Sellers indeed: White Sox market the plan, and fans buy in
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The White Sox are rebuilding.
You know this unless you’ve been living under a baseball rock.
And they’re ‘‘winning’’ this rebuild, too, thanks to a crystal-clear plan to build their farm system, which has cost them their best players in trades.
That farm system has climbed by leaps and bounds, and if you don’t know that, it’s no fault of the Sox’ public- and media-relations force, which launched an effective all-out endeavor last winter to promote the future and is still going full steam ahead.
If you’ve got ’em, flaunt ’em, and the Sox are doing just that with a glistening prospect treasure chest that features 10 minor-leaguers in MLB.com’s top 68 (six of whom are in the top 30), including Yoan Moncada (1), Eloy Jimenez (8) and Michael Kopech (11).
While not playing to win this season, the Sox have won the promotion of their future by:
† Starting 2015 first-round draft pick Carson Fulmer (59) and three pitchers acquired in offseason trades for Chris Sale and Adam Eaton — Lucas Giolito (28), Kopech and Reynaldo Lopez (36) — in the first week of Cactus League spring-training games.
† Broadcasting nine
Class AAA Charlotte games on CSN, with five more to be televised.
† Creating a minor-league player-of-the-week award.
† Attracting a throng of Chicago media to Charlotte games in Indianapolis by sending team interpreter Billy Russo there to open the communication lines with Moncada and Lopez.
† Being proactive about making general manager Rick Hahn available on local airwaves. Hahn always has been accessible, but the Sox have gone a step further, reaching out to local sports radio by offering to put him on. He’s a captivating listen because of the rebuild, so the stations always put Hahn on.
† Arranging for conference calls between prospects and local media, the latest with Dylan Cease (63), one of the Cubs’ top two prospects acquired in the Jose Quintana trade last week, and Blake Rutherford (30), who came from the Yankees for Todd Frazier, David Robertson and Tommy Kahnle on Tuesday.
“It’s exciting to be in a system like this one, where there are so many talented guys and the potential to do something great is there,’’ Cease told media on the call.
Riding a six-game losing streak and owning the third-worst record in baseball (38-54), the Sox are destined for their fifth consecutive losing season and likely will finish fourth or fifth in the five-team American League Central a fourth straight year. Since winning the World Series in 2005, they’ve made the playoffs once, in 2008, and went out with a whimper.
A disgruntled fan base has embraced the new direction, one built on hope and promise by the same management team that failed in the past to win with pitchers such as Sale and Quintana.
Fans who were quick to boo mistakes made when Robin Ventura was manager last season are not booing similar mistakes under first-year manager Rick Renteria, whose “we battled” and “we didn’t quit” after games are an application of salve. And the fans are still showing up. The Sox averaged 21,559 in attendance in 2016 and are averaging 21,327 this year, not much difference despite a worse record.
The selling of the rebuild is humming along.
“We recognized that as we go through this multiyear transition, our fans aren’t just interested in what’s happening at the major-league level each night,’’ said Scott Reifert, the Sox’ senior vice president for communications, “but they are also invested in following the development of players in our minor-league system.
‘‘Last winter, we tried to identify and expand on creative ways to work with our players and each of the affiliates to highlight the achievements of our standout minor-leaguers, and we think it has been an initiative that benefits the organization and hopefully is a lot of fun for fans.’’
Moncada’s Sox debut against the Dodgers on Wednesday night sold an additional 5,000 tickets, the Sox said, and got them their highest TV audience of the season. They lost 9-1.
Almost everyone seems to be all in.
“Every night, there are multiple stories to share,’’ Reifert said. “Sox fans win because they can begin to connect with these players and personalities before they arrive in the big leagues.’’
Follow me on Twitter @CST_soxvan.
White Sox at Royals
Friday: James Shields (2-2, 5.10) vs. Ian Kennedy (3-6, 4.32), 7:15 p.m., CSN, 890-AM.
Saturday: Mike Pelfrey (3-7, 4.64) vs. Jason Vargas (12-4, 3.06), 6:15, Ch. 9, 890-AM
Sunday: Derek Holland (5-9, 5.18) vs. Travis Wood (1-3, 6.81), 1:15, CSN, 890-AM.