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White Sox fandom: Finding new valleys

MLB: Winter Meetings
In free fall: The White Sox are in a rough spot, and Jerry Reinsdorf is asleep at the helm. | Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports

The South Siders’ descent just does not stop

In March, I ranked the enjoyment levels of my 20 seasons of being a White Sox fan. Back then, 2022 was last on my list, but needless to say, the 2023 season has surpassed 2022 for this dubious distinction.

Before elaborating further, I’ll clarify that sports are not meant to be taken that seriously, and I understand that there are far bigger problems than how much fun it is to be a fan of a baseball team. However, this is a site that focuses on White Sox baseball, so if I cannot discuss my feelings here, then there is basically nowhere I can discuss them.

First, there was the disastrous first month, which included a 10-game losing streak. The team stumbled to a horrific, 7-21 start, and even in the weak AL Central, the White Sox were suddenly in desperate need of an extended hot streak that never came. After those miserable first 28 games, the White Sox went 22-15 in their next 37, which is an exceptional run by AL Central standards. Even with that nice stretch, due to how poorly they started, they were still seven games worse than .500 and 3 1⁄2 games back in MLB’s worst division. Their situation only got worse from there.

By July 26, the White Sox were 41-62 and had fallen 12 1⁄2 games back in the AL Central. The dominoes began to fall, as the white flag was waved when Lucas Giolito and Reynaldo López got traded for prospects Edgar Quero and Ky Bush. Two days later, Lance Lynn and Joe Kelly got dealt for Trayce Thompson, Nick Nastrini, and Jordan Leasure. Then Jake Burger, one of this season’s better stories, was traded for Jake Eder. The rebuild was officially a failure — even though by that point, we already knew that would be the case. Given the state of the team, salvaging the situation by trading current assets for future assets was the right approach. However, especially given the tanking of the late 2010s, the team should not have been in such a dire position at the trade deadline in 2023.

After the season, the club declined the option of Tim Anderson (.245/.286/.296, 60 wRC+, -0.5 fWAR, -2.0 bWAR), who uncharacteristically struggled immensely. Incredibly, it is difficult to say the organization made a mistake here, even though Anderson was the face of the franchise and his option was not overly expensive in terms of MLB money in 2024.

The White Sox also declined the option of Liam Hendriks, who provided one of the few 2023 moments that was memorable, in a positive way. Hendriks’ return to play after his cancer treatment allowed us to forget about the team’s on-field struggles for a moment. It was invigorating to see the MLB community unite over Hendriks’ victory over cancer. However, as great as that was, it is difficult to fault the organization over the decision to decline his option given how much of the 2024 season he is expected to miss.

Yet another domino fell when widely-acclaimed and cherished play-by-play announcer and SoxMath inventor Jason Benetti accepted the play-by-play job for the Detroit Tigers. I am happy for Benetti, as it is safe to assume he is getting a much better deal from the Tigers. Benetti deserves to work for an organization that appreciates him. More details on my thoughts about Benetti can be found in our open letter to him, but it is difficult to overstate how highly I think of him.

The team stumbled to its sixth-worst win percentage ever (and worst in the Hahn era, which says a lot), so silver linings were difficult to find. Among them, center fielder Luis Robert Jr. had a major breakout season. Rookie reliever Gregory Santos was rock-solid in relief, and the peripherals suggest that his strong numbers are sustainable. In the minors, Colson Montgomery crushed the ball. Down the stretch, one of the few players who was putting up good numbers was [redacted], who should not have been on the team in the first place. Fortunately, by declining his option he is no longer set to be back in 2024.

Even with those silver linings, however, the White Sox are light years away from what we can reasonably consider a good position.

This is about as bad as it gets. Even in movies with happy endings, there is often a moment where all hope seems lost. That moment seems to have come. The key differences here are that there is no writer, and the person most responsible for the “script” is bad at his job and does not care about a happy ending. In fact, there is no ending to this violent descent in sight.

The White Sox keep finding new valleys.

“It can only go up from here” is a highly inaccurate statement. This is especially true when the new general manager, Chris Getz, struggled with his previous job, which had a narrower set of duties. Jerry Reinsdorf lazily promoted Getz without a search, after he finally concluded that Hahn and Ken Williams were not getting the job done.

Since moving to the Bay Area this summer, I have met several Oakland Athletics fans who are rightfully disgruntled about how their favorite team is being run. Oakland owner John Fisher is completely off the charts with regards to how much he does not care about his team’s fans. Fisher is surely the worst owner in Major League Baseball, but Reinsdorf has made a strong case for No. 29. Many White Sox fans have observed ownership’s apathy toward them, and some are beginning to jump ship. I cannot blame them. Personally, I will remain onboard with the White Sox for the foreseeable future. If I were to try to pick up another MLB team, my heart would not truly be into it. If the Giants win the Shohei Ohtani sweepstakes, I would go to a few games at Oracle Park next summer, but I would be bandwagoning, not becoming a fan.

Although it is hard to see the light at the end of the tunnel for the White Sox, it will come. Someday, the White Sox will return to the playoffs with a decent chance of winning the World Series. When that happens, we will have the greatest time.

Well, at least whoever remains from this fan base in 2031 will.


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