By Nick Schaefer
The Catbird Seat
The Toronto Blue Jays won the World Series in 1992 and in 1993. Then they canceled baseball for a year.
After that Toronto got stuck behind the Yankees and Blue Jays and Orioles (and even the Rays for a while?) and before you know it they went more than 20 seasons without a playoff appearance.
But the Blue Jays clinched a spot in the playoffs last week and almost certainly will win the AL East, if they don’t finish it off between me writing this and it reaching your eyes. Their magic number sits at two entering Tuesday night.
Now that means the Seattle Mariners are number-1 on that dubious list, having last been seen in the postseason being eliminated by the Yankees in 2001.
So the White Sox don’t have the longest current playoff drought – but they’re closer than you’d think at seven years, especially given just how hard they’ve been trying to get back and given how weak their division is.
After 2008, Kenny Williams’ strategies seemed to stop working. He kept flipping prospects that would never amount to anything for number-3 starters, but he was unable to add any impact bats after that point. He tried Mark Teahen, Juan Pierre, Mark Kotsay…we all know how that went.
We have spent the entire Obama presidency without a White Sox playoff appearance, and the organization is now staring down the barrel of its third losing season in a row.
Meanwhile, the Detroit Tigers–who won the division the last four years in a row–may wind up tearing down and rebuilding even faster than the White Sox.
They saw the writing on the wall and traded away Yoenis Cespedes and David Price for a few pitching prospects that may wind up filling in behind Verlander and Sanchez for a competitive 2016. I wouldn’t bet on them, but at least the plan is clear.
The White Sox, as has been their wont during this drought, didn’t really do much of anything. Stay the course. In their defense, they were 2.5 games out at the deadline and as we have seen, the AL Wild Card Race is hardly an exclusive affair.
And perhaps this is all driven by the emotion fan in me, but it’s extremely frustrating to hear sportswriters opine with false wisdom, “Well, Reinsdorf is loyal.”
Over this now seven year desert without playoffs, the White Sox have only had two managers, both former players. Robin Ventura was acquired despite his total lack of interest or experience – and now four years later, it would appear lack of talent.
Kenny Williams wasn’t fired, he was promoted. GM Rick Hahn has a lot to offer and he is probably talented and will turn out to be a boon for the organization, but maybe not. He was, after all, a big part of the regime that dug the hole they are trying to claw out of now.
Indeed, despite the staggering successes on the pitching side of the ball from top to bottom of the organization, we have seen incompetence to rival it on the offensive side.
No hitting prospects ever (Ever.) work out in the Hahn/Williams regime. The last bat that was drafted, developed, and retained by the White Sox of any consequence was Aaron Rowand.
A lot of that was Reinsdorf spiting himself by trying to save $2-3 million a year on the draft out of principle (only to spend it on guys like Scott Linebrink anyway) but we are closing in on 20 years without a true impact bat.
It is rather jarring to look at an organization failing so tremendously in the same way over and over again while it doggedly stays the course, beating its head against the same wall, hoping for different results.
In fairness, Rick Hahn is not Kenny Williams, and he has started trying to shake things up here and there. He brought in Todd Steverson from Oakland instead of promoting from within at hitting coach. Marco Paddy was pilfered from Toronto to run International Operations.
It’s impressive how loyal Reinsdorf has been despite the results. One hopes that the primes of Sale, Quintana, Eaton, Abreu, and Rodon aren’t wasted while we wait for them.
And it would be nice if I could have a White Sox Playoff Appearance-to-President ratio of higher than one at some point in my life.
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