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Previewing the AL Central: Five questions with our divisional rivals; Part 1 — Chicago

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After a long, slow offseason, we catch up with representatives from the other AL Central SBN Sites, starting with the White Sox

Detroit Tigers v Minnesota Twins Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images

Believe it or not, real, actual baseball is right around the corner. The spring games have already started, and Opening Day is just over a month away. After a few months of watching a lukewarm stove, its time to catch up with what’s going on around the division. I sent some questions around to folks from our sister sites in the SB Nation network for the Chicago White Sox, Detroit Tigers, Kansas City Royals, and Cleveland Indians. They were kind enough to answer the questions, and we’ll run one team each day this week. Assume any editing mistakes are mine. And with no further ado, it’s time to pass the microphone to...


Chicago: Brett Ballantini, Managing Editor, South Side Sox

What players and/or storylines should we be watching on your team this spring?

Jesus, we gotta start with a question like this? Ugh. OK. [INSERT MASSIVELY PAID FUTURE HALL OF FAME FREE AGENT HERE]’s adjustment to the [AMERICAN LEAGUE/AL WEST/SOUTH SIDE/OFFENSIVE PROTECTION OF AN ADAM ENGEL BEHIND HIM].

Well, if we’re pretending that Manny is gonna sign in Korea and Bryce is going to do his missionary work until the new CBA, uh, let’s see …

The White Sox have no starting rotation. I mean, best case, Carlos Rodón is a bit better than league average, Reynaldo López stops shaking hands with danger and pitches to another sub-4 ERA, Lucas Giolito wakes up, and... oh man I just nodded off writing this. This is a HORRIBLE rotation. So, watch that. Or, listen, for the cracks of bats, gasps of crowds and whatnot.

Can Daniel Palka catch the ball, or will he need to start wearing a goalie mask out in right field?

Does Eloy Jiménez’s defense really need work (you may or may not recall, that was the horseshit [cough] reason [hack] given [choke] for not calling [service time] Eloy up, like, in June last season. In a lineup with MAYBE two average offensive players, Eloy could play left field barehanded, bareheaded, just plain bare nekkid, and be worth breaking camp with the White Sox.

Man, I’m getting depressed.

Hey, though, the bullpen, which started the offseason looking like my 1982 Little League All-Star club (to be fair, we advanced in the Williamsport tournament by beating another team 55-1, so that’s not entirely a bad thing, aside from average height being like 4´11´´) and has growed up real good. Alex Colomé, Kelvin Herrera, Jace Fry, Nate Jones on the once a week he’s not aching, that has the makings of a better than average 7th-inning-on crew.

See what we’re reduced to, here on the South Side?

What is one more player personnel move you would like to see your team make before spring training ends? (Ed Note — Brett answered these questions while Machado was still a free agent)

Acquiring a 3.0 WAR major leaguer.

OK, a 2.0 WAR major leaguer.

They’ve acquired a few players this offseason, Jon Jay, the relief dudes, somebody named Brandon Guyer. But no one projected for even 1.0 WAR, I don’t think. That sorta sucks.

So, how about “a” player personnel move? Anything. Gio González off the discount rack? Cool. Adam Jones, to mentor and patrol right field without a goalie mask? Cool.

Obviously, we need Machado. So that’s the move. Everyone is telling us it’s gonna happen. So it’s gonna happen. Don’t take this away from me.

Then, like dominoes falling, Bryce, Dallas … DIVISION!

What’s changed over the offseason for your team? What is new and good, what is new and bad, and what is just plain different?

I guess my depressive act above sort of covers this, but let’s see … besides acquiring actual major league relief pitchers, uh, the White Sox are turning two sections in right field into a sort of island, with running water on all sides and a big goose head tapper in the middle. The front rows are made up of black leather seats, where are gonna hurt like hell in August, but for those wintry mix, parka games in April, are gonna kick ass.

New and bad? We signed James McCann, at a time in the offseason when actual major league catchers were available to sign.

Just plain different? Being willing to spend Samsonite suitcases filled with money, with no takers.

How was last season for you as a fan? What has been the general vibe around your team during the offseason, and how do you feel about the upcoming season?

Last season was fan-murdering. Aside from Palka, maybe Reynaldo, Fry, there was nothing at all to cheer for. (That’s right, I just listed a rookie left-handed reliever as the No. 3 thing to cheer for last season.) Since I’ve been a fan, and for those counting, I started rooting at the time both I and the White Sox were in short pants, 2018 was the only 100-loss season. This rebuild stuff is crap, man. So, last year was MISERY.

General vibe this offseason has been bemusement, I suppose. We went from like a AAAA team to suddenly being in the catbird seat for Machado and/or Harper. What fresh hell is that about? But, the White Sox are sorta zagging while so many others are zigging, so, well, maybe it’ll work out for a couple years, before the strike.

How do I feel about 2019? Depressed. Obviously, scoring Machado will brighten things considerably. But there were other moves that could have been made … paying Yasmani Grandal real bux to come and shepherd our young, fragile staff foremost among them. We’re Michael Kopech-free all season (TJS), which is a bummer. Apparently, our baby Frank Thomas (Eloy) needs to work on his defense, or something.

I mean, without some breaks, we could go back-to-back with 100-loss seasons, and that is gonna suuuuuuuuuuuuck.

Who do you think will win the division, and why?

Pfft. No one? Can they just give it to the Rays, or whatever 90-something win team that gets frozen out? Cleveland, I guess. They still have some players. Maybe Minny gets that young rookie manager mojo (Robin Ventura did it here, didn’t Molly do it in Minnesota? etc.) and wins, like, 86 games, which should be enough for the division, yeah? I’m rooting for you, Minny. I’m tired of Cleveland, sorry.

What other question should we have asked you but didn’t?

You asked too many as it is. I suspect my 100-loss compadres in the division will say same.

But this is a good one, for those who gnash teeth over announcing crews: What will it be like without Hawk Harrelson? My answer: A better broadcast. Grew up with Hawk, Hawk & Wimpy is my favorite announcing team of all time, but strangely, while Wimpy (nearly the same age) is still fresh, fun, curious in his broadcasts (subbing on some Sox games), Hawk went from mere homer (not a problem) to curmudgeonly-homer (awful). Even some of his relatively few farewell broadcasts last season were real bummers. It picked up at the end — AJ and Paulie subbing in as color men for a game were a lot of fun, and brought out the best in Hawk — but was a hard listen from the get-go.

That’s a crappy ending. So, because I’m a nice guy, so I’m gonna thank you for putting Daniel Palka on waivers last year. Sure, he’s gonna be, like, riding a Harley and selling sigs and selfies on the side of the road in three, four years, but damn he was clutch last season, and more fun than any White Sox player has been in a long time. So, thanks for Swaggy P.


If you want to see what the Sox fans had to say about this exchange (and/or a sneak peek at this week’s attractions, because SSS published all five teams at once,) click here.