This rebuilding season, as most White Sox fans and observers know all too well, is about young players learning how to be the next group of championship contenders on the South Side.
A good deal of that learning process is taking place in the minor leagues, as the organization’s wealth of talented prospects develop into big league caliber players. But there are plenty of current major leaguers who fall into a similar category, guys who haven’t become finished products yet and are going through developmental stages at the big league level.
There might not be two more important members of that group than Yoan Moncada and Tim Anderson, the White Sox middle infield of the present and two players the team hopes can be the middle infield of the future, too.
Both guys are struggling at the moment. Moncada ranks second in baseball in strikeouts, with 92, and hasn’t looked right since returning from the disabled list in the middle of May. Anderson has had his own issues at the plate and is one of five players in the game with 11 or more fielding errors this season.
It's obvious that those problems aren’t going to be remedied overnight, and these are the kinds of growing pains that come with any rebuilding effort.
The duo found itself on the bench for Thursday’s loss to the visiting Cleveland Indians, a tactic employed by manager Rick Renteria to allow the two youngsters to see the game from a different perspective. It wasn’t punishment for poor play. It was a teaching tool.
“These are young men who are continuing to develop,” Renteria said after the game. “(Giving them the day off was) more to the point of trying to raise the level of focus and concentration and trying to make sure they stay in every pitch of the game, of which they many times do and then there some fluctuations.
“They are two kids that are pretty special in my eyes, in terms of who we are as an organization. It’s another phase of their growth. We spoke to them a little bit during the ballgame, more to some of the observations they were making on some of the plays that were made or not made, how guys were reacting, what they saw. They had some good responses, which was good.
“They’re going to continue to get better. Our expectations are they will and they’re going to be a part of something good here.”
So did it work?
That kind of thing is terribly difficult to measure, obviously, as a young player’s development is made up of so many different moments like this. It’s more of a mental thing, too, than something that’s going to instantly cause either’s batting average to rise or make them play error-free defense.
But Anderson, for one, admitted that, yes, this was a learning experience.
“Just really seeing what was going on in the game, talking about certain plays, certain things that were happening during the game,” he said. “Just kind of a learning point and time to hit the rest button a little bit and learn a little bit more, figure out things.
“The game looks a lot easier when you’re sitting there watching. Then when you’re in there, it’s a totally different game. It’s always good to learn something and kind of step back from playing. Today was a good day to sit back and watch and see the other guys go to work.”
The win-loss record and, ultimately, even the statistical output by any player — whether in the team’s long-term plans or not — won’t mean much by the end of the 2018 campaign. The White Sox are instead looking at how the players who are part of the future develop and progress over the course of a big league season.
But there’s little doubt that seeing poor results from the likes of Moncada and Anderson, two players with high hopes and high expectations, can cause some panic throughout the fan base. The White Sox want these guys to be as successful as possible, and they’ve put their faith in Renteria and his staff as good teachers. This is part of that process.
“This is more of making sure that they take a step back, take a breath, allow us to give them some perspective while the game is going on, talk to them a little bit. Allow them to enjoy the game,” Renteria said before Thursday’s game. “Because sometimes you’re going out there and playing, you have a day or two where maybe you’re not having the success that you want to have, you get frustrated and start making it more than it is.
“It’s a long season. You’re going to have good days and bad days. But we do certainly have to compartmentalize a lot of different aspects of the game. It’s required of you to be elite-status type players, and I think this is more just an understanding for them, take a breath … just regroup.”