This is the third edition of Hope for the Hopeless, where we will take a look at the first ten teams in the league eliminated from playoff contention, and examine what their fans can be optimistic about after a disappointing 2013 season. Next up: the Chicago White Sox.
Hope is a funny thing. Sometimes, the hope you feel is justified, like if you're an Astros fan. Sometimes, the hope is justified, but there's always a thought in the back of your mind that you're being stupid, like if you're a Marlins fan.
And sometimes, hope is fake. You can talk like you're extremely optimistic about the future, but in reality, you know you're screwed. And that is the predicament of the Chicago White Sox fanbase right now - they can talk like they're enthusiastic about 2014 and beyond, but deep down, they know they're in an awful position.
Chicago is paying John Danks $15.7 million in 2014 and Adam Dunn $15 million in the same year (assuming he doesn't retire). Danks has made 20 starts this year after shoulder surgery caused him to make just nine starts in 2012, and he has a 4.45 ERA, allowing 26 home runs in 127 1/3 innings. That's good for a whopping 0.5 fWAR for his season. But hey, that's better than Dunn, who has hit 31 homers despite a putrid .224/.324/.449 line for the year, notching -0.1 fWAR thanks to his terrible play with the glove at first base. Adam Dunn - not a fielder, but other circumstances have necessitated his dusting the glove off.
And what is the main other circumstance? Well, the play of Paul Konerko, the longest tenured White Sox player on the squad. Konerko is having a putrid year, hitting .248/.320/.361 with just ten homers, contributing -1.3 fWAR to the team this year and earning every penny of his $13.5 million. Thankfully, he's a free agent after the year, but his awful performance has forced Dunn into the field and obliterated his value for a potential trade this winter.
What is there to really be hopeful about in the majors for the White Sox aside from Chris Sale, one of the best pitchers in baseball? Their "young talent" on offense includes Dayan Viciedo, who can't field and has a .307 career OBP Avisail Garcia, who could best be described as "raw", and Gordon Beckham, who has an 89 wRC+ that's considered an improvement over prior years.Their shortstop, Alexei Ramirez, is signed for the next two years at a total of $19.5 million, will turn 32 before the month ends, and has season his ISO drop over each of the last four seasons to the point where he's matching Ichiro hit by hit.
There's also the issue of the White Sox minor league system, which could best be described as "barren". It was a bottom five system coming into the year, and in the coming months, it'll probably still end up being a bottom five system with mostly raw talent. It's almost at a point for the White Sox where trading Sale, their best player and a franchise building block, might actually be the team's best path towards a rebuild.
But remember, this is the Chicago White Sox. Even though Kenny Williams isn't the team's GM anymore, his hands are still all over the team from his position as executive vice president. The bottom hasn't fallen out from the White Sox like it has this year since the late-80s. For a proud franchise like this, a full-fledged rebuilding project is going to be a tough sell. But that's probably the best thing for them going forward, and spending money on free agents probably isn't the best path for them. If you're a Sox fan that has talked yourself into a rebuild, then I'm sure you've got hope thanks to a savvy front office. But if the team tries to reload instead of rebuild despite a lack of top tier talent aside from Sale, things could get worse before they get better. While the Astros and their fanbase are about ready to emerge from the storm, the White Sox and their fanbase are barreling right into the storm.