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What to Make of National Media Highlighting White Sox ‘Lack of Player Leadership’

The White Sox organization has called out a “lack of player leadership” in the national press to send a message to the team.

Tim Anderson Chicago White Sox Clubhouse
Photo: Chicago White Sox/YouTube

The Chicago White Sox have been a hot topic among national media as of late. It wasn’t good news, and it has left many scratching their heads. Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported that the White Sox have some discord in their clubhouse. More specifically, he highlighted a “lack of player leadership.”

The Sox season is on the brink of disaster. They currently hold a 41-44 record and sit 5.5 games behind the Minnesota Twins for first place in the AL Central division. In a season with World Series aspirations and expectations, they have severely underperformed. The news doesn’t come as a shock.

Called Out Everywhere

The South Side faithful has seen a lifeless team for the vast majority of the 85 games the White Sox have played thus far. We consistently see a team that appears to be just going through the motions, most notably at the plate, where they bring little to no competitiveness.

This represents a significant departure from the 2021 team. Last year, the White Sox breezed through most of their schedule despite dealing with significant injuries along the way. But the main difference from 2021 to 2022 is in the dugout. Simply put, the team doesn’t show any joy in the game. From an observer’s perspective, they look like they don’t want to be there.

During NBC Sports Chicago’s Monday night postgame show, former Sox skipper Ozzie Guillen called out the team and echoed these statements. “They swing at the first pitch every time” and “Tony, wake up man” were just a few of his comments.

Scott Podsednik elaborated by criticizing the Sox’s ninth-inning effort in the series opener against Cleveland. The Sox were down four in the ninth but surrendered quietly while seeing only seven pitches.

Further adding to morale concerns was a recent clubhouse video of Tim Anderson’s starting All-Star selection being announced to the team. In the clip, the White Sox appear to lack any energy or enthusiasm, to say the least.

Of course, we could go on with more examples of this bunch lacking enthusiasm. We have witnessed countless in-game shots of the dugout throughout the season and no one appears to be having any fun.

What About Bob?

I have mixed feelings about the Nightengale report. We like to make jokes about Bob’s tweets, as the opposite of what he reports is often what ultimately happens.

However, I would like to remind White Sox fans of an important time when he was spot on. During the Sox’s managerial search in October 2020, fellow national writers Ken Rosenthal, Jeff Passan, and Jon Morosi linked the club to A.J. Hinch. Nightengale was the only writer reporting that they were looking to hire Tony La Russa, the man who was hired.

To a lesser point, there was a player I was hoping the Sox would acquire in the offseason preceding the 2021 season. Nightengale reported that Michael Brantley was outside the White Sox’s budget. He asserted the Sox had moved on to other options such as Joc Pederson, who turned them down. Ultimately, the club signed Adam Eaton.

In short, Bob Nightengale seems to have a really good source within the organization. I would take that statement a step further and say he is the mouthpiece of the Chicago White Sox front office.

Jose and Tim

“A lack of player leadership” sounds like the Chicago White Sox organization is leveraging Nightengale’s platform to call out the leaders on the team. That includes none other than Jose Abreu and Tim Anderson, two players that as a fan, I would go to war with. Calling out the heart of the team, Anderson, and the soul, Abreu, speaks volumes about how disappointed management is with the team.

However, without Abreu, the White Sox would be 10 games out of first place. He’s consistently produced since some early-season struggles. Anderson was off to a torrid pace to begin the 2022 campaign. He carried the offense and provided a spark at the top of the lineup as usual. However, since returning from a groin injury, Anderson’s production has been pedestrian. One has to wonder how much some of the things that may be happening in his personal life are affecting him.

Calling out these two players, who lead by example, seems tone-deaf. This is the front office and ownership that sent out an incomplete and poorly constructed roster. We consistently see first basemen playing the outfield and a pitching staff with two viable starters. Michael Kopech was on innings restrictions, Dallas Keuchel was eventually DFA’d as expected, and Lance Lynn was injured. The White Sox currently rank second to last in runs allowed — a stark contrast from 2021 when they were No. 1 in the American League.

If the front office thinks player leadership is a problem, they need to take a long, hard look in the mirror.

Time is Running Out

On the other hand, something needs to light a fire under the 2022 Chicago White Sox. They can’t sit on their hands and do nothing as we all know they’ve underperformed. Taking an opportunity to call them out on the national level is harsh, but it had to happen.

Reports indicate Kenny Williams also addressed the clubhouse prior to last Friday’s game against Detroit. His message was similar, albeit less harsh compared to sending it out through the national press.

The White Sox are in the thick of a stretch that could decide the fate of their season. They already dropped the first game of this crucial juncture on Monday night. After a four-game series in Cleveland, the South Siders travel to Minnesota for an extended weekend set against the first-place Twins. And another vital sequence looms following the All-Star break. The White Sox play the Guardians seven times and have four games against the Twins.

The South Siders need to bring their best effort in July. If not, it will be a lost season if they post a losing record or even a .500 record.

The recent messaging from the front office shouldn’t come as a surprise. We can only hope that the team’s response is to get hot and play the way we’ve seen at times, but far too infrequently. Only time will tell.

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