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Rival Roundup, Vol. 42: Keeping Score

After six-month of in-season jockeying, so begins the off-season jockeying.

Cleveland Indians v Chicago White Sox Photo by Ron Vesely/MLB Photos via Getty Images

Forgive me for immediately opening with something as dreary as a conversation about the weather, but it bears mentioning. After enduring 80-degree temps into October, Minnesotans watched as it snowed on Halloween — now, things have begun ticking back up into the low 60’s through next week.

It’s worth mentioning because the end of the World Series, and the subsequent start of baseball’s offseason, generally brings with it a cold, dreary adjustment to the climate that makes spring seem like a distant memory. Instead, we’ve had the jolty meteorological adjustment of an exciting WPA graph.

But no matter what Mother Nature thinks, it’s winter for baseball. The GM meetings (not to be confused with the Winter Meetings) got underway before everyone was sent home with the poops. Major awards are being drip-fed, and perhaps the most top-heavy free agency period of all time is upon us.

But here on our little corner of Twinkie Town, winter means:

IT’S RIVAL ROUNDUP, BABY!

Join me on our weeks-long journey as we take a look at the rest of the American League Central, and assess the changes being made along the path to divisional glory in 2024. Rob Manfred’s twisted fantasies have not yet done away with the three-division format, which means I’ll be keeping tabs on Minnesota’s four most immediate foes throughout the leadup to Opening Day.

Already, there’s been plenty of activity.

Let’s get to it!

  • Terry Francona has been a mainstay of the American League for twenty years, and even though we knew he was retiring by the end of last season, his wish to keep his exit quiet and down-tempo meant that it didn’t feel real until his successor was announced. That successor? Two-time All-Star catcher Stephen Vogt.
  • This is one of those “make you feel old” hirings; there are plenty of young managers in the game these days, but Vogt debuted in 2012 and is already tenured enough to have made a couple All-Star games, bounced around as a backup backstop, retired, and been named a manager. He’s got big shoes to fill, but will likely run into less scooter-related law enforcement issues. In his career against the Twins, he slashed .329/.351/.575 with four homers, 20 RBI, and one of his 13 career triples.
  • The division has been busy in November, both upstairs and downstairs. As the Guardians replace their iconic manager with a youngster, the Chicago White Sox find themselves having to replace their iconic youngster with — somebody else.

  • It’s been a “yikes” couple of years for the White Sox organization, whose figurehead Jerry Reinsdorf has been doing everything he can to expose the club as, shall we say, a bit of a mess. First was the whole Tony La Russa fiasco; then, after their 2021 season went from “start of something new” to “flash in the pan,” he canned the front office and replaced them with some of the least-exciting GM hires the league has seen in a while. Now, after reportedly disliking Benetti’s broadcasting, he’s overseen his departure.
  • But don’t look now! It’s the Detroit Tigers, from the top rope:

  • After unfortunately boasting one of the worst-regarded booths in the game, the Tigers get one heck of an upgrade in landing Benetti as their new PBP man, after years of Benetti garnering national attention for sharp, energetic, analytical telecasts. Benetti will assume the Tiger mic in addition to other various national responsibilities; when he’s absent from the booth, Detroit plans to tap longtime radio voice Dan Dickerson as his TV understudy, in a series of moves that injects much-needed on-air quality to an organization that is happily on the up-and-up again.
  • In addition to seeing off Benetti, the Sox are also waving goodbye to another mainstay of recent Chicago baseball, Tim Anderson. It was a season to forget for Anderson, who couldn’t homer for over a calendar year, and then got punched in the face by Jose Ramirez. He might benefit more than almost any other free agent this winter from the oft-lauded “change of scenery.”
  • More scenery changes, sticking with Detroit — the Tigers swung a trade to grab Mark Canha from the Milwaukee Brewers, who may be spending their winter swinging similar trades to offload assets, as their payroll reaches “come to Jesus” territory, and their manager runs for the hills to take over the Chicago Cubs.
  • Additionally, the Tigers are now technically without Eduardo Rodriguez, who stuck with Detroit after a bizarre trade deadline, and is now entering the open market after attempting to re-negotiate the terms of his deal with the Tigers’ front office.

It was an uncharacteristically busy week for the AL Central, with some fascinating storylines both on and off the field. The stove will only get hotter as we get deeper into the holiday season... enjoy the discussion and keep those rivals rounding.