Back in 2005 when the White Sox reigned supreme, they had a very famous set of rules. Those of us old enough to remember seeing our favorite baseball team actually be good remember those Grinder Ball Rules very fondly. The first rule, “Win or Die Trying,” was the most commonly referred to by fans, but there are actually a whole host of rules that can be found on the interwebs. One Grinder Ball Rule, in particular, is being lost on Sox fans of the current day, that would be number 30: Good enough, isn’t.
I feel that we as a fanbase have been so programmed to expecting the boys at 35th/Shields to trot out a pile of sub-replacement-level scrubs that we have lost sight of what the goals should be when compiling a roster. This all comes back to the Nomar Mazara acquisition at the Winter Meetings. Mazara came to the Sox after the completion of a deal that sent High-A outfielder Steele Walker to the Rangers. The loss of Walker is relatively insignificant as he wasn’t really a prospect of much value. In the immediate aftermath, I saw a lot of people on the interwebs opining that “well he’s better than what they had last year.” This is where we are as a fanbase.
The collection of junk the Sox trotted out in right field last year “accumulated” -1.3 fWAR for the season, which was easily the worst output in all of Major League Baseball. Mazara while playing in hitter-friendly Globe Life Park amassed 0.5 fWAR, so yes, he technically is an improvement over whatever the hell that was last year. Whether it’s Mazara now or Yasiel Puig, who for some reason a large portion of this fanbase still thinks is the 2012/2013 version of himself, so many Sox fans seem content to just go with marginal improvement because it’s “better than what they had last year.”
This really shouldn’t be the standard. You know what the standard should be? When discussing a player’s fit for the 2020 White Sox and beyond, the question should be: is this player better than what Minnesota and Cleveland have? I’m tired of just scraping the bottom of the barrel for marginal improvement, and you should be too. Looking at a transaction from the lens of “is this guy as bad as what they’ve had previously?” is just a loser’s mentality that needs to end.
I’m hopeful that in the coming weeks and months that lead up to pitchers and catchers reporting to Glendale, this team doesn’t settle. I’m hopeful that they don’t settle for Nomar Mazara and his career 1.7 fWAR and pencil him into a starting position in right field. As I’ve discussed previously, this team will have to be very creative with how it addresses roster improvements for 2020 and beyond. It’s imperative that they don’t just settle for marginal improvement. I think we all collectively want nothing more than to be at 35th/Shields on a crisp night in October. To make that dream become a reality, this organization has to begin having higher aspirations from a talent standpoint.
Maybe Mazara ends up being a fourth outfielder once the offseason is all said and done, and that would be an acceptable outcome. This mindset isn’t just limited to Mazara and right field, however. This team has publicly stated they need to add, minimum, two starting pitchers to their rotation. They missed on their main target, sadly, but there is still an opportunity to improve this rotation in a meaningful way. At the same time, they should not settle for guys that are simply “better than Dylan Covey, Manny Banuelos, Hector Santiago, or Carson Fulmer.” Subtracting negative value players from your roster and merely substituting replacement-level filler isn’t going to help this team put an end to an inexcusable 11-year playoff drought.
As a collective fanbase, I wish people would focus on meaningful roster improvements. Stop pining for a guy that wags his tongue and has had one above-average season since 2014. This team and its fans should set the sights higher than that. Sure, right field, designated hitter, and 4/5 of the starting rotation were an absolute dumpster fire last year, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t real impactful moves that can be made to address those areas. The one thing I know for certain is this: the White Sox won’t catch the Twins or Indians next year by just swapping out scraps of garbage for mediocre ones. There’s still a lot of time left to improve this roster in meaningful ways, and I’m hopeful that this team will take those steps. I don’t know if they will or not, I just know that good enough, isn’t.