Hope springs eternal: Grandal’s signing hopefully signals the start of something good. (@WhiteSox)
Thankfully, I won’t have to rant too much in the third installment of this series, now that the White Sox have added a GREAT, not good, but GREAT, player in Yasmani Grandal. Hopefully, that is a sign of a turning of the tides for an organization that has struggled to find any semblance of success over the last decade.
Now before I give the front office and ownership too much credit, they still have to show success on the field in 2020. And they’ve also displayed some bad behavior towards their fans, which I believe warrants an apology. Let’s dig into the latter point.
On Aug. 8, 2019, Rick Hahn joined Chuck Garfien on the White Sox Talk Podcast at Reggie’s, in a sort of town hall-type of affair. What happened at this podcast was unacceptable. Hahn intimated, and I’m paraphrasing here, that a certain negative segment of Sox fans were rooting for the rebuild to fail, because they thought he was doing a poor job as GM and wanted to be right.
Now, it just so happens that this rant by Hahn set in motion a series of events that got me writing about the White Sox for South Side Hit Pen, which is awesome, but I digress. The problem is, Hahn was completely tone deaf in saying this, because it just isn’t true. I’ve been critical of Hahn, the front office, and ownership, because they haven’t done a good job for the last decade, at minimum, of putting together good baseball teams. I speak for most critical fans, in that we desperately want the White Sox to be a premier organization. The fact is, Hahn has yet to show that he is capable of running a winning team. Since taking over as GM, Hahn’s White Sox have gone 491-642. The Sox were trying to compete from 2013-16, and their record in that time was 290-358.
So while we can split hairs about who’s fault it is that the Sox have failed during his tenure as GM, the fact is, we as Sox fans haven’t had much to root for, or be positive about. Rick, I don’t think you’re a bad guy, and I hope you can turn this thing around. I want nothing more than for the Sox to succeed. I’m rooting for you. But going after Sox fans last August was a bad look. My advice is to put your head down and keep working towards making this team a giant in the American League for the better part of the next decade. If you accomplish that, not only will the negativity disappear, but you will be treated as a god in this town. Prove us wrong, but do it with grace. There aren’t that many of us, so don’t drive us away.
The other ugly off-field thing that happened in 2019 was the Jerry Reinsdorf finish-in-second-place saga. News came out in early October, when David Samson went on the Mystery Crate podcast, that Reinsdorf offered some advice to David that his Marlins teams should aim to finish in second place every year. That way “there’s always a carrot left, there’s always one more step to take.” (For more specific details, check out the story that SSHP’s own Brett Ballantini wrote about Jerry’s ownership adventures.)
My take on this issue is more metaphorical than literal. Instead of looking at every time his White Sox teams have finished in second place, I look for other ways they came up empty. What are the other ways Jerry has indicated that having a winning team just isn’t that important to him?
1994 Despite having an elite team in 1994 that had a real chance at a World Series, Jerry was more concerned with rising player salaries, and led the fight against the player’s union, causing a strike that effectively ended that season. This really drove away fans of the team, doing damage to the fan base that may still exist today.
Alex Rodriguez The Sox started to get competitive at the beginning of the 21st Century, and a certain great player named Alex Rodriguez was available. Of course the White Sox were interested, as ARod was a surefire Hall-of-Famer. This period was the first time that I heard the Sox use the term “seat at the table,” which is Latin for “we want people to think we’re in on signing this guy, but we definitely won’t do what it takes to get it done.” How’s that carrot tasting so far? That is the crux of this line of thinking: It’s not just where the team finishes in the standings, it’s about making the fans believe that you really care about winning, but in reality the bottom line wins out.
2010s In the 2010s, the Sox kept “going for it,” but didn’t want to dish out the cash and commitment to land the elite players in free agency. The 2014 and 2015 seasons come to mind, when the Sox really felt like they were just a few pieces from contending. David Price, Yoenis Cespedes, Zach Greinke and Max Scherzer all were available. But the Sox shopped the midrange, secnd tier, and ended up with Melky Cabrera, David Robertson, Adam LaRoche, a trade for Jeff Samardzija, Jimmy Rollins … in other words, the standard fare. Some of these guys were OK for the Sox … but some were downright brutal. One, LaRoche, basically caused a team mutiny. Let’s say the Sox had decided to really go for it, signing Max Scherzer for seven years, $210 million. All of a sudden, the Sox aren’t so desperate to trade for a broken-down, past-his-prime James Shields, and we’re all talking about where the Fernando Tatís Jr. statue will go up once he retires.
Last offseason It’s so fresh, do I really need to mention the Manny Machado/Bryce Harper saga? Did the Sox finish second in the bidding for Machado? Did they mention “a seat at the table?” I think the point has been made.
But there’s great news, already spurred by the Grandal signing: 2020 is a new year. The Sox did what it took to sign an elite catcher, their first in decades. Is he just a carrot, or is his signing a sign that this team is now willing to really do what it takes to crush the competition? I hope it’s the latter. My spirits are rising, and I’m rooting for you, Hahn.
Here’s hoping Jerry is substituting trophies for carrots in 2020 and beyond.