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Soxivus Week 2 companion: The Airing of Grievances

Tommy Barbee, Melissa Sage-Bollenbach, Dante Jones, Chrystal O’Keefe and Brett Ballantini get out the pitchforks and stick it to the White Sox

Welcome to Soxivus 2023! For those of you actively following the White Sox, it may feel like you’ve never left. Between exiling players and announcers, canceling the lone semblance of fan interaction, and the steaming pile of “product” on the field, we’ve had plenty to complain about all year long.

And us? We had to write about it, talk about it, hope against hope that there would be a silver lining along the way.

For a split second, it happened with the announced firing of Ken Williams and Rick Hahn. It was the perfect opportunity for a fresh voice and perspective to oversee the organization. Instead, Jerry Reinsdorf promoted an internal candidate with a similarly underwhelming background in Chris Getz. Jerry also gave a once-in-a-lifetime, bumbling presser, where he sang the praises of one David Eckstein. You know, like a guy who clearly understands the game of modern baseball.

While all this is happening, the White Sox ticket office and social media teams have to pretend to be excited about the product and sell you, the fan, on that sad product.

With that in mind, Week 2 of our Soxivus celebration is a biggie: the Airing of Grievances.

We has our live broadcast of the Airing of Grievances discussion on Sunday night, which is also available on our podcast (click link, or listen on our embedded megaphone player at the bottom of this story).

Brett Ballantini

Like everyone else to come, I have many White Sox grievances, so many that to pick just one is an almost-impossible task. But I’ll harken to a theme I’ve brought up for years now, perhaps today spun a little differently: I am embarrassed to be a White Sox fan.

Forget the business end of this, as I’m a person heading a sports site covering a team that has done so much to earn my disgust; that makes the work a slog, sure, but my fandom stretches decades before South Side Sox.

What hurts is that even through rumored moves, bad promotions, on-field failure, hell, even wearing shorts on the field, the White Sox were never a sustained embarrassment. There have been gaffes, but there’s been even more to be proud of, win or lose.

The pride I once had in this team is long gone. I’m feeling uncertain I’ll live long enough to have it restored.

Tommy Barbee

As someone whose earliest sports memories involve cheering Michael Jordan and booing Jerry Reinsdorf (and the late Jerry Krause) with equal levels of enthusiasm, I’m fully aware that Reinsdorf has always been, at best, something like a quirky old uncle. He’s not exactly Scrooge McDuck, but the book on Reinsdorf shows he was loyal to a fault towards internal executives, frugal when it comes to investing in players, and (like most owners) primarily interested in investing in his brand and maximizing the product within those guidelines. Teams needed to be semi-competitive to keep fan interest, but winning at all costs was only the mentality if he was pushed in that manner.

You would think that if anything were to tarnish Reinsdorf’s legacy, it would’ve been the Michael Jordan documentary The Last Dance. Instead, he survived the willful dissolution of a championship in order to press the self-destruct button on his “other team,” the decidedly championship-free Chicago White Sox.

I know Reinsdorf says the White Sox are his baby, but he’s never treated the franchise that way. Between the Ken Williams and Rick Hahn years, the White Sox were always one or two players away from deep playoff runs (2005 aside), and the stories of what could’ve been are as many as the number of seats Hahn had at the table for every significant acquisition— here’s looking at you Manny Machado, Bryce Harper, Zack Wheeler, Dontrelle Willis, Miguel Cabrera, and many others. If you want to rewind even farther, Reinsdorf was more famous for paving the way for the strike that ruined the World Series chances for the best White Sox team in recent history, and threatening to move the franchise to St. Petersburg if he didn’t get a shiny, new concrete castle of a ballpark.

More recently, Reinsdorf has shown increased interest in mastering his Dollar Bill Wirtz impression by further alienating his fan base and spitting on those fans on the way out. We’re now in the reboot phase of Reinsdorf threatening to leave, this time for Nashville ... all the while replacing existing executives with Chris Getz who, while by all accounts seems to be a nice enough guy, has zero GM experience and the experience he does have was heading a beleaguered White Sox development team that not only whiffed on most of the prospects acquired but was also rocked by a sexual harassment scandal involving a bat boy.

Add to the fact that the one good thing the White Sox had going, a nationally-recognized broadcast team in Steve Stone and Jason Benetti (the latter gaining increased exposure on ESPN and other broadcasts), was treated so poorly during negotiations that Benetti left for a smaller-market rival, the Detroit Tigers.

For anyone with an iota of self-awareness, this past year would fall under the “no good, very bad” category (I didn’t even mention the shooting at the ballpark that was buried like a dark family secret, or the signing of Clevinger). However Reinsdorf, living in his bubble that seems to be only occupied by Tony La Russa and Brooks Boyer, continues to run this franchise into the ground blissfully. Soon, under Reinsdorf’s guiding hand, it will be nearly impossible to inject any positive equity into the brand.

Melissa Sage-Bollenbach

As noted above by our fearless leader, Brett Ballantini, there is so much to be disgusted by when it comes to this franchise. This column could probably be the longest in South Side Sox history! However, I will force myself to curate only a minor rant, as I’m still behind on all of my holiday preparations. Priorities, friends.

As a young fan, the White Sox brought me so much joy. The 1980s were a fun decade in which to grow up. We had fantastic tunes, cool clothes, and fabulous hairstyles. Don’t even try to argue with me about the music; I will die on that hill. Throughout those years, there was incredible energy around the club with its new ownership group and, of course, the 1983 Winning Ugly team.

The 1990s brought in a new ballpark and a slew of young players, including top prospects like Frank Thomas and Alex Fernandez, with the hope of a bright baseball future. The decade culminated in more wins than losses, so I’ll chalk that up as a success.

With the 2000s, we all know where that went. The 2005 World Series quenched an almost century-long championship thirst, a quenching we didn’t even know we needed so badly. The pure ecstasy it provided to the fans and city will long be cherished.

But now comes the grievance: It’s been hard to find joy in this team since.

It could be because I’ve been to the highest of highs, and now I cannot accept anything less. It’s not unreasonable to expect this team to compete more often than not. For almost 20 years rebuilds, retools, mediocrity, abusers, and bargain bins have all been crammed down our throats, and I’m sick of it. Why can’t we sign the likes of Shohei Ohtani or seal the deal with Bryce Harper? I know every sports team has issues, but we’ve been to the promised land, and I won’t apologize for wanting to return. As fans, we shouldn’t have to take anything less.

Dante Jones

I’ve been a White Sox fan since 2003, when I was seven years old. In the 20 or so years since then, I don’t think I’ve hated watching a team more than I hated watching the 2023 Chicago White Sox. If it wasn’t for Luis Robert Jr, I don’t know if I would’ve made it through the year.

The pitching? Average at best, horrid at worst.

Hitting? At least it was better than last season, I guess. Home runs are fun.

But you know what my biggest grievance is?

The team is irrelevant.

Earlier this year, when the Diamondbacks were in town, I jokingly called them the most irrelevant team in baseball. Then I thought about it; who am I, a White Sox fan, to call any team irrelevant? The White Sox have won TWO playoff games since they won the 2005 World Series. They have only been to the playoffs THREE times since then.

Shitty baseball is one thing. Almost every team has periods of being bad. But at least most of those teams don’t also act as if the fact that they exist is a gift from God. I mean, they do, but we’re talking about OUR shitty team right now. And at least those other teams didn’t have a shooting INSIDE THE BALLPARK, cancelling a postgame concert with no explanation until we left.

Pretending that they’re going to move to Nashville in order to get more money for a new stadium is hilarious. Look at what’s happening in Oakland to see why it’s stupid. When you’re a loser team, those threats mean nothing. To some, they’re almost an escape from the shit that we’ve been watching for decades now. If you’re going to be assholes to us, at least be like other teams and give us something good to watch while doing so.

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