The great Chicago White Sox rebuild did not go (or “is not going,” for those of you still hanging on) as planned. The result has, for the most part, been apathy from a fanbase that had bought into long, painful, losing seasons for the eventual payoff of… long, painful, losing seasons. Tuning in to watch The Luis Robert Jr. Show sounds fun until you realize that the supporting cast is essentially sitting silently in a corner, expecting him to singlehandedly keep everybody entertained.
An unfortunate but understandable side effect of apathy from White Sox fans is detachment from baseball itself. The failures of the White Sox resemble a gut punch considering the empty promises and false hope, so following the league with keen interest may feel more like a chore than a hobby for some.
Regardless, it is especially hard to be a White Sox fan if you cannot find joy in baseball as a whole. Aside from historic individual performances, such as monitoring Shohei Ohtani‘s 2023 season, one development that could make White Sox fans at least somewhat happy is seeing the success and/or kinship from other fanbases that similarly feel trapped by poor ownership.
First, bad ownership is multi-faceted, and fans of most baseball teams would probably argue that they want more out of their team’s owner. However, especially bad ownership can be identified through:
- Low payrolls
- Low/no investment in player development
- Low/no investment in analytics department
- Low/no investment in high-end free agents (such as free agents that sign contracts in excess of $100 million)
- Owner overrides front office processes (such as a managerial search)
- Threats to fans (relocation)
- Threats to players (see example)
For instance, the Chicago White Sox currently have a fairly high payroll — a rarity for the organization. However, they either meet or have met the other criteria above, as do other teams such as the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland A’s. If anyone is looking for joy in baseball, those organizations have provided some in June.
For example, the A’s are moving from Oakland to Las Vegas in the coming years, and in an act of protest, over 27,000 fans attended a nondescript weeknight game and brought signs, chants, and a message to the league: Oakland is indeed capable of supporting a Major League team, but fans simply do not have interest in supporting a team that is continually gutted due to payroll concerns despite having ample talent.
As White Sox fans, it is certainly impressive to see a fanbase come together, even if just for one night, to protest ownership. While the A’s are obviously in a worse situation, given that the team is moving, the kinship described earlier is easy to understand.
The Reds are another team that has also gutted its fairly talented roster in recent years. Unlike the A’s, the Reds farm system has been stocked with high-end talent, and the team has drafted very well in recent years. It’s not a shock that the Reds went on a 12-game winning streak after calling up top prospect Elly De La Cruz, energizing the city of Cincinnati and drawing attention on a national level.
At the peak of the streak, the Reds even sold out their stadium for the first time since 2016. Despite the misery from the team’s fans over the last couple of seasons, the fanbase is now invigorated due to their exciting young core. While it would have been great if the once exciting young core of the White Sox had provided such energy (and to be fair, it is still far too early to declare the Reds’ rebuild a success), the theme of kinship between fanbases that feel trapped by poor ownership arises again. There is an almost therapeutic harmony in seeing another fanbase that has suffered through failed rebuilds, payroll cuts, and false promises get to enjoy baseball in spite of these factors.
Despite the grim outlook of the White Sox, the team is not necessarily guaranteed to underwhelm in the coming years. The situation could absolutely get better before expected. But in the meantime, if watching the team currently is not particularly entertaining, perhaps our bonds with fans that also are conditioned to bad ownership can provide at least some level of relief.
Be sure to follow us on social media @SoxOn35th for more!
Featured Photo: © David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports