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Padres find a way to want it less than the White Sox

South Siders take a series in San Diego, and if that doesn’t temper playoff expectations, nothing can

MLB: Chicago White Sox at San Diego Padres
Juan Soto with the ol’ back-into-the-playoffs-losing-to-the-White-Sox celebration. It’s true, though, it sure beats being stuck in Washington.
Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

Talk about a White Soxy way to make the playoffs.

In the middle of a listless, 2-1 loss against a South Side squad long eliminated from the playoffs despite playing in the worst (second-worst?, please, let’s not debate it) division in baseball, the San Diego Padres learned that they made the playoffs. Once the champagne dries, the Friars can send thank-you notes to the Philadelphia Phillies and Milwaukee Brewers for not wanting October baseball any more than they did.

But this is a White Sox recap, and that team won today behind a strong start from Lance Lynn, who etched his ERA a wafer-thin shade short of 4.00 while still hobbling a bit when asked to do anything outside the safety of the pitcher’s mound. Theoretically, if Lynn clocks a 4.00 ERA with one leg, if he can get healthy for 2023 we’ll be looking at a 2.00. Or maybe, if that knee only reduced him to half-strength in one leg, we can shoot for a 3.00. It’s basic math, people.

Elvis Andrus, a player nowhere near Rick Hahn’s radar until Oakland decided to piss the veteran shortstop off and dump him to prevent an automatic and pricey option for 2023 and Tim Anderson went down with injury for his requisite third time of the season, continued his quest to somehow be the South Side MVP in spite of playing in just 40 games for the team by going warehouse shopping to open scoring:

The White Sox added an insurance run in the seventh, cashing in another gift run thanks to listless play from the Pads:

No clapping back, please, it’s been 159 games of listless play we’ve had to watch this year, I know my outfield bobbles and misjudged sends.

And that’s why the recap ends here. We always feature layered coverage here at South Side Sox, so if you don’t like one piece, there’s a Six Pack or Bird App, and sometimes even a next-day column, recounting most of the key details of every single game.

It’s sad, really. In part thanks to our talented and expanding staff, but mostly in anticipation of a golden season in 2022, we set out to have our daily game coverage this summer reflect the extra effort we made to cover the playoffs in 2021: three different game wraps, and a game look-back. In all but the latter, we succeeded. It’s not our fault the White Sox proved unworthy of the extra attention this year, from Game 9 forward.

This is my 45th year as a White Sox fan. There have been years I didn’t care as much, perhaps even summers I could count the number of games I watched on one hand. But I was also the kid who spread out his Sun-Times on the floor every morning to study box scores, snuck on the field and ran the bases under the nose of Andy Frains, drove up from Texas to say goodbye to Comiskey, camped out for playoff tickets, touched the Trophy, and played pregame ball in the parking lot and in Armour Park countless times. I’ve seen Blackouts, no-nos, World Series wins, perfect games. I’ve been on the field, in the dugout, and in the press box.

Not until today — and this has been a long, hard season — I don’t think I’ve ever been embarrassed to be a White Sox fan. Not to say it’s a long tradition of excellence. But most years, the White Sox compete. Even penniless Bill Veeck tried harder to deliver a winner than the club has over the balance of the past decade, but still, it’s an analytic era, so let’s give a head-start rebuild a shot. This isn’t sugarcoating the past; while baseball fans by nature are nostalgic, they are also melancholic and tend to play up the aches of the past.

That this team, overpaid and struggling to strike .500 in this contention-window season, is the product of a damnable rebuild process isn’t what’s embarrassing — although it doesn’t help. What has fomented the embarrassment to a breaking point is the increasing, utter disdain this organization feels toward its fans.

I’ve never been one to call Jerry Reinsdorf cheap, or Ken Williams a bad GM, or the White Sox the “second team” in this city. I’m a smart and passionate White Sox fan, taking no quarter when things are bad, (over)praising when good. The White Sox call me an angry writer, while on the beat (some of) my colleagues chided me as a fan — as if you can be both. I spent an entire past offseason mocking myself for being the only one here on staff to not foresee the White Sox as playoff-bound in 2021.

But we see the disdain now, clearly, in every molecule of the franchise. Fan-murdering can tend to be a bit overdramatic and inaccurate, but tell me any aspect of the club that doesn’t involve threatening harm on us faithful:

  • Atrocious, embarrassing, underfunded minor league system
  • Epidemic and endless injuries
  • Offseason empty coffers (other than this year, strike that and replace with boneheaded spending, which will now spur a circle-back to offseason empty coffers ...)
  • Outright dishonesty in communication, through omission or outright deception
  • Gaslighting with oblique public statements, or missives delivered through front office codebreaker Bob Nightengale
  • Broadcasters, like Steve Stone or even cornpone sub Gordon Beckham, shaming
  • Poor, and worse, passive performance on the field
  • Reckless and ill-informed hiring, foremost Tony La Russa (see: gaslighting)
  • Unsavory off-field issues (Omar Vizquel, Wes Helms, Brian Ball)

What’s left that’s working? It can’t be the cost or convenience of games. Parking? Food selection? White Sox Charities? The 50/50 raffle? A Kaskade concert?

Hearing that La Russa would be leaving — the biggest news to hit the South Side all season, but yet unconfirmed by the White Sox themselves, 12 hours after they steered Nightengale to report it during the baseball-blackout of a Bears game — should have provided relief, perhaps even tacit approval, of the White Sox. But for this longtime fan, it triggered some real despondency over the team. It’s as if releasing La Russa, two years too late, highlighted just how much disregard the White Sox have for all of us.

As I put it to our staff today, having La Russa — the single craziest hire in White Sox history, by some measure more bizarre than hiring Terry Bevington, if you’re honest with yourself — to evaluate and criticize was like poking at a piñata. It was there, colorful, huge, obvious, tempting, unwilling to communicate.

It was also our job, from the get-go, to put feet to the fire over the fact that not a month after pledging to conduct a true search for Ricky Renteria’s replacement, La Russa was hired, with nary a true interview held.

In fact, it was I as the sorta (pandemic) beat writer who asked Hahn during the Renteria-firing Zoom what changed about the team’s hiring process. The White Sox had gone 16 years and two managers without conducting a search, and suddenly was throwing open the shutters to the sunlight of 29 other clubs? Hahn said it was a good question, one he had to be anticipating but seemed not to, answering that the organization had gotten too insular.

Hahn followed that promise with a hire of TLR so insular, we all thought the initial reporting was a joke.

So now, the piñata has burst open, and it’s filled with black licorice. And I Told You Sos. And regret. Maybe even a few poisonous bugs.

There should be relief, even joy, that the very heavy specter of La Russa will be gone from the South Side (and let’s be clear, no ill will to Tony, love or hate the hire everyone on the planet knows someone with a pacemaker and none of us wants to see that person crushed under the stress of a major league dugout and eight months of endless travel every year).

But there isn’t. There is shame. Call me naive, but for the first time, I have no faith left in this White Sox team. It makes doing this job, writing these stories, seeking out great new writers and voices, putting on a smile and dancing another baseball jig, much harder.

And thus, I carry on into another offseason. May the gas not be lit this time around.