It's been a long time since the White Sox entered the season accepting they were non-contenders. They usually tout themselves as World Series hopefuls, or at least smirk at projections that say otherwise. A 99-loss season marred by faceplants, figurative and literal, wounded some of that pride, but the Sox needed an impetus to commit to a teardown that their place in the standings (usually second) and farm system (usually bereft of anchor talent) somehow couldn't quite justify.
Hahn says the Sox won't punt on any season, and with Chris Sale leading a rotation with some upside, their pitching should continue to give teams a hard time. However, the front office is willing to endure growing pains in order to develop a new offensive core by the end of the season, quite the departure from recent practice. There are such things as moral victories this year, and their names are Garcia, Abreu, Eaton, and Davidson.
White Sox fans will take any kind of victory after last season, the franchise's worst since 1970. It wasn't just that they lost 99 games, it was how they lost them. Flailing into six-pitch 1-2-3 innings night after lifeless night, blowing 6-0 leads in the ninth inning, blowing 5-0 leads in the 14th inning, the second baseman running into the third baseman on a pop-up between the pitcher and the catcher on what should've been the final out. The general ineptitude and incompetency that enveloped the position-player department embarrassed everybody associated with the club.
After a full six months of flatlining, "wildly uneven" become a desirable outcome, because that suggests the possibility of raucous nights at U.S. Cellular Field mixed in with the cluster failures to which young teams are susceptible. We only saw the latter last year, and that's with a veteran-oriented team that proved capable of strong fundamental play one season before. In 2014, you can at least argue that the players might not know better just yet.
Plus, while the Sox talk around "rebuilding," there are still loose ends that attrition will eliminate. Paul Konerko will take a victory lap, and Adam Dunn's White Sox career will wind down to its merciful end. If Gordon Beckham's fifth season resembles his last four, he could be right there with them. For years, the Sox circled 2015 as a major transitional period. Since the 2013 White Sox curled up in a fetal position for the last four months, the front office seized whatever was left of the day by getting a head start in giving this team a new identity.
Beckham was supposed to pick up what Konerko put down and lead this team into a new era. Instead, PK's protégé picked up the captain's tendency to overthink himself into slumps and little else. Hahn's series of swift swaps certainly threw some talent at the problem, and now the hope is that a couple of strong bats can emerge and anchor certain spots in the lineup -- spots higher than fifth, specifically.
If none of those hitters get the hang of it -- an entirely possible outcome, given the recent success rate on the South Side -- a planned retrenching could instead become a complete collapse. So, please, can a couple hitters give Konerko some relief? He's waiting to pass the torch, but if nobody is willing or able to take it, he's going to have to drop it, and dreams of a quick turnaround could go up in flames.