Baseball Magazine

Chicago White Sox: Fans and Pundits’ Opinions on Sox Continue to Plummet This Offseason

By Cbr66 @JKries

Chicago White Sox: Fans and Pundits’ Opinions on Sox Continue to Plummet This OffseasonWhile Chicago White Sox general manager Kenny Williams hasn’t won much praise for his offseason tinkering, the opinion of the White Sox organization seems to be rather low going into 2012, based on various articles, rankings, and fan opinions this offseason.

Most good will and buzz created by the White Sox’s World Series win in 2005 seems to have evaporated, and the upcoming season is coming on the heels of an extremely disappointing campaign in which the team was heavily favored by fans and baseball analysts.

The Sox are in a holding pattern of sorts and are currently hamstrung by some bad contracts, lacking a good farm system, and staring down the prospect of facing Miguel Cabrera and Prince Fielder 18 times a year. Constantly feeling slighted by the attention paid to crosstown rivals, the Chicago Cubs, Sox fans had to hear about the Cubs organization’s new front office wunderkind trio this offseason, after the team hired Theo Epstein, Jed Hoyer, and Jason McLeod to head up the Cubs’ baseball operations. Meanwhile on the South Side, Kenny Williams has been tasked with cleaning up the mess after a brutal 2011 season, a mess which can be mostly attributed to Williams.

Here’s a look at some of the bad buzz and bad news surrounding the White Sox going into 2012.

“All In” Leaves a Nasty Aftertaste

Chicago White Sox: Fans and Pundits’ Opinions on Sox Continue to Plummet This OffseasonThe White Sox can be counted on for having slick and creative marketing campaigns year in and year out. 2011 was no exception, and was one of their boldest slogans yet: “All In”. With the addition of one of the National League’s most consistent sluggers of the last decade, Adam Dunn, the team was set to build on 2010′s near-miss at a division title.

Dunn’s struggles in 2011 are well-known as he posted one of the worst individual seasons by any player in baseball history. Only a lack of total at-bats saved him from posting the worst batting average in the game’s history at .159. For a player with 354 career bombs in 10 seasons, his .277 slugging percentage in 2011 was even more disturbing. Dunn’s performance, along with the team’s overall struggles on offense put the team in a huge early season hole. The Sox trailed the AL Central division champion Detroit Tigers by 16 games at season’s end, and manager Ozzie Guillen’s constant public feuds with Williams led to Guillen’s abrupt departure during the last week of the season.

Following the White Sox’s losing season in 2011, the team will go with a completely unproven manager in Robin Ventura. While Guillen was monumentally overrated, a rookie manager will experience some growing pains that may cost the team a game or two in 2012, possibly making fans long for the days of Guillen trying to force the bunt on a home run hitting team. While fans may not be too thrilled with the team’s choice in manager, despite Ventura’s popularity during his playing days with the White Sox, his hiring gave the appearance of team chairman Jerry Reinsdorf bargain-hunting while the team tries to slash payroll.

The bright side is that the White Sox have zero expectations throughout baseball to make some noise in the AL Central this year. The contrast is striking when looking at the 2011 offseason, when no fewer than 7 out of 12 Sports Illustrated writers picked the White Sox to win the AL Central. The team’s veterans and rookies won’t have to deal with the weight of any outside expectations or management turmoil that have plagued the White Sox following their championship run in 2005.

Kenny Williams Uses the “R” Word

Chicago White Sox: Fans and Pundits’ Opinions on Sox Continue to Plummet This OffseasonWhile the team was reeling this offseason from their disappointing 2011 performance, the possibility of some bounce back seasons from struggling players had to cross the minds of players and fans alike. Things were off the mark in 2011, but the team still had some talent and could likely compete again. Then Kenny Williams decided to try to rebuild the team, despite the fact that the White Sox had little wiggle room on some big contracts, including the $40 million three-headed monster that is Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, and Jake Peavy.

Williams dealt one of the team’s few success stories of 2011, closer Sergio Santos. Santos went to Toronto, creating yet another hole in the back-end of the team’s bullpen. The Sox received some prospects, including young starter Nestor Molina, who may squeeze into the rotation at some point this season. The deal was a bit puzzling, however, as Santos was locked up for a few years at a relatively low price. While Santos wasn’t exactly Mariano Rivera in his first full season of closing games, he did display some brilliant stuff, and he should shore up a Toronto bullpen that always seems to struggle in the closer department.

Following the trade, Williams claimed the team was in rebuilding mode, and that nobody was trade-proof on the White Sox. While some felt that this was a welcome declaration from Williams, others in baseball felt that Williams jumped the gun a bit, as the White Sox have few assets to offer in their farm system, and also can’t move some of their under-performing veterans. Following Mark Buehrle’s exit this winter, Williams also traded Carlos Quentin, but he signed pitcher John Danks to a $65 million contract. The White Sox didn’t necessarily get the best prospects this winter, and they committed big dollars to a pitcher coming off of a season where his ERA ballooned to 4.33.

Williams later backtracked on his rebuilding comment, and the rest of baseball agreed that his rebuilding comment was a bit premature. However you describe it, the White Sox had a rough offseason, and the team didn’t do much to improve their situation.

The White Sox Need Some Farm Aid

Chicago White Sox: Fans and Pundits’ Opinions on Sox Continue to Plummet This OffseasonThe White Sox have been routinely pegged this offseason as having the worst farm system in baseball. Their lack of top prospects and young MLB-ready talent will guarantee that the team won’t be trading for any top players over the next few seasons. While the team has a lot of youth ready to make their mark at the major league level this season, such as Dayan Viciedo, Alejandro De Aza, Brent Morel, and Addison Reed, the organization is sorely lacking in minor league talent.

It’s usually a bad sign when you only have one player among MLB.com’s annual top 100 prospects, and that prospect happens to be a closer (Reed).

While Williams and assistant GM Rick Hahn try to field a competitive team in the suddenly even more challenging AL Central division, following the Tigers’ Prince Fielder signing, the Sox front office has to figure out a way to re-stock their depleted farm system through more trades, and through the draft.

Kick Us While We’re Down, Why Don’t You

Chicago White Sox: Fans and Pundits’ Opinions on Sox Continue to Plummet This OffseasonDespite the problems on and off the field for the White Sox over the last year, fans can still “strap it down” for an entertaining broadcast when the team takes the field this season. Or can they? Apparently, Sox fans and MLB fans around the country feel the White Sox are also lacking in the broadcast booth.

While it wasn’t revealed how many respondents weighed in on Fangraph’s recent broadcaster rankings articles, the White Sox TV broadcast team of Hawk Harrelson and Steve Stone finished 31st, dead last among the league’s broadcast teams (the Dodgers have two broadcast teams, including one with just the legendary voice of Vin Scully).

The survey asked fans to rate broadcasters on their charisma and the quality of their analysis. A telling quote from Fangraphs revealed that most of the bad feelings for the White Sox booth stems from the team’s play-by-play man, Harrelson.

It’d be easier to describe Hawk Harrelson as a “polarizing” figure among FanGraphs readers if there were more respondents who defended him.

Personally, I’ve always enjoyed Hawk’s style. He does have obvious weaknesses and idiosyncrasies. His mic generally goes silent when the team is getting pounded or a bad inning is unraveling the team’s chance for victory. He’s an unabashed homer with a somewhat out-of-place, country-fied, honky-tonk delivery for a team that plays in the big city. He constantly calls out umpires during broadcasts and spouts off about conspiracy theories keeping the White Sox down.

What Hawk brings to the broadcast booth is personality, a trait so many modern-day baseball broadcasters lack. While most of America tuned out during the 2005 World Series while the White Sox were dominating the Houston Astros, the broadcasts of some exciting games weren’t helped by the monotone, deadpan, and excruciatingly boring delivery of Fox broadcaster, Joe Buck. After the final out of Game 4, Buck’s call of “…and the White Sox win the World Series,” had all the excitement and tone of a banking seminar. Naturally, Hawk’s team won the Series, but if he had the final call, we’d probably still be recovering from his explosion of joy. His call of DeWayne Wise’s catch during Mark Buehrle’s 2009 no-hitter is still one of my favorite calls (and baseball plays) in recent memory. Hawk brings excitement to the booth, and has a love him/hate him quality and persona that resonates with many White Sox fans.

The White Sox analyst in the booth, Steve Stone, has generally been regarded as one of the best analysts in the game, and he routinely predicts outcomes during games, and imparts intelligent analysis during most broadcasts. He hasn’t exactly meshed yet with Harrelson since joining the White Sox TV booth, and he’s probably slipped a bit over the years, but I would put him over most analysts in the game, especially the awful dreck that the national networks have trotted out over the years.

________________________________________________________________________

With so much negative buzz about the White Sox circulating recently, it would be a small miracle if the team enjoyed good attendance figures this season. The only cure for lack of interest and poor figures at the gate would be a winning season. While all hope is not lost yet, the team still has solid pitching talent and will be adding young lefty Chris Sale to the rotation. Detroit has been all but crowned division champs before an official pitch has been thrown, and with some White Sox players owed some kind of bounce back success in 2012, the team might possibly make one last charge before the team is completely gutted over the next few years.

-James Kries


Back to Featured Articles on Logo Paperblog

Magazines