Updated Thoughts On The Chicago White Sox Rebuild

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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.

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Simulating My Life: Sports Video Games, 1995-2019

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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.

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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)

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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.

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!

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!

The Negative Effect Of Social Networking On Straight Men

As I look over social networking on a daily basis, whether it’s to post Chicago White Sox baseball stories for discussion among my friends, pictures or videos of bikini girls or the best memes I can find, I am consistently surprised at some of the things I see posted by local men who are, supposedly, straight.

Some examples:


Seriously.

A decade ago, this kind of garbage would have been publicly posted only by teenage girls who were upset that their high school crush wasn’t interested or maybe by a complete and total nerd who didn’t know any better.

Now grown, adult men who are supposedly straight post this kind of thing.

Is it subterfuge to try to get women to think they are romantic or have some special feelings that most men don’t have? Because I’ll openly admit I’m just about as romantic as a coconut. So, if this is someway to try to buck the system, I get it. But I can’t respect it. What’s next, selfies in a miniskirt?

If you’re a man, act like a man. Not a teenage girl.

If you’re trying to get a girl’s attention, that’s not the way to do it. I imagine that any woman who sees that is going to think you’re pathetic.

And you know what? You are. No man is out looking for a soulmate. That’s fucking ridiculous, even putting aside the point that I don’t believe in such childish balderdash to begin with. Any woman who gets with a man like this probably will have to paint his toenails and listen to him cry when he gets home from work every night sitting on the couch having a glass of wine.

Pathetic.

Be a man. Watch a porno or read Playboy or Penthouse and post some dirty memes or tell a dirty joke and smoke a cigar and have a beer or a shot of whiskey. Or do you seriously not realize how ridiculous you look?

Like I said, if you’re a man, act like it. If you’re an emotional, heartbroken little powder-puff, you end up looking a lot more like this than a man:

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Peace.