Well Thank God That’s Over…
Let’s get this part out of the way: The Chicago Cubs were legitimately the best baseball team in the Major Leagues this season. They deserved this outcome based purely on every objective analysis of their organization. The Front Office (Theo “F-You” Esptein, et. al.), the Manager (Joe “He’s been into Wilco way before they got famous” Maddon), and the players (guess what… being god awful for 3 years can pay off if you actually have competent people running the ship; see previous 2 mentions) all came together and steamrolled the entire league, making this postseason run a foregone conclusion since May.
That being said: This is one of the best (yes, more on that in a bit) and the absolute worst case scenario as a fan of my team, the Chicago White Sox.
First with the Bad. 11 Years ago, a most wonderful thing happened: The Chicago White Sox went and won their first World Series title in 88 years. And despite what a depressing number of media outlets failed to mention, it really did happen and there’s no givesies-backsies. Anyway, I digress. So the Sox have their moment in the sun, things are super duper, and then…
…that’s it. See, the White Sox went ahead and had a decent follow up 2006 season winning 90 games. Unfortunately, 2 more teams in the division ended up with more and the Sox lost their chance to repeat. And that was the end of the Sox brief run as Kings of Chicago Baseball. At the same time, a little known franchise that played baseball 8 miles north of Comiskey (still the name dammit) named the Chicago Cubs went on a run of mini-success. The 2007 the Cubs eked out a Division Championship (later on getting swept in the first round). The 2008 Cubs dominated the National League, got the best record…and again got swept out of the playoffs in the 1st round. (full disclosure: This writer was employed by the Chicago Cubs for these seasons. I took their money in exchange for providing services and got access to lots of great behind the scenes stuff, like peeing in a stall next to Tim Robbins, who I assume was doing the same thing.)
And what were the White Sox doing then you ask? Well 2007 the team cratered to a 72 win record. 2008, they made a small amount of history having to win 3 straight games against 3 different teams (the last one a tiebreaker won by a Solo Homer by Jim Thome) to make the playoffs…only to lose to Joe Maddon’s (heh) Tampa Rays.
From 2009 on, the White Sox have reverted back to their mid-1990s ways. Being consistently mediocre and occasionally awful. What made this period (still ongoing by the way) so intolerable is that the Sox have actively tried to build a winner through free agency and trades. Suffice it to say, that plan has not worked. 2012 was probably the most agonizing season as the Sox were in first place for the entire season up until the last 2 weeks where a tailspin of a losing streak sent them home in Robin Ventura’s first season as manager. There’s plenty of awful here too. That 72 win team fortunately got the Sox their current ace and uniform slasher Chris Sale. A turd-filled 63 win season netted top pitching prospect Carlos Rodon. But for the most part, it’s been washed up all-stars (Manny Ramirez, Ken Griffey Jr, Adam Dunn, Adam LaRoche, etc.) steering this leaky ship towards the Bermuda Triangle of irrelevance.
The Cubs, however decided that enough was enough. The 2008 team, while dominant, was made up of mostly older veterans, guys who were decent players but all on the back 9 holes of their careers. So when Theo Epstein, former GM of the Boston Red Sox came available, the team wasted no time throwing all the money at him. He signed up and told Cubs fans what they were longing to hear: We Are Going to Suck.
And suck they did. Boy howdy. Theo decided to trade any and every player on the roster that had any semblance of immediate value to a team that knew were not going to be part of an eventual young core. The result? Multiple seasons of 60-70 wins with a team the Bad News Bears could take down in a 7 game series. But Wait! There’s More! The pleasant benefit of being that bad is consistently drafting high in the following year’s draft.
2013 – 61 wins the previous season nets them Express Men Model and hitting machine Kris Bryant.
2014 – 66 wins gives them 3rd place Chris Farley impersonator and baseball clubber Kyle Schwarber.
You might recognize those names as key cogs of the current Cubs machine and guess what? They are young and don’t cost stupid money (see Heyward, Jason)
Then 2015 comes. Bryant and former Red Sox cast off Anthony Rizzo are joined by Red Sox champion Jon Lester and blaze into the playoffs with 97 wins and somehow have to play a Wild Card play in game on the road. They do and go on to get to the NLCS, only to be swept by the NY Mets (Apu Nahasapeemapetalon’s favorite team).
And then the 2016 Cubs-Stomp-on-every-MLB-team-lovefest happens and what did my White Sox do? GLAD YOU ASKED.
::inhales deeply:: TEAM ASKS DISAPPOINTING BAD PLAYER TO STOP HAVING HIS KID BE IN CLUBHOUSE EVERY DAY…PLAYER BALKS AND RETIRES (saving the team 13 million dollars, silver lining!)…STAR PITCHER UPSET…HAS PRESS CONFERENCE CALLING TEAM PRESIDENT A LIAR…HANGS JERSEY OF CHILD WHO IS, I STRESS, NOT AN ACTUAL WHITE SOX PLAYER…TEAM STARTS SEASON ON FIRE…RECORD IS 23-10…THOUGHTS OF CUBS/SOX WORLD SERIES BEING SERIOUSLY PONDERED (HA!)…TEAM SUDDENLY IMPLODES…RECORD PLUMMETS… GAMES ARE LOST…TEAM HOSTS THROWBACK JERSEY NIGHT…STAR PITCHER UPSET WITH UNCOMFORTABLE UNIFORMS…CUTS UP LITERALLY ALL OF THE TEAMS THROWBACKS…FORCES TEAM TO PLAY IN NORMAL UNIFORMS…PLAYER SUSPENDED…MORE GAMES LOST…ROBIN VENTURA BECOMES DEAD MANAGER WALKING…ORGANIZATION FUMBLES INEVITABLE FIRING…ANNOUNCES STADIUM NAME CHANGED TO LITTLE KNOWN MORTGAGE COMPANY NAME GUARANTEED RATE…LOGO INCLUDES A RED ARROW POINTED DOWN…NAME IS DERIDED THROUGHOUT SOCIAL MEDIA…NAME GOES INTO EFFECT NOVEMBER 1ST… NOVEMBER 2ND CUBS WIN WORLD SERIES…
Yeah, so all that. Which leads me to why this is actually a good thing for the White Sox. And that is any and all goodwill created by the Sox winning the World Series in 2005 is null and void. It still happened (yes, SportsCenter… I see you) and they can’t take away the memories of that October. But it’s officially been wiped from the collective sports memory at large. This Cubs thing is real, like climate change. I tried to ignore it (kidding, I believe in CC, but you get what I mean) but its no longer just talk. It’s
happening happened. And now the White Sox are right back where they were for 88 years prior to 2005. Invisible. They are John C. Reilly’s Mr. Cellophane. If the Sox win a game, is there truly anyone there to see it?
So what now? Basically, this
will should force the Sox to choose one of two paths:
A) Tear the team down to the studs (of which there are very few). Trade every worthwhile player (Chris Sale, Jose Quintana, any veteran making more than the minimum salary) for the best deals possible. Lose as many games as possible and pray the amateur scouts can find the top notch prospects to build a new core (like a certain blue clad team I remember).
B) Go all in and actually spend big money wisely (again, not this organization’s strong suit) while keeping your ridiculously affordable core of great pitching talent. And not getting washed up pros 5 years too late, actual talent that has many years of prime performance ahead of them.
Because this stuff as currently constructed is broked. Humpty Dumpty style. In the NBA, they’d call it NBA Hell (teams that are not good enough like the Cavs or Warriors, but not terrible enough to get high draft picks like the Knicks or Kings) Being mediocre is the worst feeling as a sports fan because ultimately, nothing can be gained from it. And with a rapidly dwindling share of the Chicagoland sports market, the Sox cannot afford to go another 5,10,20,50 years being overlooked and marginalized. Pick a lane and commit to it.
Ok, that ends my catharsis. I don’t expect Rick Hahn or Kenny Williams to read this, but if you do guys…just know that I do not envy you all sitting on that stage at SoxFest 2017 as Bob from Bridgeport lays into youse guys for letting the Cubs set up a reign of dominance in this city for years to come.