The White Sox Culture
As I stated in my previous article, I am a Season Ticket Holder and a lifelong fan. I take no joy or pleasure in writing this, but it is my opinion and I feel it is something that needs to be said.
As the team finishes what many have claimed is the “toughest year of the rebuild” I keep hearing something from White Sox Management that quite frankly disturbs me. They keep talking about building a culture with Ricky as the agent of change, or agent of chaos depending on your view. My question is how can you talk about building a new culture when you have lost 100, count it ONE HUNDRED, games? When I hear about a culture change I immediately think of out with the old and in with the new, yet for the White Sox we see the same characters being trotted out year after year. This includes Daryl Boston, Todd Steverson, Ricky Renteria, and Don Cooper.
I have to start with a simple question about Daryl Boston and I have to ask it in my best Office Space “Bob” voice. “What you say, you do here?” I cannot think of anyone to replace him because frankly I do not know what value he is supposed to add.
As we look at Todd Steverson all White Sox fans should be infuriated that he has a job after the White Sox set a record for the most strikeouts in a season, EVER. Also remember Todd Steverson is still at the helm of imparting his hitting “knowledge”, and I use that term loosely, to the young players the team is basing their future on, reassuring isn’t it. I will admit that I never thought about this until my friend Joe brought it up to me, Chili Davis would be a GREAT hitting coach for the White Sox, and he is available. His approach is to use all fields and he preaches contact, not this “selective aggression” crap that Steverson preaches.
Ricky Renteria is the man with the plan. He is the straw that stirs the White Sox culture drink. I will use a Bulls analogy from the late 80’s involving Doug Collins and Phil Jackson. Just like Doug Collins was not the man to take the Bulls from Point A to Point C (Championship) I feel that this is also Ricky Renteria. I think he is not a good tactician who makes some game decisions that make me scratch my head in disbelief and is so in love with bunting to waste outs. He also drives me nuts with some of the lineups he has fielded, example, why was Avi Garcia playing at end of season with a knee that required surgery? I would love to see someone like Buck Showalter brought in to manage. He is a manager who has developed teams from scratch, Arizona, and laid groundwork for a dynasty, the 1990’s New York Yankees. He is the exact kind of manager that the White Sox need. Joe Girardi is not the answer, not only because I think he is not that good. I say not as good because he had all of that talent in New York and only appeared in, and won, one World Series.
With the White Sox model of pitching, pitching, and pitching Don Cooper becomes a critical player in this culture change. Coop has been around for a long time, in the good (2005), and the bad like the current six, YES 6, losing seasons in a row, including seasons of 99 (2013) and 100 (2018) losses. The main thing that bothers me about Coop is that the walk totals have increased from 474 (2015) to 653 (2018) and the WHIP 1.320 (2015) to 1.432 (2018). This is more alarming to me than anything else because it shows that the young White Sox pitching staff either can’t or doesn’t attack the strike zone. How many times have there been 0-2 pitches in the dirt or a foot outside the strike zone hoping the hitter would swing? How many times have we seen pitchers get ahead 0 – 2 only to walk them (aka the Quintana special) or the pitch count after the first two outs in an inning is at 6 or 7 yet at the end of the inning the count is around 25 pitches? Too many to mention in my humble opinion.
I am also of the opinion that Coop is a system pitching coach. I’m sure some of you don’t understand what I mean. A system coach is one who tries to fit the players into what the coach wants, not looking at the players on an individual basis and building a pitching repertoire for each one. This is clearly evidenced by his constant use of the cutter. Not every pitcher on the staff should throw the cutter, it’s time to teach some other pitches based on the individual pitcher’s capabilities. Did you ever notice on certain counts teams jump all over the White Sox pitchers? Could it be that they know what pitch is coming since they are all equipped with the same pitch and approach, leading to the same pitch to be thrown in the same location by multiple pitchers? Another thing I have been told by a couple of former major leaguers is that some of the White Sox pitchers have been known to tip their pitches. If this is known by former major leaguers don’t you think this is something the major league coaches should know, especially Dr. Coop? Further, look at the track record and you will see some success stories, such as Jon Garland and Matt Thornton. You will also see abject failures in Mike McDougal, Will Ohman, Scott Carroll, Dylan Axelrod, and Carson Fulmer, to name a few. The Fulmer failure is especially alarming because he was supposed to be one of the core components of the future White Sox pitching staff and is it an example of Fulmer not really being major league caliber, possibly, or Coop being unable to relate to the new generation of pitchers, also possible.
Now people can argue numbers and how it correlates to the talent level, and there is a valid point to be made, but if that is the argument then you cannot claim that the White Sox should sign pitcher X because Coop will coach him up. If this model no longer applies, then Coop must go and be replaced. Again, the organization needs to go outside of the organization to find fresh blood. I would like to see them utilize Dave Duncan, remember he is a consultant for the White Sox now, as a de facto pitching czar for the organization. He has actually coached Cy Young Winners (Bob Welch (1990) and Chris Carpenter (2005)) as well as helping to transform Dennis Eckersley into a pinpoint pitching machine who made it to the Hall of Fame. I would also like to see them try to engage someone like Mike Maddux as the pitching coach. I know Richard Dotson is the heir to the pitching coach position for the White Sox but this is just a propagation of the losing culture, in my opinion.
I have met Jerry Reinsdorf on numerous occasions and he is a terrific person. The issue with Jerry is that his greatest virtue is his greatest vice. He is way too loyal to people who do not deserve his loyalty. The bottom line is that this is a result driven business and the results have not been there. The White Sox last finished above .500 in 2012. That’s right TWO THOUSAND TWELVE. That is six (6) seasons of sub .500 baseball. If I failed in my job at that clip I would have been shown the door long ago.
As I type this it pains me to say that the White Sox, in this current configuration, will NEVER be able to sustain long term success under this coaching staff because, frankly, they do not know how to win. Yes, they are losers. Some of them (Cooper and McEwing) have been here for the current six season losing streak while others, like Nick Capra and Todd Steverson, have been here for only part of it. It appears that they have grown comfortable in this losing culture where accountability is not found, and expectations are built on selling hope for future prospect development. My concern is that the prospects will not pan out not only because of questions regarding talent evaluation as well as the coaching staff’s ability to connect with players and help them achieve their maximum potential, I’m looking at you Todd Steverson. Further, stop with the “Ricky’s Boys Don’t Quit” because if they don’t quit he would never have had to bench some at different times for not hustling. If you think I am wrong about my opinion I will immediately destroy your argument by pointing out my Todd Steverson argument and adding in at the end that he is still the White Sox hitting coach.
As a Season Ticket Holder, and more importantly a fan, I want to know when this organization will quit with the “woe is me” crap and start acting like a big city franchise with accountability and expectations. Until they show the ability to do that, and win, they will continue to be an irrelevant organization that will continue to do a half-assed job at selling hope, because they don’t know how to sell anything, let alone hope or winning.
In the final analysis true culture change cannot, I repeat CANNOT, be realized until the White Sox organization takes a long hard look at themselves based upon some of the information provided above and blows up the ENTIRE coaching staff. They need to bring in an outsider with no team ties or affiliation who can disinfect this losing culture that permeates this organization from top to bottom. Nothing less than that should be acceptable to this once great, yet currently diminishing, fan base.
I’ve very much thought the same of Stevenson. Adam Dunn, LaRoche, Frazier careers all bottomed out with Stevenson….enuff said