Losing to the Padres is like losing to a therapy dog.
It has been several days since Manny Machado chose the Padres over the White Sox, but the cruelty of that reality hasn’t gone away: The Sox lost to the woeful Padres, who were put on earth to make other teams feel better about themselves.
Everybody loses to the Yankees and Red Sox when it comes to landing big-name free agents. Everybody understands getting outspent by the filthy-rich. But getting outdone by the small-market Padres? They’re good at weather, not winning.
It’s true the Padres have gone the rebuild route, which, in the upside-down world of professional sports, makes them cool and intriguing. But this is an organization that has won its division only five times since entering the world 50 years ago. It has finished an average of 20 games behind the division leader the last 11 seasons.
That’s terribly incriminating for the Sox, who haven’t been much better but at least have a World Series in their recent past (2005). They should have made it their life’s work not to suffer the indignity of finishing behind such a historically bad franchise in the Machado sweepstakes. It doesn’t matter that vice president Ken Williams thought the Sox had the best offer Tuesday morning, when word of Machado’s decision leaked out. They should have found out what the Padres’ offer was and topped it.
The Padres gave Machado $300 million of guaranteed money over 10 years. The Sox did not. They reportedly offered eight years, $250 million and incentives that could have made the contract worth much more. Translated, Machado didn’t have much of a decision. Unless something has changed in human psychology, players want the most money they’re positive they can make. I’m sure Machado likes his brother-in-law, Yonder Alonso, whom the Sox had traded for earlier in the offseason. I’m sure he likes his good friend Jon Jay, whom the Sox had signed as a free agent. But I know Machado loves money because he chose that over them.
There has been a huge public debate about whether Machado is worthy of a 10-year deal and all that money, but it misses the point. When a franchise has made the decision to rebuild, part of the deal is to be ready to go all-in when the time comes, even if that time doesn’t quite match the team’s schedule. After two years of committed losing, the Sox saw the moment pulling into the station this offseason.
A Machado and a Bryce Harper might not come around again for a decade or three. A pair of 26-year-old superstars on the market at the same time is rare. It calls for action. The Sox didn’t act with the appropriate financial urgency. They acted like a franchise that hoped Machado would land in their laps by circumstance.
It’s impossible to put a price tag on the enthusiasm and momentum this kind of signing would have brought to the franchise and the city. It would have lasted for years, and the effects would have been seen in the standings and in the attendance at Guaranteed Rate Field. That effect would have been greater if the man signing the contract had been Harper, who has more star power than Machado, but it’s the same point: Sometimes the signing itself is the biggest statement. It says, to borrow from Cubs’ 2015 slogan, ‘‘Let’s Go.’’
It’s what the Jon Lester signing did for the North Siders in December 2014.
Top free agents will want to come to the South Side if the Sox start winning, but it will take exceptional offers to make that happen. That’s the lesson here for the Sox, though it’s a lesson they should have learned ages ago: Money talks. Money coos. Money whispers in ears.
‘‘I wanted to be a Padre,’’ Machado said at an introductory news conference Friday. ‘‘This is where I wanted to be.’’
Sorry, Manny, no. You didn’t go to San Diego because you wanted to be a Padre. Nobody says that with a straight face. You didn’t go to San Diego because it’s sunny there. It’s sunny in Chicago in the summer, too. You went to San Diego for the money — the money the Sox didn’t offer.
That’s on the Sox. Maybe Machado never really wanted to come to Chicago and only was using the South Siders for leverage. But Sox fans would be feeling a lot better today if their team had made the best offer. Then they could have directed their rage at a baseball player instead of at a partially open checkbook.