Accountability Post #1 – Judging The White Sox development two years into the rebuild:
As we all watched the Red Sox overmatch the Dodgers in the World Series, the White Sox sat comfortably at home, not too far from the Cubs, playing Uno and doing laundry.
Actually, I wish they would do their laundry. There are far too many actions ahead for this club to even begin dreaming of contention. It’s time to apply a little critical thinking and hold itself accountable.
At a dinner in Boston last week, a slightly drunk and considerably more bombastic Red Sox fan barked across the table at me, “Thanks for sending us Chris Sale!” I dismissed him by politely saying he was welcome. Not satisfied with the level of irritation he had achieved, he continued. “How are your Cubs doing?” Great, I responded, they’re eliminated from the postseason which brings me joy because I’m a White Sox fan and I hate the Cubs. Without losing a beat, he ingeniously repeated the same line word for word, replacing Cubs with White Sox.
I smiled and nodded.
This guy has a point. How are the White Sox doing? Other than trading most of their marketable talent for younger developmental assets, what has been rebuilt? Up until now, if we’re all honest with each other, the “rebuild” has been a marketing strategy. I feel like I’m watching a White Sox version of a line paraphrased from a popular episode of The Brady Bunch: “Marketing! Marketing! Marketing!”
Consider this. Chris Sale may have essentially traded himself after throwing a tirade about removing a 14-year-old from the clubhouse while screaming obscenities at club Executive Vice President Ken Williams in front of the entire team, and following that up by slicing up the team’s throwback jerseys right before a game. In the corporate world, we refer to that as a CLM – “Career Limiting Move”.
Sale was kicked out of the house (the clubhouse… get it?) by his parents (the parent club… rim-shot) because he acted like he was bigger than the franchise. So the marketing strategy “mired in mediocrity” may have been created to rationalize the action of trading him not only to the fan base but to the entire baseball world, because no team in it’s right mind would trade such a talent without a really good reason.
If Sale meant to move himself, the strategy worked brilliantly. He just won a World Series ring for the wrong Sox. Meanwhile, in the weakest division in Major League Baseball the White Sox had only slightly the second worst record on their way to losing 100 games – the third time in the past six season in which they lost at least 95 games.
This isn’t mired in mediocrity. It’s called sucking.
But Rick Hahn couldn’t very well have gone in front of the fans and said, “We suck,” no matter how truthful he would have been. Instead, he went off to Spin City and coined a much more gentle reference to communicate the same essence. And here we are, meandering through “Rebuildland.”
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So how are things going? Not that all his trades haven’t yielded significant returns, but as for the rebuild what is the strategy? Is the team just stuffing as much in the talent funnel as possible to wait and see what happens to come out? Are they waiting another year for the youth to develop? Two years? What is the infield of the future and who is going to play third base? Will they extend Avisail Garcia or Jose Abreu when it’s time? What are their plans?
At some point, the team will have to make some choices. Every team includes some key roster signings. What is the team thinking other than waiting to see what happens with the many prospects and reclamation projects it has amassed.
When you go on a job interview, ask the hiring manager what he or she is looking for in the ideal candidate. If they respond and aren’t sure but they will know when they see it, walk away immediately. That means they don’t know what they’re looking for, and that the interview process is nothing more than a beauty contest. And that means, of course, they will never find what they are looking for because they don’t know what that is.
What are the White Sox looking for? At any position? I don’t think they know, but I believe they think they’ll know when they see it.