In preparation for a possible 2020 season, I’m going around the major leagues and writing mean things about each team. This time, I’m headed to the south side of Chicago to talk about Chi-Town’s second favorite team.
Brief history of the franchise
The White Sox have been around since 1901, and despite being generally more successful than their counterparts to the north of Chicago, they’ve captured far less of the city’s attention. Adding insult to injury, they’re also seen as MLB’s less-important team with Sox in the name.
If you think about it, the White Sox should be an iconic franchise. They got a lot of attention when “Shoeless” Joe Jackson was a key figure in the movie Field of Dreams. And then, thanks to rappers like Easy-E and his cohorts in NWA, the team’s hat became very popular.
In my final year of Little League, my team was named the White Sox. We got to wear replica uniforms. It was by far the coolest uniform I ever got to wear, although that’s not saying much. A few years, the league didn’t even give us pants (even the friggin’ Bad News Bears got pants!) so kids would show up wearing jeans or shorts. (Considering the team’s uniform history, it would have been more fitting if the White Sox uniforms were the ones with shorts.)
I also spent two years on a team called the Rangers, which inexplicably had green uniforms with yellow trim. People said we looked like the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. (And no, I’m not sharing a picture!)
Anyway, back to the White Sox and their squandering of opportunities for coolness. Remember when the Arkansas Razorbacks capitalized on Bill Clinton’s fandom to win the NCAA Tournament? It’s pathetic that the Sox weren’t able to pull off something similar with Barack Obama in the White House.
Maybe fans still remember the time the Sox wore shorts, and can’t take the team seriously no matter how cool their current uniforms get.
No need to wonder what if. On Aug. 8, 1976 the Chicago White Sox wore shorts. It was...interesting. pic.twitter.com/KgNoabMcdi— Charles O'Malley (@DPT_charlie) June 28, 2020
You probably haven’t noticed, but the Sox are currently in an eleven-year streak of not making the playoffs. Because there have been so many uber-awful teams - including some in their own division - the Sox haven’t gotten much credit(?) for being a bad team. And over that eleven-year span, they’ve only finished in last place once. But make no mistake: This has been a bad decade-plus for the franchise.
What happened in 2019
As you probably guessed from the above section, the Sox didn’t make the playoffs. They finished in third place, comfortably ahead of the two 100-loss teams, yet nowhere near the top two teams in the division.
The offense wasn’t very good, which seems odd at first glance, considering the presence of players such as Jose Abreu, Yoan Moncada, and Eloy Jimenez. But then you see that about half the lineup consisted of below-average (and in some cases, that description is generous) hitters like Yolmer Sanchez, Leury Garcia, Jon Jay, and Yonder Alonso.
Speaking of Jay and Alonso, they were both signed mostly as attempts to entice Manny Machado to join them as a free agent. However, Machado went to San Diego, while Jay and Alonso were worth a combined -1.7 wins above replacement.
White Sox: We have Yonder Alonso & Jon Jay!— Josh Handszer (@joshhandszer) February 19, 2019
Padres: We *used to* have Yonder Alonso & Jon Jay!
Machado: San Diego it is.
White Sox: pic.twitter.com/iORLLxNl1d
The starting rotation consisted of All-Star Lucas Giolito, and a bunch of guys who weren’t Lucas Giolito. I’m really not sure why this team’s record wasn’t worse than it was, but I guess that’s the benefit of sharing a division with a couple of 100-loss teams.
Rick Renteria will be entering his fourth season as White Sox manager. Is he a good manager? There’s no evidence for that since the team has lost an average of 95 games a season during his tenure. I realize the team hasn’t exactly been in “win now” mode, but at some point, doesn’t the team have to show something?
Am I the only person publicly suggesting Rick Renteria be fired because he’s really bad at managing a baseball team? Maybe it’s just me.— Mike Dorsam (@MrDorsam) July 31, 2019
Phillies vs. White Sox: The offseason rivalry
The Phillies and White Sox don’t have much of an on-field rivalry, but the teams have competed for key free agents the past two years, and the Phillies came out ahead both times.
Before the 2019 season, the White Sox were known to be in pursuit of either Manny Machado or Bryce Harper. How did that turn out for the Sox?
Padres: I got Machado— WegENT (@WegrynENT) March 3, 2019
Phillies: I got Harper
White Sox: pic.twitter.com/f6QImuHKao
And this past offseason, both teams vied for the services of free agent pitcher Zack Wheeler. Apparently, Wheeler’s wife pulled a Kristen Lee, and convinced him to turn down Chicago’s more lucrative offer.
I totally get why Zack Wheeler chose his wife over the White Sox's money...— Drunk Khalil Mack (@Drunk_Mack) December 5, 2019
All is forgiven pic.twitter.com/jqgzJy4TPl
What to expect in 2020
The White Sox were certainly busy. They improved their lineup by adding Yasmani Grandal and Edwin Encarnación, and bolstered the rotation with veterans Dallas Keuchel and Gio Gonzalez.
After watching a bunch of replacement players take regular turns in the rotation in 2019, I understand that Sox fans are excited about having some established veterans around. So it would be cruel to point out that both men are on the downsides of their careers, and moving from the National to American League has often not worked out well for aging pitchers.
They’re still probably not close to the Twins at the top of the division, but the improvements - and a lot of games against the Tigers and Royals - could propel the White Sox into Wild Card contention. Will anyone in Chicago care either way? Or will they be too busy worrying about how the Cubs are doing?