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“You Gotta Be Bleepin’ Me”: The Worst White Sox of the Decade

by Jordan Lazowski

This time of year, everyone likes to think about the best moments of not only 2019, but of this decade. Post after post has been highlighting the best parts of the decade for baseball: the top players, plays, and other highlights, as everyone recounts some of the best in game game.

Not me though.

With a new era of White Sox baseball ready to dawn in 2020, we would all be remiss if we didn’t take a step back and really appreciate where we’ve come from. Things didn’t always look this good for baseball on the South Side, and before we can appreciate all the good to come, we must remember what we’ve gone through as fans to get here.

The players on this list are the players who accumulated the least amount of fWAR from 2010-2019 with the White Sox, combined with some of the most frustrating players to come through the organization this decade. At the end of the day, each decision was at least a little bit subjective. So, I present to you the Worst of the Worst: White Sox Edition.

Catcher: Dioner Navarro (-1.5 fWAR)

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Welington Castillo, Adrian Nieto, Bryan Anderson, Josh Phegley

The White Sox trotted out a total of 22 different catchers in this past decade. Only six of them caught more than 100 games in a White Sox uniform (A.J. Pierzynski, Tyler Flowers, James McCann, Omar Narvaez, Welington Castillo, Kevan Smith). That left 16 different catchers to fill up the rest of the games.

Dioner Navarro was by far the worst of these backstops. The first catcher of the post-Tyler Flowers Era played just 85 games before being shipped off to Toronto. In those 85 games, he was impressively able to post -1.5 fWAR, slashing .210/.267/.339 with a 63 wRC+ along the way. Navarro was just the start of a revolving door of catchers that has seemingly shut for awhile with Yasmani Grandal and James McCann manning the position for the foreseeable future.

As for the rest of the list, there’s some failed prospects and a Beef more juiced up than the ones I get from Portillo’s. Not much to speak of here.

Let us never forget Navarro’s top highlight with the Sox:

First Base: Adam LaRoche (-1.2 fWAR) and Mark Kotsay (-1.2 fWAR)

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Yonder Alonso, Dan Johnson, Andy Wilkins

Honestly, the White Sox have been pretty lucky this decade with First Basemen. Jose Abreu and Paul Konerko were the stabilizers at this position in the decade, which makes this position pretty hard and a little unfair, considering the overlap with Designated Hitter. However, when it comes to some of the worst, Kotsay and LaRoche have the edge.

The White Sox replaced Jim Thome with Mark Kotsay back in 2009-2010, and while he posted respectable numbers in 30 games with the White Sox in 2009, Kotsay followed with a campaign consisting of a .239/.306/.376 slash line and 80 wRC+ in 107 games. He makes this list because he had the misfortunate of being the replacement for Jim Thome.

As for LaRoche, we all know why he’s here. As if the White Sox didn’t learn from the last left-hander they signed from Washington, LaRoche signed a two-year deal for the White Sox in 2015. After posting an abysmal .207/.293/.340 slash line with a 77 wRC+ in 2015, his career came to an end due to his son: clubhouse hero Drake LaRoche.

For real though, LaRoche seems to be a very good guy – just not a good first baseman for the White Sox.

As for the dis-honorable mentions, here’s Andy Wilkins’ only highlight that I know of:

Second Base: Micah Johnson (-0.2 fWAR)

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Gordon Beckham, Emilio Bonafacio, Tyler Greene

I know what you’re thinking: how did Gordon Beckham not win this award? Well, outside of his atrocious offensive value, Beckham actually was good enough in the field to produce the third most fWAR at the position in the decade. Much like first base, a couple players really played most of the games at second in the decade: Yolmer Sanchez and Gordon Beckham.

Micah Johnson, however, was supposed to be “the guy” at second for awhile. Drafted but the White Sox in the ninth round of the 2012 draft, he posted quality numbers in his four season in the minors, even stealing 84 bases across three levels in 2013:

However, when he came to the South Side, it was a completely different story for the young speedster. Johnson never could catch his footing in the majors, posting a .230/.306/.270 slash line with an ugly 65 wRC+ in 36 games on the South Side. Johnson would get some time with the Dodgers and Rays in two other season, but retired from professional baseball in 2018.

He definitely had a glove though.

Also, I found this one funny.

Shortstop: Jimmy Rollins (0.0 fWAR)

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Jose Rondon, Ray Olmedo

In today’s edition of “Kenny always gets his man,” I present to you 37-year-old Jimmy Rollins, whose 41 games in a White Sox uniform in 2016 were the last games he would ever play as a major leaguer. Rollins is best remembered as the player who held the fort down until Tim Anderson made his debut later in that 2016 season, mostly because Rollins’ .221/.295/.329 slash line and 71 wRC+ just wasn’t cutting it anymore.

At least he had a good opening to the season, giving us hope maybe he had a little left in the tank. But, much like Manny Ramirez and Ken Griffey, Jr. before him, it wasn’t meant to be with the White Sox.

Luckily, much like with second base, shortstop has been pretty solid for the White Sox over the past ten years, with Alexei Ramirez and Tim Anderson serving as consistent presences at shortstop.

Third Base: Jeff Keppinger (-1.7 fWAR)

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Mark Teahen, Mike Olt, Orlando Hudson

The first major signing of the Rick Hahn GM era was not a good one, as Keppinger hit just .253/.283/.317 in his first year of a three-year deal with the White Sox. However, Keppinger didn’t play out the final two years of the contract, as the White Sox released him, marking an end to his career.

Mark Teahen and Orlando Hudson could’ve just as easily appeared in Keppinger’s spot. Teahen was brought in from the Royals and posted a .258/.327/.382 slash line with a 90 wRC+ in just 77 games. He was no better in year two of the deal, slashing 203/.277/.305 before being traded to the Blue Jays to end his career. He was no Gold Glover either, posting -11 DRS at third base in 2010.

As for Orlando Hudson, he was brought on to shore up the hole at third base for the White Sox during their 2012 near postseason run. Instead, Hudson hit .197/.262/.307 in 51 games, and the White Sox did not win the division.

I always liked Keppinger’s stance though.

Outfield: Jordan Danks (0.1 fWAR), Dayan Viciedo (0.6 fWAR), J.B. Shuck (-1.5 fWAR)

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Casper Wells, Jon Jay, Jacob May, Trayce Thompson, Lastings Milledge, Alen Hanson, Kosuke Fukudome

The outfield for the 2010-2019 White Sox was certainly lacking when the likes of Carlos Quentin, Alex Rios, or Adam Eaton weren’t on the field. Jordan Danks, much like his brother John, disappointed for the White Sox, receiving almost 400 at-bats while posting a slash line of .227/.303/.326 with a 30% K-rate.

Dayan Viciedo was supposed to be the next big thing for the White Sox. He played his first full season for the Sox in 2012, posting a .255/.300/.444 slash line. However, “Tank” cooled off rather quickly, finishing his White Sox career after 2014 with a slash line of .254/.298/.424 and walking at a rather disappointing 5% rate. He was no better in the OF, posting -16 DRS over the course of his White Sox career. In short, Viciedo never lived up to his hype.

As for J.B. Shuck, I personally loved him. I always though he was an incredibly high effort player. However, when you slash .229/.285/.319 and post the lowest fWAR for a Sox OF in the decade, you’re going to make this list.

As for the dis-honorable mentions, it’s more cases of “Kenny gets his guy” (Fukudome) and failing to live up to the hype (May), while also throwing in a few “WTF” guys in there (Milledge, Jay).

Fun fact: I was at this game.

Starting Pitching: Mike Pelfrey (-0.9 fWAR), Mat Latos (0.0 fWAR), Dylan Axelrod (0.4 fWAR), Derek Holland (-0.8 fWAR), Andre Rienzo (-0.7 fWAR)

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Carson Fulmer (sigh), James Shields, Hector Noesi, Scott Carroll, Dylan Covey, Odrisamer Despaigne

This list turned from alright to downright terrible rather quickly. After Chris Sale and Jose Quintana, no White Sox pitcher accumulated more than 10 fWAR over the rest of the decade. Instead, the last ten years of White Sox baseball have been highlighted by reclamation projects and guys who failed to live up to their contracts (Samardzija, Danks).

As for the Worst of the Worst starting rotation, Pelfrey and Holland were useless during the rebuild, Mat Latos was a failed reclamation project, and Dylan Axelrod and Andre Rienzo were failed prospects from an incredibly weak White Sox farm system. There’s really not that much to say about this crop of White Sox pitching. It’s bad, it’s sad, and I want to leave this in the last decade.

I’m still mad I put Carson Fulmer on this list.

Relief Pitching: Chris Beck (-1.6 fWAR), Chris Volstad (-0.4 fWAR), Tony Pena (-0.2 fWAR), Matt Albers (-0.6 fWAR), Will Ohman (-0.3 fWAR)

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Tyler Danish, David Holmberg, Ramon Troncoso, Zach Stewart, and a bunch of names I don’t even remember seeing on the White Sox but apparently pitched for them

Let’s start with this: in terms of fWAR, Nate Jones was the most valuable White Sox reliever of the decade. He was closely followed by Matt Thornton, and honestly that’s all you really need to know to understand this list.

Gone were the dominant days of a Jenks-Cotts-Hermanson-Politte-Hernandez bullpen. 118 different pitchers accumulated innings in relief for the White Sox this past decade, and only 46 of them found a way to post a positive fWAR value. That’s impressively bad.

There’s not much more to say here but “Ohman”… I’ll see myself out…

Designated Hitter: Adam Dunn (0.1 fWAR)

Dis-Honorable Mentions: Justin Morneau, Manny Ramirez, Matt Davidson, Jerry Sands, Cody Asche, and the entire 2019 Chicago White Sox DH list

Remember this?

Adam Dunn was supposed to be ushering in one of the most promising seasons of White Sox baseball in awhile. 2011 was the “All In” year – Dunn’s first year under contract with the White Sox.

Dunn had just come off of back-to-back 38 home runs seasons with the Nationals and found himself in the American League for the first time in his career. Dunn posted a .159/.292/.277 slash line with just 11 home runs across 122 games. He accumulated -2.9 fWAR in one of the worst seasons for a hitter in major league history.

Dunn followed up his dreadful campaign with a 41 home run performance in 2012, but hit just .204 while teaching the White Sox – and the rest of baseball – a valuable lesson about signing past their prime sluggers to long-term deals. That is, until the White Sox signed Adam LaRoche from the Nationals two years later…..

Justin Morneau also made this list, simply because my goal is to point out every past their prime veteran that the White Sox signed in order to help you appreciate the youth movement the rebuild has brought. Morneau wasn’t even that bad, he just wasn’t great either.

As for the video memory, no words are necessary.

Year of the Decade: 2016

If there was a single year that encapsulated what it meant to be a White Sox fan over the past ten years, it’s 2016.

It started off as a season full of hope. The Sox came roaring out of the gate with a 23-10 record, despite losing team leader Drake LaRoche to begin the offseason. By July, the story wasn’t about a potential playoff appearance for the Sox. Instead, the White Sox made national news for the second time that season for an event hardly anyone could believe at the time.

When the dust had settled, the White Sox were 78-84, and another season full of excitement came crashing down and was left with disappointment. High hopes and disappointing finishes. 2016 was the last decade of White Sox baseball in a nutshell.

This exercise really shows what a rough decade it’s been for White Sox fans. It was one full of disappointing players, disappointing teams, and more jerseys cut than playoff appearances.

The good news is that the tide has clearly turned as we head into 2020. There is a new core leading the White Sox into what looks to be their best decade of baseball in their history. Whether that’s a good thing or a bad thing is left to your interpretation, but the reality is this: brighter times are ahead for the White Sox.

So let’s all give a hearty “He Gone!” to the 2010s, and let’s sit back, relax, and strap it down as we wait for the good times right around the corner.

What are some of your least favorite memories/players from this past decade! Leave a comment!

Featured Photo: Chicago White Sox

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2016 is definitely the 2010s in a nut shell. Disappointment finish after a strong start, Ventura lost the clubhouse, players not living up to expectations. Just a dysfunctional season that was a reflection of the decade and the ownership and management of this franchise. Here’s to the 2020s and brighter days ahead.

Thatcher Zalewski

Man after Holmberg, I didn’t even recognize the other two names. I’ll agree though that 2016 was the most disappointing season.

Richard Rodriguez

Great insight – only problem is that this decade isn’t over. The 21st Century began January 1, 2001. The first decade ended January 1, 2011 and the second decade will end on January 1, 2021. We still have another year to add or subtract players from your list.

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