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Soxivus 2022: The Airing of Grievances

With the dust settled on a devastatingly mismanaged White Sox season, a dozen South Side Sox writers come together to wail and moan over all the misdeeds

These two, man.
| Armando L. Sanchez/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images

I gotta lot of problems with you people, and now you’re gonna hear about it!
— Jerry Stiller as Frank Costanza from Seinfeld’s “The Strike.”

While White Sox fans have the comfort of social media to scream into the void, it seems only fitting that in a year that started and ended with pacemaker problems, we honor the traditions of Festivus — with a South Side Sox twist.

In true, angry Sox fan fashion, the “Airing of Grievances” is an appropriate starting point. While you may have seen or heard our frustrations throughout the season in the form of a game recap, podcast, or an excellent written piece from the South Side Sox crew, it is time to deliver our official grievances for the season. — Tommy Barbee


Brett Ballantini: Fan-Blaming

It first popped up at Rick Hahn and NBC Sports’ infamous “rooting for the rebuild to fail” appearance at Reggie’s and hasn’t abated since. The White Sox now seem to be in an all-out battle ... with their own fans.

Listen, arrogant ownership like (traditionally) the Yankees may be unseemly and tone-deaf — but its arrogance is borne from winning. Hahn has spent a decade running the White Sox, with ONE full-season winning record to show for it — and one “true” playoff appearance. Just like the sign outside of the ballpark, the arrow is now trending downward — a circumstance that would be true even without the 90-win emergence of the young and hungry Cleveland Guardians.

So even if the outright hostility that Hahn and Tony La Russa in particular have shown White Sox fans could be rationalized by, say, a trashcan-cheaters level “dynasty” as in Houston or a spend-big-and-draft-well run of division titles in L.A., the arrogance such success manifested would still be pretty gross. That Hahn, quite literally the luckiest GM in all of baseball and perhaps in all of professional sports, is dropping his monocle over any mere hint of fan dissatisfaction or curiosity, is beyond the pale.

This trend of White Sox brass treating the team’s fans with hostility has to stop. It’s hard to say that a 100-loss season is preferable to getting insulted by team leaders on the regular, but the notion that the White Sox of all teams should be insulting anybody is pretty over the top.

Speaking as a 45-year White Sox fan, I will take it that far: Another .500 team, marred by bad breaks but filled with some real effort, I can take in 2023. Crapping all over me as a fan and treating my concerns as attacks or insults, I cannot.

Clean up your act, right now, White Sox.


Malachi Hayes: First Basemen, First Basemen, Everywhere

At 2021’s end-of-season press conference, fresh off an ALDS loss that wasn’t particularly close and in which one of the series’ turning points was a misplayed fly ball in right field by Leury García, Rick Hahn told reporters that Andrew Vaughn and Gavin Sheets were being considered as potential options in the outfield for 2023.

With a glut of right fielders available in free agency who would have convincingly filled the White Sox clear need for left-handed patience and power — Kyle Schwarber, Joc Pederson, Michael Conforto, you name ’em — most of us assumed that this was more or less posturing on Hahn’s part. The Sox front office has never been one to telegraph their hand heading into an offseason, and giving lip service to filling needs with questionable options from within has long been the way of the Jerry Reinsdorf-run White Sox.

Record Scratch

Yeah, that’s me. You’re probably wondering how I got in this situation.

Wait, no. We’re the Chicago White Sox. We know exactly how we got in this situation, because we told you we would and you were dumb enough to believe we wouldn’t do it.

The stats speak for themselves, even if they can’t fully encompass the brutality of watching other teams — not even good teams, necessarily, but at least with semi-coherent roster-building strategies — consistently take extra-base hits away from a Sox offense that desperately needed them before taking their own extra bases at every feasible opportunity at the plate. It’s also infuriatingly on-brand for the organization to take two promising young hitters with the potential to become fan favorites and hang them out to dry like beach towels in a rainstorm.

There were multiple times this season that I paid real dollars, legal tender in the United States of America, simoleons that I could have spent in a thousand other places in the great city of Chicago, to watch an outfield alignment that went Vaughn-Pollock-Sheets. Or, alternatively, Jiménez-Pollock-Vaughn. Or, Pollock-García-Sheets. Pick your poison. At least they weren’t pretending to compete for anything when they gave us the Tres Garcías outfield to chuckle over; it was a farcical ploy from a farcical organization.

This time, will we be fooled so easily?

Probably.


Delia Ritchie: The Goose is Loose

Losing the Goose (and the Goose Island partnership) in right field not only meant losing a physical sense of camaraderie amongst fans, but a good-natured sense of luck, home runs, and much better beverage options. Losing the Goose not only meant losing hope for the season, but a great way to meet up with fellow fans who became friends, and later family. The Goose Island Goose was a physical signpost signifying that what was once a fun place to enjoy good baseball would soon become a desolate and dismal area without purpose. It was like losing Goose in Top Gun all over again — but worse, because the fun that the Goose represented was gone in the blink of a partnership change.


Tommy Barbee: Hiding Behind Tony

“The money will be spent ...” — Rick Hahn

Here’s a fun fact: Every team in the Top 10 of the 26-man payroll made the playoffs, except for the Chicago White Sox.

Jerry opened up his purse strings for his once-in-a-decade splurge, and Hahn decided to spend it all at the Marshall’s clearance rack.

Since everything good is because of Hahn, and everything terrible is somehow not his fault, I’m sure Tony La Russa will get the blame for the White Sox’s offseason amalgamation of the most expensive MLB bullpen. Still, time and time again, Hahn has ignored the most obvious flaws on the roster while taking unnecessary risks to create new ones.

If I had a dollar for every time Hahn misread the free agency market, I would have enough to buy this team and fire him. That’s part of what made not extending a qualifying offer to Carlos Rodón so laughable— everyone knew the White Sox wouldn’t come close to replacing his performance at the going rate for starting pitchers. So instead, Hahn invested heavily in the bullpen (again) and gave Vince Velaszquez a major-league deal. If it weren’t for Johnny Cueto’s resurgence after Dallas Keuchel played himself off the team, the pitching situation would be even more disastrous for Hahn.

There was no definite plan for Michael Kopech other than “let him pitch until his arm falls off and go from there.” Secondly, a team that historically did well at developing bullpen talent in-house instead spent heavily on guys that ended up being bad, injured, or both, overshadowing Reynaldo López’s breakthrough season.

Hahn used similarly dumb logic when it came to the White Sox offense. Despite never fielding an outfield that could stay healthy for more than 100 games, the only reinforcement was an aging AJ Pollock, who the Dodgers jettisoned in exchange for Craig Kimbrel. Remember, before this season, Pollock also had a history of not staying healthy, so it wasn’t exactly a foolproof plan. That gave the White Sox five occasionally healthy outfielders plus the 1B/OF rotation of Sheets/Vaughn. Combine that with the addition of Josh Harrison several years too late, a desperate search for a backup catcher because no one would admit Zack Collins was bad, and there’s a lot of yuck in the overall roster construction.

Yes, La Russa was an easy target because of everything. But, truthfully, Hahn should thank Tony for buying some extra years. Hahn wants credit for building the core of the White Sox team, and he can have it. What separates the middle of the pack from teams that win is the ability to garner new talent while maximizing what is already in place. There is zero indication that Hahn has the people to do that or is even capable of recognizing it himself, and time is running out.

Hahn built the foundation, and then he spent all the money. Now he needs to assemble a complete team — and he’ll have no one else to blame if he fails again.


Chrystal O’Keefe: Inability to Identify Injuries

The 2022 season seemed to be over before spring training ended, when reports of injuries started surfacing. While injuries aren’t the only excuse for the failures, it didn’t help. But you know what else didn’t help? The misuse of the injured list, and the vagueness of the front office when players were clearly injured.

Players pushed through apparent injuries all season, and I get it, there weren’t many guys out there, in the system or outside it, who could realistically contribute in their stead. But keeping players in after falling off the mound, swinging the bat with just one working arm, and poor Leury García playing several positions injured only exacerbated the problems.

So why weren’t players placed on the IL? And why was the front office so vague about players just sitting for a few days? Everyone was so hesitant to give updates, and often left fans wondering where the hell Luis Robert was. Or, why is Michael Kopech pitching while he’s hurt? Will Tim Anderson ever come back? I also wondered if playing through injuries made players worse for the wear. Yasmani Grandal is the player that comes to mind — fighting through injuries to have his worst season yet.

Thanks for ruining some of your best players by not letting them properly heal, White Sox.


Adrian Serrano: Killing Kopech

In 2022, Michael Kopech finished what was a very solid year with a sigh — and a body buckling under an increased workload.

Coming off of Tommy John surgery and failing to reach even the 70 IP mark the previous season as a dominant short reliever, Kopech seemed primed for another year in a similar role and slowly increasing his workload.

Unfortunately for him, Kopech plays for the Chicago White Sox.

In that White Sox way, full of unearned bravado, the team named Kopech a full-time starter to begin the 2022 season — and then promptly failed to protect him, all season long.

Yes, the White Sox learned nothing from the flat tire of the 2021 stretch run, in the form of the dead arm of Carlos Rodón.

In fact, 2021 wasn’t even the first time Carlos Rodón failed to jump from 70 IP to 120+ IP in his White Sox career. But hey, it worked once with Chris Sale!

Once he was announced in the rotation, Kopech was never going to make every start of the 2022 season, or be depended on for much more than five innings an outing.

You knew it, I knew it. Hell, Kopech knew it.

In the end, the White Sox did what they do best, sacrificing another player and season at the altar of improbability, ever-hoping for more of the dumb luck that allows them to continuously fail without consequence.


Joe Resis: Misallocated Resources

Four years ago, if someone had told me that the White Sox would have the seventh-highest payroll in baseball in 2022, I would have been relieved.

“Yes, this 100-loss season was totally worth it,” I would have thought. “Chapter two of the Rick Hahn era will be better than expected, and the White Sox will have a team that consistently contends for a World Series. They will actually pay good players instead of relying solely on their top-tier farm system.”

On one hand, the money did get spent. For a change, the White Sox had a payroll of a big-market team in the middle of a contention window. Hahn did the first part of the rebuild correctly, acquiring good returns for premium trade assets like Chris Sale, José Quintana, and Adam Eaton. The next part was done incorrectly, however, as Hahn spent a lot of the money on players who fell short of expectations, as he frequently had done pre-rebuild, from 2013-16.

This time around, $14.5 million went to AJ Pollock (0.5 fWAR), $13.8 to Yoán Moncada (0.9 fWAR), $18.5 million to Lance Lynn (1.9 fWAR), $7 million to Joe Kelly (0.5 fWAR), $18.25 million went to Yasmani Grandal (-0.4 fWAR, though I have no complaints about his 2020-21 performance), $5.5 million went to Leury García (-1.1 fWAR), and $8 million went to Kendall Graveman (0.7 fWAR). That is a grand total of $85.55 million going to players who totaled 3.0 fWAR. The Guardians spent less on their entire team, which won the division by 11 games.

In the same press conference in which Tony La Russa announced his retirement, the only good thing Hahn did was make La Russa look honorable by comparison. One of Hahn’s most noteworthy quotes was as follows: “Two years ago, our baseball operations department was getting nods for Executive of the Year. A year ago, we won the division by whatever, 11 or 12 games, and this year, we were picked for being in the World Series — and now we’re being asked if we should be in our jobs.”

Well, Hahn has been in this position for 10 years, so two successful regular seasons and zero successful postseasons is not enough. Success should not be that rare, and being picked to be in the World Series does not count as a success. Perhaps even more noteworthy was this quote from his season-ender: “We’re not going to be able to just throw money at the problem.”

Based on many of his most expensive players’ performances, I could see why he thinks that.


Year of the Hamster: The Mystery of the Disappearing SoxFest

Talk about the Worst Nancy Drew Mystery Ever.

There’s a lot to choose from among Grievances, with probably a dozen that didn’t even end up making it into our Soxivus copy this year. So as the final writer to choose a topic here, a final decision wasn’t easy.

That is, until Friday, when the White Sox committed yet another unforced error by canceling SoxFest.

The crosstown Cubs, helmed by the ugliest ownership in MLB, is holding their convention. The White Sox, citing “several factors,” are not.

It was strange not that the White Sox cancelled the 2021 and 2022 SoxFests, given the pandemic two Fests ago, and the labor crisis this past offseason. The dearth of content in 2021 — no Zooms, a little bit of video content that was well-done and popular, and seemingly easy — was hard to understand.

Outright cancelling festivities this year is a terrible, and cowardly, decision.

The easy call here is that this is an ownership- and front office-shielding move. Steve Stone can’t be allowed to have a line of his Twitter blocks confront him! Rick Hahn can’t be expected to defend his atrocious 2021 offseason! Jerry Reinsdorf can’t be expected to offer ticket breaks to the dam-burst of season ticketholder rolls!

But SoxFest has always been less about the angry/hilarious/colorful Q&As, although those get a lot of media juice. It’s really not about getting to know new players, because new players in the White Sox universe rarely are equipped to or allowed to take on the masses in a convention hall setting.

No, SoxFest is about the kids and the superfans. Superfans (OK, maybe some of them creepy collectors, but let’s cut the adult superfans a break a bit, because there are many who only see sunshine, year after year — if not 365 days a year, then surely in the negative wind chills of late January) hardly question the club, or see the fire of their angriest laments easily doused by a couple of pocket-schedule coined phrases and the lust for a warm breeze at Camelback Ranch. Kids? They’re agog to be near their heroes, to have parents buy a jersey or cap, for the promise of a ballgame at their beloved park in June or July.

Cancelling SoxFest is short-sighted, and fan-killing. When your crosstown rivals — an ownership group that pretty literally despises most its fan base — can manage to orchestrate the logistics of their convention, they shame the White Sox.

It’s too late to do anything about it. Maybe this is a signal that SoxFest will never come back, or will take a very different form (like, a dozen alternative autograph and food lines?). If so, what a bummer. SoxFest attracts new fans/keeps current ones regardless of the won-loss record.

You’d think that after a year like 2022 of ALL years, the White Sox would be smart enough to keep the fan-love assembly line of SoxFest humming.


Jordan Hass: Power Outage

Literally nobody on this team hit 20 home runs. No one. Andrew Vaughn in 134 games led the team with 17 home runs. Eloy in basically half a season hit 16. José Abreu traded his power for average, which doesn’t help a team that could not put the ball in the air. It’s disgraceful that a White Sox team that should have two or three guys hitting 30-40 homers a year to basically have no one able to hit half of that.

The only two other teams that didn’t have a 20-homer hitter were the Marlins and the Tigers, significantly worse teams with worse offenses, who won 12 and 15 fewer games than the Sox. The 55-win Nationals at least got 20 from just 104 games of Juan Soto!

The White Sox, even in the worst of times, hit dingers, and yet somehow for the first time in 30 years nobody could. In at 60-game season in 2020, Abreu hit 19!

The lack of home runs hurt this team; hell, the lack of extra-base hits hurt the team. Hitting almost only singles killed them all season, and they reaped what they sowed: a .500 finish.


Jacki Krestel: QO DQ

Let me throw some stats at you.

Pitcher A has a 5.1 WAR and goes 13-5 over the course of about 132 innings, posting a 2.37 ERA.

Pitcher B has got similar stuff: 5.4 WAR, 2.88 ERA, 178 innings and was good for 14 wins.

Pitcher C is a closer who earns just one save in the second half, posting a 5.09 ERA.

All three players are on the White Sox roster at the end of 2021, but only one will survive the offseason. Can you guess which one Rick Hahn and Company chose to go with?

If you chose Pitcher C, it’s Craig Kimbrel, and you’re correct. (And also, it was a trick question because Pitchers A and B are the same player, Carlos Rodón.)

The horrible decision to let Rodón walk unabated into free agency was bad enough. The fact that the White Sox chose to do so without even extending a qualifying offer was the real insult to injury. A rejected qualifying offer would have at least given the team draft pick compensation. It’s not like it needed any of those, right? They just let Rodón walk… for nothing. FOR NOTHING!

Oh, wait, not for nothing — so they could spend $16 million picking up Kimbrel’s option.

Rodón ended up as a Cy Young qualifier for the San Francisco Giants, who signed him for a touch more than the QO, and for just two years.

Way to go, White Sox. You played yourselves.


Melissa Sage-Bollenbach: Socially-Surly Stone Pony

I feel the need to preface this White Sox grievance with a little context. My grandma was the best. Seriously. She had many exceptional qualities, including cooking and listening, and I spent much time with her from ages 0-38.

Nonetheless, she had one pretty significant flaw: She was a Cubs fan. If it was baseball season, no matter what she was doing around the house, the Cubs game was on television or radio. That’s how I came to know Steve Stone, the broadcaster. I was familiar with the name and knew that as a player, he pitched for the North and South Siders and was well-respected around baseball.

So, as a Sox fan, I was forced to listen to Cubs games against my will. Yet, if I’m candid, I was slightly jealous of them having Stone in the booth. I was only 11 years old when I first heard him, and I found him extremely knowledgeable about the game. I was hungry at the time to learn as much as possible, and Stone provided it, even if I had to endure listening to the Cubs to get it.

Fast-forward several decades, and I was elated to learn that Stone would start broadcasting for the Sox. While I appreciated and, at times, even enjoyed the campy, storytelling schtick broadcasting the Sox were saddled with beginning in the late 1980s through the early 2000s, I was looking forward to some extensive discussion and education regarding real baseball strategy. Once Stone entered the booth with Hawk, you could tell it wasn’t a match made in heaven. However, they made it work, and Stone Pony brought to the booth the professional baseball analyst the Sox had been missing since the departure of Don Drysdale.

Alas, though, here comes my grievance. Steve Stone has acted like a passive-aggressive dolt toward White Sox fans in the last few years, and I’m over it. This behavior mostly rears its ugly head on Twitter. It usually goes something like this: Steve tweets his opinion about the team. Some fans disagree with him. He contentiously berates those who disagree. Then, he blocks them. Here are some of the delightful things Steve has told fans this season:

  • “Suck it up ...”
  • “For those of you heading for the exits, adios”
  • “Stop complaining”
  • “Some of the tweetsters aren’t happy unless they’re unhappy”
  • “Enjoy the ride or be bitter.”

It’s a bit of a running joke on the bird app, with fans posting screenshots of themselves blocked by Stone. You can purchase your own Steve Stone Blocked Me on Twitter T-shirt on various websites. There even have been Change.org petitions created where fans advocate for Stone to unblock them. It has become a literal embarrassment. I cannot think of another fan base that gets scolded and raked over the coals by one of the most prominent voices of their team. The White Sox had enough struggles this season, and Stone’s combative, attack approach is just not a good look. It is entirely unnecessary.

While a laundry list of things ticked me off about the White Sox this season, this one got under my skin. At one time, I held much respect for Steve, and now I can honestly say it is time for him to move on. We’ve got enough issues without our color analyst getting in verbal fistfights with fans on social media. The time has come to ride off into the Arizona sunset, Stone Pony!

P.S. If this somehow makes it to Steve, I’ll be sure to share proof when he blocks me. Maybe I’ll even buy a T-shirt.


Dante Jones: Striking Out at Second Base

Going into the 2021-22 offseason, there were a few obvious holes on the Chicago White Sox. One of the biggest ones was at second base, as their trade for César Hernández at the 2021 trade deadline did not work out. Despite there being plentiful options that could potentially raise the ceiling of the team, they decided that the big splash move at second base they would make would be ... Josh Harrison. Look at how being cheap turned out for the team, again.


Allie Wesel: Trade Deadline Flop

Though a .500 team, the White Sox somehow found themselves still in the division race after the All-Star break. I, like many, was skeptical that the White Sox would go on a run and move into first place. But what I did know, however, was that if this team was going to make a run for it, they needed to make a big move or two at the trade deadline.

And so, what did Rick Hahn grace us with? Jake freaking Diekman. Ok, fine, that was two days before the actual deadline. Surely, Hahn had more up his sleeve. Shocker: He didn’t.

Then, when Hahn was asked about not making any moves, he told reporters that he too was disappointed — and that HE TRIED.

Hahn gets paid a lot of money, and last I checked, he got paid to do more than try. In fact, he gets paid TO MAKE MOVES THAT SET THE TEAM UP FOR SUCCESS. No player, manager, or fan need to be fed such utter horse crap. ESPECIALLY when Hahn’s only major offseason free agency signing was Kendall Graveman and the roster needed some bolstering due to injuries late in the season.

But no worries, Hahn will TRY again next season. Poo-poo to you, Mr. Hahn.


Poll

There are no wrong answers here, and please, no wagering. But which of our Grievances best represents the beef you had with the White Sox in 2022?

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Fan-Blaming
    (12 votes)
  • 13%
    First Basemen, Everywhere
    (26 votes)
  • 1%
    Losing The Goose
    (2 votes)
  • 10%
    Hahn Hiding Behind Tony
    (21 votes)
  • 2%
    Injured List Fumbling
    (5 votes)
  • 1%
    Asking Too Much of Michael Kopech
    (2 votes)
  • 28%
    Misallocated Monies
    (55 votes)
  • 3%
    No SoxFest, Again
    (7 votes)
  • 5%
    No Home-Run Power
    (11 votes)
  • 14%
    Failing to Extend Rodón a QO
    (28 votes)
  • 1%
    Steve Stone’s Surliness
    (2 votes)
  • 3%
    Screwing Up Second Base
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    Trade Deadline Failure
    (7 votes)
  • 4%
    None of the Above (and why yes, I’ll happily share my Grievance in the comments!)
    (9 votes)
194 votes total Vote Now
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