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Mismatched Sox: Sox, Lies, and Videotape

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 schadenfreude can be funny. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult a bowl of alphabet soup and ask if this blog is right for you.

Old Movie References lead to the same old failures. Photos (c) MLB, Miramax

My good gawd is this season just absolutely trying to kill White Sox fans. At least that’s how it feels. But, it isn’t even May yet (as this is written). There is still hope even though things look grim heading out of April. However, the hereditary condition of every White Sox fan to rend their own garments and scream unto the skies that death is upon this team at all possible moments and in all possible universes and timelines is, in fact, in full force. But perchance this is the time to swap out the torn shirts (or pants?) for something more covering, drink some hot tea to soothe the throat from all the harsh bellowing of woe, get the drywall repair kits out, and see the doctor about the carpal tunnel from hate-tweeting Rick Hahn. Be in the now, now, because then will be now, soon. And then could be back then or the next then, but either way there’s a now to be reset before revisiting what’s coming then.

Now then. Here are some misconceptions, if not outright lies, about the team that have made the rounds, uhhh, maybe. Maybe these are total fictional lies made up just to, never mind.

LEURY GARCIA HAS EITHER NAKED PICTURES OR OTHER INCRIMINATING ITEMS OF KEY WHITE SOX PERSONNEL. Simply not true, as it turns out. Leury has played daily because he is immortal and immune to all disease and injury, while the rest of the team is merely human and occasionally, an unlucky glass vase. Leury is, regardless of what else fans think of him, a really athletic guy and very durable. In his Sox tenure, which also does not stretch back to replacing Charles August “Swede” Risberg after he was banned for the Black Sox scandal, Leury has really been out for an extended time once. In 2020 he needed thumb surgery after a dive to first base, kind of a freak injury, and still made it back in the truncated season for the playoffs. He is a good enough athlete to play anywhere on the field, just not practiced (or skilled) enough to have excelled at any one spot. He shows up and does whatever a manager needs. A guy like Tony LaRussa LOOOVES that type of thing, because it harkens back to an era where a team would have an allegedly Swedish shortstop that was born in San Francisco. Leury is a throwback of sorts, and frankly a Kenny Williams guy where he has baseball tools but maybe not the polished skills.

So Leury is getting a metric ton of ABs this year because 1.) Tony loves a guy that is always ready for whatever, and 2.) Leury is healthy unlike the rest of the team. Leury is also not hitting and remains a below-average fielder everywhere he plays, but then how much Danny Mendick would this season have if Leury hadn’t been given an oddly large contract to come back? Ok, the guy may have something on Rick Hahn. Will Leury play a lot this year? Probably. But if he continues to struggle at the plate and is not out-performing Josh Harrison and Yoan Moncada when they get healthy, or Adam Engel/Adam Haseley in Luis Robert’s absence, or Andrew Vaughn, A.J. Pollack and Gavin Sheets, then yes, Leury will ride the pine and not get those at bats. But also, him hitting 3rd was ridiculous.

ELOY AND LUIS IN PARTICULAR (BUT THE SOX IN GENERAL) ARE INJURY PRONE. No, they aren’t. Eloy and Luis are, and have been, max effort guys. Since they got here they have gone full tilt at everything. And Eloy, in particular, does get out of control when he does go all out, and that has led to injuries. Last year, the chest injury was Eloy running back too hard and jumping at full speed into a wall. Eloy is 6’4″ and 240; by comparison Roquan Smith is 6’1″ and 230, and padded up when runs full steam into things. Eloy takes a very tall frame to the limit and gets himself into trouble because he hustles like a guy 6 inches shorter and 50 pounds lighter. His lunge to reach first base on a grounder? The landing is far less impactful for Danny Mendick at 5’10” 195 lbs. Eloy needs to take it back just a notch to stay healthy. And not foul it straight off his ankle. That helps.

Meanwhile, Robert has twice been downed running the bases. The recent groin injury is just a thing that happens to baseball players. The hip injury last year was a worry, but seemingly a freak thing. He was healthy in 2019 and 2020, and played through a thumb problem (also a common baseball thing) in 2018. Most players are banged up from time-to-time, but a fast guy with a sore leg is more noticeable than, say, a first baseman with the same thing. Meanwhile, for a team with a young core, there are old heads out there that will not stay healthy because guys in their 30’s just don’t do that. Jose Abreu, Josh Harrison and A.J. Pollack are all 34 or over. Expect them to have backs and hammys and groins all get tight and sore, because aging sucks. Yasmani Grandal is 33; for a catcher that is nearly geriatric and he can’t squat 140 games. Lance Lynn is 33 and not exactly a paragon of the human physical potential…anyone built like him over 30 has at least one knee that they vaguely remember not hurting. The fact that he took care of an issue now is better than in August. Guys like Giolito will catch a freak injury here and there. Guaranteed that Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech will take a funny stride on a pitch or try and put a little more body into a heater and end up needing a few starts off.

But when the team is scuffling, even otherwise minor, freak, and frankly expected injuries exacerbate the problem. The key with team health is being healthy at the end. Remember is 2005, the injuries to Dustin Hermanson and Joe Crede in the second half threatened the whole season. Crede came back from getting hit on the hand trying to bunt, and Hermanson’s bad back was saved by Bobby Jenks. But other than Hermanson, the team was at full strength down the stretch. By comparison, in 2008 the Sox lost Carlos Quentin at the end of the season and the team failed.

TONY LARUSSA HAS LOST IT. The old man ain’t what he used to be, or he’s having other issues whether they have dogged him in the past or not, or the game really had passed him up, the theories abound that AJ Hinch wouldn’t have let the team skid as hard as they have this year. But…no. On the April 26th episode of Sox in the Basement there’s a breakdown of managerial impact on a team. And Tony, historically anyway, was a guy who had favorable impacts. But then he hits Leury Garcia in the 3 hole after letting Dallas Keuchel get blown up by Cleveland and seems to give a game away to Byron Buxton. After the KC game on the 27th, the 8th straight loss, Tony’s post game comments about the team’s headspace shed some real light on what he’s doing. First off, he’s trying to quell the injury tide and also clearly trying to keep certain guys fresh, like Yasmani Grandal. He’s also maybe too enamored with Reese McGuire’s work behind the plate, but it is really hard to blame him for that. The team is now missing, or has at times missed, it’s top two starting pitchers, two top relievers, its starting shortstop (suspensions), all three starters in the outfield, briefly the starting DH/OF, its starting 3B, and its starting 2B. What’s left is Jake Burger, who has hit ok, but not fielded all that well; too much Leury Garcia, who is clearly trying to prove that the contract is justified and that he should be starting and isn’t doing anything of the sort as a result; Danny Mendick and Adam Haseley being in starting lineups in Chicago instead of Charlotte; taxing the bullpen because Vince Velasquez, Jimmy Lambert, and Dallas Keuchel are struggling to get to the 5th inning; and a team that expected to beat everyone all the time this year and is now doing exactly what talented Sox teams have done in the past: pressed until they appear to have forgotten how to play the game.

Enter the year 1984, where LaRussa watched a team with high expectations struggle and had his starters all regress (except Rich Dotson and newcomer Tom Seaver) as well as key hitters like Rudy Law, Ron Kittle and Carlton Fisk fall off a bit. In 2006, the Sox tried real hard to be repeat champs but failed to repeat doing the little things that won them games in 2005. That falls on players more than the manager. Tony making absurd lineups and putting guys in positions now that makes fans wonder what he’s doing, when there’s a broader view, smacks of a guy that knows his players know that they need to be better but there’s nothing that can be said to them to make it so. So Tony tries to jump start the team with backups playing in big games and trusting his guys to perform. Still, if you know Liam Hendriks is tipping his pitches and Byron Buxton is up, there’s something to be said for walking him and pitching to Luis Arraez. But there’s also, after the anger subsides, a moment of wondering if Liam Hendriks shakes off giving up a homer to a star player easier than having the manager walk the guy because he thinks Liam can’t get it done.

If there isn’t any patience amongst Sox fans, there maybe should be at least a tinge of trusting that Tony knows the players more intimately than fans do. This isn’t intended as apologetic for LaRussa helming an 8-game skid, because legit hall of fame baseball guys shouldn’t have that happen in a presumed championship-seeking season, but also the players have been bad. Bad bad. That’s hard to fix in a lineup card, and there’s only so many speeches that can be given.

VIDEOTAPE DON’T LIE. Yeah, the “tape” thing is a bit dated, but watching this team there’s no secret why they aren’t winning. They just look like a group that can’t execute and can’t find their way back to where they can. Tim Anderson’s head isn’t where it needs to be; he’s back to rushing plays in the field and making errors where he had been able to control that in recent years. That leads to him trying to do too much at the plate, instead of what he had been doing the past two seasons and just taking what the pitcher gives him and moving the lineup along. TA is trying to completely win the game on every play and at-bat instead of just doing his part to play a winning game. Jake Burger is trying to make the team, and is fumbling in the field a bit and not as confident as he’s been at the plate in the past. Leury Garcia is clearly pressing to justify his contract and quiet the chorus of haters. They aren’t taking pitches and waiting for their pitch. Guys are swinging for three run homers with no one on. They aren’t focusing on fundamentals. Some guys, like A.J. Pollock, look rusty after time off. Robert and Jimenez were swinging at garbage before getting hurt. Jose is every bit as slow starting as ever. Liam Hendriks is tipping his pitches by how far from his glove he separates his pitching hand during his delivery. Dallas Keuchel has lost all ability to pitch effectively, or understand that he has maybe lost the ability to pitch effectively. Gavin Sheets is hitting singles away from the shift instead of homers and doubles. Aaron Bummer isn’t getting ground balls, leaving his pitches up where they are getting tagged. Really, the only position player who is playing as well as he can is Andrew Vaughn, who will continue to be nothing special in left field but is hitting like his pedigree suggests. Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech are meeting expectations as starters, while the bullpen has been better in some ways due to the work of Jose Ruiz, Matt Foster and Tanner Banks to go with Kendall Graveman. But there are also plenty of guys getting shelled, as Bennett Sousa, Anderson Severino, Kyle Crick and Reynaldo Lopez have left very hittable pitches over the plate in key moments, when they aren’t walking guys, and can’t put anyone away with a K. Vince Velasquez is exactly what he was last year for the Phillies, which is an unfortunate instance of a player meeting expectations. It doesn’t take a grizzled baseball veteran to watch this team and see 28 guys that look incredibly lost.

The real frustration for fans is that some of these things, like the back end of the rotation, felt like they were an iceberg that should have been seen sitting in the waters ahead. Some things, like Liam Hendriks and Jose Abreu starting off poorly, are things that fans forget by the end of the year and are reminded of in stunningly painful fashion. And some things, like Leury Garcia, are eternal. But as has been noted time an again, baseball is a game that will humble a team from time to time, and better to reminded in April that even talented teams can suck eggs than be reminded again in the playoffs. The season being over is a lie, and none of this will make the year-end videotape. Reset the now to then, and hope that then isn’t now because what happens now and then and then again isn’t necessarily what’s happening soon. Then again…now is the time.

Featured Image: @whitesox/Twitter

Mismatched Sox: What the Health!?

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 fortune cookies can be funny. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult an old hermit and ask if this blog is right for you.

Prescription? Pain!!!! Sox logo TM MLB and Chicago White Sox.

Adam Engel. Eloy Jimenez. Jace Fry. Tim Anderson. Billy Hamilton. Dylan Cease. Lance Lynn. Luis Robert. Garrett Crochet. Luis Robert again. Michael Kopech. Andrew Vaughn. Billy Hamilton, again. Nick Madrigal. Adam Eaton. Adam Engel, again. Jake Lamb. Evan Marshall. Aaron Bummer. Yasmani Grandal. Billy Hamilton, again. Carlos Rodon. Leury Garcia. Adam Engel, again. Lance Lynn. Tim Anderson, again. Lucas Giolito. Andrew Vaughn, again. Ryan Tepera. Brian Goodwin. Yoan Moncada. Ryan Burr. Lance Lynn. Garrett Crochet. Yermin Mercedes. Joe Kelly. Lucas Giolito. AJ Pollock.

For those counting up there, that’s 38 instances of a White Sox player being placed on the IL since the start of the 2021 season. That doesn’t count moving the likes of Robert and Marshall from the 10-day to the 60-day, or minor league injuries like Jonathan Stiever, or scares like Eloy getting an ankle burger or Josh Harrison getting a tight back. That’s just 38 times that the White Sox had to move a guy to the IL. Sure, AJ Pollock is really on paternity leave and evidently Billy Hamilton is made of glass, but the fact is that there have been 38 trips to the IL by White Sox in just over a season of baseball. Surely that’s an unacceptable number? Especially when the reigning World Series Champion Braves have had…31 trips to the injured list in that same time frame. Or the AL Champion Astros, who had…47?? Wow.

The Injury Problem

Much has been made of the injury bug to start the season and much has been made of the “had that guy been healthy all year” what-ifs for 2021. The fact is, that the health issues aren’t so much a rampaging pile of hurts that is running roughshod over the White Sox, its something else entirely. To quote the legendary skipper of the Cleveland (at the time)
Indians, Lou Brown: “I gotta guy on the other line asking about some white walls.”

Wrong quote. Sorry. To quote the legendary skipper of the Cleveland (at the time) Indians, Lou Brown (while naked) (him, not me): “Over 162 games and even tough guys get strains… Sore arms… Muscle pulls…“.

What has hurt the White Sox isn’t that they have had injuries – it is that the injuries come at bad times and to key players. Re-read the list. Going into May, 75%-100% of the team’s top four projected outfielders had been on the IL or were still on it. Eloy had torn his pec in spring, Luis had the hip flexor, Engel had all sorts of problems, and Adam Eaton was hurt and stunk. Even the emergency guys, like Andrew Vaughn, Jake Lamb, and Billy Hamilton were getting hurt. That’s one position that is strapped for live bodies. Conversely, while the pitching staff was more or less fine through the first half, only losing Evan Marshall and Jace Fry for any real time, by the stretch run Lucas Giolito, Lance Lynn, Ryan Tepera and Carlos Rodon were nursing injuries ranging from hamstrings and lacerated fingers, to knee problems and shoulder problems. Nick Madrigal’s hamstring alone launched more angsty tweets than the renewed threat of nuclear war.

Even though the Sox are far from alone in dealing with injury, it remains a problem. After all, remember how in 2005 there were no major injuries? Besides Frank? And Dustin Hermanson? And El Duque? And Joe Crede? Nevermind. A problem is a problem, and the White Sox can ill afford a repeat of last year, when clearly injury was the reason the Astros handled them in the ALDS. Ummm… maybe ignore this paragraph.

Even though the Sox are far from alone in dealing with injury, they can’t afford too many at once or losing a star again. And, sure, the Sox are far from alone there, but in this case the concern is magnified because they are in a championship contention window and windows are dangerous. They could fall out of the window, cut themselves on a broken pane, have the window fall shut on them, or have it open in the weather and catch a nasty cold. More likely, a team that had been given up for dead like the Guardians can snipe them from the window if the Sox aren’t careful. To quote their legendary manager Lou Brown: “Forget the curveball Ricky. Give ’em the heater.”

The Solution

So what can the Sox do to fix this issue?

1. Fire the training staff. This is, of course, an idea that is fraught with potential problems. Firing an entire staff and replacing them on the fly is bound to leave a gap in coverage. Plus, there’s a chance that whoever gets hired will be worse. In the likely fictional but possibly real town of Springfield, where the Simpson family has experienced bizarre time anomalies and jaundice since 1989, there’s but two medical practitioners in Dr. Julius Hibbard and Dr. Nick Riviera. The lesser is a massive drop off in skill if not a bump in charm. The Sox have plenty of charm already. Maybe the training staff is fine. Maybe the Sox need something…better.

2. Hire “Golden Gorger” Suntunavick, a high level cleric of legendary status, a healer, a Deep Gnome of Svirfneblin. Supposedly there’s a great story about the Svirfneblin city-state of Blingdenstone, ruled by a monarch named King Schnicktick, and the plight of the Deep Gnomes. This level of magic and potential for supernatural protection of the White Sox players and any adventurers Jerry Reinsdorf has in the field is an advantage that the team should take. Why they haven’t before is unclear…though…evidently this is a Dungeons and Dragons character and totally fictional so that’s out.

3. Lucky Charms. Not the typically crowd-pleasing breakfast confectionery cereal, though that couldn’t hurt. Rabbit’s feet are kind of cruel, so not those. Everyone can’t wear the number 7. Four leaf clovers are rare, and there are very few anecdotes as to whether genetically engineering them removes the beneficial properties. There are horseshoes, but where lucky people are said to have them would make running awfully difficult. And they already have hamstring issues.

4. Prayer. When combined with thoughts, many people on social media view this as a cure all for everything from a sub-par brunch to a genocidal act of war. Certainly the mental powers at play could keep AJ Pollock’s hamstrings supple for 135 games. Of course, brunches remain sub-par and war remains hell, so…

5. Depth and managerial strategy sufficient to keep players rested and fresh for the whole season. Wait, really? Have bench players that can take the pressure off of starters with an eye towards the playoffs? Rest veterans while relying the positional versatility so craved by the front office that they perhaps overpaid for a utility guy and technically signed a career utility guy to be a starter? Be thankful that an ace pitcher’s knee is being repaired in April when a castoff like Vince Velasquez can catch a team still scuffling out of the gate? It’ll never work.

Really, the Sox seemingly never-ending injury woes are bad luck only to the extent that they lampoon a playoff spot like the 2001 White Sox losing Frank Thomas, James Baldwin, Jim Parque, and David Wells for much of the season. Or cause a playoff team to be compromised in the playoffs, like Carlos Quentin taking a big piece of the 2008 team’s offense with him when he broke his wrist and missed the playoffs. Lucas Giolito missing a few starts is probably a good thing in the long run, and figure Dylan Cease and Michael Kopech to take a 2-start breather at some point too. Lance Lynn in the best shape he can be in come October is a good thing, so long as the Sox don’t pile up the losses in his absence (early results are good). AJ Pollock has always been a guy that gets a tweaked this and a twinge there, but if he misses games sporadically from April-July, that just means Adam Engel getting ABs and Andrew Vaughn/Gavin Sheets getting some OF reps. So far, they have had some notable IL stints, but by all accounts Pollock is fine, Giolito is mostly precautionary, Lynn is on schedule if not ahead of schedule, and Moncada has been well covered by Josh Harrison and Jake Burger. Joe Kelly at least came pre-injured, so there’s that courtesy, but when he’s healthy he’ll simply replace, say, Matt Foster. Upgrade!

Now isn’t the time to panic over health. That time may come of course, but not yet. To quote the legendary skipper of the Cleveland (at the time) Indians, Lou Brown: “I love this s#%t, I may move to England.”

Sorry. Wrong quote…

Follow us @SoxInTheBasemnt for more updates throughout the season!

Featured Image: Bally Sports

Mismatched Sox: Stacking Up the Sox

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 but not as funny as the criminally underrated UHF. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult a shady veterinarian and ask if this blog is right for you.

A Twinkie Weiner Sandwich. Because posting this is better than posting an actual Minnesota Twins picture. And this hits better than Gary Sanchez

On the precipice of the new season, on the edge of the cliffs of insanity that some fans seem hellbent on either diving off of or throwing Rick Hahn off of, it is time to look at where the team stands in relation to the rest of the league, position by position. Notably, if you are on the edge of the cliffs, it is not recommended from a legal standpoint that you commit a massive felony by throwing anyone over, no matter how much you think they should have given Carlos that qualifying offer; and theologically jumping may have greater eternal ramifications than Vince Velasquez making double-digit starts this year. Besides, when broken down to the very pieces of the puzzle, it may not be all that bad. That said, Lance Lynn better get that knee rehab going ASAP.

It is also fairly certain that there will not be any impact additions to the teams after the date of publication. There will be some grumpy notes about that below, rest assured. Or rest unassured. Or don’t rest, whether assured or not. Your choice, really.

For this exercise, the Sox are ranked against the possible AL playoff teams and the Dodgers and Braves. The Guardians, Angels, A’s, Orioles, and Rangers are left out of the AL picture because they are in some state of rebuild and/or have massive issues that will likely prevent them from being more than a possible spoiler down the stretch. The Guardians have a questionable offense and some questions in the rotation and bullpen. They have Shane Bieber, Aaron Civale, Zach Plesac and Emmanuel Clase, but beyond that there are questions. Offensively they are Jose Ramirez and a bunch of “let’s see what happens.” The A’s and Orioles have basically taken out a blimp ad that says they aren’t competing this year, and then lit the blimp on fire. The Rangers spent a metric ton of cash on Corey Seager and Marcus Semien, but the rotation is bad. Bad bad. The Angels have demons; they are wasting Trout and Ohtani by not including much rotation help other than a rehabbed Thor and Patrick Sandoval, and their lineup isn’t nearly what it should be outside Trout, Shohei and maybe Anthony Rendon. So that leaves Toronto, Tampa, Boston, the Yankees, the Twins, the Royals, the Tigers, the Mariners, and the Astros. The NL is looking up at the Dodgers as usual, and the Braves won it last year so they are included to make them feel better about losing Freddie Freeman to the Dodgers. The Mets? Screw ’em. Actually, with the Mets they could contend but the Dodgers and the reigning champs seem like good barometers for the NL side.

Now, let’s rank the White Sox, position-by-position:

Rotation: Toronto over Seattle over Houston over White Sox over Tampa over Detroit over Boston over Minnesota over KC over NYY.

Toronto has a loaded rotation, with the strengths being the sheer depth 1 through 5 of Berrios, Ryu, Gausman, Manoah, and Kikuchi. Seattle has talent to spare, as they have some guys in waiting but Chris Flexen and Marco Gonzales might be shaky behind Robbie Ray. Houston is relying on a return from Justin Verlander, but should also have Lance McCullers back even though the rotation doesn’t need him at the start. The Sox get the benefit of Giolito, Cease, and Kopech being utterly electric at their best, even though the back end is suspect until Lynn returns, and Kopech will be heavily rested. Tampa, like life, finds a way. Detroit has some risers in Tarik Skubal and Casey Mize and a sneaky veteran in Eduardo Rodriguez. From there, it falls off into patchwork rotations that are limited at the top and questionable throughout, like Boston where Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale are not givens in any year and the Yankees where Gerritt Cole is surrounded by very little. Or the Twins, who have Sonny Gray, Chris Paddack, and Kenta Maeda who were great a couple years ago and are lead by Joe Ryan, who’s low-90’s fastball profile suggests he shouldn’t ever get an MLB hitter out. The Royals have promise and the shambling corpse of Zack Greinke, who relies on guile and savvy as a nice way of saying his arm isn’t really great anymore.

Versus the NL: Sox over Braves over Dodgers. Saayyy whaaaaa..? At full strength the Sox have a top 4, with Giolito, Cease, Lynn and Kopech. The Braves have Max Fried, Charlie Morton, Ian Anderson and a bevy of youth that project well but haven’t done it. The Dodgers have Walker Buehler, Julio Urias and the end of Clayton Kershaw followed by…guys.

Verdict: Sox fans are right to want more help; maybe Johnny Cueto is the answer, or maybe by June Lance Lynn will be joined by another hired gun. In the meantime, the best hope is that Kevin Gausman is back to bad away from the Bay, that Houston has a problem with injuries and age, that Seattle’s veterans are in fact shaky, and that Tampa doesn’t find a way to make Corey Kluber into his former self.

Bullpen: White Sox over NYY over Houston over Tampa over Minnesota over Toronto over Seattle over Detroit over Boston over KC. The well-projected foursome of Hendriks, Bummer, Graveman, and Kelly make this a Sox winner. Kelly won’t start the year, but that’s ok, in part because Kyle Crick might be a sleeper this year the way Carlos Rodon was last year. Tanner Banks, Jose Ruiz…really whoever is there with those guys will need to eat middle innings more than be relied on for high-leverage moments. But Banks is another guy that could surprise. Meanwhile, the Yankees are deep, but Aroldis is aging rapidly at the end. Houston is pretty solid in the bullpen as they have been in recent years, and Tampa is always finding random arms that somehow work. Toronto’s pen wasn’t great last year and hasn’t been upgraded in any massive way, and even the Twins who aren’t exactly a huge threat overall just traded closer Taylor Rogers and have some talent backing him up. Seattle, Detroit, Boston and KC have closer questions.

Versus the NL: Sox over Dodgers over Braves. The Braves bullpen is good. The Dodgers bullpen is good, but they swapped Joe Kelly for Craig Kimbrel soooo…yeah. The Sox ‘pen just has the firepower at the back end.

Verdict: Losing Garrett Crochet hurt, but the Sox had a lot of talent there to begin with. Liam Hendriks alone makes up for a lot.

Right Field: Houston over Seattle over White Sox over KC over NYY over Tampa over Toronto over Minnesota over Detroit over Boston. Kyle Tucker of the Astros is a really good player. Like star player. Like he’s the only real star on this list and then the rest are just really good to meh. Mitch Haniger is a very solid player, very much like AJ Pollack, and very much like Whit Merrifield, well-rounded veterans that will just flat out help their teams. Joey Gallo is a sneaky good defender and has power, but might not hit other than home runs. Randy Arozarena isn’t as great as his rookie year antics made it seem he could be, even though he is a guy that could rise up the list. Teoscar Hernandez is a 30-year-old that is still being talked about as having untapped potential, which isn’t a great sign, but that potential is better than the Max Kepler/Robbie Grossman/JBJ grouping at the bottom.

Versus the NL: Dodgers over Braves over Sox. Mookie Betts and Eddie Rosario versus AJ Pollack…Betts is the best bet while Rosario’s power is more rosy than Pollack’s all-around game.

Verdict: AJ Pollack makes the Sox acceptable in a position that really doesn’t have many bright shiny stars. They’re good, and if Vaughn or Sheets ever finds another gear they…no…let’s not. The Sox are fine, moving on.

Center Field: White Sox over Minnesota over Seattle over Toronto over Boston over Tampa over NYY over Detroit over KC over Houston. Luis Robert is matched in talent on the Twins maybe by Byron Buxton, who in real life plays the Samuel L. Jackson role in “Unbreakable”. Seattle will roll out top prospect Julio Rodriguez, and George Springer if he’s healthy will be his usual star in Toronto. From there it gets meh. Kiké Hernández is good but not great, as is a healthy Aaron Hicks in NY. Kevin Kiermaier is not as good as Tampa makes him seem, but he’s fine. Riley Greene getting hurt in Detroit knocks them down, while Michael, A Taylor and Chas, A McCormick are literally just examples of men with those last names.

Versus the NL: Sox over Braves over Dodgers. Ronald Acuna Jr., healthy, is a monster. So is Luis Robert. They could be the MVPs of their respective leagues. Meanwhile, Cody Bellinger is just an absolute headcase at this point and is more liable to vanish into a cosmic singularity on a 2-1 count than he is to go deep on that same count. Condolences to him and his family.

Verdict: Appreciate Luis Robert while he’s here. Because he’s the guy you tell future generations you saw play…ya know…before Cody Bellinger tore the space-time continuum on a 3-2 count against Art Warren of the Reds and we ended up in a parallel universe where baseball can’t exist.

Left Field: NYY over White Sox over Houston over Seattle over Detroit over Minnesota over Toronto over Boston over Tampa over KC. Eloy Jimenez and Aaron Judge are cut from the same cloth, but Eloy needs to put together more of a complete outfit…well…season anyway. The dude can dress. Michael Brantley is still a good player, if not aged a bit, while Seattle has Jessie Winker who may have benefited from the Great American Ballpark too much. Detroit’s Akil Baddoo has all sorts of potential but could bust too, as is the case with the Twins’ Alex Kirilloff who has battled injuries more than pitchers. Lourdes Gurriel and Alex Verdugo are untapped potential at this point. Meanwhile, Andrew Benintendi and Manny Margot just aren’t all that good.

Versus the NL: Sox over Braves over Dodgers. Eloy is heads and shoulders over the formerly good Marcell Ozuna, who has some things to prove, and the Dodgers’ Chris Taylor, who is Leury Garcia with the ability to track a flyball.

Verdict: Eloy, as much as anyone, is a guy that can and should carry the White Sox to a championship. He’s a misadventure in the field at times, but his bat was just scratching the surface in 2019 and 2020. There aren’t many better than him. Just keep him in some bubble wrap and let Robert and Pollack catch everything.

Shortstop: Toronto over White Sox over Boston over Tampa over Minnesota over Seattle over Detroit over Houston over NYY over KC. Tim Anderson’s probably not better than Xander Boegarts under certain metrics, and Wander Franco might prove to be better than both of them, but TA is more than just his bat and glove to the Sox. So there’s the one sentimental bump in the list…maybe. Frankly, Anderson and the rest are looking up offensively at Bo Bichette, who is potentially on a different level. Carlos Correa is somewhat expected to backslide a bit in leaving Houston, but is still much better than the remainder of the list, and that includes the rookie Jeremy Pena that has the job in Houston. JP Crawford is decent in Seattle, Alberto Mondesi is indecent in KC, Isaiah Kiner-Falafa is ok, and Javy Baez is still fun to watch in the field but is a massive tease at the plate. If Bobby Witt Jr. takes the Royals gig eventually, he shuffles the deck a bit here but not enough to unseat Bichette or TA.

Versus the NL: Dodgers and Sox over Braves. Trea Turner and TA are the same guy in a lot of ways, with Turner maybe better on the basepaths than TA, but TA maybe a hair better at the plate. Turner did have the slickest slide in MLB history, but TA walked his team off in a cornfield. Take your pick. Meanwhile, they are both better than Dansby Swanson, who, based on name alone, should have remained a tertiary character in an early 1900’s novel.

Verdict: Tim Anderson is a stud in a field of studs. Drop all these shortstops in a field and throw a stud finder in there, it’ll explode from being torn in too many directions. The Sox are very well-manned at short, but there are a few guys out there that can meet his talent or beat it.

Third Base: Houston over NYY over Boston over White Sox over Toronto over KC over Minnesota over Tampa over Seattle over Detroit. Yoan Moncada of 2019 might merit consideration over Alex Bregman, Josh Donaldson and Rafael Devers. But Yoan of 2020-2021 is a guy that isn’t what he should be from a power standpoint and maybe an average standpoint. Matt Chapman’s glove is all-universe but his bat fell off after hip problems started. Witt Jr. is the top prospect in the game, which at least should count for something over the likes of Gio Urshela, Yandy Diaz, Eugenio Suarez or Jaimer Candelario. If 3B in KC is Mondesi, to the bottom of the pile they be.

Versus the NL: Dodgers over Sox over Braves. Justin Turner might be losing steps but he’s still reliable when he’s on the field. Moncada should be better than him, ultimately, but he needs to crack 20 homers again. Meanwhile, Austin Riley is strong, but could be due for some regression as last year he seemed out over his skis.

Verdict: Yoan Moncada should be higher on these lists, and could be by the end of the year. He’s still the best pop star of the entire list by a mile.

Second Base: Houston over Tampa over Boston over White Sox over Seattle over Minnesota over Detroit over NYY over KC over Toronto. Jose Altuve remains among the best in the business, whether or not he has a nice set of cans at hand. Brandon Lowe had a bad start to 2021 but recovered, while Trevor Story is swapping positions and may find life at sea level to be a downer. Josh Harrison and Jorge Polanco serve the same role, with Polanco falling back to Earth after injuries and the jettisoning of the happy fun ball. Jonathon Schoop is serviceable, but there’s a falloff to Gleyber Torres, Nicky Lopez and whatever remains of Cavan Biggio’s once-promising talent.

Versus the NL: Braves over Dodgers over Sox. Ozzie Albies is a stud, Max Muncy is as well if his health is there. Harrison is fine, he’s a professional player in every sense but not a star. He’s better than Gavin Lux, if that’s where the Dodgers go more often this season.

Verdict: Josh Harrison has no intention of killing the White Sox season, and likely won’t, but isn’t special or potentially special. Could be better, was almost a lot worse.

First Base: Toronto over White Sox over NYY over Houston over Detroit over Seattle over Boston over Tampa over Minnesota over KC. Well, there’s not much chance of being better than Vlad Jr. Holy smokes is that guy the man. But Jose Abreu remains a steady run producer and role model. Anthony Rizzo and Yuli Gurriel are pretty close to that, though Gurriel hasn’t really been mentioned as being on Pito’s level and Rizzo’s back has aged him more rapidly than expected. Spencer Torkelson should be a ROY candidate, while guys like Ty France, Bobby Dalbec, Miguel Sano, and Ji Man Choi have lower ceilings. Carlos Santana has faded more dramatically than the field and might be better only due to a dead cat bounce. Meowch.

Versus the NL: Dodgers over Braves over Sox. By slim margins, maybe, but Freddie Freeman is at the top of his game, Matt Olson is on the rise, and Jose is on the decline. Pito isn’t likely to see a massive improvement, but Olson could take another step for sure and Freeman might have another gear.

Verdict: Jose Abreu is the man, but there are others who are more the man these days. The Sox remain in good hands for another year.

Catcher: White Sox over KC over the rest. The White Sox sport the best or just about the best catcher in baseball and the Royals have the best or just about the best catcher in baseball too. Yas Grandal and Sal Perez are hard to top, and Perez is coming off a career year. The Twins have Ryan Jeffers and Yankee castoff Gary Sanchez, who was known for his bat but is now a DH who can’t hit. The Yankees, Houston, Seattle and Boston are mainly defense over offense behind the plate. Detroit and Toronto are younger and maybe…maybe can improve with that edge going to Toronto. The Mariners could also ditch Tom Murphy for better hitting Luis Torrens or all around prospect Cal Raleigh and move up.

Versus the NL: Sox and Dodgers over Braves. Will Smith is slap your mouth good, even though it isn’t that Will Smith. Travis D’Arnaud is a guy that should have been better at this point but can’t stay healthy.

Verdict: The Sox are at the top, or near it, or sharing it. Either way they can’t do much better.

Designated Hitter: NYY over Houston over Toronto over Boston over Detroit over White Sox over Seattle over Tampa over Minnesota over KC. Giancarlo Stanton…Yordan Alvarez…these are among the best hitters in the game. Alejandro Kirk has the contact skills to be a menace for the Jays, while JD Martinez and Miguel Cabrera are wrapping up great careers. From there, the Vaughn/Sheets two headed monster is among the remaining group of committees that will DH.

Versus the NL: Sox over Dodgers over Braves. Vaughn and Sheets versus the benches of the Braves and Dodgers. The DH position isn’t yet a strong suit in the NL.

Verdict: Until Vaughn or Sheets really gets established, there will be better options on other teams, but there aren’t a bevy of traditional DHs still floating around. At least Andrew and Gavin have prospect pedigrees that suggest, respectively, a star hitter and a lefty power bank.

Position by position, the White Sox have the best or among the best bullpen, center field, left field, shortstop, and catcher, with middlin’ rankings for the rotation, right field, DH and the infield. There should have been better news in the rotation, given that Toronto built theirs through free agency and the depth for Seattle and Houston come from a farm system that the Sox haven’t replicated. First base, right field and second base are held down by solid veterans for the Sox, while DH is where the youth may be an X-Factor.

All in all, the Sox stand up very well to the main competition, but the rotation’s precarious nature is a concern. At least most teams aren’t that deep either, and most teams don’t have the thunder the Sox have. The Sox need the Jays’ bullpen to falter, the Astros to have some fall off, and things to go right to advance in the playoffs.

Without delving into any other advanced analytics, what PECOTA and other predictors say about the Sox having a 70%-80% is probably lowballing a bit, but still makes it likely that the Sox have a third straight postseason in them. What they do there is the proverbial Twinkie Wiener Sandwich, either amazing or terrible with no in between.

Follow us @SoxInTheBasemnt for more updates as the season begins!

Featured Image: White Sox / Twitter

Mismatched Sox: White Sox Knock Knocks!

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 but will still keep Will Smith’s wife’s name outta its mouth. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult a dermatologist and ask if this blog is right for you.

You can buy the pennant here: but the rest can live in your head free.

So Spring Training is going on, and while the temptation is to analyze roster battles and discuss whether the Adam Haseley trade is a precursor to trading Craig Kimbrel for Juan Soto, there’s no need to because that is absurd and the fate of Danny Mendick is not all that important.

So instead of any of that, here’s a bunch of potentially terrible Sox-themed knock knock jokes.


Tony LaRussa: Who’s there?

Knocker: A White Sox fan!

TLR: A White Sox fan who thinks what exactly about Michael Conforto?

Knocker: uhhh..he’d be a nice addi-

TLR (eyes closed, fingers in ears): there’s no fan there its not real its not real its not real its not real its not real its not real


Who’s there?

Andrew B. Vaughn!

Andrew B. Vaughn who?

Andrew Be Vaughn for a few weeks on the IL but he’ll catch you when he gets back! Maybe…


Who’s there?

Leury Garcia

Leury Garcia wh-

LG: I am here because I am always here. I have always been here and will be here forevermore. I am all that has been White Sox, and all that will be. The Legend…is forever.


Who’s there?

Jake Burger

Jake Burger who?

Jake Burger who has a bunch of puns about his name! Like after that hat incident, I’m a Jake Burger who is medium well. Or, A Jake Burger who is done on that side and should be turned. Or, Jake Burger was cooked but at least his buns weren’t burnt. Is this too much cheese with this Jake Burger?

Yeah, also you’re a Jake Burger that is probably going to Charlotte for more seasoning.

You’re supposed to enjoy a Jake Burger, not kick it.


Lucas Giolito: Who’s there?

Rick Hahn with a contract extension!

Lucas: No hablo Inglés.


Rick Hahn: Who’s there?

Lucas Giolito! Funny story man, we’re only $50K apart in the arb-

Rick Hahn: Ich spreche kein Englisch*

*German for No hablo Inglés.


Who’s there?

Will Smith

Wait..really? Why?

I’m just going to door to door making sure her name isn’t in your mouth. Get back to whatever you were doing.


Tony LaRussa: Who’s there?

Adam Haseley. I’m the outfielder that was just traded here from the Phillies.

TLR: Did the fake fans send you?

AH: Ummm…what? There’s no fans here just me.

TLR: Real fans know that you aren’t needed here.

AH: But, like, Rick called me and said that I should report to you.

TLR: We have guys in camp that can handle it.

AH: I’m better than Blake Rutherford.

TLR: We all are, that checks out. Come in but don’t bring any fans with. The real ones will shun you for not having been in camp already.


Who’s there?

Craig Kimbrel

Ok, but should you be there?

CK: I wasn’t expecting to be, but I am.

I guess come in.

CK: Ok but I’ll need help.


CK: Opening doors isn’t an issue but since I’ve been here I really can’t shut the door on anyone.


Yermin Mercedes: Who’s there?

Yer broken hand.

YM: My broken hand who?

Yer broken hand that is going to pretty much kill this season for you.

YM: Yermin I won’t be in Chicago anytime soon?

Yeah, and Tony sent this note.

YM: Tony! What do Yermin breaking my hand is also breaking an unwritten rule of baseball?


Dallas Keuchel: Who’s there?

Five Earned Runs

DK: Who? What? The game hasn’t even started…

5 Earnies: Buddy, don’t act surprised. You know we came to a bunch of your starts last year. Shall we set up in the 3rd and 4th innings?


Who’s there?

Michael Conforto!

Michael Conforto who?

I’ll only answer that if you give me over $100 million and forfeit a draft pick.

How many places have you tried this?



Who’s there?

Nick Madrigal!


Nah it’s just me, Craig Kimbrel. And the five earned runs from Dallas’ joke. They follow me a lot too.

Leave and close the door behind you.

Kimbrel: I can’t.


Who’s there?

Vince Velasquez


VV: Don’t you mean who?



Who’s there?

A World Series Victory

A World Series Victory who?

A World Series Victory who better be won this year or next year because after that key players are out of contract and some of them are in no way shape or form saying with the team because of their likely salary demands or age or both and with a weakened farm system and increasingly overpaid free agents the team will struggle to replace some of that talent if they can at all.


Who’s there?

Daryl Boston.

Daryl Boston wh-

DB: I am here because I am always here. I have always been here and will be here forevermo-

I’m gonna stop you DB, Leury did that gag already.

Leury: And now I have seen my future incarnate and he is glorious!!

DB: And I have seen your outfield defense and it isn’t.


Who’s there?

Miller Lite

Thanks but we-

MILLER LITE IS the one who knocks…


Tony LaRussa: Who’s there?

You Know

TLR: You Know who?

You know who is supposed to be starting in RF? You presently have 16 guys standing on the field and the ump is getting pissed.

TLR: If the ump was a real fan he’d know they can handle it.


Who’s there?


Yas who?

Bless you.


Who’s there?


Boo who?

These jokes were terrible but please don’t cry.

Follow us @SoxInTheBasemnt for more updates!

Featured Image: Chris Robertson/

Mismatched Sox: Position, Heal Thyself

As the White Sox finally take the field in spring training, and fans finally get to complain about more normal things like the inability of the team to pay an extra $50,000 to Lucas Giolito…wAIT WHAT?

Look, much like any long term relationship there are things that need to be expected that will honk you off. Nickels being tossed like manhole covers at 35th and Shields is the ear-shattering sleep apnea of getting into bed with the White Sox. Notwithstanding the team-record payroll, which is the ONE TIME the dishes were done without asking.

That is a digression. The real headline is that barring moves made at the end of the spring, which could happen, the team is on the field. That was an old Rick line though, wasn’t this year something along the lines of an assurance that the team would be better at the start of the season? Sounds familiar.

Better than last year was the presumption. Hitting the team up position by position, let’s see if they are better than 2021.


Last year it was Yasmani Grandal flanked by Zack Collins, with Seby Zavala getting reps when Yas was hurt. There was at least one appearance by Yermin Mercedes but that was inconsequential. This year, Yas returns! But the backup backstops are…oh. Collins, Zevala, Mercedes, and minor leaguers Carlos Perez and Xavier Fernandez. Perez and Fernandez aren’t exactly exciting prospects, though Xavier was once thought of as a guy that could push Sal Perez to DH more. Yeah, that Sal Perez. Really. Figure, though, that Collins will back up Grandal. So it isn’t better, unless Yas stays healthy all year and Collins suddenly becomes everything he was supposed to be. So, no…not better at all. But Grandal remains a Top-5 catcher so there’s no need to be too worried.


Last year it was Jose Abreu with guys like Jake Lamb, Gavin Sheets and Andrew Vaughn spelling him. This year it’ll be all those guys except Jake Lamb. There could be some Grandal sightings there too. Frankly, it wasn’t broken so there was no need to fix it, but is it better? No. In fact, Jose is another year into his slight decline but he doesn’t seem the type to let himself just absolutely fall off a cliff. So little cause to worry that it isn’t better, but hope for the same.


Last year it started great with Nick Madrigal getting better as he went, until his leg just exploded. Then it was a problem. Cesar Hernandez, who was previously a decent all around player, had morphed into a sellout for power and didn’t hit for any power as Madrigal’s replacement. Leury Garcia reminded everyone that he isn’t great there, Andrew Vaughn played there for some reason, and at season’s end Romy Gonzalez looked like a guy that was up too early. This year, Josh Harrison is here to help. Help the fact that there is a giant gaping hole where tiny Nick Madrigal used to be. Is it better? Better than the trash fire that was there at season’s end, sure. Harrison is still a good all around player, if not much more than perfectly cromulent. Better than 2021 overall? No. The only way it gets better is if someone takes the reins and has a career year; either a late career bounce from Harrison, an emergence from Leury as a viable everyday player, a position change for Jake Burger or Andrew Vaughn, or the position being outlawed.


Yoan Moncada was there, Yoan Moncada is here. Yoan Moncada is the only one who can make this better. The problem is that there’s no telling whether he’ll rebound to 2019 or if 2021 was more telling. Jake Burger isn’t taking this over from him, nor is Andrew Vaughn who also played there.


There are better shortstops than Tim Anderson, but not many. Here’s to his continued health and prosperity.


Eloy Jimenez will actually make this better!! Because he won’t miss a big chunk of time!! RIGHT??? That failed attempt at being menacing aside, Eloy defensively remains a misadventure waiting to happen but his bat in the lineup all year would greatly improve things. As would his power not being sapped by just coming off injury before the playoffs. Andrew Vaughn wasn’t terrible considering his rookie-ness and playing a brand new position, but absent those qualifiers he was kinda pretty bad. So consider this an upgrade by default.


Presuming that Luis Robert also remains healthy, and finds yet another level of greatness, this is an MVP candidate. That doesn’t get much better. But backing him up is either Adam Engel, who is also very good, or Leury Garcia, who is not. They could miss Billy Hamilton. But just a little. MVPantera!!!!


If there is one position on the team that was neglected more than 2B, this is it. Sure, last years’ plan was Adam Eaton and was terrible. Gavin Sheets and Andrew Vaughn deserve credit for trying to make themselves into viable outfielders to make the team. As fans, that is something to cheer on, and certainly both guys learning on the job means that they still could get better. But the ceiling is probably competent, not good. Fans would take Sheets or Vaughn just not doing whatever Tik Tok dance Leury did out there in Houston. But they also have bats to sort out. Vaughn has the talent, no doubt, but he didn’t produce nearly enough last year and the minor league track record is small and bland. Sheets produced power at a very solid clip, and lefty which is always cool. But he’s a platoon guy until he proves otherwise, and needs to show he’s the goods over a full season. Adam Engel remains in the mix, but other than the best non-Robert glove on the team, hard to say what he is. Optimism? Sheets plays about 120 games and cranks out 30 bombs, or Engel plays about 150 games and hits like he did in 2020 and the healthy parts of 2021, or Vaughn’s pedigree emerges at the plate and it turns out that he’s just a massively talented guy and makes himself a solid fielder because that’s what talented guys do: whatever they think they can do. Pessimism? Vaughn and Sheets look like two DH/1B types miscast as outfielders and Engel proves to be nothing more than a valuable 4th OF. Better? No. But of all the positions, the one that could surprise.


Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dallas Keuchel, Dylan Cease, and a battle between Reynaldo Lopez and Carlos Rodon is how the Sox entered last spring. At the time, Keuchel had a good 2020, Lynn had been great in 2019 and 2020, Giolito was the ace, Cease the up-and-comer, and Lopez/Rodon were dart throws. Since then, Lynn had a solid 2021 with a bad ending, Giolito remained the ace, Cease showed more but not enough, Keuchel was a massive disappointment, Lopez looked like his 2018 version and Rodon was a major stud that got hurt, again. And left. Lance Lynn, Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, and a battle between Reynaldo Lopez and Dallas Keuchel is how the Sox entered this spring. Kopech is now Cease, Cease needs to be Rodon without the spun sugar ligaments, Giolito and Lynn need to be themselves, while the battle between Dallas and Reylo is literally a battle to time travel back to better days. There’s no way the Sox rotation is improved unless Cease and Kopech exceed expectations and Giolito finds another gear. To expect Lopez to be the savior is maybe too much of a reach, even with his vision restored. To expect Keuchel and Lynn to get better in their dotage isn’t realistic. The fact that the minors are pretty barren isn’t helpful. Better? No. Worse? Maybe. Good? Yeah. Good enough to take the whole thing? (pouring very stiff drink)


The additions of Joe Kelly and Kendall Graveman are improvements over relying on Codi Heuer, Matt Foster or Evan Marshall (even as good as Marshall had been). Ryan Tepera was just a stand in for Evan Marshall at year’s end. Returning Garrett Crochet and Aaron Bummer is a good thing as they are as solid a lefty duo as the league has, although Tony and the staff need to learn how to position the infield around Bummer. Ahh…and then there’s Liam Hendriks. Wonderfully sweary and dominating closer. And then there’s the Maria from the Sound of Music in the pen: Craig Kimbrel. Cue the nuns in black Sox jerseys singing “How Do We Solve a Problem like Craig Kimbrel?” His tenure with the Sox has been just awful. His market is somewhere between non-existent and an embarrassment to Rick Hahn. If he finds himself and pitches well, he’s an asset. But if he continues to flail helplessly and look like powdered toast, he’s going to be an issue that hurts the team. Best case scenario? He’s the Shingo Takatsu of the team…like in 2005 when Shingo started the year terribly and by the end no one remembered he was on the roster that year. 31 games!! Did Rick make the bullpen better? Actually, yes. But there’s one guy that could change that. Vince Velasquez. Just kidding. It’s Kimbrel, and the nuns.


Last year there were veteran names like Lamb and Hamilton. This year the non-roster invitees are fewer in camp. But Leury and Josh Harrison are both established utility guys, that helps. Likely there will be one of Sheets or Engel there each game, and maybe a Danny Mendick. Younger perhaps? More flexible ideally? The bench may yet have a Billy or extra Jake on there, both were grabbed at the end of the spring. This one is TBD…but leaning towards better because of Harrison.

So for those keeping track, the team improved in one position during the offseason, the bullpen. Otherwise this is a better White Sox team than the one that we last saw getting bounced by Houston only by the grace of getting better health, minimal regression and maximum progression. For a team and fandom that needed a transfusion and some major wounds sewn up at the end of the year, settling for “rub some dirt on it and walk it off” isn’t ideal. But that’s where the team stands. Heal thyself…and be not like an unskilled doctor, fallen ill, who loses heart and cannot discover by which remedies to cure their own disease.

Follow us @SoxInTheBasemnt for more updates!

Featured Image: White Sox / Twitter

Mismatched Sox: A Primer On Being Mad At Rick Hahn

So, the lockout ends, Spring Training begins and hope is eternal throughout baseball except in Pittsburgh, and the social media universes surrounding the Chicago White Sox. At least, that’s how it appears to those within said areas. And whilst certainly, there are reasons in every MLB city to be mad at management, this isn’t where “Mismatched Twins” is questioning whether the Twins front office has a carbon monoxide leak given the trades that they’ve been making. Also, “Mismatched Twins” are known as “fraternal”. Just so something is learned through all this.

Nope, here in this chunk of internets the concern is at 35th and Shields, where Rick Hahn isn’t because he’s in Arizona. And he’s in the process of making the White Sox a better team than last year, except where they are kind of the same team as last year except with less Carlos Rodon.

So can White Sox fans be mad at Rick? Sure! There’s no emotion police…yet…

Is that anger being directed at Rick rational? Sure! But also, no!! So, for what it is worth, here’s the things that Sox fans can be mad at Rick about, and the things they really shouldn’t be mad about.


Craig Kimbrel being traded for a 2B (or not 2B). Yeah, you can’t be mad at Rick for not trading the guy. Mad that Rick traded for him? Sure, but that’s like, SOOOO last year. The rumor that everyone seemed to be sure was 100% real at the end of the 2021 season and before the lockout was that the Phillies were sending Jean Segura to the Sox for Kimbrel. Yeah, no. Segura is literally the only Phillies infielder that they can reasonably trust given that Didi Gregorious is living off of 4-year-old hype that he hasn’t sniffed, Alec Bohm disappointed in his sophomore year, and Rhys Hoskins is trying to injure every body part before he retires. But really, Kimbrel had maybe 2-3 teams that would benefit from his services versus what else was available, and among those teams only the Padres had a spare 2B in Adam Frazier, whom they instead traded for a setup guy. Rick has no real viable market for Kimbrel at the moment, until Kenley Jansen signs or a team’s closer inevitably yoinks his UCL into the ether.

Not Tendering the QO to Carlos Rodon. Rodon was undoubtedly the best pitcher the Sox had last year. In the first half. By the end of the year, he was back to what he had always been for the team: fighting off an injury and under performing expectations. Looking at Rodon’s whole career, the Sox knew exactly how to sum him up: unreliable. That’s why he was non-tendered after the 2020 season and re-signed for insanely cheap. The Sox are still a team on a budget and giving out another $18 million (or more) to Rodon when he couldn’t be relied on to be available in October isn’t in the team’s best interest. As far as getting that sweet, sweet draft pick? Look at the Sox farm system now and that’s how important the pick would be to the championship window. The top guys are either from the “tank you fans” era or international signings, and what’s down there is years away at best and at worst as close to the majors as the average grandma. Call it a gift to a good guy and a guy that had been through hell that the team would make it easier for Rodon to be signed. The Sox wanted Carlos to get his cash, just somewhere else.

Two Words: MARCUS SEMIEN. Sure, sure, Semien was the best second baseman on the market but someone was always going to radically over pay him. And Texas did just that. The guy is entering his 30’s, has basically two good to great years in his otherwise average career. His good years are now, which means that at the right price Semien would be a good fit. But good lord and butter, Rangers. You know how many guys who write Mismatched Sox you could feed with just a tenth of that money?


The Expensive RF: Look, the trio of Gavin Sheets, Andrew Vaughn and Adam Engel is not the right answer to any question that isn’t “name three guys that haven’t been in my kitchen”. But paying Michael Conforto $20 million+ AAV for multiple years may not help the team as much on the field as it hurts it off the field. Conforto, Nick Castellanos, Kyle Schwarber… any guy that looks to command $20 million plus is going to be the highest paid player on the team. For that, the player needs to be among the best players on the team too. Conforto is very good, and maybe has another gear, but at age 29 he’s likely reached his peak. What he isn’t, is game-changing. Castellanos was a monster in Wrigley and with the Reds, stands to reason he’d do well on the Southside too. But Nicky boy there wants god money, and is already in his 30’s. Kyle’s already a Philly, Kris Bryant got an eye-popping Rockies contract, and the drop-off from the top of the market is steep. At a reasonable price, Conforto settles right field and leaves the DH’ing to the likes of Vaughn and Sheets. At the cost of crafting Conforto’s golden parachute as he plays out his 30’s, the Sox are handcuffing themselves to a guy that might bat 7th in the current lineup. Also, unpopular opinion, but given that guys like Schwarber and Castellanos have the same defensive M.O. as Vaughn and Sheets (as in, maybe leave the gloves at home), giving your former top prospect and maybe best lefty slugger each a shot to get better in the field and emerge at the plate makes sense. There’s always a trade to be had at the deadline, like when the A’s are unloading “Laser” Ramon Laureano for pennies on the gold bar. Also, RIP Scott “Razor Ramon” Hall.

The 6th Starter (via trade): There’s still rumblings, though the Reds say that Tyler Mahle and Luis Castillo are staying and the A’s are certainly getting multiple offers on each of Frankie Montas and Sean Manaea. If Rick doesn’t land one of those guys, it’s only because the best the Sox have to offer a rebuilding team is already on the 26-man roster. Trading Andrew Vaughn for a couple years of Frankie Montas, or one year of Sean Manaea, is essentially giving up on a potential everyday player for 30-60 appearances by a guy who is there to eat innings and be “not Dallas Keuchel”. Maybe with Matt Chapman gone, the A’s would consider Jake Burger as a centerpiece, or take a flyer on Micker Adolfo. If the Yankees and Phillies, for example, offer more talent because they have it to offer, the A’s are going to say no thanks to Rick Hahn. It is hard to be mad at the guy for developing championship talent but having the understandable gap in minor league talent that comes with the rebuild. Then again, he also has the team looking at a depth issue and a morass at the back end of the rotation that is unbecoming of a championship team. Being mad at doing nothing on the trade market is justifiable, as would being mad for overpaying for a 4th starter.

The 6th Starter (via free agency): There’s still rumblings, though not really. Frankly, the Sox could have been sexy with it and signed a guy like Robbie Ray or Kevin Gausman who might have been in the conversation as a 1 or 2 in the rotation. But that didn’t seem to be the plan and probably meant reallocating Dallas Keuchel’s salary to another team. Still, there are guys available at the moment, just not the guys that give fans the vapors when they sign. More like walk in with a vapor trail that resembles Taco Bell farts. Guys like Zach Davies, Brett Anderson, Danny Duffy, Michael Pineda…these are guys that will likely be in camps in short order and are 5th starter/depth types. Being mad at Rick for letting Carlos Rodon go without upgrading the rotation is justified. Michael Kopech will be on an innings count, and behind him is a pile of reclamation projects. But adding a guy on a five-year deal like Ray or Gausman outpaces the rest of the team control over the current rotation and at the back end those guys will be either Lance Lynn or Dallas Keuchel. Getting that big name would have been nice, but getting a guy that more resembles what Orlando “El Duque” Hernandez gave the ’05 Sox can still be a winning move. Vince Velasquez notwithstanding, because he might be a better left fielder than pitcher.

Josh Harrison instead of getting a bigger name 2B: Look around the league. There just aren’t that many quality guys at the position, so having two or three guys that have positional flexibility to start the year isn’t a terrible idea. TLR has to make the matchups work, but Harrison and Leury being semi-regulars is at least a workable solution until a long-term one emerges. And yes, Nick Madrigal was that guy, but maybe Rick has an aversion to guys who injure easily…it’ll be telling how much time Nicky Two Strikes spends as Nicky IL. Jeff McNeil was really the only starting caliber 2B to be rumored to be available, and the Mets are keeping him.


Smaller moves weren’t made. Early on in the offseason, the hosts of Sox in the Basement noted that from the standpoint of offensive and defensive production, Avi Garcia (yup!) was actually a great fit to fix RF. And there he went to the Marlins on a reasonable 4-year $53 million deal. Not the star he was made out to be, but as a bottom of the lineup guy he might have been a huge help. And yeah, he was a massive disappointment and totally representative of a dark era of White Sox baseball that also reminds us that Fernando Tatis could still be here, but so did Adam Eaton and…huh. But not even a Kole Calhoun signing! He doesn’t remind Sox fans of anything! Same goes for pitching where guys like Alex Cobb and Anthony Desclafani signed smaller deals and at least would have settled the back end of the rotation down a bit. The Kendall Graveman and Joe Kelly signings are great, but signing bullpen arms is something that gets done annually, like a physical or the burning of the community underwear that…uhhh…huh.

Nothing has changed. The fact is that the team is very talented and has made the playoffs two straight years. The franchise has never had this level of sustained success. Sure, Luis Robert, Eloy Jimenez, Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets, Michael Kopech and Dylan Cease are all looking at making another step forward this year. Sure, Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito and Tim Anderson potentially have more to offer. That alone is reason for optimism that the Sox can get back to the playoffs. But there is no starting pitcher that offers something different to a team like the Astros. There’s no greater balance to the lineup to offset what was exploited by the A’s and Astros. The act of doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result is but one definition of insanity, the other is being a Sox fan watching it and not being ticked off.

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Featured Image: @whitesox / Twitter

Mismatched Sox: The Fandom Menace

“Meesa less annoying than Rob Manfred!” – Jar Jar Binks, probably. Image (c) Lucasfilm and Disney.

As this was being considered and written, the MLBPA and MLB were sending out releases explaining why this isn’t their fault and why games should or shouldn’t be canceled. And really, it has come to the point where, much like Jar Jar, it may not matter whether they ever come back, the damage is done.

The question for fans of baseball isn’t whether they have lost their love of the game itself, but whether they can bring themselves to financially and emotionally support someone who has recently shown such disdain for them. Parents of teenagers are wearily nodding their head right now.

The thing about fandom is that it comes to define the person whether they want it or not. Somewhat in the blink of an eye, a sports fan can open their dresser drawers to find that they have no t-shirts that aren’t related to their favorite team. Lazy gift giving means grabbing whatever has the team logo and giving it to the fan. Conversations with that fan starts inevitably with talk of that team, even eschewing small talk about this crazy weather ya know? But what happens now, when the thing that consciously or unconsciously has defined an entire human person, is taken away?

Well, fan of an MLB franchise, there are always options. You can become overly associated with another thing just as easily. For the sake of keeping it local, the following suggestions will apply to White Sox fans, but other nationally can adapt geographically or just move here. But the weather here, man, it’s sure been something, ya know? Anyhoo:

DAAAAAA BEARSSSS!!! Sure! Chances are as a Sox fan you’re an equally frustrated Bears fan. If you haven’t been paying attention, they have a new coach named Matt Eberflus and a new GM named Ryan Poles that were hired because the McCaskey’s are too cheap to replace the names Matt and Ryan on the GM and HC office doors at Halas Hall. Actually the joke there was a rumor that Virginia McCaskey is too old to learn new names but that’s just ageism. Anyway, the Bears have a QB with actual potential and a solid running back, a defense with a top-level linebacker and pass rusher, and basically a whole bunch of the same old same old that has plagued them since Jimmy Mac was mooning reporters. The NFL isn’t actively crapping on its fans, but is kinda sorta maybe definitely having a massive racism issue these days where it is under fire for how it handles minority hiring and is still feeling it from the alarmingly plain view evidence that the owners wink-wink’d Colin Kaepernick out of the league for his public stance on racial issues and subsequent league-wide bumbling over the situation. So the league has some things to work on, to undersell it a bit. But hey, football is popular and it is just trading one sports fandom for another. Easy transition. But beware, where Sox black is slimming, Bears orange is very much the opposite to the, err, huskier amongst the population.

DAAAAA BULLLSS!!! Somewhere, in a bar that still has a CDC sign up that has a phallus drawn on it, a guy has turned to the fella next to him and “ya know dat DeMar D. Rosens is da next Jordan. Is it D. Rosens? I thought it was S. Rosens.” “Nah, S. Rosens is dat bread company. Ya get them at the Jewels.” And then those guys are physically tossed from the bar for being lazy stereotypes based on a 30-year-old SNL bit. Well, the Bulls are pretty fun again. DeMar DeRozan isn’t the next Jordan, but he’s pretty damn good and is having a near-MVP season. The Bulls are stunningly inept against the top teams in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, which is unfortunate because that is where the Bulls are, in fact, competing. The NBA remains a very star-driven league, which can be hard to root for if none of the stars are really your cup of tea. What’s always odd about Bulls fandom is that there are few instances of a hard core fan. But, there are worse wagons to be hitched to.

HERE COME THE HAWKS, THE MIGHTY…BLAAAAACKHAWKS! Hey, the ‘Hawks are still good, right? No. They aren’t. Kane and Toews remain from the glory years of last decade, but Captain Serious is showing every bit the mileage of a guy that has had multiple concussions and was a feared player on both ends of the ice. Kane is still electric as ever, but with the exception of Alex DeBrincat is surrounded by guys that can’t hang at his level. Then there’s the D, which years of Stan Bowman pretending that all you need is Duncan Keith and a corpse on skates has left that area as a problem. Then there’s the reason that Stan Bowman isn’t the GM anymore, because the Blackhawks absolutely messed their bed with a pretty nasty scandal. If you missed it, when the team was getting good they had an incident where a coach sexually assaulted one of their prospects. But the team, informed of the criminal act and absolute destruction physically and mentally of the victim, told everyone to shut up about it because they had a real shot at the Stanley Cup. Everyone who wasn’t an owner quit in disgrace, including Joel Quenneville who quit a completely different team. Things seemed to be trending towards the Blackhawks admitting their bad behavior and then Rocky Wirtz spouted off and made it worse. So, yeah, at least if you decide to whole hog the Blackhawks bandwagon now, there’s plenty of room and you can say you were a fan before they got good if they ever get good again.

WHO’S THE BEST? FIRE! Soccer! Football if you’re all worldly and stuff! Here’s the thing about soccer fandom: being a hardcore Fire fan isn’t really considered fandom of the game. The MLS is fine as leagues go, but the league is hardly top shelf in men’s soccer. That’s reserved for leagues in other parts of the world. So be prepared to have to get into a whole different set of fandom. It’s a little like weed leading to heroin, but less accepted in parts of the U.S. Still, there are worse wagons to be hitched to. Soccer, not heroin.

HEROIN? Not recommended, but instead of having your whole identity defined by a sports team, you could just become a drug addict. Don’t actually do that, even if it is cheaper than an 81-game season ticket package when you factor in food and drinks. No, don’t do drugs.

HIPPY, MAAAAANNN. So, ok, yeah, you could just like, go all hippy or some stuff like that. Basically find a stereotype that fits and make it who you are. It doesn’t have to be a 60’s-era, or even 90’s-era hippy. Nah…

SCI-FI GEEK. This has promise, as it represents a 180 from sports fandom and has plenty of things to dive into. For example, Star Trek is enjoying a bit of a renaissance as there are four new series and another movie coming. For the uninitiated, it is easy to stream and catch up. Seasons 1 and 2 of The Original Series, seasons 3-6 of The Next Generation, most of Deep Space Nine, almost none of Voyager, maybe just the first two episodes of Enterprise, all the movies except The Motion Picture, Star Trek V and Star Trek Into Darkness. From there the new stuff will make sense. Star Wars? Easy. Nine movies of which Episode I, II and frankly VIII and IX can be skipped along with Solo. The Mandalorian and The Book of Boba Fett are the current content and pretty much Sci Fi westerns. Though the Sci Fi western to beat is the short-lived series Firefly and the companion movie Serenity. Other options include Doctor Who, which has a classic component that thrived mainly in 70’s and died in the 80’s, and a revival that is still going though feels like it has lost momentum from a few years ago. And its British, so that’s a thing. There’s plenty more where all that came from.

MOVIE BUFF. Tried and true, the love of cinema can be a pretty good personality to adopt. The major pitfall? Your cred will be questioned based on having weirdly encyclopedic knowledge of obscure films from all eras. You know that guy that thinks you’re not “a real fan” because you don’t know Ron Karkovice’s OPS in 1992? There’s a lot of those types in the film world. But watching classic movies is actually fun. The Marx Brothers and Humphrey Bogart flicks are good starting spots. Also, .694, but you knew that.

TV BUFF. One advantage of the era of streaming TV is that there’s ample opportunity to go back and experience TV from bygone eras, learning about the times as well as seeing how the medium evolved. Also, you’ll never sleep and lose your job, possibly develop blood clots and bed sores, and likely have no social life with which to share this new personality. Seriously, TV seasons used to be like 30 episodes long, and there’s 70+ years of content. It can be a bit much.

MUSIC BUFF. Another one that has gotten harder with the internet. Most music people like bands that no one has heard of, but as streaming algorithms favor known artists and music venues died in the pandemic, discovering what’s new is harder than ever. Couple that with anyone having a decent laptop and equipment budget being able to release a video or song, and there’s a glut of stuff that clogs the scene like a kid clogs a toilet. That said, picking a genre you like and really getting after it can be just as good, though you can easily fall into a trap of being too into one thing. Like the music of David Hasselhoff. Never hassle the Hoff, but try and cast a wider net than the Baywatch theme and the 6th-best version of “Hooked on a Feeling”.

BUFF BUFF. Nudist. Saves on laundry detergent, definitely a conversation starter that doesn’t involve the weather. Unless its cold. It is a pretty limited community, but dedicated. At least one would think they’re dedicated. Its certainly not something you can half-ass. Buh dum bump!

NATURALIST. Another term for nudist, but in the world of weak transitions more along the lines of a nature lover. There’s nothing inherently wrong with wanting to help the environment or planting a kick ass garden. But be prepared for people to be very momentarily interested in your passion and then trying to change the subject, only to panic when they realize that talking about the weather only encourages you more.

D AND D. Yup! Dungeons and Dragons! There’s anecdotal evidence that reformed Sox fans can turn to this to fill the void. Consult old episodes of Sox in the Basement for more.

GAMER. There’s always video games, and there are people who make money streaming themselves playing the games. Now, it helps to be actually good at the games and not have a day job, so consult your dependents before trying to make money that way. Still, gamer has potential. There’s an age component there as well. Young? Seems legit. Really old? Novelty! In between? Anywhere from “grow up” to “act your age” to “dad and I are moving to Florida, the new owners want you out”. Speaking of basements…

PODCASTER. Just kidding, no one wants that. Same with Blogger.

BASEBALL FAN. Maybe, juuuuusst maybe, remaining a fan of the game is still ok. Maybe, juuuuuuuuuuuuuussssst maybe, this particular group of owners and players are just a transitory group of stewards of the game that are derelict in their duties to the fans and legacy that has bound generations together in a common love and bond, all for their own short-sighted gains. Just sayin’. The villains of 1994-1995 are either retired from the game, sold their teams or outright died. Time will heal the wounds. And if it is too painful to wear the team gear, and that’s all you have, reconsider the nudist thing for a while until time permits the ill-thought out James McCann jersey to be worn again. You can podcast and blog at the same time!

Featured Image: MLB / Twitter

Mismatched Sox: National Pastime Indeed

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 a much better way than Rob Manfred thinks canceling games is funny. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult a psychiatrist and ask if this blog is right for you.

Sometimes this space, generously granted by Sox on 35th, is used for merriment. But, there is no joy in Mudville today, as the Mighty Casey isn’t even going to have a chance to strike out. Much has been written and said since Rob Manfred chuckled his way through an arrogant and tone-deaf press conference while presumably ordering the players’ presser suppressed. His leadership is rightly under question as more news trickles out that there were questionable late-night tactics by the owners and a stark reminder that the lockout was totally unnecessary as the former CBA had a sunset provision that could have allowed the league to continue while negotiating. Sure, there is some blame that the players can wear (unlike their uniforms). They could just sign whatever, get back on the field, and get paid whatever to play the game while suffering through the reality that owners always do better financially than labor when it comes to big business. Anyone telling you otherwise is a recruiter who thinks “work/life balance” simply means that chains and whips are just for shades of gray and not the workplace.

But, in reality, the current situation is just as reflective of this particular era of U.S. history, as baseball has always reflected what was going on in the country at the time. It is uniquely baseball too. The NBA or NFL by comparison sort of transcend the culture a bit, because the games are more easily dominated by a few stars, and in the case of the NFL, is more like watching a Roman legion attack a Greek Phalanx than anything societal. But baseball was always less a sport than a part of the fabric of society. Check it out, decade by decade, over the last century or so:

1920s: The Roaring ’20s!! Society was engaged in a bit of celebration following “The Great War” (WWI), largely considered a dark point in human history if not the darkest to date. Likewise, MLB such as it was had been rocked, nay shocked, by the darkness of the Black Sox scandal, largely considered to be among the darkest points in baseball history. It was such a scandal that baseball named a commissioner for the first time in response and eventually, the players involved would be insulted by the likes of Ray Liotta playing them. Seriously, Liotta is a righty who looks nothing like Shoeless Joe Jackson, a lefty. Digression over. The ’20s are remembered as a time when Hollywood emerged, jazz boomed, skirts shortened, booze flowed (illegally, but it flowed). It was an outsized time, and baseball had an outsized star in Babe Ruth. Ruth and the Yankees were not what baseball had been. It was homers and dominance in a new way. For baseball, it was a new kind of excitement and new records were set in terms of money and player marketing. Baseball had something of a new dawning, as did the U.S. But to quote Scotty from Star Trek, never get drunk if you’re not willing to pay for it the next day.

1930s: Oops. The ’30s saw the Great Depression, a loss of cash and agriculture, leading to abject poverty and tremendous struggle. Baseball did fine enough, but teams struggled at the gate for obvious reasons. The play on the field was a tale of have and have not: in the AL there was offense and offense with offense waiting on deck; in the NL pitchers thrived and games were low-scoring. As with a society where people either had income or didn’t, the game only had two extremes. By the end of the decade, guys like Ted Williams and Joe DiMaggio would bring star power back to the game, just as things were looking up all over the country.

1940s: Well, crap. WWII got in the way of the game, as guys like DiMaggio and Williams did their part and served their country. The game, like so many other aspects of U.S. life, was a background to the war but reflected the “everyone pitches in” mentality. The All-American Girls Professional Baseball League was formed, where, according to Tom Hanks, there is and was no crying. And Tom Hanks is quite trustworthy. Also, by the end of the decade, Jackie Robinson helped kick open the door for minority players (the door would unfortunately kinda flap around for years and years before breaking off entirely). MLB, like the USA, had emerged from a bleak and uncertain time to be stronger and more united. Baseball was as American as apple pie, to the extent that apple pie had peels left on the apples still just like the world has some very bad things from that era that must never be forgotten lest they happen again.

1950s: The Golden Age!! Except that there was a very dark undercurrent to all of the good feelings still associated with that era! The ’50s are, in general, an era looked upon fondly for the post-war boom in the economy, child creation, entertainment, and the general return to placid normalcy that the country hadn’t really had since prior to WWI. The cars, the music, the TV shows, the movies all portray an “aw shucks” innocence and prosperity. That just masked things like the McCarthyism era of accusing anyone with an unpopular opinion or haircut of being a communist and ruing their lives, or the crushing racism that still gripped the country. Baseball was in a golden era, sure. It was great if the team had “NY” on the cap, but there was a massive divide between the large market teams and the smaller market teams where the small markets basically entered spring knowing the season was over. For all the wistful memories that Yankees and Dodger fans have (even White Sox fans!), there’s a large swath of the population that don’t remember it being so much fun. Teams relocated and even renamed to try and find some of that gold, and as the decade ended that migration included teams who had prospered in NY.

1960s: Are you going to San Francisco? Like so many hippies, teams searched the country (and Canada) for a way to shed the spit-and-polish, stodgy culture of the ’50s and do something…different. Major League Baseball as a league held fast and hard to the more conservative, uptight ways of “the man” by trying to do things like squash Roger Maris’ home run pursuit with an expanded strike zone and refuse to let players grow facial hair. As the population started to divide more on conceptual grounds, baseball was forced to look hard at the fans and figure out if they had a place in the counter-culture or were destined to be discarded as old and stodgy. By the end of the decade, the game would change with the mainstream acceptance of some aspects of counter-culture, and MLB would be defined by star players and personalities, and expansion to grab more fans. By the end of the decade, the U.S. had adapted from clean-cut to shaggy but shampooed, and seemed to be trying to expand to be more inclusive. Spoiler: It didn’t go really well in the next ten years.

1970s: Dick Allen and his sideburns smoking while juggling in a dugout are all that is really needed to be known about ’70s baseball. Like the rest of the U.S.A., the start of the ’70s was an extension of the late 60s, except things were sliding downhill. The idealism that had started to make changes in the game and society quickly bogged down into a mess of rapidly changing economics and politics, while trying to push the entertainment envelope. The NFL started to rise in popularity while the CBA (not that one, the Continental Basketball Association) forced a very, very straightedge NBA to jump out of the ’50s. Daredevils, films that explored sex drugs, and violence in new ways, the birth of heavy metal and punk; these all made baseball seem quaint. So the game tried to get exciting, to mixed results. More teams adopted powder blue road unis and went with buttonless shirts in crazy colors! More teams ended up in cookie-cutter multi-use stadiums that featured turf, making weird hops and missing leg skin a common sight! The White Sox wore pajamas and shorts, so that was a thing! But also, players were starting to be higher paid and free agency was taking hold for the first time. Teams could import stars like never before and the off-season became a hot stove as teams who were struggling but willing to spend could grab a game-changer. Signing Reggie Jackson wasn’t quite Evel Knievel level danger, but for Yankees fans, it was more exciting than jumping a canyon. For that Evel Knievel danger action, some teams blew up Bee Gees records between doubleheaders and for fans, it was more exciting than a guy crashing a motorcycle. It was a weird, aesthetically hard to look at decade that ended more bizarrely than anyone could have ever guessed, from the Peanut Farmer President to the MLB owner whose name rhymed with “wreck”.

1980s: The US entered the Reagan era and was ushered into a world where greed, for lack of a better term, was good. Gone was any “change the world” idealism in the USA, and instead, everyone wanted the lifestyles of the rich and famous. In baseball, teams became very much bottom-line-oriented and looked for new ways to make cash. Teams had new revenue streams from increased corporate sponsorships, and in the case of the White Sox, a too-early-for-its-own-good attempt at a captive TV network. Teams sold more jerseys and memorabilia, a corporate logo was on everything that wasn’t human, and players demanded higher salaries but weren’t getting them at the rate the teams seemed to be making money. Labor relations boiled in a 1981 strike, and later a bona fide case of collusion that ended with Andre Dawson handing a blank check to the Cubs and winning the NL MVP on a minimum salary. The seeds of what Rob Manfred just harvested were very much planted in the ’80s, which is when Manfred started his career. The game on the field was marred by the trappings of rapid fame and money, as players partied into drug addiction and had their careers radically altered as a result. Those same trappings hit rock stars and actors and, well, other athletes too. But baseball was so very ’80s…corporate and very much in a bunch of material, uhhh, blokes…living in a material…pile of coke.

1990s: Sure, the ’90s begat a minor rebuff of the materialism of the ’80s, as slacker vibes and grunge replaced spandex and glitz. Underneath that surface slacking was really a growing distrust and ever-growing reliance on corporate America. People knew that corporations, which had spent more than a decade putting dollars über alles, were not looking out for consumers’ best interests or even the public good, but they were really running everything and getting bigger. While culturally the US raged against the machine and fought the power, it supersized the Big Mac meal. Baseball also had that distrust of the corporate MLB ownership, which ditched an independent commissioner for an owner in Bud Selig. The divide between the rich teams and poor teams grew, while fans were hit by taxes levied by the cities the teams called home in order to build new stadiums that looked like old stadiums. Something resembling bellbottoms also returned but with quasi-futuristic shiny jackets, so there was a lot of that type of confusion. Pretty much everywhere, the divide really started to grow between the ever stagnating wages and the corporate bottom line. Labor relations in baseball boiled over in 1994 and 1995 when the players went on strike and killed the ’94 playoffs, still mad over the collusion in the late ’80s and the way the money didn’t flow down. In some ways, the players were raging against the machine, but were also increasingly given millions at the top end. After the strike fans were mad but true to the ’90s vibe, didn’t really act on the anger. And true to the supersizing, the game came back and players went with the Biggie meals in syringe form, as homers went flying from every spot in the lineup, and Maris’ record fell. Good vibes from an increasing international presence, records like Cal Ripken’s streak, and a mutual hatred of the Yankees dynasty and Yankees fans helped bring the game back. As the rise of pro wrestling showed at the decade’s end, people love to cheer against a clear heel.

2000s: The love of the crazy power output of the late ’90s suddenly became the realization that it was all fake. The backlash against the steroid era is still being felt, and as players were increasingly exposed it tarnished the game. But then, this was really an era in American history where paranoia became the norm. The decade started with “end of the world” claims and an election that came down to a hand recount between a guy that had been accused of lying and a guy that had been accused of not knowing any actual facts. Terrorism reared its ugly head in 2001, and while that brought people together in steely resolve at first, it quickly devolved into worry over the next attack. That paranoia became distrust of anyone that didn’t agree with whatever brand of paranoia a group had. That distrust became hatred. By the end of the decade, there were clear divisions amongst Americans. Even TV shows were based around distrust…The Sopranos was basically a must-watch to see who would need to be whacked next for betraying Tony. In baseball, any player having success was suspected of cheating. Records that might have been celebrated were questioned. Paranoia became distrust, which became a divide as fandom became increasingly all or nothing. But the game, like the country, was also enjoying cultural globalization as more players came from Japan, Korea, Europe, Australia, and more than just the US and Caribbean. Of course, the 2005 White Sox would win the World Series with the help of a Cuban pitcher and a Japanese second baseman. But much like global warming, there are those who just don’t believe it was real. The game of baseball mirrored the USA perfectly…players, owners, fans…all looking at each other and no one trusting a soul unless they were just like them.

2010s Things didn’t get any better in the century’s second decade. Americans became far more impatient and absolute, as the internet ramped up the demand for immediate information and validation, not to mention entertainment. Binge-watching TV would be invented. In response, baseball games seemingly got longer. While that’s not entirely true, baseball started worrying about things like the pace of play as games became strikeout fests with occasional homers. Overall in the US, there were distinctly two Americas forming: an out-of-touch elite that seemed oblivious to how life worked and disregarded those who weren’t as wealthy, and the increasingly disillusioned masses who didn’t know whether to worship the wealthy or seek to end their influence. No one fully agreed who was the bad elite or who was good, exactly, but every so often it would become obvious. In baseball, owners seemed universally to be the bad type. MLB didn’t care to match the marketing prowess of the NBA or NFL, or increasingly the NHL; they made streaming games difficult as that model of entertainment took greater hold; they reveled in lining their pocketbooks while not doing a great deal to improve the fan experience; they cried poor in public even while fielding terrible teams to gather up young, cheap stars. Players signed insane contracts at times, as the teams basically treated them the way they treated cars and houses, with the expensive brand-name talents being flaunted while the rest were expendable. Meanwhile, the players became the disillusioned masses but their talent was undeniable. Feeding the fans with crazy slides, bat flips, and other moments that could be gif’d and shared on social media, the players and fans still connected, but the league itself less so. And as the decade drew to a close, there was no doubt that whatever else the USA was into it was increasingly unable to agree on much. Baseball, like just about everything else, became something that was either loved or ignored, and neither side would be swayed.

2020s Today, two years into the decade, baseball and America have some troubles. After spending the start of the decade dealing with a pandemic, most of America is very tired and has very little patience. The ones that aren’t tired and annoyed are the ones that spent the past two years revealing just how little they understand things outside their own doors. Universally, there is very little tolerance left for anyone else’s problems. Baseball, the league anyway, doesn’t appear to have any regard whatsoever for fans or businesses or even the players. The players, for their part, seem aware that there is collateral damage, but seem unaware of just how little fans have left in the tank to care about the plight of a group of people who want an extra $100K tacked onto their half-million-dollar salaries to play a game. The fans of course have zero sympathies for the owners and plenty of other things that they can be doing besides watching baseball.

The owners and players have the opportunity to show that compromise and understanding, and the ability to work together towards a common goal are still values in American society. They can stay in the public eye by being the distraction and entertainment that ties Americans to generations before them and has been one of the things that has brought the wealthy and the poor, the left and the right, the friends, family, and enemies together. But for now, baseball has joined the current national pastime of trying to be the better looking on social media while assuming that popularity there will equate to real-world success.

Baseball will be played in 2022, but if it isn’t soon, no one may care. With everyone already at the end of their rope, the question is whether Major League Baseball used some of it to hang themselves. That’s knot a laughing matter.

Featured Image: White Sox / Twitter

Mismatched Sox: White Sox, Celebrity Edition

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 non-comedian gets a laugh at a roast. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult a physician and ask if this blog is right for you.

X-Factor Celebrity Edition logo (c) Fremantle Media and ITV; 66.7% of the Sox logo TM Chicago White Sox.
Bad photoshop 100% by Mismatched Sox.

With a deadline looming for the CBA, and with very little else to analyze beyond minor leaguers playing catch and hitting BP, why not take a look at the primary names on the White Sox staff and players and equate them to the celebrities that match who they are? Actually don’t answer that question – not only was it rhetorical, but there’s no reason to say out loud how far down the bottom of the barrel of baseball news there is. This isn’t the bottom of the barrel, or underneath the barrel, it may not even belong in the same conversation as barrels (to paraphrase the late, great Roger Ebert). Whatever, try and enjoy this.


Tony La Russa: Mel Gibson. Unstoppable 30 years ago, now defined by poor choices made behind the wheel of a car and questionable ability to do what made him famous in the first place. Except Tony isn’t an anti-semitic dirtbag.

Miguel Cairo: Tom Hamilton (Bassist for Aerosmith). Somewhere in the back of your head, you might know that this guy has been around for decades and has at times been pretty integral to some big things, but you never really think about the bass player until he ends up as the bench coach.

Daryl Boston: Harold Faltermeyer (Musician). Like Daryl, Harold had some hits in the 80s, but few people remember him by name or ever claim to have seen him play.

“Super” Joe McEwing: Bruce Campbell. A total cult icon for some, for others a guy that they recognize from that one thing that they never really got into.

Ethan Katz: Trevor Noah. Replaced someone who had become a polarizing icon, and will probably never quite reach that level of popularity even if he’s good at his job.

Frank Menechino: Dermot Mulrony. Much like Dermot Mulrony gets mistaken for Dylan McDermott, when you think about Frank Menechino as a player, you’re really picturing Frank Catalanotto.


Lance Lynn: Nick Offerman. Seems like just a cool guy with occasional facial hair and likely good culinary taste. And both are good at what they do.

Lucas Giolito: Chris Pine. Both are stars, but seem like they should be bigger deals.

Dylan Cease: Tom Holland. Has to take another step before truly reaching his peak stardom, but sitting there right on the edge of it.

Michael Kopech: Post Malone. A kinda weird guy who was huge a few years ago and still could be, but no one is quite sure what to make of him right now.

Dallas Keuchel: Willie Robertson of Duck Dynasty. Known for a beard and ten years ago. Unwatchable at the moment.

Reynaldo Lopez: The Weeknd. 2018 into 2019 he was really important, then faded. After a few big moments in 2021 is looking to regain that heat from a few years back.

Aaron Bummer: Neil Patrick Harris. Both are the star of multiple seasons of “A Series of Unfortunate Events”.

Garrett Crochet: John Boyega. Thrust into the limelight kind of from nowhere, and probably going to get bigger and better as time goes on.

Kendall Graveman: Chris Pratt. Has been a few things in his career, but where he is now seems like a good place.

Craig Kimbrel: Joaquin Phoenix. Has been amazing in parts of his career but you’re sorta fine if he doesn’t stick around now, especially after his last effort was trying to do something that was already done better by an Australian.

Liam Hendriks: Chris Hemsworth. Entertaining as hell Australians that you’d like to hang out with as much as you like to watch them perform.


Jose Abreu: Morgan Freeman. Admit it, you’d do whatever either of these guys tells you and don’t care how old they are when they’re performing.

Tim Anderson: Samuel L. Jackson. He’s a star and a quotable guy that you can’t look away from. But he’s largely typecast and won’t be fully appreciated until he’s gone.

Yoan Moncada: David Hasselhoff. You get the feeling that the talent is actually there, but the effort is “just good enough to sell it” and kinda superficial. Although to be fair, as far as anyone knows Yoan has never tried to drunkenly eat a cheeseburger off the floor while being filmed.

Second Baseman: James Bond. The good ones are surprisingly far in the past and there seems to be a new one rumored every week. (Doctor Who for those who prefer their British stuff on the geeky side).

Yasmani Grandal: Pete Davidson. His success is, at times, as inexplicable as it is undeniable.

Leury Garcia: Justin Timberlake. Pretty good at a lot of things, but there’s a limit on how much of him you can take all at once.


Luis Robert: Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson. When discussing the biggest stars out there, you’re a little surprised anyone would be ranked ahead of him, but there could still be a saturation point heretofore unseen.

Eloy Jimenez: Donald Glover. Should be a megastar based on flashes, but hasn’t gotten there for various reasons.

Andrew Vaughn: Bella Poarch (or any Tik Tok star trying to ascend from the app). Like success on Tik Tok, success in the NCAA doesn’t always translate, but we’ll see soon enough.

Gavin Sheets: James Austin Johnson. A newcomer who does one thing really, really well; in Gavin’s case, it is rake homers off righties, in comedian/SNL player Johnson’s case, it is an uncanny Trump impression. But there could be more if given the chance. Or these are two ponies with a total of two tricks between them.

Adam Engel: Jeremy Renner. For a moment there, you sort of expected a breakout and instead, he just is what he…wait maybe there…there’s the breakou-no…just doing his thing that he oh! no…

Front Office

Rick Hahn, Kenny Williams, Jerry Reinsdorf: Either the Three Stooges or the Bee Gees. Beloved for their unique talent and incredible legacy of sustained success, or three guys that deserve a pie in the face. Figure out which is which.

So there it is, and hopefully, by the next installment, there will be actual baseball content available. In the meantime, this is the Buzzfeed of, signing off.

Featured Image: Joe Ruffalo (jruff96) / Twitter

Mismatched Sox: Avoiding “The Ricky”

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 dog barking in its sleep is kinda worth a chuckle. While there will be facts here that will be factual, the opinions and other nonsense are neither reflective of anyone at nor believed or intended to cause any harm, but consult a physician and ask if this blog is right for you.

*Sigh*. This Guy. He needs to add everything but a “y”.
Photo: By Arturo Pardavila III

The Ricky Label, Defined

Ricky Renteria was never really a “Ricky”, at least in nickname, as he was a “Rich” in his playing days and “Rick” to most people. But in White Sox discussions during his tenure as manager, he was the “Ricky” to the GM’s “Rick”. And as time went on, the word Ricky became almost slang among fans, meaning a guy that was at best respected for reaching his young players but denigrated as someone who couldn’t take the team to a championship. Maybe that wasn’t a totally earned tag, but Ricky Renteria was twice a Chicago baseball manager, was twice tasked with rebuilding the team and getting the young core ready to play, and was twice dismissed at the precipice of playoff baseball in favor of a big-name manager. That means twice he was criticized as lacking in enough managerial skill to pull the correct strings to win. Joe Madden had been the brains behind the weird ways the Rays had won, and Tony LaRussa is, of course, a legit hall of fame baseball guy. Both are notorious for correct-string pulling. Ricky Renteria, likely forevermore, will be the guy that can get the team back in the boat, but can’t get the team onto the only ship that matters: a championship. His lineups, his strategy, his philosophy all seemed geared towards building up young guys so they have future success. So the Ricky Label isn’t a total insult, but wearing it suggests that you don’t have what it takes to go all the way because the gaze is into a crystal ball, not matchups in the 7th inning.

Being Rick Hahn

Meanwhile, Rick Hahn was Kenny Williams’ secret brain and a guy that was given the GM chair to make sure he stayed in the organization. He was a hot GM candidate as the Sox were re-tinkering to get into the ’08 playoffs, and had multiple shots to leave the Sox before becoming the GM. What fans came to know is that Rick was leery of continuing Kenny’s “reload on the fly style” and wanted to draft a winner, breaking the team down for a few years to create a sustained, young core capable of taking the entire enchilada. After missing the playoffs repeatedly, Hahn got his wish with trades of Chris Sale, Adam Eaton, and Jose Quintana. Hahn basically won the trades, and built a core of Lucas Giolito, Dylan Cease, Michael Kopech, Eloy Jimenez, and Yoan Moncada, with contributions from Reynaldo Lopez and Dane Dunning (who begat Lance Lynn). Couple that with drafts that resulted in Andrew Vaughn, Gavin Sheets, Aaron Bummer, Adam Engel, and Nick Madrigal, plus international signing Luis Robert, and the team was thus rebuilt in Rick’s intended image. He extended Tim Anderson, kept Jose Abreu around as a brick house/mentor turned 2020 MVP. After getting some of the young guys going in 2019, heading into 2020 the Sox seemed ready to start on the journey with the remaining young guys like Robert and Madrigal set to arrive. Rick Hahn was viewed as one of the best GMs in the game.

Shedding “The Ricky,” Risking the Label

For the 2020 season, the shortened number of games and overall weirdness made some things forgivable, but the swoon after clinching a playoff spot and a fast exit was the result. So, before the 2021 season, Ricky Renteria was sent packing as the weak link in the chain. The Ricky wasn’t good enough, the Rick was, so went the narrative. But down a Richard, Rick Hahn risks earning the Ricky label. The question becomes, if or when teams start passing the Sox by for playoff appearances and championships, is Rick Hahn a GM that can only rebuild a team? Or, can he take the team to that top tier? As the Sox bowed out of the playoffs early and somewhat easily two years in a row, the question is begged like someone walking past popcorn-laden Cub Scouts outside a Jewel.

“The Jerry Factor”

First things first. Yes, Rick Hahn is limited by what Jerry Reinsdorf will spend, and post-CBA who knows what the will look like. Presumably, Lettuce Entertain You gift cards in place of signing bonuses. Still, most teams in the league operate at a set budget, so that’s a factor but not necessarily an excuse. It would be easier for Rick Hahn to merely open the checkbook and overpay for Marcus Semien like the Rangers, or give Max Scherzer insane annual money like the Mets. Any fan of the game can build a team by just signing top free agents with no concern about years and money. And it’s nothing new that the Sox won’t leave the rest of the league staring agog at their payroll. Jerry also hasn’t lived at the bottom of the league when the team has a chance. Kenny Williams won in ’05 with Jerry Reinsdorf still as his owner and Jerry’s budget. There are handcuffs here and there, like the long-standing Sox modus operandi of not investing more than three years on a pitcher. That may hurt Rick’s chances in the open market. But a good GM operates within the budget and the bosses’ rules, a great GM wins within those constraints.

The Sox are at the Hump

The Sox’ next step in evolution is to get over the hump from playoff team to championship team. Not to say that the Sox are dead in the water because there will be moves post-lockout. This is an offseason where another star and some aggression are needed and warranted, and the Sox floundered in advance of the lockout and only signed Kendall Graveman and brought back Leury Garcia. Graveman’s a nice pickup, and will absolutely help the bullpen. Leury is definitely a useful player and should be back on the team, but there are still holes to fill. The biggest, a sucking chest wound at 2B, is Rick Hahn’s own self-harm. Right Field has options and isn’t as dire, but it isn’t necessarily screaming “Championship Caliber” to have two 1B/DH sophomores and a maybe-peaked part-timer fighting for the spot. The Bullpen doesn’t need big names, just good pitchers. The rotation has a hole created by some weight that might be dead or dying. The Sox can’t go forward in their championship quest without addressing these needs. Rick didn’t do that before the lockout, and it isn’t looking easy for him after the lockout ends.

The team might be stuck with Craig Kimbrel in a role he doesn’t fit. Fans may be rooting for a rotation that has to carry a learning Michael Kopech and a fading Dallas Keuchel. Leury at 2B isn’t out of the question, and a repeat rotation in RF at least has guys on the upswing fighting for it. Rick needs to do better, if he can at this point.

In his defense, top free-agent 2B option Marcus Semien was given too many years and dollars by the Rangers, but he was by far the best 2B candidate out there. Adam Frazier was traded for lesser men than useful-to-the-Padres Craig Kimbrel, and Frazier solidifies the Mariners in a way that would have at least been a security blanket for the Sox. Fans are convinced that the Phillies would deal Jean Segura to the Southside for Kimbrel, though it’s no guarantee that the Phillies won’t hold onto their most consistent infielder and at least let Corey Knebel try and resume his closer duties. Even Joey Wendle went quickly to Miami for seemingly something within the Sox’ ability to match. Corey Seager, Max Scherzer, Kevin Gausman, Robbie Ray, Starling Marte, Avi Garcia, even Chris Taylor and Alex Cobb…names that could have helped the Sox…all went to the competition. And it wasn’t just that other teams were outbidding the Sox; the White Sox were almost never mentioned with any rumblings surrounding the free agents or trades. Graveman, Leury, and a slew on minor league depth were all the Sox were rumored for or delivered. Fans can take it on faith when the Sox, Rick, in particular, says they’ll be better on opening day than they are now and there are moves that will be made. But with the market stripped of starting pitchers and second basemen, the hump seems to have gotten bigger than it was after the third out of the World Series. And humps that are too big can be very fun and rewarding to get over, but it isn’t always a doable task.

So here is Rick Hahn, staring at the said proverbial hump. It mocks him and, like Judge Smails with money on the line, “we’re waiting”. Given cash constraints and with a depleted minor league pool there are fewer assets to get his guys. So is Rick Hahn able to take them to the next level, or is this Rick about to wear the Ricky Label?

Past Performances as Future Predictors

He cleared a lesser hump, going from rebuilding to contending, by grabbing a few free agents and making one solid trade in 2020-2021. Let’s look at how those deals did:

He won the low-hanging fruit deals: Dane Dunning and Austin Weems were nothing to pick up Lance Lynn, who at best is the team’s ace and at worst sits behind or between Giolito and Cease. Yasmani Grandal was established as a top MLB catcher after leaving his timeshare in LA (where he was good) for a full-time job in Milwaukee (where he was pretty great). Liam Hendriks is the best closer in the game and pretty much wanted to be here. Yas did too, as a Cuban-born player who likes that aspect of the White Sox organization. Lynn may have re-upped for TLR, or he realized that husky gentlemen in their 30’s have a shorter shelf life, and his knee was barking by the end of the year. Still, Rick Hahn didn’t botch the easy pickings. Guys who were motivated to sign, signed good deals, well within Jerry’s tolerances.

But when Rick tries to get guys in who aren’t so obvious, it’s been, well, a mixed bag of mostly meh. The good: Ryan Tepera was a nice grab at the deadline for cheap, a classic deadline deal. César Hernandez was another solid move given Nick Madrigal’s injury, even though César didn’t do much he was a worthwhile gamble as a veteran with a decent track record. And the scrap heap guys for 2021, like Jake Lamb, Billy Hamilton, Brian Goodwin, and Nick Williams all had moments. But those are smaller deals, and while role players help win championships, the Sox have had bigger needs. That’s where things get…not so great.

The question is whether Rick spent his limited cash and trade capital wisely. There have important misses that he can’t afford. The three biggest gaffes for money and capital were Dallas Keuchel, Edwin Encarnacion, and Craig Kimbrel. None of them were really necessary, and two of them are actively hurting the team right now, like a toddler with a fork. Keuchel was a consolation prize after Zack Wheeler’s wife decided that she didn’t like the Midwest. But where Wheeler was a potential ace and worth the investment, Keuchel was a guy that had suffered his highest career WHIP the previous two seasons where his peripheral stats showed a guy fading fast. The Sox dropped 3 years and $18.5 per million per on him. Keuchel brings experience, certainly, as a former Cy Young winner and World Series champ. He is so far past those achievements that he had to sit out part of 2019 until there was no draft pick attached to him. His numbers for the Braves weren’t terrible, but he still wasn’t back to his former glory. Keuchel had a nice run in the brevity of 2020, but was exposed repeatedly last year and enters this year as the 4 or 5 in the rotation, or a pricey long reliever. Rick could or should have seen this coming. He also could have had better results with Michael Pineda and saved $8 million per year, even with paying valets to carry Pineda’s baggage.

Encarnacion was still considered a solid DH after a .244 avg. and .875 OPS for the Yankees in 2019; by all considerations, Encarnacion could have had a decent 2020 instead of being completely done. Rick can’t be blamed for a player but getting untracked in a weird year, and he was just a short-term patch. But if Rick had the money, why not invest in right field? Entering 2020 no one thought of Andrew Vaughn or Gavin Sheets as outfielders, and Adam Engel hadn’t shown that he could be an everyday player. If Rick doesn’t try and save face with Keuchel and offers Nick Castellanos the $16 million per that he received from the Reds, the Sox would have had better results at the plate in 2020 and 2021. Combined with saving the $8 million on Keuchel, the Sox would have been financially ahead and better on the field. Fans might not be sitting around stewing about two straight first-round exits.

Taking on Kimbrel’s salary was just a head-scratcher from the get-go. Hahn had already traded for Ryan Tepera to be the setup guy that was needed to replace the injured Evan Marshall. Kimbrel was going to be a luxury to Tony, and at best attempt to create a “Nasty Boys” style end of the bullpen (look up the 1990 Reds for an explanation). But the bullpen wasn’t in need of a huge retooling at the deadline. The pitcher Rick traded away for Kimbrel, Codi Heuer, had started to level out to decent performance after a harsh start to the season. Plus, in-house addition Reynaldo Lopez had already been recalled to good results. For Rick, the first and only question that hasn’t been answered was why trade for a pricey closer with Liam Hendriks on the team? It made a splash in the headlines, but what the Sox needed was another Tepera, not another closer. And the cost is an albatross in the bullpen and a vacancy sign at 2B that has fans wondering about Jake Burger’s Twitter posts as trolling or legit. (Spoilers, it’s both.)

With all three guys, Hahn either went for fan service, name recognition, or consolation for losing the guy he wanted. All three came with questions, be it their clearly beginning decline, the potential for age catching up, or whether the guy actually fits the role and is worth the cost of creating a new problem.

There have also been the bad signings like Adam Eaton, who was falling off in DC and was picked over better bats. Steve Cishek was bad and was another closer rebounding with the Cubs, who may have invented an aging closer funhouse mirror that makes them look young again. Gio Gonzalez was just depth and felt like a make-good for being traded more than someone’s blue jello at a lunch table. Rick entered the “let’s move to competing” phase in 2020 needing a third outfielder (or two depending on how the Eloy conversation was going), a catcher, some pitching to fill out the rotation, a couple of stopgaps until Madrigal, Vaughn, and Sheets arrived at 2B and DH, and some help in the bullpen (which is needed every year). He got his catcher, added to the bullpen…but Danny Mendick, Yolmer Sanchez, and Nick Madrigal split 2B; the Nomar Mazara trade flopped for RF but was at least made some sense and didn’t cost much; and with Giolito and Cease getting 12 starts, Lopez and Rodón gunning for starts with Dane Dunning and a couple of other prospects, adding Keuchel worked ok in 2020 and flopped in 2021.

Entering 2021, Rick still needed an outfielder…he still needed a starter…and as always some relief help but with the added twist of maybe upgrading from Alex Colome. Eaton was supposed to be the guy, assuming Adam Engel wasn’t as ready as he seemed or Sheets couldn’t make the transition. Vaughn was intended to arrive as the DH, and his eventual move to the outfield was because there was no depth when Engel and Eloy were hurt. The Lance Lynn trade was a score. Nick Madrigal was healthy and ready at 2B. Liam Hendriks and Carlos Rodón were added to round out the pen, with Carlos becoming an ace starter almost by chance. Injuries to Engel, Madrigal, Robert, Jace Fry, and Evan Marshall were unfortunate, but Rick didn’t build enough depth to truly cover them. Backslides by Heuer and Matt Foster were the risks of youth, the backslide of Dallas Keuchel has been beaten past being a dead horse. Hendriks, again an easy target in free agency and a guy who wanted to be here, was great. But that’s two easy grabs he won, a lucky bounce from a guy he non-tendered and a big ‘ole whiff in Spanky.

Faced with pressure, Rick got cute at the deadline after making easy and obvious trades sending low-end prospects for veterans Tepera and Hernandez to fill holes. He had to get cute though with Kimbrel. Grabbing the Cubs closer in the midst of one of his best runs in a possible HOF career seemed like a question even amidst his dominance, because he didn’t have that role in Tony’s bullpen. Trading Madrigal, who was hurt but will likely return in 2022, was literally trading the Sox’ only MLB-level player at the keystone. Leury Garcia has had documented struggles as an everyday player, Danny Mendick isn’t an MLB starter, and even Andrew Vaughn had started there due to the lack of replacements. With Kimbrel, a square peg was thusly jammed at a round hole, and alas, Kimbrel, miscast, was bad. Now, Rick created an issue where he has an expensive pitcher that should be playing elsewhere, no one to man 2B worthy of a championship team, and the hump is, therefore, higher than it was to start 2021.

Going into 2022, it’s 2020 redux: Rick is STILL is looking for an outfielder, even though Vaughn and Sheets are at least options in RF; he STIIILLL needs veteran starting pitching and he might need two starters again; and in a flashback no one wanted he needs a 2B that can maybe get them to a prospect, except now there is no top prospect waiting to make his debut so things are actually worse.

RICK can Still Pull this Off

Let’s say Kimbrel still gets traded. Who still has a starting 2B they don’t really need? The Mets are maybe trading Jeff McNeil but with a Universal DH, maybe only because he’s a jerk. Kimbrel could bring back some positive future for the team, but then effectively Hahn traded a potential bullpen piece in Heuer and his starting 2B for a prospect or two. That’s rebuilding thinking, and insane when the next step, the ONLY next step, is winning a championship. Kimbrel bringing back pitching help or a right fielder would be something, but the possibilities are limited out there as only a few teams need a closer to begin with. As for trading from the minors, there’s nothing much at the top end but hopefully, in lower minors, there’s enough talent to induce a team like the A’s to part with Chris Bassitt or Sean Manea, because Carlos Rodón is the best of what’s left on the market by a mile and that story always seems to end with the letters M, R, and I. Or hope that a team with designs on trying to compete wants a Dallas Keuchel, and has a young 2B or OF with upside to send back. The fact is that the Sox may have to try and move Gavin Sheets or Andrew Vaughn, which could leave a RF gap or a DH gap. They might have to move a guy that creates another hole.

Not having a full infield, not having pitching depth sufficient to fill the rotation, and getting lucky if one of two DHs makes themselves into an outfielder is a bad result at the end of the rebuild. The fact that this is the third offseason with similar issues puts Rick Hahn at a crossroads, in the crosshairs, and someone check to see if he’s cross-eyed.

Avoiding Being Ricky Hahn

Hahn doesn’t need to do a ton of work, but he needs to finish what he started. He can’t get the Sox over the hump just by the current roster improving. Kopech in the rotation creates a hole in the bullpen, and Graveman is replacing Tepera already. Kopech is also not going to eat innings, and Dylan Cease already has “electric but not for long” covered. Leury will play plenty for this team, but if he’s the starter in RF or 2B, the bench is weaker and so is the lineup. Vaughn or Sheets needs to be better at the plate and the field, and both come with serious questions in that regard. Lucky isn’t a plan.

He also has smaller holes that are less pressure-packed. Backup catcher? Doesn’t need to be great. A long reliever or two? They can be somewhat mediocre. Last guy(s) on the bench? Can be rotated.

That’s partially why as Marcus Semien and Robbie Ray went elsewhere, the Sox fan collectives were left wondering whether it was the money or the years, while hoping Rick didn’t want to pull the trigger because he had better plans. The Sox were almost by sheer desperation in the Twitterverse rumored to want guys like those two, but then there really weren’t guys LIKE those two on the market. Losing Semien made Chris Taylor, a good but not star player and one tied to a draft pick, the best free-agent option. Then Taylor went back to the Dodgers, and now the free-agent options aren’t all that palatable in that they kinda suck. Losing Ray wasn’t a big blow in and of itself, but the best pitcher on the market after he signed was Carlos Rodón, who failed to be the answer for the Sox at the end last year and seemed to be hiding another injury. Neither Rick Hahn nor Jerry Reinsdorf was tossing Max Scherzer $43 million per year, but Ray and Kevin Gausman were deals with years that either Hahn can’t give or didn’t bother trying, but ultimately very reasonable dollar amounts.

And therein lies why this falls at Rick Hahn’s feet. His job is not to just spend unlimited money and years, but to figure out how to take this team to the ultimate level within the framework he is given. Making a trade at the deadline which created an off-season need and adding payroll that wasn’t needed on a team that struggles to find cash was a very “Ricky” move, in that his best move to recoup is to flip the failures for some future. Tossing money at Dallas Keuchel when the Astros and Braves, two contenders, had determined he wasn’t worth it, was again a “Ricky” move in attempting to “protect” young players while effectively not advancing the cause of winning. Throwing money for one or two years at the end of a career DH’s viable playing days instead of looking to fill the long-term need with an established bat feels like it should be labeled Ricky, where there’s a youngster who can learn by watching but not doing.

The Sox were exposed twice in the playoffs the last two years but were young and growing. Now as the market emptied before the lockout, the Sox claim they will be better than last year, but entered the offseason worse than last year. Fans are waiting on that move that is all about the W’s and not about the F. F being future. Instead, fans are left pondering prospects and what veterans can bring back in a trade.

Change that, Mr. Hahn, or you are now the Ricky. And that is intended as an insult.

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