What’s Happening on the Southside?

- Sports

By Sam Fretto

The 2022 White Sox came into this season with the highest expectations they’ve had since 2006 and they’ve failed miserably. Their rebuild started in 2016, when they traded ace and potential Hall of Famer Chris Sale to the Red Sox in exchange for Yoan Moncada and Michael Kopech. Sale was the first of many to go, with Adam Eaton, Jose Quintana and others following. This allowed for the White Sox to create a stacked farm system which was ranked as high as #4 in 2017 when they completed all their trades to begin the rebuild.

General Manager Rick Hahn did all this with the promise of not only competing for years to come, but to eventually win a World Series. Fast forward six years, and White Sox have just two playoff wins and are currently sitting two games out of first place with just 28 games left in the regular season as of September 5. The only question you can ask is what the heck happened?

The team began to show promise with its core coming together in 2019. The major pieces that were supposed to help the White Sox be successful all had major breakouts. Starting pitcher Lucas Giolito broke out and became an All-Star after being the worst qualified starting pitcher of 2018. Former first round pick Tim Anderson won a Batting Title, hitting .335 for the season while putting up 4.5 wins above replacement. Yoan Moncada found his stroke, hitting 25 home runs, batting .315 with an on base percentage of .367, a slugging of .548, and putting up 5.5 WAR. These three were supposed to bring forth the most successful decade of baseball on the Southside, but that hasn’t happened. 2022 isn’t the beginning of the problem but it is certainly the outcome of the organizational failures on multiple levels.

The biggest problem within the White Sox organization is the lack of talent. This team has whiffed on multiple first round picks with just two picks panning out from 2011-2018. They can’t draft or develop talent. Yet, the even bigger issue is that the White Sox refuse to sign players to big contracts. Regardless of how good your farm system is, you’ll always have some prospects that won’t pan out. The White Sox are no exception to it. This has caused major holes on the team which has been apparent since they’ve become competitive. Right field has been a black hole for the White Sox since Avisail Garcia in 2018. He wasn’t great, outside of one season, but he provided stability. The perfect right fielder was right there in 2018 free agency with Bryce Harper. However, they botched that due to a mixture of incompetence from the front office and cheapness from the owner, Jerry Reinsdorf.

The lack of depth and talent is brutally showcased due to the fact the White Sox can’t stay healthy. Moncada has made multiple trips to the IL this season and has only played 80 games; Yasmani Grandal has had multiple knee injuries this season and has played just 74 games; Tim Anderson has played just 79 games due to injuries. The bottom line is that the White Sox have used the same lineup twice this season, which means manager Tony La Russa has used 127 batting orders in 128 games. The inconsistent lineups and lack of health are obviously the perfect storm to have a bunch of players put up career worst seasons.

Outside of the holes on the roster, such as a first baseman playing right field, coaching is a huge issue for this Chicago White Sox team. Going into 2020, despite the pandemic shortened season, they showed a lot of promise, improving their win percentage from .444 in 2019 to .583 in 2020. The team was young, fun, and showed substantial improvement. However, at the end of the season most people thought it was time to move on from manager Rick Renteria and the problem wasn’t replacing him, it’s who they replaced him with: Tony La Russa. No disrespect to La Russa, a three-time World Series winner and a Hall of Famer. The game has passed him by, though, and he has no business being in a dugout in 2022 managing baseball. La Russa was even caught falling asleep in the dugout during a game earlier this year!

The team plays with as much energy as La Russa has during the games. Not to mention the management of the players has been questionable. Leury Garcia, who’s meant to be a utility bench player, seem to bee seen by La Russa as an everyday player for some odd reason. Garcia has played 85 games this season, which is far too many, regardless of injuries. If not for his friendship with the owner, La Russa would likely not be managing right now and this team could’ve looked very different.

However, the coach, who is by far the bigger culprit of the White Sox issues, is hitting coach Frank Menechino. He’s taken a once potentially lethal offense filled with home run hitters and made it a team full of slap hitters. He became the hitting coach in 2020 and after the pandemic shortened season, and this is where the power started to dip. In 2019, a much less talented White Sox team hit 182 home runs while slugging .414. In 2021, a much superior talented White Sox team hit 190 home runs and slugged .422. Of course, this year has been a complete nightmare, as through 128 games, the team has hit just 106 home runs and have slugged .383 (I omit 2020 from these stats because it is a clear outlier due to the shortened season).

Menechino has a track record of prioritizing any type of contact and not striking out instead of trying to make good contact. While coach of the Miami Marlins from 2014-2018, the Marlins ranked 24th, 29th, 29th, 19th and 30th in home runs hit. With the White Sox, outside of 2020, they’ve ranked 19th and 28th. As of Aug. 11, 70 percent of the White Sox’s hits had been singles. Only three other teams had ever done that: the 2015, 2016, and 2018 Marlins, all coached by Menechino. These are the same Marlins teams that had Giancarlo Stanton and former MVP Christain Yelich. It’s clear that Menechino doesn’t prioritize hitting the long ball, which is a grave mistake in today’s game as seven of the top ten teams in home runs will make the playoffs.

As a die-hard White Sox fan, this hurts to write, but the expectations this season were beyond making the playoffs, it was to go on a run and compete for a World Series. However, as of now this team has a 21.9 percent chance to make the playoffs according to Fangraphs. What is going on to the 2022 White Sox is when you have the perfect mix of bad front office work, a bad owner, bad coaches and your talented players getting hurt and putting up career worst seasons. Some serious decisions need to be made this winter about this team if they want to continue to be competitive. That will include firing coaches, potentially replacing the GM, and potentially retooling the roster. However, the most important piece of the puzzle will be Reinsdorf changing the way this team operates.

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