A note for those of you reading: Mismatched Sox is a weekly blog hastily thrown together by Sox in the Basement Co-Host Ed Siebert and is written to present you with White Sox and baseball thoughts in a manner that, frankly, thinks it is funny in the way that a techno remix of Tony’s postgame pressers would be funny. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at SoxInTheBasement.com nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult a sleep doctor and ask if this blog is right for you.
As the season drifts away from the questionably fire-having 2022 White Sox, there’s a simmering anger burning deep within the loins of White Sox fandom. This loin-warming fury that is building up to frothy rabid wrath from the fans currently has multiple targets. But pitchforks and torches for multiple targets aren’t efficient. Imagine if the villagers went to Castle Frankenstein and were looking for the Baron von Dr., the monster, Igor, a handful of the castle staff, the undertaker who originally buried the corpses, the corpses’ families, and Leury Garcia. Once they found out that not everyone was at the Castle and that Leury was batting third again, there would be in-fighting among the angry mob as to who to go after and Leury would end up getting extended for two more years while the rest of the targets got away scot-free.
So for Sox fans that are building that loinal rage need to agree right here and now at whom to be mad. There’s no point in storming 35th and Shields and then standing there arguing about the culpability of ownership versus Lucas Giolito’s inability to throw back-to-back quality starts.
Speaking of ownership, let’s start with the vitriol towards Jerry Reinsdorf. It can be very easily justified given that since 1981, 41 entire years of Jerry as the Chair-y, the team has had 1 championship and 7 overall playoff appearances. That’s not…great. But then that’s also not entirely uncommon in the MLB. The Dodgers, Yankees, Braves, and a couple of other teams had runs of success where contending was the norm. Ask a Mariners fan how things were pre-Griffey Jr. and post-Griffey Jr.; the four playoff appearances the franchise has had since 1977 are still fewer than Jerry has produced on the South Side. But the narrative is that Mr. Reinsdorf won’t spend enough to woo the top-end talent and win year after year. In reality, payroll is a factor but not a guarantee. The Padres have spent like a kid who stole mom’s credit card and Amazon login, but are presently chasing the wildcard and hoping for their 7th ever playoff appearance as a franchise. And that’s the team that stole Fernando Tatis from Rick Hahn and shocked all the Kenny Williams the Sox have by signing Manny Machado. So spending and letting a GM run free isn’t always a recipe for success as an owner. As fans, the anger towards the Reinsdorf era should be the strange inability to make cold business decisions in favor of never having a former player or employee leave because they are family. The loyalty keeps players around that shouldn’t be, lands the same coaches and brain trust year in and year out, makes saying anything critical of the team a risk, and is the reason Tony is dozing his way to a third-place finish. Jerry Reinsdorf shouldn’t necessarily be the sole target of the fans’ vitriol, but he’s on the list.
On the subject of lists, the Injured List has been littered with White Sox all season. The latest? Tim Anderson and his hand. But at various times the team has been robbed of Lance Lynn, Liam Hendriks, Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Yoan Moncada, Yas Grandal, plus a number of relievers and contributors. If there is an actual injury bug, that thing needs to go. Fans could easily dispatch an actual injury bug, though there would be injuries sustained in the process. As there is no actual injury bug, then maybe the Sox training staff should wear the anger. After all, with a sustained run of full health maybe the team isn’t constantly hovering around .500 and is running away with the division. But injuries don’t explain some of the underperformance of hitters on the team. Also, some injuries are freak-like, such as Tim Anderson tearing a ligament on a check swing or Danny Mendick’s knee tearing from a collision. Some were inevitable, like the knees on Yas and Lance that are just giving up the ghost because that’s what joints start doing after 30+ years. The nagging-type things like a pulled hammy are common, but aggravating when the team is suffering multiple injuries at once. No doubt the Sox need to review their training regimens for next year, but it is hard to be mad at the injuries or blame faceless trainers for the Sox woes. That said, if the trainers are truly faceless then Jerry should be applauded for inclusive hiring but seriously, get trainers who can see and speak.
Among the Sox fans’ likely targets for unbridled irritation is a guy that seems to have his eyes closed often and mumbles a lot. Yup. Tony “Legit Hall of Fame Baseball Person” LaRussa. And Tony is a very legit hall of famer. He is one of the best to ever manage a baseball team. But he’s also a guy that looks utterly spent every game. And he makes decisions that seem…off. He makes statements about the game, the players, the clubhouse, and the greater White Sox universe that seem…off. Frankly, the ability to defend the Tony LaRussa experience is starting to wear…off. Fans will bristle at weirdly timed intentional walks and the ever-changing lineup, the maddening overuse of some players and the frustration of watching some players rot, and even decisions like not letting Michael Kopech go longer while chasing a no-no. But then, not all the moves are without some logic, and managers take the heat every year that the team doesn’t win. So getting mad at Tony is as natural as sleeping. But fans chanting for his ouster are as justified as those who, uhhh, well seeing as how firing Tony has become a point of agreement across most of MLB, there’s plenty of justified anger at his continued employment. Rather than anger, maybe some compassion is warranted. This is a once-legendary manager that has clearly lost a step from his heyday. Sometimes grandpa needs the license taken away before things get really bad. Getting mad at a guy for aging and not being what he once was is like screaming at a mirror for not showing a better-looking reflection. Tony deserves the usual anger reserved for the manager, but maybe not all of what fans are feeling. After all, Tony doesn’t have to manage next year. He will if no one in the organization says something.
So that’s Rick Hahn, right? Maybe Kenny Williams? After all, Rick is the brains behind the team and Kenny is the brains behind the Sox’s only World Series team this century. They can, at least by most understandings of an MLB front office, fire the manager and change the roster. There are always rumors that Jerry meddles in their affairs and they can’t fully act on their best-laid plans. But a true set of brains finds a way around that if it is true. Rick Hahn, in particular, is the target of fans’ vitriol and he should be. After suffering through the rebuild, fans were promised a young, hungry team that was going to have sustained success as the team maintained control of the core and would be able to spend money to fill in around them. But the team isn’t all that young, having an average age of just under 30 years old. By contrast, the division-leading Guardians have an average age of 26 years old. The difference? Only one Guardian is 33 or older, that being reliever Bryan Shaw. Meanwhile, the Sox roster has 10 guys that fit that description. Hahn has nothing much immediately ready to help from the minors and the overall farm system is low-rated. The Guardians got here in part by making hard trades of Francisco Lindor and Mike Clevinger in recent years while having their own prospects come up. The Sox made trades like that after 2016, but that was with a longer-term rebuild in mind. In a year like 2022 when the team might not go anywhere, a trade of one key player for a couple of MLB-ready prospects or controllable MLB players could set the team up for 2023 and beyond. Maybe Rick tried that, but then again maybe not. He expressed frustration at the inability to get anything going at the deadline, but that would mean that he either couldn’t part with players that other teams would give real value to get, or there are no players that Rick can get any real value for. Either way, that’s a big failure on the front office. Of course, beyond the nagging lack of a real 2B option coming into the season, fans were genuinely excited by the team as spring sprung. And there is real talent on the 40-man roster, at least on paper. And while the games themselves are played on paper, Rick’s game is all on paper. Rick Hahn isn’t in uniform and can’t make the team perform up to their potential. He deserves an office full of anger, but there’s no point in being mad at him for the players not playing.
Which brings this around to where the anger should be directed. Every time a Sox player loafs down to first or the team makes a guy with a 1.68 WHIP look like prime Randy Johnson, or a sloppy error opens up floodgates, fans should be seething. Fans will adore a try-hard team of mediocre players, but a hyped-up team of potential stars that play unfocused and sometimes lazy baseball will absolutely earn the fans’ ire. Fans can forgive the aging and relatably-bodied Lance Lynn for having a bum knee and struggling with it, but fighting hard to be better. But an arrogant and totally ineffective Dallas Keuchel should be the fans’ punching bag. To the extent that the Sox, as a whole, resemble Dallas’ attitude and not Lance’s attitude, fans are more than justified in their anger, they are downright entitled to it. But the anger shouldn’t be blanket anger. No sense in being mad at Jimmie Lambert because Lucas Giolito has seemingly regressed towards his 2018 debacle, or booing Seby Zavala each time Yoan Moncada grounds out. It isn’t fairweather fandom to be mad at the team and the players. Anyone who says otherwise probably lollygags. And no one likes a lollygagger.
WHO HATH WIELDED THE STAFF OF CORK AND KERRY (this week)?
For the uninitiated, The Staff of Cork and Kerry refers not just to the people who work at the premiere place to pregame and post-game and otherwise celebrate Soxdom in the shadow of the ballpark and in Beverly, but it is also a mythical weapon that can smite thine enemies faster than they can recreate the lollygaggers speech from Bull Durham.
So which White Sox was worthy enough to wield the Staff of Cork and Kerry? Andrew Vaughn’s .903 OPS shows how consistent he is in a good way. But, surprise! Yasmani Grandal has a .353 average and a 1.088 OPS over the last week. Yeah. Weird how that slid right on past everyone.
Yas, you have successfully wielded this mighty weapon of lore. Stealthily too.
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Featured Image: Matt Marton-USA TODAY Sports