TELANDER: Sure, Sox are horrible, but having a plan is victory enough
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It’s 2020, the postseason has arrived, and the White Sox are contending for the World Series.
They’re rebuilt, retooled, refined, reborn. They’re legit.
Sure, it’s a dream. But isn’t that what all this deconstruction and selling of assets and acquiring of draft picks and young guys and hopeful phenoms is all about?
Head man Rick Hahn has made no secret of the Sox’ project to blow up everything and construct a team that is not constrained by half-baked concepts, patched-together lineups, old-man salaries and little unity.
It’s good there’s a genuine plan. Because if this current club were assembled by accident or bad decisions, with its worst-in-the-American League record of 48-76 after losing Tuesday night, there should be fan insurrection.
As it stands, Sox followers, even with this wretched team, are the most satisfied and happiest pro sports fans in Chicago — ahead of the 2016 World Series champion Cubs, the Bulls, the Bears and the Blackhawks.
I’m not making that up. It’s from a recent survey by something called the J.D. Power Fan Experience Study. And you know surveys are not fake news.
At any rate, Sox fans seem to be OK with this turbulent losing, which, from a certain vantage point, could be called plain old tanking. You stink now so you can smell like a rose later. Sox fans keep rolling with it — the G-Rate stands half-empty but cheerful, understanding, nobody expecting much — the North Side Cubs sucking all the oxygen out of the baseball room except what little the Sox need to chug quietly along.
On any given day, it’s hard to say who will be in the lineup for the Sox, except, of course, one of the many confusing Garcias. On Monday, young pitcher Carson Fulmer was brought up from the minors to start the second game against the Twins, got blasted into the ionosphere and landed back down in the minors. The Sox’ first-round pick in 2015, Fulmer is proof that rebuilding plans don’t always work out perfectly.
That’s the uncertainty Hahn must deal with, but his confidence is complete. “If you have a sound plan, you trust that,” he has said. The Cubs did it, so why can’t he? We’ll find out as the gutting continues.
Indeed, the players on the Sox are so much like pieces in a board game that it seems anyone who’s not an adolescent might be shipped off for somebody younger, more unknown, with more “potential,” at any moment.
Asked not long ago if All-Star outfielder Avisail Garcia, a free agent in 2020, will be part of the new regime, Hahn demurred. Where did Avi fit in?
“Right field today,” Hahn replied.
Garcia, after all, is an ancient 26.
Established fellows like center fielder and leadoff man Adam Eaton, 28, were dumped during the offseason for kids like Lucas Giolito, 22, the Nationals’ No. 1 pitching prospect, who started for the Sox on Tuesday night.
And, of course, ace fireballer Chris Sale was shopped to the Red Sox for young infielder Yoan Moncada, two other prospects, plus bazooka-armed right-hander Michael Kopech. Just 21, Kopech keeps folks enthralled because, according to Baseball America, he threw a 105 mph fastball in a minor-league game last year.
That’s cool, but cautionary.
I’ll never forget talking to 2005 Sox World Series closer Bobby Jenks, who told me he once hit 103 mph in the minors. Nobody can touch that, I said with awe.
“Oh, they’ll time it up if you don’t move it around,” Jenks corrected me. “Doesn’t matter how fast.”
Right now the Sox are slow. Speed to come. They promise.
Follow me on Twitter @ricktelander.