactly what a clusterfuck that can turn into. We’re six weeks from launch day and have no idea where the cover athlete will be playing. Why not make regional covers that are available nationwide via purchase from GameStop and Walmart and Target online? Or, even better, have a generic cover or a “legends” cover and make 30 different team covers available for download on the official Show website. I have made my own custom covers three times over the years, it’s not rocket science. If you can make 30 team custom themes for the PS4, I’m sure you can produce custom downloadable covers.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the game and I can deal with not having these options available but, for how little it would really take to make these few alterations, why not do it? Too much time is spent on “1,300 new defensive animations” when, does that really matter? I mean, you make a great catch, but in the long run does the style of the animation of that catch really make that big of a difference in the gameplay aspect? Or is it a wig for a bald personality? It’s just a catch. Basically, what I’m saying is the game needs more steak, not more sizzle.

I love MLB The Show, and it’s a hell of a lot better than lining up Big Magoo to play first base for the White Sox on Ken Griffey Jr.’s Winning Run or having no options to make trades or transactions on the old RBI Baseball series on the NES.

But it could be improved. Let’s work on that.
Peace.

Talkin’ Baseball, January 22, 2019 (#1)

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Welcome to the first of what I hope will be a running blog series, “Talkin’ Baseball with Jason J. Connor.” Before I jump in, I’m going to kind of explain how I came to be writing this series. I’ve been a baseball fan since 1988, so we’re talking over 30 years. I like to consider myself somewhat knowledgeable on the subject. I also took two years of Journalism classes in high school because, at the time, my dream was to be a sports writer.

I guess this is as close as I’ll come to that dream. But I’ll take it.

While I have been encouraged a lot to do this, I wanted to wait until now and have my first entry cover the 2019 Hall Of Fame inductees. Anyone who knows me knows I am a White Sox fan to the core, but I don’t want this blog to be only about the White Sox. But, naturally, since the White Sox are the only team I follow intently, that’s where 85% of my coverage is going to go. But I want to leave that 15% wiggle room for other important developments.

So, with that, let’s jump right in.

THE 2019 BASEBALL HALL OF FAME INDUCTEES

The BBWAA (Baseball Writers Association of America) released the results of balloting for the 2019 class earlier this evening. I had planned on watching it live but had a lot going on, I brought the feed up on my phone only to be hit in the face with commercials, and the first sound to come out of my phone was an ominous voice saying “indigestion and gas?”

I closed the screen and figured that was a bad omen and I’d wait to read the results.

When I read the results a little while ago, I was not at all surprised with three of the inductees and pleasantly surprised with the fourth. Yankees closer Mariano Rivera, Phillies and Blue Jays starter, the late Roy Halladay, Mariners DH Edgar Martinez and Orioles and Yankees starter Mike Mussina all made the cut. Congratulations to the class of 2019.

Rivera, one of the greatest closers in the history of the game and the best I have ever seen, was elected on the strength of being named on 100% of the ballots cast, the first player in the history of the sport with that distinction. As great as Rivera was (an MLB record 652 saves and a career ERA of 2.21, and that’s over 1,115 career games), it’s hard to imagine that Ken Griffey, Jr., Hank Aaron, Nolan Ryan, Greg Maddux, Cal Ripken, Jr. and even Babe Ruth failed to receive a 100%. For years it was rumored that the old guard in the BBWAA didn’t think anyone deserved to be named on 100% of the ballots so someone would leave the “head of the class” off their ballot just to keep anyone from receiving 100%. Apparently that has now changed.

Having said that, Rivera is beyond deserving and is, in fact, deserving of the “100%.” It just baffles me that no one before him has ever earned that distinction.

Halladay was named on 85.4% of the ballots. Considered one of the last true “workhorses” in baseball, he lead the league in innings pitched four times in his 16-year career, and lead the league in complete games seven times. I do, however, take issue with his being elected, especially his first time on the ballot. Halladay was killed in an airplane crash on November 7, 2017, and I think his passing played a very large role in his induction.

Halladay won 203 games, with a 3.38 career ERA, and a very solid 64.3 WAR. But his numbers across the board don’t scream “Hall Of Famer” to me. The 203 wins are solid, but Mark Buehrle won 214 games for the White Sox, and I doubt he’ll ever see the Hall Of Fame unless he buys a ticket to get in. His 3.38 ERA is nothing to get excited over. He did win two Cy Young awards but so has Corey Kluber and I don’t see him as a Hall Of Fame pitcher.

He also comes up short in some of the “sexy” pitching stats. Halladay was never a big strikeout pitcher, in fact, his career high (220) in 2011 is pedestrian even by today’s standards, when pitchers work far fewer innings. The one area Halladay did excel was in his control, after a difficult first season (79 walks in 149 innings) he would settle down and despite a massive uptick in innings pitched, his walk totals never exceeded 62 for the rest of his career, and generally settled in the 30’s or 40’s. In spite of that, I still see Halladay as a “Hall Of Very Good” type pitcher, who will be remembered for his playoff no-hitter, his perfect game and his untimely death more than his actual across-the-board career.

Also clocking in at 85.4% is Edgar Martinez, who has had the drum beaten for him for the last few years. And my one major sore point in this year’s class. I absolutely do not think Edgar Martinez is a Hall Of Fame player. I watched his entire career, and I saw a guy who was a good, professional hitter. But Hall Of Fame-worthy? No way. To put his career numbers into perspective, he played four fewer seasons than fellow inductee Harold Baines (and one of the seasons Baines played before Martinez was in the Majors was a strike season) but finished his career with nearly 80 fewer home runs and nearly 400 fewer RBI.

Two guys who played the same position most of their careers: DH.

And for a guy who was a “professional hitter,” and not just a “slugger,” Martinez finished his career with 2,247 career hits, far below the old threshold for induction of 3,000. Martinez won two batting titles (and retired with an outstanding .312 career batting average) but considering that 95% of his statistical output came during what’s known as the “Steroid Era,” it really has to make one wonder. From 1990 to 1992, Martinez hit a total of 43 home runs in 1,559 at bats. From 1998 to 2000, he hit 90 home runs in 1,614 at bats. Sounds fishy to me.

I just don’t see anything special about Edgar Martinez across the board.

Finally, we have Mike Mussina, who was named on 76.7% of the ballots. I think Mussina should have been in years ago. Mussina won 270 games (compared to Halladay’s 203 in two more seasons) and compiled 2,813 career strikeouts (nearly 700 more than Halladay) in addition to winning seven Gold Gloves. Mussina also had control just as solid as Halladay, never walking more than 69 batters in a season (in 243 innings in 1996) and usually settling in the 40’s in 200+ innings. I can honestly say that Mike Mussina was one of the best pitchers I have ever watched and was one of the players I would tune in to watch specifically.

Absolutely, 100% deserving and deserved better than 77%, to be honest.

SOX STUFF

This will be where I will tackle Chicago White Sox stuff, thus the name “Sox Stuff.”

Tonight I’m going to tackle the latest White Sox rumor, the rumored flirtation with the Los Angeles Dodgers regarding outfielder Joc Pederson and bringing him to the South Side.

Let’s first look at the White Sox outfield as it stands right now. I am going to assume they’ll be starting some combination of Adam Engel, Daniel Palka and Jon Jay, with Nicky Delmonico and Leury Garcia riding the pine. That group, in total, combined for 48 home runs last year, with Palka contributing over 56% of that total (27) by himself. Engel, Jay and Garcia are not home run hitters and never will be. Delmonico is a guy who, in a perfect world, could probably top out at 15 or 16 and I doubt Palka will come close to 27 again once pitchers figure him out.

Pederson has hit 20+ home runs three of the past four seasons. There’s a track record there. Yeah, he won’t hit for a high average but he has massively reduced his strikeouts in recent seasons and has a quality glove. This is a move I would make in a heartbeat.

This is a move I would make with even more haste given the White Sox lack of production at third base, which is traditionally a power position that’s being manned by Yolmer Sanchez, who topped out last season with a .242 batting average and eight home runs. With it looking increasingly obvious that the White Sox will not be bringing in prized free agent Manny Machado and lesser third baseman Mike Moustakas still available, it would make sense to strike while the iron is hot. And since Moose can probably find a better option than the White Sox (as Machado apparently will do), the Sox need to get power wherever they can.  If you can’t get that 20+ home run production at third, why not get it in the outfield?  And the Dodgers seem keen to move him, so the cost (rumored to be Carson Fulmer and a couple of prospects) is not prohibitive, especially when none of the Sox players mentioned have any production to speak of at the MLB level.  This is a move I would make all day, every day.

I’m just as tired of the Machado/Harper chase as everyone else, and since there hasn’t been any news in days, there’s really nothing to say. Neither will be with the White Sox.

Well, that about wraps it up for my first “Talkin’ Baseball” entry and we’ll see how it goes. I don’t want to tie myself down to a rigid schedule with this, I’d rather wait until there’s something legitimate to talk about and then post, rather than just posting for the sake of posting.

Thank you for reading. Peace.

and GO SOX!

I’m Happy… And I Have To Admit, That Scares Me…

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I’m happy.

And I have to admit, that scares me.

First, let me put my life into perspective. I’m a generally happy guy. I have a good sense of humor, and I love to laugh. And when I’m not happy, I’m miserable. But that hasn’t been the case very often. In fact, I can easily say I have been legitimately happy through 75% of my life.

I’m 41 years old and obviously I have no memory of the first few years of my existence, but from everything I have seen and heard, I was happy. I do know that, from my earliest memories (1981?), I was happy. I was happy all through elementary school, junior high and high school. I’m not saying every day was perfect but the good days outnumbered the bad 100 to one.

I was also happy in college, in fact, that was one of the happiest periods of my life. And after college, for the next eight-plus years, I was happy. And I mean happy, fulfilled, loving life and truly enjoying myself.

That changed in the spring of 2005. And then it kind of snowballed and I was unhappy pretty consistently for the next 12 years, some years were worse than others (for instance, 2010 was a great year overall, with the exception of the last six weeks, while 2011 and 2012 were just miserable).

I started to feel some happiness begin to run through my veins in 2018. And like an addict needing a fix, I knew I needed a lot more of that and a lot less of the unhappiness I had dealt with the previous decade-plus.

So I started to take a look at my life, where I was then, where I had been in the past and realized exactly what I needed to make myself happy.

GETTING OUT OF PRESTON COUNTY

The most important thing was to get out of Preston County.

Preston has a reputation, and I dare say, it was earned. Moving to Fairview was one of the best decisions I have ever made. Preston County is the cesspool of the state of West Virginia. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying everyone in Preston County is gutter trash (though I would say about 90% are), there are some great people there. But the human garbage outnumbers the good folks by a huge margin. And it seems to be getting worse as time goes on.

There’s also a feeling of impending misery at all times. When I’m in Preston County, I can’t sleep, I can’t focus, it’s just like I’m waiting for something bad to happen. When I get to Fairview, I have a habit of falling asleep in my recliner because I am so relaxed and my worries seem to melt away.

I’m about an hour away from Preston County now, and that’s a nice buffer. I come back occasionally to visit with mom and dad and check my mail that hasn’t gotten the address change processed yet, and it still has that same old Preston County feel, as soon as I get there, I start to feel miserable again.

And now, I wonder if I wouldn’t be even happier getting even further away. I’ve fantasized about leaving for Illinois or, especially, Arizona a lot over the years. I never had any intention of staying in this state all my life. I think just getting out of West Virginia in general would do a lot for me going forward.

BEING SINGLE

I had to take a real close look at my life and realize something that was told to me a year ago by my friend April, who told me how easy it is to get comfortable being single. The sad thing is, I should have already known that from my own life experiences. I have lived on each side of that situation.

The happiest I have ever been in my life were times that I was not involved with anyone, from my earliest period of recollection through the end of college. Now, I do have to admit that one of my longer relationships took place within that time frame, with my girlfriend from 1994 to 1996, but we had a very good rapport while we were together and when it ended, I think we were both really glad it was over, as I just get tired of someone after a certain length of time.

From the end of that relationship, I was single until the very early summer of 2005, and boy, did my quality of life go down when my love life was on the rise. As I look back at the mid-to-late 2000’s, the only good thing I can say about them is that the Chicago White Sox won the World Series in 2005.

That’s literally the only good thing I can say came out of that era.

Then, 2010 to 2017 was even worse.  That was, without question, the unhappiest, most miserable era of my life. The only redeeming happening from that period was my son, everything else was suicide-worthy.

And what do those two periods of time have in common? I wasn’t single.

BEING SELFISH

For the first time since 2005, I’m doing for no one but myself. And I love it. I do what I want, when I want, where I want and how I want. I don’t argue with anyone over anything. It’s all about me, and it’s going to stay that way. With the exception of my son, whom I would have done anything in the world for and who came first, regardless of circumstance, this will never change again.

I don’t have to answer to anyone. If I want to get up at 3 AM and play MLB The Show on my PS4, I do. I don’t have to go spend the night anywhere that I don’t want to. I can go eat anywhere I want. I don’t have to negotiate about where to go or what to do with anyone. “Being selfish” is a big plus after you realize how important “being single” is. And while people may seem like they’re being selfish in relationships, ultimately there has to be some level of give and take, whether it’s 50/50 or 95/5, no one is having it their way 100% of the time.

This brings me to the second part of this piece, why being happy scares me…

After 12 years of unrelenting despair, 2018 felt like a breath of fresh air, but I still did things I shouldn’t have done. I got involved in situations that I should have known in advance were better to be avoided. And that’s what scares me, could I still have the potential inside of me to screw my life up again?

My mind says “no,” but if you went back 25 years ago and asked if I would possibly screw my life up as bad as I did the past dozen years, I would have said “no” to that as well. And even though I knew how happy I was in 1999 and 2002 and 2004, I still made decisions back then that could have completely ruined my life, rather than just making it unbearably unhappy. And it’s not like I was in one bad relationship from 2005 to 2017, I was in four of them.

How could anyone be so stupid as to continually putting themselves into bad situations like that is beyond me. And each one got worse, making the previous one seem not as bad, until it hit rock bottom. So, clearly, I had no sense of timing or the ability to distinguish trash from treasure.

Not that there were any treasures to distinguish, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact remains that I still made those stupid decisions.

So, here I am, single, selfish and out of Preston County. What could possibly go wrong? On the surface, nothing. One thing I have now that I did not have 12 years ago is the experience of being so unhappy that I don’t want to live, as I did on numerous occasions in the 2010’s. I am hopeful that experience will steer me away from any future issues, because I should be a little smarter now than I was a decade or two ago. As the old saying goes, live and learn.

I have so much I want to do in 2019. I want to watch ALL of my baseball movies, I want to play MLB The Show and watch every White Sox game (again) this year and I want to watch every episode of every Star Trek series and I want to smoke cigars and I think I have set my life up to do just what I want.

So long as I don’t do anything stupid to screw it up.

and that’s what scares me.

Peace.

The Chicago White Sox 2018-19 Offseason, Part II

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Let me preface this piece by saying this has to be one of the most boring offseasons in history. I can remember around 25 years ago when things would really pop at the Winter Meetings, days of trades and signings, surprise moves and lots to talk about. I spent more time yawning than talking about the Winter Meetings in 2018.

It’s January 2 as of this writing and the Chicago White Sox offseason moves are as follows:

– Signed pitcher Evan Marshall to a minor league contract with a Spring Training invitation.

– Traded for pitcher Manny Banuelos from the Los Angeles Dodgers.

– Traded catcher Omar Narvaez to the Seattle Mariners for pitcher Alex Colome.

– Non-tendered IF Matt Davidson and OF Avisail Garcia.

– Traded for pitcher Ivan Nova from the Pittsburgh Pirates.

– Traded for 1B Yonder Alonso from the Cleveland Indians.

– Signed catcher James McCann, who was non-tendered by the Detroit Tigers

That is the sum total of the White Sox offseason so far. Now, I know a lot of people legitimately believe the Sox are going to sign either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, that they are going to put a ten-year, $350 million – $400 million offer on the table and one of the two of them will accept, and then we’re set at third base or right field for the next ten years. I have a multitude of issues with that on several levels.

First is the obvious, this team doesn’t spend that kind of money. Ever. After all, the White Sox could have had Babe Ruth but elected to lowball the Red Sox and he ended up with the New York Yankees, so this isn’t an organization known for liberal spending. And, as has been brought up numerous times in the media, the largest contract the team has ever handed out was six years and $68 million to Jose Abreu prior to the 2014 season.

Second, we have two guys here who have never won. Both have played on solid teams in the past, but neither has won a ring, and in fact in their combined 14 years at the MLB level, they have made one World Series appearance, Machado last season with the Los Angeles Dodgers. So they have not known a lot of success.

Yes, I know the most important thing to them is their wallet, but does anyone really believe that (a) the White Sox of all teams will have the largest contract offer, either overall or AAV, or (b) that the White Sox window of opportunity for winning will last any longer than, say, 2026? This is when several of the prospects will be hitting free agency, so there’s a pretty solid chance that in 2027 the team will begin to rebuild again.

More importantly, neither Harper or Machado is a pitcher, and the White Sox have a black hole in the bullpen and at least one opening in the starting rotation. If the season began today, the rotation would consist of Carlos Rodon, Ivan Nova, Reynaldo Lopez, Lucas Giolito and Dylan Covey. While Giolito and Covey will more than likely have ERA’s over 5.00 by the end of 2019, Rodon is a good bet to have at least one trip to the disabled list. That leaves two pitchers that we should be absolutely able to count on in the rotation. And this is assuming the White Sox don’t offer James Shields a minor league deal and an invitation to Spring Training, which I said months ago I expected without question.

The bullpen looks worse. While there may be a legitimate closer for the first time in a long time (and I don’t consider David Robinson a “great” closer, by any stretch) in Alex Colome, getting a lead to him may be a problem with that rotation and a bullpen that lacks arms, beyond a guaranteed-to-get-hurt Nate Jones and a solid Jace Fry.

The White Sox will play their yearly game of picking up scraps from the garbage dump and plugging them into the bullpen in the hopes one will pitch to some level of decency and he can be flipped to a contender at the trade deadline.

One of the main problems I see with this franchise is that someone in the front office, or maybe everyone, thinks that putting together an offer for Harper or Machado is somehow a “win.” Like somehow you get a consolation prize when Machado goes to the New York Yankees and Harper goes back to the Washington Nationals.

No one cares who finished second in these free agent chases. I direct your attention to 2016, when the White Sox were the “clear favorites” to sign OF Yoenis Cespedes as a free agent. Of course, he resigned with the New York Mets for $110 million over four years and the White Sox were blown out of the water. This time is no different.

As much fun as it may be to sit and hope that either Harper or Machado will decide that they’re willing to play for half what they think they’re worth and they’re willing to play on losing teams for five years out of a ten-year deal, assuming all the prospects the Sox have collected pan out and they can contend from 2022 to 2026, I prefer to take a more intelligent approach and wonder what happens when they DON’T sign with the White Sox, because there has to be a plan B on the table in Rick Hahn’s office.

Or Kenny Williams’ office, you know, whoever is running this team, for real.

Do you feel comfortable heading into 2019 with the rotation mentioned above? Do you not worry about the bullpen arms evaporating and going elsewhere before you have a chance to sign them, or do you just bring up fringe prospects from Charlotte to fill out the bullpen until you find an arm to plug in? An outfield of Leury Garcia, Adam Engel and Daniel Palka, with Nicky Delmonico filling in as needed? The only upgrades this team has made will make no difference once they start contending, as Nova is a huge upgrade over James Shields (I guarantee that Ivan Nova’s 2019 season will exceed James Shields’ 2018 season in every measurable category so long as he stays injury-free this season) and Yonder Alonso is a huge upgrade over Matt Davidson. But neither will be here in 2022.

And I still think Alonso was acquired as an enticement to Machado.

So, we wait. Eventually Machado will sign with the Yankees and Harper will return to the Nationals or may sign with the Los Angeles Dodgers. Then the White Sox will announce that they made “significant” offers to both. No one will care, the lack of bullpen arms will remain, the lackluster rotation will remain, the lack of offense from the outfield will remain and another 100 loss season will be in the cards.

And then the press will begin (actually, have already begun) to tout the 2019 free agent class, and how much better it will be for the White Sox than Harper or Machado. The three names I see most often are Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Houston Astros pitcher Gerrit Cole and our old buddy, Boston Red Sox pitcher Chris Sale.

Next offseason will be just like this one, as the White Sox are on the outside looking in as those three and many others sign (or resign) elsewhere. Hopefully, outfielder Eloy Jimenez and pitcher Dylan Cease will join the Sox at some point in 2019 and make a smooth transition to the big leagues and become solid contributors, which will help the lack of free agent signings and take some of the sting out of that situation.

The bottom line is this team isn’t very good, and even if everything breaks right, they’re not going to be good for a couple or three years, and once they are good, they’re only going to be good for about a five year window, before these youngsters hit salary arbitration and, eventually, free agency. That’s the problem with a rebuild and bringing in a large number of prospects, it’s guaranteed to fizzle out after five to seven years.

So if I were Machado or Harper (or Arenado or Cole or Sale) I would want to go to (or stay with) a team that has had consistent success over a long period of time. If we look at the White Sox from 2012 to, say, 2029, which would be the third year of a potential second rebuild, and we’ll say they’ll be a juggernaut from 2022 to 2026, that would leave them with 12 losing seasons out of 18. I wouldn’t call that sustained success.

I don’t think the White Sox will be looked at as a front runner in free agency until 2023, once the prospects are called up and they have had at least one season of legitimate, on-field success, along with replacing manager Rick Renteria, who is not the second coming of Tony La Russa no mater how you slice it. Renteria’s star was rising a decade ago, and he’s done nothing since to enhance it or show he’s at all capable.

As we’re now down to the final six weeks of the offseason before Spring Training, maybe the White Sox will bring Shields back on a minor league deal with a Spring Training invite and a $3 million MLB salary, or maybe a Francisco Liriano or a Marco Estrada on a one-year deal to hold a spot for Michael Kopech, and maybe a John Axford or a Brad Boxberger or a Brandon Maurer for the bullpen with hopes of flipping a formerly successful pitcher into a minor leaguer at the trading deadline. That’s about the best we can expect.

I honestly wonder if the Machado/Harper “chase” is just a way of laying off free agency until most of the big money players are off the table (like Adam Ottovino, who would be a great addition but I’m sure the three years and $30 million are more than the Sox want to pay for a 7th or 8th inning guy) and then the Sox can sign whatever is left over at bargain prices and blame their lack of spending on Harper and Machado.

Now, I’m not saying I want them to spend without reason, I don’t want to see Dallas Keuchel in Chicago under any circumstances. But there’s no reason the White Sox couldn’t have taken Yasiel Puig and Matt Kemp off the Dodgers hands instead of the Reds. Kemp could have filled in at DH this year (he’s a free agent after the season) and Puig could have been a fixture in right field for the next five years, or even through the entire contending process. And probably at 1/5 the price of signing Bryce Harper. Or pretending to try.

In closing, I’d like to say the White Sox can surprise me and make a really great move this offseason and next and build a team that can be competitive immediately, but as a fan of this sport for more than 30 years, I’ve seen enough to know how this movie ends.

Thank you for taking the time to read, and I’ll probably post a final piece about the offseason the second week of February, prior to teams reporting for Spring Training. We should have a much better picture of what we’re dealing with by that point, and I doubt it’s going to be a whole lot different than what we’re dealing with right now.

I hope I’m wrong. But I rarely am.

God bless.

2019: My Year, My Rules

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As we pull into the station at the end of 2018, I have to start by saying it was a very good year. It was a B+ year. Which given the abject misery of the seven years that proceeded it, I think I’ll call that a win. Yes, it had its down moments, and there were more than a few, but that’s to be expected in any year. Hell, the best years of my life (1995 and 2010) had their fair share of down moments.

The year started off horribly, and I literally didn’t know where my life was going from day to day. Luckily, everything worked out and things started to look up. I knew there was no way 2018 could be perfect, but it could be very good. It was just a matter of me keeping my eyes on the prize and going forward.

I met a lot of new people in 2018. That was truly a breath of fresh air. And I needed it. Some have been great, and I hope will remain friends for life. Some have not been and have already been eliminated from my life. More will follow.

In what may have been the biggest mixed-bag of 2018, I got to watch all 162 Chicago White Sox games and every spring training game that was televised. But watching a team that finished 62-100 isn’t exactly a treat, either. On the negative side in terms of baseball, I neglected to play a season on MLB The Show, again, for the 18th consecutive season. I first planned to play a full season with my own transactions on MLB 2000 for the original PlayStation in the year 2000. I’ve failed to do so every year since, always coming up with some excuse why it didn’t work.

That will change in 2019. I am updating the rosters daily, beginning with the first transactions at the end of the 2018 season, with daily attention since. Trades, free agent signings, retirements, etc. I’ve kept them all up to date.

One of my biggest issues in 2018 was my inability to stay out of some type of relationship situation, or the desire to pursue such things. It wasn’t until August that I finally realized I was spinning my wheels and that I was better off not trying to find something that I knew wasn’t there to begin with. But even with that revelation, I still kept trying to beat the system. That won’t happen in 2019.

I’m a single man now, and I’ll be a single man on December 31, 2019. This isn’t up for debate or meant as a challenge being issued. It’s a statement of fact. The situation doesn’t matter, the answer to anyone who attempts to lure me into anything beyond a basic, online friendship, will be “no.” No questions asked.

I was told I was being unfair and closed-minded. Perhaps. But that doesn’t matter to me. I have to live the life that works for me. And this is it.

My life went through a number of upgrades in 2018, not just out with the old and in with the new as far as removing the gutter trash and replacing them all with a much better group of people. I bought a new 55” Smart TV and TV stand, a new stereo for my bedroom with a built-in card reader for a little project I undertook this year, a new stereo for my living room, a new cigar humidor which I filled with some amazing sticks and are seasoning for a great 2019 and a new phone, which I had not upgraded since 2016, but needed to in order to use some of my favorite apps.

I’m not expecting a lot of change on that level in 2019. I’ve been a very lucky man most of my life, when I want something, I go buy it. That was a big part of my life in 2018 and I made the most of it. I’ll go on a case by case basis in 2019.

I lost 20 pounds in 2018 but that’s not even a blip on the radar of what I hope to lose in 2019. Stress helped to put roughly 60 to 80 extra pounds on me between 2011 and 2017, and once the causes were eliminated, I started to drop back a bit but not nearly enough. If I could lose 60 pounds I would be absolutely ecstatic.

I hope to get back into grilling and biking in 2019, which will require me to get a new grill and a new bike, but those are both items that will help me a lot.

I have also been through a multitude of things I would like to watch in 2019, and I finally decided I would like to watch the entire available Star Trek series, from the original 1960s series through The New Generation, Deep Space Nine, Voyager and Enterprise, as well as Discovery and all the feature films available.

If I watch one episode per day, that will more than see me through 2019.

So, as 2018 comes to a close I can look back with mostly happy and enjoyable memories of the past year while also knowing 2019 is going to be even better, because I will live 2019 under my rules. I answer to no one, except myself and my Lord.

In closing, I want to with the best to everyone in 2019. Make it a great one.

God bless.

The Chicago White Sox 2018-19 Offseason, Part I

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With news of the Chicago White Sox decision to extend the contract of manager Ricky Renteria yesterday (November 6), I decided I would do a two, or three-part series of blogs on my thoughts about the 2019 offseason.

Naturally, I am disturbed by the first major decision and question it.

Someone, somewhere, once thought Rick Renteria was a good manager. I’m not sure how they came about that opinion, because his record as a manger (264-384, a .407 winning percentage) would get him fired from any other job in the league, let alone his inability to handle a bullpen (who else wears their bullpen out in the first game of a series?) and write out a sensible lineup every day?

The White Sox front office is still living under the delusion that they pulled something over on the Chicago Cubs when they hired Ricky after he had been fired by the Cubs to make room for Joe Maddon, who is clearly superior to Ricky in every phase of managing a baseball club. That’s not even debatable.

So, the Sox extend their clueless manager. That’s the first step to guaranteeing that the better free agents are not going to want to sign with you. That’s not the kind of move a winning organization makes. And regardless of who wants to fight about it, nothing this team has done yet in this rebuild has actually paid off.

Yoan Moncada was supposed to be a superstar. Some of the preseason baseball literature actually had him winning Rookie Of The Year in 2017 and being an All Star in 2018. Instead, he’s carrying around a .234 career batting average and striking out once every three at-bats, while looking disinterested in the field.

Then there’s Michael Kopech, who looked outstanding overall in four starts despite a 5.02 ERA. In 14 innings, he struck out 15 and walked two. But all that is meaningless because Tommy John surgery has put him on the shelf until 2020.

None of the other prospects, whether it be Dylan Cease or Eloy Jimenez or Micker Adolfo or our 2018 #1 Draft Pick Nick Madrigal has done anything at the MLB level. And with Moncada looking like an overrated bust, who is to say any of the other youngsters won’t turn out the same way in the long run?

No rebuild is guaranteed. Ask the Pittsburgh Pirates.

So, now the White Sox are blowing smoke about being in the running for major free agents. Sometimes I fall in and think anything is possible. Then I remember how this team operates. The largest contract ever given out was a six-year, $68 million deal to Jose Abreu, who has been worth every penny, no doubt.

In my mind, I see free agent targets Manny Machado and Bryce Harper signing ten or 12-year deals for over $350 million elsewhere as Rick Hahn announces that the White Sox made a “very competitive bid” but won’t elaborate.

Behind closed doors, those offers were in the six-year, $75 million range.

Then, to prove that the team isn’t tanking in free agent negotiations, Hahn offers someone like pitcher Dallas Keuchel a monster deal (three years, $60 million) and badly overpays just to show that the Sox will spend money.

While Hahn acts like a schoolboy trying to impress the girls, most of the baseball press has already figured this team out, and I have read on a number of sights that the best bet for a White Sox free agent signee is pitcher Anibal Sanchez.

Sanchez had a career revival last year with the Atlanta Braves, compiling a 2.83 ERA in 136.2 innings with 135 strikeouts and 42 walks, he certainly isn’t the franchise-defining free agent signing that Hahn is trying to fool us into believing is just around the corner. Sanchez will be 35 in 2019, and no part of a contending team, assuming the Sox are able to actually put together a contending team.

If I were running the White Sox, my first move would be to trade for Miami Marlins catcher J.T. Realmuto, whom I sincerely believe is the Carlton Fisk of this generation. His 2018 season (.274, 21 home runs, 74 RBI, All Star) dwarfs anything any White Sox catcher has done since A.J. Pierzynski. And there is no question that catcher is the most important position on the field. At least, there shouldn’t be.  I would give the Marlins whatever they want, short of Jimenez, in terms of a three or four-player deal and then sign Realmuto to a long-term contract.  Not a second thought.

But, the Sox are happy to get by with Omar Narvaez, who is a solid hitter but lacks any kind of real defensive prowess behind the plate, along with journeyman cheater Welington Castillo, while waiting for top catching “prospect” Zack Collins (who has a .232 career minor league batting average while only working his way up to the AA level) to develop into a guy that can actually hit in spite of his subpar defense.

I would sign Jose Abreu to a contract extension. He’s the only guy on this team over the past several years who has produced any kind of quality numbers. Yes, 2018 was an injury-plagued season, but his injuries certainly were not typical “wear and tear” injuries that guys suffer, and he still hit .265 with 22 home runs and 78 RBI.

As for free agency, there are clearly some holes on this team, starting with third base. I like Yolmer Sanchez as much as the next guy, but .242 with eight home runs and 55 RBI isn’t going to cut it at the hot corner. That’s always been one of the traditional power spots, unless you had a once-in-a-generation hitter like Wade Boggs. Yolmer is no Wade Boggs. He’s a good little utility player. Nothing more.

As free agency goes, Mike Moustakas is clearly the best third baseman available, coming off a season of 28 home runs and 95 RBI split between Kansas City and Milwaukee. Here is a guy with four 20+ home run seasons in the past six years and is not even a blip on the White Sox radar. Why? Because Jake Burger is the answer?

The outfield is also a sore spot, but I don’t see a lot being done there, with the expected promotion of uber-prospect Jimenez likely in April and the eventual promotion of Luis Robert to play CF. More than likely, a utility OF who can handle all three spots will be about as far as the White Sox go. They may want you to think that Bryce Harper is on the radar, but take my word for it, he isn’t going to sign for six years and $75 million when someone else will offer him four times that.

The pitching staff is where I expect most of the “action” to take place, much like last year and the year before. Several down-on-their-luck relief pitchers will sign and the Sox will try to flip them at the deadline for some borderline talent.

I sincerely doubt that one move the team makes this offseason will have any impact whatsoever on the roster once the team is competitive. I suspect Hahn will sign stopgap players again just to get through to 2020 when Kopech returns, and hope that Cease develops into a reliable starter and then the team can consider trying to fill holes with players who are a little more Bryce Harper than Melky Cabrera.

Which brings me to next offseason. If this offseason plays out as I think it will (i.e. exactly like last offseason) then there will be a drumbeat to sign third baseman Nolan Arenado. That’s assuming he even reaches free agency, as the Rockies are already rumored to be trying to sign him before he reaches the market.

As of tonight (November 7) the big name flying as a potential White Sox free agent target is pitcher J.A. Happ. Happ is coming off a 17-win season split between the Yankees and Blue Jays, and I’m not quite sure why anyone sees him signing with the White Sox. He should be able to turn that solid season into a nice payday with a contending team. But I’ll leave that for the “experts” to explain.

The more I look at the list of free agents, the more I realize the White Sox are in a state of purgatory. Even pretending to pay top dollar for a player on the wrong side of 30 makes no sense because this team isn’t going to be contending for at least a couple of more years. I think a run at a Wild Card spot in 2021 is their best bet.

But attempting to sign a young player like Harper or Machado makes little sense, as players of that caliber have been adding opt-outs to their contracts which lets them get out of a long-term deal after three years if they so desire. The upshot of that is if the Sox sign them before 2019, they can hit the market again after 2021.

Having said all of this, I’m willing to set back and let Rick Hahn and Kenny Williams and Jerry Reinsdorf prove me wrong. I sincerely hope they do. But coming out to the press and announcing a “competitive offer” isn’t going to fool anyone. If you want to impress me, make Machado a 10-year, $350 million deal and make it public knowledge. Then, if he declines, the fan base can say “they tried.”

But make those kinds of offers to the players who really deserve it, don’t overpay an over-the-hill pitcher twice what’s he is worth just to show that you are willing to spend money. And that is what I am most afraid is going to happen.

I’ll write another entry on this subject after the MLB Winter Meetings are held in Las Vegas, December 9 through December 13. I don’t expect any major happenings between now and then, but, who knows. In the meantime, this is how I see it playing out and if something unforeseen happens, I’ll address it.

Thank you for reading and GO SOX!