The benefits of a splashy White Sox signing


White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn has made a point of going on the record as staunchly against splashing for splashing’s sake.

"“If it’s a splashy move, it will only be made because we feel it will help us win ballgames which is ultimately the goal. As I have said before, we have more than enough resources around here to win, and it’s our job to allocate them to give us the best chance to win, not to allocate them in a way that potentially increases attendance because of something splashy.”"

Bathe in the whitewater of your splash-happy hedonism if you must, Rick Hahn will have no part. Perhaps he is conflicted now, because as much as acquiring a 26, soon-to-be 27 year-old first basemen might have been a move focusing on the next several years, splashedy-splash-splashy-splash-splashiddy-splash.

That last one is from South Side Sox, who overreact once per apocalypse, so if they’re calling it a splash, things are wet.

Without resorting to stacking more picture of headlines and tweets, it’s been nice to see compatriots in my argument that the Sox took a necessary risk in reeling in Abreu, but it’s easy to start worrying that people–especially local media–are just happy that the Sox did something interesting and newsworthy (NOTE: media tend to prefer things and people easy to write about!). At best, the Sox have not been newsworthy since concluding their trading by shipping Alex Rios to Texas. At worse, long odds vs. Detroit plus a quiet offseason and no early reason to get sucked in meant many tuned out the team all season.

I am flat-out desperate for an Abreu photo in the USA Today Sports Images bank. // Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

A mysterious softball-style Cuban slugger with a big contract and the most fun of the five tools is a much-needed bone to throw to a market for which “Ozzie Guillen attends DePaul basketball game” is still a hot baseball lead. Even if everyone putting their international scouting hats on all winter produces some grizzly results, the Sox have managed to shift the focus to their 2014 on-field product, which no easy feat in a town with three million “Chicago needs Ozzie back” articles saved to drafts.

For the fans, while I could comment on half of my Twitter timeline transforming into various action shots of Abreu, White Sox vice chairman Eddie Einhorn put it pretty well: “This is good for our fans because it gives us hope.”

That manifests itself in a lot of ways. Most simply, by the time the season starts, the Sox will offer someone other than Avisail Garcia to watch the at-bats of. Abreu is both intriguing because he’s new and unknown, but also because for a power-starved team that finished 12th in the AL in home runs despite playing in a studio apartment, he is someone who poses a threat without runners on to make his shanked single relevant.

For now, Abreu offers someone to dream on, a tangible reason for the new season optimism that still springs up on its own in diminished forms. Not only will there be time to talk about things other than the 2005 team at SoxFest, but maybe there will be someone else to meet as well. Maybe Paul Konerko reflecting on life in baseball as a microcosm of his physical mortality, or John Danks‘ naive hopes for recovery won’t be the top stories heading out of the winter for a chance.

However, there’s no signing or hire that doesn’t get analyzed for how much it will sell tickets.  But since the White Sox have seen declining attendance in every year since 2007, and in that time have gone on free agent spending sprees, signed huge home run hitters and hired former franchise legends as managers, the evidence-based conclusion is that nothing will sell tickets. No attention-grabbing splash has worked. The only thing the Sox haven’t tried since 2006 is win 90 games.

Which brings us all the way back to Rick Hahn, making splashes while pointing out that they’re useless.

Follow James Fegan on Twitter @JRFegan