There are three approaches that White Sox fans can choose from while their team goes through its rebuild.
The most human approach is to despair, as some of them surely were doing during the first inning of a Sox-Cubs Crosstown Showdown game Friday. It’s to watch Willson Contreras’ grand slam off Carson Fulmer, whom the Sox took with the eighth overall pick in the 2015 draft, and get caught up in the darkness of now. It’s to look at an 11-2 loss and a major-league-worst 9-26 record after Friday’s game and say, “This makes me want to do unspeakable things to myself.’’
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The hopeful approach allows you to have faith that things will get better while the losses pile up and the top prospects (hopefully) improve in the minor leagues. Hope gives you permission to get on board with the idea that success very well could be around the corner.
The delusional approach allows you to declare that the rebuild already is a massive success. It lets you tell people to pay no attention to the lack of victories and to start preparing for a World Series in whatever year you’re thoroughly convinced it’s going to happen. The kids in the minors are that good, you scream to the world.
Delusion has always gotten a bad rap, often from me, but as I sit here during the first game of the series, I can’t help but think that delusion is the way to go for Sox fans. If you’re deluded, you don’t know you’re deluded. Reality can’t kill your buzz. And how great is that?
Consider this a Survival Guide for White Sox Fans.
It’s hard to argue that the Sox have been anything but awful so far this season, but if you’re deluded, if you’re absolutely certain that the franchise is headed for greatness, you give that awfulness as much attention as you’d give an ant.
As hard as this might be to swallow for Sox fans, Cubs fans can be your inspiration. I know: You’d rather swallow pickle juice. But put aside your enmity and learn from them.
While the Cubs were rebuilding in 2014, Cubs fans didn’t care that Edwin Jackson was on his way to a 6-15 season. They very much cared that Kris Bryant was on his way to a combined .325 average, 43 home runs and 110 RBI at two minor-league stops.
If you told them there were no guarantees that any of the top prospects the Cubs had amassed through tanking would be successful, they looked at you as if you were drunk. If you told them you just saw their toddler playing with matches, they asked you what that had to do with Anthony Rizzo’s WAR.
So do as they did, Sox fans. Ignore Contreras’ grand slam and Fulmer’s struggles. Instead, imagine Michael Kopech, now playing for the Sox’ Triple A affiliate, throwing a 102-mph fastball past Bryant in a 2020 World Series game at Wrigley Field. No, don’t imagine it. Know it.
Know that top prospects Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert, Dylan Cease, Alec Hansen, Jake Burger and Blake Rutherford will join Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson and Jose Abreu at the big-league level. That, friends, is how delusion is done.
You want that frown turned upside down? Listen to Kyle Schwarber, who was part of the Cubs’ rebuild, talk about the Sox: “They got a bunch of good ballplayers, and they’ve got a bunch of good guys down in the minor leagues, too. I think they took a couple of our young guys [Jimenez and Cease in the Jose Quintana trade]. You’ve got a really promising group down there.’’
So, a Cubs-Sox World Series in 2020? If the scouting reports on the Sox’ minor-leaguers are accurate and the buildup by the true believers is anything close to the truth, I suppose it’s possible. You know, as long as the Cubs hold up their end of the bargain. I love that last sentence. It’s so Chicago, so emblematic of North Side-South Side antagonism. A 2020 crosstown World Series might be delusional, but it’s better than moping about the poor brand of baseball the Sox are foisting upon Chicago.
What else is there to do but believe?
“Wow, I’d love to be there for that,’’ Cubs manager Joe Maddon said. “That probably is the epitome, I would imagine. When we got here, the first goal was to get there and win it. We have. We’re looking to get back, but to do it inner-city like that would be pretty spectacular. I can’t even imagine what that would look like. Talk about energy, oh, my God. I hope I’m around for that moment to occur.’’
A lot of things had to go right for the Cubs to go from wretched losers to World Series champions. It was not a given that everything would go as planned during the rebuild, but there were plenty of Cubs fans who were sure it was. Every move that president Theo Epstein made was greeted with hosannas.
A lot of things have to go right for the Sox’ rebuild to succeed. There’s no harm in telling yourself it will. It won’t be delusion if it happens.
In the meantime, pay no attention to Contreras’ sixth-inning home run. Or his seven RBI.
Sun-Times sports columnists Rick Morrissey and Rick Telander are co-hosts of a new podcast called “The Two Ricks: Unfiltered.” Don’t miss their candid, amusing takes on everything from professional teams tanking to overzealous sports parents and more. Download and subscribe for free on Apple Podcastsand Google Play, or via RSS feed.