“Everybody’s working. Everybody’s trying to get better. It’s not like we’re trying to go out there and strike out or do bad,” Tim Anderson told CHGO back in May. “Everybody’s working, it’s just one of those times right now, one of those moments.
“We hope for it to get better, but who knows.”
Four months in, and the White Sox haven’t stopped working. They’ve tried to do better.
Four months in, and the disappointment hasn’t ended.
Four months in, the White Sox are still a .500 team.
Four months in, and the White Sox did next to nothing at the trade deadline.
Rick Hahn tried to make his team better. He couldn’t.
You’re pissed. Hahn’s pissed, too. I haven’t seen him like that during a press conference since the day Manny Machado signed with the Padres.
“This is one of the more risky times of year to put me on television or with video (equipment) in front of me, because I’m a little sleep-deprived and I’m in a crap mood,” Hahn said at the outset of his post-deadline media session, during which he kept a running tally of the times he almost swore in front of the cameras. “We’re disappointed that we weren’t able to do more to improve this club. … Unfortunately we weren’t able to line up on some of our other potential targets.
“Anyone out there who is feeling a level of frustration or disappointment, I’m there with you.”
Much like that aforementioned day in February 2019, though, White Sox fans don’t care what went on behind the scenes. They only care that the White Sox are in the same place they were yesterday, an opportunity to get better – to finally vault out of the middling muck that this season has been to this point – lost.
Hahn and his front office might deserve an A for effort; we weren’t in on his phone calls.
But what’s certain is that this is a pass-fail business, as the GM has so often noted.
And grading on such a scale, the White Sox failed the trade deadline.
Well, according to Hahn, it was a seller’s market in which the sellers were asking for astronomical returns for any player. The White Sox own one of baseball’s lowest-rated farm systems, and while the cupboard is not as bare as that fact makes it sound, there were perhaps only a small handful of prospects who appealed to other clubs. Those guys were asked for early and often, Hahn said. The White Sox found those asks to be too much.
“At no point do I feel through this process that we were prospect-clutching in any way, that we were being unreasonable,” he said. “We were asked for many of our premium prospects in exchange for rentals that didn’t exactly line up from our perspective or made sense for not only this team but also the future.
“Sitting in this chair, you do bear responsibility for today, but also responsibility for tomorrow. And at times, those two can be in conflict, especially when it comes time to talk about trades or taking on future economic obligations.”
Hahn has long stated that his goal is not to craft one solitary winner but an organization that can churn out one contending team after another for years to come. While the 2022 White Sox can still turn into a champion, they’re merely a .500 team at the moment. And Hahn was posed with the question of whether mortgaging the future to boost the chances of a team that’s struggled for four months was worth it.
The answer, apparently, was no.
“If we felt there was one piece we felt would be an essential key to taking us to the next level that was available and accessible to us, then we would have moved on that,” Hahn said. “That just wasn’t the situation for how things lined up.”
After failing the deadline, the White Sox are in danger of failing this season as a whole, and you’d have to assign an F grade if things ended today, given the expectations at the start of the season.
Shockingly, though, they’re just three games out of first place as I write this, and that alone makes the idea that they can still figure things out enough to make it three straight postseasons on the South Side perfectly reasonable.
The first-place Twins, though, did not fail this deadline, adding an All-Star closer, another solid relief pitcher and a starting pitcher to their roster. Just a handful of games north of .500, though, they look plenty catchable. If only the White Sox could just do something right for more than a day or two in a row.
Hahn’s lone deadline addition, Jake Diekman, filled a need, sure. The White Sox are without Garrett Crochet and Aaron Bummer and needed a lefty reliever. They got one.
But there was more on the to-do list, and certainly Hahn’s frustration stemmed from not crossing those items off. Where’s the left-handed bat? Where are the further improvements to the bullpen? Where’s the starting-pitching depth? Where’s something – anything – to aid an offense that mustered just one run against the last-place Royals in its final showing before the deadline?
Hahn was insistent this team can still eventually meet its expectations, that the lineup is too talented to keep puttering along as a singles machine without any power to speak of, that a rotation full of All Stars past, present and future can be as dominant as it was just last season, that a bullpen featuring some of the more accomplished relievers in the game can be a force to be reckoned with.
In a vacuum, sure. These are the same players that have done good things in the past. They are still capable of doing good things in the future.
But it doesn’t mean that a deadline boost would not have been mighty beneficial. All due respect to Diekman, but all by himself, he’s not the boost this team needed.
The frustration reached new heights Tuesday on Twitter, many fans considering Deadline Day the be all, end all in determining which teams will reach the playoffs and compete for a championship. And certainly it’s hard to argue with that thinking while contending clubs like the Yankees, Padres, Blue Jays, Astros, Braves and Mets were making moves to try and outduel each other and best position themselves for October success.
“We go into this expecting that everyone is going to get better,” Hahn said, “and we try to do what we can to improve ourselves at the deadline, as well.”
But they didn’t. Not much, anyway. Not in the way they needed to.
All year, we’ve watched and waited for a team with championship-level preseason expectations to start playing like a championship-caliber team. That wait continues.
Perhaps that type of White Sox team is coming tomorrow. Or next week. Or next month.
Perhaps it isn’t coming at all.
What’s known today is that no savior is riding in as the result of a deadline blockbuster. No addition from outside the organization is going to inject new life into a team that’s been searching for four months.
They’re on their own.
That might not be the death knell of the 2022 campaign so many are seeing it as, and certainly every White Sox employee has professed undying confidence in the talent and ability of this group to win. Hahn repeated that confidence while simultaneously offering a diagnosis, expressing disappointment that these White Sox have seemed to misplace their swagger, that they’re no longer exhibiting the chip on their shoulder that they did in the recent past.
In Austin Powers parlance, Hahn was saying the White Sox have lost their mojo.
With so many players describing trade-deadline additions as a vote of confidence from the front office, maybe this failure to land any truly meaningful pieces can reinstall that chip.
“I’m not saying that we’re just flipping a switch and the swagger is going to come back,” Hahn said. “I’m just saying that we have confidence in the ability of this group in there. I know they have confidence in themselves. But I do feel that we’ve lost a little bit of our swagger, and I’d like to see that come back.
“One through nine, we’ve got a talented lineup out there. Our rotation has been strong. Our bullpen, when it’s right and healthy, is an asset. There’s enough talent in there for the next guy to pick up the guy that doesn’t come through.
“We just need to focus in each at-bat to get back to being the players they’re capable of being.”
That’s been the need for four months now.
After failing at the trade deadline, that’s all that can save the White Sox’ season.