Kevin Youkilis and the direction of the franchise


Trading roster filler for a $2 million 3rd basemen two years removed from being an absolute offensive monster is the sort of no-lose move that doesn’t need a spelled-out directive to justify it.

And yet, Kenny Williams went out and gave one anyway:

"“At this point and time we owe it to our fans and the men in that clubhouse in uniform to try to exhaust ourselves to be the best team we could possibly be,” Williams said."

Perhaps he didn’t quite say “rebuilding be damned”, but Kenny made the his typical mid-season appeal to fans that the White Sox are gunning hard for the division crown once again.

Pondering whether the White Sox will sell or not always seems like idle chatter, because if there’s any question at all, Kenny Williams will presumably go for it.  This may be a barely over-.500 teams with a starting rotation stretched to absolutely capacity, but far be it for this team to pass up on an opportunity while leading the division race.

The downside of such an approach is not something that needs to be speculated about down the road, it’s here–visible, right now.  The White Sox haven’t made the playoffs the last three seasons and have to scramble more and more to build a contender each year.  It’s a problem they’re working to fix, but are still years away from having a firm minor league base.

The upside is that once again, there’s exciting and meaningful baseball at the moment, and at least until a few weeks after the All-Star break; maybe even longer!

While Youkilis is a move that would be harmless and sensible even in a rebuild, watching him and what he turns to becomes the center of the age-old debate of whether it’s worth it for the Sox to take a half-cocked shot at playoff glory than subject the fan base to multiple seasons in the wilderness for the sake of a more secure future.

If Youkilis returns to form, he could play a huge role in making Williams’ quite noble-sounding determination look brilliant.  If he fails, memories of others late-summers spent waiting for past-their-prime veterans to “find it” again and jump-start an under-gunned division contender will come rushing back.

That strange middle ground is reflected in the attendance from a fan base that isn’t quite sure whether to buy in after being warned off all winter, but also in organizational performance, where trying to add to the major league roster and the minor league pitching depth simultaneously have made both efforts look half-convincing.

It’s only fitting that a post ostensibly about the direction of the franchise becomes hard to wrap-up; that’s sort of the state of affairs.  The moves become complicated when they’re looked at beyond a vacuum, and it appears that both opportunities to improve the major league team and minor league system are being taken as they come, and on their own merits.

It doesn’t seem like any way to run a team, as fans of franchises on a rigid straight-line pattern are quick to point out all the time, but validation is so close.  Just a Youk hot-streak away.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @ JRFegan.  Also check out his full-time, daily blog, White Sox Observer