There's a passage in one of the formative books of my childhood that keeps coming to mind over the last month or so ...
The best evidence we have of what World War II was like comes from about 300 million movies made during this era, many of them featuring Ronald Reagan. From these we learn that the war was fought by small groups of men, called "units," with each group consisting of:
- One Italian person
- One Jewish person
- One Southern person
- One Tough but Caring Sergeant (played by William Bendix), and of course
- One African-American.
These men often fought together through an entire double feature, during which they would learn, despite their differing backgrounds, how to trickle syrup from the corners of the mouth to prove that they had been wounded.
... but I'd been waiting for a story like this one from Bob Nightengale to connect the two in front of you, the reader.
It’s a whole new cast of characters, bringing in a whole lot of character.
All-Star third baseman Todd Frazier turns up the decibels the moment he enters the room. Second baseman Brett Lawrie grabs your attention like a double espresso. Shortstop Jimmy Rollins brings that swagger. Jackson’s hilarity expunges every last ounce of tension. And there’s the burning intensity and leadership from catcher Alex Avila.
"I’ve never been around a more diverse group of athletes,’’ White Sox outfielder Adam Eaton said. "You got a mafia guy in Todd Frazier. He’s got that smooth demeanor, but it can be loud and get guys going. You got a guy like Lawrie, who’s going to bring constant passion and fire to the game. You got J-Roll, who’s not rah-rah but brings that energy. And you got Avila. I call him the general because he’s calm, cool and leads by example.
"It’s crazy how diverse it is in here, but it works.’’
You have to admit, this is pretty cohesive for a Plan B -- or C, or D, or however many doors closed on the Sox before rolling the dice on veterans with something to prove.
Over the weekend, two other reporters revealed a couple of the roads not taken. Jon Heyman dropped this tweet about the Sox while doing recon on the Rangers and Ian Desmond ...
Chisox sought desmond for SS late for "north of" alexei's 4M, but when he didn't take it spent 10M on latos/rollins/ajax— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 12, 2016
... while the Kansas City Star's Sam Mellinger did a deep dive into Alex Gordon's eight weeks away from the Royals over the winter:
Gordon won’t say who those teams were, but it was close enough that he thought about the specifics of a move — how he’d fit into a new team’s lineup, how he’d like the city, how it would affect his family.
"There was one major team," he says. "One of the biggest things for us, my (oldest) kid is starting kindergarten. We wanted to be somewhere close. That was the main thing, keeping the family together and being somewhere close. So I’ll give you a hint, and maybe you can guess who it is. It’s centrally located, I’ll give you that."
Others close to Gordon or the negotiation have guessed that team to be the White Sox.
"Maybe," is all Gordon will say.
Both of these scenarios bring to mind previous (successful) offseasons. The former is reminiscent of the 2004-05 offseason, when the White Sox traded Carlos Lee and reallocated the money among some permutation of free agents Jermaine Dye, Tadahito Iguchi, A.J. Pierzynski and Orlando Hernandez. The latter is somewhat similar to the failed pursuit of Torii Hunter after the 2007 season, although he chose the highest dollar, and not the home team.
Alas, that one started the run of disappointing position-player developments, as Kenny Williams' sensible audible for Nick Swisher took a couple of unfortunate turns. It's that streak that makes it easy to be skeptical of this great experiment, because if the Sox' first and second choices haven't worked out well, how much faith can one have in their thrift-store acquisitions?
Fortunately, this winter is distinct enough to be judged on its own merits. This team looks and sounds different, which is why everybody surrounding the team seems so refreshed after three years of being unsuccessful and bland. If and when this unit goes down, it probably won't happen quietly.