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MLB: JUL 22 Brewers at White Sox

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Textbook malfeasance

If you wanted to ruin the White Sox, what would you do differently?

Pictured: Excitement
| Robin Alam/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

When Elon Musk bought Twitter last year, after offering to buy it on a lark and then doing everything he could to not buy it before pretending that he really wanted to all along, very few people thought he wanted to destroy the platform. There were a few posters who surmised Musk wanted to break the public sphere, but that was a small opinion.

And yet — if Musk did want to ruin Twitter, what would he have done differently? Making a fiasco of blue checks, taking away all accountability, running the whole enterprise as a series of trolls and personal feuds and dumb 4/20 jokes and petty micromanaging would be a good way to do it. Firing everyone and pretending it was bold leadership is a good way to turn a chaotic system into a true catastrophe.

Remember this? What the fuck?
Photo by -/Twitter account of Elon Musk/AFP via Getty Images

The Musk example is pretty instructive when thinking about the White Sox and how they’ve squandered not just this rebuild, but the excitement and goodwill of all but the most stubborn fans. Because while you imagine that GM Rick Hahn didn’t want to make a hash out of the contention window, you have to ask: if he did, would he have acted any differently?

Let’s go back to 2020. The Sox were the toast of baseball in that denuded and terrible year, a team that was full of swagger and ready to go. They faltered a bit at the end, but still made the playoffs, and lost a close series to Oakland. The sky seemed the limit.

So what would you do if you didn’t want this to happen? What would you do to sabotage the team over the next few seasons? What if you were a Manchurian GM, working secretly or even unwittingly for another team?

The first thing you’d do is identify the largest areas of weakness. You’d see that we didn’t have a major league right fielder, and were lacking at second base. Now, if you wanted to keep the team from improving, you’d do nothing to address that. But if you wanted to hurt the team, you’d double down on what wasn’t working, and institute a system where infielders rotated in and out of right field.

Because it wasn’t enough to give one person all the reps and hope to transform them, you’d want to run out Gavin Sheets, Andrew Vaughn, and Leury García enough times to fuck up but not consistently enough to improve.

You’d look at a lot of free agents, including some generational talents, and fail to sign them. And that might be expected. But if you really wanted to frustrate people, you’d brag about how close you got, and how it just didn’t work. And you’d do so in a way that seemed to be begging for approbation.

An empty table, extremely symbolic
The table at which we have a seat
Wikimedia Commons

What would be really clever is if you used that money that could have been spent on a generational talent and spent it on hacks and role players and bullpen busts. That would be a perfect way to add insult to incompetence.

Because remember, you’re not just trying to close your contention window with shattering aggression, you’re trying to alienate the fan base. Your goal is to take decades of loyalty, of bemused tolerance, of being part of the “us” in the fans’ “us against them” mentality, and see if you can shake it. See if you can take fans who spent money watching bad teams because the idea of the Sox meant something to them, and make them hate the idea of the White Sox.

You know that your best move — hiring an ancient sourpuss who refused to admit the game passed him by and who infected the young, fun team with his stubborn malevolence — worked. It poisoned the team from a baseball and personality point of view, but it was too obvious. He had to be fired, and you accidentally gained some goodwill by hiring someone whose primary qualification wasn’t being tight with the owner. Dammit, you got some good press.

So you had to act fast. You had to again refuse to sign any major free agents. You broke the bank on Andrew Benintendi. And breaking the bank, for your team, would be a mid-level signing for a real franchise. That is a nice harmony.

And then you sign a sex pest, an abusive and unlikable creep who has the unearned arrogance of every troll who through genetic fluke happened to rise above their natural swampy station. And he was as miserable and unpleasant as advertised, as the team defended his lack of convictions with a conviction they should be lacking.

It got to the point where fans were gleeful when he got rocked in the team’s sixth straight loss:

And so there you are, 7-17, a season effectively over in April.

A fan base who basically wishes it was over. A window squandered. A fan base betrayed. A new reign of apathy, a fan base foggy with a rain of resigned sighs. The jokes are stale, the cynicism tired, the tweets repetitive and boring. Everything miasmatic and gray.

I don’t think Rick Hahn wanted this team to fail. But if he did, would he have done anything differently?

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