Good morning friends, it is your old pal BeefLoaf (emphasis on the OLD, as I’ll be turning 40 the day after our meet up at Baderbrau on June 16th with our friends from the SoxMachine, check out this Eventbrite for some more details.) and I wanted to get down on my thoughts about “Expectations” for the Next GREAT White Sox team. The two best White Sox teams that I remember vividly are the 2005 Champs (let’s include the 2000 team in there and the 2008 division champs, which was the first season that I had weekend season tix) and the 1993 Division Champs. I went, as all supposedly smart dudes do, to the Baseball Reference page and took a look at these two teams competitive windows and calculated their “expected” playoff appearances using the 2 wild card system that we haz today. Here are the results……
The best White Sox teams in terms of playoff appearances evar (this criterion is based on IF the 2nd Wild Card existed, AND for the 1990-1998 White Sox I am assuming that the strike shortened results of 1994 for FINAL).
2000-2008 White Sox 4
1990-1998 White Sox 4
*It makes me happy to watch these two dudes mash taters*
This was the genesis of the poll that I put out to the fans. I really wasn’t sure what to expect from a good White Sox team, but since the last two versions came through with similar type results as far as wins and such, I thought it might be about the right number to shoot for with the core that will be around over the next decade.
Okay, 46% of you, said I’m fucked up. 4 Playoff appearances is too few to make you “delighted in your happies”, with this next crew. I found this interesting as I assumed most of the people who participated in this poll likely don’t remember 1983 (I barely do) and some probably don’t really remember 1993. Most of you only remember the 2000-2008. Those teams had a variety of different players and really only 2 stars that were part of all of those teams Paul Konerko and Mark Buehrle. Those were the best teams of our collective lifetime’s. The poll revealed that in order for this rebuild to be successful for at least 46% of you out there, they would need to be better than that team. Doesn’t seem terribly unreasonable on the face of it, what with 1 more playoff birth in there that would make it so. You also have to think those teams didn’t have a second wild card to contend for, had they, Kenny Williams likely would’ve been even more aggressive in acquiring in season upgrades and maybe they squeeze out a 5th playoff appearance in that era. Then I got to thinking, maybe there was an even better example of this in the years before I was born.
ENTER the GO-GO White Sox!!!
Now, I had to change the criterion a bit. There were only 8 teams in the American League at this time and free agency didn’t yet exist, so it’s probably not a perfect comparable. I decided that top 2 in the AL or 3rd place with 90 or more wins, was akin to making the playoffs in the 2 Wild Card system.
1957-1965 White Sox 6
The GO-GO White Sox are the best of our beloved since WWII. This is probably the era that your grandparents and for some of you older folks, your parents were becoming White Sox fans and dragging you into this herd. That team mostly didn’t make the playoffs, only 1 division title, that was in 1959 as most of you all know. That team however was terrific, and put up very high win totals only to be edged out by the likes of the Yankees (mostly) and the Twins and Indians occassionally. This is our marker for the poll as Sox fans. OKAY, BUT BEEFLOAF, I NEVER SAW THE GO-GO WHITE SOX PLAY, SO WTF? You know what, me either, and all I can garner from looking at stats and talking to people who did in fact watch them play was that they didn’t score too much, but they also didn’t give up much runs. Truth be told, 1950’s and 1960’s baseball looked nothing like what it looks like today. Maybe we should look at some more recent teams that went through rebuilds and see what a good expectation of making the playoffs might be for our soon-to-be (hopefully) in the competitive window White Sox.
For this section, I am going to throw out the Red Sox, Yankees, Dodgers, Angels, Tigers (Pizza Money Spending Era), Cubs and Astros, because we all know they ain’t gonna be spending that kinda money. Let’s call these teams the BIG MARKET teams. These teams separate themselves as they are able to extend their competitive window by consistently buying players of need who contribute. Not only superstars, but regular old players that are pretty good that you need to keep contending. I know, I know there are people out there saying, BeefLoaf, you don’t know that, we were told Jerry will spend when it is time to spend…..c’mon, Artie Moreno paid Josh Hamilton like $100M to go play for some other team because he had enough of him. You really think Uncle Jerry gonna spend like that?
Anywho, let’s take a look at some other teams. Remember the rules, we are taking ACTUAL PLAYOFF APPEARANCES + WOULD BE PLAYOFF APPEARANCE (pre 2nd Wild Card, but with a record that would’ve qualified for the 2nd wild card) Apples to Apples frents.
Rays 2008 – 2016 4
This is the team that went from worst team in MLB to AL Champs (2007 to 2008), they also defeated our White Sox in the division series that year, 3-1. They were top of my mind because Rob Hart recently brought this team up on twitter noting their rebuild back in the day (it was actually a build because they sucked eggs before this). Remember BJ Upton, I know I do, unfortunately he changed his name back to Melvin Upton Jr.….doesn’t have the same ring. He kilt the Sox in that series. The Rays were a great story as they were considered one of the “smart” organizations for their emphasis on run prevention in an era coming off of the whole “Moneyball” thing. They also got on base like a mutha too, and utilized high draft picks that helped this eras teams greatly (Longoria, Price & Upton were all top 3 overall picks). The Rays 1st round magic appeared to run out later into this run and therefore so did their cheap cost controlled talent. The Rays tend to always have a miniscule payroll, so that’s curtains for a team like this. The White Sox will spend substantially more than those Rays, but they also don’t have Andrew Friedman as their GM.
Pirates 2012 – now 3
The Pirates started the uh…”pitch it so they can hit it right into the shift” revolution, or something. They also drafted Andrew McCutchen #11 overall in 2005 and he became a superstar. This era of team was also terrific at finding low cost free agents that they could plug in and get A LOT of mileage out of…..that sounds nothing like our Sox. For all their success, all they got were 3 wild card play-in games, which they went 1-2 in, and then a quick divisional exit at the hands of the Cards. They are already back in pseudo rebuild mode, trading their top SP this past offseason as well as the aforementioned McCutchen….your luck can change just that quickly.
Royals 2012 – now 2
This one we watched up close and personally…including seeing the Royals clinch a playoff birth at our home park. For all the talk and all the discussion and all the bouqets thrown their way. They made 2 FUCKING PLAYOFF APPEARANCES. That’s it. Rebuilds are hard folks.
Reds 2010 – now 3
The Reds were good in 2010, winning the division, they also won the division in 2012 and before you know it, they were fucking horrible in 2015. This team had a good young core, but their pitchers swiftly got leprosy and were no good anymore,….Mat Latos (hey, remember me?), Homer Bailey, Bronson Arroyo and Tony Cingrani. I’m not sure enough limbs remain from that group to make an entire Frankenstein’s monster. DUDE.
Joey Votto is still there, doing Joey Votto things, but he’s the last remnant of a REALLY GOOD and short lived Reds squad.
Indians 2013 – now 3 (soon to be 4)
The current crop of Cleveland Indians are likely to go to the playoffs for a 3rd consecutive season, they also got a dead cat bounce season back in 2013, which I am also including. This club is getting to the end of the rope on some of their talent (Andrew Miller and Cody Allen are free agents at the end of the season). Their stars though are still all under contract (Lindor, Ramirez, Carrasco, Bauer, Kluber). The Indians are much, MUCH better at drafting and developing talent than the White Sox (at least to date) and they have a better front office. The AL Central is still pretty weak and it wouldn’t shock me if the Indians went to 5 or 6 playoffs before this 9 year window is done.
Phillies 2005 – 2013 7
Now this is probably what White Sox fans are thinking. This era Phillies were really fucking good!!! Through 2008 / 2009, the Phillies had a payroll more akin to what the White Sox are likely to have in their competitive window, something in the top 1/3 of the league, but not too high up. The 2nd half of the winning also included a top 5 payroll on the regular. That is going to be a little tougher to imagine. This squad had home grown talent up the ying-yang and superstar talent at that, with two MVP’s (Jimmy Rollins & Ryan Howard) and another guy who didn’t win an MVP, but is likely a HOF (Chase Utley), as well as a top pitching talent (Cole Hamels). They were also good at scooping up low cost talent and turning them into top players (Bobby Abreu as an example). As I said, the 2nd half of this run included grabbing Cliff Lee, Roy Halladay and Roy Oswalt, as well as providing arbitration raises to the young home grown players. Is this something our White Sox can do? I’m not sure. The truth is, that these Phillies would look A LOT like the previous teams I mentioned, without big coffers. I bring them up because they are a little different than the big spenders who I excluded because they don’t seem to spend BIG all the time. Just when it matters. Just like the White Sox MIGHT.
The final two comps are probably the best hopes for the 46%ers when envisioning a future White Sox world.
Rangers 2009 – 2017 6
The Rangers combined a terrific farm system with some savvy pick ups in free agency and trade. Their payroll stayed in the top 1/3, but didn’t consistently get in the top 3 like the Phillies did. The Rangers managed to keep the flow of low cost players who could contribute coming up from their minor leagues without having a BIG STAR come out of that group (well Josh Hamilton was a BIG STAR for 2 of these years, amidst all his issues). They were terrific up the middle with Ian Kinsler / Elvis Andrus / Michael Young for this era. A late blooming Nelson Cruz helped solidify their offense through this competitive arc (hey sounds like someone else we know).
Adrian Beltre‘s 2nd career flourished here. They traded for and mixed and matched pitching to get them back to the playoffs on the regular. All shapes and sizes imo. This era Rangers is what the White Sox COULD look like if they get it all right. Savvy free agent and trade acquisitions, terrific player development and patience. Nelson Cruz washes out of a lot of other orgs. NOT HERE. He becomes a star (despite his misplay in game 6). If the White Sox are to reach our 46%’s expectations, they are going to likely look like these teams.
Cardinals 2000 – 2008 6 AND 2009 – 2017 6
Cardinal voodoo magic is real. I’d like for the White Sox to draft Albert Pujols‘ equally sick cousin in the 13th round of the 2018 draft, but I won’t hold my breathe. Other than being big fucking cheaters, the Cardinals are terrific at acquiring and developing low cost talent. You can’t have this type of winning record over two decades without doing so. They win in all kinds of ways, including having one of the worst tactical managers in MLB the last several years. The key to their success is literally ALWAYS having that next guy from their system to turn to when players are under performing. When someone gets hurt, you don’t have to put JB Shuck out there to crush your teams hopes and dreams. They have real actual players that come up from their minors that can actually play baseball. Two years ago, nobody ever heard of a Tommy Pham…..and now most of you still haven’t heard of him, but he’s pretty fucking good and really holding it down in the Cards OF. This would be the dream situation, although, I would assume a more massive front office overhaul would need to take place to get to something like this. The crew on 35th and Shields ain’t just going to wake up tomorrow and be good at all the shit the Cards front office has been good at for 20 years.
While I thought it VERY OPTIMISTIC, borderline irrational for 46% of White Sox fans not to be pleased with a potential 4 playoff appearances in 9 years, I now at least believe it to be within the realm of possibility. It will take improvements in the development staff and possibly more restructuring of the front office to get there in my humble opinion. An advantage that even the bad White Sox teams had over other clubs was an ability to get their players to sign very team friendly extensions. Jerry wouldn’t open up the pocket book for the last club that had Sale, Q, Abreu and Eaton on super cheap deals, but maybe he will for this group….this group seeded with young talent coming up through the minors. Maybe Jerry will go all Mike Illitch on this bitch and become THAT owner and start spending like there’s no tomorrow (even if that only means a top 8 ish payroll). Maybe, the salary cap will aid a team like the White Sox as it won’t make it AS HARD to keep up with the top payroll teams. One thing that has been said elsewhere as well as here in the past, if the White Sox are to get to the playoffs as much as the 46% expect, they’ll have to get better at pro scouting. Signing free agents (full market value) and finding the next Carlos Quentin (or similar type player) is going to require a much better result than the last 5 to 7 years worth of work has rendered. Oh, and it’s going to take some LUCK! Probably lots of LUCK! But that’s okay, the 108ers are optimists and with the White Sox running as bad as they have for the last decade…..lets just say…..WE’RE DUE!