We all saw it. We all were irritated by it. We all had our optimism come crashing down to Earth. This was the 2022 Chicago White Sox. A team that told us they were in the heart of their "contention window" saw everything possible go wrong leaving them on the outside looking in when it came to October.
The team's problems were easy to diagnose. A lack of power offensively, poor defense, poor baserunning, and managerial blunders were the root cause of the team's failures. These issues coupled with untimely and lengthy injuries to several "core" pieces proved to be too much for this group to overcome even in the weak American League Central.
So is there reason for optimism heading into 2023 that this past season was nothing more than a blip on the radar? It's a complicated question that requires a lot of nuance, which many within the fanbase simply are unwilling to consider. Can this team recover enough with health and a change in leadership to reclaim the division from the upstart Cleveland Guardians?
Stuck In The Middle
I have serious concerns about the White Sox heading into 2023 and beyond. The "core" group that had so much promise and was the talk of prospect evaluators five years ago simply hasn't lived up to the hype. We need to be real about this. Many within the fan base are still blinded by prospect rankings from years past that simply haven't matched production levels at the corner of 35th/Shields.
I know many are reading this thinking it's all doom and gloom. But it's not — I'm simply advising people to be cautious. One of my overarching concerns for this winter is that we won't see much activity in terms of roster turnover. I feel for better or worse, what we see is what we will get come March 30 in Houston. Minus likely departures from Jose Abreu, Johnny Cueto, and Elvis Andrus, I think this team will largely be the same one we saw a year ago.
I have little optimism that the three-headed monster of Jerry Reinsdorf, Kenny Williams, and Rick Hahn have the know-how or desire to make tough decisions that will improve this team's fortunes. I'm of the mindset that this group believes they simply need a fresh start with new leadership coupled with health (which the Sox should not rely upon if recent history is a guide) and things will get back on course.
However, I think there are foundational issues within this roster and the organizational processes that need to be addressed. I say that having very little confidence that those things will deviate from the current models that have been ingrained in this organization for much of the past two decades.
It appears to me that the White Sox are merely hoping for a dead cat bounce in 2023. It's a term used mainly in financial markets to describe a brief recovery from a substantial fall. I think we can all agree that finishing 81-81 in 2022 represents a substantial fall for a team that won 93 games the prior year. Merely believing that the Sox maintaining some semblance of health will be enough to surpass Cleveland is foolish thinking, in my view.
To me, a sizeable portion of the fan base and the front office have blinders on when looking at where this team is. The Chicago White Sox finished 11 games behind Cleveland in 2022 and, I'm sorry, but merely replacing an out-of-touch manager isn't enough to close that gap. Particularly when you consider the fact that the Guardians have the No. 3 ranked farm system according to MLB.com, with nine players in the Top 100 across the sport.
For much of my life, I've seen Cleveland develop homegrown talent that makes an impact at the Major League level much to the detriment of our White Sox. On the flip side, we've seen far too much inconsistency in terms of health and performance from former top prospects now playing at the corner of 35th/Shields for me to have confidence that the calendar flipping to 2023 will cure all that ails this team.
Yet, it looks more likely than not to me that the White Sox will just run it back next year hoping and praying for different results. Sure, there may be some marginal roster changes on the fringes. But anyone expecting significant moves to be made should have their head examined by a licensed medical professional.
Could this team get 150 games out of Eloy Jimenez, Yoan Moncada, Luis Robert, and Andrew Vaughn performing at or near their ceilings? Sure, but to bet on that at this point is not a winning strategy. None of them have shown an ability to string that together on a year-over-year basis. We've seen flashes of what we thought they could all be at various points, but never for any sustained period of time that should lead fans to expect these types of performances.
Could everything come together finally for this group in 2023? Yes, it's possible. Due to roster configuration issues and a lack of flexibility from a financial standpoint, we pretty much have to hope that is what happens next year. It certainly is a far cry from where we have been the last two winters, that's for sure.
At the outset of the rebuild, we were told that we should expect this team to be a perennial playoff team vying for a World Series. We are now left with more questions than answers, hoping that this team can bounce back to some modicum of success in 2023. Given the contractual control of once highly thought-of pieces like Lucas Giolito, Yoan Moncada, Tim Anderson, and Dylan Cease, a bounce back may be a brief one as the first major shakeup for this team could come next winter.