What, after all, is Man! A dwelling for grim pain,
A mere toy of false fortune, a will-o'-the-wisp of these times
A stage for bitter fear, replete with cutting grief
A quickly melted snow and a candle soon burned down
-- From Andreas Gryphius' Menschliches Elende
Born in 1616, the poet Andreas Gryphius grew up in Germany during the Thirty Years' War, which wasn't a good time to be growing up in Germany. A local conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Bohemia spread into western Germany, and while the German states fought among themselves, forces neighboring the Holy Roman Empire tried to break off pieces of it for their collections.
Over the course of three decades, the locals had to deal with Spanish, French, Swedish and Danish armies marching through their countryside, devastating and reducing the population with a combination of plunder and disease. The latter was especially rampant due to malnourishment. There are stories about starving parents resorting to cannibalism with their children, and while they're likely legend, the conditions were bad enough that such tales were plausible.
Gryphius survived, but the death and destruction he witnessed understandably altered his view of the world. The title of the poem above translates to "Human Misery," but he could've used that title for a lot of his works. He spent a lot of time dealing with what he had witnessed, and developed a wide array of metaphors to describe such horror.
When you look at it this way, there are worse things to work through than three years of bad White Sox baseball. I mean, we have to figure out different ways to mull over the same melancholy topics, but they involve relatively trivial matters like the league's worst offense. Or awful baserunning. Or Jeff Samardzija's August. Attendance was depleted by the end of the season, but it's not because White Sox fans had to resort to eating one another.
The sameness was numbing, is all. Granted, some of the sameness was welcome, like Jose Abreu and Adam Eaton resisting the sophomore jinx, Jose Quintana earning his minor in determination and Chris Sale putting a dip in his FIP. All of the stuff that allowed Sox fans to feel good about the direction of the team in 2014 held its ground in 2015.
But the reinforcements never really showed up. Melky Cabrera deserved better for his contact over the first two months, but nobody offset his luck in the other direction. Adam LaRoche treaded water for two months, then sank. Avisail Garcia lived up to the fulcrum label, but for the worse. Emilio Bonifacio was rendered a nonfactor by Gordon Beckham, who rendered himself a nonfactor due to oh who cares. Alexei Ramirez gave in to decline. The cascade failure forced the Sox to require production from their defensive specialists, which didn't happen, either.
Speaking of cascades, the league's worst offense made it difficult to feel good about the pitching, which was an asset. Its worst story was the flop of Samardzija, and even he gave the Sox innings. Carlos Rodon was the staff's best story, and that's a great one. The bullpen protected late-inning leads like a normal team. Pair the 2015 Sox pitching staff with the 2014 Sox offense, and that's a .500 club.
The Sox insulated themselves somewhat against such a failure, as their big splashes from last winter had conservative aspects. The only busted contract is LaRoche's, and it's done after 2016. Cabrera and David Robertson aren't great values, but they're still far better than what they previously had. Rick Hahn didn't compromise the payroll in making his push (like, say, San Diego did). One or two targeted moves could get the Sox unstuck, like Josh Donaldson and Russell Martin did for Toronto the winter after their major offseason renovation fizzled. That's easier said than done, but the Sox do have the resources.
The biggest problem with this season is that it casts doubt on the next two. This offense was so pitiful that it's a long way to average, and so it's a little too easy to envision the Sox failing to close the gap during this three-year window, because it's a little too easy to picture the next great free agent pulling a LaRoche. Hahn probably won't be able to generate the same kind of excitement that occurred last winter, but he at least needs to find something to erase the aftertaste, which makes the return of Robin Ventura a less-than-inspiring opener.
Fortunately for the Sox, offseason improvements to U.S. Cellular Field may provide auxiliary drawing power until the talent provides validation. Brooks Boyer said the ballpark will look "a lot different" due to numerous updates, but the only one he revealed was 12,000 square feet of scoreboard. The three displays across the outfield will be ready by Opening Day. We can only hope the team will be ready this time, too.
While six years of Octoberless baseball has put a dent in the Sox' attendance numbers, South Side Sox continues to grow, and mostly peacefully. "Mostly" is an accomplishment during seasons like this, because it's cathartic as hell to air it all out. It's just not great for building a community, and the community is what makes it easy to write even when the subject matter is bleak enough to trigger thoughts of Andreas Gryphius. Thanks for respecting and not eating each other.
Thanks to Josh for all the work he does on the podcast. Thanks to Larry, Steve, pnoles, Rob, Gus, Ken and HSA for adding their perspectives and helping carry the load.
Thanks to the crew at The Catbird Seat for the additional commiseration, thanks to White Sox Twitter for the additional eyes and ears, and thanks to the beat writers for providing source material. And thanks to the White Sox front office for not keeping us entirely at arm's length as we try to understand what it's doing.
We'll be doing more of that as the offseason begins. If you're new to the site this season, there's no need to stop visiting. We're here every damn day, reviewing the season, watching the the postseason, then greeting an unfortunately crucial hot stove season with fervent rosterbation.