Fans to soak in new direction at SoxFest
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The White Sox almost always had just enough pieces on their roster to pitch themselves as contenders when SoxFest came rolling around in late January.
In reality, since their last playoff team in 2008, with few exceptions, they’ve shaped up as, at best, a .500-looking team accompanied by the promise of being one or two midseason additions away from making the postseason. That was usually enough to suck fans in this time of year.
But after consistently being “mired in mediocrity,” as general manager Rick Hahn famously put it last summer (actually, four consecutive losing seasons is worse than mediocre), the Sox have given up on trying to cobble together a contending team.
The December trades of Chris Sale, one of baseball’s elite pitchers, and Adam Eaton, the Sox’ best overall position player in 2016, for packages of prospects have signaled the start of a plan that most hard-core fans — those who can name all 25 players on the roster, who have a decent knowledge of the farm system, who follow the team daily — appear to approve of.
Fan bases have seen other teams, the Cubs as the nearby obvious albeit dissimilar example, go young and make it work over time. And it will be worth seeing how the fans respond at SoxFest this weekend. Their hopes of winning will be lower than ever, but they might be less grumpy than usual.
Many will want to know, though, why the “overhaul” hit the brakes after Sale and Eaton were dealt for seven prospects, six of whom are now in the organization’s top 10 (including the top four), according to MLB.com.
Hahn has more pieces at his disposal to move, including probable Opening Day left-hander Jose Quintana (if he’s still here by April 3), third baseman Todd Frazier and closer David Robertson, to name a few. But the overall market has cooled.
Hahn said in December that he was under no pressure to deal, and that still holds six weeks later. A sore arm to someone’s key starter or reliever or an injury to another team’s middle-of-the-order bat could be all it takes for Hahn to get what he wants.
In the meantime, Quintana, the likable good soldier and All-Star, will find himself in the awkward position at SoxFest of being asked what it’s like to hear his name mentioned in trade rumors on an almost daily basis.
Elsewhere, new prospects such as Yoan Moncada, Lucas Giolito, Zack Collins, Zack Burdi and Michael Kopech will be making the rounds and capturing the attention of fans.
Intrigue will be a welcome addition Friday through Sunday at the Chicago Hilton.
New manager Rick Renteria, 23-year-old shortstop Tim Anderson, Moncada and Giolito will visit Lurie Children’s Hospital on Thursday before Burdi and Kopech, among others, make ticket-sales calls from the ballpark. On Wednesday, Renteria made a relaxed and engaging appearance at Juarez Academy, three miles away from the Sox’ ballpark.
Renteria, who loves to cook, whipped up a serving of queso fundido for an attentive culinary class and told students “to avoid the temptation of giving up hope.”
He was talking about their personal dreams, not the nearby professional baseball team’s. But he could’ve been delivering a message to Sox fans everywhere.
These hopes will require a dash of patience as well, but for fans who’ve become frustrated or begun to lose interest with patchwork fixer-upper teams, seeing a clearer recipe for hoped-for success might be easier to digest.
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.