During last Thursday’s loss to Cleveland, Ed Farmer and Darrin Jackson were filling up the later innings with some chatter about the state of the team. When the subject of the White Sox barren farm system came up, the pair brought back the old defense that this franchise is more focused on winning on the major league level than topping minor league rankings.
This is not to focus on Farmer and Jackson, because they’re just repeating the steady refrain of the franchise. The White Sox don’t have time to stockpile prospects because they’re too busy fielding a competitor every year.
Beyond the somewhat condescending tone, it’s a sound principle. Minor league system rankings aren’t always a good representation of organizational health. When teams’ have rank poorly due to promotions, or–as is most common for the Sox–using prospects for trade assets, those are considered “good reasons”.
And if that were working for the Sox, no one would care. I know I wouldn’t.
Instead they’ve had losing seasons three out of the last five years, and no playoff bids since a one-game playoff win in 2008. They’re not currently on pace to reverse the trend.
The struggles of the major league club are the only thing that can generate real scrutiny of the minor league system. Chances are the average Phillies fan didn’t care about gutting the farm system to build last season’s 102-win team until they burnt out in the playoffs and faced an uncertain future. Chances are Yasmani Grandal’s AAA numbers are only slight comfort to anyone who watches the Padres with regularity.
Sox fans are no different. Last year when I brought a “Free Dayan” to a mid-August game at U.S. Cellular, besides for a few guilty smirks from team employees, it mostly prompted conversations where I had to explain who Dayan was, or explain that there was no substance called “Dayan” that I was giving away for free.
Concern about prospects is borne out of specific concerns about the major league team. It generally doesn’t go much beyond wondering why there isn’t anyone better to replace Gordon Beckham, and the hype for him to come up in 2009 couldn’t have gotten off the ground if it wasn’t for Josh Fields’ ineptitude.
If the White Sox were achieving the major league success they covet, desperate eyes wouldn’t wander toward the minor league reports for a source of hope. When they find that there’s no help coming to this untenable situation, then people start complaining about prospect rankings.
At this rate, it’s not going to stop.