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State of the (South Side) Sox

Times could get a lot tougher for the White Sox; maybe we can look after one another here a bit better

As the Chicago White Sox flounder, you will find our South Side Sox staff struggling to make sense of what has happened to the team we love. Some writers will try to explain the spiral with crisp analysis, some will wallow in gallows humor simply to cope. After a lackluster offseason, in which the key pitching acquisition was a subhuman miscreant, way back in Spring Training some of our staff made sense of their continuing fandom with personal stories connecting them to the club, while others lashed out in anger at a team that didn’t seem to respect its loyal fan base or to uphold a proud tradition of winning baseball on the South Side.

After yet another worst game of the year in a season six weeks old, the White Sox sit at 13-25, 7 1⁄2 games out of first (eight in Steve Stone’s precious loss column) and just two games from the basement of the worst division in baseball. They are tied with the Cardinals as the third-worst team in the majors. If the White Sox continue to play .342 ball all season, they will finish with the most losses in White Sox history, at 55-107. Their -67 run differential over a mere 38 games is surpassed only by the Double-A Oakland Athletics, and that differential projects to a 57-105 record.

Rick Hahn and the brain trust at 35th and Shields may not have promised us jetpacks, or even a World Series parade. But they did anticipate, and all but guarantee, a “window of contention” — and that window slammed shut just as soon as it opened.

Things are really, really bad on the South Side right now. Short of a miracle, they are going to get worse before they get better. And we need to be prepared for that.

Given the restlessness of the fan base and the winnowing of our already-thin community here, it was already on my mind to address the decorum and standards of our site. Not that 99% of our readers and commenters need any schoolmarming, of course. I’ve been so lucky here; other sites, ones not necessarily bigger than ours, employ moderators and put out fires on a weekly if not daily basis. I can count on one hand how many accounts have been banned at South Side Sox; a rate of one per year seems almost a statistical impossibility. Good on all of us for trying to play the right way with one another.

What took this piece from musing to imperative was a comment on Brian O’Neill’s terrific piece on luck/random chance and how we contextualize it. I am including here two criticisms of the piece — they are the same criticisms, only one user turned the conversations we have here into a profane, personal, weird attack.

“nd,” quoting Brian, did not like the notion that race is a factor in how we as fans (some fans) regard certain players.

I added one further comment, that if the White Sox were to be pure in not acquiring injury-prone players, it would have been the TJS-before-pro Dylan Cease they would have balked at getting in trade from the Cubs, not Eloy Jiménez. Fortunes since, of course, have dramatically reversed.

At any rate, we’re conversing here. While Eloy seems to be the flash point, as he was cited in Brian’s piece, nd, shumway and I are discussing/debating more broadly, I believe, regarding the state of race and perception in sports. Perhaps nd saw our responses and thought, OK, I made my point, but I get what those two are also saying — it’s not a fair playing field. Or perhaps nd has a response in mind that furthers the conversation.

ChicagoTexan — a user on South Side Sox for his fifth season, not always very active, but certainly visible this year — employed a different strategy:

(This comment above appears differently because it’s no longer on site. ChicagoTexan has been banned.)

So, you all are smart, and as already alluded, you don’t need a powerpoint presentation on what is wrong with this behavior. I honestly can’t recall the five or so accounts on SSS that have been banned on my watch; I am certain two or three were the “BigHurt” guy who relentlessly and inanely attacked José Abreu. And moreover, I genuinely cannot recall language like this directed at another person — much less the guy who runs the joint.

I don’t care that ChicagoTexan — or Bill, as that is his name, and when you attack the editor of the site, yeah, you lose a little of your tough-guy anonymity, friendo — thinks I (and shumway, sorry pal) should be embarrassed over pointing out there’s an active, racist trope that Latin players “don’t care.” Bill can choose to pretend that a significant portion even of this site isn’t up in arms over Yoán Moncada’s monthlong absence from the team (despite having played in more than 80% of his eligible White Sox games prior to the injury). Or that some of the White Sox fan base erupted in applause when Pedro Grifol benched a hurt Luis Robert Jr. for lack of hustle last week, and thought it was right for the White Sox, in-game and during a no-hit bid, to announce such to press row and the fans.

That’s because Bill’s belief that I should be embarrassed, or that the discussion itself of racist tropes is gross (I agree, but I’d suspect for different reasons), is fine. While a bit abrupt, hey, it’s a strong opinion, share it. I have been abrupt and even profane on this site. Under my guidance and approval, this site has taken “political” stances in these troubled times in a way I suspect hasn’t happened here before, be it Black Lives Matter, women’s rights, anti-domestic abuse, anti-Asian violence, pro-vax, pro-mask, PRO-PLAYER, or anti-management.

Unfortunately, it unravels from there.

First, Bill inadvertently proves the point me and shumway are making, by being so eager to attack Eloy Jiménez — who, at this juncture I have to remind everyone, suffered potentially-terminal appendicitis, which is not in any way an injury that a player can train around or prepare for in order to sidestep — misreads numbers. This may be an accident, it may be intentional, as when last week [redacted] champion DBTH35 dropped that [redacted] was our best starting pitcher. But, in fact, Eloy has played in 58% of White Sox games and missed 42% of his eligible games. Numbers are black and white, with no feelings or bias, right? Except when you use them erroneously.

And games played aside, Eloy has been paid about $17 million in his career to date, and even while missing that 42% of games he’s generated 5.5 WAR. That makes him a bargain. This is just as silly as the handwringing over Carlos Rodón being hurt for a third of his magical 2021 season — listen, pard, if you can put up 5.0 WAR in 10, 50, 100 or 162 games, more power to you. Eloy has provided surplus value to the White Sox, and he’s only going to need to generate an additional 2-3 WAR by the end of 2024 to provide break-even value on his extremely reasonable contract.

Now, no one is happy Jiménez has been out 42% of the time. Given his played-games percentage is the lowest on the roster, in relative terms he is “injury prone.” But to lose your cheese because a caution flag is raised over digging in too hard on that given the 400- or 200- or 70- or 20-year history of racism in this land or the 150-year history of racism in baseball, well, maybe at least get your moralizing numbers right. Additionally, be sure the player you’re dogging isn’t providing plus-value on his contract.

Bill’s name-calling I personally don’t care about, I’ve been treated worse by players, my fellow media, fans, even family. But my personal feelings aren’t what this is about. I am the moderator here, and while it’s been an easy job to date, there’s a big difference between writing what the fuck, man in a comment and calling someone a fucker or a fuckface. Nobody deserves abuse on this site. Teasing, jabbing, criticizing — fair game, although it’s tricky given the transition this community is in and the fact that so few of us know each other well. Or even know one another’s real names, right Bill?

So, as if it needs to be said, if you want to call someone stupid or ugly or just bring out some vile language to attack somebody here, you’re going to be vanished. Things here on this very busy site are pretty spicy; I don’t set the best example with my language, but we’re generally (mostly all?) adults trying to cope with the fact that our proud franchise is crumbling before our eyes. I’ll grant us all some leeway.

We as a staff are trying very hard to provide you a lot of content to parse, and hopefully there are things each of you enjoy reading and engaging with. Only three SBN baseball sites — the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cubs — regularly publish more stories than we do, and we do it with a lot less support and budget than they. We want to make this a fun place to visit, with thought-provoking reads, even in these worst of times.

I am aware this is a performative essay. Bill wrote what he did knowing he was taunting, aware he’d probably be banned. Now Bill can go back to the site he first signed up for at SBN, Bleed Cubbie Blue. (Surprise twist!)

I hate that any of this needs to be said, and saying it at 4:30 a.m. as I write is probably not the best for coherency. The good news is that at least 99% of you didn’t need this annoying morning column to keep you on the golden road to unlimited devotion. Some of you who are new, or who have gotten pretty close to touching the hot handle of the boiling pot, pull back, take a breath. Remember that we are all sitting in the same section at Sox Park talking through these games, together.

There is far, far, far, far too little respect for norms in the world today. Our social fabric has eroded. Partisanship, pandemic, made-up facts, crime without consequence, sexism, anti-human rights, social media ... our society is a mess. This is where we all come to enjoy a game (or, in 2023, blow off some steam). It’s supposed to be a safe place. And I am dedicated to keeping it a safe place, even if that means SSS winnows down to just me, Ano, Nello, Adrian, SoxMom, KP, 83 just roasting marshmallows together and wondering how this goddam franchise managed to steal our youth from us.

I suppose it speaks to my detestable hair, but we have to love one another.

In this, of all years, what else we got?

Shane Drohan

White Sox select LHP Shane Drohan in Rule 5 draft

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Today in White Sox History: December 6

Erick Fedde

White Sox sign RHP Erick Fedde to a two-year deal