With the White Sox series – two at Wrigley and then two at the Cell – kicking off today, you should gird yourself for the coming deluge of organizational comparison stories, especially if the White Sox win the first game or two.
Generally speaking, these stories will likely do a handful of things:
(1) Point out how the White Sox went out and got Jose Abreu, price be damned, and Abreu has been fantastic;
(2) Dream on the future of the White Sox lineup with an obvious superstar mashing in the middle of it for years to come;
(3) Contrast the rebuilding approaches of the Cubs and White Sox, explaining how the White Sox proved you can stay competitive while rebuilding; and
(4) Awe at how much better the White Sox are now than the Cubs.
Given their situation, I do believe the White Sox have done a fantastic job simultaneously extending a window of competitiveness that actually dates back several years, while also grabbing some future pieces to perhaps get back to competitiveness more quickly than you would see with a deep rebuild.
The key words in that sentence, of course, are “given their situation.” Other than playing in the same city, the two Chicago baseball organizations don’t really have a lot in common when it comes to the situations that preceded their respective rebuilding programs.
What these comparison stories will ignore about the Cubs and White Sox …
(1) The Cubs were but one of 28 – twenty-eight – teams that didn’t get Abreu, and none of the finalists for the hulking slugger were National League teams (there’s a reason for that). The Cubs weren’t going to displace Anthony Rizzo on a gamble, and Abreu can’t play the outfield (now how about those 28 other teams that “missed”?). The White Sox could put Abreu at first base *OR* DH him, a luxury most teams didn’t have;
(2) It’s been only a month – after his first month, remember what an obvious superstar Yoenis Cespedes was? Remember his well over .800 OPS through the first week of May? You might. What you probably don’t remember is his pedestrian .240/.288/.426 slash line from that point on, or his strikingly similar .240/.294/.442 line last year. Why don’t we give Abreu more than a month before we declare him the next anybody, lest he become the next Yoenis Cespedes (nice player, not a superstar, not really outperforming his contract);
(3) The White Sox had a core of young, big league pitching from which they could deal to focus on nearer-term young players, a luxury the Cubs didn’t even remotely have when their rebuild began;
(4) The White Sox have a true ace in Chris Sale, under control in his prime for several cheap years – when you have that, you build around him and go for it; and
(5) The White Sox are two games under .500, and have a mere 3.4% to 10.4% shot at making the playoffs based on their projected performance the rest of the way. That’s higher than the Cubs, but it’s still one of the lowest playoff ranges in baseball (and they’re projected to win just a few more games than the Cubs). The White Sox project to be a bad team this year, and, at the end of it, what will they have to show for it, vis a vis the Cubs? A less deep, less impact, older core? A worse draft pick in 2015? 50,000 more butts in the seats?
I’m not saying I disapprove of the way the White Sox have gone about their rebuild, because I understand the need to take some swings when you’ve got a roster that suggests now is as good a time as any. I simply disapprove of the notion that the White Sox are “proving” anything with the rebuild, other than the fact that they are proving a team in the White Sox’s situation can give themselves a 3% to 10% playoff odds with some savvy moves the year after losing 99 games.
I mean. OK. Neat.
To me, however, that doesn’t say a thing about how the Cubs have approached their rebuild in their specific situation. On that front, I remain relatively satisfied, regardless of what’s happening on the South Side.