Great Expectations, out of a Bleak House

A funny thing happened on the way to the playoffs: Minnesota brought in a Bringer of Rain. (@680TheFan)


A funny thing happened on the way to the Chicago White Sox winning the Central Division in 2020: The Minnesota Twins went out and signed big-hitting third baseman Josh Donaldson to a mega-deal bigger than any individual deal the White Sox have ever shelled out. 

The resulting storm on social media led me to think that many Sox fans, while certainly excited about the prospects of the coming season, are thinking with their hearts instead of with their heads.

Let me be clear about something first: High expectations are a good thing. They help drive someone or something to work and strain to be the best. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with that, and sometimes miracles do happen — just look at the 1969 New York Mets.

But you also need to be realistic, which is why I can’t understand the social media meltdown from some Sox fans. Even if the Twins hadn’t signed Donaldson, the Sox probably weren’t going to win the division, anyway!

The Sox won 72 games last year, and showed marked progress on a number of fronts. But to think that they could “somehow” win another 20 games to put themselves into real contention is stretching belief.

Could it happen? Sure, just look at the 1990 White Sox, who incredibly won 94 games, “Doin’ the Little Things” under manager Jeff Torborg. But remember the Western Division back then wasn’t close to being as strong as the current Central Division and the American League as a whole.

With the 2020 White Sox, you’re asking a bunch of kids to take a next leap into greatness basically overnight and asking a franchise to keep said guys healthy. If the last three seasons at both the major and minor league level have shown anything it’s that the White Sox are having serious problems in the health department, whether it’s because of bad luck or something else going on with strength and conditioning.

To me, it’s too much to think everything is going to break right for the Sox, which is one reason I advocated in a previous column getting at least two starting pitchers to help protect themselves from what is almost a certain bad injury or slump.   

Again, it’s fine to dream, and every Sox fan should certainly be doing that given the generally awful baseball the Sox have put on the field since the start of the 2007 season, but if the Sox don’t make the playoffs this year that doesn’t mean the season was a failure if they can:

  • Win at least 82 games. That means a winning season, the first since 2012. Anything over and above that is gravy.
  • Continue to develop the core group of young players.
  • Play meaningful baseball at least through August — and hopefully into September.
  • Continue to develop and emphasize all aspects of the franchise both on and off the field: advertising opportunities, season ticket sales, attendance in general, fan and media public relations, TV ratings.

Do these things, see what you can add in the offseason before the start of the 2021 campaign (if some pieces weren’t already added at the trade deadline this July), and then let’s really rock and roll.

The table should be set and ready for the White Sox. But 2020 is still probably too soon.

Author profile

Mark Liptak is originally from Chicago and has been a White Sox fan since 1960. He and his wife Zoe reside in Pocatello, Idaho where he is the radio voice as part of Idaho State athletics in volleyball, football, women's basketball and softball.

Mark went to the University of Kentucky. He’s been in the sports media profession since 1978 having worked in television sports in three markets between 1978 and 1994. He’s also written for numerous newspapers in addition to his radio duties.

Liptak has covered a Super Bowl, two Kentucky Derby’s, an NCAA woman’s basketball Final Four and worked for CBS-TV during their coverage of the men’s NCAA basketball tournament’s opening rounds held in Boise in 2001.

He is also a Chicago White Sox historian who has written for various web sites over the past 17 years including the Chicago Baseball Museum and Chicago Now / Sox Net, a series of blogs and websites associated with the Chicago Tribune.

He and Zoe have been married for 30 years. Their son, Mason, and his family live in Longview, Texas.

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katiesphilMark LiptakLeigh AllanbillydWayne Tietz Recent comment authors

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Wayne Tietz
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This is the year. The White Sox will glow in 2020-O.

billyd
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I’ve had hopes for a better than expected season every year now for 55 years. I’m not a stockholder, I’m a fan. So thanks for the parenting, but I’m fucking excited.

Mark Liptak
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And you should be excited I’m simply saying on social media the meltdown from some some Sox fans I thought was way over the top when Minnesota signed Josh. Far too much would have to go perfectly right for the White Sox to win the division this year but that doesn’t mean they can’t have a good year which is a refreshing change from the past several seasons isn’t it?

billyd
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Yes, fair point, and I was probably too acerbic in my comment, but I’ve only recently been introduced to all the Sox blogs, and although I enjoy the reads, the analysis is sometimes, well, too analytical. Being a fan is a visceral experience mainly, and it’s fun (especially this year) to have no limits on the possibilities that the season will bring. Eloy is gonna have a Dick Allen year, I’m thinkin’.

Right Size Wrong Shape
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I don’t consider the 2020 AL Central to be strong at all. Minnesota should be good, but are prime for regression, I don’t think Cleveland is even going to try this year, and Detroit and KC are horrible.

Mark Liptak
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Cleveland situation will be determined by their young pitchers. Do they continue to move forward? Or do they regress? We’ll see.

Wayne Tietz
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Last but not least, The White Sox Are Coming. Tra La, Tra La!!!!

katiesphil
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I’m excited for the very reasons you mention. Like RSWS points out, even with Donaldson, the Twins still have pretty crappy pitching, overall, and they’re due to fall back some. Power is power, but unprecedented power is unprecedented and likely to come back to Earth some, at least in a few cases. Cleveland may have enough left to make a run at it, too, but could just as easily fade, I think. All this to say that while .500+ is my general hope and expectation, the Sox could be in it a lot longer than I might predict in any… Read more »

Leigh Allan
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Apparently your title got edited down. I presume the full title was:
Can David Copperfield magically create Great Expectations out of a Bleak House and end the Hard Times, or will Oliver Twist the Tale of Two Teams so off-season acquisitions are merely Old Curiosity Shop items and not moves that will result in a playoff ringing of The Chimes

Our Mutual Friend Little Dorrit is disappointed in the failure to include it all.

Mark Liptak
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Mark Liptak
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I don’t create the titles just FYI. But your comment was well played.

katiesphil
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katiesphil
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Nicely done.