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 3 of our Soxivus celebration is centered on Feats of Strength. That is, who or what will survive longest through this rebuild/reload/relocation/rejection of the Chicago White Sox.
You can hear Tommy, Brett and Brian O’Neill discuss their Feats of Strength picks as well as the rest listed here on the Sox Populi podcast (click link for the post, or listen on our embedded megaphone player at the bottom of this story).
The spirit of this exercise as Father Soxivus laid it out for us was to determine who will remain standing in the White Sox organization once the smoke clears and, say, the team returns to, uh, .500, in, well, 2028.
I broke the spirit, as mine as already been pretty broken. After all, one White Sox entity should stick around until 2030 (Dylan Cease is being shopped, La Pantera is just another 75-game season away from same, no one wants Andrew Vaughn or anyone else from this team, there’s no blue-chip youngster certain to survive or even make the bigs, jokes aside TLR and Jerry Bear have to be watching the hourglass at this point, etc., etc.)?
No, the winner of the Feat of Strength as I see it is ... the Chicago Cubs.
The White Sox began their rebuild as the Cubs were running off four straight playoff seasons, aspirations for a title every year, whatever, it’s a gross franchise and I wish to betray little more than cursory knowlege of it. So the mid-late 2010s was the height of angst for a White Sox fan, certainly in a Crosstown context.
Given anything close to a natural life cycle of competitiveness, the roles should have reversed by now: The Cubs hopelessly looking up at the playoffs, the White Sox fat and sassy, sitting square in their so-called competitive window. Obviously, that hasn’t happened.
But that’s just on the field. No matter what you think about Chicago being a “Cubs town,” that is not a historical certainty, and the White Sox should have stolen fan hearts and market share back from their Crosstown rivals in the 2020s. Instead, the White Sox took the one thing they consistently have been able to flex over the Cubs — consistent competitiveness, admirable-to-stellar PR, and basic goddam deceny — and flushed that, as well.
The Cubs put their games on a network owned by insipid truthers and insurrectionists, consistently have crossed the line when it comes to dressing reprehensible players, and are owned by straight-up the most disgusting ownership team in baseball and likely all major sports. And the White Sox, as if searching for rakes to step on, want to run neck-and-neck with this shambolic shitstain of a franchise, seeing and raising it on player-abusers, ownership disdain for fans, impossible and dangerous ballparks, and just plain stupidity. In fact, it’s with great regret that the latter point no longer applies to the Ivy Bumblers, because starting with Theo Epstein, the Cubs have been a pretty smart team, management-wise.
The White Sox had the city out there to steal, and shit the bed so badly that Chicago is going to be a one-team town for a long time to come.
The more I thought about this exercise, the more likely it seemed a potential scenario where Getz trades away both Dylan Cease and Luis Robert Jr. in his desire to accelerate the team’s window of contention.
The odds for the White Sox to win the division might be 20/1, but they feel like 100/1, and even if one of these scratch-off lottery ticket players pans out, I don’t see that changing.
The other thing I don’t see changing is how Jerry Reinsdorf can’t quit Tony La Russa. Yes, the South Side’s most infamous duo is reunited, officially — this time, La Russa is on as an “advisor.” I’m pretty sure the role involves:
- Remembering some baseball guys.
- Thinking about how good baseball was before computers existed.
- Randomly barking about grit and hustle.
Nevertheless, La Russa is the de facto baseball man for the organization, and that’s why he will be the last man standing when all is said and done.
While La Russa is not a player, I can’t think of another figure within the White Sox organization (even more so than Reinsdorf) that would have actionable insight into every facet of the game on and off the field for the team.
More than that, I can’t think of anyone else in the organization who would be above any criticism.
Good on you, Tony. You’ve got a gig for life.
When all is said and done, and Spring Training 2024 is upon us, we will still be stuck with Gavin Sheets in right field. I have zero confidence that the new White Sox regime is any better than the previous one, and the decades-long lack of a real defender in right will continue.
It’s almost like this franchise sees the position as optional. The last positive WAR season for a South Side right fielder was in 2018, when Avisaíl García mustered up a paltry 0.5. In the last decade, the position overall has had a cumulative WAR of 10.1. If you subtract out Adam Eaton’s 2016 season (6.6 WAR), it would be significantly worse.
Last year, 11 different players combined to assemble a -1.5 WAR, with Oscar Colás and Sheets both earning themselves a -1.5 in 69 and 68 games, respectively. Sheets was substantially worse in 2023 if you can believe it, as he only had a -0.4 in 2022. Eloy Jiménez and Zach Remillard are the only two out of the 11 who did not acquire a negative WAR. Now that I’ve written it down, I’ve probably just guaranteed Remillard a starting job in right in 2024.
Continuing to tell fans that the team is working to improve and be competitive while repeatedly refusing to sign a legitimate athlete to play the post is asinine. In bumble after bumble since the 2005 championship season, it’s hard to look at this franchise as a legitimate one. And speaking of the lack of legitimacy, there’s another feat that no doubt survives for years to come. Happy f$#@king holidays!
I don’t think that we will be saying goodbye to Luis Robert Jr. any time soon, only because at the end of the day, there has to be SOMEONE who brings fans into the park.
Michael Kopech more than likely will also be here for awhile, because who would want to take him off our hands for something of value? He could be converted into a solid reliever because when he’s on, he can look unhittable at times.
As for Yoán Moncada and Eloy Jiménez, I honestly have no clue. Both are good to even great MLB players when healthy, but they’re never fully healthy. I can see them being traded at the deadline, when Chris Getz and crew finally stop pretending that being competitive is the plan for 2024.
Then there’s Dylan Cease.
The 2022 American League Cy Young runner-up did not have nearly the same level of success in 2023, but should fetch the White Sox a nice return this offseason. The question seems to be when, not if, for him.
I don’t see any front office changes coming soon, but unless he can pull off a miracle, Pedro Grifol will be lucky to make it to the end of 2024 as White Sox manager. Personally, I wanted to see him gone at the end of 2023, but we all knew that wasn’t happening, so here we are.
Cutting to the chase, the real feat of strength is found in you, reader, in that you have retained the strength to read about this moribund franchise, just as we all too reluctantly find the strength to write about it.
As far as the team itself goes, who knows where strength will be found in the coming years, but I have a few suspicions. In terms of the strength to hang on through this rebuild, I still believe Luis Robert Jr. will play out the majority of his contract with the team, and that he’ll outlast Dylan Cease, Eloy Jiménez, Yoán Moncada, and Michael Kopech’s tenure with the team. He’s signed through 2027, and given the team’s public facade of would-be competitiveness, it’s hard to see them actually pulling the trigger on a trade before 2026 at the earliest. I suspect Robert will actually be the cornerstone of the 2020s that we thought he could be.
It’s hard to find that much strength elsewhere. Going by literal strength, I believe that Eloy Jiménez’s power will endure, whenever he’s healthy, and whether it’s with the Sox or elsewhere, he’s a lock for Edwin Encarnación numbers as soon as he figures out the swing change that lets him avoid hitting the ball on the ground more than 50% of the time. And there may be strength in coaching, as Ethan Katz’s work with Brian Bannister seems to ensure he’ll be tied to the current front office, so by the time this is through in three or four more years, perhaps he’ll be fully ingrained as a Reinsdorf Man. Hopefully he’ll have earned it.
Some things will not survive, though. I suspect that by the time this next phase of franchise history is through, Andrew Benintendi will no longer have the biggest contract in team history, and Chris Getz might even be allowed to break nine figures on a deal. Why? There’s a real chance that Reinsdorf ownership doesn’t hold on through however long it takes to be good again or flop. Jerry may pull a McCaskey and make it to 100, but if he doesn’t, it’s a legitimate question whether the team will remain in the family. When it comes to team valuation, contracts count as assets. Remember that.
A higher power only knows what feats of strength we’ll see on a field involving the White Sox in 2024.
If I am being honest, I have no energy to put any thought into who from the organization (team and front office) might last the longest or make it out alive when all of this chaos is said and done. Will the chaos ever be said and done? Who knows.
Which is why the person(s) who will prevail after the dust settles and the rumors die down are the fans. Try as he might, Jerry cannot get us completely down. There is community that has been created within the fan base that no crappy free agent signing or bad PR move can drive off to completely abandon ship. We have each other. We rely on each other. When people come up to us and ask us how we are still fans, we won’t answer, “Because I love how Jerry Reinsdorf runs things.” We, or more accurately, I, will tell people it is because of the wonderful people I have met.
Ownership and the front office have given us their worst, but we will outlast whatever this is because there is community. And we all know misery loves company.
Remember when Michael Soroka had a 2.68 ERA in 174 2⁄3 innings in 2019? Staying on the field has been a major issue since then, and it is highly unlikely that he puts another full season like that together again. Since that fantastic season, Soroka has pitched a grand total of 46 MLB innings with a 5.67 ERA.
However, Soroka shows that he still has some juice in the tank. With tons of former White Sox starting pitchers now elsewhere, the White Sox are in desperate need of decent innings on the mound, and in 2024, Soroka will provide that. I see Soroka finishing the season with a 4.25 ERA in 115 innings of work, providing support for a decimated pitching staff.
This level of moderate success drives of Soroka’s price, and the White Sox decide not to meet the market rate when he reaches free agency next offseason. Although Soroka will not be around in 2025, Jerry Reinsdorf and Chris Getz view Ethan Katz very favorably for his rehab work with Soroka and the staff, and the pitching coach gets a major surge in job security. As time goes on, Katz shows that the successful Soroka experiment was a fluke, but it does not matter. Katz gave the organization a taste of success, and given how low the bar is, that is enough to keep him onboard as pitching coach for the next
Andrew Benintendi is due for a redemption season, although some folks may say he hasn’t been the same since 2018, when he helped the Red Sox to their fifth World Series in franchise history. My prediction is that he can make it to the All-Star Game again. There is always the hope that he finds his groove with home runs, but his RBIs have come in clutch situations, including a walk-off in May last season. Although the roster may seem bleak to some, Benintendi will surprise us all and show up and show out.