White Sox pitchers and catchers report to spring training today, so congratulations on surviving another offseason.
Granted, the occasion may not feel as cleansing as it has in years past. We've spent the last couple months assuming that Rick Someone had somebody else in mind for right field and/or shortstop, and yet Avisail Garcia and Tyler Saladino remain the frontrunners. Perhaps if we allow today's mile marker to sway us into thinking they're set in stone, the Sox will finally have an opportunity to prove us wrong. You know, like the Tyler Flowers non-tendering all over again.
It's been easy enough to fixate on those issues because the roster is largely set. Even if no moves are made to further reinforce the roster, the most significant battles aren't particularly transformative.
Shortstop: The initial plan has Saladino on the inside track for the most playing time, but Carlos Sanchez -- who is nearly three whole years younger -- is around to help, as long as he's not there to usurp.
Sixth starter: After the Mat Latos signing, the 12-man pitching staff is pretty much set, leaving Erik Johnson and Jacob Turner to fight for the scraps. Johnson holds a significant edge in recent performance and health, but Turner is out of options. Assuming Chris Sale has committed to using a hitch step for his truck bed and no other veterans suffer their own fluky injuries, there isn't an easy way for Johnson to get the playing time he deserves, or Turner the playing time his contract situation urges.
Last man on the bench: With Saladino, Sanchez and Brett Lawrie each possessing the ability to handle multiple infield positions, Robin Ventura's last bench spot can be used for a fifth outfielder, and/or the most useful bat. That could be somebody like Jerry Sands, whose traditional righty splits give Robin Ventura somebody to swap Adam LaRoche with should the other manager call for a LOOGY.
Barring a crisis of health, it stands to be a pretty quiet spring on the competition front, which allows us to pay equal attention to the cultural one. This spring is going to have a different look and sound, even if Hahn and Ventura shows no hot-seat strain from three consecutive losing seasons.
The clubhouse: Last season, the White Sox looked to LaRoche for veteran leadership, but whatever he contributed in that department was overshadowed by sad stoicism. This time around, Todd Frazier is supposed to bring the professional confidence to the club from the outside, although Alex Avila also grades out well in that department. Lawrie and Latos also have strong personalities, but more in the way you might describe a cologne as strong. It's not a bad idea -- the Sox might be one team that can take advantage of a high-maintenance discount, but they usually don't court such combustible personalities.
No Hawk: When the spring training broadcasts fire up, Hawk Harrelson won't be a part of it. Instead, Jason Benetti will receive the maximum amount of reps with Steve Stone before the games start counting.
Batter man: Speaking of notable absences, White Sox spring training caps won't be sporting the old English script for the first time since the 1990s. The black and white "Batter Man" is in its place, and for that matter, it's also infringing on the old logo's usual place on the White Sox' social media icons:
It makes sense, because the new spring training uniform has been incredibly well-received, and the Sox need as much positive press as they can get. As somebody who's been wondering whether the Sox are entertaining the notion of a greater overhaul, though, I see the Sox wading further into the water here. Maybe the Sox are just committing to a different look at Camelback Ranch in attempt to shatter other conventions, like the slow starts that suppress fan enthusiasm.