Home » Articles » Opinion » 12 progressively hotter White Sox takes

12 progressively hotter White Sox takes

by Nik Gaur

As the White Sox continue to descend to previously undiscovered depths, I’m reminded of the early years of Sox On 35th. The blog was started during the rebuild, so we’re no strangers to writing about bad baseball teams.

No particular player could do anything to make this White Sox team interesting, so rather than write at length about one topic, I have quite a few (a dozen, if you read the title) thoughts about the White Sox lately that I’ve wanted to share.

Below are 12 of my latest White Sox musings, conveniently ranked by how much I think the fanbase will agree with them. And if you like articles in this format, and/or less rigorous White Sox content, please let me know!

1. The cost of attending a game could use some modernization

This one comes in at #1 because it is probably the least controversial, and extends beyond the White Sox.

If early attendance figures and the voicemail/email inbox of the average White Sox fan are any indication, the team had a lot of season ticket cancellations over the last year. So when I’m looking to attend a game, there is some selection from third-party sellers at competitive prices, but many (most?) of the seats in the stadium are only available to purchase directly from the White Sox.

The problem is that, unlike third-party sellers, these tickets are sold at face value and are not reduced in price as first pitch approaches. Meaning, if it’s 12:20 PM and I’m thinking of attending a 1:10 PM game on a whim, buying directly from the White Sox means paying a massive premium relative to third-party sellers.

Rather than have a graveyard of unsold, face-value tickets even minutes before the first pitch, direct sellers like the White Sox should be able to dynamically markdown ticket prices the same way third-party sellers do, because while there are some intriguing options from those sellers, it will really depend on the game.

A graveyard of unsold, face-value tickets

To watch the 2024 White Sox, nobody should have to pay face value. The tickets could be free and the team would profit off the average fan from exorbitant food and beverage prices alone. Alternatively, the tickets could be priced as is, but attached with fan-favorite promotions (such as $1 hot dog nights, a staple of the rebuild).

Either way, even if this is outside of the organization’s control, the current system is not cutting it.

2. Martin Maldonado is washed up, and Korey Lee should get more starts

The signing of Martin Maldonado never made a lot of sense to me. Personal gripes aside (I will always side with Tim Anderson over the Brad Keller/Maldonado tandem), Maldonado has not been a good defensive catcher since 2022 and has not been a good hitter since… his 39-game stint in AAA in 2011.

Even watching Maldonado play defense is a chore — he gives up on framing pitches far too early, almost as if he has predetermined two or three pitches per inning that he is going to just yank out of the zone, usually leading to the umpire calling a strike a ball. His passed balls (during the Royals series in particular) come on the most innocuous of pitches. His blocking is what you would expect from a 37-year-old.

Korey Lee is not a top prospect at this point, but he has at least shown something on both sides of the ball. When the alternative’s only strength is “culture,” what is there to lose?

3. Andrew Benintendi is not good

Two years ago, a very wise man (me) wrote the following:

Defense has been one of the biggest issues for the White Sox this season, and Benintendi has historically graded as a below-average-to-average defender by most metrics. The White Sox already have too many offense-first players to take on yet another, especially when he does not hit for power.

The White Sox as a team only strike out 20.2% of the time, which is the seventh-best rate in baseball. However, they score only 3.88 runs per game (fifth-worst in baseball), largely because of their lack of power (.124 isolated power is third-worst in baseball). Andrew Benintendi’s most notable strength is his 14.3% strikeout rate, and his primary weakness is his .093 ISO (isolated power).

Left-handed hitter or not, when a player’s biggest strength is your team’s biggest strength and his biggest weakness is your biggest weakness — all while not even above-average on defense, another area of need — he probably should not be a trade target.

-Nik Gaur, Three Unpopular White Sox Opinions

Now, Benintendi is the highest-paid player in White Sox history and has been worth -0.7 fWAR throughout the contract. But like Maldonado, it’s not just the (lack of) production, but the fan experience watching him play.

Benintendi — who has the reputation of a tough, grindy hitter who makes pitchers work hard to get him out — has done nothing with the White Sox to suggest that this is still true. He routinely gets himself out by swinging at unhittable pitches, and/or by getting into a two-strike count, then selling out for contact by any means necessary to avoid striking out (typically, on a pitch outside of the strike zone, with the result of a groundout). He’ll have his weeks here and there where the ground balls find outfield grass, but the overall picture is bleak.

The same is true on defense — “Noodle Arm Benintendi” tries his best out there, but it’s astonishing watching him now and realizing that this is a former Gold Glove outfielder. Granted, the defense was always a bit overrated, but the mental mistakes and inability to even make routine plays at times are frustrating to watch.

4. Keep playing Gavin Sheets

Gavin Sheets has been making much better swing decisions early on in 2024, and the results have been tremendous. On most teams, Sheets would have probably begun the season in AAA considering his poor performance last year. However, he deserves credit for his offseason work (check out our podcast episode that he joined!), and on a team devoid of offensive talent, Sheets figures to continue receiving opportunities.

5. “I don’t like our team”

This is not really an opinion, just more of an observation. But even as a fan, it’s hilarious that Chris Getz said “I don’t like our team,” in November, and then proceeded to make the team worse. And it wasn’t even a surprise either — most expected this team to either be worse than last year or just as bad. It begs the question: why even say this knowing that the ensuing offseason moves would be so minor? Unless… he actually believed that his cast of former Royals and reclamation projects was good?

6. What happened to F.A.S.T.? Nothing has changed!

F.A.S.T. (Fearless. Aggressive. Selfless. Technically Sound.) — manager Pedro Grifol’s acronym/mantra for the season — has already been forgotten. Early in Spring Training, Martin Maldonado apologized to his teammates for not hustling on a routine ground ball. At the time, my reaction was that it was corny, but at least they were trying to instill something in the team.

Fast forward to the second week of the season, and if this mantra were still a thing, there would have to be daily apologies from the majority of the roster. Running out ground balls is clearly still optional. I never really cared about it, but if you’re going to make such a big deal out of this team sprinting out every ground ball, then actually do it. Nicky Lopez of all people was jogging against Kansas City!

7. How does Steve Stone form his opinions on players’ defense?

I’ve learned a lot from Steve Stone over the years, but his comments on individual players’ defense have been puzzling. Lately, it feels like any player on the White Sox is a good defender to him, and most players on other teams are not. Martin Maldonado is a “masterful” defender to Stone, as is Benintendi. New White Sox outfielder Robbie Grossman, a notoriously bad defender, has “always been a good defender.”

The latter is what made me want to write this. I understand (but disagree with) hyping up the defense of Maldonado and Benintendi, as even if they aren’t good, they either used to be or undeservedly carry that reputation. But Grossman has never been anything more than a prototypical “hope the ball isn’t hit toward him” corner outfielder, and the entire league knows it.

Again, I like Stone, but if you’re going to praise every White Sox player as being this phenomenal defender, it cheapens the sentiment. This is especially true for defenders such as Luis Robert Jr., Yoan Moncada, and Nicky Lopez, who are objectively among the best at their positions and actually deserve the acclaim they receive from the broadcast booth.

8. Robot umps, please

It’s not just Maldonado’s framing — home plate umpires can still be tough to watch. Truthfully, it’s hard to blame them, as accurately enforcing the strike zone with modern velocity and pitch movement is probably not a task humans can carry out. I know AAA is currently using a sort of challenge system, where each team has a limited amount of challenges on called balls and strikes that they perceive to be incorrect.

This is a positive step, but since the challenge system uses the same technology as the fully automated strike zone that was used in the minor league in recent years, I don’t understand its purpose. Why not just use that technology all the time? It was very accurate in the minor leagues — it occasionally went viral due to perceived errors, but these were typically due to pitchers missing their spots by more than a foot.

To me, the “human element” of baseball is the players, not the umpires, so I’m long past ready for a system with 99% accuracy (as opposed to current umpires who are at about 92%). However, it seems like the challenge system will make its way to MLB first.

9. The problem with the Grifol/Getz dream White Sox team

Based on both quotes to the media and the way the White Sox are actually assembled, Pedro Grifol and/or Chris Getz clearly want a team that plays hard, is sound defensively, makes contact, puts pressure on the defense via stolen bases/bunts, etc. This is consistent with a more old-school mentality, as attributes such as power are not emphasized.

Opinions on play style aside, what bothers me about this vision that Grifol and Getz seem to share is that something is missing (other than power). And it would even be consistent with the listed characteristics! I’m talking about an emphasis on players who work counts, spoil “pitcher’s pitches,” and make pitchers work hard to get them out.

Far too often, White Sox players ground out on one pitch, strike out on three sliders low and away, etc. Even if hitting home runs is not a focal point of your philosophy, having hitters that don’t roll over on 2-0 fastballs out of the zone, for example, should be a consideration. It’s aggravating that even the additions to the lineup aren’t the most patient hitters.

10. Yoan Moncada has been pretty good lately

Here we are in 2024, and I’m still defending Yoan Moncada. And you know what? I’m proud of it. In addition to his usual stellar defense, Moncada is 16th among qualified hitters in MLB with a 147 wRC+ since August 8th. In that stretch, he’s hitting .311/.361/.537 with an .898 OPS over 195 plate appearances.

The “when he’s healthy” argument gets tiring, even for a Moncada fan like myself, but a productive 2024 would admittedly be terrific for that narrative. Considering that Moncada was good in 2019, 2021, and the second half of 2023, one could point to an injury-plagued 2020, 2022, and the first half of 2023 as the reasons for worse performance.

I’m not arguing that his option should be picked up or that he should be extended, but a healthy Moncada is a solid player, and he will help a contender if he gets traded this summer. His White Sox career has not gone the way many have hoped, but Moncada has performed better after 2019 than he gets credit for.

11. Eloy Jimenez, Luis Robert Jr., and [insert injured White Sox players here] care

I usually don’t engage in the “whose fault is it” injury discourse, in part because I think the conversation is a lot more nuanced than one person being responsible for repeat injuries. But regardless of your opinion on whether the players or training staff deserve more blame for injuries sustained while running, the only strong opinion I have on the matter is that it is unfair to assume that a player does not properly take care of his body, stretch, or care about his job just because he gets injured.

Lately, the popular sentiment on Eloy Jimenez, for example, is that he doesn’t work hard enough, doesn’t care, doesn’t stretch properly, etc. And while everyone is entitled to their view, chances are everyone with this opinion does not know Eloy Jimenez. Injuries, even those that occur during simple plays, are just a part of sports, and while it’s unfortunate when they continue to happen to the same players, I don’t understand why it has suddenly become so acceptable to just assume that injured players aren’t working out or don’t care. (And to be fair, this isn’t just White Sox fans — even within the division, Twins fans have the same discussions about Byron Buxton and Royce Lewis.)

At the end of the day, if the default position must be that an injured player is at fault in some way, then shouldn’t the same viewpoint be applied to trainers or nutritionists? Or, ideally, can we accept that it is not as binary of a conversation, and not every unfortunate event has to be somebody’s fault?

12. I don’t care about Pedro Grifol getting fired

Don’t get upset, I already warned you that these would be ranked by how much I think the fanbase will agree with them! We’ve arrived at my final thought, which I hope does not get misconstrued as an endorsement of Pedro Grifol as a manager. I watch the games, read the quotes, and I completely understand why he receives so much flak.

But as much as I don’t agree with his in-game decisions or overall philosophy as a manager, I don’t get nearly as worked up as the rest of you when it comes to wanting him fired. This is for two reasons: first, it can always get worse, and he (in my opinion) is at least better than Tony La Russa. While the White Sox were more successful (with better rosters) under La Russa, Grifol meets the basic criteria of staying awake during games, not having to learn rules from beat reporters, and not encouraging acts of violence against his own players.

If the White Sox fired Pedro Grifol right now, the team would be just as bad. Unlike certain past White Sox managers, Grifol is not holding a team of talented players back. A 100+ loss season is on the horizon no matter what, so while I personally want a more forward-thinking manager who doesn’t provide such bizarre quotes, I don’t care much about Grifol’s status in the meantime.

Be sure to follow us on social media @SoxOn35th for more!

Featured Photo: © Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

Notify of

Inline Feedbacks
View all comments

You may also like