The season, for the White Sox, has ended and it may be best to look back at what went wrong for them this season... and there was a lot that went wrong.
1. Being Cheep: This is something that began before the season even started. Sure, they signed Andrew Benintendi for a lot of money, and that wasn't too bad of a signing on its own, but that still only filled one hole that the team had from the last season. The team still needed a second baseman, a right fielder, a few relievers, and at least one dedicated starter. And instead of looking for dedicated players that were available and could have helped the team improve on both offense and defense... the ownership played it cheap, which in turn left the team having to settle for guys who weren't necessarily all that good... like Clevinger or well past their prime, like Andrus.
2. Poor Trust in the Farm System: A lot of this is going to be cumulative for years... in that the team has had a series of at best average minor league players... players that would be good bench and utility players, with really only Vaughn providing at least decent Major League talent... and this makes Point One come off as even worse. Colas was thought to be someone who could lift up the outfield and fill the RF spot and provide for a better defensive outfield. And while Colas was an improvement over what we had last season in the field... he also couldn't hit, and thus gave an indication that many of the guys we have in the minors... even if they'd had good numbers in the minors, it was more because they were beating up on weaker minor league talent and were not able to convert things over to the Major Leagues. This in turn left things to Sheets... who while he can hit righthanders well, he can't hit lefthanders and can't play defense... Thus, through the course of the season, we ended up with a hole in RF because of the decision to go with a minor league guy... who was only good in the minors.
3. Coaching: One would have hoped that this would have changed with La Russa's departure, but it really wasn't. Grifol may not have made as many bad decisions as La Russa did, and some of them individually may not have been as bad as some of the decisions La Russa made... BUT, the improvement from La Russa with Grifol really doesn't say much. Though, given how bad some things were last year, if that was the limit of where coaching comes into play, Grifol would get a passing grade. The problem, though, is that things this season ultimately proved not to be limited things like lineup construction and when you go to the bullpen, and I'd argue that that probably contributed the most to a lot of the mistakes that happened this season.
And that was the thing that popped up after the trade deadline... Former White Sox reliever Keynan Middleton blasts team's 'no rules' culture, per report - USA Today. Now, the team denied this... but when other players that were traded stated that Middleton wasn't wrong and that some of those that denied that the White Sox had "no rules" got fired as scapegoats for the team's bad play, I'd argue the denial is denying objective reality. This is something that represents a MASSIVE problem, and one that is likely going to remain. Particularly so long as Grifol and the ownership remain unchanged.
For this lack of discipline... this "no rules culture" would explain a LOT about the multitude of problems the White Sox have had over recent years. The team has been one of the worst fielding teams, routinely turning outs that should be made into errors, misplaying balls in the outfield, and being left in situations where they have to let opposing runners advance or score because of these errors or sloppy approach. The team has had its batters show they are willing to swing at anything, including pitches that are well outside the strike zone, and thus why the White Sox offensively have been one of the worst teams with regard to striking out and not taking walks. These things are all products of a team that is not paying attention... that is undisciplined, that has "no rules."
And that can ultimately be put on the shoulders of Grifol. As the manager, while he cannot do much during the course of games, he can and should be available to speak to the players and provide some measure of what will be expected from players. It would provide the rules on what players are supposed to do to prepare for games and stay in shape for games. And without rules... without those sorts of expectations, and actual consequences for when they occur, those who are unfocused or undisciplined will remain so... and if they are in positions where they are the team's stars, they will encourage others to follow that sort of lead and will in turn make things worse. So instead of having one player who's undisciplined and unfocused... you have a TEAM of players that are undisciplined and unfocused. And that is the result of the "no rules culture" that Grifol has allowed this season... and with the present roster, likely will not be able to change if too many stay on the team for next season.
4. Injuries: This has also remained a problem, with players playing for a while and then getting hurt. Now, some may not have been playing well... and to that degree, their absence wouldn't be as much of an issue, but through the course of the year, we've also seen guys that HAVE played reasonably well get hurt... Jimenez and Robert and both been off and on the field with injuries, the latest injury of Robert's being enough that according to Chicago White Sox - Injuries - CBS, Robert won't be available until February, well after this season ends. And in this, when one has a weak and unfocused team... the LAST thing it can afford is losing the guys that are doing well to injury.
5. Continued Regression: To a degree, this is something that affects every player as they age, as it's pretty rare for players to continue to execute at high levels as they get older... and most of those that do continue to play well prove to be the rare wonders that appear in the sports world. But the White Sox didn't have any of those wonders and many of their veteran guys, who should have been able to do better... Anderson, Giolito, Moncada, Lynn, and Grandal all regressed. Their stats one wanted from these guys went down and the stats one didn't want went up. And while Lynn has seemed to do better once OUT of the White Sox's "no rules culture," others that were moved didn't. Giolito was traded to the Angels and was released in a matter of weeks before going to Cleveland on waivers. And guys that didn't move at the deadline continued their own decline... with Anderson, a contender for the batting title a few years ago, having a truly ugly year with only one home run and seeing career lows in every statistical category.
What does this mean for the future? The sad thing... in my opinion, is that with the way things have gone and with all the issues that are there... there are going to be no easy solutions. No one signing is going to make us even a .500 ball club next season, not after a season like this... There are a lot of things that need fixing, and as will all things, the bulk of them will require money and intelligence to do successfully. The sad thing is that the White Sox may have neither, and thus we may be looking at beginning another complete rebuild again in the next few years.