CHICAGO – White Sox fans from all across the Chicago-land area have converged upon the Hilton Hotel in downtown Chicago with one of the best feelings that they have had in many years. Better than the last two seasons when the White Sox showcased headliner quality new acquisitions like Todd Frazier, Jeff Samardzija, Melky Cabrera, Brett Lawrie, and David Robertson.
The feeling around SoxFest this time around is one of hope and excitement, rather than uneasy anticipation like in many of the years prior. Last season the White Sox fan-base was excited for the new acquisitions, but nervous that there still just wasn’t enough to make it work. 2015 was supposed to be a season that the White Sox made waves in the American League Central, instead it was another disappointing season of season of underachievement.
Leading into the 2016 season, fans were excited, yet weary of the ultra-disappointing 2015 season striking once again. The 2016 season kicked off with a bang, the White Sox started hot, and stayed hot until mid-May, before they suffered an epic collapse, resulting in yet another losing season on the south side. By August the fans were enraged, calling for change in the dugout, calling for change in the front office, calling for a change from the mediocrity that they had been subjected to for the last decade.
On the final day of the season, one sadly welcomed by White Sox fans, former Manager Robin Ventura announced that he would not be returning as the manager in 2017, citing a mutual agreement between he and the front office, that it was time for a change of direction in Chicago.
Shortly thereafter White Sox General Manager Rick Hahn outlined his offseason plan to the media and the fans, stating that the White Sox would be moving in a new direction, one focused on “long-term sustained success” rather than the traditional “stop-gap type moves” that have resulted in a decade of mediocrity.
In early December Rick Hahn, seemingly finally having the green light to enact his vision, went to work at the Major League Baseball Winter Meetings in Washington D.C..
Hahn made a pair of blockbuster moves, acquiring four top-100 prospects plus others from the Boston Red Sox and the Washington Nationals in exchange for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton. The White Sox farm system, traditionally a bottom-third farm, instantly became one of the best in baseball. Touting six top-100 prospects, including the top positional player (Yoan Moncada) and the top pitcher (Lucas Giolito).
The next month and a half was difficult for the White Sox fan-base, one of empty rumors and speculation on who would be next, what would be the next step in the rebuild that nearly the entire fan-base had gotten behind this winter. The span in between the Winter Meetings and SoxFest was a precursor for the next year or two, lots of waiting, lots of nothing, but lots of hope for the future.
This weekend at SoxFest, fans and players alike shared their excitement for the future of the White Sox, even the veterans who’s future with the team is certainly in question. White Sox third-baseman Todd Frazier had this to say about the current rebuild;
“We know the business how it is, and it is what it is,” said Frazier, who was bothered by a left hand injury during the offseason but thinks he will be fine long before the start of the season.
“I talked with Rick yesterday, everything looks pretty good. I probably still could get traded — you never know — that’s just the way it goes. But my focus, right now, is on spring training and building relationships right now with the team.”
Even Jose Abreu admitted this weekend that the rebuild, “was the right choice for the White Sox”. Abreu, for as long as he remains with the team will be a key part in the development of fellow Cuban national and top-prospect, Yoan Moncada. Moncada has already expressed his excitement for having the opportunity to work with and learn from Jose Abreu this spring.
While it’s sometimes tough to wait for the moves to come, White Sox General Manager stressed this weekend that the White Sox would not give in to their own mutual impatience and excitement, and will respect the process while building the deepest team that they can moving forward. Hahn had this to say to the fans this weekend in regards to the difficult waiting game that they are amerced in currently;
“Our desire is to get through this process and build a sustainable core of talented players as quickly as possible,” he said. “Unfortunately our desire, our impatience, our eagerness isn’t what’s going to dictate this market or the schedule of these moves. The timing of many of these moves is going to be based upon the market and our ability to get similar value and what we feel is appropriate value.”
Rick Hahn has earned our trust for now, in a matter of months he has put a significant dent in the workload in rebuilding the team, including turning the farm system around, and putting together a very good player development staff at all levels to help groom the White Sox new coveted prospects.
Of course fans wanted to know if the White Sox would be willing to make the moves necessary to fill out the roster in 2018 and 2019 when the youth movement is ready to compete at the major-league level. Hahn politely interrupted the fan asking the question with a quick confirmation;
“When the time comes we intend to be in position to spend to spend add the final pieces to this club,’’ Hahn said. “The 2018 and 2019 free agent classes are stacked. A number of players will command nine-figure contracts. There’s nothing magical about the $68 million threshold. And we know spending is the final piece of all this. When we get there we expect the resources to be there.’’
This winter has been different in almost every way, and that’s a good thing. Rick Hahn has answered the fan-base’s desire for change in a big way. Fan’s flocked to SoxFest this year with excitement, not for a possible stab at a playoff spot, but the excitement of the future, for the budding talent, the new faces, and the idea that the White Sox are finally on the path of long-term sustained success.