Paul Sullivan: Time for the Chicago White Sox to redo the rebuild after one of the worst starts in franchise history?
The rebuild of the Chicago White Sox rebuild might be months away, but it’s already apparent the current plan no longer appears operative.
In the meantime we’re just going to have to get used to the idea the window probably has closed before the core could live up to its advance billing.
The Sox entered Saturday night’s game against the Houston Astros 14 games under .500 at 13-27, the fourth-worst start in franchise history. There have been games that might suggest better days are ahead but not enough in a stretch to convince most fans it wasn’t a mirage.
Dylan Cease managed to stop the bleeding Saturday, throwing six shutout innings in a 3-1 win over the Astros before a bobblehead-day crowd of 23,341. Luis Robert homered and drove in the go-ahead run in the eighth with a bloop single, and the Sox overcame some poor clutch hitting early to come out on top.
“If we play like that consistently, we’re going to be pretty deadly,” Cease said. “We’re showing what we’re capable of. Now it’s just (having) consistency with it.”
Renowned Astros-hater Joe Kelly pitched 1⅓ scoreless innings to notch his first win.
“He’s having fun out there,” manager Pedro Grifol said. “He’s pitching in a Major League Baseball game like he’s pitching in his backyard, just enjoying it.”
Still, the losing has been tough to handle, and even the players having decent seasons, such as first baseman Andrew Vaughn, have voiced frustration.
“Losing sucks, no matter what you’re doing,” Vaughn bluntly said. “No matter how you’re playing, losing sucks. It’s the worst feeling after a game. It just beats you down.”
The only saving grace for the Sox was that the American League Central is so bad they are only 8½ games behind the division-leading Minnesota Twins. Teams have come back from much larger deficits with many fewer games to play.
But before they can think about winning a bad division, the Sox must prove they can win, period. That doesn’t seem likely, but many of these same players were on the 2021 team that won the division handily. They know what winning feels like.
I wondered whether manager Pedro Grifol felt fortunate not to be completely out of a race in which no one has taken charge.
“You’re probably not going to believe this when I say this, but I don’t really look at the division too much,” he said. “This is the team that I’m concerned with. We’ve got to fix our own stuff, our own troubles. We’ve got to improve in a lot of areas. Other teams can’t win the division for us. We have to go take it. We have to improve and win the division.
“I wouldn’t know how many games back we are. I know where our team is. And I know the areas of improvement and how we can possibly compete for a division. But I don’t focus too much on other ballclubs in our division unless we’re playing them.”
Grifol was right — I didn’t believe him.
In this day and age how could anyone in baseball avoid knowing approximately where they were at? Doesn’t Grifol ever log on to the internet?
“I have not,” he said. “On the internet? I don’t even come close to looking at the internet, let alone social media.”
That seemingly would make Grifol the first Luddite manager the Sox have hired since Terry Bevington. On the bright side, if he didn’t get his information from modern technology, that must mean he’s an old-fashioned newspaper reader.
“No, I don’t have those delivered,” he said.
Before I got a chance to inform him about our bargain subscription rates, someone changed the subject.
Astros manager Dusty Baker, who is 73 but no technophobe, said he wasn’t informed enough on the Sox to know what has happened to them.
“I don’t know what injuries they‘ve had,” he said. “But they’re in a division where if they get hot ... and they’ve got a lot of games left, a ton of games left.
“(Former Los Angeles Dodgers manager Tommy) Lasorda used to tell us when you get behind in a pennant race, don’t think about a 10-game winning streak. Just think about winning the series. He used to tell us, ‘One game a week.’ What are they behind by, six, seven games?”
“If they pick up one game a week for the next eight weeks … “ Baker continued. “This is May, so June, you get to July, and they could be in first place.”
Some wise guy laughed at the notion of the Sox being in first place by July.
“That’s how you’ve got to think,” Baker said.
The Sox have been talking a lot among themselves about what needs to be done. The team kept the media out of the clubhouse for 25 minutes after a loss last week in Kansas City, Mo., and held another clubhouse meeting before Friday’s 5-1 loss.
What was the reason?
“Maybe we’re 13-26, maybe that’s the reason,” Grifol said Friday afternoon. “I’m not going to sit here and talk about the things that we do and the conversations we have in private. The one thing I can tell you is that we address things.
“But what happens in there stays in there. I’m not going to elaborate too much on it. But rest assured, we address things as they come up and as we feel they need to be addressed.”
The Sox promptly lost the series opener as Michael Kopech had unhittable stuff but couldn’t get the ball over the plate often enough. He allowed two runs on one hit over 4⅔ innings, walking six and hitting a batter.
“We all need to get a little bit of confidence back,” Kopech said afterward. “We don’t stay within ourselves, it kind of makes the momentum sway and you want to be able to ride the momentum. But right now, everybody wants to win. That goes without saying. We are not doing it.”
The water keeps rising over their heads. Elvis Andrus suffered a strained left oblique Friday and was placed on the 10-day injured list Saturday, while Yasmani Grandal was scratched from Saturday’s lineup with right hamstring soreness. Liam Hendriks told reporters in Charlotte, N.C., he’s not ready to return from his rehab assignment just yet.
Injuries have been a recurring narrative, though entering the weekend nine other American League teams had more games missed on the IL this season than the Sox’s 209 total.
The Sox know a continuation of the status quo increases the likelihood of a summer sell-off and puts more pressure on the front office and ownership — and Grifol himself.
If anything happens, someone might have to send a carrier pigeon to Grifol’s house with the news.