The hope, was that the stretch of the off-season where a complete lack of activity–or even baseless rumors–on the White Sox front, a stretch so barren that I would be brought to the point of Googling “White Sox” for post ideas, would at least hold off till next month.
But no. Not only are the Sox in some sort of holding pattern; waiting for the free agent market to completely play itself out so that they can decide whether they’ll flip starter depth for offensive help, or go forward and just try to win 97 games by a score of 3-2. They’re also impossible to assess as a finished product until they make their move.
SB Nation’s Cee Angi is waiting for the decision on A.J. Pierzynski to draw her conclusions about the White Sox, as she sees no way that they can hope to build, or break even from last year’s league-average team performance without him. A lot of luck with runners in scoring position hid the mundane true nature of the Sox offense, and when that evaporated in September, things got pretty ugly. I concur with Angi that there’s not much reason to expect Flowers is capable of producing anything more than the equivalent of a mediocre Pierzynski year, but I lack enthusiasm about re-upping for the diminishing returns of this aging core.
In more positive developments…
Perhaps most people will not find happiness the revelation that the Illinois Sports Facilities Authority–a public agency created for the purpose of managing the extremely favorable lease the Sox have with the State of Illinois for U.S. Cellular Field–had been doling out free tickets to employees, former board members, and other connected individuals. That’s in addition to building Bacardi at the Park for free, of course.
Free seats as favors are annoying, but the extra layer of obnoxiousness is the implication of the ISFA becoming an aiding party to the White Sox being able to avoid the tax they owe for every ticket sold over 2.4 million (they ducked under for the second-straight season in 2012). However, at least this practice is getting cracked down on.
Teams have been doing a different kind of crackdown on people slipping into games without paying full price, and it’s not in the interest of protecting the consumer. The new contract the MLB reached with StubHub stipulates that $6 is the lowest price a ticket can be listed at, even if the fees and delivery charges need to be added in just for appearances’ sake. The invisible hand of the market is to be deferred to at all times, unless it winds up saying something mean like “10th row bleacher seats for Mets vs. Astros in September are essentially worthless”.
Better yet, the Yankees, Cubs, and Angels still felt that their brands weren’t being represented, or artificially regulated, well enough by StubHub, and have decided to opt of the league agreement to pursue other firms to be their licensed secondary tickets sales carrier. Tickets for these teams will still be available for these teams on the site, but teams will no longer be facilitating the exchange and transportation of the tickets themselves. That’s a service they’ll likely be moving to Ticketmaster.
The White Sox have yet to opt out, so they have that going for them.
The feature article on the White Sox website at the moment is all about getting excited about Jared Mitchell, and includes a quote from Rick Hahn summarizing why this topic has lost its luster over time.
“Each of the last three years we’ve said, ‘This is a big year for Jared Mitchell,’ said White Sox general manager Rick Hahn.”
Indeed it has. 2012 even stole away the fantasy of a healthy season being all Mitchell needed to regain his top prospect status. Mitchell flashed his plus speed again this past year, stole some bases, threw leather in center field, drew walks, drove the ball for power, and is still a guy who needs to cut down strikeouts or face a short career as a reserve.
This time around, the potential solution to Mitchell’s whiffs being offered is this:
That strikeout total reached 179 in 2012, after Mitchell fanned 183 times in 2011. But a slight tweak in his approach at the plate — and the simple realization of getting in a better physical and mental position to hit with each pitch — has the White Sox and Mitchell excited that the strikeouts will drop and the average will rise.
“We brought him to the instructional league, and we are really encouraged offensively,” Capra said. “In terms of being in a good position to hit, he’s better than he ever has been since we’ve had him. Hopefully, we see the same thing when he comes back to Spring Training.”
Three years into Sox blogging, and I’ve waited on my share of slight mechanical tweaks to take effect–Gordon Beckham has ruined these for a while–but at least it is something to look for. There’s not much going on right now.