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Analysis Editorials White Sox

White Sox: Free Agent Failures and Organizational Water Carrying

Last week was a rough one for fans of the Chicago White Sox. After the organization’s systematic pursuit of Manny Machado culminated with a thud, it instantly became an angst filled reminder of sorrow for many. As a fanbase, the collective has been focused on the 2019 free agent class since the beginning of the rebuild. General Manager Rick Hahn assured fans in person and in multiplicity as well as through media conduits that the franchise would break the mold and open up their wallets like never seen before. Hahn categorically denied on multiple occasions that there would be an earmarked total of guaranteed dollars for which the organization would be incapable of spending.

After the pursuit of 26-year-old superstar Manny Machado culminated in him playing his home games in San Diego, the consternation of free agent failures has continued. The natives were restless almost immediately and the restlessness was warranted. The Chicago White Sox played the market like a team knowing it was sitting on the highest current offer to a generational free agent talent. Ken Williams and Rick Hahn were stunned by Machado’s decision when it broke last Tuesday. They thought they were going to be making a deal that would have changed the franchise immensely in the immediacy.

They were ultimately incorrect as Machado chose the “small-market” Padres instead. The Padres stepped up to the plate and didn’t miss. Instead of prioritizing players the White Sox place a priority on players at their price point. This is a foolhardy strategy after 10 straight seasons without a playoff appearance and an unfortunate existence painted by irrelevancy. With one of the smaller payrolls in the league and an advantageous marketplace, the front office failed to land a big fish which is disheartening after team brass lavishly spoke with bravado about their tepid pursuit all off-season.

Machado may have used the “front-running” White Sox to drive up the price on a more preferred destination. The White Sox also offered $70 million more than the highest baseball contract ever afforded in this city. Those theories don’t exactly let the club off the hook though. The organization didn’t offer enough money. If reports are to be believed, the Padres guaranteed Machado $50 million more than the White Sox were willing to spend. Despite the additions of Jon Jay and Yonder Alonso, the dollar figure was what ultimately persuaded the player to the supposedly non-preferred west coast.

After the failed pursuit, the fanbase as a whole felt as disenfranchised as ever. The White Sox failed to capitalize on something that seemed like a promise. The core front office members couldn’t even seem to agree on a message at the derby’s conclusion. White Sox Nation was stunned to its core. Anger set in for most and that was quickly followed by apathy. Casual fans, season ticket holders and bloggers were united by the failures of ownership. The organization was getting lambasted from all angles after reports of their substandard offer surfaced. And they absolutely deserved every ounce of that backlash.

Fanatics At Their Core

Most logical fans are still angry but many have come out of hiding with White Sox capes draped over their backs. Sports fans are interesting beings and that has become evident over the last week. A fanatic is defined as someone filled with excessive and single minded zeal; especially for an extreme religious or political cause. Sports can be categorized in the same realm. Fans are often militant, apologetic, extreme, devoted and dogmatic. It comes with the territory.

It’s perfectly reasonable to be angry at someone you love. Being upset about a professional sports organization’s repeated failures doesn’t make one a bad fan. It’s inherently the opposite. The reasonable and pragmatic can recognize that the future can still be positive while the present appears to be the polar opposite. With that being said, some fans immediately changed course after the free agent failure and began to openly carry the organization’s water for them.

Supporting someone; especially in a submissive or uncritical manner is the epitome of water carrying. The term is an idiom to describe what it’s like to support an organization that one would not in reality endorse, as due to pressure, force or pragmatic reasons. The folks displaying these tendencies on my twitter timeline don’t face any of those things though. They are expressing these irrational opinions willingly. Sports fans could rationalize anything. People (myself included) are predisposed to justifying negligent behavior due to addiction to a particular product.

Fandom often requires a certain level of cognitive dissonance and it turns into a stellar ideal for ownership to latch onto. In many instances, fans take the side of the billionaires over the millionaires for whatever reason. Some of that response is what allows ownership to provide constant dishonesty to its constituents. These baseball billionaires have convinced a large segment of the public that they lack the funds to afford reasonable long-term offers to some of the best players in the sport.

 

 

 

Many of the long-term deals consummated over the past 10 years have turned out poorly. That is a fact. The cognitive dissonance that was spoken of earlier is once again highlighted here however. The sins of yesterday are a stark reminder but one that hasn’t been rooted in fact of late. Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera and Robinson Cano are often referenced in conjunction with this premise. The problem in 2019 is that Manny Machado and Bryce Harper are both 26-years-old and while the backend of a deal may not be great, the front should be quite productive with teams benefitting from the prime years.

This is a bad argument from lazy people using pejoratives to prove a point that really isn’t necessary. Some members of the White Sox fanbase have also convinced themselves that their favorite team doesn’t actually need Manny Machado anyway.

In their infinite wisdom, multiple observers have stated that Machado is lazy and others have questioned whether he actually would have been worth the money. The White Sox would have been praised for signing a superstar third baseman to the same contract that San Diego ultimately signed. Some of this excuse making is a really bad look for fans and it’s frankly just water that doesn’t need to be carried at this point.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Media Propoganda

Fans aren’t always rational when it comes to stuff like this. There is a significant faction on both sides. The majority opinion is to be perturbed by the outcome of the club’s free agent pursuits. While that mindset is completely logical and based in reason, there are others on the lunacy fringe as has been pointed out. The media in this town should be different though.

The beat force of the White Sox refused to ask some obviously pressing questions pertaining to the overall messaging displayed by Hahn and Williams in the aftermath of the destruction. They adequately covered the Machado decision however and they aren’t columnists so the fire and brimstone should be expected from those in different mediums.

One of those columnists should be Paul Sullivan, the long-tenured baseball scribe from the Chicago Tribune. On Sunday, Paul’s summation was that no matter how much teams in this town are willing to spend, fans will always want more. While that’s a logical distinction, the way in which the Sox do business should never be compared to the actually large market Cubs.

This was more public shilling for an organization that doesn’t deserve it. In the column, Sullivan made sure to get in a barb about Machado’s lack of hustle and fit on a rebuilding club while also accusing Bryce Harper of being high-maintenance. Tom Fornelli of CBSSports, who also moonlights as a White Sox fan, had the most appropriate response of the weekend in regards to this puzzling column.

 

The crew over at NBC Sports Chicago covers the White Sox as extensively as any outlet in town. Vinnie Duber is the beat reporter, Ryan McGuffey is a content producer and Chuck Garfien is the notable pre and post host who also has a presence during games. These gentlemen host one of the better White Sox related podcasts around and their positivity is a solid departure from normalcy that many fans ignore.

There aren’t many media members covering exclusively the Sox in Chicago in recent years. The Chicago Tribune didn’t have a regular beat reporter for the team last season and ESPN 1000 doesn’t employ a White Sox related employer either. These things are not expected to change for the 2019 season.

McGuffey and Garfien had been some of the biggest advocates in the city pertaining to the pursuit of Manny Machado. They wanted him really bad and dedicated column inches and podcast space to him over the last two years. They do good work and will continue to serve as a conduit to the fans. It’s imperative to not lie to those fans though.

During a television spot last Tuesday, Garfien began to question Machado’s leadership style and whether or not he actually would have been the appropriate fit for the White Sox. After clamoring for this player since the rebuild’s inception, this take reeks of organizational placation. Duber also went on to praise the organization’s efforts in offering a record setting deal and pointed out that there would be other free agent classes full of attainable players in the future.

While this statement is technically true, the opportunity to add 26-year-old superstars to the middle of a rebuild isn’t often the case. These examples could be a case of trying to make the fanbase feel better rather than an effort to not ruffle feathers with their network becoming the exclusive visual home of the White Sox starting in 2020. The opinions above definitely weren’t the most egregious of takes from that triumvirate though.

 

Play-by-Play announcer and sometimes analyst Ed Farmer takes the cake for worst Manny Machado take of the week though as he espoused some complete nonsense on WGN Radio.  As I went through my limited options to consume White Sox baseball over the weekend, I begrudgingly listened to a few innings of Farmer and Darrin Jackson.

The topic turned to the Machado chase in short order. The old curmudgeon of Sox baseball questioned Machado’s desire to play in a big market repeatedly and suggested that the infielder preferred San Diego due to the environment having less pressure surrounding it. Farmer believes (or is telling the listeners) that the White Sox are better off and that sometimes, “the best deals are the ones you don’t make”. That’s an absolute pile of hooey but at least Farmer actually works for the Chicago White Sox.

Fans Should Be Angry

While the company line has been echoed from multiple avenues, the majority of fans and media members have rightfully crucified the organization. While an extended overture of $250 million guaranteed bodes well for the club’s success in future free agent classes, nobody should be validating their failure in this case. The Chicago White Sox have not proven that they are serious about spending the money that it will take to win consistently.

The rebuild has infused the organization with a critical mass of talent over the past two years but additions via free agency will be necessary to make this club a perennial division winner. Targeting this current free agent class and missing, places quite a bit of undue pressure on prospects to succeed in a big way. Teams need superstars to win titles and the Sox may have to find theirs from within.

With Jose Abreu‘s $68 million pact still standing as the largest deal in the history of the franchise, the jury is still out on the organization’s ability to earn their fans’ patronage. When Jerry Reinsdorf purchased the White Sox in 1981, he said, “We are going to start running a first class organization”. 38 years have since passed and we are all still waiting.

Follow James on twitter for more White Sox News and Opinion.

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10 comments on “White Sox: Free Agent Failures and Organizational Water Carrying

  1. Michael S. Korn

    Total garbage editorial and no reporting in this piece. I am a White Sox fan since 1963.
    I am mixed about not signing Manny M. But now that it’s done and over, then move on. I give credit to the Sox for not chasing him and signing him at all costs. You are pretty unrealistic to think they had to. We’ll have to look back in 5 years and re evaluate. In meantime, you might want to report on an interesting story rather than just whinging.

    • We have no value as White Sox fans unless we have something nice and shiny and new and expensive we can show off to everyone to prove that we are of consequence and we must be noticed. (Are you listening ESPN?). I remember how proud and puffy chested I was back in 2015 when Kenny and Rick spent all that money and brought in Samardja and Melky and Robertson and Duke and LaRoche etc. Even Sportscenter noticed. No more small timing for us ! The national baseball pundits were effusive in their praise saying the White Sox were a force to be reckoned with. That along with thier promising manager Robin Ventura. Who the year before had a overachieving team in first till August. What a dry wit he had! What happened?

    • Michael,
      Thanks for reading! I’m not whinging but I will continue whining.

  2. Dude drove in 100 runs once and batted over 300 once, has good power and a great glove. Worth 30 million, Hell no. So easy for writters and fans to spend other peoples money. He makes the Sox 5-8 games better but I’m not sold on his work ethic or attitude. They made a fair offer, fuck-em.

  3. I have mixed emotions commenting on this
    subject. I was quiet when they were attempting to sign him even though I have not been a Manny fan. Although I’m glad he will be taking his act to San Diego, I agree that the “cheapness” that permeates this FO may just keep this team from realizing their dream. Hahn needs to redeem himself by calling Boras with an offer of $35 million/year for five years on Harper. He’s waiting for an offer that will keep him out of Philly!

  4. I for one think the team dodged a bullet in their Machado pursuit. But firmly believe Reinsdorf and company are viewed very negatively in MLB free agent circles. Sox are going to have to overpay in order to get what they want.

    The problem has been and will continue to be Reinsdorf. He will not dole the money and opt out clauses to attract what would be considered marque free agents. In his mind, players must agree and take the terms he sets. The supposed plate appearance clauses that were part of their offer…. Only 8 players over the age of 34 had more than the 550 plate appearances the last 5 seasons…. So as long as he insists on stupid clauses like that, no decent player will sign. So I fully expect the Sox to continue getting their free agents from the bargin bin. Reclamation projects and players way past their prime….

  5. Thanks for reading!

  6. Enjoyed Reading this. The biggest take was that the Sox playoff drought has reached 10 seasons. I would agree fan bases and fans in general can have extreme highs and lows as well as very warped expectations.

  7. Barry Dorfman

    Great article, James. I thought it was fair, well written, and on point.

    To sum it up, we were lied to. We were told that the money would be available when the top level talent was on the market. And it wasn’t.

    What disgusts me the most, though, is the audacity of Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn to say on camera that they were shocked and they thought we had made the better offer. The Padres gave him 50 million dollars more guaranteed. So, where are the people that call themselves “reporters” to ask, “Hey Kenny and Rick, do you believe a bird in hand is worth two in a bush? Of course you do. So, next question … do you want to stick to your statement about believing we made the better offer”? Perhaps a better way to say it is this: If they were in Manny Machado’s shoes they would’ve taken the Padres offer over ours, as well. End of story.

    The White Sox had a chance to become a perennial contender like the Cleveland Indians of the mid to late 90’s. Instead, they will now become like the Cleveland Indians of the entire 1980’s when they were referred to as the joke by the lake. Mark my words on that. The level of futility will be the likes of which we’ve never seen, and there will be no end in sight.

    At least I haven’t heard Kenny Williams and Rick Hahn talk about how much of a player we’ll be for big time free agents next year and the year after, because I may spontaneously combust out of laughter.

    But the message is clear. They think we’re stupid. And it’s up to us to show them we’re not. So, I think every White Sox fan should boycott the team. Don’t buy their tickets, or their beer, or their hot dogs. That’s the only power we have.

    They aren’t paying anybody, and won’t be for some time. But somehow the Padres were able to blow us out of the water by guaranteeing 50 million dollars more, and we wouldn’t match it. So, I won’t spend a second of my time watching or following this team. I can’t care more about winning than they do. That’s just insane.

  8. Pingback: White Sox: The Great Lie - The Loop Sports

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