Updated Thoughts On The Chicago White Sox Rebuild

ct-spt-yoan-moncada-white-sox-rebuild-rosenbloom-20180809

I could have probably found a happier time to jump into this than during a losing streak but that’s where we are. I guess it’s better just to get it out of the way.

Let’s begin by remembering what we were told during the offseason, and I don’t mean the mistruths about how the Sox were going to be a big-time player in free agency. Admittedly, not all of that was the fault of the White Sox organization, as free agency has completely changed and the rug may have been pulled out from under the Sox.

I can’t count the number of times I heard Rick Hahn, Rick Renteria and even talking heads like Chuck Garfien have reminded us, the fans, that 2018 was rock bottom. It was all uphill from there. That was the worst of the worst. A 100 loss season, it would get better from there. There would be real improvement during the 2019 season.

Well, here we are. Ten games in, the White Sox have the worst ERA in Major League Baseball. The starting rotation is worse now than at any point last season, and the bullpen is already overworked only 90 innings into the season. Ouch.

Amazingly, the offense ranks 15th in batting average, right in the middle. In spite of the horrible starts by Welington Castillo and Yolmer Sanchez and the ungodly bad opening to the season by Daniel Palka. That’s 1/3 of the starting nine. Of course, if you take the incredible numbers that Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada have put up out of the equation, suddenly the Sox drop to near the bottom of the league in offense.

And, of course, we can’t overlook the coaching staff. Rick Renteria is in completely over his head, Don Cooper lost his “magic touch” a decade ago and Todd Steverson never had one to begin with. But, as we know, there’s little accountability on this team. Never has been. The last manager to actually be “fired” was Jerry Manuel, in 2003.

Coop has been in the organization since 1988, for some reason. But, even if the White Sox were to end the season with the worst ERA in baseball, it doesn’t matter. We learned that last year when the White Sox set a record for strikeouts in a season by hitters and looked lost at the plate most of the time, unable to make adjustments or do anything to help themselves at the plate. Doesn’t matter, Steverson is still there.

Since the day he was hired, I have wondered how much actual due diligence the White Sox did before hiring Rick Renteria. I still think this was a move made to “get one over” on the Cubs, figuring how cool it would seem when the White Sox rebuild was complete and they won four straight World Series titles with a manger they filched from the Cubs. Except they didn’t, because the Cubs didn’t want him, they hired a better manager.

From where I’m sitting, Renteria has a credibility problem. He’s out here trying to lead a team of youngsters, but he’s pushing 60 and has no body of work to earn the respect of these players. If I were running a rebuild, I would either hire a manager who is closer in age to these kids, or find an older manager who has had some on-field success and let him use that to impress these players. Renteria fits neither of these prerequisites.

Renteria built a reputation as being a “good teacher” and, while he may be, I have seen no proof of that and what does that have to do with being a good field manager?

I’m also tired of the old “he’s never had any talent on the team’s he’s managed” nonsense. How much actual “talent” was on the 2005 Chicago White Sox? Yeah, there were 4 All Stars on that team but none of them are Hall Of Fame players and Scott Podsednik was a fan vote selection. Even Barack Obama, as a state senator from Illinois, recognized the club on the senate floor while announcing there were no “superstars” on the team.

Yet they won the World Series without a team full of great players. Great players do not a great team make. A good team can beat a great team if they outplay them strategically and are lead by a manager who knows what he is doing, at least sometimes.

The 2019 Chicago White Sox will be lucky to win a series this year against anyone. When the bullpen has been completely overworked ten games into the season with a number of built-in off days, it makes you wonder what’s going to happen when the team plays seven weeks straight with two built-in off days. I think it may get even uglier.

A large part of my apprehension with the rebuild is the fact that I watched the Pittsburgh Pirates “rebuild” from 1993 to sometime around 2007. Back then, it wasn’t referred to as a straight “rebuild” but as a “five-year plan to contend.” So the Pirates cleaned house and started rebuilding with youngsters. After three years some of those youngsters reached the Major League level and produced, and were promptly traded for prospects and the “five-year plan” was rebooted and started over. And again, prospects came up, produced and were traded and the plan was reset. This went on for years. I lived it.

Can that happen in this day and age? Yes, absolutely. Because we, as fans, have been conditioned to accept five years of losing for the hope of three years of contending before it has to be blown up and rebuilt again. The White Sox are not the Yankees or Dodgers or teams that can just contend for 25 years at a time before having to reload.

Suppose next offseason Rick Hahn, KW and the brain-trust decides that the team is short of Minor League talent and maybe it would be a good time to trade Tim Anderson while his value is high for three or four prospects. Then, maybe Yoan Moncada. “Yeah, we’ll push our window back a few years but we’ll score six or eight prospects and only lose two players in the process.” The Pirates pulled that for an entire generation.

There is also the fact that there is no accountability with this franchise.

Robin Ventura managed out his contract in spite of the fact that he was completely in over his head and had no managerial ability whatsoever. Rick Renteria has never had a winning season anywhere other than the minor leagues a decade ago but he’s still managing at the Major League level. Todd Steverson’s career achievement is the single-season strikeout record, but he’s still there. The pitching staff is awful, but Coop’s still employed. So what does it take to actually get fired? Maybe the White Sox would consider relieving Renteria of his duties if they could sign Joe Maddon and get one over on the Cubs again?

It’s legitimately tough being a White Sox fan, especially at times like these.

Then there’s the possibility of a work stoppage and the ever-present danger of the club moving after Jerry Reinsdorf either passes away or sells the team.

At that point, I would be out. I’m not following the team if they move to Portland or Las Vegas or Montreal. I would probably just quit watching baseball altogether and go back to watching college football and basketball and forget about baseball. Of course, there’s a good chance that may happen anyway if there’s a work stoppage in 2021.

Do I still have faith in the rebuild? Yes. I trust the process and I think it was well done. But it was well done under the idea that we would sprinkle in some free agents at the spots that the prospects didn’t develop, and that’s looking increasingly unlikely with the large number of stars who are signing contract extensions. Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn like to remind us that we have the option of trading prospects for established players, but where do you dig that hole in order to fill in another one? Team’s don’t want to trade for bust prospects or guys who haven’t reached the MLB level and they’re pushing 30.

As I have said, this rebuild was conceived on a razors edge, unless 80% of the prospects pan out, there are going to be holes on the roster that could sink the team going forward. And this comes two years after Rick Hahn said he expected “25%” of the Sox prospects to become full-time MLB contributors. The Sox can’t afford that. They don’t have the ability to fill in all those holes, and they don’t have the talent to reset the rebuild.

So, we’ll spend the next five months seeing what happens. I’m not changing my preseason prediction, I think this team will finish 72-90 and ahead of the Tigers and Royals in the AL Central. While that may not seem like much, it’s an improvement of ten games over the 2018 “rock bottom” season. Of course, it’s not out of the question this team could lose 115 games and what the end result of that would be, I don’t know.

Hopefully the team will go into New York on Friday evening and look better than they did in Chicago against the Rays. But I don’t think I’m gonna hold my breath.

We’ll see.

Peace.

Advertisements

Simulating My Life: Sports Video Games, 1995-2019

maxresdefaultdf

As age begins to get the better of me, I spend more and more time reminiscing about days gone by, and a couple of days ago this lead me to thinking about video games; specifically sports game simulations and the whole “create yourself” concept.

This is the idea of creating “yourself” within the game and playing CF for the New York Yankees or center for the Los Angeles Lakers or quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys. That’s YOUR name up there. Your height, weight, hair color, etc.

My first experience with this came in the form of Baseball Stars, a game for the Nintendo Entertainment System, released in 1989, Baseball Stars allowed you to create an entire team by name, including your franchise itself. A favorite among my friends for many years and still in my NES collection to this day. It was a simplified game in terms of the actual gameplay; the ability to create players and teams made it stand out.

nes_baseballstars

By 1995, a second version of the game had been released and the concept of player creation was removed. By that point, a large number of licensed sports games were hitting the market and the niche was “real players” and/or “real teams.” NBA Live had both. Madden NFL had real teams, but players were identified by jersey number only. RBI Baseball had real players, but the teams were identified only by their home city.

Tecmo Super Bowl was the exception, featuring real teams and real players. The idea that you could sit down and play an actual video game that featured real NFL teams and the actual players, by name, that played on those teams, was amazing.

tecmo_super_bowl__37678.1398108117

But that didn’t quite cut it. My friend Joe and I craved the concept of having OURSELVES in the game. Wearing the jersey number we wanted. But this was not yet feasible. So, I took it upon myself to create my own universe, using an old NES game called John Elway’s Quarterback, and Tecmo Super Bowl. And it went something like this:

17567-john-elway-s-quarterback-nes-front-cover

John Elway’s Quarterback was an arcade-style game that featured no real players and no real teams, which made it perfect for the simulation I wanted to run. I used it as a college football game before such a thing really existed. I would play a schedule I made up on my own, using the “Los Angeles” franchise as UCLA, and since the game did not feature any type of post-game statistics, I would sit with a binder in my lap and a pencil, and when “I” completed a pass in the game, I would see how many yards that completion covered and write it in my binder. At the end of the game I would count up my completions and yards and know how I had performed in that game. I did this for four simulated seasons, and then moved on to play Tecmo Super Bowl as a draft pick of the Cleveland Browns.

In addition to being my favorite NFL team, Tecmo had apparently been unable to obtain the rights to Browns’ quarterback Bernie Kosar from the NFLPA, so he is simply named “QB Browns” in the game. This offered me the opportunity to select my own number (I wore number 9 in my simulation) with the Browns. I played seven seasons with the Browns, winning three Super Bowls, before leaving as a free agent to return to California, signing a deal with the (at the time) Los Angeles Raiders. I played one more season with the Raiders before I started to get bored with the whole concept of the game.

Fast forward a couple of years and I started anew, with a new console and new games that upped the ante considerably: College Football USA 97 and Madden NFL 97 on the Super Nintendo Entertainment System. This was a step up in every way.

maxresdefault
4900_front

While College Football USA 97 did not include the option to create a player (which it did on the Sega Genesis version of the game but I didn’t get it until many years later) it did include ALL NCAA Division I football teams. And Madden NFL 97 did have the option to create a player, so I basically did the same simulation over again, four years of games with the UCLA Bruins followed by creating myself with the Pittsburgh Steelers, as I didn’t have the option to play for the Browns in 1997 as the franchise didn’t exist in that form.

I never actually played a game with the Steelers, as I ended up ending my run in order to start playing Ken Griffey Junior’s Winning Run on the Super NES instead.

By the time I came around again, things had changed exponentially. I had bought a Sony PlayStation and bought every sports game available from 989 Sports, Sony’s proprietary division that produced college and professional sports games.

25458-ncaa-gamebreaker-2000-playstation-front-cover
nfl-gameday-2000-playstation-1999

NCAA GameBreaker 2000 and NFL GameDay 2000 were truly amazing. I could create myself, by name, height, weight, hair color, facial features, hometown and a number of other settings. Not only that, but I could download myself onto a memory card from NCAA GameBreaker and then upload myself onto NFL GameDay for the NFL Draft. And it was here that I found my most lasting success, fleeting as even it may have been.

Four seasons at UCLA, playing both football and basketball for the Bruins. I was then drafted into the NFL by the Carolina Panthers, a franchise I was never a huge fan of but decided to run with it; I even went out and bought a Carolina Panthers Starter parka, back when that was a thing. It was to be short-lived, however, as my created self suffered a knee injury in week two of my second season with the Panthers and I was on the retired list at the end of the season. That $100 jacket may have been a mistake in hindsight.

My next run at this simulation was in 2013, with the release of NCAA Football 14 from EA Sports along with Madden NFL 25, the 25th anniversary edition of the game, for the PlayStation 3. I wanted a true full-on experience, so in addition to UCLA football I also bought a copy of NCAA Basketball 10, which was the final release of that franchise, as well as a copy of MVP NCAA Baseball 07 for the PlayStation 2, the second and final release featuring college baseball. But, I learned that unhappy, time-consuming relationships don’t mix well with time-consuming video game simulations, so I never so much as got started. I boxed up my games figuring I would try again in the future.

No such luck, as NCAA Football 14 was the final college football game ever released, still to this day. So I keep them, hoping maybe someday I’ll take one final run…

BLUS31159
3484

Which brings me to today and my latest simulation attempt, completely off track from previous attempts. This attempt has begun with me simulating a self-simulation. I created myself on MLB 2005 for the PlayStation 2 and then simulated my career, playing 14 seasons with the Oakland A’s, Toronto Blue Jays and Chicago White Sox. I manipulated this a bit, as I had been a big Oakland A’s fan in the 1980s and began following the White Sox in 1991. I kept my statistics and outlined my career running from 1982 to 1995, those years beautifully encompassing my public school years, from my entrance into kindergarten in 1982 to my graduation from high school in 1995. From here, I will simulate myself as the general manager of the White Sox, on MLB The Show 19.

ps2_mlb_2005-110214
D0hPO61WsAMFGi0

While the game will drop this Tuesday, I will not be doing anything with it until the Operation Sports Full Minors rosters are released in the roster vault at some point this spring. At that point, I’ll start playing, making the roster moves as I would as GM. I hope to continue this through the end of the season and when the 2020 version of the game is released, just transfer my up-to-date saves to the new version on a yearly basis.

I wish I had started this three years ago when year-to-year saves became feasible.

While the desire still burns within me to go back to the NCAA Football 14/NCAA Basketball 10/MVP NCAA Baseball 07 games and head back to UCLA, I see that as more of a future option. I am so completely invested in baseball at this point its going to take something major to push me back to other things. Like a potential 2021 MLB strike.

Basically, that’s what I’m holding out to see. If there is, in fact, a work stoppage, I’m boxing up everything I own of a White Sox persuasion and replacing it with everything UCLA I can get my hands on. I won’t lie, there’s a part of me kind of hoping for a work stoppage just for that reason. But we’ll see how I feel when 2021 rolls around.

That’s my life’s experience with sports video game simulations. I’ve loved it every step of the way, and I hope I can make the adjustments to make this new round as satisfactory as previous years. In the early days of this exercise, Joe and I would go so far as to keep our own newspaper headlines and storylines, which certainly added a major creative outlet to the whole experience. I am so ready to do that again. It’s time.

Thank you for reading, and God bless.

Talkin’ Baseball #2 (February 27, 2019)

index

While doing this series, I’m trying to avoid overloading with so much White Sox coverage but considering the topic, I have very little choice right now.

I’m going to have to talk about Manny Machado again.

Not because I want to, but because that seems to be the only thing the Chicago media can focus on. Not Machado, necessarily, but the fact that the White Sox made him an offer and that seems to be tantamount to actually accomplishing something.

I don’t get it. As the old saying goes, “trying is not doing.”

That’s great that the White Sox offered Machado a $250 million deal that could have reached $350 million with various options and incentives. And the Chicago media cannot let that go, it’s like the team just exploded onto the scene because they made an offer in free agency.

I mean, I could have called Machado’s agent and offered him $150 to just stay home for the year. As absurd as that sounds, I could still boast that I had “made an offer.” Would that get me a seat at the big boy table? I doubt it. And making an offer doesn’t have any tangible value.

I preach this a lot, because I lived through it and watched it unfold. In the early 1990s, the Yankees wanted to buy themselves a World Series. They were willing to outspend everybody. They made a mega offer to Barry Bonds, more than he received from the Giants, but he turned it down. They made a mega offer to Greg Maddux, more than he received from the Braves, but he turned it down. Players just didn’t want to play for the Yankees back then. The late 1980s and early 1990s were a dark time for the organization and even overpaying didn’t get them the players that they wanted.

That’s the Chicago White Sox right now. This team is a perennial loser. They haven’t had a winning record since 2012. There is no guarantee they’ll have a winning record anytime soon. Most players want to play for teams that have a chance of winning, because the money will be there one way or another. The White Sox are the laughingstock of baseball, on a number of fronts.

And what bothers me is the fact that some in the media, and a lot of fans, have the audacity to laugh at the San Diego Padres. Really? The Padres are selling the same bill of goods as the White Sox, “yeah, we suck now, but we have a great farm system!” The only difference being that the Padres had a better record in 2018 than the White Sox and the Padres’ minor league system is ranked higher.

I’m not laughing and see nothing there to laugh about.

So the White Sox were basically willing to max out at $250 million for Manny Machado. So the thinking, after he signed with the Padres, turned to Nolan Arenado, scheduled to hit free agency next offseason. He’s older than Machado and definitely takes advantage of the thin air in Colorado (Arenado has a career .320 batting average at home and .263 on the road). Arenado may be defensively superior to Machado but not by a considerable margin. In fact, had Machado played third base exclusively his entire career, it may be a lot closer than you think to compare them from a defensive standpoint.

The point is, Arenado is basically not as good a player, overall, as Manny Machado, and I don’t think anyone would argue that point, especially with Arenado’s inflated numbers playing in Colorado. And Arenado still got a larger contract than the White Sox were willing to offer Machado.

Not only did Machado get $50 million more than the White Sox offered, but Arenado got $10 million more despite being older and just not as good. Let that sink in for a minute.

But the Chicago media doesn’t want to touch that. Oh, the fan blogs do, and they take it to the other extreme, but I prefer to stay in the middle. Yes, the White Sox will sign free agents, eventually. It won’t be Mike Trout or Chris Sale or J.D. Martinez but it may be someone like Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon (though he is rumored to be open to a contract extension with the Nats, which would be the same fly-in-the-ointment as the Arenado extension has turned into for the White Sox.

I think the White Sox took a great deal of care in constructing the rebuild so there is at least the possibility of having a homegrown or acquired minor league prospect at every position going forward. It’s entirely possible that by 2021, the Sox could feature Seby Zavala at catcher, an infield of Gavin Sheets, Nick Madrigal, Tim Anderson and Yoan Moncada and an outfield of Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert and Blake Rutherford, with Micker Adolfo or Zack Collins handling DH duties and a rotation of Carlos Rodon, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Reynaldo Lopez and Lucas Giolito, with any number of other guys filling in the bullpen (Alec Hansen, Carson Fulmer, Jordan Guerrero, Dane Dunning, Jace Fry, Thyago Vieira, Connor Walsh, Aaron bummer, etc) with Zack Burdi closing. And I think that is not only a worst-case scenario, but a recipe for disaster.

Rick Hahn himself has said he expects only one out of every four prospects to be a MLB regular. I just listed 24 players in the previous paragraph. That means that of those 24, six could become legit MLB contributors. So we figure Jimenez and Cease are the closest things we have to “guarantees.” Madrigal and Robert look solid early in their careers and certainly Kopech and Lopez have had some level of MLB success. In other words, chances are you can take everyone else on that list and scratch them off.

I know there are fans out there that think every one of those guys is going to develop into a superstar; when the end of season awards are announced, it will be a list of 10 White Sox players for AL MVP, the whole starting rotation will finish one through five in AL Cy Young balloting, etc. Yeah, that’s not going to happen. We have already watched Giolito and Fulmer and Moncada struggle mightily at the MLB level, none of the three looked ready but were rushed to The Show for some unknown reason.

The point of that is, you have to acquire some outside, established help. You can’t build a team 100% from prospects and compete. It’s not only impossible, it’s ridiculous.

The White Sox didn’t sign Machado or Harper or Arenado and they’re not going to sign Trout or Sale. So the Chicago media can stop trying to pretend that the White Sox are big players on the free agent stage. But they can supplement what they have and fill holes that prospects can’t fill, so the fans who think the White Sox are completely incapable can stop being ridiculous as well. It’s not all or nothing.

One last thing I want to touch on is the talk of a strike in 2021, which was a hot topic when the top free agents were unsigned. At the time, I kind of understood where the players were coming from, MLB is raking in money, hand over fist, and the players have a right to the biggest share of that pie. Manny Machado just signed a $300 million contract. Nolan Arenado signed a $260 million contract. Bryce Harper will make more than either of them. So the players grievance has suddenly become hollow.

And if Harper signs with the Phillies and it’s more than the $325 million contract that Giancarlo Stanton is currently playing for, that’s gonna make the players look even more ridiculous for even considering a work stoppage. The money is out there, players are just overvaluing themselves. Craig Kimbrel thinks he deserves $100 million to pitch 3 outs a game? The market says no, take the best offer you can get (probably six years at $85 million) and be happy with it. Dallas Keuchel thinks he’s worth a six-year contract? No, you’re on the down side of your career and nothing is going to change that. Take a three-year deal for $45 million and be happy with it. Guys are getting more than they’re worth, statistically.

Hell, Bryce Harper hit .249 last year. For most guys going into free agency, that would be bad news. But for some reason Harper is considered a generational talent. Though I don’t know why.

He only hit seven points higher than Yolmer Sanchez. Yes, I know, the home runs and the walks, but the fact remains, he’s not infallible or miles ahead of anyone else in the game. He’s just “good.”

The numbers are out of control, and I think a player’s strike would be pretty stupid, given the money the players who have signed are getting compared to five years or a decade ago.

And that’s my opinion on everything. Thank you for reading, and God bless.

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

i'm happy

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.

My 2019 Thoughts On Relationships… and why they are far more trouble than they’re worth…

relationship-2

I was doing some basic reading online this evening and came across a few relationship articles, and I realized that there is a real dearth of articles about relationships written from the male point of view. This bothers me. I’m not sure if there’s a lack of men qualified to discuss this topic or if most men just don’t care.

One of the few articles I found basically said “just do whatever you have to in order to keep your girlfriend/fiance/wife happy. If spending a lot of time with your friends or working on your car annoys her, then stop it. This isn’t rocket science.”

I cannot even begin to express the rage that ran through my body at the point I read and allowed my mind to comprehend the advice that was being offered.

In other words, just sit down, shut your mouth and do what you’re told. And I’m sure a lot of women would be in 100% agreement with this process of thought.

And this is exactly why relationships don’t work in the modern era. They are far too one-sided. I have been a sad witness to many guys who basically had no freedom as human beings to do anything, more or less they were just there to do as they were told, make the money, pay the bills, hand out cash and shut up.

Allow me to correct this injustice by laying out my own set of relationship rules, and these are from the man’s perspective, not just because there is an extreme lack of male relationship advice, but because, well, I’m a man and that’s just how it is.

I’m going to start at the beginning with this piece, and the beginning is deciding if you want to be in a relationship in the first place. While it seems like I am dumbing it down a bit, it’s amazing how many bad situations could be avoided at this first step.

In a “which came first, the chicken or the egg” type conundrum, ask yourself if you met someone special and realized you could see yourself in a relationship with her, or if you want to be in a relationship and latched onto a girl because of that mindset. There is a lot of pressure to be “with” someone these days, and some simple thought could keep you from getting into a situation that you’re going to want to get out of.

If it is a case of “I met someone and she’s great and I see a future here,” ask yourself what you see in that future. A long-term relationship? A one-night stand? A single date that is completely platonic? Could you see yourself someday marrying this girl?

If you see yourself doing more than just banging her and releasing her back into the wild, you then need to take stock of your situation. Women today, from seeing what has happened to some of these poor guys, have an outrageous expectation for you to be living together as quickly as possible. My assumption on this is so they are not having to pay their own way through life. They’re now only responsible for paying for half of life’s expenditures, or in some cases, sadly, you’ll take on the full amount.

At this point, decide if you’re willing to completely abandon the life you had before because, buddy, it’s over. Once a woman pulls you into her home or moves into yours, the rules have changed. Because now, it’s serious. Maybe you enjoy watching the ball game, but if she doesn’t, you have an argument on your hands. Maybe you want to work on your car or go fishing or just lay on the couch and vegetate. If she has other plans, then you better be ready to change yours. Or you better be ready for battle.

Now, I do need to acknowledge that there are different kinds of men. Some men can’t function without a woman. I’ve known guys like this. These are guys who don’t want to wash dishes or vacuum or do laundry so they figure they’ll just marry or move some broad in to do the “woman’s work” and however much suffering they have to do, it’s worth it in the end because they don’t have to do a few trivial chores around the house.

Then, there are guys who are FIERCELY independent. They don’t need anybody for anything. They don’t need anyone to pump their gas, pack their lunch, cook their food, wash their clothes or anything else. They are fully capable of doing anything that needs to be done and don’t need a woman to tell them how to do it differently.

That is the camp to which I belong.

Naturally, there are a lot of guys who fall into areas in between. And that’s why you have to figure out who you are and what you want out of life, and with whom.  My independence will make being in a relationship incredibly difficult in the event that I ever decide to make an attempt at doing so again.  That’s just how life shakes out.

Now, let’s say you met a girl, you see a long-term future with her and you’re the kind of guy who really sees a relationship as a 50/50 proposition. Where do you go now?

The first thing is to lay down some ground rules. Lay it on the line and explain that you are not giving up your hobbies or making some drastic change in your lifestyle. I’m not saying be an asshole and institute a “my way or the highway” mentality, but if, for instance, you enjoy fishing, explain that you will continue to go fishing and this is non-negotiable. If you have a set time for it, i.e. Sunday morning, you will continue to go fishing on Sunday morning. She can sleep in or find her own hobby. No arguing about it.

A lot of women will take this opportunity to flex their muscle and try to start changing things. And a lot of guys will back down and just let them have their wayt, and it does nothing but make things worse overall down the line. Period.

Let me now back up and take a different path in this journey. What if you’re not 100% sure you see a future with someone? Then you need to put the brakes on and not let the situation get away from you. You could end up engaged or married before you realize what hit you. You can know you’re in a bad predicament with the wrong person and it can still just snowball until you’re neck deep and you feel like there’s no way out.

Going back even further than that, do your homework. Find out who this woman is that you’re interested in. See what kind of reputation she has. People are all too willing to gossip, and you can use that to your advantage to pick up on things people may not be likely to tell you, since most people don’t want to get involved when they see someone walking into a death trap. But they do love to run their mouths about things.

From that point, for the love of God, don’t sell yourself short. A good, clean, middle-class guy should find a good, clean, middle-class girl. Don’t blow off the nice girls and go straight for the gutter trash. There is no way that will work out.  Leave the trash can whores for the guys who are cooking up meth and taking selfies at the bar.

That’s where doing your homework comes in. If a girl is trash, tell her to hit the bricks. Do you want the other guys laughing at you? You want the reputation as the guy who married the neighborhood prostitute? This ain’t “Pretty Woman,” this is real life. Don’t be stupid enough to ruin your life and reputation over a woman with a bad social or sexual past. It’s not worth it, on any level. You’ll be miserable and the butt of a lot of jokes.

Now, as far as meeting a great girl and wanting to spend time with her and wanting to marry her and be with her for the rest of your life, I can’t really give any advice from that area, because I’ve never experienced that. And at my age (41), I am more than willing to accept, maybe even anxious to accept, that my ship sailed a long time ago. But that is my own personal failure, and anyone who may happen to read this will have had a completely different set of circumstances in their life, and they can adjust accordingly.

The upshot of all of this is that you need to figure out who YOU are and then decide if there’s room for anyone else in your life. If you’re open to relationships, that’s great, but you need to be VERY discriminating when deciding if a girl is right for you.

Understand, I am NOT anti-relationship. But in looking at the situation from a personal standpoint, I am just a lot happier as a single man.  Part of that has to do with my poor decision-making skills when it comes to choosing women, and part of it comes from not wanting to waste my time.  I know what I like and what I like to do.  So unless a girl comes along that fits into a very specific spot in my life, I’m not interested.  But I don’t want my personal decisions to keep anyone from making their own.

In closing, thank you for reading and if the advice of an old man helps anyone out there from making any life-altering mistakes, I’ll consider that a victory. Life is good, and despite being battle-worn, I’m happy. And I want to pass that happiness along to a new generation, and hopefully those lessons will stick for someone, somewhere.

God bless.

The Chicago White Sox 2018-19 Offseason, Part II

img_3856

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

gettyimages-143216823-640x640

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.