White Sox’ rebuild? Call it the seven-year curse

Admit it: Sox fans, by nature, are a miserable lot — we are filled with hope but fueled by bile.

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Jerry Reinsdorf’s words this week don’t exactly mesh with his actions as Sox chairman.

Jerry Reinsdorf’s words this week don’t exactly mesh with his actions as Sox chairman.

Lynne Sladky/AP

What’s happening with the White Sox to start the season has been a miserable yet predictable script.

While no one imagined they’d lose 10 in a row at any point in the season, you definitely had concerns about whether this team would ever live up to its potential. That word “potential” is something that Sox fans have been hanging on to since the franchise embarked on a rebuild seven years ago. That’s right, it has been that long.

As the Cubs were winning the World Series, the Sox were mired in mediocrity. That’s what general manager Rick Hahn said about his squad. That honesty was met with amens and hallelujahs. It felt good to believe a front office was seeing the same stagnant product that fans were seeing.

Sox fans, by nature, are a miserable lot. I come by that assessment honestly as someone who’s a long-suffering fan and former season-ticket holder. We are filled with hope but fueled by bile. The Cubs’ success allowed for Sox fans to see how something could be burned to the ground and reborn into a championship phoenix. It was downright quaint how Sox fans embraced the ideas of watching what was happening in Kannapolis, Birmingham and Charlotte.

Over the next few seasons, Sox fans enjoyed their newfound freedom. They didn’t sweat those bad major-league teams — they were waiting on their reward for being loyal. Then it started to happen, the prospects were graduating to 35th and Shields. Wrestling Eloy Jimenez and Dylan Cease from the Cubs seemed like a theft worthy of “Ocean’s 11.” Tim Anderson’s athleticism and personality were unleashed. He was a star! Lucas Giolito became a Cy Young candidate. Yoan Moncada got an MVP vote.

Things were looking up, and Sox fans were at peace. I remember being in the ballpark for Michael Kopech’s debut. I wish I could’ve bottled that hope. Even a rainout couldn’t wash it away.

If I could’ve bottled that hope, I may have opened it over the last couple of weeks, but sadly it’s all gone. The Tony La Russa years destroyed it. The former Sox skipper was the target of most of our venom, but he wasn’t the only problem. He was just a symptom of organizational dysfunction. On every level, this franchise is in trouble.

Hahn should be thanking La Russa because he provided plenty of cover. Hahn and his staff should get credit for identifying talent, but they deserve a ton of blame for not developing it. It makes you wonder if the Sox made some terrible miscalculations about long-term extensions.

That used to be Hahn’s superpower — buying out arbitration years of talented young players. Those players haven’t repaid that faith. For most, it has been an issue of health. For some, it’s a lack of desire. Think about this: For the last three seasons, there have been meaningful conversations with multiple players about running hard to first base.

For years, there have been multiple players playing out of position. The only explanation the Sox can offer is that they have to operate within a budget.

Ownership wants to win but takes half-measures. When the Pirates can cross the $100 million threshold on a player before you do, there’s something wrong. On top of that, chairman Jerry Reinsdorf has stepped on his front office’s toes multiple times. The worst example being the La Russa hire.

In a fit of revisionist history, Reinsdorf refuted both assertions while speaking at the Milken Institute Global Conference on Monday.

“If you think that you know more than your GM or head coach, then you’ve got the wrong GM,” Reinsdorf said. “You’ve got to let them make the decisions.”

I imagine Hahn doing a comedic spit take as he read that.

Reinsdorf also added this gem: “Sports is a business of failure, but the fact that you finish second or third or fourth, it doesn’t mean you had a bad year.”

Between these quotes, the losing streak and Luis Robert Jr. not knowing bench coach Charlie Montoyo’s name, it has been quite the two-week stretch.

The failures are so systemic that it’s hard to find where one would even begin to dig for hope. The losing streak may have ended, but the problems persist, and they are legion.

You can hear Laurence Holmes talk Chicago sports Monday to Friday from 10 a.m.-2 p.m. on 670 The Score with Dan Bernstein.

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